Friday, 17 September 2021

Friends, neighbours... what could be better?

This week we’re taking a look at houses where, like Australia’s longest-running drama series, good neighbours

This week we’re taking a look at houses where, like Australia’s longest-running drama series, good neighbours become good friends...

Love the idea of street parties? Feeling sociable? Standard Property may have found just the thing — especially if you like the idea of living in a street where the front garden belongs to all of you — which is the case with the attractive tree-lined Chilterns End Close in Henley.

Tucked away behind busy Greys Road, but still within walking distance of the town centre, this is a little haven of green tranquillity where the properties are ‘proper’ family houses.

“The communal garden’s perfect for street parties and shared barbecues,” says Piers Bellman, who lives at the property with wife Dawn and their two teenage sons. “It has been one of the great things about living here. Having said that, there is never any pressure to attend, but it is always worth it when you do!”

The house also has a small private front garden, as well as a secluded back garden.

The high-spec close was built in 1999 by Bewley Homes in the extensive grounds of an old house, Chilterns End Manor, which had been a care home for the elderly for a number of years.

“After a purpose-built care home had been built in the grounds, the old manor was sold to Bewley,” explains Piers. “We first saw the development in 1998 when it was still being built, but we weren’t in a position to move at that time. So when we saw that number seven was on the market late in 2002 we put our house [in nearby Valley Road] on the market specifically to buy it. Luckily for us, it all worked out.”

The houses in the close — there are seven — vary, both in terms of design and footprint, and the Bellmans’ property is the only one of its kind.

Other pluses for number seven include it being at the end of the close and the fact that it is on a corner plot.

And then there’s that unusual sunken garden. “As part of the original planning permission, there was a requirement to keep and maintain the sunken garden in as close to its original form as possible,” says Piers. “It provides an attractive open yet private communal space [each property owns a one-seventh share] which we all enjoy, and which is maintained by a gardener, funded by the annual maintenance fee.

“As well as the communal garden being a wonderful space for children to play in, over the years we have held numerous street/garden parties here, for events such as the Queen’s jubilee and the royal wedding. And when royal occasions dry up we make our own excuses for a garden party! Throughout the summer the sunken garden hosts many an impromptu barbecue.”

But the sunken garden was not the main reason the family chose to live here. “Without a doubt the thing that attracted us to the house was the size and spaciousness of the accommodation,” says Piers.

“Six bedrooms over three floors meant that we could both have separate studies for working at home when we needed to [the Bellmans both work in IT], and we could also have a games/movie room for the boys.” And when Piers says six bedrooms, he means six bedrooms. All six are doubles, and there is an additional study on the ground floor.

The first floor houses four of the bedrooms — two of which are en suite — and a family bathroom, with two more double bedrooms on the top floor.

“Dawn uses the downstairs study as her office, but I’ve chosen to use a top bedroom as mine as I find the top floor is quiet and therefore a good sanctuary!” says Piers. “The boys both have large bedrooms next door to each other on the first floor but they like to communicate with each other via Skype!”

Downstairs, apart from the aforementioned study, there’s a WC off the hallway, a 25ft dual-aspect sitting room, and — the best part — the kitchen/breakfast/dining area which has been created thanks to an extension.

“Everything has been recently modernised,” says Piers. “Over the past 18 months we have been working hard at bringing the house much more in tune with the needs of today’s families. We used to have a fairly large fish pond in the garden but we filled it in to make way for the extension. We also knocked down an internal wall, and totally refitted the utility room.” This latter adjoins the kitchen and has side access, which as anyone with a family knows, comes in extremely useful when the kids have been playing outdoors.

The property’s current family find this new kitchen/breakfast/dining area is the “hub” of the house. “We all have our favourite rooms,” says Piers. “But the kitchen area is pretty much where we spend all our time now! Without a doubt, we will miss our ‘new’ Loxley kitchen when we move — especially the beautifully crafted units and all the fabulous appliances.

“We also have a huge island with space for four or five people to sit around at one end. We chose a leathered granite work surface which has a wonderful feel and is easy to maintain as it doesn’t show streaks like most highly polished granites do.”

Two sets of French doors lead off the kitchen/breakfast/family area, with a further set of French doors from the aforementioned sitting room. All open on to the patio terrace outside.

“These doors have also made a really big difference to how we live,” said Piers. “It means we can open up all the ground floor rooms to bring the house and back garden together.”

And if you’re having a lot of street parties in the communal front garden, you may find you appreciate the seclusion of the back one all the more.

“The back garden offers a secluded oasis of calm,” says Piers. “We returfed the lawn here not long ago, once the building work was finished, and it is looking great.”

The house also has a detached double garage to the front, as well as a drive for off-street parking. The final cherry on top is that planning permission has been granted to extend the ground floor further (plans are available are available on the South Oxfordshire District Council website under application number B14.1360/S).

“As part of our planning application for the extension, we also applied for permission to add another reception room on the side of the house, to use as a media/family room. However, having completed the new open-plan kitchen area, we found that it had become our family room, and so concluded that we actually have all the space we need on the ground floor. The next owners could easily extend further if they felt they’d use another room.”

So, who will be the next owners — those taking up the Chilterns End Close baton (or barebcue duties) from the Bellmans? “We actually think the house will suit anyone at all,” says Piers. “It is fair to say, though, that a family with young children would benefit massively from the private community. When we moved here, the boys were five and two respectively, and were either at, or on their way to, nearby Valley Road primary [Ofsted rated ‘Good’] and Gillotts secondary school [which has a very good reputation]. The sunken garden is so secure, and there is almost always somebody in one of the houses who is ready and willing to play, often with super-soakers, footballs or scooters — a great benefit in enticing the kids away from their various electronic devices!”

When residents do feel the need to get away from the close, there are some local shops around the corner in King James Way, and of course extensive facilities in the town centre itself (with that all-important train to London and Reading), which is an easy walk away.

Commuters needing to travel further afield will be glad to hear of Crossrail’s service from Twyford, opening in 2019, offering a direct link straight through to Tottenham Court Road in just 50 minutes, and Canary Wharf in 62 minutes.

“At the end of the close is a bus stop which offers regular bus services to central Henley,” says Piers. “It’s very convenient as it stops right at the end of the close. However, we rarely use it as it’s only a 10 to 15 minute walk into town — a good way to get a little exercise.”

Continuing on the subject of the town, Dawn is a real local, having been brought up in Henley. “I went to Valley Road School on the very first day it opened,” says Dawn, who later went on to Gillotts, followed by The Henley College (then called King James’s College).

“We will miss our neighbours and the spirit of the close,” continues Dawn, “but ‘neighbours have become good friends’, and they will remain so. We have had some fantastic times here, and have some wonderful memories of the close, but it is now time for someone else to reap the benefits of living here.

“There’s a real feeling of seclusion and security. Not only for kids, who from an early age can play outside safe in the knowledge that an adult is watching out for them, but also the fact that as neighbours, we always look out for each other and watch over each other’s houses.”

Piers adds: “The move is essentially a lifestyle choice and has always been on our agenda. We hope to move to a slightly smaller house where we will be able to realign our finances and realise capital to help the boys through further education. But loving Henley as we do, we can’t really see ourselves living that far from it. To be fair, why would anyone want to live anywhere else?”

Standard Property couldn’t agree more.

Number seven Chilterns End Close is for sale with Ballards at a guide price of £1,395,000. Call (01491) 411055 for more information.

More News:

POLL: Have your say