The photo albums of the Hardie family are stuffed with images of their four children messing about by the seaside.
- © Andrew Hasson
The family live inland in the pretty West Sussex village of Kirdford but their home is less than 30 miles’ drive, through the South Downs National Park, to the excellent beaches of West Wittering.
But their home is also close enough to London for Christopher Hardie, 55, to make it from front door to his desk in the City within an hour and 15 minutes.
Put simply, the Hardie family are “inbetweeners” — families who have selected a commutable home within striking distance of the coast.
“When the children were little we would often go for the day. You only needed the sun to come out and you could just jump in the car,” says mum Emma, 54, an interior designer. “A lot of our neighbours go sailing from Chichester and Bosham, so you can really do it all.”
Kirdford is a lively little village with two pubs and an award-winning shop. It is about 12 miles from Haslemere, which has train services to Waterloo taking 49 minutes (annual season ticket: £4,456).
After 12 years in Kirdford and with three of their children living away from home and the fourth poised to go to drama school later in the year, they are staying in the area and downsizing from their spacious family home of 4,811sq ft six-bedroom house with swimming pool, separate cottage, stabling and paddocks, set in 8.27 acres. It is now on the market for £2.25 million with Knight Frank (homesand property.co.uk/kirdford).
If the inbetweener lifestyle enjoyed by the Hardies sounds appealing, then their nearest town, Haslemere, which is across the border into Surrey, is worth exploring in its own right.
“It is a vibrant small town with a lot of little eateries and cafés,” says Chris Hebert, manager of the Haslemere branch of Hamptons International. “The schools are brilliant, there is great walking country and for children there are lots of clubs and societies, the sports facilities are excellent with good pubs within a three- or four-mile radius. Guildford has clubs but that tends not to bother the young families moving here.”
Surrey is, of course, expensive but you could buy a period town-centre cottage, dating from the 16th or 17th century, from about £500,000, or a large detached brick and tile-hung house, dating from the Fifties, with four or five bedrooms for about £1 million.
WEST MALLING, KENT
This great inbetweener option is an ideal staging post for days out on the Kent coast — it is only 30 miles to Whitstable, with its great seafood restaurants, beach and water sports, but also only 48 minutes by train to Victoria (annual season ticket: £3,876).
West Malling (pronounced “Mauling”) is much smaller than better-known Kentish commuter magnets such as Sevenoaks. “But it is absolutely gorgeous,” says Jill Mitchenall, a director of Jackson-Stops & Staff.
“There is a long high street of glorious Georgian houses, some great little shops and restaurants such as The Swan.”
It is also better value than other parts of the county, with two- or three-bedroom cottages, some dating from the 1400s, priced at between £500,000 and £600,000.
Six-bedroom Georgian homes with substantial gardens sell for between £1 million and £1.3 million.
A key advantage to West Malling is that it benefits from Kent’s grammar- school system (local seniors tend to travel to Maidstone), while the village primary is considered “good” by Ofsted.