Is This Britain's Finest Stour? Property Mail: East of England Special A Neglected Patch of East Anglia Offers Period Properties at Knockdown Prices, Reports Nigel Lewis

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Byline: NIGEL LEWIS

THE area was once familiar to millions of TV viewers as the backdrop to the Lovejoy TV series, and it is surprising that house prices in the Stour Valley on the Essex/Suffolk borders are not higher.

The valley has verdant farmland peppered with villages and brick cottages and is crossed by a maze of winding country roads.

Yet house prices in this part of the Stour Valley remain reasonable compared to Cambridge (an hour's drive away) for reasons that few estate agents are able to define.

'I guess the area has been overlooked by many people moving to East Anglia from London and Essex, as there are plenty of other more high-profile towns such as Burnham Market, Aldeburgh and Southwold to choose from,' says Todd Lewis of estate agent Mullucks Wells.

'It's just a matter of profile.' But if you are prepared to hunt really hard you'll find two-bedroom houses going for approximately [pounds sterling]140,000 in 'Lovejoy country'.

From 1986 to 1994, its villages were used as locations for the TV series which starred Ian McShane as a rogueish antique dealer, with much of the filming taking place in and around the village of Long Melford.

Prices for a two-bedroom cottage rise to [pounds sterling]175,000 if a property is period and has decent-sized bedrooms or a big garden, but detached modern houses with big gardens fetch over [pounds sterling]400,000, and older examples can sell for [pounds sterling]600,000.

'If you want to get real value for money then you're going to have to ditch dreams of an old Lovejoy-style property and go for something modern,' says Brigitte Robins of Sudbury-based agent Bradford & Bingley. …