Kent Escape to the Country


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Kent

Property series. Nicki Chapman is in Kent, property-shopping with a young family who are desperate to break free from the capital to find their perfect rural home.


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This magnificent house was the childhood home of one young lady

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who had the misfortune of marrying King Henry VIII.

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Find out which of his six wives grew up here in a few moments.

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'Today, we help a London couple escape the noise and pollution of the Big Smoke

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'for the fresh air and quiet of the countryside, and it's not all plain sailing.'

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-This doesn't feel like a home.

-Right.

-It feels like a house.

-It feels like a show home.

-Yeah.

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'But finally, we come up trumps.'

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-Ohh!

-Oh, wow!

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That is really pretty. Super-gorgeous.

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Today, I'm in Kent and this is Hever Castle

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where Anne Boleyn was lucky enough to spend her early years

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before losing her head as the second wife of Henry VIII.

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Four centuries on, the American entrepreneur William Waldorf Astor bought this house

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and upsized it in every way.

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Later on in the show, I'll be taking a closer look at this lavish restoration,

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just one of the great treasures this county is home to.

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In the south-east corner of Britain, tucked between London and the English Channel,

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Kent is thought to be the oldest county in England.

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Celebrated for its rich farmland and fruit orchards, it's also known for its brewing industry

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where hops were once dried in distinctive, conical-shaped oast houses that still dot the landscape.

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Gentle, rolling hills, downland and wooded valleys sit alongside the county's architectural heritage

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with historic towns like Royal Tunbridge Wells.

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Sitting on the nation's front line, Kent boasts more than 18 spectacular castles.

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So let's meet today's buyers and find out why they're drawn to Kent.

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Married for five years, Dan and Celia currently live

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in a rented, three-bedroom house in Greenwich, south-east London,

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but now, disenchanted with city living, they want a country home in which to raise their young family.

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It is extremely built-up. We're overlooked by a massive tower block.

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We've got a bit of a walk to get to any green space at all.

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It would be nice to leave behind the concrete jungle

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and move somewhere where there's a bit more fresh air and a bit more space.

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Having enjoyed a rural childhood themselves, Celia and Dan are keen

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that their three-year-old son, Ned, and six-month-old daughter, Clem, have the same opportunities.

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In the countryside, kids have more freedom. I spent my summers building dams in streams and climbing trees.

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I have this vision that they can get on their bikes and cycle round to people's houses.

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With doctor Celia working in central London and dentist Dan on the south-east edge of the capital,

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they want to keep commuting time to a minimum, but still enjoy all the elements of a country life.

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I'd like to move into a village and be part of a smaller community.

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Greenwich is a nice community, but it's a very big community.

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It would be nice to live somewhere a bit smaller. I'd like the children to go to a local school.

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As a keen cyclist, Dan is looking forward to having a choice of scenic routes right on his doorstep.

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I spend a good hour, hour and a half to get to the countryside when we go riding or running,

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so it would be nice to already be there.

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But as well as the space of the open countryside, Dan and Celia are looking for a house big enough

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for their two small children and Dan's 11-year-old daughter, Megan.

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It would be nice to have a five-bedroom house because when Megan stays with us at the weekends,

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she ends up staying on a blow-up bed in Clem's room, so it would be nice for her to have her own room.

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We're bursting out at the seams. We haven't got room to store Dan's bike stuff and our ski stuff and whatever.

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I'm really looking forward to moving somewhere where we have a garage,

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where these umpteen bikes can be stored and not cluttering up my hallway and my kitchen.

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This will be the first property Dan and Celia are buying together and they have to make the right choice.

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We do plan on just moving once and then staying there, hopefully, for a long time,

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so it will change our life in a massive way.

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It's a major decision, so what have they set aside for their dream home?

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Top end of the budget to spend probably would be between £850,000 to £900,000.

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Yeah!

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'Dan and Celia are interested in the area close to the market town of Tonbridge,

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'four miles north of Tunbridge Wells and around 30 miles south-east of London.

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'I'm meeting them in situ to find out just what kind of property they have in mind.'

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Dan and Celia, welcome to Kent.

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Tell us a little bit about the home you're looking for in your eyes.

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Ideally, detached, olde worlde, a little bit quirky.

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We'd like five bedrooms because we've got three children

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and it would be nice to have some space for people to visit and so on, and, if possible, a play room.

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Remind us how much we've got to spend.

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-We are lucky enough to have a budget of £850,000.

-OK.

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Is there any flexibility on that or is that the limit?

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I suppose for the perfect house we would be able to go up to about £900,000.

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-We've got three properties lined up to show you in this beautiful county. Shall we get started?

-Yeah.

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With a generous budget of up to £900,000, our buyers are looking for a detached character property.

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We've found three contrasting properties to tempt them with.

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At each one, I'll ask them to guess the price before I reveal it.

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The last is the mystery house

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which, whilst straying from the wish list, might just bowl them over.

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'We're testing Dan and Celia with our first property which is on the edge of Tonbidge.

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'It offers the convenience they're after, though will it give them enough of that country feel?

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'Built around the River Medway with over 150 listed buildings, including its very own castle,

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'Tonbridge offers excellent primary schools.

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'With great train and road connections into London, they could be at work in less than an hour.'

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-So, here is...

-Oh, wow!

-..our first property.

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-Very nice.

-Lovely.

-Beautiful.

-It looks stunning, doesn't it?

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Is this what you had in mind when you thought of moving?

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It's perhaps a little more urban than we'd expected, but there are benefits to being on the edge of a town.

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When the children get older, they can walk places. We won't have to drive them everywhere.

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-There's pros and cons to it.

-Something to weigh up.

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-Shall we start the tour?

-Yeah.

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'Built in 1957, this house has been extended and the space provides a substantial family home.'

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Gosh, it's lovely and light!

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-Plenty of windows, which is great.

-Yeah.

-Wow, I love the fireplace!

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Different from where you are at the moment?

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You could fit our whole house in this...

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-Every room is going to be spacious for you two.

-Yeah.

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-Shall we continue to the kitchen?

-Yeah.

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-So, you've got the kitchen here.

-Mm-hm.

-So, long and thin.

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But it leads into a separate area with informal dining at the end.

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Yeah, that's really nice, to have space for a family kitchen table.

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This is where the original house ended, so you could look at opening that out a little bit more.

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Wow, that would be a big space if this was all opened out!

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And there's another room through here which I've got an idea for.

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It makes a great office.

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But what about if you took away that wall

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-and opened it all out?

-Yeah.

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-That would be lovely.

-Amazing for the children.

-Yeah.

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You can keep an eye on them. They've got access to the garden.

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-But what a great area.

-That would be lovely.

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I have this vision of a great, big kitchen table everyone can sit around. That would be really nice.

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And just behind us, you've actually got a dining area, a separate room.

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People of our generation are less likely to use a formal dining room and are more likely

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to entertain friends on the side of the kitchen, so you could put the kids' stuff in there.

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That could be the children's play room. We've got it sorted! Now we'll go upstairs and see the bedrooms.

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'Upstairs are three good-sized rooms, all with built-in cupboards,

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'a light, spacious double and a family bathroom,

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'plus there's an impressive master suite.'

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So, lots of bedrooms with this property.

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-How do you fancy having your own en-suite?

-Yeah. Are we allowed to have a little look?

-Go on.

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Oh, right. It goes on.

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Wow! Dressing room and bathroom.

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-It's huge.

-Terrific.

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'Dan and Celia seem happy with the room inside the house.

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'There's also a basement with a games room and a large wine cellar.

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'I hope the garden won't disappoint. There's a large patio and lawn with mature trees and shrubs,

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'plus two garages to accommodate Dan's bikes.'

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You've got a beautifully presented, mature garden.

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It's not overlooked at all, which, considering there are other houses around, is really nice.

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-It's a decent-sized plot.

-And you've got the front garden.

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It's plenty big enough for the kids to have a game of football, so that's fine.

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So, who wants to go first with "guess the price"?

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About...

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£825,000.

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I've had a look at some of the houses that you can walk into Tonbridge from round here.

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You've done a lot more research. That's unfair.

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I think it would be quite a lot more than that with this amount of garden and in such good condition.

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I'd say we're looking at more like 875.

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I'm sorry to tell you that one of you is wrong and one of you is bang on the money.

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£875,000.

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This house is under their maximum budget.

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-Are you happy? Have you seen enough?

-Yeah, very much so.

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-That's our first house done. Shall we get moving now?

-Yeah.

-Come on.

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'One of Kent's most famous historic houses

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'is the stunning, 13th-century Hever Castle near Edenbridge.

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'Best known as the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, second wife of Henry VIII,

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'it's now one of the county's most popular tourist attractions.

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'I'm meeting Chief Executive Duncan Leslie to delve into the castle's extraordinary history.'

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Duncan, great to meet you.

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I have a real passion for anything to do with the Tudor period.

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-Anne Boleyn's family had connections to Hever Castle.

-Absolutely.

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This was their main home. They needed a home close to London

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and we're only 21 miles, as the crow flies, to London.

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She spent a lot of her formative years here before going to France.

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Then she came back and spent a lot of time here when Henry VIII was courting her.

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So, what happened to the castle after she left?

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Henry VIII actually gave Hever Castle to another of his ex-wives, to Anne of Cleves.

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-No?

-As part of the divorce settlement. Anne of Cleves lived here for 16 years.

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-Two out of the six wives lived here?

-That's right.

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'Over the years, the castle was owned by a number of prominent families,

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'but had fallen into disrepair when it was bought by wealthy American William Waldorf Astor in 1903.

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'He set about lovingly restoring it at enormous expense.'

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My word!

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This just gives you an idea of the sort of workmanship.

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We're talking hundreds... thousands of hours of work.

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-It's not just this room. It's the whole castle.

-The gardens as well?

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There were 600 or 700 people working in here,

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-and another 150 in the gardens, so come and have a look.

-My goodness!

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'It's hard to believe the elaborate gardens around the castle were just marshland

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'before Astor embarked on his massive restoration project.'

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Now, that is what I call a view!

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This was just fields. He wanted a lake, so 800 men were employed for two and a half years,

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digging this lake by hand.

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I wonder if he had any idea that we would be appreciating this huge investment 100 years later?

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I think he wanted to leave something behind that he would be remembered by

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and I suspect he's probably succeeded.

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'It's 110 years since Astor bought the castle

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'and to mark the anniversary, the Japanese Tea House on the lake is being rebuilt.

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'I'm meeting landscape designer Simon Scott who is overseeing the project.'

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So, these dragons, were they on the original building?

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They are hopefully something similar to what was on the original building.

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'The Tea House was taken down in the 1930s to make space for a pillbox,

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'the dug-in guard post, built as part of British anti-invasion preparations

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'during the Second World War.

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'Simon's job is to try and re-create it as accurately as possible.'

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A lot of the records and photos were lost during a flood in 1968.

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The only bit we have got is the existing roof, the original roof which is here on top of the pillbox.

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The only other bits we know about the Tea House...

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A pensioner who lives in the village remembers taking down the original Tea House to make way...

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And the only bits he actually remembers are the roof and the gold dragons.

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I'm looking forward to seeing it complete in all its grandeur.

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I'll be wondering which of those dragons did I help paint?

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'If everything goes to plan, they should be finished here in a couple of weeks.

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'And I can't think of a more relaxing place to come

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and enjoy a cup of tea.'

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Our second house is located in the village of Chart Sutton,

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around 13 miles east of Tonbridge.

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Staplehurst, three miles south of the property,

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offers a good selection of local shops, some traditional pubs and a library,

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plus the all-important main-line rail service into London.

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Let me show you our second property.

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-Wow!

-Wow!

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The house itself is about 100 years old. It was extended about 30, 35 years ago.

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-Are you eager to step inside?

-Yes, absolutely.

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'This may look like a classic character property,

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'but the interior is quite a surprise.'

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So, it's not quite the cottage it looks from the outside, is it?

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It's enormous.

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It's huge.

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-Surprised?

-It's a bit mind-boggling.

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It looks really small from the outside and in here it's like a TARDIS.

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If you look, there's a door.

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Through there is a media room. That's how they use it when the grandchildren come to stay.

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-But that could be the children's play area.

-Brilliant.

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-Do you want to see the next bit, the kitchen?

-Yeah.

-Absolutely.

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And if you like a lot of space in your kitchen...

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-Mm-hm.

-It's taken your breath away, hasn't it?

-It's enormous.

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-This all looks brand-new.

-It is, actually.

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It's been here a year and a half, so you've got granite work surfaces all the way round,

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a huge island in the middle,

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two ovens at the end, so much storage space.

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-Is it too much for you?

-I think it is too much. I'll be honest with you.

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Is it too sort of smart, do you think? Is it too smart for your...?

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It's not to my taste, but if it's only a year old, I wouldn't dream of changing it. Do you know what I mean?

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I think my problem is that this doesn't feel like a home.

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-It feels like a house.

-It feels like a show home.

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We'll continue upstairs now.

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'Leading off the generous living room is a conservatory overlooking the garden and the open countryside,

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'but despite all the space, it seems Dan and Celia can't imagine themselves in this property.

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'Maybe they'll be more taken with the upstairs.'

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Now, before we look at bedrooms,

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I have to show you this.

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-Wow!

-Step inside.

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It is the most amazing shower, power shower, jets everywhere.

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-It's a double shower.

-It's got room for two.

-We'll not go into that!

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-You have a bath, a Jacuzzi.

-You could have the whole family in there.

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I'll bring you back to reality and show you the bedrooms now.

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So, we have a very light and spacious master bedroom with en-suite.

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-Plenty of space.

-Loads of light.

-This has got a lot of light and beautiful views.

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Yeah, really nice to have a kind of...two-aspect views.

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And high ceilings. It doesn't feel cottagey inside. It feels big.

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So, you've got five bedrooms in total - one single,

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-four doubles, two of those are en suite.

-Right, OK.

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-When your guests come to stay...

-They'll be very happy.

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Then you've got your family bathroom as well.

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Let's head outside. I've got some out-buildings to point out to you

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and also we are going to have to discuss money.

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So, the total outside space, it is pretty impressive.

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You've got an out-building there. A bit of work has been done on it. Piping and everything's in there.

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Next door to that you've got a sauna and a hot-tub.

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A huge garage, a carport. Then we start on the land.

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In total, there's four acres, including the footprint of the property.

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-It's a big chunk of England.

-It is.

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-Shall we walk round to the front of the property and talk about money?

-Yeah.

-Come on.

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'Having guessed the exact price of the last house, can Celia do it again?'

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Celia, I think it's your turn to go first, isn't it?

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Well, it's a big house. It's been newly done up and it's got masses of land.

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I can't imagine all that will come very cheap.

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I'll have another stab at 875.

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Right. How about you, Dan? Guess the price.

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I would say slightly cheaper,

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maybe 860?

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Right. Interesting.

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-The asking price is £850,000.

-Oh, right, OK.

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-Surprised?

-Yeah.

-Yeah.

-Definitely surprised.

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This modernised period property is well under Dan and Celia's maximum budget.

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-Happy, you two?

-Mm-hm.

-Thank you.

-What a glorious end to our day!

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Sun shining, in the countryside...

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It's gorgeous. It certainly feels a million miles from London.

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-Yeah. We've given you some thinking to do with these properties.

-You have, yeah.

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'It's the second day of our house-hunt in Kent with London couple, Dan and Celia.

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'They have a generous budget of up to £900,000 to spend on a rural family home.

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'We're taking a risk with our mystery house, travelling around 30 miles south-east of Tonbridge.'

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'Our third and final property is just outside the small village of Mersham.

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'There's a church, a couple of pubs and village shops here,

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'but although the road connections are good, it would mean a longer drive to work for Dan

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'and Celia would have to travel three miles to Ashford to catch the train to London.'

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'This timber-framed manor house is Grade II listed

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'and is thought to date back to the 16th century.'

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Dan and Celia, this is your mystery house. Take a look.

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-Oh!

-Oh, wow!

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That is really pretty.

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Oh, wow, that is beautiful!

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Super-gorgeous.

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-Shall we start the grand tour?

-Yes, let's.

-Very much so.

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So, I have to say "welcome".

0:21:460:21:48

Wow!

0:21:490:21:51

-Wow!

-That's absolutely beautiful.

-It's unbelievable.

0:21:510:21:54

-It's hard to believe this is a home.

-Yeah.

0:21:540:21:58

-Shall we start with the kitchen?

-Yeah.

-Kitchen first.

0:21:580:22:03

-You might have a period house, but you've got a fantastic modern kitchen.

-Wow!

0:22:030:22:09

-But done in such a nice style. It really fits with the feel of the house.

-It does.

0:22:090:22:14

It's lovely. I love the big, open range at the end.

0:22:140:22:17

-Would you change anything here?

-No, not at all.

0:22:170:22:20

It's absolutely beautiful.

0:22:200:22:22

-We've surprised you, haven't we?

-I'm a bit blown away, yeah. It's really nice.

0:22:220:22:27

It's not often you get to see the inside of a house like this, let alone being told you could own it.

0:22:270:22:33

It could be your future home.

0:22:330:22:35

-Dan, if you want to lead through, we'll keep going.

-Mind your head.

0:22:350:22:39

Oh, wow!

0:22:410:22:43

Look at the fire!

0:22:430:22:45

-I want to see your faces.

-Oh, my goodness!

0:22:450:22:49

This is exactly what you expect from a country cottage or house.

0:22:490:22:53

-It's just...stunning.

-So, if you think the house is old,

0:22:530:22:57

those beams are ships' beams, so they're going to be even older.

0:22:570:23:01

They could be 150 years older than this house even.

0:23:010:23:04

If I was to imagine any house, this would be it.

0:23:040:23:07

Just from the walk up the drive, everything.

0:23:070:23:11

The beams, the fire...

0:23:110:23:13

-It's absolutely amazing.

-It's gorgeous.

0:23:130:23:16

'The ground floor also offers an elegant dining room with another original fireplace,

0:23:160:23:22

'a small office and wine cellar.

0:23:220:23:25

'Upstairs, there are two floors.

0:23:270:23:29

'At the top of the house is a bedroom and bathroom, ideal for visiting guests.

0:23:290:23:34

'The first floor consists of a family bathroom and three more spacious bedrooms,

0:23:340:23:39

'including a show-stopping en-suite master.'

0:23:390:23:43

Oh, my God, it's enormous!

0:23:440:23:46

I was expecting poky little bedrooms.

0:23:460:23:48

Even enough room for a sofa in it, but there is more.

0:23:480:23:53

It used to be a dressing room. It's now an en-suite.

0:23:530:23:56

An en-suite in a medieval house? I don't believe it!

0:23:560:24:00

-Shall we head outside?

-Yeah.

0:24:000:24:02

'Dan and Celia clearly love what they've seen so far

0:24:050:24:08

'and I wonder what they'll make of the grounds.'

0:24:080:24:12

So, you've got all this. I just want you to take another look.

0:24:120:24:16

That is what you call a period property.

0:24:160:24:19

Absolutely. It's idyllic. It really is.

0:24:190:24:22

A couple of other things to mention - you've got a cottage here. It used to be the hayloft.

0:24:220:24:27

It's got a massive bedroom with three beds in it, a kitchen, sitting area, self-contained.

0:24:270:24:34

You've also got a double garage there and a studio flat.

0:24:340:24:38

-And if that wasn't enough, you have three acres of land in total.

-Goodness!

0:24:380:24:44

-But how much is it on the market for? We've now got to get serious, haven't we?

-You can go first.

0:24:440:24:50

I would have thought this would be double our budget. Really!

0:24:500:24:54

I'm puzzled as to why you've brought us here. I couldn't imagine that this would be less than £1 million.

0:24:540:25:00

-Yeah.

-Really.

-What do you want to say? What's your figure? A million?

0:25:000:25:04

-Yeah.

-OK.

0:25:040:25:06

I'd almost agree with her. Just slightly under. I don't think we can afford it.

0:25:060:25:11

I think it's still just under a million.

0:25:110:25:14

Are you ready...?

0:25:140:25:16

The asking price for this amazing property...

0:25:160:25:20

£895,000.

0:25:210:25:24

-Wow!

-I think it would be an honour to live somewhere like this. It's just beautiful.

0:25:240:25:31

I'm absolutely gobsmacked that it's even within our grasp.

0:25:310:25:34

This house is just inside Dan and Celia's maximum budget.

0:25:360:25:39

But it would make a longer journey into work.

0:25:520:25:55

Dare I drag you both away?

0:25:570:26:00

-I'd rather stay inside.

-Would you?

-Yeah.

-That's a really good sign.

0:26:000:26:03

-But don't give too much away. Shall we go and have that chat?

-Yes.

0:26:030:26:06

Out of the three houses we've shown you here in Kent, there is one that I want to talk about

0:26:140:26:20

and it is our mystery house.

0:26:200:26:23

-Mm-hm.

-And my goodness, did we get fantastic reactions!

0:26:230:26:26

Fireworks.

0:26:260:26:28

If you'd told us a couple of weeks ago that we'd be going to see a place like that within our budget...

0:26:280:26:35

I didn't expect you to be able to find somewhere like that for us.

0:26:350:26:39

What happens next?

0:26:390:26:41

Definitely want to go back to see the mystery house again, have a look round,

0:26:410:26:46

then have a total chat about it.

0:26:460:26:48

I'm pretty much sold, but you need a bit more convincing.

0:26:480:26:52

I need to shift my mindset a bit further east in Kent, but I couldn't ask for more from the house.

0:26:520:26:58

You do have to think about work, locations and commutes. I totally agree.

0:26:580:27:02

But from a family point of view, if it is the house for you, I wouldn't sit on your hands.

0:27:020:27:07

-Thank you so much. It's been great.

-Thanks.

-Thank YOU.

0:27:070:27:11

Well, that's it.

0:27:150:27:17

For a couple desperate to leave the capital behind and bring up their family in the Kent countryside,

0:27:170:27:23

I think we may have found them their dream, first-owned home together.

0:27:230:27:27

I think Dan and Celia's reaction to our mystery house... Well, it said it all, didn't it?

0:27:270:27:33

Great house, great garden.

0:27:330:27:35

I just hope Celia's nerves about the location and commute to work can be settled.

0:27:350:27:40

For me, that house is a journey worth making.

0:27:400:27:43

From the Kent countryside, goodbye. See you next time.

0:27:430:27:48

Dan and Celia fell in love with our mystery house,

0:27:480:27:52

but have reluctantly concluded that the extra commute would prove too far for them.

0:27:520:27:57

They're continuing their search in the Tonbridge area.

0:27:570:28:01

If you would like to escape to the country in England, Northern Ireland, Wales or Scotland,

0:28:010:28:05

and need our help, you can apply online at:

0:28:050:28:10

Nicki Chapman is in Kent, property shopping with a young family who are desperate to break free from the capital to find their perfect rural home with a £900,000 budget. While in the county, Nicki visits historic Hever Castle, where Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII did their courting.