Welcome to celebsville
With an A-list hotspot on the doorstep and a Duke as your next door neighbour, is it any wonder we're all desperately seeking a home in Riseley.
On the move, but no clue where to call home? Just think of me as your very own Kirsty and Phil (minus the onscreen flirting). That said I do get around – Berkshire (naughty) – and I have struck gold with a village that’s surrounded by celebs, aristos and the well-heeled. Welcome to Celebsville… or rather Riseley.
Why it’s hot
Forget Mayfair, Chelsea or even the hipsters’ paradise of Shoreditch, the village of Riseley on the Berkshire-Hampshire border should be on the shortlist of celeb stalkers and anyone who wants to photobomb the Tatler party pages. If it’s all about location, location, location, then having the hottest celebrity hangout on your doorstep, should get your attention.
Heckfield Place is the country haven for the rich and famous – and it’s 1.6 miles from the village (I checked). Meghan and Harry babymooned in the £10,000 a night suite, David Beckham, Liv Tyler, Cara and Poppy Delevigne have all checked in and former model Jemima Kidd (married to the future Duke of Wellington) popped all the Champagne corks and partied into the small hours celebrating her birthday here last year.
It’s no wonder that Heckfield Place has become so popular with stars, it has a glam film screening room, two restaurants run by superstar chef Skye Gyngell (Petersham Nurseries). There’s a boutique spa with plans to open a new improved version including an infinity pool next year and you can even come here to broaden your mind. The Assembly offers curated experiences from floristry workshops, talks, cocktail masterclasses, tours and more.
Short of permanently moving into Heckfield, there’s more. Riseley is surrounded by the 7,000-acre Wellington Estate – owned by the Dukes of Wellington since 1817. The family home Stratfield Saye Park is open to the public for a guided snoop. Don’t expect to rifle through the duchess’s knicker drawer, but you will get to see where Steven Spielberg filmed the cavalry scenes in his 2010 epic, War Horse and where Wellington’s own war horse, Copenhagen is buried..
If you have kids (or plan to have them), Wellington Country Park is the perfect place to let them enjoy being free range. It has possibly the best adventure playground ever, miniature railway, splash park and hosts special events during the school holidays, including alfresco film nights. Grab a coffee from the cafe and drink in the stunning woodland setting.
You’re spoilt for choice for good schools. If you’re going down the independent route, Daneshill Prep School is your closest – it’s a family-orientated school where ambition and manners are celebrated. But 20 minutes down the road, you’ll find the brilliant Waverley Prep School, ranked 22nd in The Times Top 100 Prep Schools and Ludgrove one of the last few single-sex full boarding prep schools in the UK, with an impressive alumni – Princes William, Harry and Edward and Bear Grylls. Seniors? Nearby you’ll find Leighton Park, Crosfields and Reddam House, but Eton and Bradfield College are within the county lines. The local schools Farley Hill and Lambs Lane Primary Schools are both rated ‘Good’ by Osted and the village is in catchment for the ‘Outstanding’ Bohunt Secondary in Wokingham.
Within walking distance, there’s a pub. Sold! You lot are so easily pleased. The Bull in Riseley is a traditional village pub that won’t wow with its interiors but you can drink the bar dry and stagger home. There’s also a traditional tea room for cake and a cuppa. Not to be missed is the Wellington Farm Shop & Cafe (above). Lady Honor Montagu, granddaughter of the eighth Duke of Wellington, is a trained chef who worked with the legendary Marco Pierre White. She founded Wellington Farm Shop in 2005, with a commitment to sustainability and quality… long before it was fashionable. The cafe is a great place for breakfast, lunch, coffee and cake.
Want a bit more pizzazz? There’s plenty of that too. Sample Chef Tom Clarke’s Michelin starred magic at L’Ortolan (above) and there’s Heckfield Place, obvs. Take the 20-minute trip into Wokingham and you’re spoilt for choice. Love wine? take a pew at Bar 56 and work your way through an impressive wine list; The Redan for great cocktails and live music; Leafy Elephant for its library of 200 gins and Sit and Sip if you’re a craft beer disciple. And finally, the Everyman Cinema for martini-fuelled movie nights.
If you’re after fun minus the food and drink, check out the super-swish Wellington Riding – for tuition, hacks and plenty of first class horsey competitions; slip and slide during the summer months at Lagoona Park‘s inflatable obstacle course and, as I mentioned, Wellington Country Park is a must with the kids.
Starving? You would be mad not to pop into Wellington Farm Shop, it has local produce coming out of its ears with an impressive butchers, fruit and veg, cheese and deli counter, plus quality store cupboard bits and bobs. For high street staples, take your pick between The Oracle in Reading and Festival Place in Basingstoke. But if you love shopping the indies, then make a beeline for Wokingham. Strange The Jewellers is the place for bespoke jewellery and hot designers like Fei Lui and Shaun Leane. Antique Rose and Maison Rustic is a must-visit for gifts and homewares. Plus the Saturday market is a delicious display of artisan producers. Head out of the town centre to Holme Grange Craft Village and you’ll find Muddy Award winners Gilded Hair – a cool eco-friendly hair salon; jewellery designer Thomas William and baby boutique The Little Piggy.
Where to buy?
The village has a sympathetic mix of different periods, all built to blend in – from Grade II listed thatch cottages and Victorian piles to fresh-out-of-the-box new builds. But houses rarely come on the market here, so keep your eyes peeled.
Fancy the Duke of Wellington as your next door neighbour? Then take a look at Dukes Meadow – a smallish development of homes and within walking distance of the pub (priorities people) OK, so the tearoom and Country park, too. Although close to the village, the 3, 4, and 5-beds homes, built by CALA, are surrounded by woodland and have been cleverly designed to create sociable spaces that just work whether you have kids, plan to have them or love impromptu get togethers with the gang.
New builds may not be everyone’s dream at first, but think of the low maintenance, newness and landscaped gardens. I’ve lived in my old cottage for 15 years and the renovations are still not complete. Yes please to a designer kitchen, spinky spanky new appliances, sleek bathrooms, a dressing room of dreams and a roasty toasty energy efficient home (100% part exchange, Help To Buy, legal fees and basically free stuff are all on offer). Prices from £595,950 to £895,000.
Why we love it
The gorgeous countryside, posh neighbours and celeb-spotting. Plus the great schools and super links by road and rail.