Somerset I Escaped to the Country


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Somerset

Jules Hudson returns to rural Somerset to be reunited with a retired couple, now happily living in the character home they all first saw together.


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Making the move from the city to the countryside

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is often a momentous step.

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Never in a million years I would imagine

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I'll be seeing a house like this, never ever.

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

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countless people on the hunt for a new home.

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-What do we think of this?

-Oh, my!

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Chocolate box.

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

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Take a look at that killer view.

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That's amazing.

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

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Ah, how pretty is that?

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..that our buyers just couldn't resist.

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SHE SHRIEKS

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Seriously, get your cheque-book out now.

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

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My goodness. It's absolutely beautiful.

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..to find out how the move changed

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their lives when they escaped to the country.

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Well, today I'm in Somerset,

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on the beautifully named Avalon Marshes

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at the Shapwick Heath Nature Reserve

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right in the heart of the Somerset Levels.

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This area is rich in wildlife, home to over 200 species of bird.

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Amongst them - an elusive type of heron known as the bittern

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which I can tell you from personal experience is far easier

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to hear than it ever is to see.

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But these wetlands are also rich in prehistoric archaeology,

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proving that people have been living here for over 6,000 years.

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Now, today I'll be catching up with two couples

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who we've helped escape to the country,

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new settlers to the area,

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to find out if their dream of a rural life

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is everything they hoped it would be.

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Somerset in England's South West is a popular county

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for those seeking a rural move

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with its relaxed way of life

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and an excellent selection of property stock.

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Later on I'll be catching up with Eugene and Jane who swapped their

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suburban Hampshire home for more space in Somerset

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and have discovered that life in the country

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doesn't come without its dramas.

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So, I went out riding one day to try this horse before I bought it.

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The next thing I know, I'm laying on

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the ground and I'd fractured my spine in two places.

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But before that, I'll be revisiting Alison and Derek who've

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wasted little time transforming their fabulous countryside home

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and establishing new friendships.

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Back in the spring of 2013, Baptist minister Derek's retirement

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allowed he and his wife Alison,

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who was then working as a charity promotions officer,

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to sell up their Tonbridge home of 14 years.

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We are looking forward to open spaces, scenery, views.

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The Mendips. You know, the hills, the Somerset Levels.

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We're looking forward to all of that.

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This active and creative couple craved the time and space

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to indulge their hands-on interests.

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I've done craft activities all my life.

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And so, at the moment, I'm specialising

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in making beaded jewellery.

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I love wood, love the smell of wood, love working with wood.

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I've got a lathe down in the garden in the shed,

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but I don't have room to use it down there, so I'm hoping I'll have

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considerably more room when we move.

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Attracted to the villages in southern Somerset,

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they were after a characterful property with a kitchen-diner,

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3-4 bedrooms and a study each.

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Derek wanted his workshop and Alison was keen that the property came with

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a decent garden. And they had £500,000 to spend.

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We kicked off our property search in the village of Curload on the

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Somerset Levels, where I showed

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Derek and Alison a barn conversion built

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from local blue lias stone.

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There we are, property number one.

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-I love the stonework.

-Yeah.

-And the contrast with the brick, as well.

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-That's lovely.

-Right then, let's have a look inside.

-Let's go.

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The split-level converted barn had a history dating back over two

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centuries with a contemporary feel inside.

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Come on in, Alison.

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-Oh, my word.

-What do you reckon?

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-Goodness me.

-Amazing space, isn't it?

-Very impressive.

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It's kind of zoned in a way.

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-Yeah.

-Obviously, you've got the kind of kitchen area here.

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-Yep.

-But I really like the way it all kind of

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flows through. So, living zone here.

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There's a lovely wood burner in there, too,

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so you've got a kind of cosy end, as well.

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There isn't a wow yet, though, is there?

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There isn't a wow yet.

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-Yet. No.

-We haven't seen it all yet.

-HE LAUGHS

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Well, let's keep our fingers crossed then. Come up here.

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The barn featured four bedrooms in total,

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including one given over to a study.

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Whilst a guest room had a vaulted ceiling and original beams.

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And the master was ensuite. And here it is.

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Again, vaulted ceiling which is rather nice.

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-Yeah, yeah.

-What are your thoughts so far?

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-I think it's interesting.

-OK.

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Interesting design, if not that many interesting features.

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It's all impressive, but it doesn't wow.

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Oooh, that's interesting.

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Outside at the rear there was a large paved patio

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which overlooked the walled garden.

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And also included a timber workshop in the corner for Derek.

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But how much of their £500,000 would they have had to spend on

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property number one? So, who's going to go first, Derek?

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It sounds like I am.

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I would say 475.

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475. Yeah, OK.

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-480.

-480. Not bad.

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But you could have done a bit better.

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-It's £435,000.

-435?!

-Oh, my word.

-You see. Ah-ha!

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Yes. Now that might put a different twist on it?

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-Yeah.

-Maybe.

-Yeah.

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Under budget with a guide price of £435,000,

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our first property had excited Derek and Alison,

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but perhaps lacked the all-important wow factor.

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The way that the place plays with light and space

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I find very impressive indeed.

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But it doesn't quite do it for me.

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It was a lovely property, but I think if I was going to be picky

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I would prefer a few more period features.

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The next day, we pressed on with our second property viewing

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in the village of Butleigh,

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where I showed them a stone cottage in the heart of the village.

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So, come round the willow.

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-There we are, property number two.

-What a lovely looking property.

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-Beautiful.

-Isn't it?

-Really excited.

-Pretty. Yeah.

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-It's got a couple of inglenooks.

-Wow.

-Stone staircase.

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-Oh, my word.

-And a walled garden.

-And a walled garden.

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Always dreamed of a walled garden.

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So, a very positive start to proceedings

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and great first impressions of

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this lovely detached 17th-century cottage.

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-Come on in. Let's start in the living room.

-Whoa!

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-Very nice.

-That was a whoa. Is that like a wow?

-That's a wow.

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-Yeah, good. Excellent.

-That's a Kentish wow.

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Now, I did promise you a spiral stone staircase.

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It's over here. We won't use it just yet.

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But just to give you a taster.

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There it is. Isn't that lovely? SHE LAUGHS

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-Goodness. That's really nice.

-HE CHUCKLES

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Right, let's have a look at the dining room across the hallway.

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There, as you can see, a kind of mirror image, almost...

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-That's nice, too.

-..of the living room.

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Yeah. Another lovely fireplace.

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-Yes.

-And I love exposed stone, as well, within the house.

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Come through here, this is the kitchen.

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See what you think of this, Alison.

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-Oh!

-Yes.

-A red range.

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How about that? That's awesome, isn't it?

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Yeah. I mean, it's not a huge kitchen diner, Derek,

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that you had alluded to when we first met.

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But because it leads on into the dining room there...

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-Yeah.

-Fine.

-Right, let's have a look upstairs. Come with me.

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There was another staircase to access the first floor

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which was home to four bedrooms.

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None of which were specifically dedicated as the master.

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This is the one with a stone spiral staircase coming up...

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-Oh, yes.

-..from the living room.

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So, I don't know, really, which one would you pick?

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Probably the end one.

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-Yeah?

-The other one, cos it's got the built-in wardrobe.

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The other thing to point out is that

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downstairs there's an additional granny annexe.

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Effectively, it's a big double

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bedroom with an en-suite attached to it,

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which might be useful too.

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Outside, the lawned garden laid to the front

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and there was a bonus of a former double garage

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which was an ideal potential space

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for Derek and Alison's creative hobbies.

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-Ta-da!

-My word.

-It's excellent. I think we could share this.

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-I think you could.

-I think so, yeah.

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Might need a little screen between us.

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But, no, no, there's a lot of room here.

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-So...

-Excellent.

-How much is it worth? Go on, Alison.

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I'm going to go with 520.

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520. Derek?

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I hope it's a little nearer our half million.

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You may well hope so.

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-It is closer to Alison, I'm afraid. It is 525.

-525.

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Although £25,000 over budget,

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our second property had clearly delighted both Derek and Alison.

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I think the house has the wow factor.

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I'm certainly very, very impressed and can see us living here.

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Personally, I would definitely say this is a contender.

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I can imagine myself living here.

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Yeah, watch this space.

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Well, what a fantastic start to our second day's house-hunting.

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Thankfully, well, unlike today, it wasn't raining.

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Now, there's no doubt that gorgeous

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17th-century stone cottage clearly worked its magic.

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And definitely had the wow or the whoa factor that Derek

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was looking for, but of course we still had one more property to come.

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Our Mystery House. And for that, well,

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I really was determined to try and put the cat among the pigeons.

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Not literally, of course. But in a good way.

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Our final location was in the village of Shepton Beauchamp.

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And a classic Mystery House

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that was designed to test Alison and Derek's

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commitment to historic features.

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And there it is, our final property, now bathed in some rare sunshine.

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-That's it.

-Wow.

-That is a wow.

-That is stunning.

-Definite wow.

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It's listed. It has lots of features in it, as you would expect.

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And a key to match. THEY LAUGH

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-How about that?

-Look at that.

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It had the smallest footprint of all our houses, but seemed

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to hit the mark at face value, featuring many historic gems.

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This is charming, isn't it?

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This would be your main living room, as such.

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-Right.

-Is it you?

-Yes.

-Oh, I think so.

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-A big booming yes, there.

-Yes, yes.

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-Yep.

-I'm excited to see more.

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Right, let's do that.

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So this is your dining end and kitchen.

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That's nice, isn't it?

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I like the granite worktop. Wasn't expecting that.

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Another lovely fireplace.

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The depth of the wood is just amazing, isn't it?

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-Yeah, yeah.

-This is fascinating.

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How is this comparing with property two?

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Thus far, it excites me more than property two.

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-Does it?

-Yes.

-That's interesting, yeah. What about the boss?

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THEY LAUGH

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Yes, I think so. I think I'd agree.

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The ground floor was also home to a good-sized study and small workshop.

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Upstairs there were three bedrooms in total,

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along with a family bathroom.

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This is the master bedroom.

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Wow. That is huge, isn't it?

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This is the biggest and the best

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-we've been able to show you this week.

-Surprisingly big.

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Yeah. It's certainly got some pedigree, hasn't it?

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Absolutely, yeah.

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Outside, the garden lay in a third of an acre, set over two levels.

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But would it suffice, and, more importantly, what was the price?

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I mean, would you be happy pottering

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around out here on a Saturday afternoon?

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-I think I'd be in heaven.

-Really?

-And I would enjoy it, too.

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-Yeah.

-Very much.

-Yeah.

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I fear it's way over budget, so I would guess 550.

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550, yep. Alison?

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I'm going to be a little bit more hopeful and say 540.

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540.

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Well, you're both wrong.

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This could be yours for 499.

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-Goodness me. Goodness.

-SHE LAUGHS

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A fraction under budget,

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our Mystery House was packed with history and character.

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And left them with a big decision to make.

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Are you going to mow all this grass?

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Well, I'll have to have a sit-on.

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I don't think you need a sit on.

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It was a wonderful surprise to discover

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that we could afford to buy this property.

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I'm left with really positive thoughts.

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But quite a lot to think about.

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Derek and Alison had something of a quandary with three fantastic

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properties to choose from.

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The lias stone barn with a modern interior

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had the open-plan layout they were after.

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The second, the stone cottage, was over-budget

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and needed some work doing to it upstairs.

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And, finally, our thatched Mystery House had character in abundance

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and had really captured their hearts.

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But which one did they choose in the end?

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Well, four years on, I'm back in Somerset to see how Derek

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and Alison got on. Because after much deliberation, well,

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they decided to buy this, our second property,

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that beautiful 17th-century stone cottage in the heart of Butleigh.

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And by the looks of it,

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I'd say they've been pretty busy making it their own.

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One end of the house has been transformed

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with an eye-catching oak-framed extension

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which I'm keen to take a look at from the inside.

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-You've come back!

-How are you, Derek?

-Welcome.

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-Good to see you, mate. Hi, Alison, lovely to see you.

-How are you?

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Now, you're supposed to say we haven't changed.

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You haven't changed a bit.

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-But the place has.

-Well, that's what I want to see.

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-This is lovely.

-Come on in.

-Thank you. After you.

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It's your house tour now.

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Almost as soon as they moved in,

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they set about reconfiguring much of the interior.

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This is the kitchen.

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I don't know if you remember it.

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Wow. I do remember it, but it didn't look like this.

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No. There was a big window there going onto the alleyway.

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And we always had the blinds down.

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-So we decided there wasn't any point.

-And you've kept the range.

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-We've kept the range.

-The great red range.

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-Turned it round. Yeah.

-Turned it 90 degrees.

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It's really nice. You've managed to keep a lot of the original features

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that first, I guess, made it attractive,

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but reordered it so that it's right for you two.

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My eye is being drawn that way because that looks amazing.

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Yeah, there used to be the back door there.

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-Just there.

-But we've built the extension on the side.

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Wow. I really want to see this.

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My goodness.

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I mean, there was a sense that your

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property needed to have a wow, Derek.

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And you've certainly created another wow with this.

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It's absolutely beautiful.

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We spend a lot of time here.

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You must just smile every time you come in here.

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How long was it, from when you moved in, did you decide to do this?

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It was fairly soon.

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The first winter we were here, the back door,

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which was, of course, here, leaked badly

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when the prevailing wind and weather hit this side of the house.

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And we thought we needed to do something about the door.

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"Hey, why don't we do something more?"

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-Let's build a porch.

-And we began to dream.

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But the dream didn't end there.

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They've also reordered the upstairs of their 17th-century stone cottage

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and in the process discovered its hidden secrets.

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Ah, OK.

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So, remind me, what was here before?

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Before this was two bedrooms.

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Yeah, they were quite small rooms, weren't they?

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-Yeah.

-This, wow, this is great.

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We just went a bit mad, didn't we, one morning?

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It wasn't a load-bearing wall so we could take that down.

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We put another wall in there, to carve off a bit.

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Which is eventually going to be a shower room.

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And it's made a really nice large master bedroom.

0:16:570:17:01

But that looks amazing. That wasn't there, was it?

0:17:010:17:03

-That was a find.

-I saw the corner of this stone and I sort of said to

0:17:030:17:08

Derek, shall we see if we can go back to the stone?

0:17:080:17:11

And as we did, we realised that that piece there was a much bigger

0:17:110:17:15

piece of enormous stone. And it was a lintel.

0:17:150:17:17

And then the fireplace was blocked in with cement.

0:17:170:17:21

-And rubble.

-And rubble.

-And soot.

-It was just...

0:17:210:17:24

You should have seen Alison when she'd finished.

0:17:240:17:27

-I literally had to go up...

-You wouldn't recognise her.

0:17:270:17:29

-Like, up the chimney.

-She was black from head to foot.

0:17:290:17:32

-I was.

-But that sounds like a fascinating and very rewarding

0:17:320:17:35

-kind of weekend's work.

-Yeah, incredible.

0:17:350:17:38

But it's really made it.

0:17:380:17:39

And it's given this upstairs, you know, the room it needed.

0:17:390:17:43

Another big idea that you've managed to incorporate...

0:17:430:17:46

-Yeah.

-..into your overall plan.

0:17:460:17:49

Although they've lost one of the four bedrooms upstairs,

0:17:490:17:52

they still have the annexe available

0:17:520:17:54

next door for visiting family and guests.

0:17:540:17:57

Across the garden from the house,

0:17:570:17:59

the former double garage has been

0:17:590:18:01

divided into a workshop for Derek and a

0:18:010:18:03

study they can both share.

0:18:030:18:05

Derek and Alison have clearly found a property that suits them both

0:18:060:18:09

but it wasn't the only one on the cards

0:18:090:18:12

when we finished our house tours in 2013.

0:18:120:18:15

So, I'm intrigued to discover how they got here.

0:18:150:18:18

So, we gave you a pretty good selection that week.

0:18:190:18:21

And there was some debate as to which property

0:18:210:18:25

would be your favourite between this one and the Mystery House.

0:18:250:18:29

Well, we think this house was a

0:18:290:18:31

combination of head and heart, really.

0:18:310:18:33

We both just felt it was the right one, eventually, didn't we?

0:18:330:18:37

And then also practically, with all our different needs

0:18:370:18:41

-and requirements, it had everything.

-It was on the market at, what, 5...?

0:18:410:18:45

-520.

-520.

0:18:450:18:47

Over your very good half a million budget,

0:18:470:18:50

so what did you have to pay for it?

0:18:500:18:51

We offered 500, because that was all we had.

0:18:510:18:54

And the vendor turned us down.

0:18:540:18:58

So we went home, that was the Friday.

0:18:580:19:00

And we started to look elsewhere.

0:19:000:19:02

And over that weekend we were a bit disappointed, to be honest.

0:19:030:19:07

-Yeah, down.

-And then on the Monday Alison went shopping with her mum

0:19:070:19:12

and the mobile rang.

0:19:120:19:14

And it was the estate agent to say the vendor decided we were

0:19:140:19:17

the nicest people she'd shown around

0:19:170:19:20

and she would let us have it for 500.

0:19:200:19:22

Well, I could have told her that. Yeah, that's great. So you got it.

0:19:220:19:25

-Yeah.

-Yep.

-You know, it was everything you had,

0:19:250:19:27

and looking around, you've clearly spent a fair bit on it.

0:19:270:19:31

So how did you manage to join the dots financially?

0:19:310:19:35

I had to go to work.

0:19:350:19:36

Well, we had to take another mortgage out, didn't we?

0:19:360:19:39

We took out an interest-free mortgage and I started to work

0:19:390:19:42

for a supermarket driving and making deliveries in all the villages

0:19:420:19:46

-in the Mendips and all around here.

-Which was brilliant...

0:19:460:19:49

I got to know the area incredibly quickly.

0:19:490:19:51

-Yeah.

-And lots of people, I suppose.

0:19:510:19:53

Oh, met some super, wonderful people.

0:19:530:19:55

-It's such a pretty village.

-Yep.

-The sense of community is

0:19:550:19:58

obvious as soon as you enter it, really.

0:19:580:20:01

And we're right in the heart of the village.

0:20:010:20:03

-Yeah.

-And we've received the warmest of welcomes.

0:20:030:20:05

We've not been treated as incomers at all.

0:20:050:20:08

They've made many new friends in Butleigh including a neighbour who's

0:20:080:20:12

happy for Derek to walk their dog in the absence

0:20:120:20:14

of owning one of his own.

0:20:140:20:16

-So, this is...?

-This is Tilly.

0:20:160:20:19

-Hey, Tilly.

-My neighbour's dog.

0:20:190:20:20

-And how old's Tilly?

-Tilly's six now.

0:20:200:20:23

-Yes.

-So you're able to take her out as and when you want to?

0:20:230:20:26

Yes. They're very happy for me to take her for walks and she always

0:20:260:20:29

associates me with walks.

0:20:290:20:30

The moment she sees me she expects a walk.

0:20:300:20:32

In fact, she will go and grab her lead and bring it to me.

0:20:320:20:35

So, basic question, why you haven't now got a dog of your own?

0:20:350:20:39

I had dogs all my life.

0:20:390:20:42

And when we were first married, we had dogs.

0:20:420:20:44

But we were living in church houses,

0:20:440:20:48

where there were hardwood floors.

0:20:480:20:50

Now we have a home of our own with carpets,

0:20:500:20:52

Alison's not terribly keen on having a dog

0:20:520:20:54

because they tend to make the carpets smell.

0:20:540:20:56

-Oh, poor Tilly.

-So, here I've got all the pleasure without the

0:20:560:20:59

responsibilities of vets bills or food bills.

0:20:590:21:02

So I've got the best of both worlds.

0:21:020:21:04

-You've got some lovely walks around here.

-Oh, fantastic.

0:21:040:21:06

I mean, the church is just gorgeous, isn't it?

0:21:060:21:08

-Yes, yes.

-And the church is playing an important role in Derek's life

0:21:080:21:12

again. Although he retired from preaching

0:21:120:21:15

before moving down to Somerset,

0:21:150:21:17

he found a calling to return to the ministry.

0:21:170:21:20

Six different denominations, I go to, yeah, around Somerset.

0:21:200:21:23

-All over Somerset.

-So, Sunday's a busy day for you?

0:21:230:21:26

Sunday is a very busy day.

0:21:260:21:27

-So, that's a lot of sermons to have to write.

-Absolutely. Yes.

0:21:270:21:30

-Do you ever run out of inspiration?

-No. No.

0:21:300:21:34

Well, I suppose out walking the dog is the perfect place to compose your

0:21:340:21:37

-thought for the week.

-Well, I'll tell you a secret.

0:21:370:21:41

Out walking the dog is a good opportunity to practise my sermon.

0:21:410:21:44

-Cos there's no-one around to hear.

-How do they go, Tilly?

0:21:460:21:49

She's got her ears pinned back.

0:21:490:21:51

-Boring!

-Is that a good sign or a bad sign?

0:21:510:21:54

Come on, then.

0:21:540:21:55

And when Derek is touring Somerset as a roving rector,

0:21:560:22:00

Alison spends her time playing the flute,

0:22:000:22:02

doing her charity work and indulging in her creative hobbies.

0:22:020:22:06

She's even started up a village craft group.

0:22:060:22:08

Well, this is a hive of industry, isn't it?

0:22:080:22:11

And I'm catching up with some of them back at the house.

0:22:110:22:14

Well, Alison, it's a good job you built this fabulous extension,

0:22:140:22:18

otherwise all your lovely friends

0:22:180:22:19

-would have nowhere to come and do their craft.

-I know, I know.

0:22:190:22:23

It's a good space, good light.

0:22:230:22:25

-It's a brilliant space, isn't it?

-Yeah.

-So what's everybody making?

0:22:250:22:28

-What are you making?

-I'm doing something called iris folding.

0:22:280:22:31

Which Alison's recently shown me how to do.

0:22:310:22:34

It's easiest, really, if I show you

0:22:340:22:36

what the finished article will look like.

0:22:360:22:38

So it will look something like this.

0:22:380:22:39

Is it called iris folding because it creates this sort of little eye in

0:22:390:22:43

-the middle?

-That's right, yeah, exactly so.

0:22:430:22:45

And you brought this skill into the village, then?

0:22:450:22:47

-Like a pioneer that you are.

-No.

0:22:470:22:50

Or a jack of all trades, I think.

0:22:500:22:52

Now, can I ask, did any of you also move into the village from afar?

0:22:520:22:57

Well, I moved here about 35 years ago.

0:22:570:23:01

We've just lived in the village ever since.

0:23:010:23:03

We moved from Woking in Surrey.

0:23:030:23:05

35 years.

0:23:050:23:07

Oh, at least that, yes.

0:23:070:23:08

Now, tell me, is 35 years long

0:23:080:23:10

enough for you to be considered a local?

0:23:100:23:12

I think just beginning to become one, yeah.

0:23:120:23:15

And what about you, Tess?

0:23:170:23:19

We've been in Somerset for about...

0:23:190:23:21

..40 years, I guess.

0:23:220:23:23

I mean, the thing I've always loved about Somerset

0:23:230:23:26

is that it does attract a very eclectic and interesting

0:23:260:23:29

and, dare I say it, occasionally eccentric bunch.

0:23:290:23:33

Do you think that's fair?

0:23:330:23:35

Well, it depends which one you're putting us in.

0:23:350:23:38

Well, which one would you put yourself in, Hillary?

0:23:380:23:41

Not eccentric, I don't think.

0:23:410:23:44

-Eclectic.

-Eclectic, possibly.

0:23:440:23:46

-Yeah?

-Yeah.

0:23:460:23:48

But this is a really lovely way, isn't it,

0:23:480:23:50

to maintain those village links

0:23:500:23:52

without having to rely on, necessarily,

0:23:520:23:55

the pub or the village hall or other events?

0:23:550:23:58

We always wanted to use the home for, you know,

0:23:580:24:01

having people in and things.

0:24:010:24:02

So this, for me, is ideal.

0:24:020:24:05

It's great to see how Derek and Alison's house

0:24:050:24:07

is now something of a venue for their friends,

0:24:070:24:10

neighbours and family, as much as it is a home for them.

0:24:100:24:14

But the move from Tonbridge in Kent to the beautiful village of Butleigh

0:24:140:24:18

was part of a much greater plan.

0:24:180:24:20

You've moved right across the country to come here to Somerset.

0:24:200:24:24

Can you define what Somerset has offered you?

0:24:240:24:27

You probably expect us to say this because of who and what we are.

0:24:270:24:31

But we believe that it was always God's plan and purpose

0:24:310:24:34

that we should come here. We are so grateful to Escape To The Country,

0:24:340:24:40

because it was almost an idle whim

0:24:400:24:43

that made me apply in the first place.

0:24:430:24:46

-You found us this home.

-Yeah.

-So you played a big part in this.

0:24:460:24:49

-So we're very grateful.

-Yeah, we are.

0:24:490:24:52

Well, I've often said it before.

0:24:550:24:57

Although each house hunt is of course different,

0:24:570:24:59

the one thing they all have in common is choice.

0:24:590:25:02

And thanks to the quality of the rural property market here

0:25:020:25:05

in Britain, we are usually left spoiled for it.

0:25:050:25:08

But, of course, making sense of that choice, that is the trick,

0:25:080:25:11

and that was certainly the case back

0:25:110:25:13

in 2009 when Denise Nurse came down here to Somerset.

0:25:130:25:16

She gave her buyers a rich array of properties but which

0:25:160:25:19

one would they go for?

0:25:190:25:21

Back in the summer of 2009, fitness fanatic and business manager Eugene

0:25:230:25:28

and medical secretary Jane were

0:25:280:25:30

living in a modern three-bed house in Swanwick, Hampshire.

0:25:300:25:33

But after 11 years in the suburbs, they wanted to return to the

0:25:330:25:37

county where Eugene spent his childhood.

0:25:370:25:40

It was always the intention,

0:25:400:25:41

at some point in my life to go back to what was home, you know,

0:25:410:25:45

which is in Somerset.

0:25:450:25:46

I'm really tired of the hustle and bustle here.

0:25:460:25:49

I'm tired of spending an hour driving 14 miles down the road

0:25:490:25:53

on the motorway to get to work.

0:25:530:25:56

But Jane had some reservations about the move.

0:25:560:25:59

I feel quite sad about leaving this house,

0:25:590:26:01

because it is my home and I have

0:26:010:26:03

lived here longer than anywhere else. And I love it.

0:26:030:26:06

With Jane having aspirations of owning a horse,

0:26:080:26:10

they were after an acre of land as well as four bedrooms,

0:26:100:26:13

a kitchen to impress and a study for Eugene who worked from home.

0:26:130:26:18

They had £650,000 to spend and a portion for barn conversions.

0:26:180:26:23

Our first house was in the village of Sandford Hill,

0:26:290:26:32

just two miles from Eugene's relatives in Bridgewater.

0:26:320:26:36

Now, bearing in mind their fondness for barn conversions,

0:26:360:26:39

Denise Nurse began with the philosophy

0:26:390:26:41

of give them what they want.

0:26:410:26:43

-That looks fantastic.

-It looks lovely.

0:26:430:26:44

-That looks just what we're looking for, actually.

-Yes.

-Good!

0:26:440:26:48

Smiles from both of you. Looks good from the outside?

0:26:480:26:50

-Yeah.

-Let's have a look in.

-Go on.

-OK.

0:26:500:26:53

The barn had been recently converted

0:26:530:26:56

-and was unfurnished inside.

-Come on in.

0:26:560:26:58

-Now, you're quite excited about this one.

-Definitely.

0:27:000:27:02

-Yes.

-A nice, sort of, entrance hallway here.

0:27:020:27:04

A downstairs cloakroom,

0:27:040:27:07

but come into this living room and tell me what you think.

0:27:070:27:12

-Wow.

-Oh, my goodness.

-That's fantastic.

0:27:120:27:15

The open-plan reception room led on to a contemporary kitchen.

0:27:150:27:20

-Gosh.

-Oh, this is nice.

0:27:200:27:22

-This is lovely.

-Thought might like this.

0:27:220:27:24

-Yes.

-And...

0:27:240:27:26

-Look at the view there.

-That's gorgeous, isn't it?

0:27:260:27:28

I will be more than happy with this.

0:27:280:27:30

-Big enough for you?

-Yeah, loads of counter space.

0:27:300:27:33

-It's perfect.

-At the other end of the barn,

0:27:330:27:35

on the ground floor, there was a separate annexe.

0:27:350:27:38

-You have your own entrance here.

-Oh, I see.

0:27:380:27:40

-Right.

-And all of this space.

0:27:400:27:43

-Wow.

-I was expecting a tiny little room.

0:27:430:27:47

But what do you think you would do with it?

0:27:470:27:50

I think it would be my office.

0:27:500:27:51

I had a feeling you were going to say that.

0:27:510:27:53

I see it as a bedroom actually, but guest bedroom.

0:27:530:27:58

Upstairs, there were four other bedrooms and a family bathroom.

0:27:580:28:02

With the bedroom downstairs

0:28:020:28:04

earmarked as an office come guest suite,

0:28:040:28:06

they looked at the potential master.

0:28:060:28:08

-Wow.

-This is lovely, isn't it?

-Yeah. I love it.

0:28:080:28:12

-Amazing.

-Love it?

0:28:120:28:13

-Yes.

-That's a strong emotion.

0:28:130:28:16

No, it's amazing.

0:28:160:28:17

Eugene and Jane clearly love the inside.

0:28:170:28:20

Outside there was an acre of land

0:28:200:28:22

and an option to purchase the adjoining

0:28:220:28:24

field if Jane wanted to keep a horse.

0:28:240:28:27

All that was left was to talk money.

0:28:270:28:29

Give me a figure.

0:28:290:28:31

I would have to say at least £650,000.

0:28:310:28:35

-Right up there on the budget.

-I would say 625.

0:28:350:28:39

-You being optimistic there?

-I am.

-Well, you are spot on.

0:28:390:28:44

-Oh, right.

-You win this round.

0:28:440:28:46

It is on the market for £650,000.

0:28:460:28:49

So you have no money left over, but you could afford it.

0:28:490:28:52

-Yeah, that's right.

-Thoughts?

-Very happy.

0:28:520:28:56

Bang on budget, this high-spec barn conversion had clearly hit the mark.

0:28:580:29:03

I absolutely love this house.

0:29:030:29:05

And I could see myself living in it, it's just perfect.

0:29:050:29:08

I can't find any faults with it whatsoever.

0:29:080:29:10

So, it's all positive.

0:29:100:29:12

I think it's an amazing house. It's a definite contender.

0:29:120:29:15

The next house is in the village of Badgworth,

0:29:180:29:21

close to the southern edge of the Mendip Hills.

0:29:210:29:24

And today started off by showing Jane the land on offer.

0:29:240:29:27

-Because it's all of this.

-Wow.

-Seven acres.

0:29:270:29:30

-That's quite a lot.

-I know you've got a big property at the moment,

0:29:300:29:33

you don't want to downsize, and you do want space for the horses.

0:29:330:29:36

Well, you don't have one here,

0:29:360:29:37

I think you could have as many as you like.

0:29:370:29:39

-I think so.

-Cantering across those fields.

0:29:390:29:41

-What do you think so far?

-Yeah, it's beautiful here.

0:29:410:29:44

It's really scenic.

0:29:440:29:45

Their potential home was a historic Somerset long house

0:29:450:29:49

which had been added to over the centuries.

0:29:490:29:51

-What do you think?

-It's beautiful. Very beautiful.

0:29:510:29:55

-What do you think, Eugene?

-Charming place.

0:29:550:29:57

Charming, beautiful.

0:29:570:29:59

Does it fit your dream of a country home?

0:29:590:30:02

-It's looking good.

-Good.

0:30:020:30:03

-Right, let's have a look inside.

-OK.

0:30:030:30:06

The property came with two large reception rooms with characterful

0:30:060:30:10

-features.

-Wow, what a lovely fireplace.

0:30:100:30:14

-It's impressive, isn't it?

-My cat would love that window seat.

0:30:140:30:17

-In the sun.

-A place for the cat, that's huge inglenook,

0:30:170:30:20

although there is not a working fire in there,

0:30:200:30:22

I think they've made good use of it as a TV sort of space.

0:30:220:30:26

So this house just keeps tumbling on,

0:30:260:30:28

and here we fall into a very huge kitchen.

0:30:280:30:32

-Gosh, that is big, isn't it?

-It's massive.

0:30:320:30:34

I think you could work well in this kitchen.

0:30:340:30:36

It has got a peaceful feeling about it.

0:30:360:30:38

Upstairs, this vast house featured seven bedrooms

0:30:380:30:42

-arranged over two floors.

-This is lovely.

0:30:420:30:46

-Beautiful.

-Yeah, and a nice window seat again.

0:30:460:30:49

Lovely window seat. You've got the Victorian fireplace there.

0:30:490:30:53

-Oh, that's nice, yes.

-And it's a good-sized double,

0:30:530:30:55

-as are all of the bedrooms.

-And the original floor.

0:30:550:30:58

It was certainly a house that just kept on giving,

0:30:590:31:02

and there was plenty on offer outside,

0:31:020:31:04

including a double garage and separate annexe as well as a pool.

0:31:040:31:09

But how much was this sprawling property going to cost them?

0:31:090:31:13

Well, I think it would have to be at least £700,000.

0:31:130:31:17

-I would say 685.

-So, over your budget.

-Yes.

0:31:170:31:21

-Yeah.

-And I can see why you would say that.

0:31:210:31:24

Do you know what? You could afford this.

0:31:240:31:27

It's on the market at £650,000.

0:31:270:31:30

Wow! I can't believe that. All that house.

0:31:300:31:34

Bang on budget, Eugene and Jane were pleasantly surprised with the price,

0:31:350:31:39

but was it too much house to handle?

0:31:390:31:42

I really like this house. It's like a maze.

0:31:420:31:46

We'll have to buy an awful lot more furniture to fill it.

0:31:460:31:49

The thoughts are all very positive about it.

0:31:490:31:52

I think we're going to have to do some thinking though.

0:31:520:31:54

The only downside is it is absolutely huge,

0:31:540:31:58

and I really don't know how much

0:31:580:32:00

time I would have available to maintain a house of this size.

0:32:000:32:03

Well, our first two properties

0:32:100:32:11

certainly gave Jane and Eugene plenty to think about it,

0:32:110:32:14

both very different and both offering lots of options.

0:32:140:32:18

But now it was time to reveal our Mystery House to up the ante and the

0:32:180:32:21

grandeur, but also to combine an important element of compromise.

0:32:210:32:26

Their final house was in the village of Chedzoy.

0:32:260:32:30

It was a striking Grade II listed Victorian property,

0:32:300:32:34

but certain aspects of which were going to challenge them.

0:32:340:32:37

Now we've brought you to the heart of a village to see the old rectory.

0:32:370:32:42

-Right.

-Well, what do you think?

0:32:420:32:44

-Well, it's amazing.

-Lovely old place.

-It is large, too.

0:32:440:32:48

We are in the heart of the village,

0:32:480:32:50

and that does mean you compromise on something...

0:32:500:32:52

-Land.

-Yes.

-OK.

-So you've got this patch here,

0:32:520:32:55

and the garden over there that we'll come back to.

0:32:550:32:58

-Yeah.

-It would mean for the horses you would have to buy some land

0:32:580:33:01

a bit away. You've got farms close by.

0:33:010:33:04

Or perhaps rent some land.

0:33:040:33:06

-Come on, let's have a look inside.

-OK.

0:33:060:33:09

Although this one lacked land,

0:33:090:33:11

it more than delivered on period grandeur.

0:33:110:33:14

That's what you call a ceiling.

0:33:140:33:16

-Very stably.

-Grand. Impressed?

-I like it.

0:33:160:33:21

-You like it?

-Yeah, I do.

-What are you thinking, Jane?

0:33:210:33:24

Yes, I like it too.

0:33:240:33:25

The kitchen-diner was just off that impressive entrance hall.

0:33:250:33:28

-Compact.

-The actual kitchen area is a little small,

0:33:280:33:31

but this area here is lovely.

0:33:310:33:33

You're right, it's quite compact over here.

0:33:330:33:36

I mean, I guess if this was your kitchen

0:33:360:33:37

you might want to perhaps move the kitchen over to this side?

0:33:370:33:40

-Extend it out a bit more. All right, let's keep exploring.

-OK.

0:33:400:33:44

-And the grand tour continues.

-Oh, gosh.

-I like this.

0:33:470:33:50

-I like this too.

-Yes.

0:33:500:33:52

-It's beautiful.

-Yeah, I'm impressed with what I see.

0:33:520:33:55

It is very stately, isn't it?

0:33:550:33:56

I love the ceiling rows, and you've got these shuttered doors here.

0:33:560:34:01

Those shutters let onto a spacious summer room,

0:34:010:34:04

and but there was also a further stately reception room

0:34:040:34:06

with wood-panelled walls.

0:34:060:34:09

Upstairs there was a beautiful family bathroom

0:34:090:34:12

with a feature bath and five generously sized bedrooms.

0:34:120:34:15

-Let's look at the master.

-Oh, it's lovely, it's large.

0:34:150:34:19

-Look at this.

-It's humongous!

-It is.

0:34:190:34:22

You could divide this into four rooms.

0:34:220:34:25

-You're right.

-Impressed by the scale of the Mystery House,

0:34:250:34:29

Denise took Eugene and Jane outside to discuss the finances.

0:34:290:34:33

Tough question, but I have to ask, how much do you think it's worth?

0:34:330:34:37

It is a very tough question, but I would say 625,000?

0:34:370:34:43

I'm going to go for 595,000.

0:34:430:34:46

595.

0:34:460:34:48

You both think you can afford it?

0:34:480:34:51

-Oh, yes.

-And we do need some money left over

0:34:510:34:53

so you can find some land for the horses.

0:34:530:34:56

-Yes.

-Yes.

-So how about this figure?

0:34:560:34:58

£550,000.

0:34:580:35:01

-Wow.

-Wow.

-I wasn't expecting that.

0:35:010:35:04

-No, I wasn't.

-I shocked you, Eugene.

-You did.

0:35:040:35:08

What do you think of that?

0:35:080:35:10

Well, amazed.

0:35:110:35:13

-Staggered.

-Yes.

-Now you've made our life extremely difficult.

0:35:130:35:15

Yes, you have.

0:35:150:35:17

£100,000 below budget,

0:35:170:35:19

the price of the Mystery House

0:35:190:35:21

had surprised Jane and Eugene and the

0:35:210:35:24

cogs were beginning to spin.

0:35:240:35:25

This house is giving me lots to think about,

0:35:250:35:28

because I really love this house.

0:35:280:35:31

It's got everything except the paddock.

0:35:310:35:35

The land isn't a factor for me.

0:35:350:35:37

I mean, we can rent some land for Jane to get a pony.

0:35:370:35:41

Or buy some.

0:35:410:35:44

Oh, final house.

0:35:440:35:46

What a great house it is.

0:35:460:35:48

But lots for you to think about now.

0:35:480:35:50

-So let's find somewhere for you to sit down.

-OK.

0:35:500:35:52

Eugene and Jane liked all three properties we showed them.

0:35:550:35:59

The first, that stylish barn conversion,

0:35:590:36:02

had got us off to a good start.

0:36:020:36:04

The second property - the vast Somerset long house

0:36:040:36:07

offered them lots of space both inside and out.

0:36:070:36:09

And, finally, our Victorian Gothic

0:36:110:36:13

Mystery House had the heart-of-village location,

0:36:130:36:16

but lacked the land they were after.

0:36:160:36:18

But which one would they go on to buy in the end?

0:36:180:36:21

Well, with three very strong contenders to consider,

0:36:240:36:27

it must've been a pretty difficult decision for Jane and Eugene to

0:36:270:36:30

finally settle on one.

0:36:300:36:32

But of course settled they eventually did.

0:36:320:36:34

On this one, that very stylish barn conversion.

0:36:340:36:37

Now, of course, last time we saw it, it was empty.

0:36:370:36:40

So I'm keen to see, not only how they furnished it,

0:36:400:36:43

but also to find out how country life

0:36:430:36:45

has been treating them over the last few years.

0:36:450:36:48

-Eugene!

-Hi.

-Very nice to meet you, I'm Jules.

0:37:010:37:03

-Hello, Jane.

-Hi.

-How are you?

-Nice to meet you.

0:37:030:37:06

-Who are these two?

-That's Max, and there's Rubin.

0:37:060:37:09

Come on, you two. In you come.

0:37:090:37:11

Well, I gather you've been quite busy over the last few years?

0:37:110:37:13

-We have, yes.

-Go on, then, after you.

0:37:130:37:15

Wow, this is very impressive.

0:37:200:37:22

You have filled it, haven't you?

0:37:220:37:24

-We certainly have.

-It's amazing, isn't it?

0:37:240:37:27

You've really transformed this space.

0:37:270:37:30

We've added the log burner...

0:37:300:37:31

-Yeah.

-Which is obviously very nice in the wintertime.

0:37:310:37:34

-Yeah.

-That's Jane's choice.

0:37:340:37:36

Really furnished beautifully, actually.

0:37:360:37:38

-Thank you.

-Thanks very much.

0:37:380:37:39

Now, the kitchen looks as gorgeous today

0:37:390:37:42

as it did when you first saw it.

0:37:420:37:45

I mean, that was clearly a major selling point, wasn't it?

0:37:450:37:48

Oh, absolutely, for me it was, yes.

0:37:480:37:49

-Come on, let's have a look down there.

-Yes, come through.

0:37:490:37:52

Yes, it's another wow, clearly, isn't it?

0:37:550:37:58

-And look at the views.

-Oh, lovely, yes.

0:37:580:38:00

Yes, it is a spectacular view.

0:38:000:38:03

Which half of this house do you tend to use more, do you think?

0:38:030:38:08

-Well, for me, this side, but...

-This side, but down that end.

0:38:080:38:12

-Down that end, yeah.

-That's where my office is.

0:38:120:38:15

But, must be great for parties, you know?

0:38:150:38:17

-Oh, yeah.

-It would be, yes.

-It would be? Have you not had any?

0:38:170:38:21

-We haven't had one yet.

-Hang on a minute, in how many years?

0:38:210:38:24

What, eight years? I think you need to have more parties,

0:38:240:38:27

that's for sure. Because this kitchen, crying out for parties,

0:38:270:38:30

isn't it? People milling around, moving around the space,

0:38:300:38:32

sharing a drink and a chat.

0:38:320:38:34

It's great, isn't it? I'm intrigued to find out just what Jane and

0:38:340:38:38

Eugene have been up to since moving to Somerset.

0:38:380:38:41

I think the only bit of structural work they've done to the property

0:38:410:38:44

-might be a clue.

-Yeah, so this is my office.

0:38:440:38:48

Oh, that's nice. And you've grabbed the views, haven't you?

0:38:480:38:51

Very much so. Yeah, nice.

0:38:510:38:54

Eugene's home office was created by

0:38:540:38:56

dividing the huge downstairs bedroom into two rooms.

0:38:560:39:00

And they've still managed to keep the other half as a guest suite.

0:39:000:39:03

This is a crazy big space.

0:39:030:39:05

So you basically put in this partition wall...

0:39:050:39:08

-Yep. It's a nice size now.

-Yeah, it really is.

0:39:080:39:11

Also, you can lay in bed and look at the Quantocks through the doors

0:39:110:39:14

there...which is quite nice.

0:39:140:39:16

It's clear that business comes first for Eugene,

0:39:160:39:19

who runs his own medical supplies company.

0:39:190:39:22

Whereas Jane works for the NHS Blood and Tissue Service and travels the

0:39:220:39:26

country in her job.

0:39:260:39:28

So has that prevented them from

0:39:280:39:29

immersing themselves in the community and

0:39:290:39:32

truly embracing country life?

0:39:320:39:34

Has it been a good move?

0:39:340:39:36

Good and bad, a mixture.

0:39:360:39:39

OK, so let's talk through the bad points first.

0:39:390:39:41

Well, it should have been a good point because the reason I wanted

0:39:410:39:45

to come here was to have a horse outside,

0:39:450:39:48

look out my bedroom window and see my horse in a paddock.

0:39:480:39:51

So I went out riding one day to try this horse before I bought it,

0:39:510:39:54

and next thing I know I'm a laying on the ground and I've fractured my

0:39:540:39:57

spine in two places.

0:39:570:39:59

So...I had to wear a scoliosis frame for three months.

0:39:590:40:03

Although I have been riding since,

0:40:030:40:05

because I don't let things like that beat me,

0:40:050:40:07

it suddenly is not very attractive any more.

0:40:070:40:09

So, I've got a sports car instead.

0:40:090:40:11

But how lucky you were to walk away from that accident!

0:40:110:40:14

Oh, absolutely, yes, yeah, I realised that,

0:40:140:40:16

which is why I have not followed through and got a horse.

0:40:160:40:20

You've still ended up with a house with land, which is very lovely.

0:40:200:40:23

And it's nice to look out from your kitchen window and think

0:40:230:40:26

that what you see is yours.

0:40:260:40:27

I suppose the dogs must love it, Eugene.

0:40:270:40:29

They do. I walk them most days. Sometimes through business I can't,

0:40:290:40:36

but I always try and make the effort to walk them first thing in the

0:40:360:40:41

morning. I mean, from a business

0:40:410:40:43

point of view for me, it's a good location.

0:40:430:40:45

Because I'm somewhat central to the areas that I travel to.

0:40:450:40:50

That's clearly given you more time,

0:40:500:40:52

leisure time for you to enjoy the house...

0:40:520:40:55

He's a workaholic.

0:40:550:40:57

Right, OK, see I was thinking, oh,

0:40:570:40:59

great you have loads of time on your hands.

0:40:590:41:01

No, far from it. I just work long hours.

0:41:010:41:05

Both Eugene and Jane are clearly committed to their jobs,

0:41:050:41:09

leaving them with little leisure time.

0:41:090:41:11

But when they do get a chance to explore the area,

0:41:110:41:14

they could come here to the beautiful Quantock Hills

0:41:140:41:16

with their dogs Rubin and Max.

0:41:160:41:18

It's just a few miles from their home.

0:41:180:41:21

So how often do you get up here?

0:41:210:41:23

Not very often at all to be honest.

0:41:230:41:24

-Not very often?!

-Nope.

0:41:240:41:26

-Why?

-We're always working.

0:41:260:41:29

You see, I think you need to address this work thing.

0:41:290:41:33

Is it true to say that you might have moved to the countryside

0:41:330:41:37

a bit too early to slow down?

0:41:370:41:40

I think so, yeah. We both love our

0:41:400:41:42

work and I don't want to be old and retired yet, so...

0:41:420:41:45

I'm quite happy working.

0:41:460:41:48

But it seems a shame in a way that

0:41:480:41:49

you've got all this on your doorstep

0:41:490:41:51

and you seem to be missing out on it, Eugene.

0:41:510:41:53

Well, I do come up here occasionally walking.

0:41:530:41:58

But certainly we don't take advantage of it like we should.

0:41:580:42:04

So my final question to you,

0:42:040:42:06

I'm not sure I want to ask you, but any regrets?

0:42:060:42:10

No, no regrets, no.

0:42:110:42:13

You have to do what you want to do in life.

0:42:130:42:15

And see what happens.

0:42:150:42:17

Life is an experience.

0:42:170:42:18

You can't go through life regretting, can you?

0:42:180:42:22

Well, this week we've seen two very

0:42:270:42:29

different Escape To The Country tales.

0:42:290:42:32

With Derek and Alison, we saw

0:42:320:42:33

a couple who've clearly immersed themselves in their community,

0:42:330:42:37

and they have transformed their gorgeous property

0:42:370:42:39

to make it everything they hoped it would be.

0:42:390:42:42

They seem to have country life exactly where they want it.

0:42:420:42:46

But as for Jane in Eugene, well, sadly,

0:42:460:42:48

their escape to the country dream

0:42:480:42:50

hasn't quite worked out the way they hoped it would.

0:42:500:42:52

Now they say they have no regrets,

0:42:520:42:55

and I guess the truth is you'll never know until you try.

0:42:550:42:59

But at least they did. I will see you next time.

0:42:590:43:02

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

0:43:020:43:06

England or Northern Ireland and would also like our help,

0:43:060:43:09

then why not apply online at...

0:43:090:43:11

Jules Hudson returns to rural Somerset to be reunited with a retired couple, now happily living in the character home they all first saw together. As well as seeing the impressive alterations they've made to their country home, Jules discovers how they have immersed themselves in community life, including returning to work as a local church minister. Jules also catches up with other house buyers, who despite a hectic working life and serious setbacks along the way, have managed to make their personal mark on the property they purchased.