Trowbridge via Freshford
FRESHFORD is favoured by retiring Bathonians. It is a strong little community, with its own shop and local railway station. Local trains drop you quickly into Bath, so there is no problem with parking the car and the season ticket price is the same as that from Bath.
Bradford-on-Avon is so expensive that it vies with Bath. Indeed, it is built of the same limestone as Bath, on hills falling so steeply towards the Avon that the winding paths between the houses give one the feeling of being in a Greek village. Across the arched stone bridge, and open to the public, is one of the biggest tithe barns in the country. Bradford attracts many tourists who come in summer to wander the river and old shopping streets, have tea, buy second-hand books, and browse the craft shops. It has a good swimming pool, rowing and sailing clubs, and an annual arts festival. There are marvellous walks along the Kennet and Avon Canal.
The attraction of owning a house overlooking the tessellated rooftops of weavers’ cottages, miniature 18th-century homes and narrow gardens bulging with hollyhocks is difficult to quantify. There is a definite ex-military and ex-naval presence here. Larger houses sell for hundreds of thousands of pounds, but it is occasionally possible to find a period three-bedroom terrace house on four floors, with a tiny garden, at around £290,000. On the outer roads, three-bedroom ex-council houses in reconstructed stone will sell for £180,000 upwards. Towards the higher end of the market on the edge of town you could get a four-bedroom Victorian stone semi with outbuildings, in over half an acre, for around £600,000.
Broughton Gifford is much quieter, set in deep countryside with a village green faced by Gifford Hall, a 1688 village house. Steeple Ashton, like Bradford-on-Avon, was built on the profits of the wool industry. It has a prize-winning village shop run by the villagers, a church with no steeple and a swag of new housing. A Grade II listed, four-bedroom cottage will cost around £490,000. Nearby is Keevil, a collection of rather exclusive cottages with a stone manor house and a thriving primary school. A five-bedroom half-timbered house with large garden and outhouses would cost £570,000.