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Welcome to a very special edition of Escape To The Country.
Today I'm in a county which is arguably one of most beautiful in all of England.
It's also famous for having some 300 miles
of stunning coastline which borders not just the English Channel, but the Bristol Channel as well.
And in terms of Escape To The Country, well, it's one of our most popular destinations.
So, where am I? Well, I'm in Devon of course.
In today's show, we're taking a look back at some of the finest Devonshire homes we've viewed
over past series, including an Arts and Crafts original that harbours a sporty surprise.
-Look at this.
-Oh, my word.
This looks like fun!
A stunningly converted long house that could be one of my all-time favourites.
It's got character.
It's got bags of character. Bags of character!
And if you've ever dreamt of owning your own village, I meet a man
who does just that, while looking after the 200 residents who call it home.
So you're a 21st-century squire?
How do they see you?
You'd better ask them!
Yes, today we're returning to the heart of the West Country, to Devon.
Many have referred to this place as the playground of England, and when you look at beautiful
landscapes and seascapes like those behind me, it's not hard to see why.
For over 250 years, visitors have flocked to this place
and no surprise it's been a popular place for escapees ever since.
But of course it's not just about pretty landscapes,
it's also delivered to us some fantastic houses over the years.
Devon boasts a landscape that is not only beautiful, but unique, in that it's the only county
in England with two separate coasts and sitting between these award-winning stretches of beach
is a county of rolling hills and river valleys.
Famed for Devonshire clotted cream teas, luxurious ice cream
and picture postcard villages, it's the third largest English county.
But with one of the lowest population densities and some beautiful properties,
it's an ideal rural retreat for those seeking a more relaxed pace of life.
As we begin our trip down memory lane and take a look at some of the more intriguing properties
we've had in Devon over the years, we're going to start in mid-Devon in the company of Jeff and Pauline.
Now, these two escapees were looking to retire to county of their birth and, armed with a healthy budget
of £750,000, they wanted on the face of it a nice, substantial three-bedroomed house.
So, you would have thought, all well and good.
But, as always, there was a catch.
We weren't just looking for a home for these two,
but also for Jeff's extraordinary collection of 12 steam cars.
I was taking Jeff and Pauline to just outside Newton St Cyres,
only four miles north of Exeter. Newton St Cyres
is an attractive village lined with thatched cottages
and also has its own cheese maker, producing traditional farmhouse Cheddar.
And what better to wash down the cheese than a pint of beer from the village brewery?
The property I showed them was a four-bed character cottage.
With a bit of work, the outbuildings could be perfect for Jeff's steam cars.
Right, well, come on through here, you two, because this is it.
This is house number one on a very blustery Devon day.
Something you must be used to, having come from here.
-It certainly looks very smart.
-Yes, it looks very nice. Yes.
-Can't wait to see inside.
Well, that will be the acid test. Has it got all that you're after?
Let's go and have a look.
Right, now, come in.
-That's very nice, isn't it?
You know, nice, quite welcoming little hallway.
-Come through here, cos, Pauline, this is what I really want
you to look at, cos this, I think, has got you written all over it.
-Oh, yes, that's very nice.
-Isn't that smashing?
You wanted something that was lighter,
cos your little galley kitchen at the moment, as you said yourself, you can't really swing a cat in it.
-Well, what about it?
-This would be ideal.
Very nice indeed, very smart.
That's a great start, and there's the added bonus of the utility room and downstairs cloakroom.
Next, the main living room.
This is the living room, very much in the heart
-of the old cob part of the house. What do you think?
-Very nice, yes.
-And it's a place with loads of storage. There's a whole new little world in here.
It's like Narnia through there.
There's loads of room. Possibly room for 1,000 books maybe.
-Just a kind of thought.
-Lots to fit in.
And studies, not least, because you do have two very different
-sorts of study lives in a way.
Jeff, do me a favour. Just lead us through that doorway over there and let's see if there's enough room
for at least one study through here.
Heading through this little hallway, what will they make of this space?
It's an ideal office. There's some book shelves.
This bit's yours.
-Is this because you need a bigger space?
Would this be big enough for you, though?
Maybe, yes. I might have to cut my book collection down.
But that needs to be done any rate.
I love the way he very chivalrously just didn't really give this to you, but dumped this room on you.
-You're obviously hoping I've got more for you elsewhere, Jeff?
Upstairs there are four bedrooms and a family bathroom, which all lead off the galleried landing.
This house also has an asset they didn't ask for, but it might be a nice surprise.
Here's another bathroom.
-It looks like any old bathroom, but this is in fact
an en suite to this room through here, which could be your master bedroom if you wanted it to be.
-Oh, very nice.
Goodness me, that's four bedrooms.
Four bedrooms with potential for an en suite.
En suites often are at the top of many people's lists when house hunting.
Not on your list at all, because it's had cars written all over it and piles of books and what not.
So this might be a nice bonus for you.
Look at that. That's fantastic. Go and have a look.
Yeah, have a little explore.
The current owners had this part of the house as something of a sort of granny annex.
So there are two things that could happen here.
Either you could keep this for visiting guests with their own bathroom
or you could turn it into quite an interesting master suite
with your own en suite and give them
one of those other three bedrooms on the landing with the family bathroom.
It's something we wanted, because we get visits from family regularly.
And from my point of view,
we get many visits...
Cars coming into this?
Yes, they come to see the cars and they quite often come from far away.
Is it a lot of hot air, Pauline, or is it just...?
So this house does seem to have enough space for them and their guests.
Outside there are several workshops, a stable block
and some sheds which could accommodate the cars and the rest of Jeff's hoard.
But they are a bit run-down and I have a better plan.
The nice thing about this is that you've got all this hard standing behind the Victorian stable block
-and there are these bits of building.
-Depending on the budget, my kind of sense would be kind of start again...
And have the whole thing purpose-built.
-Yeah, that would be fantastic.
-Wouldn't that be sensational?
But it doesn't end here. Come with me, because up here,
purpose-built, static home, caravan.
I don't know how much land exactly you two are up for,
cos it is all about cars and books and all the rest of it.
But, with your budget, you do kind of stumble over parcels of land.
-So, whether you like it or not, you've got in the order of about three acres here.
So it brings us round to...
The all-important question.
The all-important question, Jeff.
How much is all this worth down here in Devon?
We've got you a four-bedroomed house, lovely big kitchen/diner,
we've got you a range of outbuildings, you've 750 grand to spend.
How much are you going to have to part with?
Well, I think, as we need a bit of change for the workshops,
-I'd say 6,950?
You are absolutely spot-on. £650,000. So you've got 100 grand
to play with, which would more...
..than pay for a nice workshop.
-Are you surprised at that?
-Yes, quite excited by that.
So, lots to think about.
Go and have a look around on your own, without me, and just see what you'd do with your slack £100,000
and see if it would all work for you.
-Yeah, I like it a lot. It's sunny and spacious and light and...
-You like the eating area?
Yes, cos that's fine for having family and friends around, isn't it?
I'm very optimistic about this house.
It's nice and light and airy.
It had a nice feeling to it.
I like the general feel of the property.
I liked the layout in general as it is.
The kitchen's nice. And the rooms can be adapted to suit our needs.
So, generally, the feeling I get in the property is that
it would suit us and we could live here very comfortably.
Right, you two, it's time to go.
I'm going to tear you away from this.
-But I think you quite like it, don't you?
-Yeah, we do.
-Yeah, we do.
The money's not bad.
-Especially the price.
-Especially the price.
I knew you'd say that!
Now, one of things many people will say they love about Devon is the way in which
it's managed to resist the steady march of modernisation,
and perhaps nowhere is that more the case than here on the north coast.
Down this cobbled and somewhat treacherous path
lies the village of Clovelly,
a place that really has been lost in time.
Clovelly is a 13th-century fishing village and over its 800-year history
has managed to cut itself off from the modernisation of the world around it.
The village's timeless character is in part due to its remote location,
cut into a steep 400-foot North Devon cliff.
But perhaps more importantly, in 1738,
the village went into the private ownership of the Hamlyn family
and still remains in family hands.
The current owner and landlord of Clovelly is John Rous,
who has agreed to show me around this special piece of history.
-John, nice to see you.
-And welcome, Jules, to Clovelly.
So you must know this like the back of your hand.
-I certainly do. Come and have a look.
On a summer's day, Clovelly can welcome up to 3,000 visitors to its cobbled streets,
where, in the absence of cars, donkeys and modified bread baskets are the main modes of transport.
The fact this is a living, working village, I think, is what sets it apart.
I know you run it as a tourist attraction in some measure,
but just looking across here, "Home sweet home" written on the door.
-Whilst it's our house, it's their home.
-How many people live here?
We have about 200 people live down the village street in the 80-odd cottages.
And let's be absolutely clear. It's a full-time, working village.
This isn't a holiday home. It's a proper working environment.
Yes, I do interview everybody before they come to village and say that
it is a condition of tenancy that people are in full-time occupation of the cottages.
So, you're a 21st-century squire?
How do they see you, do you think?
You'd better ask them!
However the residents see John, they certainly are lucky to be living in such an idyllic village.
As you walk Clovelly's cobbled streets,
you may be fooled into thinking the village is far younger
than its 800 years.
That's because, in the early 20th century, the village
had something of a face-lift - a mix of architecturally styled facades
were put onto the old cottages.
The dates you see refer to this remodelling, rather than to the buildings themselves.
One building that has been preserved as an authentic fisherman's cottage is Clovelly's very own museum.
Let's have a look.
-Oh, look at this. Very nice.
-Jules, can I introduce you to Sheila.
-Hello, Sheila. Very nice to see you.
And you too. And I hope you enjoy what we've got here to show you.
Most of us live in houses which have got walls about this thick.
But in the fishermen's cottages they're this thick,
and you'll see all that and hear what it was like
for people like Sheila, who've lived here since birth.
Now, as a result, presumably, John didn't have to interview you for you to come and live here?
Wasn't I lucky(?)
Sheila continues the tour by taking us upstairs to the bedrooms.
This is the parents' bedroom.
Technically, this is the master suite.
-But this is typical. This is the sort of thing that you remember growing up?
Parents would sleep in the room without any children,
so that the dad could get up perhaps at 4 o'clock in the morning and go fishing.
The mothers, the parents and everybody would be home,
hoping that they would all return safely.
That was like any other fishing village. You never knew when you said goodbye
whether they'd come back again.
The harsh realities of fishing are hard to imagine on such a beautiful day as this, but to find out more
about Clovelly's fishing heritage, John takes me further down into the oldest part of village, the harbour.
I think I've finally mastered the cobbles.
They're easier with these steps in the bottom to get a grip on.
We're here to meet one of the most important members
of Clovelly's community - the harbour master, Steve Perham.
-Stephen, nice to see you.
-Nice to see you.
Harbour master in a place like Clovelly. What's that like?
It's OK. It's a good little job, really.
I don't get any money, but...
Well, we've got him on camera now.
How much do you want?
Pay rise, please.
I sense that fishing here is something that not only created this community,
but is something that's held it together.
Oh, yes, fishing does that.
It's a hard-working industry, so you have to all work together.
Well, let's talk about the lifeboat, cos you're wearing a lifeboat jersey.
-You're a member of the lifeboat crew.
We bring back people who have got themselves into trouble.
Now, there's something here.
Have you rescued him?
-I assisted in a rescue.
-John, you're the local squire.
What's going on? You've been rescued?
My boat had capsized.
Guys, that's brilliant!
Thank you very much for showing me around today. It's been a real treat.
And congratulations, John.
Clearly a lot of work involved in keeping Clovelly as it is.
-Gosh, I envy you living in a place like this, Stephen. It really is beautiful.
-It is, yes.
Sadly, you may not be able to buy a house here in Clovelly,
but you can live here if you rent one and if you speak very nicely to John.
But for our next offering, we're going to leave the north coast
and head down the south coast of this wonderful county
in the company of Judy and Malcolm, two very discerning buyers,
looking for a four-bedroomed property
with a million pounds to spend, which you'd think would make the task very easy.
But not so.
Judy wanted a nice period character property, whereas husband Malcolm wanted something
much more contemporary that he could just move into without having to pick up a paint brush.
Now, the task of uniting these two disparate bodies was left
to good old Alistair Appleton, who took them to a location
that made the very best of South Devon.
Alistair was on his way to Sidbury, just three miles north of Sidmouth.
The village is yet another classic Devonshire hamlet
and as you'd expect, it comes complete with thatched cottages and a locally renowned packhorse bridge.
The house Malcolm and Judy were about to see
was at the top of the valley, commanding some spectacular views.
-This looks very nice.
-More my style.
I'm very excited to show you this place, because you are five minutes
-from the sea, but look at these beautiful hills.
-It is lovely.
-Utterly, utterly stunning.
-Let's have a look inside.
-Come on in.
-Wow, this is nice.
If you want to come through here, you can see more clearly the staircase.
-Nice and light and bright.
This house, although it's an Arts and Crafts in parts, the interior is
completely contemporary. Let's take a look at the big reception room.
-Oh, my word.
-This looks like fun!
So how do you feel about the full-sized snooker table?
-If you're not a keen snooker player, you can think that away.
-But do look at the proportions of this space.
-Yes, it's a huge room.
This is lovely and I love the views.
They've made the most of what are incredible views, I think, and also the sun rises
just over there and kind of crosses across and sets over there,
so you get full sun all day long on this area.
Oh, my goodness!
-A bright red one.
-A proper Aga.
-What do you think?
-It's very nice.
You've got nice big rustic tiles on the floor, big butler sink.
-Yeah, I like the sink.
-Granite work tops.
-But you're still not convinced?
-Um, yes, I think it's very nice.
If I was choosing it from scratch, it probably wouldn't be my total choice.
Upstairs there are four bedrooms, two of which are good-sized doubles, and the third is a large double
with sloping ceilings, contemporary en suite shower room and stunning views.
-This is the master.
It's all about the views from here.
Yes, that is my ideal view.
-And you've got an en suite through there.
-A wet room.
That's perfect. So this house meets the criteria.
Let's take a look outside,
-cos we still haven't explored all the grounds yet.
As we head outside, there's a pretty impressive hidden extra
with this property that I want to show Judy and Malcolm.
I said there was a pond. There is a pond.
-It's like swimming pool.
-It's a pond and a half.
Apparently, there are 100-odd koi carp in here.
-Are there really?
-And if you see some of the monsters, they're huge.
They're absolutely massive.
-They think it's feeding time as well. Look.
-What do you think of the garden?
-It is, it's lovely.
It is an absolutely lovely, lovely garden.
So the garden's not too daunting? I was worried it might be too much.
So what do you think of the house? You've been beaming since we pulled up.
It's my ideal house. It's perfect for me. We could move straight in.
How much do you think this is on the market for?
I think is this is the top of our budget.
-I think it's going to go for about a million pounds, maybe a little bit more.
-How about you, Judy?
I think about a million pounds.
You're both pretty close, although I'm glad to say that it's just a bit under a million pounds.
It's on at 985,
and in the present floaty market, you may have room to negotiate,
although I have to say it's only been on the market for two weeks.
I think you need to go and have a little walk-about round the house and just do
-a bit of hard sell.
-Shall I go and persuade her?
-I'll meet you at the front.
When we drove up to the house, I thought, "Yeah, this is it."
I knew as soon as we got here that Malcolm would like this house.
I know him very well, and it's got Malcolm written all over it.
It was clean and tidy, large. So, yeah, this would be perfect for me.
Well, for our final and one of my favourite properties,
we're heading to east Devon in the company of John and Sally.
They were looking for a beautiful period property
with a nice, big farmhouse kitchen and around three bedrooms.
But last and certainly not least, they wanted somewhere
with plenty of outbuildings and land,
so they could set about opening a dog training school.
So which kind of property would tick all of their boxes?
Of course, it had to be a beautiful Devon longhouse.
For the mystery house, I took John and Sally to Penslade in east Devon,
just outside the larger village of Uffculme.
Uffculme has a school, a post office,
a pub and a small supermarket.
Now, they had a budget of £800,000, but would that be enough
for the beautifully-renovated house I was about to show them?
-What do you think? First impressions.
-It's very pretty.
-Lovely colour, as well.
A change from white.
If, like me, architectural history is your thing, I can assure you
this is one of the finest examples of a really well done restoration that I've ever seen.
It's absolutely beautiful.
Full of period charm and fantastic workmanship.
As well as the house, there's land and outbuildings that are ideal for Sally and John's business.
But I don't know yet whether a property that's ready done will appeal to them more
than somewhere that needs work.
Check this out.
-What a beautiful room.
-Lovely, isn't it?
Gosh, everywhere you look, it's lovely.
This is original. Suspended ceiling.
And it's because of this that the place is Grade II listed.
Who's the chef between you?
-Depends what time of day.
-Me, most of the time. Unless it's morning.
I do the morning shift and Sally does the evening shift.
-Right. Well, open that door, Sally, because in there is a kitchen you will die for.
-What do you think?
-This is nice.
-Lovely island here.
Over there, gas hob, electric range cooker, oven.
-This looks like any old dresser, doesn't it?
-But open that door there.
Open that door, John.
Needless to say, that was built for this kitchen.
-If you buy this house, that comes with it.
I think this is a kitchen to die for. What do you think?
-Yeah, it looks like a cook's kitchen.
Through there, you've got a new extension, newly completed, just a few months ago.
-Oh, look at this.
-Wow, look at the window.
-It gives you...one hell of a living room.
Look at this.
Look at the views out there...and a pond!
And the menage. Look at that!
-Ticking all the boxes.
-Ticking more than all the boxes, I think.
We had that built just before you get got here - we knew you wanted one!
It's like you dragged and dropped everything in place!
At the far end of the house is another reception room,
and upstairs is some self-contained guest accommodation.
Ohh. What a guest room.
-This is lovely.
-In here, you have a lovely en suite.
-It's too good for the guests.
You say that now, but wait until I show you your master bedroom.
-Down those stairs and let's go and find staircase number two.
The guest quarters get the seal of approval, as I'm sure the impressive master suite will
in the neighbouring wing.
-Oh, look at this.
It's lovely, isn't it? It's got character.
It's got bags of character.
-Bags of character.
-Lovely, isn't it?
-Look in there, John. En suite.
John gets up very early to go to work and, because Sally doesn't like to be woken up,
she makes him get dressed in the room next door. Don't you?
-It's his choice.
-But here's a room in which you can do that.
-Let's have a look.
Big enough, my lord?
-Indeed, yes. I could see myself getting dressed in here.
-Tiptoeing around the place.
-And a separate way out, so I only need to open the door once.
Also upstairs are two more double bedrooms and, at the far end, a family bathroom.
But it's the great outdoors that my buyers are really interested in, so let's hope the land and outbuildings
meet the needs of their proposed dog training business.
I want to show you this first.
This a lovely big barn, and I'm thinking indoor training.
-Gosh, it is big.
-I can see that.
-In here, we have the possibility of kennels.
-And here, if you need it, a little yard office.
-So, we've seen the house, we've seen the buildings, let's see the land.
-All in all here, we've got nine acres.
Mixture of pasture, woodland, stream running through there, you've got your menage.
You've got your indoor school if you need it.
And, let's face it, you've got a pretty fabulous house.
All of this, of course, does come at a price.
You like your nine-nines!
Yes, it probably starts with an eight, actually.
-It does start with an eight.
-I think Jules has given us quite a lot to think about.
It is absolutely stunning, I have to say.
The quality of the workmanship is very good.
Clearly, the house has been completely done.
There's nothing to do.
It's somewhere we could move into tomorrow.
This amount of land could be a reasonable size for us, and a manageable size.
Logically, all the boxes get ticked.
However, emotionally, there's something that doesn't quite feel right for me.
Well, I have to say, of all of the properties I've seen
on Escape to the Country, that probably was one of best historic renovations I've come across.
I was delighted to see that Sally loved the idea of that dressing room for John.
And of course, it had all the outside facilities they needed for that dog training school.
But sadly, all good things must come to an end.
That's it for our review of some of the best that Devon has had to offer.
But I hope it's inspired you to find your own rural escape wherever, that happens to be.
I'll see you next time.
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