Goodbye Kent hello Surrey.
In mid February 2019, Jo and I started looking for a new house. We had lived in the garden of England (Greenhithe, Kent) since 2004 and it was time to move on. Our Victorian two up, two down terraced home had served us well.
We had previously spent a good few months watching the TV show Location Location Location & Love it or List it presented by Phil Spencer and Kirsty Allsopp and had a pretty good idea what we wanted in a house, (off-street parking, backing onto a field or farm, walking distance to a village shop, it must have a pub, it should be close to a reliable train link into London, if it had an extra bedroom or bathroom that would be a bonus and it should have a nice garden). Nothing too fancy, but something we could mature into like a fine wine.
We used Google Maps to pick out some green belts along the M25. Kent was not an option, despite all the years we had loved explored the region. The train line into London was a concern and we didn’t want to go to far West because both of us work in the Square mile. In the end we opted for a drive through Surrey.
Via West Kingsdown, Biggins Hill and many winding B roads we entered Surrey and discovered a lovely town called Reigate. With its picturesque old town centre and huge public parks and fields it was surrounded by countryside. Reigate certainly checked a lot of our boxes. Unfortunately it was a pricey place and we discovered the train line wasn’t quite direct to London. We would have to change at Redhill. Still it was a good start.
We sat in a pub just outside Reigate and broadened the search area. We drove West towards Dorking. The scenery was simply stunning. If one looks at this area on Google Maps you’ll see it says “Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty“. They were not wrong!
The further West we drove, the more impractical things got. The houses were quaint, and the villages were amazingly expensive. We also started to look at things in a more practical light. As nice as a house would be in the countryside on a single laned road, one had to think about getting to the station to get to work and back home again and where would we buy groceries from?, or how easy would it be for goods to be delivered or how fast were mobile speeds in the area? We had noticed the lacak of mobile data coverage in many of the villages and that was a big red flag.
So we headed back East towards Redhill. It is a fairly large town with lots of shops and businesses in the town centre. There were lots of suburbs around the town centre and although there were loads of nice parts of Redhill close to Reigate, it just didn’t have that small town / village feeling we were after.
Reigate had really thrown a curve ball at us. We wanted something like that town. Just outside Redhill up a fairly steep road on the A25 the houses changed again for the better. We got all excited again and started to think about the practicalities of living on the hill near the town centre, until we started to look at the online estate agents and saw the house prices. 🙁
Feeling quite dejected we carried on driving the A25 towards the M25, which would take us home and passed a sign that said “Welcome to Bletchingley”. There was a scatter of quaint houses along the road. There were also a few ‘For Sale’ signs on the fences. We took down their numbers. We saw a pub called The Red Lion and pulled in for an early dinner. The pub had a lovely village feeling and while we sat there eating our supper we had a look at the Bletchingley wikipedia page.
Bletchingley (historically “Blechingley”) is a village in Surrey, England. It is on the A25 road to the east of Redhill and to the west of Godstone, has a conservation area with medieval buildings and is mostly on a wide escarpment of the Greensand Ridge, which is followed by the Greensand Way. The village lay within the Anglo-Saxon administrative division of Tandridge hundred. The settlement appears in the Domesday Book as Blachingelei. Bletchingley is architecturally and topologically distinct: the central part of the village is a conservation area with several buildings timber-framed from the late Middle Ages and the village is set in a designated area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB).
A village in a conservation area with medieval buildings … we figured that almost certainly meant the houses in this area were going to be expensive and after some quick searches on a few estate agents, it proved to be true.
Back home we continued to search between Reigate, Bletchingley and Godstone. Bletchingley definitely ticked a lot of our boxes and if one looks at the village from the satellite view on Google Maps one can see why;
- An old medieval village.
- Surrounded by fields and farms and a golf course (that was a pleasant surprise).
- A couple of pubs.
- A very old church.
- 10 minutes drive to three train stations (Redhill, Merstham, Nutfield).
- Easy access to the A25, M25 and M23 and a whole bunch of country lanes.
- Both Gatwick Airport and Heathrow Terminals were 20 minutes away.
- In an area of outstanding natural beauty.
With a master plan to raise the money, and a mortgage in principal, we were back in Bletchingley the following weekend. We had arranged three house viewings within a couple hundred yards of each other.
The first house was on the A25 a couple of houses away from The Red Lion pub. It was nice house, but didn’t have much of a garden to speak of. The front garden was non existent and it was been used as a parking lot. The house only had one bathroom and it was downstairs behind the kitchen and that road noise was terrible, despite the owner telling us it didn’t bother her.
The second and third houses were in Clerks Croft, a complex off Church lane next to the Bletchingley Golf Club. The lane itself had many beautiful houses.
The road into the Clerks Croft was paved, which was a good start and it was surrounded on either side by beautiful gardens and trees. The complex overlooks the golf course. There were about 30 houses, all unique in their own ways.
The second house we looked at had a large reception room, a kitchen and a lovely conservatory. Upstairs there was one large bedroom with an en-suite and a smaller second bedroom next to a small bathroom. The garden to the rear was bare, but backed onto the golf course. It had lovely views although we felt it was a little exposed. Overall the house felt dated and would definitely require a lot of work. Not something we were keen on doing again.
The third house was also in Clerks Croft and it blew us away the second we drove up the driveway. It had an immediate wow factor. For starters, the house was not overlooked. It had a nicely paved driveway to the garage. A garage, what a bonus? The garage door was remote controlled 🙂 and led into the back garden. Inside the kitchen was nice and modern with all the necessary white good built into the cupboards. The hall was laid with wooden flooring and the lounge had wooden floors and beams on the roof and felt warm and welcoming. There was a wood burner of sorts in the fireplace.
The conservatory lead off the lounge and had large windows overlooking a beautiful garden. There was a paved patio and a small patch of grass. There was also a shed although it was discreetly hidden from view. There were at least a dozen birds flying in and out of the shrubs and flowers. We love birds. Upstairs there were two large double bedrooms and third single bedroom, which we figured could easily be used as a study. There was also a separate bathroom. The main bedroom had built in cupboards, and an en-suite with a shower, basin and toilet. The bedroom windows overlooked the garden and a beautiful field that rolled down the valley to the golf course. It was just incredible. Seeing that view checked all our boxes.
A couple of days later our offer on the house was accepted and the long legal process started.
Google says “It takes about 6 months to buy a house, however this varies from move to move. On average it’s 20-90 days to find a house, 15-30 days to receive a mortgage offer, 20-30 days to find a solicitor and exchange contracts then 10-30 days to complete and get the keys.”
It took us:
- 1 day to find the area we wanted to live in.
- 1 day to make an offer and have the seller agree.
- 1 day to find a mortgage broker and solicitor.
- 15-30 days to receive the mortgage offer.
- 100 days to exchange contracts, complete and get the keys.
It was a frustrating ordeal that took far too long. I would definitely not recommend O’Neill Patient Solicitors. Our solicitor was simply useless, incompetent and wasted so much time.
I would 100% recommend Charlotte Skinner, Mortgage & Protection Consultant at Bond & Associates Financial Services Limited. Charlotte was fantastic from the minute we spoke to her about the mortgage to her getting the mortgage approved.
It’s been a wonderful three months since we said goodbye to Kent and hello to Surrey. I’ll do another post soon on our life in Clerks Croft.
The 4 small photographs were sourced from: Lost hospitals of London (https://ezitis.myzen.co.uk/clerkscroft.html)
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We are Mike and Jo Bowen. Originally from South Africa, we now live & work in the United Kingdom. Mike is the blogger, beer drinker, gadget man, reviewer and Jo is the proofreader, wine drinker, cat lady, sanity checker and “don’t you dare put that on lookatbowen.com“. Together we travel the world and have fun wherever possible. If you are new to this website and want to know more about us, check out the the longer version.
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