Welsh Borders I Escaped to the Country


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Welsh Borders

Alistair Appleton revisits the Welsh Border region and is reunited with a house-hunting couple who had a £475,000 budget and serious ambitions to start a smallholding.


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Making the move from city to countryside

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is often a momentous step.

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Never in a million years I would imagine I would be seeing a house

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like this, never ever.

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But for many years,

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Escape To The Country has been

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helping countless people find their new home.

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What do we think of this?

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Oh, my! Chocolate box!

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

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Take a look at that killer view.

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-That's amazing.

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

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How pretty is that?

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..that our buyers just couldn't resist.

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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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Ta-da!

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..to find out how the move changed their lives

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when they escaped to the country.

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Today I'm in Powys, in amongst the Berwyn Mountains,

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and this is Lake Vyrnwy.

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Back in the 1880s,

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a reservoir was created by damming a river to supply fresh water for the

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city of Liverpool.

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Now, it's a nature reserve full of wonderful species of birds but I'm

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not here to admire the wildlife, or the beautiful scenery,

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I've come to visit a couple who bought one of the houses I showed

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them on Escape To The Country,

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to find out how their life in the countryside is unfolding.

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Our original property search covered the mid-Welsh borders,

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including Powys and the English counties

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of Shropshire and Herefordshire.

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It's the rural beauty,

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space and value for money of the region that attracted today's couple,

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to relocate here from Hampshire.

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I'll be catching up with Carl and Nicky,

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who I first met in 2015 and who now own a generous slice

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of this beautiful border countryside, where they're enjoying the good life.

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Two years ago, HR manager Nicky and her security manager fiance Carl

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first contacted us for help.

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Back in the summer of 2015,

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they were living in the Hampshire town of Farnborough,

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and plans were afoot not just to buy a house together...

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We're going to get married in about four months' time.

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We made the decision to move, put the house on the market,

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and it sold so quickly. We were looking at wedding venues,

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found the perfect venue.

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Carl has been a bit kind of, "Oh, this is moving a bit too fast."

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I've been, "It'll be fine, it'll be fine."

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And I'm, like, "OK, OK, we're getting married now."

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But taking on two such big life decisions at the same time did not

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faze them.

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They had already set their sights on the ideal location to start their

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married life.

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We're looking to move close to Oswestry up in Shropshire.

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Just outside the Shropshire hills, very close to the Welsh border.

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We've gone up a couple of times, had a look around,

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it has really cemented in our minds that that is the area we want to go

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-and live in.

-Once we started looking and realised how beautiful it is up

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there, it really did make our minds up, that's where we want to go.

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Carl's three grown-up children weren't making the move,

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but he and Nicky did have plans to share their house.

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I spent a lot of my earlier years living in the country.

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Very horsey.

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I want to get a horse again.

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So I'll be out riding.

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We've got a few chickens now, so we want to get a few more.

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And Carl wants to get some pigs.

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The outdoor space is really important.

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Five acres is kind of a minimum.

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Yeah.

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With land to fulfil their smallholding ambitions at the top of their wishlist,

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they also wanted a property

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with a large kitchen diner for keen cook Carl,

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three bedrooms and a study.

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They had a healthy budget of £475,000 and were happy to consider

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properties on either side of the border.

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For our first visit, we travelled to the village of Ellerdine Heath,

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in the north-east of Shropshire.

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It was a modern property that majored on rural seclusion and outside space.

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What do you think?

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It's a bungalow.

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It is a bungalow! Yes, built in the 1980s, in 1980, in fact,

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and then the present owner has been here 17 years,

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they have completely remodelled and added this huge outbuilding.

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There's also a lot of land.

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You did say you wanted land.

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Well, I don't mind the bungalow.

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It looks a bit small from the front.

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Have you got the extra buildings there because it is small inside?

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Let's have a look and see if we can win you over.

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It's fair to say their initial reactions were lukewarm.

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But I was hopeful once Nicky had put her bungalow bugbear to one side

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that they'd both like the internal space.

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If you pop yourself here, then you can see both

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sides, you've got the big sitting room, with the log burner,

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and then a big dining room with double doors out into the gardens.

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It's nice, it's very much our style.

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That's good. Because you were wrinkling your nose outside.

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I know. Bungalow!

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Pleasantly surprised.

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Excited to see more.

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Come through and look here.

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Carl, this is your domain.

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What do you think of the kitchen?

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It's very nice,

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little bit smaller than we were looking for but it's a very nice layout,

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it's got everything you need, plenty of space to work in.

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Behind us, there is a double garage.

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So you could eventually knock through that and make this one huge

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kitchen dining room, breakfast room.

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Yeah, definitely an idea.

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Really good solution to get that large space for entertaining.

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Across the hall were four good-sized bedrooms,

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with one of them being used as a study,

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along with a spacious master suite.

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It's interesting because the house is much bigger inside than you think.

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-It's a good size.

-Yeah.

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And lots of cupboards.

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Lots of cupboards and a little en-suite shower room here.

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Fantastic.

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-I'm really surprised.

-It's very nice.

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-Really good size.

-Is it growing on you?

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It is, very much.

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Don't take the quiet as not liking,

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it's the surprise, more than anything.

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With Nicky and Carl warming to the idea of one-level living,

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we went outside to explore the all-important land,

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which included a huge front lawn and at the back a great garden with

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numerous outbuildings and fields behind,

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amounting to five acres in total.

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It's a lot. It's good, though.

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-Enough?

-Yeah, good land.

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-I'm liking it.

-I'm liking it.

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The only missing part of the puzzle is the price,

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so what do you think this is on the market for?

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Over budget, definitely over budget, because of the outbuildings.

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I'm going to say, it's on at 485,000.

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I'm going to go a little bit lower than that but say right at the

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top of our budget, 475.

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Hopefully.

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Well, in this instance, Nicky is uncannily correct,

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it's actually on the market for £485,000.

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But it has been on the market for a while,

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they did reduce it to that price.

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So there could be leeway to get it down to your budget.

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£10,000 over budget, the first property had delivered

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just about everything they'd asked for.

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Wasn't what I was expecting.

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I saw the outbuildings as I walked in and thought, they're great,

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but the property,

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bit worried because it is a bungalow,

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but once we walked inside I could see

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the way, the layout of the place, really good space.

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Really alleviated any fears I might have had.

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The land is perfect, really, it's a good-sized plot.

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The garden is just a blank canvas, we can do so much here,

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put in a veggie plot.

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It's exciting. It's making me...

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Yes.

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-Hello.

-Hello.

-Good, OK, well, that is house number one,

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so don't be too excited/disheartened because of the price.

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-We've got another one to show you.

-OK.

-Excellent.

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For our second stop, we hopped over the border into Wales, to Meifod,

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a pretty village of stone properties, in a rural setting.

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The property I showed Nicky and Carl enjoyed a prime spot.

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Take a look at that killer view.

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-That is lovely.

-Certainly is.

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And all of this is yours. Those fields with the horses,

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two more fields that go down, all the way down to the road,

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this beautiful garden.

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The vegetable garden.

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We've got it all going on outside.

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Certainly has. It's nice that it's broken up as well.

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It kind of works that way.

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They clearly like the land on offer,

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but what do they make of the house itself?

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Feast your eyes on this.

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A very different offering.

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-It's very different.

-The thing about this property is the house I think will need

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a bit of work. What are your first thoughts from the outside?

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Coming up the drive, seeing the side of the house, thinking,

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it's going to be a small cottage.

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Actually, you can see...

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It's extended out...

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You see the full scope of it.

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I'm surprised once you get round here.

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The house had originally started life as

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a two-up two-down late Georgian

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cottage but had been extended over the years.

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Right. OK, so this is the oldest part of the house,

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where you are standing, behind you,

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is the original full extent of the cottage.

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This would have been the back wall.

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Down there where we came in that would have been the staircases,

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that is now a boot room, and on the other side,

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there's a great big walk-in larder.

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So you can see it's a bit higgledy-piggledy and it needs a bit of love.

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Yes, but it's still a good size, the rooms aren't too small.

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Sometimes you get with the old buildings,

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the rooms sometimes feel a bit claustrophobic.

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But you don't get that in here, which is good.

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We then moved from the old to the new.

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It's a change of pace when you come into this part of the house.

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You can see that it's not the same building, if that makes sense.

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It's a good-sized room, though.

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And it's really bright.

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It's difficult, coming from the bungalow, because it was so nicely done

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and this is a little bit dated.

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But in some ways, that's nice,

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because you'll be able to put your own stamp on it.

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If it's in the budget.

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-Yes...

-Well, you worry me now you said that.

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Don't want to jump the gun. Come through back here and you can get

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an idea of the rest of the layout.

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I just want to stop here because this will give us a bit of bearings.

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There's this fantastically light and bright room here, huge volume.

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My initial thought was, that would make a lovely kitchen.

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-Yes.

-It's big.

-You could have an island in the middle.

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Oh, yeah! I like your thinking there.

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And then you've got this massive sort of hallway with a huge landing.

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-Wow.

-Wow, indeed.

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Upstairs there were three bedrooms, in the older part of the house,

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including a master suite with views out over the valley.

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It does have a little shower room en suite.

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-OK.

-OK.

-Good space, again.

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Looks all right, yeah.

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-Again, definitely...

-Needs updating.

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Yeah, definitely potential again.

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The reason we bought you here was not because of the house,

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although I think the house has amazing potential, it was because of the land.

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Although the property required some creative thinking,

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the land was the real selling point and we ventured outside to discuss

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the finances.

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What do you think this property with the view and the land is

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-worth?

-You can go first this time.

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It's a difficult one, this.

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I'm going to go for £440,000.

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I think it will be £430,000.

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Well, in this instance, you're both pretty close,

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but if you split the difference, you would be spot on,

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it's on at £435,000.

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-That is a good price.

-It is a good price.

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£40,000 below budget,

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the second property had come up trumps on land but it was clear

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the house needed some money spent on it to bring it up-to-date.

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It's a fantastic house but it's going to take some work to get it to

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what we would want it to be but it's definitely got the potential there.

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This house has thrown me a little bit because it's so much different

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to the bungalow. It needs a bit of TLC, some modernising.

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I think I may have found your G&T spot.

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This is lovely.

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The only thing is, you have to buy this house.

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-That may be an option.

-May be an option.

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I know it's difficult, but don't worry because we've got the mystery house tomorrow

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-to confuse you even more.

-Just what I need!

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Come with me.

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Nicky and Carl seemed quite overwhelmed by those two properties

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even though the second one in particular requires quite a lot of love.

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But I still haven't shown them the mystery house and this was going to

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really throw the cat among the pigeons, particularly for Carl.

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So what are your thoughts about the mystery house,

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what do you think we might serve to you next?

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I think this might be...

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..a really nice house but maybe not so much land.

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We are sat here, we can't work out between us what it's going to be.

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Good job it's a mystery, then.

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Our last property was back over the border in Shropshire,

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in the hamlet of Ash.

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Carl and Nicky were spot on with their predictions because the

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mystery house was going to test whether they would give up their dream of land for

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a really beautiful property.

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This is a good mystery house.

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Wow. I wasn't expecting that.

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It's not the whole house.

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-Ah.

-Ah.

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But, it is this whole front portion, and all of this is yours.

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So the mystery about it is one, that it's attached,

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it is a big old 1850s house, split into three,

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there is two houses at the back, but it's completely private.

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The other part of the mystery is, you were right,

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-you don't get as much land.

-Right, OK.

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So it's all about the house here.

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-Looks amazing.

-It's a special house.

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-It is.

-It is, yes.

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Can't wait to see inside, actually.

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Well, it's all about the house, so let's get inside.

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This mid-19th-century mystery property had been impeccably refurbished.

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Carl, this might be your...

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Ooh.

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..big kitchen diner.

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OK, sold!

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It's fantastic. This is exactly what I had in mind.

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Amazing views.

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I feel all choked up, actually!

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-Do you?

-Yeah.

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Not going to be able to afford it.

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We've only seen one room. We can compromise on the land.

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We've only seen the hallway and the kitchen.

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Already blown away.

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Just off the kitchen was a conservatory for summer dining,

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and the rest of the ground floor had a stately feel to it.

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This is the living room.

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Too small!

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THEY LAUGH

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That view, it's amazing.

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It's all about the views, this house.

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We've moved in!

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-I don't know what to say.

-That's the third house you've moved into.

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I know, you've done a bit too well!

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What's lovely about it, all these original features, the deep windows,

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all the walls are about 18 inches thick, and through there you can see the arch

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that takes you into a similarly sized dining room,

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with similarly fantastic views.

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-We could get married here.

-Yeah, cancel the venue.

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Upstairs, there were four bedrooms, which were all a good size.

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Here we are, in the master bedroom.

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Wow. It really is a master bedroom.

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It's huge.

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And a great view.

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So the house is top marks?

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-Yes.

-Oh, top marks.

-So let's see what we can do with the compromise about the land.

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The grounds included a well-maintained lawn and a paddock.

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Although it was not the five acres of land they were after,

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it was nonetheless impressive.

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That is such a great view.

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What do you think of the outside?

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Is it a deal-breaker?

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For me, it isn't, I love it.

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That was always going to be a point of compromise, land versus house.

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I'm really battling with this one.

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I guess we need to know how much it costs,

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what do you think this is on the market for?

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I think it's on budget, I think it's 475,000.

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I think it might be over budget, I think about 490,000.

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OK, brace yourself,

0:17:250:17:26

the house has only been on the market for two or three weeks.

0:17:260:17:30

And it is marketed at £500,000.

0:17:300:17:34

OK.

0:17:340:17:35

But, the vendor has said he will sell it to you

0:17:350:17:38

for your top budget of 475.

0:17:380:17:40

Oh! So that's three houses now...

0:17:410:17:44

-How do you choose?

-Lots to think about.

0:17:440:17:46

The stunning mystery house had certainly charmed

0:17:480:17:51

one half of our couple.

0:17:510:17:53

When we walked round the corner and saw the house,

0:17:530:17:55

I couldn't believe that this was the mystery house,

0:17:550:17:59

the whole grandeur of the place,

0:17:590:18:00

I didn't think it would be anywhere close to our budget.

0:18:000:18:03

Carl is so in love with this house,

0:18:030:18:05

it's going to be a really difficult decision.

0:18:050:18:09

I feel that you're going to be discussing this for quite some time.

0:18:130:18:17

It's going to be an interesting car journey.

0:18:170:18:19

At the end of our house hunt, when we discussed their next step,

0:18:200:18:24

it seemed there was a division in the camp.

0:18:240:18:27

Nice spot you've found.

0:18:270:18:29

-Yes.

-Lovely.

-Very nice.

0:18:290:18:31

OK. Usually at this point, it's very obvious to me

0:18:320:18:34

which house you are going

0:18:340:18:35

to go for. But I'm sort of in the dark because you've kind of loved

0:18:350:18:39

-them all.

-You've got a definite favourite, haven't you?

0:18:390:18:41

I have now, after the mystery house.

0:18:410:18:44

That's my favourite, it really is.

0:18:440:18:46

Am I smelling a little bit of division here?

0:18:460:18:48

I think there's going to be a really big, long argument coming up.

0:18:480:18:52

-Discussion.

-Discussion, we're going to have a discussion.

0:18:520:18:55

Tell me about the Welsh house.

0:18:550:18:57

That's my favourite, that's got so much potential.

0:18:570:19:00

The location was fantastic, the views are amazing.

0:19:000:19:03

It has got the acreage we were looking for,

0:19:030:19:05

it's got the outbuildings,

0:19:050:19:07

and the garden's amazing.

0:19:070:19:09

Carl, what about the mystery house?

0:19:090:19:12

I still can't believe it's within our budget,

0:19:120:19:14

it's such a grand house and the space within the house is amazing.

0:19:140:19:18

You look terribly troubled!

0:19:180:19:21

It's good troubled.

0:19:230:19:24

You know, you've definitely opened our eyes.

0:19:240:19:27

I think the wedding might be off!

0:19:270:19:29

Don't say that, that's the last thing we want to happen!

0:19:290:19:31

Although they appreciated some aspects of property one,

0:19:330:19:35

I left Nicky and Carl at loggerheads debating the virtues of property two

0:19:350:19:40

in Powys, with all that potential and land,

0:19:400:19:43

versus the mystery manor house in Shropshire, a perfect wedding venue,

0:19:430:19:48

with a beautiful garden but alas no space for their smallholding.

0:19:480:19:52

It was a fine dilemma for them to be in,

0:19:530:19:55

but which of these two very different offerings would ultimately capture

0:19:550:20:00

both their hearts and win through?

0:20:000:20:02

For a moment there,

0:20:080:20:09

I thought that their wedding might be called off because Carl was so

0:20:090:20:13

in love with the partitioned manor house

0:20:130:20:16

and Nicky had her heart set on the Welsh smallholding,

0:20:160:20:20

but I am very glad to say they did get married and they did buy house

0:20:200:20:25

number two. So here I am in Powys,

0:20:250:20:28

to see how wedded bliss is working out for them.

0:20:280:20:31

Carl and Nicky moved into the Welsh smallholding in 2015 and two years

0:20:330:20:39

on, I'm keen to see how they've rung the changes,

0:20:390:20:41

including how many newcomers have been added to the fold.

0:20:410:20:45

-Hey.

-Hi, how're you?

-So nice to see you.

0:20:450:20:50

Carl, how're you doing?

0:20:500:20:51

Oh, who are these girls?

0:20:510:20:53

-That's Mia and Widget.

-Mia and Widget.

0:20:530:20:56

-They're new and new, right?

-Yes, they are, yes.

0:20:560:20:58

-Yeah.

-How's it going?

0:20:580:21:00

-It's fantastic, thank you.

-How's countryside living?

0:21:000:21:03

-Oh, it's brilliant.

-Is it?

-It is, yeah.

0:21:030:21:04

-Hard work!

-This view, I remember this view, it's so beautiful.

0:21:040:21:08

I'm so intrigued at what you've done with the house, because it's what,

0:21:080:21:12

-two years since we?

-Yeah, two years.

0:21:120:21:13

-Nearly, nearly, yeah.

-Show me around, show me around.

0:21:130:21:16

-Come on in.

-Come on, girls.

0:21:160:21:17

The exterior of the property has been re-rendered and the windows

0:21:180:21:22

replaced, but it's the interior that has really benefited from

0:21:220:21:26

some home improvement.

0:21:260:21:28

Back in 2015,

0:21:290:21:30

the ground floor of the house had a galley kitchen

0:21:300:21:33

and a large family room off the dining hall,

0:21:330:21:36

which we talked about turning into a large kitchen diner.

0:21:360:21:40

Two years on, this room looks very different.

0:21:400:21:44

-Ah...

-Ta-da.

-Ta-da!

-A bit different.

0:21:440:21:49

-You took my advice!

-I know.

-Oh, my God, it's amazing.

0:21:490:21:54

-And we're very pleased we did take that advice.

-Yeah.

0:21:540:21:57

Yeah, it's a lovely place to spend time in.

0:21:570:22:00

-It is.

-So, how soon after you moved in, did you get this done?

0:22:000:22:03

It was a year, a year later.

0:22:030:22:05

It was a year later we started knocking holes in the walls.

0:22:050:22:08

-Oh, really, you waited a year?

-Yeah.

0:22:080:22:10

It's just a great space, though, isn't it?

0:22:100:22:13

-It is.

-It's a real party room now, isn't it?

0:22:130:22:15

-Yeah.

-When people come up, so.

0:22:150:22:16

Because there was this really lovely space and it was like...

0:22:160:22:18

It's just really a through room.

0:22:180:22:20

-Yeah.

-It was a waste, this was just sort of a wasted space, really.

0:22:200:22:25

You have a huge island, gosh, I could play ping-pong on that!

0:22:250:22:29

We do, we've actually got a little table tennis set.

0:22:290:22:31

A sucker net and you just play over the top.

0:22:310:22:34

The dogs chase the ball!

0:22:340:22:36

It's good, people come over, I'm cooking,

0:22:380:22:41

they sit round and we can all drink some wine while cooking.

0:22:410:22:45

It's a great family space, isn't it?

0:22:450:22:47

-Yeah.

-It really works well.

0:22:470:22:48

-It is.

-Carl wanted an ideal space for cooking and the new kitchen is

0:22:480:22:53

now the focal point of the home,

0:22:530:22:55

with enough space for two huge sofas as well.

0:22:550:22:58

They've also put their own stamp on the living room.

0:22:580:23:01

This is beautiful.

0:23:020:23:03

Yeah, so this was orange.

0:23:030:23:06

That's right, it was weird, wasn't it?

0:23:060:23:08

-Yeah.

-But we could already see that it was all about these views.

0:23:080:23:11

It was, yeah.

0:23:110:23:12

That's why when we got the windows done,

0:23:120:23:14

we made sure we kept a nice big picture window over there.

0:23:140:23:16

-Yeah, yeah.

-Didn't spoil it with frame.

0:23:160:23:18

And new floor?

0:23:180:23:20

-New floor.

-Yes, yeah.

0:23:200:23:22

-Carl's fair hand.

-Yes.

0:23:220:23:24

-And ceiling.

-Woodburner?

0:23:240:23:26

-That was here before.

-Yeah.

0:23:260:23:28

Yeah, but we needed a room

0:23:280:23:31

-done.

-We did it sort of ready for the first winter,

0:23:310:23:33

so we could have the logburner on and sit somewhere cosy,

0:23:330:23:36

so we wanted to sit somewhere that was, you know, to our taste as well,

0:23:360:23:39

while we relaxed.

0:23:390:23:40

With so much space here for the two of them,

0:23:410:23:44

the older part of the house hasn't dramatically altered since they've

0:23:440:23:47

moved in.

0:23:470:23:48

-You've still got the old kitchen.

-Still got the old kitchen!

0:23:500:23:54

Anything we can cook that might be a bit smelly or messy,

0:23:540:23:56

we can still do out here and not ruin the new one.

0:23:560:23:59

There was another big room at the end, wasn't there?

0:23:590:24:01

Yes, that's our office now.

0:24:010:24:02

Ah, OK.

0:24:020:24:03

Having taken on my thoughts with the kitchen renovation,

0:24:050:24:08

I can see how they could make use of this room.

0:24:080:24:11

I think you should take all this out, sell the range,

0:24:110:24:14

get good money for that. Take all this out,

0:24:140:24:16

keep the tiles and then just keep this whole area as a sort of really

0:24:160:24:20

nice boot room, with bench and some storage for your clothes.

0:24:200:24:24

-Because you've got all your white goods here, have this as a bit of a utility room.

-Yeah.

0:24:240:24:28

For washing the dogs and the dog stuff.

0:24:280:24:30

-That's a good idea.

-It is a good idea, because we could bring,

0:24:300:24:33

-we've got a freezer in the...

-Then you can sort of reinstate the front

0:24:330:24:36

door so people come in and they've got a proper kind of grand hall.

0:24:360:24:40

Another good idea. I'll come back in five years' time,

0:24:400:24:44

if you could just carry that one out for me, that would be great.

0:24:440:24:48

It's clear they've already made a lot of changes to the property in

0:24:480:24:51

the two years they've been here,

0:24:510:24:52

and there are plans to continue those home improvements.

0:24:520:24:56

Outside, I'm intrigued to find out how they resolved their differences

0:24:560:25:01

on the house choice.

0:25:010:25:03

Such a lovely spot and such a great view!

0:25:030:25:06

-I know.

-It is fabulous.

0:25:060:25:07

We bought the house for that more than the house, I think.

0:25:070:25:10

Well, I remember you weren't sure about which house to buy,

0:25:100:25:12

you wanted the mystery house, didn't you?

0:25:120:25:14

-I did.

-How did you resolve that?

-It was an interesting conversation.

0:25:140:25:17

I think you'd almost, we'd convinced each other to go the other way,

0:25:170:25:20

-hadn't we?

-Yeah.

0:25:200:25:22

You'd persuaded yourself for this one and I'd persuaded

0:25:220:25:25

myself on the mystery house, I think,

0:25:250:25:26

by the time we'd got back to Farnborough.

0:25:260:25:28

Yes, on the drive back, a lot of discussion.

0:25:280:25:31

He said if we could get it under budget then we'd have

0:25:310:25:34

-this one.

-Yeah.

-And what did you pay in the end, can I ask?

0:25:340:25:38

What did we pay in the end?

0:25:380:25:40

It was 450...?

0:25:400:25:42

-No.

-No?

0:25:420:25:43

-430.

-430.

-430.

0:25:430:25:45

-Getting mixed up!

-So a bit under the asking price?

0:25:450:25:47

-It was.

-Yes.

-A little bit.

-Yeah.

0:25:470:25:49

It was accepted pretty quickly, it was June.

0:25:490:25:53

We moved at the end of August.

0:25:530:25:55

We got married on the 20th and moved on the 25th.

0:25:550:25:58

That's right, you were right up against the marriage date, wasn't it?

0:25:580:26:01

-Yes.

-So you got married back near Farnborough?

0:26:010:26:04

-Yeah.

-Yep.

-How was it?

0:26:040:26:05

It was fantastic, it was a lovely day.

0:26:050:26:07

Lovely. We're still waiting for our honeymoon, but...

0:26:070:26:10

This is your honeymoon!

0:26:100:26:12

This is the honeymoon, that's what I keep saying!

0:26:120:26:14

I thought honeymoons were supposed to be relaxing!

0:26:140:26:17

Living the dream.

0:26:170:26:18

They clearly like a challenge.

0:26:180:26:20

It's amazing to think they moved down here just five days

0:26:200:26:24

after their wedding.

0:26:240:26:25

Carl has also continued to travel around the country for his work as

0:26:250:26:29

a security operations manager.

0:26:290:26:32

How is it with the commuting, the travelling?

0:26:320:26:34

Erm, yeah, it does add up, 36,000 miles I think, roughly, a year,

0:26:340:26:38

that's personal and business.

0:26:380:26:40

So, you know... Obviously still go and see friends and family down south,

0:26:400:26:44

and it's 400 miles every time you do that.

0:26:440:26:46

Yeah, but,

0:26:470:26:49

you get used to it, I think.

0:26:490:26:51

And are you thinking, "Ooh, I want to pack it in...?"

0:26:510:26:53

Oh, I mean I'm sure most people who are still working when they move somewhere like this,

0:26:530:26:59

it's kind of a dream to be able to give up work and do something

0:26:590:27:04

here. But, you know, we're both realistic.

0:27:040:27:08

To do what we want to do here, we need to earn the money.

0:27:080:27:10

Everything just takes so long.

0:27:100:27:12

Yeah, it is just...

0:27:120:27:14

That's the thing you get used to as well.

0:27:140:27:16

When we used to live in a normal house on a street,

0:27:160:27:20

if we were doing something in the garden and you need tools for it and

0:27:200:27:23

you forget to take something, the shed's just there.

0:27:230:27:25

So we're down in the field and I've forgotten something and you've got

0:27:250:27:28

to walk all the way back up here, that's ten minutes gone straightaway.

0:27:280:27:31

We've got walkie-talkie radios.

0:27:310:27:33

-Have you?

-For outside, we can talk to each other.

0:27:330:27:36

-Do you go over and out?

-Rubber ducky and all that.

-Oh, yeah!

0:27:360:27:39

Later on, I might need those walkie-talkies,

0:27:400:27:43

as I explore Carl and Nicky's six-acre smallholding

0:27:430:27:47

and help with feeding time.

0:27:470:27:49

Get off my trousers, you big porker!

0:27:490:27:51

But first, here's a reminder of some other house-hunting highlights.

0:27:530:27:57

Over the years, we've combed the length and breadth of the UK with

0:28:040:28:08

our house-buyers. They've all been armed with different budgets and a desire

0:28:080:28:12

to improve the quality of their life by a move to the country.

0:28:120:28:17

It's such a satisfying outcome when they go on and make that all-important

0:28:170:28:21

offer on a house we've shown them.

0:28:210:28:24

That was certainly the case in spring 2014,

0:28:250:28:28

when Jules Hudson was in Scotland with wildlife enthusiast Dave and

0:28:280:28:32

his wife, Kathleen.

0:28:320:28:33

They wanted to escape to the peaceful surroundings of the Highlands.

0:28:340:28:38

With their Bristol home already sold,

0:28:390:28:41

they were living in a caravan and hoped their £325,000 budget would

0:28:410:28:46

buy them a traditional three-bedroom property

0:28:460:28:49

set in a quarter of an acre of land.

0:28:490:28:51

The quirky mystery house was the most modern of our line-up and provided

0:28:530:28:57

Dave with his own bird hide.

0:28:570:28:59

There you go. What do you reckon?

0:29:010:29:03

Well, unusual shape.

0:29:030:29:05

From the air, it's effectively an octagon,

0:29:050:29:08

but they've removed this central section to create a more sort of formal entrance way.

0:29:080:29:12

But because it's an octagon,

0:29:120:29:13

it has these huge picture windows on most sides of it,

0:29:130:29:16

designed to take in everything you can see.

0:29:160:29:18

-Lovely.

-The list of species here was so long, I had to write it down.

0:29:180:29:23

This is to whet your appetite, mate. You ready?

0:29:230:29:25

-Yeah.

-Merlin, red kites, oystercatchers, curlews, lapwings, plovers,

0:29:250:29:30

salmon dancing around in the water, sandpipers, housemartins, owls.

0:29:300:29:36

They have occasionally seen an otter.

0:29:360:29:38

Roe deer and, of course, red squirrels.

0:29:380:29:40

Wow!

0:29:400:29:41

Excellent, well we got the reaction I was hoping for.

0:29:430:29:46

And wait till you get inside,

0:29:460:29:47

I think there'll be one or two more wows as well.

0:29:470:29:50

-Uh-huh. Oh, my gosh.

-So think of it as a house that's a hide.

0:29:500:29:54

-Yeah.

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

0:29:540:29:57

Because of its shape, the room proportions were quite unconventional.

0:29:570:30:01

Look at this, you've got this sort of galleried hallway.

0:30:040:30:07

-Gosh.

-And then, in here we've got you a sort of dining entrance way.

0:30:070:30:14

-That's interesting.

-Isn't it?

0:30:140:30:15

Interesting shape, isn't it?

0:30:150:30:17

-Goodness me.

-All the rooms are that shape,

0:30:170:30:19

which means you get these enormous windows,

0:30:190:30:22

letting the light and the view in.

0:30:220:30:23

Oh, what a view!

0:30:230:30:25

Although the house only dated to the 1970s,

0:30:250:30:28

there were hints to the architectural heritage of the area.

0:30:280:30:32

A certain sort of almost baronial feel to it because they've incorporated a nice

0:30:320:30:36

bit of stonework there.

0:30:360:30:38

It's lovely, really lovely.

0:30:380:30:40

I get the feeling this is a house that you genuinely could see yourselves

0:30:420:30:46

-enjoying?

-I think I could.

0:30:460:30:47

There was also a kitchen with a range,

0:30:490:30:51

and upstairs gave them five bedrooms,

0:30:510:30:54

all with great views of the surrounding countryside.

0:30:540:30:57

And this is your room, we're thinking,

0:30:580:31:01

because it has a lovely little en suite in there.

0:31:010:31:04

-Lovely.

-And again...

0:31:040:31:05

Oh, gosh.

0:31:050:31:06

-..views for the wildlife.

-Breathtaking!

0:31:060:31:08

-Stunning.

-It's incredible.

0:31:100:31:11

Nobody's interested in the en suite, are they?

0:31:120:31:14

It's that that's really captured your imagination.

0:31:140:31:17

Dave and Kathleen were clearly captivated by the mystery octohouse which

0:31:170:31:22

was set in a third of an acre of land, but how much change, if any,

0:31:220:31:26

would they get from their £325,000 budget?

0:31:260:31:30

I think it must be pretty close to our max, so I would say 320.

0:31:300:31:36

I'd say we might even have to add a little bit to it,

0:31:370:31:40

so I'd say top-of-the-range, 325 plus 5-10, maybe.

0:31:400:31:45

OK, so over budget?

0:31:450:31:47

-Just about, yes.

-So, it's offers over 290,000.

0:31:470:31:53

Good heavens!

0:31:530:31:54

-How about that?

-Goodness!

0:31:540:31:57

-Yes.

-That's amazing.

0:31:570:31:59

And all this on the doorstep, too?

0:31:590:32:01

It's wonderful.

0:32:010:32:03

-That's incredible.

-I'm going to go off camera.

0:32:030:32:06

Oh, Kathleen, come back, come back!

0:32:060:32:09

You can have a cry with me, that's all right, Come on, come here!

0:32:090:32:12

With emotions running high,

0:32:120:32:14

Dave and Kathleen forged ahead and put an offer in

0:32:140:32:17

on the mystery house.

0:32:170:32:18

It was certainly a memorable moment in our Scottish property hunt portfolio.

0:32:180:32:23

Two years later, Nicky Chapman was helping a Croydon couple,

0:32:230:32:27

Paul and Sue, who were after a characterful home with room for

0:32:270:32:31

holiday guests in Devon. They had £750,000 to spend and, again,

0:32:310:32:37

it was the mystery house that really hit the mark.

0:32:370:32:39

You can look up now, and welcome...

0:32:400:32:42

-Oh, wow.

-..to your mystery house.

-Oh, wow.

-Wow!

0:32:420:32:45

That is gorgeous.

0:32:460:32:47

It is absolutely gob-smacking nice.

0:32:470:32:50

-Wow.

-I really like that.

0:32:510:32:53

Parts of this grade II-listed thatch dated back 400 years.

0:32:530:32:57

Come on in to your kitchen.

0:32:570:32:59

Oh, wow.

0:32:590:33:00

-Yeah.

-It's amazing, yeah.

0:33:000:33:02

-It is perfect.

-So a beautifully fitted kitchen, lots of space,

0:33:020:33:07

and then as you've probably spied,

0:33:070:33:08

you've got a garden room/conservatory.

0:33:080:33:10

-Wow.

-It is just too much to believe.

0:33:100:33:14

It's just perfect.

0:33:140:33:16

The sitting room had a wealth of character features.

0:33:160:33:19

Lots of little nooks and crannies, even the window, yeah, beautiful.

0:33:190:33:23

And upstairs had four good-sized bedrooms,

0:33:240:33:26

one of them had separate access to the garden,

0:33:260:33:29

so ideal for potential holiday guests.

0:33:290:33:32

You could rent this out,

0:33:320:33:33

they don't need to come into the rest of the house unless you wanted

0:33:330:33:36

them to and they can come and go as they please.

0:33:360:33:39

-Beautiful.

-Outside, there was an attractive cottage garden,

0:33:390:33:43

but would they be able to afford it?

0:33:430:33:45

So we've now got to look at the finances, haven't we,

0:33:450:33:48

for our mystery property?

0:33:480:33:50

Well, I think it's probably over our budget.

0:33:510:33:54

I'll go for 760.

0:33:540:33:55

-Fair enough.

-OK, and more out of hope, I'm going to go 750.

0:33:570:34:01

The asking price is offers in the region of £750,000.

0:34:020:34:07

-There you go.

-Wow.

0:34:070:34:09

-It's attainable.

-Yeah.

0:34:090:34:11

Yeah.

0:34:110:34:12

Paul and Sue were so enamoured with the mystery house,

0:34:120:34:15

they put in an offer.

0:34:150:34:17

But now it's time to return to Powys in Wales,

0:34:170:34:21

where Carl and Nicky have set up home.

0:34:210:34:23

Powys is a surprisingly large county.

0:34:250:34:28

It's about a quarter the size of Wales,

0:34:280:34:30

and within its boundaries there are 2,000 square miles of territory

0:34:300:34:35

stretching from the Snowdonia National Park in the north,

0:34:350:34:38

all the way down to the Brecon Beacons.

0:34:380:34:40

And within that rural landscape there are some real property gems,

0:34:400:34:45

and literally acres of potential for living the good life.

0:34:450:34:49

There's also a unique way to appreciate the landscape in all its glory.

0:34:500:34:55

Whilst in the county, I'm taking the opportunity to visit the Welshpool

0:34:550:34:59

and Llanfair Light Railway,

0:34:590:35:01

not far from Carl and Nicky's new home in Powys.

0:35:010:35:04

It was built in 1902 to link the small farming communities in the area to

0:35:040:35:09

the nearby market town of Welshpool.

0:35:090:35:11

The narrow gauge track was chosen specifically to handle tight curves

0:35:110:35:16

and steep gradients.

0:35:160:35:18

To help me understand what this region has to offer,

0:35:180:35:20

I'm taking a scenic trip along the line with stationmaster Callum Johnstone.

0:35:200:35:25

Good morning, Callum.

0:35:250:35:27

-Good morning, Alistair.

-What a beautiful beast.

0:35:270:35:29

Ah, great.

0:35:290:35:31

So, we're about to go?

0:35:310:35:33

We've got about three minutes before we go.

0:35:330:35:36

Let's get on board.

0:35:360:35:37

Still powered by a century-old locomotive that operated on the route when

0:35:390:35:43

it first opened, the eight-mile journey takes in river valleys,

0:35:430:35:47

viaducts and negotiates the steep Golfa Bank

0:35:470:35:51

as the track climbs its way through the Welsh landscape.

0:35:510:35:54

It's beautiful countryside.

0:35:550:35:57

We've been admiring the countryside all week.

0:35:570:35:59

Yeah.

0:35:590:36:00

The nice thing about this countryside is that it's not too,

0:36:000:36:03

not too rugged. It's undulating and interesting,

0:36:030:36:06

but it doesn't quite have the harshness if you go a bit further west.

0:36:060:36:10

Montgomeryshire's very well-known for its dome-shaped hills.

0:36:100:36:13

As we're curving across here,

0:36:140:36:16

we're going to move to the other side of the River Banwy.

0:36:160:36:19

This is one of our major structures, the Banwy Bridge.

0:36:190:36:23

And when the line was reopened, preservation,

0:36:230:36:26

it was one of the first almost disasters for the railway,

0:36:260:36:29

because this river comes up and down and it can be very fast flowing,

0:36:290:36:32

although not today - part of the pier was washed away.

0:36:320:36:37

Had it not been for the Army, who volunteered to do it as an exercise,

0:36:370:36:41

the line might probably not have continued to run.

0:36:410:36:44

Small railways like this transformed the rural economy in the late

0:36:450:36:49

19th century, by getting supplies

0:36:490:36:51

into remote communities and agricultural

0:36:510:36:54

produce out to the market.

0:36:540:36:56

Today, this heritage line is run by a committed group of volunteers like

0:36:570:37:01

Callum, who now divides his time working on the railway and running

0:37:010:37:05

his own gardening nursery business.

0:37:050:37:08

Have you always been here or did you also move into...?

0:37:080:37:10

We came here in '88.

0:37:100:37:12

I moved from Leicester.

0:37:120:37:13

I worked for Leicester City Parks,

0:37:130:37:15

and always wanted to set up a nursery, so.

0:37:150:37:17

So you escaped to the country?

0:37:170:37:19

Yes, indeed. We made a conscious decision to be self-employed,

0:37:190:37:24

to create our own opportunities.

0:37:240:37:26

If you come here and are looking for work, then you have to commute,

0:37:260:37:32

mostly, which to me,

0:37:320:37:35

that's a difficulty for me because part of living here is the lifestyle,

0:37:350:37:39

the pace and all that sort of thing, and if you're

0:37:390:37:43

having to commute to be able to enjoy it,

0:37:430:37:46

you're not getting the full benefit, are you?

0:37:460:37:49

Yeah, and also, I mean, you kind of want...

0:37:490:37:51

If you move here, you kind of want to spend as much time here as possible.

0:37:510:37:54

Yeah, absolutely.

0:37:540:37:56

Callum has found a way to earn an income and enjoy the countryside at

0:37:570:38:01

the same time, which is an ambition of Carl's in the future.

0:38:010:38:05

With that in mind, I'm returning to catch up with him and Nicky to find

0:38:050:38:09

out about their plans ahead.

0:38:090:38:10

Having seen the changes they've made to the house,

0:38:160:38:19

I'm keen to see what they've done with the land that came with the

0:38:190:38:21

property. The main motive for moving to the country was to establish a

0:38:210:38:25

smallholding, and two years on,

0:38:250:38:28

they're tending a whole menagerie of animals, including sheep, a pony,

0:38:280:38:33

six chickens and four pigs.

0:38:330:38:35

-Come on, little pigs.

-Come on.

0:38:350:38:37

Come on, little pigs.

0:38:370:38:38

It's feeding time.

0:38:380:38:40

Ooph!

0:38:430:38:44

They're hungry!

0:38:440:38:45

What kind of pigs are these?

0:38:480:38:50

They're British Lop. So quite a rare breed.

0:38:500:38:52

So do they end up on the table, can I ask?

0:38:520:38:54

They do, yes.

0:38:540:38:56

-Very tasty.

-Yes, the last ones were very tasty.

0:38:560:38:58

-Really?

-So they've got something to live up to, these guys.

0:38:580:39:02

Have you got plans to extend it, are you going to get more?

0:39:020:39:04

Yeah, I mean I'd like to start breeding eventually, I think.

0:39:040:39:09

But it's then the logistics,

0:39:090:39:11

of making sure we have a nice inside area for when the sows are ready.

0:39:110:39:14

So are you planning to kind of sell the meat?

0:39:140:39:17

That is the long-term plan for these girls, I think.

0:39:170:39:20

-Yeah.

-Yeah, if we can try and find a market, as well.

0:39:200:39:23

Because this is all the land as well, isn't it?

0:39:230:39:25

-It is.

-Is the idea that you're going to have a pig empire?

0:39:250:39:29

If we do the breeding, then, yes.

0:39:290:39:31

What about your lovely garden,

0:39:310:39:32

because I remember being really wowed by the potential there,

0:39:320:39:35

-have you got much done there?

-Erm, it's keeping on top of it.

0:39:350:39:38

We don't really know where to start,

0:39:380:39:40

so we've sort of been clearing out the nettles and the brambles and

0:39:400:39:44

managing those.

0:39:440:39:45

Extended the veg plot a little bit.

0:39:450:39:47

-Yeah.

-Already, so.

0:39:470:39:48

Get off me trousers, get off my trousers, you big porker!

0:39:480:39:52

Deriving an income from their pigs is part of a long-term plan to live off their land,

0:39:530:39:57

but maintaining a six-acre plot is hard work.

0:39:570:40:01

We've arranged for them to visit a local nursery for inspirational tips

0:40:020:40:07

on how to cultivate their garden from manager Jill Rock.

0:40:070:40:10

-Lovely to meet you.

-You too.

0:40:120:40:14

-This is Nicky and Carl.

-Hi.

0:40:140:40:15

-Hello.

-They moved into the area a couple of years ago.

0:40:150:40:17

Jill is going to solve all your gardening problems.

0:40:170:40:21

Maybe not all at once!

0:40:210:40:22

But fire away, she is a mine of information.

0:40:230:40:26

-Try to be!

-So what sort of plants grow well in this sort of environment?

0:40:260:40:30

Lots of things grow round here.

0:40:300:40:32

We get quite high rainfall but we get quite a lot of sun, as well.

0:40:320:40:34

-Yeah.

-So, you know,

0:40:340:40:36

you can make like micro climates in your garden as well,

0:40:360:40:39

by putting in some structure to start with.

0:40:390:40:42

So I think I'd start with working out what trees perhaps you want to get rid of.

0:40:420:40:46

Yeah.

0:40:460:40:47

You know, if you've got old trees in the garden.

0:40:470:40:49

We've got some conifers that are quite big.

0:40:490:40:51

-Yeah, well, to be honest...

-They're taking all the moisture out, as well,

0:40:510:40:55

-from the ground.

-They will do. And then you won't be able to plant

0:40:550:40:57

-underneath them either, probably.

-Yeah.

0:40:570:40:59

So I think I'd pinpoint what you really don't like first,

0:40:590:41:02

-and get rid of it.

-Conifers done.

0:41:020:41:04

-Conifers.

-Got to be ruthless, I think, is the message I'm getting.

0:41:040:41:07

I think you've got to be really ruthless, and then put in some trees that you really do like.

0:41:070:41:11

Once they've stripped out what they don't want and

0:41:110:41:14

planted some new trees,

0:41:140:41:15

I've got my own ideas on what they could do to add some colour to their garden.

0:41:150:41:20

Look, this is beautiful, I've got this in my garden.

0:41:200:41:22

It's a Sambucus, it's like a black elderflower and it gets really big.

0:41:220:41:27

It's a lovely colour. I like the foliage.

0:41:270:41:30

But this one I've never seen before, it's amazing.

0:41:300:41:33

Love the dainty flowers.

0:41:330:41:35

Yeah, apparently Jill was saying it grows out in sort of layers.

0:41:350:41:39

We want to get you this, this will be yours.

0:41:390:41:41

When I come back in four years, I can say this is the Escape plant.

0:41:410:41:44

-Layered up... Yes.

-As you come up the drive, you'll look to the left,

0:41:440:41:47

-you'll see it growing up.

-It's already in the diary, Nicky!

0:41:470:41:51

It is amazing to see what the two of them have already achieved in just

0:41:510:41:54

two years.

0:41:540:41:55

The two of you look incredibly healthy.

0:41:560:41:58

I mean, you were obviously a bit stressed with the wedding and everything

0:41:580:42:01

last time we met, but it really suits you, countryside life.

0:42:010:42:03

Yeah, feel healthy, perhaps a little too healthy at times, but you know,

0:42:030:42:07

-it's...

-Country covering.

0:42:070:42:09

It is, it's the bounty of the pork and the veg.

0:42:090:42:13

Growing our own.

0:42:130:42:14

Nicky and Carl have clearly adjusted to country life.

0:42:140:42:18

Their positive attitude and willingness to embrace new challenges bodes

0:42:180:42:22

well for their future in this beautiful part of Wales.

0:42:220:42:25

It's so lovely to be back in Powys in the fresh air and the mountains

0:42:290:42:34

and to see what Nicky and Carl have done with that property,

0:42:340:42:37

because I have to say, I did have my doubts about that house and how

0:42:370:42:40

they'd make it work. But they took my advice and they converted the

0:42:400:42:43

kitchen so beautifully, and yet there's so much more to do there...

0:42:430:42:47

The animal husbandry, the work on the old kitchen and the boot room,

0:42:470:42:53

and then that fantastic garden.

0:42:530:42:54

So I wish them all the best and I hope that you join us next time for

0:42:540:42:59

more I Escaped To The Country.

0:42:590:43:00

And if you dream of escaping to the country in Wales, Scotland,

0:43:030:43:06

England or Northern Ireland, and would also like our help,

0:43:060:43:09

why not apply online at...

0:43:090:43:10

Alistair Appleton revisits the Welsh Border region and is reunited with a house-hunting couple who originally had a £475,000 budget and serious ambitions to start a smallholding. Within just a few years of moving into one of the properties Alistair showed them, they've not only transformed parts of their new home, but are also making impressive strides towards self-sufficiency on their land. Whilst in the region, Alistair takes in the countryside and heritage of the Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway.