Secluded home in Binsted is a haven for wildlife

Friday, 29th June 2018, 3:51 pm
Updated Friday, 29th June 2018, 5:00 pm

Not far from Binsted hamlet’s bustling pub and ancient church, Mill Ball has been Steve and Linda Browning’s home for the past eight years.

Taking its unusual name from one of the fields that hug the edge of the South Downs National Park, it dates back to 1924, when it was constructed by local builders and undertakers Bookers of Walberton.

Just over a decade later, two little sisters were evacuated to the house during the Second World War.

One sister, Clare Druce, wrote about her idyllic wartime experiences at ‘my paradise’, now published in Binsted and Beyond: “Some of our war was spent on a smallholding in a Sussex hamlet … Mill Ball was not on any kind of mains, and the soft glow of candles and oil lamps lit the house, while Valor heaters cast magical patterns on the ceiling, as we children lay safe in the depths of our feather mattresses.

“Somewhere, I have a photo of my sister and me standing in a potato field, on either side of Paul, a German prisoner of war, drafted in to work on the land. From our happy faces, he could have been a favourite uncle... There were Italian prisoners, too, who gave us presents of beautiful dolls’ cradles, woven out of twigs gathered from the Sussex hedgerows.”

Despite its serenity, Linda said their home is only 10 minutes from Chichester’s retail parks and just five from ‘loads of shops’ in Walberton and Yapton and the station in Barnham: “You think it’s miles from everywhere and yet everything’s on the doorstep, everyone’s really nice and helpful and it has a lovely village-y feel.”

But Mill Ball is defined not so much by the humans who occupy the smallholding, swim in the heated pool or potter about in its many outbuildings, but by the animals which inhabit its almost-eight acres of meadow, orchard and garden.

In addition to 18 diminutive Ouessant sheep, the Brownings look after 50 chickens, from fluffy Buff Orpingtons to Light Sussex, Araucanas and Cream Legbars.

Linda said: “We started off having three rescue hens... and it sort of grew.”

The largest number of occupants live outdoors, however, as Mill Ball is a genuine haven for wildlife.

They include pheasants, badgers, bats and, for the first time this year, dormice in the property’s four acres of ancient woodland.

Linda said: “We’ve counted over 40 species of bird – we’ve got buzzards that nest in the wood, yellowhammers, green and lesser spotted woodpeckers and all the finches.

“Then there are swallows in the stables, currently with four babies. We spend more on bird food than we do on proper food!”

The garden itself is full of trees, shrubs and unusual plants, with not only nodding roses and a vegetable patch with raised beds, but also a bluebell wood and a monkey puzzle tree.

Meanwhile, 175 mixed fruit trees, from apples, pears, cherries and plums to rarities such as greengages and Cambridge gages, can be found in the orchard and are put to good use.

“The Sussex Orchards charity in Eastergate works with adults with learning disabilities and they come down and pick the apples every year, press them and sell the juice for funds.

“They have a lovely time and I do hope people will carry on letting them do that in future.”

Mill Ball is a secluded property set in grounds of approximately 7.75.acres, including paddocks, pretty formal gardens, orchard, ancient woodland and a small carp lake.

There is ample parking for a number of vehicles and a range of large outbuildings including garaging, workshops, a barn and three stables.

The property has been updated by the current owners and includes modern fittings to the kitchen and bathrooms. There are two good size reception rooms, a conservatory, utility room, study and ground floor bedroom. The first floor has two bedrooms, a modern shower room and an en suite shower room.

The property is surrounded by mature and beautifully tended gardens. There is a heated swimming pool measuring approximately 29 ft in length, with a telescopic cover.

Guide price: £1,200,000 freehold.

Contact Henry Adams on 01243 533377 or visit henryadams.co.uk for more information.