Alistair Appleton catches up with two couples whose property searches helped them make a successful leap to the Norfolk countryside.
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Making the move from city to countryside
is often a momentous step.
Never in a million years I would imagine
I would be seeing a house like this. Never, ever.
But for many years,
Escape To The Country has been supporting countless people
on the hunt for their new rural home.
What do we think of this?
Oh, my! Chocolate box.
We've travelled to the most picturesque pockets of Britain...
-Take a look at that killer view.
..and showcased thousands of exquisite country properties...
Oh, but how pretty is that?
..our buyers just couldn't resist.
Seriously, get your chequebook out now.
Join us as we catch up with those who bought their dream home...
-I like it.
-What about you? Do you like it?
Yeah, I like the whole package.
..to find out how the move changed their lives
when they escaped to the country.
Today, I'm in Norfolk and these are the world-famous Broads,
which were created, in fact, by centuries of peat digging.
That wasn't discovered until the 1950s,
when environmentalists concluded
that they must be man-made because the banks of the lakes
and the rivers here are vertical...
instead of the more gentle... slope that is typical of waterways.
But this is not a typical edition of Escape To The Country either,
because I'm here today to meet some old friends of the show
who are lucky enough to call this county home.
Norfolk's waterways, coastline and countryside
struck a chord with musicians Jean and Mike,
who fell in love with the Broadland village we introduced them to.
Later on, I'll be finding out how, since their move,
volunteering in the local shop is paying dividends
and putting them at the heart of their new community.
TRAIN HORN TOOTS
But first, we'll be catching up with Nigel and Wendy,
who, back in 2014, were house-hunting in North Norfolk
with Sonali Shah,
and happily went on to buy one of the houses she showed them.
They had been renting near their daughter in Manchester,
having sold their home in Hertfordshire.
But they were keen to move as quickly as possible
and head to Norfolk to make their great escape a reality.
We like the coast up there, all along, basically,
from Hunstanton to Cromer, all along there.
And we know it quite well cos we've been going
several times now over the years.
Wendy has family in Sheringham.
For us, possibly, THE move.
They saw it as the ideal place for their grown-up children
and grandchildren to visit,
and a chance to expand their interests.
Now I'm retired, I go back to doing a bit of painting.
I think in Norfolk, it's big skies
and you could really get your teeth into something up there.
That would be nice. Do a bit of painting. And my garden.
I like to cook for the kids when they come around,
so I would be looking forward to them coming up to Norfolk
so I can do loads of baking.
When Sonali first met them,
it was clear they would be wanting family to come and stay regularly.
Of course, this means you are moving away
from family and friends.
That is the sad part of it, but we're hoping very much
that the children will come and visit us here
as much as possible, as you say, because we have the seaside,
we have the countryside, we'll have everything.
With £400,000 to spend,
they were after three to four bedrooms
and entertaining space for visiting family,
but the kitchen and garden were also key to their wish list.
The journey began in the Norfolk village of Aylmerton,
where Sonali showed them a ten-year-old classic
Nigel and Wendy were impressed
with what their money could buy them.
That's quite a substantial house, that is.
-Yeah, that's quite impressive.
You say traditional. It was actually built ten years ago.
-Wow! Outside, I like.
It's bigger than I thought it would be, that's for certain.
It's certainly a big house,
but to fully appreciate how much house, we need to go inside.
It's a rather grand entrance, isn't it?
Staircase is wow!
-It's over three floors, this house...
-Oh, my word!
And more than 3,000 square foot.
-That's a lot of square foot.
-That's a lot.
-That is big.
-OK. That's great.
What do you think of this hallway/dining room?
Yes, it's not what I expected.
It's a bit unusual to have the dining room
as soon as you enter the front door.
-Well, you don't need to use this as a dining room.
-No, no, no. No, no.
-You can use it how you want to use it.
-Shall we go and see one of the rooms?
Into the living room first.
Ooh. This is a wood burner. Great.
-Lovely. I like the fireplace. Smashing.
A nice centrepiece to the room, and it's triple aspect,
-so lots of light.
-Lots of light. I like that.
So, is this the right size for the family?
-Cos this is the main living room.
-This is fine.
-This is lovely.
-Plenty big enough.
-Let's see if the kitchen is to your liking.
Aha. Mm-hm. Mm-hm.
-So, is this big enough for you?
That was going to be my question,
cos you don't seem as enthusiastic about this room as the other room.
I like it. Work surfaces, that's what I really want.
Although the kitchen fell short for Wendy,
the conservatory had space for a dining room table.
Furthermore, there was a study.
A stunning staircase led up to five bedrooms,
with two of those in the eaves on the second floor,
providing ample space for their visiting family.
There's an en-suite just there and a separate dressing room,
so that's why there's no cupboards in here
-and it's spacious.
-You don't need to worry about any of that in here.
Outside, there was a small lawn area at the front
and a gravelled courtyard at the rear,
but Nigel would need to roll up his sleeves.
Now, I must confess,
I have been nervous about showing you this space...
-..because it's not really a garden.
It's a courtyard.
Yes, it's fairly obviously not a garden.
It is a courtyard.
-You could landscape this and turn it into a garden.
You could landscape it.
It's possibly a little bit small for what I really want.
-So, you've seen a lot of what's on offer.
Who'd like to guess how much this house is on the market for?
I think it's right at the top of our budget. 410.
I'll go 420.
Because Nigel was so stern about the budget, I have stuck to it.
It's actually on the market for 395.
-Dig this up!
-It's 15,000 under. That's good.
Wendy was happy with the price but clearly the size of the garden
was a concern for Nigel.
For me, the only one downside is the outside, which is the garden.
I'm a very enthusiastic amateur gardener
and I really would like to get my teeth
into some space outside, and this really doesn't fulfil that brief.
-It's a lovely house, isn't it?
-It's a beautiful house.
-Just have to work on Nigel.
For the second property,
Sonali took them to Fakenham,
around a 20-minute drive from the coast,
where we had found a stylishly modern property
within an exclusive gated complex.
-First impressions were good.
It's big. Golly gosh, it's all new, isn't it?
-So, it's a fairly new build?
-It's a nice size, and nice area.
This lovely little area. And it's gated.
-Can't wait to get inside.
Before we go inside, Nigel, let's mention the garden.
-We can see a bit of it here.
-Yes, there's definitely more here.
-Mm-hm. But let's go and see inside first.
Sonali had Nigel onside with the garden
but would she be able to win them over with the inside?
-This is nice.
-This is nice, yes.
-Yeah. I like the fact you can...
-You've got light there...
-French doors to both sides.
Yeah, that's unusual, isn't it?
-You could open it out either way.
I think you'll be even more pleased when you see the kitchen.
Oh, this is nice.
How is this for a kitchen?
-This is Wendy's kitchen.
-This is smashing.
-Really, really good. Everything...
-I think we've found it.
Isn't this gorgeous? Haven't they done it beautifully?
Yeah. As a family, this is where you'd be a lot of the time.
And you look straight out into the garden.
For me, that's... That's a bonus.
With happy emotions running high,
would that positivity continue upstairs?
This offered them four good-sized bedrooms
for family guests, including a spacious master suite.
So, this is the master,
which has got an en-suite and lots of built-in cupboard space.
-And this is the main part of it.
Oh, my word!
-This is enormous. You've got a lot of ceiling height.
-We're not used to that, are we?
-Oh, I like this.
-Oh, isn't it nice?
-You like this?
-I like it.
-What about you? Do you like it?
-Yeah, I like the whole package.
Cos we said when we were looking for a house,
we didn't know what kind of style of house,
so it could be old, it could be new.
It's a big enough house for us
and it's a big enough house for when the family come.
With a resounding thumbs up for the house,
Sonali still had to show them the wraparound garden,
bordered by mature trees.
But would that generous package
of a stylish property and well-maintained grounds
be reflected in the price tag?
I love it.
I think it's a gorgeous place and I'm going to go for 420.
-I'm going to be very optimistic...
..and say 395.
-He does wish.
-It is actually currently on the market for 415,000.
£15,000 over budget, but with the owner open to offers,
Nigel and Wendy were clearly enchanted by this one.
I love this house.
Everything about it so far is ticking the boxes.
You have to have an emotional contact with the place
as soon as you go into somewhere, and we both had that connection.
-Could it be the one?
Could well be.
But we still had the Mystery House to see.
That was in the pretty village of Little Walsingham,
but getting there started with a surprising journey.
-This is brilliant!
TRAIN HORN TOOTS
A mystery ride to the Mystery House.
-It's a mystery tour.
-It's a big kids' love affair with trains.
-I love steam trains.
-We love trains.
Big or small, I love them.
The Wells and Walsingham Light Railway
dropped them off at our mystery railway cottage,
which had been recently modernised.
It was the closest to the sea but the smallest of our houses.
-What do you think of it?
-I think it's really pretty.
-Yeah, it is.
-It looks very nice.
And we are very close to the sea.
-We're four miles.
-Shall we go in?
So, you come straight into the living room.
-What kind of "OK" is that?
-Yeah, this was the old cottage.
-This was it.
A lovely... Lovely new wood burner there.
-Beautiful wood burner.
-This looks like it's two rooms...
It was originally two rooms, I'm sure.
-..knocked into one.
-This lounge is small.
So, this was the old cottage, which means that's the extension.
-Let's go and see the kitchen.
-As you can see, a very modern kitchen.
-Oh, yeah. Very much.
-You can tell it's been done recently.
Yeah. Very nice. I like it.
And then you've got a sort of breakfast dining area...
Space. There's space.
..which looks straight out onto that patio area.
-I like that. That's lovely.
The ground floor was also the location
for the main bathroom and one of the bedrooms.
And upstairs, there were two further double bedrooms
in the older part of the house.
I think this would probably be your master,
but all three bedrooms are about the same size.
-I know what that "right" means.
-"It's too small, Sonali."
It seemed the need for family space was more important
than proximity to the sea,
but Sonali still had the garden to try and entice Nigel with,
which was large.
But would he be pleased with the price tag?
-It's a nice-sized garden.
-It's a big-size garden.
-How much would it cost you?
-I'm not going first.
-Shall I go first?
-You go first.
..on a decent-sized plot, I suppose...
The garden is nice, isn't it?
Yes, the garden, blank canvas really.
-Whoa! I think that's optimistic.
-I'm going to go...
Wendy is very close.
-Oh, God, I did it.
-379,950 it's on the market for.
It looked like the price brought the Mystery House
back into the frame.
-This is nice.
-They've really done it well, haven't they?
-The finish is fantastic.
But which property did they ultimately pluck from our line-up?
Did Nigel compromise on garden space for that affordable first property?
Or did they negotiate a satisfactory sale price on house two,
which nudged over budget?
Perhaps they were swayed by the Mystery House,
under budget and closest to the sea.
For Nigel and Wendy, it was house number two all the way.
Love at first sight.
Offer accepted, keys in hand.
And then 18 months later, here I am,
and I'm hoping they've got the kettle on.
-Hello, Alistair. How are you?
Good to see you. Oh, look at this. All in the flesh.
-Come on in.
Nigel and Wendy moved into their stylish new home in Fakenham
at the start of 2015.
This is new, isn't it? New wallpaper there?
Yes. I put some wallpaper up.
I just thought there was a little bit too much cream in the house.
You want to personalise the house.
That's what the process is all about, isn't it?
You want to make it your own.
So, have a feature wall, just helps break it up a bit.
-There's more to do. It's ongoing.
-Yes, it's still a work in progress.
-You didn't need to do any major structural things,
but what was the main thing that you've changed in the house?
Well, the windows.
When Nigel and Wendy moved in, there were no curtains or blinds.
The windows were shaped unusually
but they used that to their advantage
and commissioned beautiful bespoke shutters,
which have now become a real feature.
No curtains could fit there, nothing.
In fact, when we first moved here,
because there wasn't anything at all,
the removal men actually put the cardboard boxes on the window.
It was a great ad for the company. A great ad. But it was good.
It was very kind of them.
But I have to say, we have now got those shutters.
-And they're beautiful.
-We love them.
-Now, Nigel, one of the things that Sonali was very keen,
or slightly afraid that she wasn't going to give you,
was a big enough garden.
-How has the garden been?
-Yes, the garden.
I remember being sort of a bit unsure about the size of the garden.
Having lived here now for 18 months, I've come to the conclusion...
-..it's plenty big enough.
-That's the thing, isn't it?
Everyone says, "I want an acre, maybe two,"
and then they're like, "Oh, no! It's so huge!"
You don't need it, you don't.
Cos it's in fact a wraparound garden and it becomes like three gardens -
a front, a back and a side, if you like.
Three added together make quite a substantial garden.
I put a hedge in at the front
because at the front there was no boundary,
which is Photinia, or for those who don't know that, Red Robin.
So, in the spring, that will be red and that's quite pretty.
As well as working on the garden,
Nigel has also sought inspiration in the Norfolk skyline
for one of his other hobbies.
I've gone back to painting again.
And it's nice there's big spaces to fill in the house,
-so that's good.
-That's true. You've got some big walls.
Yes, because it's a dormer house,
you've got ceilings that are half as much again higher
than a normal ceiling, so there's some quite big spaces to fill,
which I'm filling, slowly.
The final question is really about life outside these walls.
Because you've moved to an area that you didn't know that well.
You were in Hertfordshire, near your son.
Then you were up in Manchester, near your daughter.
Now you're not really near either of them.
-How has that worked out?
It's been brilliant. We're inundated...
We have had the last couple of weeks, for the first time,
for yonkers, to be quiet and calm,
so that you can get yourself back together again.
-So, you've had tonnes of visitors.
-Yeah, you can't believe...
We were starting a visitor's book,
actually going to do a visitor's book just for fun, you know.
But it's smashing. We've got great neighbours.
We're very, very...
Honestly, we're really lucky to have such lovely people.
The day we moved in was my birthday,
and Jen, next door,
knocked with Freddie and Thomas to give me a birthday cake.
-How about that?
-How did they know?
-Because the people who left...
We sort of said that it was my birthday and they were moving in,
and she came around with a cake with the kids.
-That is nice, isn't it?
-I know. Just a really welcome thing.
It was lovely.
'Living on the edge of a town has given Nigel and Wendy
'the best of both worlds,
'with all the amenities they need a short walk away,
'as well as stunning countryside on their doorstep.
'It's had a beneficial effect on their lifestyle.'
So, this nature reserve is at the back of your property.
-Yeah. It is the one you see from...
-..from the garden at the front...
-Yeah. It's rather nice.
You can hear many, many birds calling,
first thing in the morning especially.
A few weeks after moving in,
they discovered this fabulous country walk along the River Wensum.
And it winds its way slowly towards Norwich.
-It's a beautiful spot.
-Yeah, this was a bonus.
-We didn't know anything about this when we came.
And you can walk all the way from here into town.
-Which we do.
-A nice... It's a beautiful stroll.
-Which we love.
-And it's just so nice. This is just magic.
We're really, really happy to have moved.
So, what would be your advice to someone who was thinking,
"Maybe I could move to the countryside but I'm not sure"?
In the long run, you could regret it.
Time passes so quickly. Come and join us.
-Come and join us. Yeah.
-Absolutely. I'm with that.
-A beautiful part of the world.
-Look at it.
-Can't argue with you.
Yes! Do it!
-Let's walk on.
Right across the British countryside,
we've seen house-buyers with all very different lifestyle ambitions
fall in love with the properties we've shown them.
It's always fantastic to hear when they make that all-important offer,
which goes on to be accepted.
Coming up, a couple of highlights
from our house-hunting success stories in Norfolk.
Back in the spring of 2014,
Mark and his wife, Stephanie, were looking for a home
in this part of the world.
They wanted to swap their suburban lives in Luton
for easy-going East Anglia.
With a £450,000 budget and Jonnie Irwin to help them,
they were impressed with the Mystery House, which, as ever,
was a bit out of the ordinary.
-Beautiful, isn't it?
This former cattle barn had been converted
into a spacious and stylish living area.
I love the ceiling and I love the kitchen.
I can't be happier.
It's a great size and I like it a lot.
The sitting room gave them everything they asked for.
It's absolutely beautiful.
It's a wow, isn't it?
-Vaulted ceiling. Inglenook fireplace.
-Tick, tick, tick, tick.
-Yeah. I can go through the list.
You've come up trumps here, haven't you?
With all the accommodation on one level,
the property offered them four double bedrooms.
The master also had a wonderful vaulted ceiling.
Sitting in an acre plot,
the property had a double car port for Mark's classic car,
and enough land for their young grandchildren to run around in.
How are you feeling?
-Over the moon.
-Over the moon?
Wow. It's now on for offers of around £450,000.
Spot on budget then.
Mark and Steve liked our Mystery House so much,
they put in an offer which was accepted.
Then, back in 2012,
Belinda and Kevin wanted to quit their nine-to-five existence
in Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire,
and find a Norfolk property with new income potential.
At the moment, we're both doing jobs
that require us to probably sit behind desks and computers,
yet we're practical people, active people,
and we're just not getting the life satisfaction that we really want.
For their £450,000 budget,
Belinda had her heart set on running a cattery business
and Kevin wanted a garage to work on classic cars.
So, when a younger me showed them a house that had it all,
I was quietly confident.
We have excelled ourselves.
-Haven't you just?
-Cos we've brought you to a cattery.
Licensed for 30 cat chalets, so you can have 68 cats.
Built to the highest feline standard.
-I see that.
-Wow. You have surprised me.
'And it just got better when they heard how much
'they could earn from it.'
It's a very successful business. It can turn over about 30 grand.
Really? You're just speechless, aren't you?
I am speechless. Again, not expecting that really.
Aw, look at them.
'For Kevin, it gave him the garage of his dreams.
'The house itself had two kitchens -
'one for prepping food for those felines,
'and of course one for them,
'along with a sitting room that they warmed to.'
That's nice. That's cosy.
-That's a nice surprise.
-Can you imagine the two of you living here?
Yes. I'm starting to get the feel that we can.
I felt as soon as we walked through the gate that it felt...
-felt right from the outside.
The three-bedroom accommodation upstairs hit the mark,
and they couldn't believe their luck when they heard the asking price.
I would go 425.
I'd put slightly more. I'd say 440.
-This is on the market for 410.
I'm so delighted that Kevin and Belinda wasted no time
in buying that property.
Four years on, I hear the cattery is going from strength to strength,
and they've extended the house.
Two great house tour highlights there,
but now it's time to delve deeper into the property hunt
for our next couple, Jean and Mike.
Before we start house-hunting on the show,
we always ask our buyers to run through
some of the most important features that they're looking for,
and this is what we affectionately know as the wish list,
and it's the wish list that we then slightly sadistically tear up
just before we show them the Mystery House.
And that was certainly the case when Jules Hudson
went property-hunting with musicians Jean and Mike.
Top of their wish list was single-storey living,
but they were about to enter uncharted territory.
Back in the autumn of 2013,
the couple from Northampton hoped to fulfil a long-held dream
of moving to Norfolk after Mike's retirement earlier that year.
We had our first experience of life on the water
in Norfolk 20 years ago.
-On the Norfolk broads.
-On the Norfolk broads.
We went backwards and forwards to Norfolk every year,
just spending a glorious week over there,
looking at the wildlife, fishing, and just totally chilling out.
Over the years, the professional musicians
had amassed a small orchestra's worth of instruments,
as well as hundreds of CDs.
In our new house, we have to have a music room.
They had high hopes of finding a property
close to the Norfolk broads.
As well as single-storey living, they wanted three bedrooms,
a large kitchen diner and that all-important music room.
With a budget of £425,000,
they wanted to be within a 15-minute drive of water.
So, we began in the Norfolk broads and the village of Horning,
where Jules showed them a 19th-century converted barn,
which wasn't something they were expecting.
This is quite an entrance, isn't it, really?
You get all this, the drive and the grass either side of it.
And I know you wanted a sense of rural life, obviously,
-but you didn't want to be isolated.
So, as you can see, we've got other buildings around us.
There are six other properties in this sort of complex, as it were.
I mean, if you saw this in an estate agents window,
would it pique your interest?
If you just showed that little bit, you'd probably think, "Nuh-uh."
-But because of what I can now see...
-The whole location.
-Let's have a look and see what you think of the inside.
Well, there is only one place really, I think,
-to start in this property, and it's here.
It's much bigger and brighter than I thought it was going to be.
And it all goes through to
a very nice conservatory-cum-dining area as well.
Well, let's go through to the kitchen,
-see what you think of this.
-And there, the kitchen.
-Oh, look at that.
-That is country kitchen.
-Didn't expect that either.
The way they've set it up really suits the feel of the place
and the aged feel, without...
without giving you an old-fashioned look.
It just works. It feels like it's always been here.
-Is it you?
-I think it could be.
-I think it could be.
Converted in 1985,
the layout of the barn conversion had the living rooms on one side
and the four bedrooms on the other.
They included one that was already being used as a music room,
as well as the master suite.
Now, this is yours.
-Oh, look at that. And a bath in an en-suite.
-You don't often get that.
Outside, the property was set in three quarters of an acre,
with a large lawn to the rear and the bonus of a stand-alone studio,
offering them a further music room, although it was in need of updating.
That makes me think that this won't be at the top of our budget,
so I would say £375,000.
-375, yeah. Mike?
-I think a little bit more.
I think 390.
This is on the market at £365,000.
Very interesting, Jules.
-That is really interesting.
Under budget by £60,000,
the price of the first property was music to their ears.
And Jules was also feeling upbeat.
Well, I'm rather pleased.
I think as property searches go,
they don't start much better than this one.
Great start, Jules.
But not a man to rest on his laurels,
he had another property ace up his sleeve.
The next option was in the village of Swanton Abbott,
just ten minutes from the sea,
and it was another slice of classic Norfolk heritage.
-There we are.
-That's number two.
-Look at that. That's amazing.
But you are probably thinking, "But, Jules, it's not a bungalow."
-No, it's not.
-It was originally a kind of two-up two-down cottage,
but in the last five years,
they've added on a huge single-storey extension...
-..which gives you another further two bedrooms.
-So it's a four-bedroom property.
-Let's have a look inside.
-So, how's this for cosy then?
-Oh, wow, yeah.
-This is cosy.
-This is Norfolk, isn't it?
-This is Norfolk, yeah.
-Yeah. The beams. Look at the door.
-Yeah. Stable door there.
I hadn't envisaged anything as old as this,
so this is quite different for me.
OK, this, I love.
It's this growing sense of space that this room gives you.
-Oh, wow, yeah.
-You come through from the dark cosy end into this...
well, fabulous kitchen, I think.
-It's a real country kitchen, isn't it?
-Look at that.
-This is a good space.
-This is good.
The single-storey extension to the rear
housed that spacious kitchen-diner,
as well as two bedrooms,
one of which had music room potential.
The old cottage featured exposed timber beams in the cosy snug,
as well as in the two bedrooms upstairs.
Handy for guests.
Outside, the house was set
in a third of an acre of mature gardens.
-Plenty big enough.
-And very manageable.
How much is it on the market for, then?
-I would say a bit more.
-I think it's nearer four, so 395.
It's actually on the market at 399,950.
Not too far out then.
A very different proposition to house one,
this property's original features did seem to chime with them.
The old part of the house, that was full of character,
and that was the opposite to the new part,
which was very extensive
but I didn't feel there was a good flow.
First room was nice, snug.
Obviously very quaint with the beams.
It had that typical cottage feel.
I think we can consider that
a very fine day of property shopping.
Two different homes but both offering Mike and Jean
what they were looking for -
single-storey living, that all-important music room,
or at least options for it, and under their budget of £425,000.
But the next morning, Jules played his Mystery House card.
And what was he going to pull out of the property pack?
Would it be the two of clubs or the ace of spades?
For the final property,
Jules took our water lovers
to the village of Upton
in the heart of the Norfolk broads.
Well, you wanted a taste of the Broads,
but look at where we are.
This is Upton Dyke and it leads up there about half a mile
to the River Bure, which I think you know quite well.
We've motored the river many times
and we've gone past the Dyke many times
but we've never actually come down here,
so it's really nice to come here and see the yacht.
The reason we are here
is to tease you with our Mystery House
because we love this place and it really sets the scene
for what might be your future cos our Mystery House
-is just down the road.
The Mystery House, as ever, was something of a wild card -
a converted 19th-century Methodist chapel.
-You can look that way.
We're in classic Mystery House territory here
-with our chapel.
-Look at that.
-Didn't know we were going to church, did you?
The only compromise with this one
is that it's not a bungalow, obviously.
It is this cavernous chapel
which has been beautifully converted.
Look at that. I love the outside, Jules.
-That is captivating. It really is.
Really eager to see inside.
Come and have a look.
You see what I mean?
-Good gracious me.
I think it's absolutely beautiful.
You could have lovely recitals in here.
Well, quite, because of the space and the ceiling,
-the height of the ceiling.
-Think of the parties you could have.
The acoustics in here would be good, I think.
Oh, yeah. Very much so.
Well, I'm loving this. Yeah, I'm loving this.
-Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Let's have a look at the kitchen then.
Look at this one.
-Oh! It's a cracker.
-Isn't it just?
-I love it.
-This is incredible.
-Right, when are we moving in then?
-Well... Are we now? Yeah.
It's a... It's a beautiful house.
It's a really good option for the both of you.
Behind me in here, quite a generous study.
-Could be a music room again, if you wanted it to be, whatever.
-Or another snug.
I really, really love it.
As I said on the outside,
the only compromise is that it's not a bungalow,
but we don't care any more, do we?
-Can we use the stairs then?
-OK. After you.
The ground-floor also provided a possible bedroom.
The spiral staircase led up to two further double guest rooms,
as well as the master suite with original features.
-Aren't they lovely, these beams?
And they've retained them, that's the main thing.
You've also got a really nice en suite through there.
-Oh, that's handy.
So, I think we are onto a bit of a winner with this one.
I think you could well be.
Yeah. You've really, really taken us by surprise on this one.
And we don't care about bungalows any more?
-Bungalows, what are they?
You see? I thought that might disappear.
Yet again, the Mystery House
was getting the best reactions of all our properties,
as Jules showed Mike and Jean the manageable garden.
-A little bit of decking, as you can see.
Not a huge garden,
but I'm thinking, you're going to be busy out on the water.
Absolutely. This is lovely. Look at that.
-And the way they've done it...
-It's just enough.
-How much do we like it?
-You know what's coming now, don't you?
-I know. I know.
OK, Jean. Short and sweet.
Make me an offer for our mystery chapel.
Right. 425 grand.
Slightly over their £425,000 budget,
Jean and Mike would have to push the boat out
if they wanted to be this close to the Norfolk broads.
This is so homely, yet elegant.
The character feel is here and the open space and the light.
I could go on forever, but I really, really like it.
So, what happened next?
Did they choose that first single-storey conversion
over property two?
Or in the end did the village location
and character of the mystery chapel win through?
Well, spoiler alert, I'm back in Upton,
the village where the chapel was located, to find out.
Did they buy it or did they not?
Mike and Jean now work in the community shop.
That's a clue.
-There they are.
-How are you?
We always know who you are, with your fabulous name badges.
-We have to wear our badges.
-So you must have settled in,
cos you're here behind the counter.
-We have, very much so.
It's a beautifully sociable village
and we've made lots of friends already.
Right, so, I've been teasing the viewers about what happened.
-Tell me, did you buy the chapel or not?
-Unfortunately, we didn't, but we found somewhere else.
We have a lovely house, we have a lovely community,
and it's wonderful.
-I have to ask, is it a bungalow?
No, you took us to the mystery property and of course,
that really showed us that we didn't need a bungalow.
-We wanted a house.
-So we have a house with four bedrooms.
-And at the end of the day, you found Upton for us...
..so, I mean, we're forever grateful for that.
Since finding their two-storey property 18 months ago,
Mike and Jean have got stuck into village life,
including volunteering in the community-owned shop,
which operates from the back of the pub.
Threatened with closure, the locals bought the pub in 2012,
and with the help of a grant from the Prince's Countryside Fund,
they diversified into retail.
And we have 22 volunteers that all come in, give their time free.
Prince Charles came and it's wonderful.
-So, you've been here 18 months?
-About that, yes.
-Yes. 18 months.
That's fast work. You're right in the heart of the community.
-Well, the lovely thing is,
by working here, we've met so many of the villagers,
and it's part of... part of our lives now.
I'd really like to look at the house.
Can we steal you away from the village shop?
Yeah, we can find somebody to take over from us.
And it's just two minutes up the road, so let's go.
Upton has delivered the complete lifestyle package for Jean and Mike.
That was the thinking behind the mystery property,
which was a springboard to finding their current home.
-What do you think of the house so far?
-What's your first impressions?
My first impressions, it's a very impressive building, isn't it?
-Thank you. Yes, we think so.
-And it's a four-bedroom house.
Amazing. And when you saw it, was it love at first sight?
Well, it was really. We sort of came to the drive,
looked up and we thought, "Oh, gosh, this is good."
Well, as the house-buyers always say on our show,
I'd really like to have a look inside.
Well, before we do that, come and take a look at the music room first.
Oh, is it in here?
Rather than having the music room inside the main house,
they've converted half of their double garage into a studio.
Kitted out with electricity and soundproofing,
they can make as much noise as they like.
-This rocks, quite literally.
-What a great place.
-This is it.
-There's soundproof all the way round,
including triple glazed windows,
-so that we don't disturb the neighbours.
With your wild jam sessions.
-Yeah, we do.
-We're getting wilder.
We've got some things going in the village
and then we've got a talent evening,
so we've been out here rehearsing ourselves
-and with other people from the village.
-You're singing in the pub?
-I'm sure there's lots of people actually in retirement
or throughout their life who would quite like to convert a garage,
-cos often we have garages that don't really get used.
Can I ask how much it cost?
Yeah, around £15,000,
and that includes all of the soundproofing,
the walls and the ceiling.
-Can I see the rest of the house?
I'm intrigued to find out how much they paid
for their new four-bedroom home,
but they won't tell me till after the tour.
It's fantastic. It's like a reverse house tour.
-You're showing me around.
-And I said wow.
-You did say wow.
-It's got a wow factor.
This is an amazing kitchen.
In fact, the whole thing, it's very open-plan.
Yes. That's exactly what we wanted.
Was it like this when you moved in or have you done lots of work?
No, no. It was about 18 months old when we bought it
and we haven't had to do anything yet.
We put some extra lights underneath the cupboards, but apart from that,
what you see is how it was.
And do you use the garden much?
We do. We use it all the time.
And very lucky we overlook the village pond.
You can see it from here. It's nice. Can we go and visit?
Shall we go and have a look?
Mike and Jean were so set on living in a bungalow,
but now all their bedrooms are on the first floor.
Perhaps our Mystery House
encouraged them to consider another level.
And as we head outside, I've got one burning question on my mind.
Can I ask how much you paid?
Well, how much do you think
-this house was on the market for, Alistair?
You're putting me on the spot. It's guess the price.
-Yes, it is.
-Well, I'm assuming your budget was 425,000.
Being optimistic, I would say, just under, say 420,000.
-You're 5,000 out. It was on for 425.
-So you're not far out.
Oh, good. Usually at this point,
I'd send you back in to have a look at the house
-but we don't need to do that cos you actually own it.
-Shall we all go in?
It's clear from meeting Jean and Mike
that key to their happy transition to the countryside
was playing a part in the community.
And it's great to see how this Upton girl
and her piano man have struck a chord with locals
and made a lovely new home for themselves.
We're almost coming to the end of our revisits here
in the wide-open spaces of Norfolk,
and it was so lovely to see how Mike and Jean
had ensconced themselves in the village community
through their music and the shop.
And also Wendy and Nigel,
even though they had anxiety about the fact that
their children might be too far away
and their grandchildren, in the end, everyone came to visit them.
And I think that's a good closing thought.
If you're thinking about moving to the countryside
and you have worries about whether you're going to fit in
or it's going to work out, take Wendy's advice and just do it,
cos it's better to do it than to regret
that you didn't do it and then run out of time.
On that closing thought, see you next time.
If you also dream of escaping to the country in England, Wales,
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Alistair Appleton catches up with two couples whose property searches helped them make a successful leap to the Norfolk countryside. First he revisits some house buyers who had a £400,000 budget and are now loving life in the home they bought. Over a cup of tea in their kitchen, Alistair finds out what creative changes they have made to the interior and how much pleasure they have had discovering new country walks from their doorstep.
Alistair then meets up with a married couple of musicians who, on their initial house hunt, had quickly cast aside their property criteria when they fell in love with one particular Norfolk village. Alistair tracks them down at that village's community shop, where they now volunteer, to find out what happened next.