SALES of farmland in the south west are reportedly up by 25 per cent in the last half of 2013 and prices have been high.

South West agents Symonds & Sampson says it has witnessed an increase in the quantity and value of farms and land in the Wessex region with sales up 25 per cent on 2012 and prices well ahead of a reported £7,000 per acre national average.

The firm sold more than 2,500 acres between July and December 2013, raising in excess of £30,000,000.

One of its most notable sales were 401 acres of good arable land at Hilton, near Blandford, with 70 acres of downland and 20 acres of woodland on the outskirts of a village.

Andrew Tuffin of Symonds and Sampson said: “We had so much interest we went to best and then final offers with bids received from Devon, Dorset, Somerset and Wiltshire, together with some interest from London people with a base close to the land. “The price achieved was well ahead of the £3,250,000 initial guide and sold to Dorset people.”

The residential dairy or stock farm with 201 acres at Waterhouse Farm in Bettiscombe was due to go to auction and there was a very strong pre-auction bid from a neighbour ensuring that the guide price of £2,500,000 was exceeded.

Barrowland Farm, near Dorchester, a residential grass and arable farm with farmhouse, buildings and around 252 acres sold for £2,250,000.

Several land sales were also conducted including 141 acres of arable land and farm buildings near Dorchester selling for £9,300 an acre, 167 acres of arable land near Sidmouth, Devon, achieving more than £7,500 an acre and 129 acres of arable land near Shaftesbury, North Dorset, achieving substantially in excess of the £8,000 acre guide.

An auction of 97 acres of arable land near Yeovil made £10,000 an acre and 60 acres of pasture land near Wincanton made £9,000 an acre.

Mr Tuffin said some sales were business decisions, however, the majority remain forced by death or business break-ups.

He said: “So there is no real trend of increased supply for the future.

“What has been most interesting is the type of buyer. The variety in prices is often determined by the location and the presence of neighbouring or nearby expanding farmers. “Quality is important but secondary and access and services are a consideration, particularly if they are looking for a non-agricultural use such as solar.

“Non-farming buyers are returning and always enquire about the possibility of letting the farm and the sort of rents that they might expect. Strangely the rate of return is less important to some, especially if they are buying through their pension fund.

“More farms will be coming to the market in 2014 and we expect prices to remain broadly where they finished last year.”