Tuesday, 09 August 2022

Herb Farm estate becomes reality

Herb Farm estate becomes reality

Sonning Common residents can’t fail to have noticed work is well under way at new development Lea Meadow, adjacent to the Herb Farm, on Peppard Road (B481). LUCY BOON spoke to the site’s South East-based housebuilder Bewley Homes to find out what’s in store.

YOU may not have heard of Bewley Homes. They’re a bit niche and not ones to toot their own horns from the highest mountain.

And yet, back in May, Bewley Homes was named housebuilder of the year at the prestigious Thames Valley Property Awards — the biggest property event in the region outside London.

The company’s USP, if you will, is building quality properties (Smeg ovens, Silestone worktops, bi-fold doors) in sought-after South East commuter locations, costing upwards of £200,000 to just under £1million.

And it was granted planning permission to build 65 new homes on land which it bought from Sonning Common’s Herb Farm last year.

So what’s all the fuss about?

“It’s about personal attention to detail,” says press manager Julia Cooke, who lives in Henley with her young family and knows the local property market extremely well.

Managing director Andrew Brooks is known for visiting the site himself to make sure the properties are up to standard.

“Andrew is extremely hands on – as well as being really nice,” says Julia. “He wants to know that everything is working absolutely as it ought to be. If he thinks something is not right, he personally makes sure it gets fixed — it’s something the company is known for.”

Bewley also uses the services of HomeSnag, a specialist company, to check for “snags” once a home is finished.

Extra wide staircases, good-sized gardens and higher-than-most ceilings are other characteristics of the family company’s style.

Julia adds: “I’ve worked in property for 17 years and since I’ve been with Bewley I’ve been impressed by how appealing, creative and on point they are with their developments.”

Andrew’s father Colin founded the company in 1991 with the principle of aesthetically pleasing homes in a great location that are high quality as well as not being identikit.

There is enough variation to make Bewley developments a bit more charming than others. Plus, each development is designed with its local environment in mind.

One development in Surrey was in the village reputed to be that on which Jane Austen based the Hartfield in her novel, Emma, so properties were named after characters in the book.

With Lea Meadow, all its streets/specs are named after plants in tribute to the Herb Farm next door. So we get four-bedroom Columbine, along with three-bedroom Camomile and two-bedroom Mint.

Yet Bewley is building houses for the regular Joe, rather than the top one per cent of the country. Lea Meadow comprises a range of homes from two-bedroom units up to five-bedroom houses — all built around an open space with a play area.

Prices start from £595,000 for a two-bedroom bungalow and go up to £920,000 for a five-bedroom house.

Along with the 65 homes — 40 per cent of which will be affordable housing, in line with district council policy — the 3.7-hectare site will have space for 170 cars.

All properties come with parking, either spaces or a combination of garage/driveway. Important when you consider the majority of those living here will be commuting.

Buying outside a city means more space and value for money, plus Lea Meadow is in a very attractive location, being part of an existing village and surrounded by the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Houses are bordered by open farmland as well as the Herb Farm garden centre, which offers home-grown plants, crafts, gifts and a café with home-made cakes.

Families will be pleased to know that most local schools are rated “good” by Ofsted, and Sonning Common offers a variety of amenities including a GP surgery and a post office. So what’s not to like?

Also, Reading is a 10-minute drive away or a 15-minute bus ride, while trains from Reading mainline to London Paddington take 28 minutes at peak time. And from 2018, Crossrail will be able to get you to Tottenham Court Road in under an hour.

Indeed, Julia says there’s been a lot of interest from property seekers, and some of the bungalows — which are either two- or three-bedroom — have already been reserved.

Those interested in seeing the show home are now able to do just that — it was finished in late September.

Julia says: “More buyers than ever are realising that with new housing developments you get more for your money than with an older, period equivalent.

“There are so many benefits that a new home can give you, including taking pleasure in the fact that it will have the latest specifications, be more energy efficient, and have the latest security measures.

“It’s also great to know the house has only ever been lived in by you, and you’ll have far less repairs with a new house than with an older property. Then there is the 10-year warranty.”

As with most new builds, each Bewley build comes with a 10-year structural warranty that covers any building defects found in the property during that time, as well as 24-hour emergency cover provided through NPA for the first two years. This covers problems relating to central heating and hot water, plumbing, drainage, failure of internal electrics and door locks.

The show home is one of the most expensive properties on offer at £920,000. It has a central position, while offering a lot of privacy, and yet is adjacent to the communal open park area. Plus there’s the option to buy the interior dressings and furniture, too, all of which have been hand-picked for the property by design firm Maverick.

To help you get the home you want, Bewley is offering part-exchange terms. This would mean Bewley buys your existing home from you and you get to move straight into your new home, even if your old one’s unsold.

Bewley is also offering the Government’s Help to Buy initiative, which means it’s possible to purchase a new Bewley home priced up to £600,000 with as little as a five per cent deposit.

Andrew Brooks explains: “The ability to access Help to Buy has certainly contributed greatly to helping individuals access private property ownership and sales rates seem overall to be higher at any site which can offer Help to Buy.”

For more information, call Bewley on 07384 253865. Also for sale through Savills and Haslams.


What makes these two-bedroom bungalows stand out is their large entertaining areas, with doors that open flat against the wall (great when you’ve got a lot of guests in one space).

At the back of the property, the light and spacious kitchen and dining room has been finished with designer kitchen units and integrated appliances with French doors that open on to the garden.

There’s also a garage to one side, with private parking, and the front door is extra wide.


Two bedrooms

Two bathrooms (Roca white bathroom suite with steel bath and chrome fittings)

Living room with class 2 flue fireplace

Kitchen/entertaining area out to garden through French doors

Oak Iseo internal doors (white to en suite)

Designer kitchen units and integrated appliances

Single bay garage plus off street parking


Certainly the prize address of the whole development, you’ll be quite smitten with number 7 Bay Tree Rise — the Lea Meadow show home.

There’s a bit of an arts and crafts vibe, with bay and gabled windows, stone-surround fireplace, and Cotswolds bi-colour bricks.

Inside is all wide, clean spaces and practical surfaces, such as engineered oak and granite, with cosy interior touches and Smeg hardware in the kitchen.

The kitchen/dining/family room is, naturally, the best room in the house. It’s dual-aspect, as well as being light and bright, and encompasses the garden’s entertaining area via French doors.

Over three floors, with five bedrooms and two bathrooms, as well as a study and an attached double garage, you get a lot for your money here. Very impressive.


Alarm system

Oak Iseo internal doors (white to en suite)

Class two flue fireplace

Designer kitchen units

Smeg oven, hob and fridge/freezer

Integrated Smeg dishwasher

Roca white bathroom suite with steel bath and chrome fittings


Double garage

Downstairs WC


• Adjacent to communal park area


Bewley has other local developments including Reading Gateway, just off the A33, which is a good option for first-time buyers who want to get on the property ladder.

Prices start from £300,000 for a two-bedroom apartment and rise to £545,000 for a four-bedroom house.


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