BROCKENHURST is blessed because it receives the fast trains from Weymouth. They stop here, at Southampton Central, Southampton Airport Parkway and Winchester, then go non-stop to Waterloo. This is a pretty, vibrant village with some gracious old houses set in half an acre or so, for which you might pay £650,000 and more, and some new estates within walking distance of the centre where you could pay £425,000 for four bedrooms. Brockenhurst teems with tourists in the summer.
Beaulieu, four miles to the east, is the most exclusive village in the area, where people compete for invitations to Lord Montagu’s drinks parties. A three-bedroom thatched cottage costs £400,000 upwards; a six-bedroom house with a couple of acres on the Beaulieu River, fit for the occasional stray pop star, sells for several million. The Beaulieu Motor Museum is a great attraction.
The village of Pilley Bailey, known locally as Pilley, is a little less expensive. It is small, with a pub, a church and a shop. A two-up-two-down cottage here would fetch around £250,000. The whole of this area is close to the sea, and in particular to Lymington – an extremely expensive, but rather quaint yachtsman’s playground. A 150-year-old cottage close to the river with three bedrooms will cost £675,000 here. A fast shuttle train links it to Brockenhurst.
As rail services have improved, commuters are now prepared to move even further down the line to Bournemouth, attracted by its pine-cloaked valleys, sandy beaches and breezy clifftops. It is also a commercial success story, attracting big insurance companies to relocate and establishing its name as a major conference centre. The journey to London can be done in 108 minutes, an annual season ticket costs £5,128, and there are three peak trains per hour. Incomers are attracted to the purpose-built leasehold flats in blocks with sea views along the Eastcliff, each of which has its own price hierarchy. A middle-market block will yield a one-bedroom flat from £325,000; two-bedrooms for £375,000; three-bedrooms £450,000. You will be extremely lucky to find a freehold house facing full frontal to the sea; should such a rarity come on the market, you could expect to pay £650,000 to £700,000 for three bedrooms, a roof terrace and cliff top access.