Denise Nurse takes a look back at some of the best stone-built properties featured in past series. She visits a Cotswolds stone quarry.
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This quarry may not be the kind of sedate location that you're used to on Escape to the Country,
but the stone it produces has been used to shape and craft a region's identity.
And it's world renowned.
Where am I? Keep watching to find out.
In today's show, we take a look back at his selection of favourite stone-built houses,
where a Cotswold stone property nearly brings a grown man to tears.
-I want my mum.
-Why? Are you going to cry?
A Bath stone house has a couple chomping at the bit.
-Tell us how much it is!
-How much do you think it is?
And an old Cornish stone post office reveals its wares.
Wow! What a room.
This is magnificent. Isn't it fantastic?
Plus I get to grips with what it takes to turn this rubble into residential riches.
Today, we're celebrating stone-built properties.
And where better to start than in the Cotswolds!
This is the celebrated Cotswold limestone
that has been making its mark on the area since the 16th century.
This quarry has been going for over 300 years.
And it's still responsible for many of the properties being built in the area. Isn't that right?
Quite right. Good morning.
Good morning. So, what's so special about this stone?
The warmth, the colour, the durability.
How long will a house last once it's been built with Cotswold stone?
500 years, no problems.
Who would want a house built of this stone?
It's as popular as ever. We're supplying abroad.
-We're exporting to places like Brazil, Japan, America. It's very very popular.
Thank you very much. If you're looking for more local stone-built property, then keep watching.
As we leave no stone unturned and go in search of some of the most fabulous, sturdy,
solid stone-built properties that we've featured on the show.
Although the Cotswolds is internationally renowned for its wonderful uniformity of
it certainly isn't the only place to use locally-quarried stone.
In fact, stone has been used in buildings for over 2,000 years.
But until the 17th century, it was mostly a symbol of wealth and used for luxury buildings.
Stone became more commonly accessible as communities tapped into their local quarries,
which have enabled different areas to retain their unique identity.
As the UK's geology is so wide and varied, its stone houses differ enormously.
From the dark sandstone slabs of the Pennines or the blue black slate of mid Wales,
through to the grey stone of Bath and warm limestone of the Cotswolds.
Ultimately, a wonderfully rich tapestry that reveals
a glimpse of what lies beneath our doorstep.
We've seen some stunning locally sourced
stone-built properties of all shapes and sizes.
So it's been no easy feat choosing some favourites.
But, for our first offering, we're off to Somerset,
where Sue and Georgina from Orpington in Kent were looking to escape to.
They had a budget of around £370,000.
For that, they wanted a light and airy
three-bed property with a small garden, a kitchen-diner and off-road parking.
And as they'd already sold their house, I think the pressure was really on for Jules.
But with this beautiful stone property, I think he hit the back of the net.
The village he's taken them to for this gem was Dundry,
16 miles from Bath and sitting in the Dundry hills.
With a well-regarded pub and picturesque village setting,
it offered the change of lifestyle they were after.
But did the house meet expectations?
So, overlooked by the church.
But this is what I want you to look at.
-All of it.
-Garage, all sorts of things come with this property.
-I think you're going to like it.
-I've got a tingle of excitement.
Very good. Come on.
Come and have a look.
Just squeeze through the door into here.
Now, a bit bigger
than what you've got, certainly.
-Nice floors, too.
-Really nice. We could keep our massive fridge.
Yeah. I love the exposed brick.
The size of the stove is brilliant.
-That's exactly the sort of cooker that you want.
-Yeah, it's got a nice feel.
-Show us more!
-Come on, then. Let's go!
Now, off the kitchen, you've got this utility area, which you can do what you like with.
Into here, the dining room.
-It's got quite a nice contemporary feel to it.
This house is arranged over three floors. This is one of them. Two more to go.
Lead on through there. Let's go and find some stairs.
These stairs I love.
It just suggests history.
You can see where they've been worn.
They're the real thing. It's really pretty.
It brings you up to this landing area which is the middle of the house.
Through here you've got this.
If you are thinking of working from home, I think that could be a really useful space.
This is ideal. Just right.
-I like these doors.
-These doors are wicked as well.
Relaxing-wise, come here. We've got a living room.
-Ooh la la!
-Girls, what do you think?
-Nice. Big window.
I think you guys would be happy here.
-This is lovely.
-If the bathroom's a goer, this could be interesting.
-It's ticking all boxes so far.
-OK. This is great.
I love it when I get this sort of reaction.
Upstairs, there are three bedrooms, but first I want to show off the bathroom.
Is this a deal-breaker?
Definitely not a deal-breaker.
It's a deal-winner.
What about the slopey ceiling thing.
-Is that all right?
-It is for me.
It's not a problem.
I mean, it's not massive. This is fine. Totally. Fine.
It's brilliant, isn't it?
OK, so bathroom's OK.
-Go through there, turn left.
Next door is a very good-sized double guest room.
And then there is a small single bedroom.
This room could be your master bedroom.
It's a mirror image of what's next door. So, again, take your pick.
It delivers everything that we're looking for, certainly from the living space.
I'd like to see what's outside, other than the front drive.
If there is anything.
Oh, dear. Could I be in trouble?
The only garden is what they saw earlier at the front, plus an extra bit around the side.
-There is no lawn here.
Bonus is there's no lawnmower to have to run or to store.
Downside is no lawn.
But you have got a kind of mature-ish garden.
Could be vegetables, could be herbs, could be flowers.
It's essential to have some outdoor space and we've got it.
It's up to you what you want to do with this bit.
Yeah. It's not a major factor, the outside space.
That is. Off-street parking.
That's really valuable. You can get at least two cars in there. You've got the garage.
If you want to keep it as a garage, fine. Or the garage could, of course, become something else.
-Any more points?
-Nowhere to play Swingball.
-What do you want?
-Hampton Court. Come on!
-Tell us how much it is!
-How much do you think it is?
-You've 380 top whack.
I would think this is the top end of the budget. 375.
379... OK. Here's the good news.
It's inside your budget.
-But it is near the top end. It's 370.
Of course, like everything else, open to offers.
So you may find that you will achieve a lower price than that,
if you negotiate it. Have a look around inside.
See what you get for your money. And see if this really is you.
-Go on! And don't you dare lock me out.
You'll have to knock a bit hard.
This room is just lovely.
I think this kind of sets it off. The bathroom, is it an issue?
It isn't massive, but it's certainly not a problem.
It's workable. The living accommodation, it's quirky because it's split over so many floors.
And it's not truly conventional, but I kind of really dig that.
It's very cool.
I don't think either of us are totally conventional, so it kind of suits our personalities.
When you've got a lot of people staying, it's always such a bonus
if you have two places where people can get showered and ready.
So this is an unexpected bonus, I think.
It just didn't disappoint when we walked in.
Straight away, the kitchen was really nice.
The floor. All the finishing with the stone and everything.
All the rooms, they've all had a high standard.
There isn't a room that's been a let-down.
Here in the Cotswolds, you only have to look to see the reason it has such a strong identity
is because of the unique Cotswold stone from which all of these homes have been built.
So I'm off to get the low-down on what makes this stone so special.
And where better than back at Stanleys Quarry set deep in the North Cotswold countryside.
Here they've been producing Cotswold stone for generations.
And manager Keith Miller has agreed to show me round.
Even though the quarry has been in use since the 16th century,
there is still hundreds of years' worth of limestone left to dig.
Keith is a Cotswold stone expert and has a passion for this natural resource,
which is used to build such beautiful stone houses.
People don't realise that stone is a living product.
Very similar to timber.
Therefore, you cannot use something like a cement or concrete
because that is not a living product. You have to use something like a lime mortar.
It will then attract the algae, the moss, the lichen, and give it that
lovely tone and colour, basically.
It's sedimentary rock. It was laid down when the seas were this high 135 million years ago.
Basically, if you work from the top, you've got soil,
then you have subsoil, then you have very thin layers of stone.
And it gradually gets larger and larger then.
As you come lower and lower, the stone gets deeper and deeper.
So the next layer of stone you have is the thick walling stone.
That's generally the stone that houses are made from that you'll see in the local villages.
From thereon down, you'll get the large block. The people less well-off
had the top of the stone, the very thin stone, to build their properties.
And the lord of the manor had the very large block.
That was much more expensive to take out and to work,
so that's how it was then and, to be honest with you, that's how it is now.
So, you can tell the status of someone by the size of the stone at the front of their house.
That's quite right.
Today, powerful modern machinery is able to lever buckets under the horizontal planes
and scoop up the once hard to reach blocks of limestone with relative ease.
But this wasn't always the case.
It's so easy now. We take it from there into our stockyard and then the main process starts.
-I ought to show you.
-Good idea. After you.
After selecting the stone, the next stage is to carve up the blocks using
computer-controlled stone-cutting technology to maximise efficiency.
-What's going on here?
-We slice the block up like sliced bread.
Depending on the thickness of the slice, depending on what part of the house we're building.
Whether it's a windowsill, a chimney, whatever.
But to transform the sliced blocks into a beautiful worked cornerstone for a house
or a Cotswold stone fireplace involves swapping state-of-the-art technology
for one of the oldest known crafts - stonemasonry.
-Now the really intricate work is going on here.
It's a sill for a window.
How long would it take to work on this piece and get it into a finished product?
An hour, an hour-and-a-half.
-So how long did it take you to train?
-Three years apprenticeship.
Well, I've been doing it ever since.
You have to be quite gentle. Is this why you do it by hand and not use a machine?
That's right. The art of knowing how much to take at a time.
You spoil the product by taking too much.
Too little, you'll be there forever and a day.
Dean, our stonemason, suggests I have a go.
Even though I'm worried one bad chip might ruin his work.
A bit like that and a little tap with the mallet.
-Nibble it away.
-That's a good way of thinking of it.
This is quite therapeutic! Although...
Not if you're doing it day in, day out!
As you said, I could be here for a while, couldn't I?
-I think you would.
-It might take me longer than three or four hours.
I don't think they'll pay you by the hour!
'Mmm. I think I'd better stick to the day job.'
One of the interesting things about Cotswold stone is how it changes colour
from a warm honey in the north in areas like South Warwickshire to a colder grey further south in Bath.
It's all just because of the underlying rock.
For our next offering, although Ian and Beryl weren't specifically looking for a stone-built property,
they did want three beds, lots of character and a nice big kitchen - all for about £400,000.
But when they clapped eyes on a traditional Cotswold-stone property in Gloucestershire,
it set their hearts racing.
Jules took our intrepid couple to Whiteshill for this property,
just a stone's throw north of Stroud.
The village sits amongst the Cotswold hills, a far cry from the urban lifestyle
Ian and Beryl had been used to and offered the beautiful views they were hankering after.
The house was on the edge of the village down a private road.
-Look at that!
-Just take a look at that.
-And look at the view it gives you.
I want my mum.
Are you going to cry?
If you think you're going to cry now, wait till you see inside. I think it's absolutely charming.
We'll start through this kind of sun room area,
which in some ways, your eye will tell you, it does need a bit of work.
-When the weather's not good enough to sit outside, you could sit out here when it is raining.
You can sit in your kitchen.
-Come through here.
This is looking good.
That is a sized kitchen-diner.
I'm a huge fan of what I would call free-standing kitchens.
-That's what you've got. It's not all fitted.
Pretty windows and the sink that you can look out of the window.
It makes a huge difference.
The size is impressive.
And you've got that thing in the corner, which is terrific.
-That Aga does all your hot water as well.
Let's continue through here.
Now this is, I suppose, the main reception room.
-I think it's gorgeous.
-You're the builder. You want a downstairs bathroom?
-Come with me.
-This is currently set up as a study.
But it is all plumbed.
-Are you with me?
So if you did want to go down the route of a downstairs loo, shower room etc...
This would not take a lot of converting.
I don't think it would take much at all.
But you have got a proper family bathroom upstairs with the bedrooms. Shall we check those out?
-After you, sir. Lead on.
'I'm not sure Ian's looking for jobs in his retirement but it's something to think about.'
Have a look in there.
Oh, yeah. Very nice.
Very nice and bright.
-That's so light and airy.
-You can pretty much lie in the bath and you've got the view.
-And see Stroud!
Everywhere you go, you've got this wonderful view.
-This is currently the master bedroom.
Plenty big enough.
And you would wake up...
-Just with that, it's just...
-..to the view again.
It's outrageously beautiful, isn't it?
I get the feeling this place is really making an impression!
-It is, most certainly.
-I could get up and make sure you're cutting the lawn.
I like your style, Beryl! Come on.
'Next door there are two more bedrooms which are roughly the same size,
'and there's another floor to explore.'
-My goodness me!
Isn't that crazy?
That feature there are the two chimney breasts coming up to meet in the middle of the house
and they've turned it into this play space. Grandchildren, I'm thinking.
-Or an office.
-What an incredible use of a loft space.
Lovely and light with these roof lights.
Let's finish it off and go outside.
Let's enjoy the sunshine.
After you, Beryl. Well, that does seem to have done the trick.
I think this house really has taken their fancy.
you've seen the house.
The garden -
more than enough to keep you busy.
-More than enough.
-And you've got a few fruit trees and things.
-A bit of interest there.
And you've got that carport arrangement for the MG. Is that going to work?
That would certainly work. Perfect.
OK. Let's bring it down to earth and think about how much it's going to cost you.
I like it so much, I'm frightened that it will be way, way above our budget.
-I've said before, the budget's 400,000, Jules.
-For what we see, I'm going to go above 450.
-Above 450, OK.
I'll stick at 450.
OK, 450 would be fair enough, I suppose.
If I told you this was on the market for 525,
that's the bad news.
The really, really, really good news is that it's been reduced.
You are joking!
-Really? You didn't just make that up?
No, I didn't! £395,000 for a quick sale, you could be in here.
Where's the chequebook?
-That's the most amazing and satisfying...
..piece of news we've had,
because that ticks the majority of the boxes.
Don't jump just yet. Go and have a good look around
and see what you'd do with your five grand change.
-This is a nice-sized room.
-It is, isn't it.
It's such a nice space.
It's cosy down that end.
-And a bit of space at the end there for a small table.
The roof space was a complete surprise, yes.
Certainly see maybe all of the grandchildren one day playing
up there with Ian with the train sets and that would be grand.
When Jules came up with the 395,000,
I think I was nearly gobsmacked.
It's a lot of money to come down, 395,000, but it's something
we will seriously consider now.
For my personal favourite and our final stone-built building, we're returning to Ruan Minor,
a small fishing village in Cornwall, where Rob and Di were looking for
a secluded property with an open garden to attract lots of wildlife.
They had a budget of £450,000 and for that, Di, in particular, wanted
space in the house to devote to her passion for sewing and thankfully,
with this detached property that was made from Cornish serpentine rock,
they found what they were after.
The coastal village of Ruan Minor
I took them to is just a half-mile stroll up the hill
from Cadgwith Cove,
a tiny fishing village with pretty houses that conjure up that typical image of Cornwall.
The scenery is dramatic and the coastal path was perfect
for nature-lovers Rob and Di to admire the wildlife.
Back up the hill, the house I want to show them is in the heart of the village.
you have a Grade II listed property.
-It's lovely, isn't it.
You're only a stone's throw away from the local shops, the local pub and of course these lovely windows,
you could probably guess, this was the village shop, built in 1872 so a lot of history here.
-Shall we take a look?
-Let's go, yeah!
Come this way.
What a gorgeous room! SHE GASPS
That was a big intake of breath!
-Yes, it's stately, isn't it?
-It's lovely, look at that window, Rob.
Looks right out into your back garden.
-A lot of space.
-I presume you could do with a bit more space.
-Never have enough. Do you want to have a look through there?
-Right, let's go!
Wow! What a room!
This is magnificent, isn't it fantastic?
It's a huge room. Low ceiling. Lovely beam.
Lovely beam. And the window, it's such a light room.
Those windows are impressive partly because it was a shop.
-Where the shelves are, that's where you'd serve from.
Let's go this way.
Bit of a low ceiling. Come through!
-Sweet, isn't it?
Sweet, little? Is it big enough for you?
It's smaller than I would've chosen but workable with. They have a little breakfast bar.
And it's such a nice shape.
An interesting room.
-Lovely aspects out into the garden.
-Mmm, both sides.
Just through there, there's a little bit more.
-A utility area.
-Have a look.
-That's a good space.
-That's fine, isn't it.
Right, time to see the upstairs.
'This house pretty much offers the space they're looking for.
'Upstairs there are three bedrooms.
'And rather generously, a bathroom and a shower room, but we're heading for the master.'
This is a long bedroom, isn't it?
-Yeah. Lots of storage.
Again, these beautiful windows. This time you're looking
-right out onto the front of the house into the heart of the village.
It's nice to be in the village but I don't know how much
we'll get the birds and animals coming up to the door.
We'll have to see what it joins onto.
That's still a big consideration for you, isn't it?
Yes. But it's also very nice to be able to just nip across to the shop.
-I guess that means we should see the outside. OK. Let's go down.
'Rob and Di's wish to attract wildlife into their garden is a major consideration
'and although this property is in the middle of the village,
'you would never believe it when in the garden.'
So, this is private.
-There's a lot more to this garden.
-This is lovely.
-Good parking area.
-You wanted plenty of room for parking.
But there's more.
-Oh, this is so nice.
-There's more! You've got all of this space as well.
-It's a good space.
-It's a very good space. Certainly a lovely space for a pond.
So a beautiful, traditional cottage with lots of space. All of this land all the way round.
How much do you think it's worth?
Very definitely over the top end of our budget.
Can I pin you down on a figure?
-And you, Rob?
-I think about 473,000.
So beyond your budget?
-I think so, yeah.
-What about this - it's on the market at £450,000.
Really? That's very interesting.
-That's a nice surprise.
-It's such a nice house. It's such a nice, solid, honest house.
It's right on the budget.
-I think you should have another look and we'll talk about it later on.
It's a really nice, traditional, solid house with plenty of space inside.
I think Di has fallen in love with it. She really is taken with it.
I think she could be very happy here.
It really has a "wow" factor.
It's got character.
It feels warm and very homely. Home.
The garden is lovely.
There's plenty of opportunity for us to put our own stamp on it
but it's enclosed, it's private, it certainly would bring wildlife into the garden.
Superb, in a beautiful setting.
I think Di fell in love with that house and it had space
for her beloved sewing room, all framed by that sturdy local stone.
Sadly, that's all we've got time to show you
but hopefully, these stone-built properties
have inspired you to go in search of your own rural dream.
I'll see you next time on Escape To The Country.
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Denise Nurse takes a look back at some of the best stone-built properties featured in past series. She visits a Cotswolds stone quarry, and the show visits Gloucestershire and Cornwall on its tour of some of the most beautiful stone properties in the UK.