East Sussex I Escaped to the Country


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East Sussex

Jonnie Irwin revisits a couple he helped on their property search in Sussex, returning to the house that they ultimately bought for under their £600,000 budget.


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Making the move from city to countryside

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is often a momentous step.

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Never in a million years I would imagine I'd be seeing

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a house like this, never, ever.

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But, for many years, Escape To The Country has been

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supporting countless people

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on the hunt for a new home in a more rural location.

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-What do we think of this?

-Oh, my! Chocolate box!

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'We've travelled to the most picturesque pockets of Britain...'

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-Take a look at that killer view.

-That's amazing.

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'..to showcase thousands of exquisite country properties...'

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Oh, how pretty is that?

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'..that our buyers just couldn't resist.'

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Seriously, get your chequebook out now!

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Join us as we catch up with those who bought their dream home...

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I like the house. It looks very cottagey.

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..to find out how the move changed their lives

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when they escaped to the country.

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Today I'm in Sussex,

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surrounded by the Regent grape which will soon be turned into wine.

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Now, the warm climate down here in this part of the world

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provides perfect growing conditions,

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similar to those found in the Champagne region of France.

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And it's just this wonderful weather that provided the catalyst for a

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couple of Escape To The Country house-hunters who wanted to move

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south from Glasgow to this beautiful part of the world.

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And it's the coastal county of East Sussex where I'll be retracing

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my steps with retired lecturers Paul and Tony,

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one year on from our house search together.

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For them, the move was all about a new home with business potential.

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I'll be catching up with them both in the midst of realising

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their grand country ambition.

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I always enjoy coming down here to Sussex,

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and that's not just because of the weather and the wine.

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The region has great cycling and hiking opportunities,

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a fantastically rich history,

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plus a striking coastline overlooking the English Channel.

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No wonder, then, it's so popular with people looking

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to escape to the country.

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So, for Tony and Paul, the counties of East and West Sussex offered

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the perfect environment for their long journey south from Glasgow.

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Back in the summer of 2015, it was Chris Froome who was grabbing the

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headlines when he became the first Briton to win the Tour de France for

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a second time. But the big headline for Tony and Paul was a planned move

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away from Glasgow to make their first house purchase together.

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And for American Tony in particular, he was hoping for warmer climes.

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I was born in Florida and lived most of my life in the south of the US.

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So coming to a place where you have to heat on and the fire on in June

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is quite an adjustment!

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Recently retired from their jobs as university lecturers, they were

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hoping for a sunnier existence close to the sea in Sussex.

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I know the south coast because my mother lived there and visiting her,

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coming from here, always sunny.

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I expect to spend more time outside, and be able to entertain

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-in the garden.

-They wanted to extend their hosting skills further

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and offer bed and breakfast to paying guests.

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I'm prepared that it's going to be different.

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It's a challenge and if you don't challenge yourself,

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you just stagnate.

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They had a clear vision of what they wanted from their new lifestyle

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in the country, so we all met up in their chosen area

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to get property shopping underway.

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This is your retirement you're looking down the barrel of?

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Yes, I'm just very recently retired.

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He's much older than me, so he's been retired for some time!

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So, what are you going to do?

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Well, I'm hoping to do some B&B to keep from annoying him all the time.

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So I'll have something to keep me busy.

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How low-key can we make this B&B business?

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Pretty low-key.

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I think the thing is it would be nice to have some money from B&B,

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which was also an occupation that we enjoyed.

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It really is going to be a part-time thing.

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What about the property itself?

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What does it look like in your mind's eye?

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I like the idea of a very old place,

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and there are some of those around here. I want a garden.

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You want to grow things in your garden?

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Yes. And we want to have flowers,

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we want to have a tiny bit of vegetables.

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But not so big that you need a ride-on mower.

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He would be treacherous on a ride-on mower!

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-Right, OK.

-Well, yeah.

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How many bedrooms do you want?

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I would say three bedrooms and a study, or four bedrooms.

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How much money are you looking to spend?

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600,000.

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But we're willing to take on a bit of a project.

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Well, I've got a good idea of what you're looking for.

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-Let's get started. Come with me.

-Right, OK.

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Paul and Tony had set a budget of £600,000,

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and for that they were after three to four bedrooms,

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with B&B potential,

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plus a pleasant garden, and of course, proximity to the coast.

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Well, I thought Paul and Tony's wish list was fairly straightforward.

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Even with the requirement of having B&B accommodation, I was confident

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of showing them everything they asked for within their budget.

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And, with the first property, I was able to show them a house

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that was beautiful outside, but had bags of character inside.

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Our search kicked off in the village of Ninfield,

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just four miles from the sea.

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The village offered a good selection of amenities including a store and

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post office and traditional pubs. Chock-full of quaint properties,

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the one chosen as the first in our selection was this single-storey

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classic Sussex style brick and flint cottage,

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thought to date back to the 1800s.

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And first reactions to the facade were extremely encouraging

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-from Paul.

-I like the house, I like the look of it from the outside.

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It looks very cottagey cos of the style of the garden.

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-With the steps.

-Well, the house itself is.

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Now, Tony, what's going through your mind?

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It's all on one level, which is not a bad thing at all.

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He's not getting any younger, so...

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-Hey!

-I like the flint on the outside, and the tile.

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So the first impressions sound pretty good?

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Pretty good.

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Once inside, Tony started weighing up the living areas for them

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and those for the B&B.

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My initial impression is this would be ours

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and the guests would be elsewhere.

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So this is our private space, this is our space to enjoy.

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Let's see how nice the rest of it is before we give it up!

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Down the hallway, a large reception room packed with period features

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seemed to offer the ideal space to serve their guests.

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For a B&B, this would be perfect. It's a lounge for the guests,

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"sit down and eat for breakfast" area for the guests,

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and it's separate so they don't feel like they're underfoot,

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but it's also convenient.

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Since we're actually thinking about doing the B&B as not the main core

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of our life, then even if this was where the guests were,

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we would be here a lot.

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And the house continued to deliver when it came to

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the sleeping quarters, with a generous total of four bedrooms.

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Now, let's start with what I think would be your master bedroom.

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Yes, it is very nice.

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-Big enough?

-Yes.

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-Definitely.

-So this, I think, would remain your bedroom.

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-OK? Let's keep walking through.

-OK.

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-That's the fourth bedroom or study.

-Mm-hm.

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OK. Now you've got a really nice family bathroom in here.

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-Oh, yes.

-I love the 1920s look of it.

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Yeah. Double bedroom here.

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Separate access to outside there.

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Oh, OK. That's a good idea.

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And then you've got yet another bedroom here.

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That's a good... It's exactly the same size as the other one.

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-Well, nearly, anyway.

-As a guest, you'd be pretty happy with this,

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-wouldn't you?

-Oh, yes.

-The view, with the storage, certainly.

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Outside, a large detached garage had lapsed planning permission to be

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converted into a two-bedroom annexe.

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The garden offered raised beds and a greenhouse,

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plus outdoor entertaining options on the patio.

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With half an acre to play with, it met Paul's approval.

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This is absolutely a perfect size of garden.

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So all that remained was to find out if they could afford it

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on their £600,000 budget.

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I'm going to take a stab at 565, with my fingers crossed.

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I think it's 580.

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The estate agent is asking for between £575,000 and £625,000.

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All in all, this large, characterful single-storey home was a very

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positive introduction to our East Sussex house-hunt.

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I like the house. I really do.

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It's cute, without being cutesy.

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It's period without being restrictive.

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It's all got potential.

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Liveability for us, if it were just for us,

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would be pretty close to spot-on.

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However, to make it into a B&B with en-suite bathrooms,

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that would take some thought and some work,

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and, of course, a bit of money, so we'd have to really

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figure that in before we decided to go with this one.

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So, a good, solid start.

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Great reactions from both Paul and Tony.

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I really thought the house had good potential for some B&B,

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and the guys certainly seemed to agree.

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Plus that big garden, well, it was job done, surely?

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But I still had two more houses to show them.

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The next property was just outside the East Sussex town of Hailsham.

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With roots in the 13th century,

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this historic town had a lot to offer Paul and Tony,

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plus their prospective guests.

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And, mindful of their wish for a home and income,

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just a few minutes away from there was a 1930s house

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with an already up-and-running B&B.

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-First impressions?

-Very nice.

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We want somewhere we can live and make a bit of money on the side,

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-as they say.

-Well, this could be that.

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Come with me.

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A large reception room and adjoining conservatory meant guests

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were amply catered for. Big enough?

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It's big. First impressions, I want to walk towards that window,

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which is a good thing.

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-Yeah.

-There's a nice brick fireplace.

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-It's OK.

-OK isn't necessarily a home...

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It's not singing and dancing in this room.

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-No.

-But it may be I write my own music, as it were.

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Well, there's nothing sweeter than the sound of cash in the till!

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That's maybe what this place can give to you.

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-Let's keep walking round.

-OK.

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Tony and Paul could also enjoy a separate,

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private sitting-room in the owners' part.

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It's a nice, cosy space.

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-For the way we live.

-This is OK.

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This would be a nice size sanctuary.

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-Would it?

-Yeah.

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You've got a really nice, modern shower and loo room next door,

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and a lovely double bedroom.

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There was also a fair sized kitchen which could be a great asset

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for their hospitality aspirations.

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It's by no means open-plan, but it is a chef's paradise!

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Yes, it's got lots of bits.

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Eggs, bacon, tomatoes, mushrooms, bubble and squeak, black pudding!

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You forgot the blueberry pancakes.

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Oh, that's in the oven, my friend!

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Could you work in this environment, then?

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It's definitely a workable kitchen, yes. Definitely workable.

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So, plenty of hob space for whipping up a full English,

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or even some American alternatives.

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And when it came to guest accommodation,

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with one further double bedroom on the ground floor

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and three more on the first floor,

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the current owner had built up a healthy B&B annual turnover

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of around £25,000.

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And this is your biggest room, and it's en-suite.

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Right, that's a very nice size of room.

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It's a room you could spend time in.

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-Yeah.

-What I like is the business element is up here,

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we're down there.

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Outside, half an acre of gardens included a patio area

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for dining outside, and a pond. Paul seemed awestruck by the perfect,

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impeccable landscaping here.

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The garden is really a sculptural masterpiece, I must say.

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I don't know how she keeps it in this order.

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I'm sort of fearfully thinking about doing it myself!

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-She's got a gardener.

-Yes.

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-Ah, very sensible! Yes.

-You've had a look around -

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how much do you think this place is on the market for?

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I'm going to say it's probably a bit over our budget.

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I'm going to say 615.

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OK. Paul?

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I don't think it's as much as that.

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I would say 580.

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Asking price is £600,000.

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OK.

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So we were right on target again, moneywise.

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And for that, Paul and Tony would bag a nice little earner,

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along with their new home.

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It's a very nice house. And the garden is wonderful.

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Walking up to the property, it gave a wonderful impression.

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It's settled very nicely in the setting here,

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it's a really nice experience to walk around outside.

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The fact that this is obviously a successful B&B and a nice house is

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a bit of a trade-off to a beautiful house and a possible B&B.

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For the final property location,

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we headed across the border over to West Sussex,

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destined for the hamlet of Bilsham.

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But for this proposal, being a Mystery House,

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we took the business concern right out of the equation.

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Instead, I presented Paul and Tony with a 200-year-old brick and flint

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converted barn which originally housed livestock,

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but now simply offered them a stunning country home.

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Now, for our Mystery House, we are going along the conversion route.

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-Indeed.

-What say you?

-Have the cattle moved out?

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-Yes, thank you.

-The cattle have been converted.

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-Yeah.

-The setting's wonderful.

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It is lovely. It really is.

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Quiet. The occasional sheep vocalising.

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First impressions, quite good.

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I'm withholding judgments.

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-Let's have a look inside.

-OK.

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Laid out in a flowing L-shape, the front door into the hallway

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led us into an impressive, modern kitchen diner.

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OK. Now, let's start in Tony's room.

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Yes, yes. Nice layout, very open.

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Good work surfaces.

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The kitchen is huge.

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If this was the heart of the home, it certainly would be a big heart.

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-That's certainly true.

-And it just has to be that.

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Just a kitchen diner.

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You've got a fantastic living room through there.

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-So, let me show you.

-OK.

-OK.

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I also like the fact that the living room can be made completely separate

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from the smells of burning next door.

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-I like the living room.

-Nicely proportioned.

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-Right shape.

-Lends itself to entertaining and relaxing.

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As you can tell with this Mystery House,

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the business element has taken very much a back seat.

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-Right.

-I'm trying to be your best mate.

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Yes!

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Well, except that I want to keep him out of my way, you know.

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Well, that's why the kitchen's separate to here.

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The home was the star here rather than the business opportunity.

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But there was still space for guests, paying or otherwise,

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with two large, light and bright doubles,

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served by a sleek family bathroom, plus a feel-good master en-suite.

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Nice size room. It's not cavernous.

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-Good storage.

-Look at the sunlight.

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-Oh, I think it's really nice.

-Private.

-Very nice.

-Yes.

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Outside, the walled garden included a greenhouse and large lawn.

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Now, garden-wise, for a pretty recent barn conversion development,

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-you get loads here.

-You could do something with it.

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It's big enough to do something with.

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There's some lovely history here. This, they used to be a structure.

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-These old pillars.

-Yeah.

-The remains of the support there.

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And these were cattle sheds and so there'd be a dairy here, as well,

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as they were milked nearby.

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-OK.

-Right, right, right.

-Now, before I ask you to guess the price,

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I will say one thing to you.

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-OK.

-We've been in East Sussex.

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We are now in West Sussex.

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-More expensive.

-With that in mind,

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how much is this house?

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Well, I'm going to be hopeful and say it's not too much over budget,

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and say 610.

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-OK.

-I think 625.

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Well, your guess is a lot closer to the original asking price,

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but it's now been reduced to offers around £597,500.

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OK.

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This contemporary yet characterful Mystery House was finished to a very

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high standard, with scope for a B&B if they were willing to share

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the living space.

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Never mind opening a B&B,

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just thinking about having friends come to stay.

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If it had one more bedroom...

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Just one more bedroom would be really good.

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The big advantage of this is there is certainly nothing to undo,

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and it's open to anything we want to do.

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So, in the end,

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which one of our houses did they press ahead with and buy?

0:17:220:17:25

Admittedly, the first property was a project,

0:17:250:17:28

but ultimately delivered on potential, with a home for them

0:17:280:17:31

and B&B opportunities all under one roof.

0:17:310:17:35

Of course, it did have the draw of that half-acre garden, too.

0:17:350:17:38

However, house two built on that, and presented both a garden that was

0:17:380:17:42

in Paul's words, "Wonderful", and a ready-made business for Tony.

0:17:420:17:47

Or would they fall for the Mystery House,

0:17:470:17:50

which would give them the most stylish home and could be reimagined

0:17:500:17:53

to provide B&B possibilities?

0:17:530:17:56

So, which one did they pick?

0:17:560:17:58

House number one was a firm favourite. They liked it so much,

0:18:000:18:03

they went ahead and bought it. DRILLING

0:18:030:18:05

I'm looking forward to finding out what happened next.

0:18:050:18:08

And by the sounds of it, they've got the builders in.

0:18:080:18:12

It's over a year since I was last here, and although the exterior

0:18:120:18:15

of this attractive property hasn't altered that much,

0:18:150:18:18

there are signs that they have been ringing the changes inside.

0:18:180:18:21

I'm interested to see what they've done and where.

0:18:220:18:27

-Hi.

-Oh, that was quick. Hello, gents, how are you?

0:18:270:18:29

-You again!

-Me again, yeah, sorry.

0:18:290:18:31

I don't know whether to say congratulations or apologise

0:18:310:18:33

for what I've got you into. But you look like you've been busy.

0:18:330:18:36

The garden looks a bit tidier.

0:18:360:18:37

It's tidy, yes. And also the back garden's pretty tidy, too.

0:18:370:18:40

Now, I was hoping to smell fresh coffee, I can't smell fresh coffee.

0:18:400:18:43

Well, there is fresh coffee.

0:18:430:18:45

Come on, then! Brilliant, thank you very much.

0:18:450:18:47

-OK.

-Thanks, Tony.

0:18:470:18:48

I may not be able to smell that coffee yet,

0:18:500:18:52

but the waft of paint and sawdust is clearly in the air,

0:18:520:18:56

and there's definitely a transformation underway

0:18:560:18:58

in the kitchen.

0:18:580:18:59

So, things have changed a wee bit in here.

0:19:040:19:06

Because Tony's altered quite a bit.

0:19:070:19:08

-Yeah.

-One of the things we got rid of...

0:19:080:19:10

The oil-fired range, do you remember that?

0:19:100:19:12

-Yeah.

-You went on and on about how wonderful it was.

0:19:120:19:14

-Well, they are, aren't they?

-Well,

0:19:140:19:15

you have to put them on on Tuesday to cook a sausage on Wednesday.

0:19:150:19:18

-But, yeah, OK.

-Not just that,

0:19:180:19:19

but there was no room for our fridge freezer in here.

0:19:190:19:22

And we do know the Americans like their big fridge freezers, don't we?

0:19:220:19:25

-There it is.

-Yeah, this is a lot more contemporary.

0:19:250:19:28

-Is this new as well, is it?

-Well, no.

0:19:280:19:30

-It's been redone.

-That was what's there before, but it's been redone.

0:19:300:19:32

-And it's going to be huge.

-A big range. Dual fuel range.

0:19:320:19:36

Well, you put pressure on yourselves to do some cooking now, then.

0:19:360:19:39

-Oh, yeah.

-Him, actually. He's the cook.

0:19:390:19:41

-Well, you're the chef, aren't you, really?

-Yes, yes, he is.

0:19:410:19:43

Still can't see that coffee.

0:19:430:19:45

-Ah, well, if you go on through there.

-Oh, lovely.

0:19:450:19:47

Tony and Paul are just six weeks into a substantial

0:19:500:19:53

renovation project, and the cuppa will have to wait as they're keen

0:19:530:19:56

to show me how the works are progressing.

0:19:560:19:58

'But one room in their house, quite rightly,

0:20:000:20:02

'retains its characterful charm.'

0:20:020:20:05

Now, this, I think, was the show stopper, wasn't it?

0:20:050:20:07

-Yes.

-This is a lovely room.

0:20:070:20:08

It looks olde worlde, without being cutesy.

0:20:080:20:13

What's to do with it?

0:20:130:20:14

I mean, you just... You just want to move into it and make the most of

0:20:140:20:16

-it, don't you?

-Yeah, it's just a nice, warm room.

0:20:160:20:19

The panelling, the dining space.

0:20:190:20:21

In the winter time, that's where we sit.

0:20:210:20:24

On either side of the fireplace.

0:20:240:20:27

This has been our refuge while all the construction's been going on.

0:20:270:20:29

This is the safe haven, isn't it? Now and then, I hear building work.

0:20:290:20:32

Whatever's going on down at end of the building.

0:20:320:20:34

I've seen your kitchen, that looks pretty much there.

0:20:340:20:36

You've done some work there. So, this is...

0:20:360:20:38

This is your own room where you can just be yourselves.

0:20:380:20:40

This is a room that hasn't changed, and won't change.

0:20:400:20:42

But there's still work to be done elsewhere.

0:20:420:20:44

-A lot of work to be done elsewhere.

-Yes.

-And...

-Wait till you see.

0:20:440:20:47

-Oh, yeah.

-Well, show me.

-All right. Let's do that, yeah.

0:20:470:20:49

Aside from the reception areas,

0:20:490:20:51

there are plenty of changes underway in the sleeping quarters,

0:20:510:20:54

which is where the business side of things comes into play.

0:20:540:20:58

And they have even created an area to use as a dining room

0:20:580:21:01

for their planned B&B.

0:21:010:21:03

Well, now, this is it, isn't it?

0:21:030:21:05

Fresh... I love fresh plaster.

0:21:050:21:07

You know things are happening when you see fresh plaster.

0:21:070:21:10

You may remember that this was a rather narrow, dark, long hallway.

0:21:100:21:14

Here, there was a wall.

0:21:140:21:16

-Yeah.

-And then a WC and a shower and a small room.

0:21:160:21:22

So, we put them all together.

0:21:220:21:23

I do remember that cabinet!

0:21:230:21:26

I remember thinking it was absolutely glorious, but it was...

0:21:260:21:28

It was in a tiny room.

0:21:280:21:29

It was in a very small room, it was described as a fourth bedroom,

0:21:290:21:32

which was a bit optimistic.

0:21:320:21:33

-Yeah, it never really was a fourth bed, was it?

-Yes.

0:21:330:21:35

You've actually got a much more usable space.

0:21:350:21:37

This is... This is actually a usable reception room.

0:21:370:21:40

We have a lounge area there and this cabinet was actually the inspiration

0:21:400:21:46

for opening the whole thing up.

0:21:460:21:47

That's made this house feel completely different to me.

0:21:470:21:50

We can actually have a dining table here for breakfast.

0:21:500:21:54

Yeah. So, where will be guests stay then?

0:21:540:21:56

Cos I seem to remember the bedroom accommodation being this end.

0:21:560:21:58

-Yeah.

-Yeah, let's show you.

0:21:580:22:00

-OK. Lead the way.

-OK, let's go.

0:22:000:22:02

They're adding en-suite bathrooms to two double bedrooms

0:22:020:22:06

to make letting rooms for B&B guests.

0:22:060:22:09

They've also been busy reconfiguring their own master bedroom to add

0:22:090:22:12

an en-suite to that, as well.

0:22:120:22:14

Now... Oh, it's a good space still.

0:22:150:22:17

-Yes.

-But it was bigger before, wasn't it?

0:22:170:22:20

This is the en-suite corner.

0:22:200:22:22

What we've actually done is done a curve around.

0:22:220:22:24

Quite a reasonable space in here to actually have quite a big shower.

0:22:240:22:28

And we've still got these beams.

0:22:280:22:30

And the beam continues through here, and we tried to reveal the beams.

0:22:300:22:33

I've not seen a bed yet - where are you sleeping?

0:22:330:22:35

Well, at the moment, we actually had to move out.

0:22:350:22:38

We really couldn't sustain being in here.

0:22:380:22:41

They knocked down lots of walls,

0:22:410:22:42

they were redoing the entire central heating system

0:22:420:22:45

and we're insulating lots of places.

0:22:450:22:47

So, essentially, it's a complete transformation.

0:22:470:22:52

When do you think you might be open for business, then?

0:22:520:22:54

-When's the first breakfast going to be cooked?

-We're thinking spring.

0:22:540:22:57

Really? That's hugely exciting, isn't it?

0:22:570:23:00

It's wonderful to see how Paul and Tony have developed the property

0:23:000:23:03

we first saw together, and confidently on track to

0:23:030:23:06

creating their dream home and that B&B income stream.

0:23:060:23:10

But, of course, moving to the country is about achieving

0:23:150:23:18

new lifestyle ambitions, too.

0:23:180:23:20

Later on, I'll discover the positive impact it's had on them.

0:23:200:23:24

Well, according to my doctor, my health is much improved.

0:23:240:23:27

And knowing they're keen on home-grown produce,

0:23:270:23:30

we'll sample some spoils of Sussex's terrain

0:23:300:23:33

at one of the oldest vineyards in the county.

0:23:330:23:36

You're supposed to be picking them, not eating them.

0:23:360:23:39

They're very good.

0:23:390:23:40

But, coming up before that, here are a couple of highlights from our

0:23:430:23:47

other house-hunting success stories across the British countryside.

0:23:470:23:51

It's always fantastic to hear from our buyers when they've made that

0:23:510:23:55

all-important offer on a house we've shown, which goes on to be accepted.

0:23:550:23:59

Back in the autumn of 2013, I was further east along the south coast,

0:24:020:24:06

helping property shoppers Kristi and Francesco.

0:24:060:24:09

Although they haven't lived in the UK very long,

0:24:090:24:12

they knew they wanted to exchange city life in North London

0:24:120:24:15

for the wide-open spaces of Kent.

0:24:150:24:18

With their £650,000 budget, they were after a four-bedroom,

0:24:190:24:23

open-plan family home with plenty of character.

0:24:230:24:27

So, I was excited to show them a 16th century converted barn.

0:24:270:24:32

I think you're going to love this house, I really do.

0:24:320:24:34

-OK.

-Prepare to be catapulted like a trebuchet when you get inside.

0:24:340:24:39

Great.

0:24:390:24:41

The stunning interior combined impressively-sized living areas

0:24:410:24:44

with a raft of character and contemporary features, from

0:24:440:24:48

timber-beamed ceilings to the clever use of reinforced glass balustrades,

0:24:480:24:52

which maximise the light and gave a real sense of space.

0:24:520:24:56

So, open-plan.

0:24:570:25:01

It's very much open-plan.

0:25:010:25:02

-Yeah, beautiful.

-Yeah, really beautiful.

0:25:020:25:05

This is probably what we wanted in terms of open place.

0:25:050:25:08

-Yeah. It's like a loft, right?

-It is like a loft. Yeah.

0:25:080:25:11

Look at the kitchen, though.

0:25:110:25:12

-It's a good size, isn't it?

-Yeah, it's a great size.

-Great size.

0:25:120:25:15

-Yeah.

-Beautiful.

-I like the island in the middle, as well.

0:25:150:25:17

There's lots of storage there.

0:25:170:25:20

But that wasn't the half of it.

0:25:200:25:22

The 4,000 square feet included a breakfast room,

0:25:220:25:25

along with a more formal dining area back in the main hallway.

0:25:250:25:29

What's more, there were a generous three sitting rooms.

0:25:290:25:33

I'd got the reactions I'd hoped for on the finish and flow of downstairs

0:25:330:25:37

and upstairs really raised the roof, with a stylish family bathroom and

0:25:370:25:42

a total of five bedrooms, including a master suite that blew them away.

0:25:420:25:47

-This is fantastic.

-Wow.

0:25:470:25:50

-Wow.

-Yeah.

-This is the size of our apartment, you know.

0:25:500:25:53

-Definitely.

-Wow. My God.

0:25:530:25:55

This is enormous.

0:25:550:25:57

-Wow.

-Beautiful. Yeah, this is fantastic.

0:25:570:26:00

You've got en-suite, of course.

0:26:000:26:01

Yeah. Definitely.

0:26:010:26:03

-It's beautiful.

-More than we would have expected.

0:26:030:26:05

We need to understand how can we manage all of this property?

0:26:050:26:08

-Mm-hm.

-If we can afford it.

0:26:080:26:10

Yeah, if it's within budget.

0:26:100:26:12

With their £650,000 threshold at the forefront of their minds,

0:26:120:26:17

they're about to hear some great news on the asking price.

0:26:170:26:20

I think it's well beyond the budget,

0:26:200:26:23

and I'm thinking it's £735,000.

0:26:230:26:28

-OK.

-Yeah, I think it's above our budget.

0:26:280:26:32

Probably, maybe less, I would say, than Kristi.

0:26:320:26:36

710.

0:26:360:26:38

Right. Well, this house is on the market for offers around £625,000.

0:26:380:26:44

-Oh!

-Oh, my goodness!

-Wow.

0:26:440:26:47

-Really?

-Really?

0:26:470:26:49

-Yep.

-You're not joking?

0:26:490:26:50

-Nope.

-Wow. And it hasn't been grabbed yet?

0:26:500:26:53

Not yet.

0:26:530:26:55

Initially, I thought this house was well over our budget because it is

0:26:550:26:58

so massive and because it's been done to such high standards.

0:26:580:27:03

But, fortunately for us, it's not.

0:27:030:27:06

It's actually under budget, so I think that

0:27:060:27:10

this is definitely a property that Francesco and I will consider.

0:27:100:27:14

This property clearly hit the mark.

0:27:140:27:16

Kristi and Francesco wasted no time seizing the opportunity,

0:27:160:27:19

and swiftly put in an offer.

0:27:190:27:22

They completed their purchase and moved in to their home

0:27:220:27:25

six months later and I'm delighted to report they're now

0:27:250:27:28

enjoying family life on the Kent coast.

0:27:280:27:31

Sprawling forward to the spring of 2015,

0:27:340:27:37

Nicki Chapman was helping couple Louisa and Chris,

0:27:370:27:40

who were living in the suburbs of South-West London.

0:27:400:27:43

But now, with their young daughter in tow,

0:27:430:27:45

they wanted to return to their own childhood roots in Wiltshire.

0:27:450:27:49

For their budget of £575,000,

0:27:490:27:52

they needed their country home to be close to a primary school and

0:27:520:27:55

provide them with a large kitchen, four bedrooms,

0:27:550:27:58

along with a manageable garden.

0:27:580:28:00

Nicki took them to the pretty Wiltshire village of Hilmarton,

0:28:000:28:04

where she showed them a surprisingly substantial property.

0:28:040:28:07

-I like it.

-Yeah?

-Yeah.

0:28:070:28:10

-Yeah, I do.

-What works for you, Chris?

0:28:100:28:13

I like the wooden porch.

0:28:130:28:14

It's a nice feature.

0:28:140:28:15

It's maybe, for me, not as pretty as perhaps I'd like.

0:28:150:28:19

It's a bit dark. The front is a bit dark for me,

0:28:190:28:22

-but we obviously have completely different tastes.

-Yeah.

0:28:220:28:24

Although there were different reactions to the exterior,

0:28:250:28:28

the family-friendly interior appealed to both of them.

0:28:280:28:31

So, off the hallway we have our sitting room.

0:28:310:28:36

-Really spacious.

-Yeah.

-It's nice.

0:28:360:28:39

Big, nice windows.

0:28:390:28:41

This is kind of our taste, isn't it?

0:28:410:28:44

Quite clean and bright and fresh.

0:28:440:28:47

Yeah, absolutely, yeah. Massive room, isn't it?

0:28:470:28:49

-It's nice.

-Huge.

-Really nice.

-There was also a spacious modern kitchen

0:28:490:28:54

which led on to a sunny dining room in an extension

0:28:540:28:57

-to the back of the house.

-It's lovely, I love it.

0:28:570:29:00

And again, bright, airy, clean.

0:29:000:29:02

Just to our taste.

0:29:020:29:04

-To our taste?

-Yeah, I like it.

0:29:040:29:06

I do. Yeah, no, I do like it.

0:29:060:29:08

I didn't want to give too much away in the sitting room,

0:29:080:29:11

but in actual fact now you see, you've also got all of this as well.

0:29:110:29:16

Yeah, this is lovely.

0:29:160:29:18

I'm starting to feel slightly excited.

0:29:180:29:20

-Yeah, so are we.

-Hurray!

0:29:200:29:22

All three of us, that's good. Well, let's hope it continues upstairs.

0:29:220:29:25

Yes.

0:29:250:29:26

With the downstairs layout proving a hit, Nicki showed them the

0:29:260:29:30

five bedrooms upstairs, which included three generous,

0:29:300:29:33

light, airy doubles with en-suites, more than enough space for

0:29:330:29:36

a growing family. But with all this on offer,

0:29:360:29:39

Louisa was wondering whether the price tag was out of reach.

0:29:390:29:43

Is this in our budget?

0:29:430:29:45

Starting to doubt it.

0:29:460:29:48

It's impressive, isn't it?

0:29:480:29:49

Yeah, definitely. I think everything, personally,

0:29:490:29:53

has been impressive so far.

0:29:530:29:54

Outside, the garden was easy to maintain,

0:29:560:29:58

but there was also an added bonus.

0:29:580:30:00

Wasn't expecting that.

0:30:000:30:02

-No, definitely not.

-Bit of a surprise?

0:30:020:30:04

Yeah, absolutely.

0:30:040:30:05

Not often I can offer people a pool.

0:30:050:30:08

But it's fair to say it split the camp.

0:30:080:30:11

Can you see yourself using the pool?

0:30:110:30:13

Definitely. I can.

0:30:130:30:14

I think personally I would have a think about filling it in, maybe.

0:30:140:30:21

-Kids would love the pool, though.

-It would be amazing.

0:30:210:30:24

You would use it three weeks of the year.

0:30:240:30:25

But, do you know what I would do, personally?

0:30:250:30:27

I would keep it for a year and see.

0:30:270:30:29

-If you use it.

-Because if Evie loves it,

0:30:290:30:31

-it'll change your opinion.

-Break the ice out just to make a point.

0:30:310:30:34

Christmas Day! I want to go swimming.

0:30:360:30:40

With the pool's future hanging in the balance,

0:30:400:30:42

it was time to guess the price.

0:30:420:30:44

Louisa had expressed concerns whether they could afford

0:30:440:30:47

this generous package on their £575,000 budget.

0:30:470:30:52

I would say 585 - 590?

0:30:520:30:57

-OK.

-I'm going to say lower.

0:30:570:31:00

560?

0:31:000:31:02

Chris, you're very good at this,

0:31:030:31:06

because the asking price is £562,000.

0:31:060:31:09

That's amazing. Wow, OK.

0:31:090:31:11

£13,000 under budget and providing them with everything they asked for,

0:31:120:31:17

Chris and Louisa put in an offer, which was accepted.

0:31:170:31:20

They moved in during the autumn of 2015.

0:31:200:31:23

Evie Grace now has a little sister to play with.

0:31:230:31:26

And the pool? It didn't get filled in.

0:31:260:31:29

So, two more happy outcomes from our property searching efforts there.

0:31:300:31:34

But, of course, settling in it to a new home is just the first step

0:31:380:31:41

building a fresh life in the country.

0:31:410:31:44

We're returning to the county of East Sussex with Tony and Paul.

0:31:440:31:48

They've already shown me how they're reconfiguring their new home,

0:31:480:31:52

and getting it ready to open up to paying guests.

0:31:520:31:55

But away from the commotion of the building work, they have a

0:31:560:31:59

peaceful oasis around them, and they've each established

0:31:590:32:02

their own interests to fill their days with.

0:32:020:32:04

'First, I'm joining Paul and new addition to their household, Sammy,

0:32:050:32:09

'on their regular countryside walk, and we don't have to go very far.'

0:32:090:32:13

Well, this is just glorious, isn't it?

0:32:130:32:16

It's really very nice.

0:32:160:32:17

When people come to Escape To The Country, they often talk about

0:32:170:32:19

getting a dog when they move out of an urban environment, and that

0:32:190:32:22

kind of opens you up to enjoying the countryside a lot more, doesn't it?

0:32:220:32:26

Are you happier people here?

0:32:260:32:28

I tell you what -

0:32:280:32:30

I don't know how I fitted in work now I'm retired.

0:32:300:32:33

A lot of people say that.

0:32:330:32:35

But that's also because you've come to the countryside, isn't it?

0:32:350:32:37

Your day now, you've got a big house,

0:32:370:32:39

you've got your project that you're doing at the moment,

0:32:390:32:41

you've got over half an acre of garden that you need to look after

0:32:410:32:44

as well, and then you've got your dog to walk.

0:32:440:32:46

You're doing fun things.

0:32:460:32:48

You couldn't fit in a job now, could you?

0:32:480:32:51

Well, I'm on the parish council.

0:32:510:32:52

Oh, it's started, has it?

0:32:520:32:53

The parish council, and that gets involved in the community,

0:32:530:32:58

get involved with the village,

0:32:580:33:00

because now I can be a nice, solid Nimby.

0:33:000:33:02

Yeah, of course you can. Not in my back yard.

0:33:020:33:04

I'm trying not to be.

0:33:040:33:06

And you've got a proper country dog, haven't you?

0:33:060:33:08

We're walking a lab round here. You're a walking cliche, Paul.

0:33:080:33:12

I haven't got leather patches.

0:33:120:33:13

-Not yet.

-But, yes, it is very much that way.

0:33:130:33:16

'Whilst Paul is busy putting his new world to rights,

0:33:160:33:20

'Tony's been maximising the south coast climate

0:33:200:33:23

'with his very own home-grown produce.'

0:33:230:33:26

So, courgettes?

0:33:260:33:27

A lot of courgettes. Yes.

0:33:270:33:28

-They look amazing.

-We have Asian,

0:33:280:33:32

aubergine, eggplant, and several varieties of tomatoes here.

0:33:320:33:36

This was the one thing I missed from the States is having tomatoes

0:33:360:33:40

that tasted like tomatoes.

0:33:400:33:42

-Give that one a try.

-Can I?

0:33:420:33:43

It's very sweet, it's got a real intense flavour.

0:33:430:33:46

-It's almost like a strawberry, isn't it?

-Yes.

0:33:510:33:53

It's gorgeous. You've got plenty going on in here at the moment,

0:33:530:33:55

but I can see you've still got a few bits and bobs with these

0:33:550:33:58

-raised beds. Can we take a look?

-Sure.

0:33:580:34:00

As you can see, this was our vegetables this year,

0:34:000:34:03

most of them are gone.

0:34:030:34:04

You've had a full crop out of your kitchen garden, goodness me.

0:34:040:34:07

We're going to be drying out what remains of our runner beans

0:34:070:34:11

-for seeds for next year.

-OK.

0:34:110:34:14

And then I'm hoping next year to put in a couple of grapevines.

0:34:140:34:16

-Really?

-Yeah.

-You certainly are ambitious!

0:34:180:34:21

-I like grapes.

-Why not?

0:34:210:34:23

-Who doesn't?

-Goodness me.

0:34:230:34:25

Well, with his penchant for grapes,

0:34:250:34:27

Tony couldn't be better placed, as some of the country's finest

0:34:270:34:30

wine-producing vineyards are found right here in the region, something

0:34:300:34:34

most likely brought to the area by the Romans in the first century AD.

0:34:340:34:38

Just a few miles from Paul and Tony's home

0:34:400:34:42

is a 20-acre vineyard owned by Roy Cook,

0:34:420:34:45

who's been involved in local viticulture since the 1970s.

0:34:450:34:49

He now produces around 20,000 bottles of wine a year and, on this

0:34:490:34:53

fine autumn day, we're joining him for the grape harvest.

0:34:530:34:58

I can see you're hard at it, Roy. Anything we can help with here?

0:34:580:35:01

Absolutely. We've got the tools of the trade right here.

0:35:010:35:05

You've got grape snips there.

0:35:050:35:09

One each. There you go.

0:35:090:35:10

-Thank you.

-Thank you very much.

0:35:100:35:12

What's the best way? How do you cut these?

0:35:130:35:15

Well, it's quite straightforward, really.

0:35:150:35:17

You just grab a bunch and cut through the stalk.

0:35:170:35:20

Sometimes you can get a couple in your hand,

0:35:200:35:23

and you just toss them in the baskets.

0:35:230:35:26

Roy's vineyard lays claim to being the first officially

0:35:260:35:29

organic wine producer in England.

0:35:290:35:31

In 2010, it started following biodynamic methods incorporating

0:35:310:35:35

natural cycles, such as moon stages, into his cultivation process.

0:35:350:35:40

One key factor in its ongoing success is the south coast location.

0:35:400:35:45

I take it the climate plays a big role here.

0:35:450:35:49

It's really does, because you're on the edge of where it's feasible

0:35:490:35:53

to grow graves.

0:35:530:35:55

We really are at the northern extremities of where it's even

0:35:550:35:59

possible to produce a crop like this.

0:35:590:36:01

Especially red grapes.

0:36:010:36:03

-Exactly.

-I was expecting it to be white grapes.

0:36:030:36:05

Originally people did start off with white grapes in England,

0:36:070:36:11

but nowadays we can grow reds and sparkling wine, all sorts.

0:36:110:36:16

There's wines now, sparkling wines in particular I know

0:36:160:36:19

have outperformed some of the French sparkling wines now

0:36:190:36:22

-on the world stage, haven't they?

-Absolutely.

0:36:220:36:24

In 2011, grapes from this vineyard produced the first

0:36:240:36:27

English red to win an international wine award.

0:36:270:36:30

But I'm not sure how many of those we're gathering today

0:36:310:36:34

are going to acquire that accolade.

0:36:340:36:36

Tony here... You're supposed to be picking them, not eating them.

0:36:360:36:39

They're very good. What variety is this?

0:36:400:36:42

It's called Regent.

0:36:420:36:44

-OK.

-It was developed in Germany.

0:36:440:36:46

In Germany, you say "ray-GENT".

0:36:460:36:48

So there's 4,000 vines of this variety here.

0:36:480:36:52

That's a lot of grapes, so perhaps some picking incentive is required.

0:36:520:36:57

If these guys do a good job, you know,

0:36:570:36:59

show me how many grapes you can pick, then we can probably sort you

0:36:590:37:03

out with a bottle of something special at the end of the day.

0:37:030:37:06

I think I've already eaten my share.

0:37:060:37:08

Well, if Tony fancies tucking into his own home-grown bunches,

0:37:100:37:14

Roy's the man with the local knowledge.

0:37:140:37:16

We, like you, have a south-facing garden that gets quite a bit of sun.

0:37:170:37:20

I see. The key factor is that it has to be well-drained.

0:37:200:37:24

If it's not well-drained, then the vine roots,

0:37:240:37:29

the fine vine roots, die off over the winter and then the plant has to

0:37:290:37:33

start growing new roots again every year,

0:37:330:37:35

which, of course, is not good.

0:37:350:37:38

With the picking shift over,

0:37:380:37:39

our gathered fruit is off to the crusher.

0:37:390:37:42

Here they are destalked and squashed before passing along a pipe

0:37:420:37:45

into the fermentation vat.

0:37:450:37:47

I can see the fruits of our labour, here.

0:37:480:37:51

Red has to ferment on the pop with the skins to extract the colour

0:37:510:37:56

for ten days, two weeks.

0:37:560:37:58

Only after that fermentation does it get pressed.

0:37:580:38:02

I'd like to think we've maybe earned a taste, maybe, shall we?

0:38:020:38:06

Yeah, if you just pop around into our shop there,

0:38:060:38:09

Lorenz will be more than happy to show you.

0:38:090:38:12

Thank you very much, Roy.

0:38:120:38:14

Lorenz is in charge of tastings at the vineyard and has lined up

0:38:140:38:17

a couple of award-winners, starting with a sparkling Pinot Noir

0:38:170:38:21

Chardonnay, made in the same traditional method as champagne.

0:38:210:38:25

-Cheers, gents.

-Oh, cheers.

0:38:260:38:28

Very classic, very clean and you will get flavours of green apples

0:38:300:38:34

-going on.

-That's the Pinot Noir. That's a red grape, isn't it?

0:38:340:38:37

Yeah, it is, yeah.

0:38:370:38:39

How does that work, then?

0:38:390:38:40

The important thing is to really

0:38:400:38:42

just get rid of the skins very quickly, so the red colour

0:38:420:38:45

that is contained in the skins doesn't seep into the wine.

0:38:450:38:48

-I didn't know that.

-I think it is really very nice,

0:38:480:38:50

-it's very light.

-Yeah, yeah.

0:38:500:38:53

But, it's not empty.

0:38:530:38:55

I don't mean to sound surprised at an English champagne,

0:38:550:38:58

or sparkling wine, but it's actually quite good.

0:38:580:39:01

But they beat some of the champagnes a couple years ago, didn't they?

0:39:010:39:03

That's it, and even champagne producers coming to Kent, to Sussex,

0:39:030:39:06

to buy land because it is just so well, the climate.

0:39:060:39:10

Next up is a red that includes

0:39:100:39:12

some of the variety of grape we picked earlier.

0:39:120:39:15

So, you were out there picking the Regent grapes,

0:39:150:39:18

and I thought we should have a sip of the Corymbus now.

0:39:180:39:20

It is Regent, Rondo, Dornfelder.

0:39:200:39:24

Light but complex English red wine.

0:39:240:39:27

What do you think, Tony?

0:39:270:39:29

Erm, it's very unusual.

0:39:290:39:30

It's not at all what I was expecting.

0:39:300:39:33

Yes, if you imagine this one with smoked rosemary potatoes,

0:39:330:39:36

for example. Beautiful combination.

0:39:360:39:39

-I think it's really nice.

-You're now living in wine producing country.

0:39:390:39:44

That's quite a move, isn't it?

0:39:440:39:46

I was going to say, it's like our next chapter,

0:39:470:39:50

but at our age it is more like Volume Two of our lives.

0:39:500:39:53

Nice way of putting it.

0:39:530:39:55

It's clear that their move to the countryside has produced the goods

0:39:550:39:58

for both Tony and Paul.

0:39:580:40:01

Back on home turf, I'm interested to hear if securing the house

0:40:010:40:05

in the first place was a smooth process.

0:40:050:40:07

Of course, we all play guess the price when I'm showing you

0:40:090:40:13

the properties. How much did you get it for?

0:40:130:40:15

Well, we should ask YOU what you thought we got it for.

0:40:150:40:17

-Oh, no!

-Why don't you guess?

0:40:170:40:20

You tell us.

0:40:200:40:21

OK, I'll go 565, I think you've been cheeky on it.

0:40:230:40:25

Oh, no, no, no, no.

0:40:250:40:26

-Damn!

-We made an offer of 580, actually,

0:40:260:40:30

and then we went away and looked at other properties,

0:40:300:40:32

and then we came back to this one, and 590 was accepted.

0:40:320:40:36

Big deal, really, isn't it?

0:40:360:40:37

Moving to a different country - a huge deal.

0:40:370:40:42

You are moving into retirement as well, Tony.

0:40:420:40:44

How have you found that monumental move of yours?

0:40:440:40:46

I think the transformation from working full-time to retirement

0:40:460:40:51

was a much bigger jump than the move.

0:40:510:40:55

Having the new house, with the new projects, in the new place

0:40:550:40:59

has made the transition from work to retirement work for me.

0:40:590:41:05

Now, this B&B enterprise - why do you want to do it?

0:41:050:41:08

Is it the want to make money in your retirement, semi-retirement,

0:41:080:41:14

-or is it a project...?

-We don't want to LOSE money.

0:41:140:41:17

-No, of course not.

-It's more a matter of this is my project.

0:41:170:41:22

He has his community involvement.

0:41:220:41:26

Sounds like Paul's busy enough.

0:41:260:41:27

Yes. And I... This is my project. Something that I can excel at.

0:41:270:41:31

You've retired, you're living in this beautiful countryside,

0:41:310:41:36

you're going for dog walks,

0:41:360:41:38

you're tending your garden - how do you feel?

0:41:380:41:40

Well, according to my doctor, my health is much improved.

0:41:420:41:45

-Has it really?

-My blood pressure's down, my cholesterol's down,

0:41:450:41:48

I've lost a stone.

0:41:480:41:50

Apparently, this is very healthy.

0:41:500:41:52

We'll walk over there to Catsfield,

0:41:520:41:54

it's a mile away, another nice village,

0:41:540:41:57

another nice village pub. A lovely village pub here.

0:41:570:41:59

-Do you use the pubs, then, do you?

-Oh, yes.

-Oh, yeah.

0:41:590:42:01

So, we've got the traditional village pub, sit round the fire,

0:42:010:42:04

you got a gastro pub there, both a walk away.

0:42:040:42:06

How we haven't GAINED weight, I don't know.

0:42:060:42:08

And yet your doctor says you're in better health.

0:42:080:42:10

How is this possible?!

0:42:100:42:12

I must say, I always get a great feeling when I help house-hunters

0:42:160:42:19

find their dream property, and it's been really good catching up

0:42:190:42:22

with Tony and Paul, and having a nose around their country escape.

0:42:220:42:26

And I have every confidence that once they've completed their works

0:42:260:42:29

they'll not only have the perfect home,

0:42:290:42:32

but also a nice little B&B business.

0:42:320:42:35

I wish them both the very best of luck.

0:42:350:42:37

If you dream of escaping to the country in Wales, Scotland, England,

0:42:380:42:42

or Northern Ireland and would also like our help, why not apply online?

0:42:420:42:47

Jonnie Irwin revisits a couple he helped on their initial property search in Sussex. Jonnie returns to the house he showed them that they ultimately bought for under their £600,000 budget. The couple each had very strong ideas on what they wanted from their move to the country, with one of them determined to run a bed and breakfast from their new home. Building work is in progress, so Jonnie sees how their vision will provide accommodation for the business without intruding on their personal living space.

As well walking their new dog in the surrounding countryside, Jonnie and his house buyers visit one of the award-winning vineyards Sussex is home to. After harvesting grapes and eating more than a few, they sample the array of wines produced there.