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The perfect playground; Annie Roberts explores Staffordshire, a region that excels in making the most of its natural surroundings, whether they are through the high-octane thrills of Alton Towers and Drayton Manor, or the high-wire thrills found in Cannock Chase's Go Ape! St Chad's Church, Stafford.

Byline: Annie Roberts

St Chad's Church, Stafford WHY? There is no time to be bored in Staffordshire, a thriving county in the heart of England. It boasts world-class theme parks, traditional towns and cities, glorious countryside and an extensive network of canals.

TRANSPORT Staffordshire is often popular with commuters looking for a rural location with easy access to the region. There is easy access to the M6 motorway and Stafford has an excellent inter city link rail service. Regional international airports include Manchester, Birmingham and East Midlands.

WHERE TO BUY Buyers are spoilt for choice. Opt for life in a historic city or town like Lichfield, Stafford or Newport or alternatively head for the hills and discover homes built in glorious locations that make the most of the countryside.

HANG OUTS Escape to the Peak District National Park, the tranquil Cannock Chase, the Monkey Forest at Trentham Estate or simply along one of its many canals. Explore its history with a visit to Lichfield Cathedral, china factories in Stoke on Trent like Wedgwood or the Staffordshire Hoard, the largest hoard of Anglo Saxon gold ever unearthed.

Thrill seekers will head to Alton Towers or Drayton Manor Park or have a flutter at Uttoxeter Racecourse.

There are wealth of eating places across Staffordshire celebrating regional produce and international cuisine.

Highlights include the Four Seasons Restaurant at historic Swinfen Hall Hotel, near Lichfield with estate reared venison on the menu. Travel into the heart of rural Staffordshire to discover the Moat House in Lower Penkridge Road at Acton Trussell, near Stafford or visit the award-winning Brasserie at The Swan Hotel in the heart of Stafford.

Lichfield has its own offerings, including the Olive Tree Restaurant in Tamworth Street or head for Chandlers in the Grade II listed Corn Exchange Building close to the Garrick Theatre.

EDUCATION There is a wealth of educational opportunities across the county. Local authority controlled schools include Stafford's Walton High School and Cannock Chase High School, both specialist science schools. Stafford Grammar School and Newport Grammar School each have high performing results.

Independent schools cater for all ages including Chase Academy and International Study Centre in Cannock, Edenhurst Preparatory School in Newcastle-under-Lyme, Vernon Lodge Preparatory School in Stretton near Brewood and Lichfield Cathedral School in the city centre.

PRICES: Detached: pounds 218,809 Semi-detached: pounds 117,051 Terrace: pounds 88,148 Flat: pounds 87,263 Average overall: pounds 137,022 but prices run in to millions.

Source: Land Registry House Price Index, May 2010. WHAT THE AGENTS SAY: Tony Morris-Eyton of Savills Telford, said: "There are strong buyers around and although it is a narrower market than the south of Birmingham there are good quality properties available.

"These buyers want a good looking house in a reasonable location with privacy. The communications are second to none in Staffordshire which makes it easily accessible to the rest of the country."

Helen Rollason, new homes sales coordinator at Walton Homes said there had been an impressive response to new developments in Staffordshire.

"We only launched the Carisbrooke House development in Tamworth a matter of weeks ago and we have been overwhelmed by how many serious buyers have already visited our show apartment.

"To take reservations at such an early stage is a tremendous result. Quite a lot of interest to date has come from people who are returning to the area and want to find a quality, low maintenance home that fits with their lifestyle. Meanwhile, we have already taken reservations from first time buyers and people downsizing from a larger home in order to live somewhere that's a lot more manageable."

David Stout, a Partner at Smiths Gore, said: "Staffordshire is very much seen as a genuinely central county offering as it does the ability to find some genuinely traditional rural villages as well as old towns serving the major conurbations of Birmingham, Woverhampton, Stoke, Lichfield,Tamworth and other towns. Access is in the main good via the M6,M54 and a series of good main roads as well as mainline rail stations throughout. Whilse many of the traditional industries have now reduced in number the county is still thriving. There is always a market for good property as well as for the imaginative developer particularly of late in the smaller schemes where borrowing is not such a limiting factor. Land prices continue to be strong with many recent sales selling for well in advance of their guide prices."
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jul 29, 2010
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