Darcliffe Homes invited our writer John Burbedge to view its two latest residential developments west of Reading and he happily found himself in ‘Memory Lane’.
I stood on the spot where I watched horses jump gymkhana fences more than 50 years ago. The woods where I played as a child and gathered wild flowers for my mother still overlook this land in Tilehurst where I grew up.
The difference today is the unstoppable march of time and inevitable 21st century changes brought about by Reading’s successful economic growth – highlighted by 35 impressive brand-new homes now built by Darcliffe Homes on this site opposite Hall Place Equestrian Centre.
Was I surprised? – Yes. Was I disappointed? – Not really. Was I happy? Overall: Yes.
Let me explain.
Change is only a surprise if you are unaware of it happening, but … evolution brings progress, which brings change
The Ridings, as the new Darcliffe Homes development is fittingly called, and indeed Stoneham Park, its sister 66-home development being built nearby in Tilehurst, are both solutions – each helping to alleviate the need for new homes in the Reading area, the heart of the dynamic and thriving Thames Valley.
Over the past 50 years, I have watched and reported on Reading’s growth from a small market town to a major European ‘city’ with multinational links and a reputation for a diverse talent pool, available jobs, and business opportunities.
Innovation and adaptability have been catalysts for Reading’s evolution as a UK economic success story.
Since the PwC/Demos Good Growth for Cities Index began in 2005, this town which now operates as a city has consistently ranked in the top two cities, alongside Oxford.
Regularly among the top 25 European cities for growth and future investment, Reading has developed long-standing business clusters in IT, pharma, finance, logistics and professional services, and has been named the second most business-friendly small city in Europe.
Popularity brings people … who need lifestyle homes
Darcliffe Homes, through its two Tilehurst sites is providing those lifestyle homes, which offer the best of both worlds – easy access to Thames Valley workplaces and rural surroundings.
Tilehurst is under five miles from Reading; Darcliffe’s Tilehurst homes are under 500 metres from desirable local countryside. Stoneham Park actually borders an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Proximity to Heathrow and London is another locational selling point – Tilehurst and Reading have key work-life motorway and rail links. Broadband fibre technology (pre-fitted in all Darcliffe’s homes) also enables worldwide communication and home-working opportunities.
And, Darcliffe Homes is providing ‘the best of both worlds’ in other ways – traditional business and building values, plus the latest innovation and home-design features.
Disappointment comes from unachieved expectations, but … quality development, choice and service bring satisfaction
Darcliffe Homes may be new to some, but it has a strong construction pedigree.
It is part of the long-established Country Estates Group, led by joint MDs Graham Denton and Gary Smith, managing business parks and commercial developments across the South East, predominantly in the Thames Valley.
“We believe the time is now right to expand our development operations to meet the growing demand for new houses that meet the needs of today’s workers – both at work and at home,” Graham Denton explains.
The residential company’s growing reputation and progress is highlighted by its current project pipeline and keen ongoing search for potential development land.
“Graham and Gary are very proud of the work Darcliffe Homes does. With their construction career background, I think they would shiver if our homes were not traditionally built. Before we start any building work they are adamant that is the way we should go, and I think that’s reflected in the customer comments we get on ‘the feel’ of our houses, their quality of finish and the fact that we go the extra mile,” explained sales manager Jonny Denton.
Both Tilehurst sites offer a wide range of different ‘ready to move into; no hidden costs’ homes – from bungalows to three storeys, 2,3,4 or 5 bed properties, to suit families, downsizers, upsizers, or ‘Help-to-Buy’ first-time residents.
Plus, there’s an attractive package of home-making features for buyers including underfloor heating, softened and filtered water, leading-brand kitchen equipment, and even an instant boiling-water point – “Our home-owners will never need to boil a kettle again,” noted Jonny Denton.
Catering for digital age requirements, Darcliffe Homes is providing some electric car charging points, Hyperoptic and BT broadband connection, wiring for CCTV and Sonos sound systems.
A full Smart Home package is installed in The Ridings showhome, enabling an impressive automated system with clever features involving lighting, music, remote control (for example, from an owner’s workplace) and other potential applications. Darcliffe supplies free quotations.
Happiness is a contented state of mind, and …. satisfied customers tell other people
Customer service and community engagement are key focal points for the company which has grown organically and continues to develop its committed and proven operational team – building its staff strength and supplier network as well as high-quality homes.
“We are fortunate to have a fantastic local team with vast experience who embody the desire for quality in all areas,” adds Denton.
Darcliffe consulted widely during preparatory stages of The Ridings, including district and parish councils, politicians and within the local community. “Taking on board local views is essential for us. We want to be seen as a good developer and neighbour. A lot of our staff live locally and our reputation is key to progressing the company.”
Having gained planning permission for 39 houses, Darcliffe Homes opted to build just 35. Less homes offered a better overall design solution. “We have a responsibility to deliver maximum value to landowners, but we do this while creating a fitting development for the local community,” said Jonny Denton.
Similarly at Stoneham Park: “Backing onto an AONB, we were cautious to protect the environment and enjoyment of the location for residents. The site now provides a sightline through the development to maximise rural views overlooking woodlands and the Thames and Pang river valleys.”
Small touches show the company ethos: A Darcliffe Homes dated stone plaque on every home, proudly acknowledging its origin and existence as a ‘Superior Home Built For Life’ … and an attractive bird-box too – providing homes for all kinds of residents.
It’s a business cliché but Darcliffe Homes is ‘Big enough to cope; Small enough to care.’
Through ‘word of mouth’ Darcliffe Homes already has over 140 (and rising daily) interested-parties registered for Stoneham Park before it has even laid a foundation. “We are now progressing well on that site, which will complete mid-2022,” said Denton.
“All the locals know about this lovely area and our two developments. The Ridings has sold quickly with the majority of new residents coming from within a four-mile radius. We’ve also helped five first-time buyers to get their foot on the property ladder.
“When strolling here in Sulham Woods, you can get lost in your thoughts and forget you are on the cusp of Reading,” said Denton.
Interestingly, that’s one reason why my parents moved out of urban Reading after the war, and bought our family home in Tilehurst.
Why is Darcliffe Homes being successful? I guess, most people today are looking for attractive, well-located, user-friendly homes, and Darcliffe Homes is building the right homes, in the right place, at the right time.
So, to sum up …
I enjoyed my childhood in Tilehurst among those fields and woods behind my Westwood Glen home. The country walks of my youth to Tidmarsh, Pangbourne and Purley are still possible from The Ridings or Stoneham Park.
Today, I’m happy that Darcliffe Homes will now enable many more families, couples and individuals to enjoy their future lifestyles in such a location adjoining such countryside.