Country Towns in England Montage

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Relocating to the countryside is a hazadous occupation unless you've done your research properly
. That's why newspapers like the Evening Standard run annual articles on the subject and, being a mouthpiece for Londoners, welcome back those 'unfortunates' who've made a mess of things with a touch of schadenfreude. Below we provide a list of the hazards to be avoided in the countryside and suggestions on how a change in attitude generally helps townies to adapt to a successful country lifestyle without upsetting the 'locals'.

1. Attitude Changes.
The old saying "In Rome do as the Romans Do" should be carved on your forehead, etched in the window glass of your car and put as a default mode in your computer!

Property Hotspot Midhurst 2012
According to Helen Davies of the Sunday Times on the 8th of January Midhurst and Churt (near Hindhead) are property hotspots "More commuters are dropping down from Haslemere and south Surrey Midhurst..for better value" The opening of the A3 tunnel at Hindhead is expected to boost property prices by at least 5%. Read more about property here.

Moving to the countryside with your town values unmodified is the quickest and surest way of getting off on the wrong foot with locals. The deeper you go into the farmed countryside the more you'll have to change your perspective.

Townies tend to regard nature - its trees, shrubs, and wildlife - as an adornment, -like householders regards their geegaws, pictures and furnishings - something which has to be managed, shaped and controlled.

In the townscape hedges are seen purely as boundaries and a fence against neighbours and the outside world. Neatness and security remain supreme. In the countryside, they are also the living quarters for birds and wildlife so need to be left to grow more freely and cut (or hacked) less frequently to allow for nesting and as a quiet haven for their residents.

Some townies find the countryside in the raw a total shock to the system. All that mess and mud, noise - yes noise - and farm smells.

It bears repeating. The countryside is a workplace not a theme park. Farmers, foresters and miners all make noise and like other humans everywhere drop litter, old larger cans, redundant equipment,and anything they don't need in the coutryside. When we urge you to adapt to country ways we are, of course, not advocating picking up countrysiders anti-social behviour!

When you move to the countryside make a resolution to support local farm shops and farmers markets, use the local bakery if there is one left and get your wrought ironwork from the nearest blacksmith forge. In other words be supportive of local business.

Townies are security mad. Although there are pockets of crime in the countryside especially in rich areas, security is not such a priority. Townies tolerate gated communities and the mentality which they breed. In the countryside a fortress mentality is out of place, prevents a gentler more relaxed form of communication with neighbours and the community. Try therefore not to surround yourself with an impenetrable leylandii hedge, a high fence and security gates with strobe lights. They also happen to be an excellent advertisement for burglars!

When I bought a country cottage 28 years ago in West Sussex as a weekend retreat I was quite determined not to succumb to the fortress mentality. Instead, I bought some Korean cutlery and some unsophisticated crockery from a local pottery, declined to install a burglar alarm, a swimming pool or a tennis court, kept everything basic and so far haven't been troubled by burglars or had anthing stolen from my open-barn garage. Keep your rich-stuff, jewllery, and fancy paintings in your London pad if you retain one and live simply in your country cottage. I recommend it. Not of course a practical proposition if your country home is your only residence. (Picture left Wild Wood Antiques French Country Furniture near Midhurst - visitors welcome to our barn-workshop at Heyshot. Nr Midhurst]

Adapting to the countryside also means being prepared to take up some country pursuits. Instead of travelling to the nearest large town to a gym for a workout, join up with a friend and go for a long walk across the hills. Take a ruck sack, a Landranger Map, a mobile phone, some money and some grub if its of more than a few hours duration; or you may prefer to join the Ramblers if you want to 'talk the walk'.

Italian Market in Midhurst Saturday 10th September

Country Markets

Gardening is, to the initiat, backbreaking work. Pushing the mower? You must be joking. Let's buy a ride-on and get Paddy to do it. If this is your attitude you'll fail to get the most of what's on offer - getting close to nature, and the incredible feeling of elation when something you've planted comes into flower. Other people with gardens will want to share their garden secrets with you, swop plants, and call round for tea occasionally to have a chat. My neighbour took up bat watching for a hobby and used a special electronic device to listen to their sounds and record their movements. Fascinating.

And, she popped round on bat nights with her infernal machine had a drink with us on our candlelit terrace and trundled off down the wooded track to follow more 'night warriors' to their feeding grounds.

A bit of advice. If you have a tendency to a neatness syndrome or accompanying control freakiness which prevents you from spontaneously accepting offers to go bat spotting, dog walking, birds nesting or dinner out at a local pub, then don't attempt a move to the countryside. You'll hate it. If you hate having a hair out of place, wet shoes, scratched legs or any form of physical inconvenience don't get country fever. Continue to read your favourite country magazine instead and hang lavender in your new Aga-rich kitchen - in Bromley, Kensington or wherever.

One last point on 'attitudes'. Country folk - farmers and their ilk - are generally far more sociable and friendly than your average townsman, wave to you, stop for a chat, even call round when you're new to the area with some fresh veggies or a pint of milk. Don't treat this as suspicious behaviour. Some people - not many I grant you that - are still relaxed and naturally friendly. When you meet someone on a country path greet them and if they pass your country abode on foot or perhaps on a mountain bike give them a wave.

2. Countryside Hazards and Naughties. How to Find Them and Give Them a Wide Berth!

An old adage 'time spent in preparation is time saved in execution' should be your watchword. Take your time over reconnaissance, visiting your short-listed areas several times before making a decison to move. Budgenor Lodge, Midhurst. A major development of flats, apartments and small houses in a Grade 2 Listed Building - now available. See Midhurst Pages.

A good idea - and one which helps to break you into country mode - is to arm yourself with either a mountain bike or walking boots, stay in a nice B&B and set off to explore the neighbourhood. Yes! By all means use a car too. But, its walking or biking the lanes and paths which will reveal to you the places to avoid and the places to short-list. You can't detect farm smells easily from a car; you are invariable travelling too fast, or concentrating rightly on the road, to see a fraction of the good (and bad) things around you.

Working farms are generally smelly, muddy and noisy places at certain times of the year. Cocks crowing are often an amazing - but incredibly disturbing - experience for the townsman. Cocks?. They don't still exist do they? Yes, They certainly do, and they live in the countryside not on a supermarket shelf. Like certain creative people I know they wake up at four in the morning and crow their little hearts out.

If you've just finished clearing the barbie and waving your friends goodbye at two o'clock, being woken up by a perky rooster at four is not one of life's pleasures - unless you're a countryman who's brain filters out the sound and hears nothing! It's a bit like townees and traffic sounds; but to a countryman traffic sounds and aeroplane noise are really disturbing.

I always remember my father who entertained American Fortress pilots at his country house near Cuckfield in the War saying, with a laugh, how they couldn't get to sleep because of the owls hooting, and if they did get to sleep they were woken by the cocks crowing and the dawn chorus from the birds. Although they loved the family hospitality they seemed more relaxed at the prospect of death and destruction in the air - and, sadly, died they all did.

Here are some tips on how not to drop yourself in the proverbial.

1. Explore the countryside on foot and by bike.
2. If your residence-to-be is near a farm check for smells in a downwind direction, ask the farmer when he spreads manure on his fields (often mid July, the peak barbie season) and find out whether its pig-shit - the worst smell in Christendom. Warning: don't take your hols in Glorious Midhurst in Mid July. 3. Does the farmer have a cock - sorry I can't put it any other way!
4. Does the farmer have cows - almost certainly.
4. When does he have harvest-time? Vehicle noise late into the night is a probability. Whacking great harvesters, travelling at speed, are a lane hazard. Don't get in a confrontation with a farm tractor, harvester or log lorry. Your fancy roadster or 4-wheeled drive will disappear under their tyre treads.
5. When is the principal manure-spreading month?
6. Check on road noise. Sound rises. Visit the house on a weekend and check road noise then.
7. Flight paths. Yes!. Aeroplanes. Make sure these noisy beasts don't pass low over your house flying in to the local airport. Midhurst, for example, is on a flight path for Gatwick and when the wind is in the east in a summer heatwave (and your window is open) you may be woken (if you've got to sleep in the first place) by aeroplanes trundling in quite high every few minutes. In Midhurst itself and even inland near Lurgashall they are not really a problem but villages nearer Gatwick should be avoided as the planes are now a lot lower.
8. Noisy neighbours. The noisiest are going to be those who either have gardens of half an acre or more (strimmers, etc) or larger properties where the families like thowing summer parties, noisy barbies or have a nouveau riche entrepreneur/business magnate with a helipad.
9. Avoid like the plague any house close to a polo helipad ie a house and grounds which plays host to rich polo players and their horses.
10. Find out what road plans there are for a bypass, housing development or new car parks.
11. Check on all the pubs and particularly wine bars in the area. Don't buy a house near a pub. But, noise, smell, litter and loutish behaviour can be evident quite a distance from their original source . So be warned!
12. Does the hamlet or village where your proposed residence is located have a shop? Or a post office? Or, a bank? Or a bus service?. General advice: don't buy a house more than a few miles from these essential services.
13. Check on where your nearest doctor's surgery is, and emergency hospital, supermarket, vet, etc
14. Check on local schooling for your kids.
15. Check on travelling times to your place of work. In the countryside there are different hazards and difficulties to factor in. Floods, snow drifts, black ice, tree-falls in gales, frozen points on railway lines, road crashes in the unlikeliest of places through collisions with foxes, badgers, horses, cows and deer. Yes!. Cows do escape from their fields and can cause mahem to gardens (they ruined mine) and block roads too.

Those are the mains hazards. Your research on bike - see cycle explorers below - and on foot will throw up others.

This is the point where I make a plea to townies. Please don't be put off by the difficulties. The rewards of a successful relocation are immense. And, there is this: the countryside needs you! Prepare to adapt but please bring your internet marketing skills and Metropolitan business experience to the countryside. Country market towns will only survive with new blood, fresh ideas and entrepreneurs with vigour and imagination. Money makes us all more inclined to peregrinate. For the traditional small country town shop this is often its death knell because we all go off for retail therapy to the nearest big town. But, for the new-style internet - savvy entrepereneur it's an opportunity: vacant premises provide a chance for a successful start-up.

Midhurst is a case in point. Incomers from London, Hertfordshire and Essex have created new businesses - shops, clothes catalogues [and restaurants - in the Town this year (2006) all of which rely on internet marketing to bring in people from elsewhere. Or which use the internet to market products and services countrywide. If you're interested in relocating to Midhurst at the heart of the South Downs National Park - 2010 - and the Best Place to Live in Southern England according to Country Life Magazine 2004 - you could make a very welcome contribution to the local economy whilst enjoying the very best of lifestyles.

South Downs National Park

The National Park's Executive has already taken up residence in Midhurst's North Street with offices inRosemary's Parlour.

A MORI poll recently voted Chichester as the most desirable place to live. For more about relocating to Chichester, Petersfield or Portsmouth read this.
- John Trueman, Editor, Country Market Towns

The Country Market Towns Directory with links to local community websites is provided as a resource for Londoners and others who are contempating a move to the countryside or country town.

Coming soon - country market town relocation, life in a country market town, country market town living, moving to a small country market town, property in a country market town, market town estate agents, finding a listed property in a market town, chosing a conservation architect for a market town historic building - all these subjects and more will be covered in Country Market Towns Directory




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Foyle's War Filming with Michael Kitchen (above) in the starring role returned to Midhurst on April 12th/13th 2006 and Series 7 in 2009

For many years now there has been a trend away from living in the suburbs to either city centres - generally favoured by the young and singles - or to the countryside, or more precisely to small country towns - known as Market Towns - and their satellite villages, by the comfortably off, especially professionals and their families.

NEW! Top Haslemere Property Guide

Since the London Bombings many more people have wanted to escape to the relative security of a small country town such as Farnham, Lewes, Midhurst, Petersfield, Petworth or Alresford. Easy access to a main line commuter station is still important since most relocators wish to travel to work in London or retain links with the city. Farnham, Lewes and Petersfield have their own main line stations. Midhurst and Petworth residents use Haslemere Station.

Just what makes for a desirable small country town has been the subject of a recent survey by Country Life Magazine. The preliminary results of their Survey are published below.. A small country town in the UK with a population of less than 20,000 is referred to as a 'Market Town' or 'Country Market Town' irespective of whether it still has a regular market. Traditionally a Market Town has served the surrounding countryside. Over time many got absorbed into connurbations and consequently lost much or all of their identity like Kingston on Thames.

Here is the Shortlist for Top Country Market Town:

Judge: Penelope Keith

It has a steam railway to Alton and its Millennium Trail is a successful new walk. Plenty of good shopping in aptly named Broad Street.

The first town to be given a bypass (by the Romans), it has the oldest Cinque Ports charter, and thriving local company Shepherd Neame is the oldest surviving brewery in the country.

3. LEWES COUNTRY TOWN , East Sussex.
In the foothills of the South Downs and close to the south coast. Its steep high street with its melée of period houses and ancient passageways-called twittens-give a special character.


One of the least spoilt towns in Essex, it lies on the wide Blackwater estuary. There is a seafood month throughout September and an oyster festival. The Maldon mud race has recently been revived.

Famous for its mills, it also has a racecourse which celebrated its 100th anniversary this year. There is a charter market every Thursday and a farmers' market every month.

A town with a medley of architectural styles from timber-framed and Regency to Georgian red-brick and Victorian yellow-brick gives the town a distinct character and the curtain-walled castle is where Mary Tudor was proclaimed Queen.


Beverley Minster towers over this country town. It has folk and literature festivals, and the Saturday market-with 140 stalls-dates back to the town's charter in the Middle Ages.

2. HEXHAM COUNTRY TOWN Northumberland.
There has been a settlement here, 20 miles west of Newcastle, since Saxon times and it is the closest country town to Hadrian's Wall. Among many useful stores, it has a violin shop. In 2001, the new market was judged the best Farmers' Market in England and Wales by the National Farmers' Union.

Perched high on a bank overlooking the River Tees, it is home to the splendid château-style Bowes Museum.


A popular food and drink festival is held next month (September 23-25) among the Grade I-listed timber-framed houses. It also plays host to the world worm-charming championships.

Popular with tourists and locals, this largely Georgian town nestles in the Henmore valley on the edge of the Peak District. It has many small tea rooms and restaurants as well as specialist outdoor clothing and climbing equipment shops.

Called 'the finest scene between London and Edinburgh' by Sir Walter Scott, this country town was one of the richest in England by the 14th century. It also benefited from the stagecoach era of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Today, its riverside festival is one of the biggest free music and arts festivals in the area.


This country town has wonderful specialist shops (such as the famous N. H. Creber delicatessen), traditions (such as the Dickensian Christmas) and a great local paper. And it is all surrounded by stunning scenery and close to the rugged fastness of Dartmore National Park.

A beautiful town with an abundance of medieval buildings, a superb Abbey, famous schools, picturesque almshouses and a new castle, as well as an old one. There are several societies, including a town brass band, and there is a regular market every Thursday and Saturday.

There is plenty of room in this unusual country town for the twice-weekly market in England's widest high street, which has yet to be swamped by chain stores. It also hosts one of the best jazz festivals in the country.

The Country Market Towns Directory with Links to Local Community Websites is provided a s a resource for Londoners and others contemplating a move to the countryside or a country town

Southdowns from
Cowdray Golf Course
near Midhurst
Click picture for more images.

'On Y're Bike'
Exploring the neighbourhood and snapped in Midhurst Square after having tea - Click for an enlargement

This Directory is under construction and won't be complete for a month. Maps will be added; and other information so you can explore all the relocation options. We'll also be listing estate agents & their properties, starting with Midhurst, Petersfield, Haslemere, Petworth and Guildford and Godalming.

Suggest you bookmark this page: Country Towns in England.

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