Despite the recession Norfolk's coastal holiday homes have remained expensive and select – so where else can you get the seaside feel without it costing the earth?
Where: 26 miles east of Norwich near Cromer
Prices from: £42,000 for a chalet
Why buy here: It's half the price of more fashionable seaside villages nearby but on the up.
Norfolk is one of those far-flung, difficult-to-get and largely rural areas that city dwellers like to poke fun at but then, on the quiet, peruse as the contemplate a holiday home or move to the country. The area, and particularly the rural hinterland around Norwich and the 'champagne coastline' between Hunstanton and Cromer, has been preserved in aspic by the long car journey and limited rail connections from London.
But holiday home buyers love this and the villages on or near the coast have become hotspots including Burnham Market, Holt, Snettisham, Holkham, Brancaster and Wells-Next-The-Sea, known locally as Chelsea-By-Sea.
But with fame and popularity comes high property prices. Burnham Market is the most expensive and three bedroom holiday cottages rarely go for under £500,000 and quickly escalate up to £750,000 for more substantial farm houses. Big, period houses go for £1m-plus.
But there are some exceptions to the rule, and according to David Walker of local estate agency Bidwells, that includes the old fishing village of Mundesley. He says its secret is to be right on the border of Norfolk's fashionable coastline but not within it. The village is a small but perfectly formed with a short but stunningly beautiful seafront of small cliffs and fisherman's cottages overlooking the flat sea – with period homes, shops and a small village green behind.
It lacks the buzz of the more famous names to its west, but David Walker reckons it is up and coming. "The village is still very affordable – and although it doesn't yet have the cache of being a trophy village for holiday home buyers it offers the same delightful seaside lifestyle for much less," says David.
The village has its own celebrity connection but not on such a scale as Burnham Market (Stephen Fry and Amanda Holden). Actress Pam St Clement (aka Pat Butcher in EastEnders) used to own a Mundesley cottages (a converted Victorian pump house) and, according to locals, used to hold large parties in the property's front garden.
The big pull is that prices are still affordable in Mundesley. £375,000 buys a substantial, six-bedroom new-build that's a two-minute walk from Mundesley's inshore lifeboat and the beach. And big development in the village at the moment is the conversion of the Sea View House hotel on Paston Road. It is now seven upmarket apartments starting at £175,000 for a one-bedroom unit and rising to £257,000 for a two-bedroom flat – all of which have been kitted out with high-end fixtures and fittings and come with sea views.
"The larger of these apartment would have gone for £350,000 a couple of years ago at the height of the property market, but now I think we're at the bottom here so they're going for £100,000 less than might be expected – which makes them excellent value for money," says David Walker.
The village has a long way to go before it can be said to be thriving, though – and prices reflect this. A vast Edwardian hotel lies derelict overlooking the cliffs above Mundesley which, in happier times, would also have been converted by now, and most of the shops in the village look in the need of a lick of paint or, in some cases, have closed down.
But despite its lack of upmarket eateries or gastro pubs, local estate agents think the creep of gentrification being forced on the coastline by in-bound (and local) money will soon reach Mundesley – and the neighbouring hamlet of Trimmingham, too.
The village is still very affordable – and although it doesn’t yet have the cache of being a trophy village for holiday home buyers it offers the same delightful seaside lifestyle for much less.