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HAVE you ever gazed at the quaint cottages and houses on Christmas cards and fancied turning your back on the rat-race for a picturesque retreat? The halls decked with holly, the chestnuts roasting on the open fire? You could try it for real next year because we've found five properties that offer the perfect backdrop for a good, old-fashioned Christmas.


THE Old Drying House is in a Grade II-listed Georgian terrace in the grounds of Gunton Park in Hanworth, close to Aylsham, Cromer and Norwich. The parkland is grazed by sheep and deer, and includes two lakes, a swimming pool and chapel. The house has a 23ft lounge with original arched, open fireplace, fitted kitchen with a door to the garden, two bedrooms - the master has ensuite and dressing-room - and bathroom. There's also a pretty, terraced garden. Call Keys 01263 713 966. pounds 255,000


DOWERLAND Cottage is believed to date from the 1500s and is set in the older part of the village of Mary Tavy with views towards the church and Tors. Within four miles of Tavistock and 15 of Plymouth, it's also close to Dartmoor National Park. It is approached through a lych gate and has a large lounge with exposed beams and stone inglenook fireplace, dining-room with exposed stone wall, breakfast kitchen, cloakroom, three bedrooms and bathroom. Call Bradford & Bingley 01822 616 133. pounds 350,000


EASTVIEW is a Grade II-listed cottage, next to the church in Baldersby St James, close to Ripon and Thirsk. There's a bright lounge with arched window and brick fireplace, dining kitchen with Rayburn Nouvelle stove and a bathroom on the ground floor. Upstairs are three bedrooms. With gravel driveway and gardens to three sides. Call Dacre Son & Hartley 01765 605 151. pounds 250,000


KNIGHTSBRIDGE House is the principal wing of a Grade II-listed Regency house which was divided into three properties around 40 years ago. On the edge of the village of Headley, it's about four miles from Newbury and near the North Hampshire Downs. It has a large, bright lounge, dining-room, kitchen with trapdoor to cellar, cloakroom, three double bedrooms and a bathroom. With double garage, self-contained studio and an acre of grounds. Call Burrough & Co 01635 521 606. pounds 445,000


LAUREL Cottage is in Stroud village - popular for its proximity to Gloucester, Cirencester and Cheltenham - yet has off-road parking for several vehicles. The lounge and dining-room each have exposed beams and fireplaces with exposed stone mantles and hearths. There's a farmhouse-style galley kitchen with flagstone floor, four bedrooms (one ensuite) and bathroom. With summerhouse/utility, workshop and rooftop garden. Call Murrays 01453 755 552. pounds 315,000
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Dec 20, 2003
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