Say hello to the new Cotswolds

THE Cotswolds are lovely, but the problem with them is that everybody knows it. Prices are high &ndash; whether you&rsquo;re buying dinner or a house. If it&rsquo;s the latter, entering the market can be a struggle as demand far exceeds supply, and when you do land your dream cottage, you&rsquo;ll be paying over the odds for it.<br /><br />So, if you want a country bolthole with plenty of land and charm, Herefordshire is a clever alternative. It won&rsquo;t work for daily commuting, being about three hours from London whether you take the train or drive, but for a weekend retreat, it offers all the Cotswolds do and more. <br /><br />&ldquo;I always say Herefordshire is the nearest bit of real countryside to London,&rdquo; says Tim Jessop, of Knight Frank&rsquo;s office there. &ldquo;Yes, it&rsquo;s another hour or so on the journey to London compared to the Cotswolds, but it&rsquo;s rural and unspoilt &ndash; the Black Mountains are also a big draw. I&rsquo;d say you definitely get a lot more for your buck here. You can buy something pretty special for &pound;1m that would cost &pound;2-&pound;2.5m in the Cotswolds.&rdquo; <br /><br />Hurry though, as Jessop says Londoners are starting to pick up on the delights of the area: &ldquo;Quite a lot of people are buying their main house in Herefordshire while keeping a pad in London. Or people still working in town might use this as their weekend house. <br /><br />&ldquo;There&rsquo;s lots that appeals to the hunting/shooting/fishing brigade,&rdquo; he adds. As for other forms of entertainment, Titley has got Britain&rsquo;s first ever Michelin-starred pub, The Stagg Inn, and there&rsquo;s lots of gastrofare about, along with a good theatre in Malvern. What&rsquo;s not to love? <br /><br /><strong>OLDFIELD FARM, LUDLOW</strong><br />Price: &pound;900,000<br />A five-bedroom, 16th century Grade II-listed farmhouse set within 2.5 acres of beautifully landscaped gardens<br />Contact: Strutt &amp; Parker, 01584 873711<br /><br /><strong>LUGWARDINE HOUSE, HEREFORD</strong><br />Price: &pound;1,675,000<br />Set in its own parland, this five-bedroom house has views of Lugg Valley and the Black Mountains.<br />Contact: Knight Frank, 01432 273087<br /><br /><strong>BROOMFIELD, HAY-ON-WYE</strong><br />Price: &pound;900,000<br />Brilliant value Italianate Regency mansion, this five-bedroom pile near the Welsh border comes with nearly five acres of land.<br />Contact: Savills, 01952 239500