Jonnie Irwin is reunited with house hunters in Suffolk. Since buying a property Jonnie showed them, the couple have dramatically transformed it to suit their needs.
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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'd be seeing a house like this.
But for many years, Escape to the Country has been
helping countless people on the hunt for their new home.
What do we think of this?
We've travelled to the most picturesque pockets of Britain...
Take a look at that killer view.
..to showcase thousands of exquisite country properties...
Oh! How pretty is that?
..that our buyers just couldn't resist.
Seriously. Get your cheque-book out now!
Join us as we catch up with those who bought their dream home...
Looking out over your horses.
-Beautiful, isn't it?
..to find out how the moves changed their lives when they
escaped to the country.
Today I've come back to the coastal county of Suffolk,
land of pink washed cottages and countless picturesque settlements,
one of which vanished under these waters centuries ago.
Known as the lost city of England, Dunwich was once a major town and
But coastal erosion,
and after several major storms in the 13th and 14th centuries,
means that most of Dunwich now lies beneath these waves.
And all that remains is a tiny village.
Now it's always a pleasure to come to a county with such a fascinating history.
But this visit will be particularly exciting, as I'll be reunited with a
couple who've created their dream home here in Suffolk.
And they've certainly been busy since I saw them last.
Suffolk is a low-lying county which forms part of the region of
East Anglia, and is highly regarded for its rolling rural scenery as
well as its unspoiled coastline.
Today, I'm revisiting Mick and Sue.
They sold their suburban Essex home five years ago and were after more
outside space for their much-loved horses.
As for the house we found them,
they've certainly been ringing the changes.
This is universally different.
I don't remember any of this.
Sue and Mick met 20 years ago through their shared love of horses.
They even tied the knot on horseback.
Back in the spring of 2012, they were living in the Essex town of Harlow.
But for the equestrian couple, their rural move was focused on having the
horses on their own land.
The horses are stabled in Epping Forest.
It's 12 miles away. It's two motorways.
And what we would like to do is have horses at home,
and be able to ride nice bridleways nearby.
And our dream is to be able to ride to the local pub.
The whole idea of just being able to walk out of the front door and
having the horses in stables nearby, it would make life so much easier.
Life hasn't been easy for the couple.
In 2008, Mick had suffered an accident at work,
which left him as a double below the knee amputee.
He does quite a lot, but some of the time Mick's in a wheelchair,
so we have to take each day as it is.
I guess when something like this happens, it concentrates your mind
and you think about the things you do enjoy in life.
Sue does a great deal for me. I wouldn't be here without Sue.
She picks me up when I get down. She does most things for me,
though I'm still capable of doing a few things on my own.
But she's just the rock that I anchor myself to.
The house needed to be practical,
with a large downstairs open plan living space,
a bedroom suite on the ground floor and at least a further two bedrooms
for visiting family.
Sue wanted a decent sized garden to expand her horticultural ambitions.
And the keen riders wanted enough land for up to four horses.
With a top budget of £575,000, they were ready to go.
Our first house was located in the small village of Stanton in the
north of the county, where we'd lined up an equestrian property
hidden away down a private road.
OK, so, property number one, we're going to be looking at a bungalow.
But I know what you're like. Like any other horse-mad person,
you want to look at the stables.
You can't ignore them. They're fantastic, actually.
-Yeah, very good.
-You do get some pretty good facilities here.
These boxes are probably what, 20 years old?
They're tidy, they're well put together.
They've got hot water and even heat lamps in one of the boxes there
-to dry the horses off.
-That could be useful.
-That's a plus point to start with.
What about the bungalow, the house itself?
-It's a bungalow.
-It's a bungalow.
It's not without character completely. It's quite a...
Yeah, there's nothing wrong with that at all.
-So all in all, happy?
-So far, so good.
-Great. Let's take a look inside.
The property also came with a number of outbuildings, but I wanted to
show Mick and Sue the inside of the 1950s bungalow which
had the open plan layout they were after.
So, straight into the kitchen.
What are your first impressions of this kitchen?
It's very nice. It's lovely.
A bit bigger than I thought it was going to be, actually.
I thought that was a mirror when I first came.
Yeah, I did a double-take there, actually.
I did think it was a mirror, then being able to see right through.
-Are you happy with this kind of layout?
-Does it work for you?
-It looks as if it's reasonably well laid out.
You can get around it. It looks like there's scope to potentially knock
through into the living area there if we wanted to make it larger.
So, first impressions, yeah.
And if I was in a wheelchair I could get around here easily.
Back off the entrance hall, there was a good-sized utility and an
office come tack room. We then explored the living area.
Very much more open plan now.
-Oh, it is, yeah.
-It's very nice.
-It's a bit small.
-Here's the thing.
As you've got room for a dining table in the kitchen,
you could dispense with this and that short wall and make it one big
I think we would probably knock through here and make it into
one big room.
What I did like about it is the old parquet flooring,
the solid fuel burner, there.
It's... Even though, again, we keep going back to the fact it's a
bungalow, but you do get elements of country living in it, don't you?
Yeah. It's got some character.
The windows looked at on the property's main asset, the land.
So Sue and Mick could watch their horses from the comfort of their
-It has got everything we need, so far.
There were four bedrooms in the bungalow,
including two good-sized guest rooms and a bedroom that could be theirs.
This is your master bedroom.
-That's fine. I like the double windows.
I like them either side.
-It's not huge.
-This looks fine.
OK, good, you're not high fivers?
-The cogs are all working about what we can do to add
-our own stamp to things...
-..and make things easier.
Yeah, everything is fine.
Everything is good.
Outside, as well as the five stables, this eight acre plot
benefited from all-weather equestrian facilities and
a large garden to keep keen gardener Sue occupied.
This has got so much scope and potential that it's not an issue at
-all, this sort of size.
-You've got all the facilities you asked for.
Bearing that in mind, I want you to guess the price.
How much is this place on the market for?
I'm going to try and be optimistic.
-I'm going to say 560.
I think it's higher than that. I think you've really got to the top
of our budget.
I will say 575, hoping it's not too much more than that.
Well, you were right when you said I'm pushing the budget here,
because you've got everything.
-This place is on the market for offers around £600,000.
-We were being optimistic.
Yes, you are. And we've spoken to the owners,
-and they are prepared to negotiate closer to your budget.
£25,000 more than they'd hoped to spend,
nevertheless, it seemed we'd got off to a good start with this first property.
And Mick and Sue seemed particularly pleased with the grounds.
I'm pleasantly surprised by the amount of space
both within the house and certainly the outside.
It's actually a good size, really, Sue.
It's not a bad living space, is it?
I think we'll have to fill that in, though.
Yeah, not too keen on the hole in the wall.
I can imagine you and I shouting at each other through there.
I think we'll have to fill it in or open it all up completely.
It's got everything we need, really.
It suits us.
There are some changes we would have to make for accessibility.
But not that many.
I then took them across the county border into Norfolk,
to the rural village of Starston.
Although the weather had taken a turn for the worst,
I was hoping they'd appreciate the character of our next offering,
located down a quiet country lane.
OK, then. For the second property, you buy one, you get one free.
-We did wonder.
Now that is no ordinary annexe. But we'll discuss that later.
-What do you think of the property, here?
-It looks good.
It's a nice little country house.
It looks perfectly good from the outside.
The grade two listed farmhouse had great period features but there was
a question mark on the layout.
Now then. First impressions, as you come to your potential new house?
It looks like more bitty little bits to it.
-What do you think?
-I think it's lovely.
I really do love it.
And it's the sort of place, if I still had legs,
this would've been perfect.
-I'm not sure about the...
Well, yes, and believe it or not,
that is at the forefront of my mind as well.
There are a few steps here.
But I want us to have a look around because I'm wondering whether or not
we could make this practical for you guys in the future.
The kitchen also had a traditional feel and layout.
-It's not a bad size.
-It's very nice.
This part of the building is 450-years-old.
-You see it, don't you?
-I can believe it.
It's got loads of character, hasn't it?
Yeah, loads of character. The beams in here look great. Really good.
This is the first time I've really seen you smile when you're looking
-around a house.
I've still got my doubts about the practicalities.
The narrow doorways, the steps and so on.
There are other options because there is another side to this
property, quite literally, that should help you out a bit.
Although they were worried about practicalities,
there was a welcome solution on the other side of the kitchen.
-Wow! There's a bit of space in here, isn't there?
That's a bit different.
-All one level, big open plan kitchen.
Right? Into a big dining room.
Going through to the rear hallway/reception room.
And the owners of this house have disabled friends,
and they can bring the car right to the back door.
-Come with me, through to the dedicated living room.
That's quite a good size as well.
This is really nice.
I love all the windows.
-Windows everywhere. Brilliant.
-On all sides, really, aren't they?
Look at the outlook. It's just rural everywhere, isn't it?
It's a lovely country cottage.
Well, it's a cottage but it's quite a big cottage.
Mick was clearly excited and Sue was also jumping on board.
Upstairs, there were four guest bedrooms, all with rustic charm.
And there was a ground floor sleeping option, too.
As it stands, obviously, not yet a bedroom.
Oh, wow! Yeah.
Again, it's full of surprises, this house, it really is.
-Through there, an office, which I was thinking dressing room.
-You've already got a bathroom.
It needs new fittings, but the plumbing is here.
Yeah. This is...
-It's big enough.
-It's big enough.
Outside, the grounds featured a one bedroom self-contained annexe we
caught a glimpse of at the start.
Somewhere for the family to stay, or a potential income stream.
The horses could enjoy three paddocks
spread over six acres of land,
but Mick and Sue would have to build some stables.
There are so many positives to this place.
I really do like it.
So, try pricing it.
I think you're pushing our budget.
You've got that annexe there adding to it,
and quite a lot of land as well.
So I hope it's not as much, but 610?
OK, 610, Sue.
-What about you, Mick?
-I would say about 580, 590.
Good guess, mate. £585,000 is the asking price for this.
-That's quite good.
-I thought you were going to be pushing it, so...
-You are pushing it but maybe not quite as much.
Priced at £10,000 above budget,
they'd clearly been charmed by the character and potential of our
It surpassed my expectations, really.
There's obviously difficulties with it, too.
But I think we'd be willing to take on this amount of work
if we could afford it.
It has more potential in some aspects,
but of course it's at the top end of our budget.
We don't have the equestrian facilities already here,
but we do have a potential income from something else.
So it doesn't tick everything but it does do different things as well.
Well, it seemed like I'd given Mick and Sue plenty to think about with
our first two properties
and left them with something of a heart versus head dilemma.
But I wasn't done yet.
There was still one road left to travel
and it led to our mystery house.
Some people in your position almost get a bit nervous.
There's always a bit of trepidation when we're on the way to the mystery house.
What would you hope it isn't going to be?
Yeah. I bet.
Or the house is just absolutely wonderful but it doesn't have any land.
So maybe that's the other thing.
If it doesn't have any land associated?
Maybe that's where the compromise is.
Shall I turn the car around?
Take us home!
Our final property was in Framsden, back over the border in Suffolk.
With Mick loving the historic character of the second property,
it remains to be seen how far that could be pushed with the mystery house.
Here she is.
First impression, it's a thatched cottage!
-We didn't really want a thatched cottage.
-Not really. No.
What do you think of the appearance of it all?
It's lovely. It is a beautiful little cottage.
It looks nice. It's like your chocolate box look.
I wondered how long it would take you to get chocolate box out because
that's exactly what it is.
-It is, yeah.
-Let's take a look inside.
This 18th-century thatch originally started life as two farm workers'
cottages and, for some, would epitomise the country dream.
In we come.
Now tell me your first impressions and then I'll explain everything.
-It really is nice.
It's narrow. It's what I think of being a cottage.
Yeah. Obviously it's all about ground-floor living.
Just through there, you've got a ground floor bathroom. OK?
And on the same level, I was thinking, maybe we could
convert this sitting room into a bedroom.
-Let me show you.
So, big enough for a bedroom?
-I would say it is, yeah.
It would actually make quite a nice bedroom. It's quite a good size.
There was a further reception room downstairs,
but Mick and Sue would have to combine living and dining areas.
That really, really is small.
We wouldn't get any of our furniture in whatsoever.
Yeah, no, virtually nothing would fit.
It's certainly smaller than I had in mind.
-But I really, really appreciate it.
-It is lovely.
Let's take a look into the kitchen.
Mind your heads.
The rustic charm of this place continues in the kitchen.
It's a rustic kitchen and it's small!
-Yeah, it is small, isn't it?
-Yeah. It all goes with the theme, doesn't it?
-It's lovely again.
The more I see of it, I think less and less.
-I would never get a wheelchair through there.
Although they were quite rightly concerned about access,
downstairs some of the beams were purely decorative and could've been
removed to open up the space.
Upstairs, there were three immaculately presented bedrooms,
and outside there was a well tended garden with Monet-inspired bridge.
But not the acres of land Mick and Sue were after for the horses.
And I was beginning to feel the mystery house was perhaps
a bridge too far.
Now whilst there's no land with this cottage,
there is a livery yard nearby where you can keep, well,
pretty much as many horses as you'd want there.
But it almost seems a moot point now, because the house isn't suitable.
Albeit maybe not for you, but clearly it's going to be for
-someone, isn't it?
So from what you've seen,
have a guess to how much this place is on the market for?
Well, without any land at all, I think 450.
-It's on the market for 375.
Significantly below budget, the thatched mystery house certainly
had character and charm, and there was money left over to make
alterations to suit their lifestyle,
but for Mick and Sue, there were too many compromises.
The outside is nice, it's cottagey. It's a nice little garden.
But a bit bitty for me and probably not big enough and I guess the
overall surprise to us was that it hasn't actually got any land
attached to it at the moment.
I was hoping at least there would be some land that we could
explore, opportunities for the horses.
Although I would say it is a beautiful house and it's done to a
perfectly good standard, a very good standard,
but I don't think it's for us.
It's just very difficult to get around.
-All done inside?
-Yeah, all done.
-It's a very pretty house, isn't it?
-It's a lovely house.
-OK, well, that's all three, let's go.
So with the Mystery House not really working for them,
Sue and Mick were left with two options to consider,
the modern practical first property with those amazing equestrian
facilities and the second,
the characterful farmhouse with he annexe and lots of potential.
But which one would win through in the end?
It probably comes as no surprise that they chose practicalities over
potential and bought our first property in the Suffolk village of Stanton.
Now, you could be forgiven for thinking, well,
this looks nothing like any of the properties I showed Mick and Sue,
but what they've done is they've turned a fairly modest three to
four-bedroom bungalow into, well, something that's resembling a ranch.
They have been busy, haven't they? Let's catch up with them.
Back in 2012, when I was last here,
the property was a modest 1950s bungalow,
but now it's fair to say it's been somewhat supersized.
Now then, how are you?
-Hello, Jonnie, nice to see you.
-Nice to see you, Sue.
-Good to see you, Jonnie.
-Great to see you both.
Although I thought I was getting lost when I came up the drive.
I thought, this doesn't look very familiar.
-It looks a bit different now.
-It looks a lot different.
Did you nick someone else's house and put it on the land?
-Yeah, a bit like that.
-But also, look at this, who's the gardener?
-Honestly, this is a credit, this is amazing.
There wasn't a single flowering plant here when I got here, it's all new.
It's a profusion of colour now.
I'm dying to see more about what's gone on at the back of this
property, can we have a look? Lead the way.
-Follow us through.
-I won't start nagging you for tea yet!
Once they bought the bungalow five years ago, they set about converting
and extending the property to make it easier for Mick to navigate in a wheelchair.
Right. Well, I was expecting a new kitchen, these all look very new.
-All the units are new.
-All the kitchen is new.
We did away with the hole-in-the-wall.
-We did away with that.
We decided we hated the hole-in-the-wall.
Did we not discuss at the time it was nice to see through there,
but you didn't really get room for a kitchen then, did you?
No. We thought about opening it up and having the whole room in with
the living area, but it didn't work for us,
so we've gone for a traditional kitchen.
Exactly the same, new units, no everything.
So in doing away with that hole, you've got wall space and the
ability to have a proper sized kitchen now, haven't you?
It's made a tremendous amount of difference.
We've got lots of storage now, where we had very little before
because it was very one sided.
This suits us better, the breakfast bar.
We can still get a wheelchair through if we need to, as well.
Well, practicality is a big thing here, isn't it?
Even walking up here, there's pathways here.
You came through the nice big wide doorways, there's width here.
Everything is disabled friendly.
You can get a wheelchair around the whole house.
Perfect. You've immediately tackled semi structural stuff.
But I saw some big sort of cable ends going out that the way.
-We've done a lot more.
-Let's have a look.
-Lead the way.
The work to the house was completed over a two year period,
with parts of the original building almost unrecognisable now.
I'm not going to pretend I can remember everything,
it's a few years ago now, but I don't remember pretty much any of this?
No, this room it's not dramatically changed.
-Apart from that!
-Well, yes. I guess it has.
There used to be a little bedroom here which was only five foot wide.
That's what made this a three/four-bedroom place, wasn't it?
Basically, they used it as an office but it could've been a
nursery, that's about all.
So we knocked that wall down.
Also there was a half wall through here,
which divided the two rooms as well.
You can tell you've obviously been busy here because you're telling me,
"Oh, we've not really done much here."
-This is universally different.
-Yes, opened up.
That made a beautiful sun room, there.
I mean, to sit-in there with those bifolds looking out over the...
-That was my idea.
It was her idea, yeah.
I get a sense of it kind of like a ranch-style home.
-Is that what you went for?
-I guess lots of people have said that.
-It wasn't what we were aiming for.
No, we didn't set out for that.
We didn't, but in America anything that's single storey is a ranch.
Of course, there were the horses, yes.
Obviously, you love your western riding anyway, don't you?
I know you do. You spend a lot of time in the States, and what have you.
-You're surrounded by your own horses,
so you can forgive people for going that way.
But this house perhaps is because this house embraces all that you
have outside. It brings it in.
It would be a waste to ignore the fact that you're surrounded by your
-So far I can see that you've made huge improvements
because that's exactly what you've done here,
but you've built on and you've certainly built on that way.
-Can we have a look?
-Yeah, of course.
-A new wing.
A new wing, get you!
Did you ever think you'd say that?
As well as adding a new wing down stairs, there's also now an upstairs.
The new storey includes a room for Sue to do her artwork and an extra bedroom.
Downstairs, two of the bedrooms have been designed with wheelchair
accessibility in mind. One of which is the master suite.
-Is it big enough?
I've done it so if I'm in a wheelchair, I can get around everywhere.
When you're building new, though, you can do just that, can't you?
-I have noticed one thing though, Sue.
-You've managed to build yourselves an entire wall
-of walk in wardrobes.
-Oh, I don't have that many clothes!
Yeah, yeah, but you still need another one.
-So that's yours and this is all Sue's, is it?
-Go on, girl.
Go on! So, inside, you guys have been amazingly busy.
You've pretty much built another house on to here.
Let's have a sit down and talk about how your lives have changed.
You escaped to the country for a reason, for a new lifestyle.
-We certainly did.
-It looks like you've got that,
-which is my link to get the kettle on someone, yeah.
-Who's the tea maker?
-Right, let's go get the kettle on.
I look forward to learning more about their new life outdoors later,
but first some great highlights from two of my other house-hunting journeys.
Over the years, our rural property searches with our house hunters have
covered the length and breadth of the UK.
They've all been armed with different budgets and a desire to
improve their quality of life with a move to the country.
It's such a satisfying outcome when they make that all-important offer
on a house that we've shown them.
Six years ago, I was in Somerset with another hopeful couple.
In the summer of 2011, Beverley and Gerry wanted to move back to the UK
from Switzerland and were looking for a characterful
four-bedroom property with period features
along with a separate annexe and a great view of open countryside.
They had £650,000 to spend.
The Mystery House was over the border in Devon,
but there were lots of things to recommend it.
Now, as it's the Mystery House,
I wanted to do things slightly different way round.
I want to start from the outside.
-And I think...
Well, I know what you don't want, but one thing you told me that you
did want was a view and I'm hoping this here is said view.
-Right. Really lovely.
-You've also got quite a bit of land.
You've got over five acres here.
With the outside delivering on views and land,
we explored the interior of the 18th century period property.
-Yeah, it is very rustic,
but that's sort of what we were hoping for.
-It's not a square room.
-No, far from it.
There's lots you could potentially do with this in terms of furniture and decor. Yeah.
With both Beverley and Gerry starting to picture themselves
living here, we looked at another living area.
-So reception room number two has...
-..plenty of natural light.
-This is a modern extension.
-These are Cornish slate, these massive flag stones.
It's really nice because it's totally in keeping with the rest of
the house although it's modern.
You've got views either side, you've got views out there,
you could actually see the horse in the top paddock as well.
At the moment, you really sound like you're coming on board on this
-We are. It's lovely.
-I think so far, so good.
-I really like it.
The kitchen was on the cosy side,
but that didn't seem to bother our buyers.
So you don't have the massive kitchen.
No. I mean, it's a reasonable side but maybe not all of it is
utilised as well as it could be.
I mean, you could actually put in units all the way round to make it
-Yeah, I mean, I think that's what we'd do.
The one thing that this allows is for you to adapt it again.
Upstairs there were five spacious double bedrooms,
some with original feature fireplaces,
including a very grand main bedroom.
The master suite starts here.
-So Beverley, you've got a dressing room, there.
-Then you have a shower room and a loo, there.
-But I thought this bedroom was something else.
Yeah, it's lovely, isn't it?
It's big enough to fit whatever you want in here.
Waking up here in the morning and hearing nothing other than the local
wildlife and seeing the view out there,
-it would give you a good start to the day.
With the mystery house working its magic, all that was left was to
find out how much change they'd get, if any, from their £650,000 budget.
How much do you think this place is on the market for?
I would think it's 650.
Yeah, I'd agree with 650.
OK. Well, it's on the market for offers around £625,000.
-A good guess, but, you know, a bit cheaper.
Hear that. The sound of nature.
Beverley and Gerry clearly loved the Mystery House and followed through
by making an offer.
Winding forward to 2015, I was house-hunting with Steve and Rebecca
They were looking for wide open spaces and an eco-friendly house
close to the coast and they hoped to find it in Argyll and Bute in
Scotland with their budget of £350,000.
Our first house, on the Cowal peninsula, had all the right credentials.
-Fantastic looking property.
-It is, isn't it? Very modern.
Yeah, how old do you think it is?
Well, I know how old it is, thankfully.
This large part was built initially around 1849 to 1850...
Oh, wow. Right.
..with a slightly more modern extension.
Now positioning, it's just like Lincolnshire, isn't it?
Wow, yes, beautiful location.
-Without a doubt, fabulous.
Excellent. Let's get inside.
The property had been renovated and the interior was stylishly presented.
-Wow, very sharp.
The size, the height of the ceilings, the openness, beautiful.
-Now coming round to the kitchen area, is this your taste?
Pretty much our layout, isn't it?
Yes, I wouldn't need to change it at all.
Yeah, I like it very much.
This is the hub of the home, though, isn't it?
Yeah, I love the light flooding through the windows.
Let's go and have a look at the living room.
The living space also appealed to their tastes.
-What I love about this house...
..what you see is what you get. This is the main part of the barn.
-It's lovely, isn't it?
Oh, absolutely gorgeous, isn't it?
Perfect little layout, isn't it?
Got the log burner.
I don't think we can get better than this. This is fantastic for us.
Upstairs, there were three double bedrooms all in the eves
including a master with en suite.
Wow, yes, good size.
-I've always had a bit of an issue with vaulted ceilings,
though. But I've got to say, I think they've done it really well.
Because it doesn't impose on the main living area, does it, too badly?
No, there's plenty of room there for us.
-But imagine lying in that bed...
-Looking at those views.
-Amazing, wouldn't it?
Outside, the land wrapped itself around the cottage and was framed by
a stunning Scottish backdrop.
But how much would this slice of Caledonian countryside cost them?
Who wants to go first?
-Shall I make a stab?
-Go on, then.
-It is a guess. I'm going to go £300,000.
I'm going to go slightly over.
I shall go for £315,000.
Well done. This house is on the market for offers around £315,000.
-Right, that's good.
Rebecca and Steve wasted no time in making an offer, which was accepted.
So they have successfully made their move to the Scottish countryside.
Now, it's time to head back to one of England's classic coastal counties.
The east Anglian county of Suffolk has around 50 miles of coastline
ripe for exploring, much of which form part of designated areas of
outstanding natural beauty.
The county also has over 60 nature reserves and around 10,000 public
rights of way with some fantastic footpaths and beautiful
bridleways to discover on horse back.
All of this equates to an enticing prospect for anybody looking to
escape the smoke for a more rural, tranquil lifestyle.
The Suffolk coastline is also steeped in history,
but the clues to its past aren't always visible from land.
Today, the village of Dunwich is a tiny settlement, but in the
13th century, this was a major town and international port until
a series of cataclysmic events sealed its fate.
The clearest evidence of the size and wealth of the town that once
stood here are the ruins of the Greyfriars monastery,
now under the care of Jeff Able from the Greyfriars Trust.
-Jeff, hello, thanks for meeting me today.
-Welcome to Greyfriars.
Thank you very much, lovely to be here.
I understand we're stood amongst what was once a very important part
of, not just Suffolk, maybe not even the region, but the country as a whole?
Back in the mid 1200s, Dunwich was one of the ten largest towns in
England and after London it was the most important port.
We currently have a population of 70.
Back then, the population was about 5,000 people.
It was the port that brought them all here working and trading?
Yes, mainly working on the wool trade from East Anglia.
So what happened?
There was a massive storm on New Year's Eve in 1286 and
the harbour was utterly destroyed in that storm.
The town lost its livelihood more or less overnight.
With the harbour gone, the 5,000 people diminished to a few hundred.
Another storm in the 1330s finished the town off completely.
The Greyfriars stayed on but moved their monastery further inland to
try and beat the sea.
All of East Anglia is built on what essentially is a
very large sandcastle.
-And what happens to sand castles when the sea hits it?
Well, they undermine and they wash away and the same has been happening
throughout this coastline ever since the end of the last Ice Age.
After the big storms of the 13th and 14th centuries, the coastline
Today, the North Sea is almost lapping at the door of the ruined monastery.
Well, you're just a few yards outside the wall of the monastery.
-Half a mile that way, that way...
-..is the old town. Stretching from here for half a mile out there
is the old town of Dunwich.
Apart from the major storm which destroyed the harbour,
there were a number of major storms over time,
but they take relatively small amounts of land.
But it's the continuous action of the sea against the cliffs.
The waves against the sandcastle effect.
-It takes the cliffs yard by yard, on average, a meter a year.
There's some stories underneath those waves, aren't there?
There's an amazing amount of history just there.
One of the legends about Dunwich is of coming up here and listening for
the bells of the old churches.
There were eight or ten churches out there and apparently you can hear the bells.
My only experience of that is after a very long night in the pub and
then your ears start to ring a bit!
My ears ring if I've had a very long night in the pub and I haven't got
home in time. That's when mine ring!
It's been fascinating to discover some of the county's hidden past,
but now it's time to return to the present.
I'm revisiting Mick and Sue who moved into their Suffolk home five
I've seen how they've radically redesigned the property,
so now time to take in the grounds,
which have been beautifully landscaped by gardening enthusiast, Sue.
I'm not going to ask you how it's been since moving out here because
I can see it's been busy.
-Not just the house, but I'm looking at this house,
looking at the garden, for one thing.
-I mean there's a lot here, isn't there?
-Yep. I've done a lot.
There was absolutely no flowers here.
There was obviously some grass,
but there were no flowers at all here when we got here,
and at the last count, we've had down 265 trees.
-That to me sounds...
-I know, it's amazing.
It doesn't sound like there would be much left,
but you've got some beautiful deciduous trees around here as well.
I've got all of the good trees that we could possibly keep.
The ones we've had down have been mainly Leylandii, 60 foot tall
Leylandii all the way around the property making things very
dark, not just for us, but for our neighbours as well.
But I also know you have a degree in garden design.
I do have a degree in garden design, yes.
So you've been able to flex your muscles here, Sue?
I can actually use my hobby.
I'm pretty well full-time just looking after the garden
-I think now.
-Let's talk about the situation here.
You wanted almost the impossible - land suitable for horses,
with stabling, on the edge of a...
-Of a village.
-Not just a village.
-On the edge of a good village with facilities.
-That's what everybody wants.
-Yeah, we managed to click that one.
We've managed to do that. This has been the best move we've ever made.
We're very happy here on the actual property,
but also the village is great.
We get on very well with everybody.
It's a friendly village and it's got all the facilities that we really need.
We've got a pub within two minutes, we've got a post office,
shop and a DIY store.
It feels like an entertaining house, an entertaining destination.
I imagine you've had a few occasions here, have you, Sue?
-Yeah, we've had a few parties here.
-I bet, I hope so.
My daughter had her wedding reception here,
which was over in the back paddock over there.
-We had a big marquee.
So this sounds like it's become more than a home with your horses as well.
-This is something else.
-It's our lifestyle.
It's our lifestyle. It is a lifestyle and that's what we always
wanted because I'd retired.
So I had time to do things here,
and Sue wanted to really pursue her gardening and her artwork as well.
-So this is the perfect place for it.
Whilst Sue has been immersed in the garden,
Mick's been able to enjoy another one of his passions.
It still involves riding, but this one has a little more horsepower.
Well, she's a beauty, Mick,
I can see why you needed special access for her.
-She's pride of place in your home, surely?
-I wish I'd have cleaned it?
-She looks all right to me.
Is this the same bike that you had when we were looking for houses?
It is. Yes, it is. It is.
A little bit worse for wear now, but it's the same one.
-Done a few more miles since, has it?
-Yes, a few.
So tell me, this has been adapted for you to ride it, then?
Yeah. Of course I can't use my back brakes, so this is my front brake,
-the top lever.
-And the bottom lever is my rear brake.
So although you've got some fantastic roads around here,
I mean you travel, again, with this?
Oh, yes. Yeah, I've been over to Normandy on it and over to the Isle of Man.
To help Mick get in and out with the bike,
they've built a concrete path along the gravel drive.
She certainly looks the part, but I'm keen to hear her purr.
Oh, she sounds beautiful, doesn't she?
Oh, do you ever get Sue on the back of this?
-Oh, yeah, she's often on the back.
I have to change the seat, she won't go on the back of that one.
She has what they call a passenger seat.
-Well, keep it as is then!
-So if I come here in a few years' time,
-am I going to see more bikes and less horses?
You'll probably see one bike and the same amount of horses.
Thanks very much. I'll go and see Sue. See you in a mo.
See you later, mate.
As regards their equine family, Mick and Sue now have four horses in
the paddocks surrounding their property.
This is Cassie.
Cassie is a quarter horse. She's an American breed.
She came over from Wisconsin originally.
-And they're called quarter horses because they used to be very
fast over a quarter of a mile.
Oh, right, she's a sprinter.
She's a sprinter over a short distance,
but she doesn't have the stamina.
She's stocky, sturdy, versatile.
We call her Barbie's horse, but she's basically a cowboy horse.
Which is your bent, isn't it, really?
-You and Mick love the western style.
The whole western scene. This is your archetypal cowboy horse.
So, how often are you getting out riding, then?
I mean, you've got all weather facilities here, haven't you?
Absolutely. We probably hack out two or three times a week, maybe ride in
the menage as well. We don't need to ride them all the time,
they're perfectly happy out in the fields.
-They've got plenty of space, haven't they?
So what's the riding like around here, the hacking out?
The riding is surprisingly good.
We do have some bridleways at the beginning and the end of our
property and we can get out on to those without going on the
roads most of the year.
We have the Stanton Rides here from the village,
miles and miles of track that we can actually ride on.
-So we're quite fortunate.
-I mean this is an equine dream, isn't it?
-It is, indeed.
What a life you've got here. A very, very busy one.
It's a busy life, but we're living the dream.
We've got all the things here that we've always wanted.
Sue and Mick are now happily reaping the rewards of their vision and
determination to make this property their perfect home.
It's clear they've created their equine paradise
here in the Suffolk countryside.
It's too easy, isn't it? You've got your house there, your
stables there and your paddocks here.
This is what everybody I speak to with horses, this is what they want?
-It's horse heaven here.
-It really is, isn't it?
-And they're happy, look at them?
Surely having a small holding like this, having projects,
that's part and parcel of it, that's half the fun, isn't it?
Absolutely, it's always evolving.
There's always something else to do and there's loads of maintenance.
Yeah. For sure.
Apart from maintenance and a lot of creosoting of posts and fences,
what's next? What's the next project?
-What have you got planned?
-Not much at all, really.
-Mick would like to make the veranda bigger.
-I forgot that.
Look, let's face, you like western style riding,
you've got American horses,
you've got a house that's almost in the ranch style.
-You need a veranda and a rocking chair, don't you?
-Maybe a harmonica and then that scene is complete, isn't it?
Well, look, you both seem so happy and settled.
I feel like I should be getting on to my steed and riding
off successfully into the sunset.
-You should do it.
-Which one do you want?
I've got a car, it's fine. Keep in touch.
-I wish you all the very best.
-Thank you very much.
-See you soon.
Well, it's been great catching up with Mick and Sue and I must say,
what they've done to the property and its gardens is an absolute
credit to them both. It's funny, when I first showed them this place
I had a feeling that it would be a great fit for them,
so I'm so pleased to see them here enjoying their new life together in
Suffolk. See you next time.
If you also dream of escaping to the country in England, Wales,
Scotland or Northern Ireland and would like our help,
why not apply firstname.lastname@example.org/beonashow.
Jonnie Irwin is reunited with his avid equestrian house hunters in Suffolk. Since buying the unassuming property Jonnie showed them, the couple have ploughed their efforts into dramatically transforming it to suit their needs. They now enjoy the freedom of keeping horses on their own land. Whilst in the county, Jonnie visits the coastal village of Dunwich, which over the centuries has been gradually taken by the sea.