Stone Escape to the Country


Stone

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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Transcript


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This quarry may not be the kind of sedate location that you're used to on Escape to the Country,

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but the stone it produces has been used to shape and craft a region's identity.

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And it's world renowned.

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Where am I? Keep watching to find out.

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In today's show, we take a look back at his selection of favourite stone-built houses,

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where a Cotswold stone property nearly brings a grown man to tears.

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-I want my mum.

-Why? Are you going to cry?

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A Bath stone house has a couple chomping at the bit.

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-Tell us how much it is!

-How much do you think it is?

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And an old Cornish stone post office reveals its wares.

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Wow! What a room.

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This is magnificent. Isn't it fantastic?

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Plus I get to grips with what it takes to turn this rubble into residential riches.

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Today, we're celebrating stone-built properties.

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And where better to start than in the Cotswolds!

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This is the celebrated Cotswold limestone

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that has been making its mark on the area since the 16th century.

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This quarry has been going for over 300 years.

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And it's still responsible for many of the properties being built in the area. Isn't that right?

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Quite right. Good morning.

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Good morning. So, what's so special about this stone?

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The warmth, the colour, the durability.

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How long will a house last once it's been built with Cotswold stone?

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500 years, no problems.

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Who would want a house built of this stone?

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It's as popular as ever. We're supplying abroad.

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-We're exporting to places like Brazil, Japan, America. It's very very popular.

-Brilliant.

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Thank you very much. If you're looking for more local stone-built property, then keep watching.

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As we leave no stone unturned and go in search of some of the most fabulous, sturdy,

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solid stone-built properties that we've featured on the show.

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Although the Cotswolds is internationally renowned for its wonderful uniformity of

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limestone architecture,

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it certainly isn't the only place to use locally-quarried stone.

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In fact, stone has been used in buildings for over 2,000 years.

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But until the 17th century, it was mostly a symbol of wealth and used for luxury buildings.

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Stone became more commonly accessible as communities tapped into their local quarries,

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which have enabled different areas to retain their unique identity.

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As the UK's geology is so wide and varied, its stone houses differ enormously.

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From the dark sandstone slabs of the Pennines or the blue black slate of mid Wales,

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through to the grey stone of Bath and warm limestone of the Cotswolds.

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Ultimately, a wonderfully rich tapestry that reveals

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a glimpse of what lies beneath our doorstep.

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We've seen some stunning locally sourced

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stone-built properties of all shapes and sizes.

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So it's been no easy feat choosing some favourites.

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But, for our first offering, we're off to Somerset,

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where Sue and Georgina from Orpington in Kent were looking to escape to.

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They had a budget of around £370,000.

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For that, they wanted a light and airy

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three-bed property with a small garden, a kitchen-diner and off-road parking.

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And as they'd already sold their house, I think the pressure was really on for Jules.

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But with this beautiful stone property, I think he hit the back of the net.

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The village he's taken them to for this gem was Dundry,

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16 miles from Bath and sitting in the Dundry hills.

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With a well-regarded pub and picturesque village setting,

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it offered the change of lifestyle they were after.

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But did the house meet expectations?

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So, overlooked by the church.

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But this is what I want you to look at.

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-Which bit?

-All of it.

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-Really?

-Impressive.

-Garage, all sorts of things come with this property.

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-I think you're going to like it.

-I've got a tingle of excitement.

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Very good. Come on.

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Come and have a look.

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Just squeeze through the door into here.

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Nice kitchen.

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I like!

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Now, a bit bigger

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than what you've got, certainly.

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-Nice floors, too.

-Really nice. We could keep our massive fridge.

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Yeah. I love the exposed brick.

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The size of the stove is brilliant.

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-That's exactly the sort of cooker that you want.

-Yeah, it's got a nice feel.

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-Really nice.

-Show us more!

-Come on, then. Let's go!

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Now, off the kitchen, you've got this utility area, which you can do what you like with.

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-Yeah.

-Mmm-hmm.

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Into here, the dining room.

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-Really nice.

-Cracking size.

-Good size.

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-It's got quite a nice contemporary feel to it.

-It has.

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This house is arranged over three floors. This is one of them. Two more to go.

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Lead on through there. Let's go and find some stairs.

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These stairs I love.

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It just suggests history.

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You can see where they've been worn.

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They're the real thing. It's really pretty.

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It brings you up to this landing area which is the middle of the house.

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Through here you've got this.

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If you are thinking of working from home, I think that could be a really useful space.

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This is ideal. Just right.

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Good.

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-I like these doors.

-These doors are wicked as well.

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Relaxing-wise, come here. We've got a living room.

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-Very nice.

-Yeah?

-Yeah.

-Ooh la la!

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-Girls, what do you think?

-Lovely.

-Nice. Big window.

-I'm smiling.

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I think you guys would be happy here.

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-This is lovely.

-If the bathroom's a goer, this could be interesting.

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-It's ticking all boxes so far.

-OK. This is great.

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I love it when I get this sort of reaction.

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Upstairs, there are three bedrooms, but first I want to show off the bathroom.

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Is this a deal-breaker?

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Definitely not a deal-breaker.

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It's a deal-winner.

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What about the slopey ceiling thing.

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-Is that all right?

-It is for me.

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It's not a problem.

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I mean, it's not massive. This is fine. Totally. Fine.

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It's brilliant, isn't it?

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OK, so bathroom's OK.

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-Bedrooms next.

-Yes, please.

-Go through there, turn left.

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Next door is a very good-sized double guest room.

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And then there is a small single bedroom.

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This room could be your master bedroom.

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It's a mirror image of what's next door. So, again, take your pick.

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It delivers everything that we're looking for, certainly from the living space.

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I'd like to see what's outside, other than the front drive.

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If there is anything.

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Oh, dear. Could I be in trouble?

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The only garden is what they saw earlier at the front, plus an extra bit around the side.

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-There is no lawn here.

-Bonus.

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Bonus is there's no lawnmower to have to run or to store.

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Downside is no lawn.

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But you have got a kind of mature-ish garden.

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Could be vegetables, could be herbs, could be flowers.

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It's essential to have some outdoor space and we've got it.

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It's up to you what you want to do with this bit.

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Yeah. It's not a major factor, the outside space.

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That is. Off-street parking.

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That's really valuable. You can get at least two cars in there. You've got the garage.

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If you want to keep it as a garage, fine. Or the garage could, of course, become something else.

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-It works.

-Any more points?

-Nowhere to play Swingball.

-What do you want?

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-Hampton Court. Come on!

-Tell us how much it is!

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-How much do you think it is?

-Too much.

-You've 380 top whack.

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I would think this is the top end of the budget. 375.

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379.

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379... OK. Here's the good news.

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It's inside your budget.

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-But it is near the top end. It's 370.

-Ooh.

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Of course, like everything else, open to offers.

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So you may find that you will achieve a lower price than that,

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if you negotiate it. Have a look around inside.

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See what you get for your money. And see if this really is you.

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-After you.

-Go on! And don't you dare lock me out.

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You'll have to knock a bit hard.

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This room is just lovely.

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I think this kind of sets it off. The bathroom, is it an issue?

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It isn't massive, but it's certainly not a problem.

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It's workable. The living accommodation, it's quirky because it's split over so many floors.

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And it's not truly conventional, but I kind of really dig that.

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It's very cool.

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I don't think either of us are totally conventional, so it kind of suits our personalities.

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When you've got a lot of people staying, it's always such a bonus

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if you have two places where people can get showered and ready.

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So this is an unexpected bonus, I think.

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It just didn't disappoint when we walked in.

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Straight away, the kitchen was really nice.

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The floor. All the finishing with the stone and everything.

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All the rooms, they've all had a high standard.

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There isn't a room that's been a let-down.

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Here in the Cotswolds, you only have to look to see the reason it has such a strong identity

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is because of the unique Cotswold stone from which all of these homes have been built.

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So I'm off to get the low-down on what makes this stone so special.

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And where better than back at Stanleys Quarry set deep in the North Cotswold countryside.

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Here they've been producing Cotswold stone for generations.

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And manager Keith Miller has agreed to show me round.

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Even though the quarry has been in use since the 16th century,

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there is still hundreds of years' worth of limestone left to dig.

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Keith is a Cotswold stone expert and has a passion for this natural resource,

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which is used to build such beautiful stone houses.

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People don't realise that stone is a living product.

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Very similar to timber.

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Therefore, you cannot use something like a cement or concrete

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because that is not a living product. You have to use something like a lime mortar.

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It will then attract the algae, the moss, the lichen, and give it that

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lovely tone and colour, basically.

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It's sedimentary rock. It was laid down when the seas were this high 135 million years ago.

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Basically, if you work from the top, you've got soil,

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then you have subsoil, then you have very thin layers of stone.

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And it gradually gets larger and larger then.

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As you come lower and lower, the stone gets deeper and deeper.

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So the next layer of stone you have is the thick walling stone.

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That's generally the stone that houses are made from that you'll see in the local villages.

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From thereon down, you'll get the large block. The people less well-off

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had the top of the stone, the very thin stone, to build their properties.

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And the lord of the manor had the very large block.

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That was much more expensive to take out and to work,

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so that's how it was then and, to be honest with you, that's how it is now.

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So, you can tell the status of someone by the size of the stone at the front of their house.

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That's quite right.

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Today, powerful modern machinery is able to lever buckets under the horizontal planes

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and scoop up the once hard to reach blocks of limestone with relative ease.

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But this wasn't always the case.

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It's so easy now. We take it from there into our stockyard and then the main process starts.

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-I ought to show you.

-Good idea. After you.

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After selecting the stone, the next stage is to carve up the blocks using

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computer-controlled stone-cutting technology to maximise efficiency.

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-What's going on here?

-We slice the block up like sliced bread.

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Depending on the thickness of the slice, depending on what part of the house we're building.

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Whether it's a windowsill, a chimney, whatever.

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But to transform the sliced blocks into a beautiful worked cornerstone for a house

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or a Cotswold stone fireplace involves swapping state-of-the-art technology

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for one of the oldest known crafts - stonemasonry.

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-Now the really intricate work is going on here.

-Quite right.

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It's a sill for a window.

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How long would it take to work on this piece and get it into a finished product?

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An hour, an hour-and-a-half.

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-So how long did it take you to train?

-Three years apprenticeship.

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Well, I've been doing it ever since.

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You have to be quite gentle. Is this why you do it by hand and not use a machine?

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That's right. The art of knowing how much to take at a time.

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You spoil the product by taking too much.

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Too little, you'll be there forever and a day.

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Dean, our stonemason, suggests I have a go.

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Even though I'm worried one bad chip might ruin his work.

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A bit like that and a little tap with the mallet.

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-Nibble it away.

-That's a good way of thinking of it.

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This is quite therapeutic! Although...

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Not if you're doing it day in, day out!

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As you said, I could be here for a while, couldn't I?

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-I think you would.

-It might take me longer than three or four hours.

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I don't think they'll pay you by the hour!

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'Mmm. I think I'd better stick to the day job.'

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One of the interesting things about Cotswold stone is how it changes colour

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from a warm honey in the north in areas like South Warwickshire to a colder grey further south in Bath.

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It's all just because of the underlying rock.

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For our next offering, although Ian and Beryl weren't specifically looking for a stone-built property,

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they did want three beds, lots of character and a nice big kitchen - all for about £400,000.

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But when they clapped eyes on a traditional Cotswold-stone property in Gloucestershire,

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it set their hearts racing.

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Jules took our intrepid couple to Whiteshill for this property,

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just a stone's throw north of Stroud.

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The village sits amongst the Cotswold hills, a far cry from the urban lifestyle

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Ian and Beryl had been used to and offered the beautiful views they were hankering after.

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The house was on the edge of the village down a private road.

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-Wow! Hey!

-Hey!

-Look at that!

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-Just take a look at that.

-You like?

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-Yes.

-We do.

-Ha! Hooray!

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-We do.

-And look at the view it gives you.

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I want my mum.

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-Why?!

-THEY LAUGH

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Are you going to cry?

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If you think you're going to cry now, wait till you see inside. I think it's absolutely charming.

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Come on.

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We'll start through this kind of sun room area,

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which in some ways, your eye will tell you, it does need a bit of work.

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-When the weather's not good enough to sit outside, you could sit out here when it is raining.

-Exactly.

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You can sit in your kitchen.

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-Come through here.

-OK.

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-Now, Beryl...

-Aha!

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This is looking good.

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That is a sized kitchen-diner.

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I'm a huge fan of what I would call free-standing kitchens.

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-That's what you've got. It's not all fitted.

-Very nice.

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Pretty windows and the sink that you can look out of the window.

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It makes a huge difference.

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The size is impressive.

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-Yes!

-It's comfortable.

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And you've got that thing in the corner, which is terrific.

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-That Aga does all your hot water as well.

-Oh!

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Let's continue through here.

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Now this is, I suppose, the main reception room.

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-Lovely.

-I think it's gorgeous.

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It's cosy.

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-You're the builder. You want a downstairs bathroom?

-We do.

-Come with me.

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-This is currently set up as a study.

-OK.

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But it is all plumbed.

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-Ah.

-Are you with me?

-Yes.

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So if you did want to go down the route of a downstairs loo, shower room etc...

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This would not take a lot of converting.

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I don't think it would take much at all.

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But you have got a proper family bathroom upstairs with the bedrooms. Shall we check those out?

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-Yes, please.

-After you, sir. Lead on.

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'I'm not sure Ian's looking for jobs in his retirement but it's something to think about.'

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Have a look in there.

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Oh, yeah. Very nice.

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Very nice and bright.

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-That's so light and airy.

-Yeah.

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-You can pretty much lie in the bath and you've got the view.

-And see Stroud!

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Everywhere you go, you've got this wonderful view.

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-This is currently the master bedroom.

-OK.

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-Right.

-Big enough.

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Plenty big enough.

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And you would wake up...

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-Just with that, it's just...

-..to the view again.

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It's outrageously beautiful, isn't it?

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Outrageously beautiful!

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I get the feeling this place is really making an impression!

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-It is, most certainly.

-Oh, yeah.

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-I could get up and make sure you're cutting the lawn.

-Absolutely.

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I like your style, Beryl! Come on.

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'Next door there are two more bedrooms which are roughly the same size,

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'and there's another floor to explore.'

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-This space...

-My goodness me!

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Isn't that crazy?

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That feature there are the two chimney breasts coming up to meet in the middle of the house

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and they've turned it into this play space. Grandchildren, I'm thinking.

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-Or an office.

-What an incredible use of a loft space.

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Lovely and light with these roof lights.

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Let's finish it off and go outside.

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Let's enjoy the sunshine.

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After you, Beryl. Well, that does seem to have done the trick.

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I think this house really has taken their fancy.

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Now then,

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you've seen the house.

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The garden -

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more than enough to keep you busy.

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-More than enough.

-And you've got a few fruit trees and things.

0:20:000:20:04

-A bit of interest there.

-Well planted.

0:20:040:20:07

And you've got that carport arrangement for the MG. Is that going to work?

0:20:070:20:11

That would certainly work. Perfect.

0:20:110:20:14

OK. Let's bring it down to earth and think about how much it's going to cost you.

0:20:140:20:18

I like it so much, I'm frightened that it will be way, way above our budget.

0:20:180:20:25

-OK.

-I've said before, the budget's 400,000, Jules.

0:20:260:20:31

-For what we see, I'm going to go above 450.

-Above 450, OK.

0:20:330:20:39

I'll stick at 450.

0:20:390:20:42

OK, 450 would be fair enough, I suppose.

0:20:420:20:46

If I told you this was on the market for 525,

0:20:460:20:51

that's the bad news.

0:20:510:20:53

The really, really, really good news is that it's been reduced.

0:20:530:20:57

To?

0:20:570:20:59

395.

0:20:590:21:02

You are joking!

0:21:020:21:05

-I'm not!

-Really? You didn't just make that up?

0:21:050:21:07

No, I didn't! £395,000 for a quick sale, you could be in here.

0:21:070:21:16

Where's the chequebook?

0:21:160:21:17

-That's the most amazing and satisfying...

-Surprise.

0:21:210:21:25

..piece of news we've had,

0:21:250:21:27

because that ticks the majority of the boxes.

0:21:270:21:30

Don't jump just yet. Go and have a good look around

0:21:300:21:33

and see what you'd do with your five grand change.

0:21:330:21:37

-This is a nice-sized room.

-It is, isn't it.

0:21:400:21:43

Pretty fireplace.

0:21:430:21:47

It's such a nice space.

0:21:470:21:48

It's cosy down that end.

0:21:480:21:50

-Absolutely fine.

-And a bit of space at the end there for a small table.

0:21:500:21:55

The roof space was a complete surprise, yes.

0:21:550:21:58

Certainly see maybe all of the grandchildren one day playing

0:21:580:22:02

up there with Ian with the train sets and that would be grand.

0:22:020:22:06

When Jules came up with the 395,000,

0:22:060:22:12

I think I was nearly gobsmacked.

0:22:120:22:15

It's a lot of money to come down, 395,000, but it's something

0:22:150:22:20

we will seriously consider now.

0:22:200:22:22

For my personal favourite and our final stone-built building, we're returning to Ruan Minor,

0:22:270:22:32

a small fishing village in Cornwall, where Rob and Di were looking for

0:22:320:22:36

a secluded property with an open garden to attract lots of wildlife.

0:22:360:22:40

They had a budget of £450,000 and for that, Di, in particular, wanted

0:22:400:22:45

space in the house to devote to her passion for sewing and thankfully,

0:22:450:22:50

with this detached property that was made from Cornish serpentine rock,

0:22:500:22:54

they found what they were after.

0:22:540:22:55

The coastal village of Ruan Minor

0:22:580:23:00

I took them to is just a half-mile stroll up the hill

0:23:000:23:03

from Cadgwith Cove,

0:23:030:23:04

a tiny fishing village with pretty houses that conjure up that typical image of Cornwall.

0:23:040:23:10

The scenery is dramatic and the coastal path was perfect

0:23:100:23:13

for nature-lovers Rob and Di to admire the wildlife.

0:23:130:23:16

Back up the hill, the house I want to show them is in the heart of the village.

0:23:160:23:20

Right here,

0:23:200:23:23

you have a Grade II listed property.

0:23:230:23:26

-Fantastic.

-It's lovely, isn't it.

0:23:260:23:29

You're only a stone's throw away from the local shops, the local pub and of course these lovely windows,

0:23:290:23:34

you could probably guess, this was the village shop, built in 1872 so a lot of history here.

0:23:340:23:40

-Shall we take a look?

-Yes.

-Let's go, yeah!

0:23:400:23:42

Come this way.

0:23:420:23:44

What a gorgeous room! SHE GASPS

0:23:500:23:54

That was a big intake of breath!

0:23:540:23:58

-Yes, it's stately, isn't it?

-It's lovely, look at that window, Rob.

0:23:580:24:02

Looks right out into your back garden.

0:24:020:24:05

-It's delightful.

-A lot of space.

-Yeah. Beautiful.

0:24:050:24:08

-I presume you could do with a bit more space.

-Oh, yes.

0:24:080:24:11

-Never have enough. Do you want to have a look through there?

-Right, let's go!

0:24:110:24:16

Wow! What a room!

0:24:160:24:18

This is magnificent, isn't it fantastic?

0:24:180:24:22

It's a huge room. Low ceiling. Lovely beam.

0:24:220:24:27

Lovely beam. And the window, it's such a light room.

0:24:270:24:32

Those windows are impressive partly because it was a shop.

0:24:320:24:35

-Where the shelves are, that's where you'd serve from.

-Really?

0:24:350:24:39

Let's go this way.

0:24:390:24:40

Bit of a low ceiling. Come through!

0:24:420:24:45

-Lovely kitchen.

-Sweet, isn't it?

-Yes.

0:24:450:24:49

Sweet, little? Is it big enough for you?

0:24:490:24:53

It's smaller than I would've chosen but workable with. They have a little breakfast bar.

0:24:530:24:58

And it's such a nice shape.

0:24:580:25:02

An interesting room.

0:25:020:25:03

-Lovely aspects out into the garden.

-Mmm, both sides.

0:25:030:25:06

Just through there, there's a little bit more.

0:25:060:25:09

-A utility area.

-Have a look.

0:25:090:25:11

-That's a good space.

-That's fine, isn't it.

0:25:110:25:15

Right, time to see the upstairs.

0:25:150:25:16

-Yep, sure.

-Let's go.

0:25:160:25:18

'This house pretty much offers the space they're looking for.

0:25:220:25:27

'Upstairs there are three bedrooms.

0:25:270:25:30

'And rather generously, a bathroom and a shower room, but we're heading for the master.'

0:25:300:25:35

Oh!

0:25:350:25:37

This is a long bedroom, isn't it?

0:25:370:25:40

-It is.

-Yeah. Lots of storage.

0:25:400:25:43

Again, these beautiful windows. This time you're looking

0:25:430:25:46

-right out onto the front of the house into the heart of the village.

-Mmm!

0:25:460:25:50

It's nice to be in the village but I don't know how much

0:25:500:25:53

we'll get the birds and animals coming up to the door.

0:25:530:25:56

We'll have to see what it joins onto.

0:25:560:25:58

That's still a big consideration for you, isn't it?

0:25:580:26:02

Yes. But it's also very nice to be able to just nip across to the shop.

0:26:020:26:06

-I guess that means we should see the outside. OK. Let's go down.

-Thank you.

0:26:060:26:11

'Rob and Di's wish to attract wildlife into their garden is a major consideration

0:26:110:26:15

'and although this property is in the middle of the village,

0:26:150:26:19

'you would never believe it when in the garden.'

0:26:190:26:21

So, this is private.

0:26:210:26:23

-There's a lot more to this garden.

-This is lovely.

0:26:230:26:26

-Good parking area.

-Yep.

0:26:260:26:29

-You wanted plenty of room for parking.

-We did.

0:26:290:26:32

But there's more.

0:26:320:26:34

-OK!

-This way.

0:26:340:26:35

-Oh, this is so nice.

-There's more! You've got all of this space as well.

0:26:400:26:44

-It's a good space.

-It's a very good space. Certainly a lovely space for a pond.

0:26:440:26:49

So a beautiful, traditional cottage with lots of space. All of this land all the way round.

0:26:490:26:55

How much do you think it's worth?

0:26:550:26:57

Very definitely over the top end of our budget.

0:26:570:27:01

Can I pin you down on a figure?

0:27:010:27:03

460.

0:27:030:27:05

-And you, Rob?

-I think about 473,000.

0:27:050:27:10

So beyond your budget?

0:27:100:27:11

-I think so, yeah.

-What about this - it's on the market at £450,000.

0:27:110:27:17

Really? That's very interesting.

0:27:170:27:20

-That's a nice surprise.

-That's good.

0:27:200:27:23

-It's such a nice house. It's such a nice, solid, honest house.

-Traditionally Cornish.

-Yeah.

0:27:230:27:29

It's right on the budget.

0:27:290:27:30

-I think you should have another look and we'll talk about it later on.

-OK!

0:27:300:27:34

It's a really nice, traditional, solid house with plenty of space inside.

0:27:340:27:40

I think Di has fallen in love with it. She really is taken with it.

0:27:400:27:44

I think she could be very happy here.

0:27:440:27:46

It really has a "wow" factor.

0:27:460:27:48

It's got character.

0:27:480:27:50

It feels warm and very homely. Home.

0:27:500:27:55

The garden is lovely.

0:27:550:27:56

There's plenty of opportunity for us to put our own stamp on it

0:27:560:28:01

but it's enclosed, it's private, it certainly would bring wildlife into the garden.

0:28:010:28:06

Superb, in a beautiful setting.

0:28:060:28:08

I think Di fell in love with that house and it had space

0:28:130:28:17

for her beloved sewing room, all framed by that sturdy local stone.

0:28:170:28:22

Sadly, that's all we've got time to show you

0:28:220:28:24

but hopefully, these stone-built properties

0:28:240:28:27

have inspired you to go in search of your own rural dream.

0:28:270:28:30

I'll see you next time on Escape To The Country.

0:28:300:28:32

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:28:390:28:42

E-mail [email protected]

0:28:420:28:45

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.


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