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I'm in a county which, in the 17th century,
was home to one of the greatest English poets,
famous for his epic poem pitting Satan against his creator in a fiery battle of wills.
Find out where I am for this devilishly good edition of Escape To The Country in just a moment.
Today, we're helping a couple realise their dream of a rural lifestyle.
Maybe a donkey as well we could squeeze in here somewhere, yeah.
We'll be viewing some truly stunning homes,
but we have a challenge on our hands.
I quite liked barns, but he put me off of them. Ah!
-I'm not certain what I do want. I'm hoping I'll know it when I see it.
-So, will we ever find it?
Today, I'm in Buckinghamshire
and this cottage is where the visionary poet, John Milton, came to escape the plague in 1665.
In his time, he was more famous for being a politician
with his outspoken views of freedom of the press,
but nowadays he's mostly remembered for his epic poem,
Paradise Lost, which he finished in this building.
And in that poem, he describes Paradise as a happy rural seat
of various view, which is as good as any description of Buckinghamshire.
Waxing lyrical, I would say there are a cornucopia
of countryside vistas in this county of 726 square miles,
which is quite remarkable considering its proximity to London.
Situated northwest of the capital and surrounded by Hertfordshire,
Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire and Oxfordshire,
Bucks is one of nine home counties
and is prize commuter-belt territory.
It's even on the tube line.
The south is dominated by the Chiltern Hills,
an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty,
and to the north is the flat arable landscape of the Aylesbury Vale.
Whichever direction you take,
it won't be long before you come across a beautifully preserved market town
or a quintessentially English village brimming with thatches,
brick and flint cottages, Georgian manors and Victorian farmhouses.
From Noel Gallagher to Cilla Black, many celebrities call it home,
but the wage packets of the stars might come in handy if you want to live here
as the average cost of a detached property in Bucks is 40% over the national average.
I've been trying to work out
why Buckinghamshire is so incredibly expensive.
It has good rail links into London, a very good grammar school system and low crime rate,
but it also, I've discovered, has a very healthy attitude towards its green spaces.
The county council here spends half a million pounds every year
tending its forests and byways
and they have very strict regulations about planning.
So you're not likely to be able to get land to build new builds.
When you do buy your house, it'll be surrounded by unspoiled landscape.
Take a look at what's on offer.
If you're after a very big house in the country,
check out this five-bedroom, 17th-century manor in Dunton.
Grade II listed, it's packed with original features
and you get plenty of space, with two reception rooms,
a new farmhouse kitchen, and 1.5 acres of land.
You'll need an equally big budget to buy it -
it's on the market for £1.35 million.
For those with slightly less ambitious property dreams,
how about this Grade II listed four-bedroomed farmhouse
in the village of Bierton?
£639,000 will purchase two reception rooms, a Shaker-style kitchen
and one-third of an acre.
If you've always fancied a thatch,
then this traditional brick and flint two-bedroomed cottage could be just the ticket.
Situated in the heart of a popular Chilterns village,
it offers cosy country living inside and out
and could be yours for the more modest sum of £340,000.
You see, Buckinghamshire is bursting with beautiful properties,
but at a price, and will they be beautiful enough for our buyers today? Let's meet them.
Storage company MD Chris and wife Jenny have lived
in their four-bedroomed modern house in Abbots Langley, Hertfordshire for the last five years.
But an expanding business and a new warehouse in Haddenham
means the opportunity has arisen for them to make a move to the country.
We'd like to move to the Oxfordshire/Buckinghamshire borders
because it's near to where we're currently working.
We'd like to have 10 to 15 minutes travelling time from where we have the new warehouse.
However, this move doesn't just come down to logistics.
It's a dream of mine to keep goats but we haven't enough space here.
When we move, what I would like would be
-at least a quarter of an acre plot where we can have a lovely, tranquil, park-like setting.
It would be great to get away from the traffic noise we've got here.
So a big garden for Jenny and her goat herd will be a top priority,
but what about the house itself?
I think we're quite open to looking at everything.
This is a fairly new house and, although we have enjoyed it,
I would like something with more character.
Yes, character on the outside, contemporary on the inside.
Up until recently they've shared their home with Jenny's daughters from a previous relationship.
However, now they've flown the nest,
Chris and Jenny want to downsize from four to at least two bedrooms.
But what else is on the property shopping list?
Currently we've got a spacious kitchen, which we love, with a separate dining room
which was a good idea at the time, but now we've decided
we'd really like more of a kitchen/diner to have a more sociable kind of setting.
Busy MD Chris has more than just leisure requirements though.
When we move, ideally, what I'd like to have
would be an outbuilding that could be converted into an office
so that I can separate my personal life from my work life.
So we're downsizing the house and up-scaling the garden.
But after months of trawling the property market,
it's a combination that has so far eluded Chris and Jenny.
We've both got lots of things that we think we're looking for in a house, maybe too much.
We're not going to get everything, we realise that.
The main thing is a big garden, but we don't need a big house,
but it's difficult to find a small house with a big garden. That's our problem really.
Well, if there are compromises to be made,
who will make the final decision?
Where I tend to be sometimes unsure and negative about things,
he balances things out by being more positive and making quick decisions
where I'll sit on the fence for ages, thinking, "I don't know, shall we?"
But before they can make the move,
Chris and Jenny need to know how much they'll have to spend in Bucks,
so we've invited a local agent to value their house.
This is a four-bedroomed detached house, presented in very good order.
Very well positioned in a quiet cul-de-sac,
yet moments away really from several transport links including motorways.
I'd value this property at £500,000.
With that in mind, what's the final figure for their country escape?
Our budget for the new house is £600,000.
Two things are ringing alarm bells for me now.
One is the ten-mile radius around Haddenham,
one of the best addresses in Buckinghamshire.
And the second is small house, big garden
because, even though they've got a big budget,
Chris and Jenny are going to have to make some compromises.
They want three bedrooms,
but they also want space in the garden for their goats
and maybe an outhouse for Chris's office.
All for £600,000 in Buckinghamshire? Hmm.
It's a narrow property search area we have on our hands
around Haddenham on the Oxfordshire/Bucks border.
It's just as well they've said they're open to anything
which means we've managed to line up a fantastic array
of period homes and gardens to view.
I won't reveal the price tags until the end of the tours
and today's mystery house is a project and a half,
but will it have them plotting out a future here?
So welcome to Buckinghamshire.
It's not a huge journey you've been on to get here
because you're moving from Hertfordshire.
Yes, it's not too far at all, is it? We are quite familiar with it
-because we're often popping in and out, aren't we?
And I know you're moving here largely because of your work
and because of the storehouses.
Do you have a great love for Buckinghamshire?
Yes, we find it very fascinating countryside.
-We like the hills and dips and...
Yes, the Chilterns, the views. Very nice.
-Because you're sort of downsizing.
-Sort of making your life a bit simpler.
But you'd still want some land... You want to breed some animals?
Yes, well, not breed. We'd like to keep some goats, some pygmy goats.
So we're looking for a smaller house with a larger garden, but we know it's going to be difficult.
Good, as long as you're braced for some compromises ahead.
It is a beautiful county, there's some lovely properties, so shall we go and find them?
Chris and Jenny realise they have an ambitious wish list.
For their £600,000, they want a character home
but with contemporary styling.
They need two to three bedrooms, a large open-plan kitchen/diner
and one other reception room.
Not a huge house, but with Jenny's plans to keep goats,
they want a decent garden, at least half an acre.
It's a tricky combination. Which of the criteria,
if any, will they be prepared to let go of?
Not really the land because I do want a large garden to have my goats, so that's a must.
We could compromise on the quality of the building itself.
As long as the structure's sound,
we're quite happy to do quite a lot of work internally to remodel it to exactly what we want.
Are you a bit handy with the renovating?
I've done quite a bit of work on my houses in the past.
So when you say a bit of renovating, how much?
I mean, are you prepared to start from scratch?
Yes, we're prepared to do quite a major renovation project
to the building as long as the main structure of the building is sound.
But then we're quite happy to tear down some walls
and remodel that internally and then rebuild the extensions if need be.
-So just little things really!
-Just little things.
Hopefully our first property won't require such drastic measures.
It's situated in Weston Turville
which, at just 10 miles from Haddenham,
will be an easy commute for Chris.
It's one of Buckinghamshire's busier villages
with a full run of amenities and period properties aplenty,
from Victorian terraces to thatched cottages.
Surrounded by pastoral scenery,
it's easy to escape into the county's beautiful countryside.
Our first house is situated back off the main village road,
but it's a charming property that also has the all-important land,
so we just had to show it to them. Let's see what they make of it.
Well, this is the house.
Originally it was a 1920s' house, quite small.
It was extended in the '50s and the present owner's been here 20 years
and has done everything you can see.
He's re-clad it, put these lovely hung tiles on,
new windows, double glazing, put a porch,
a lot of work. What do you think?
I personally am not a fan of the hung tile effect on houses
although this fits for this particular property.
Jenny, what do you think? You've got puzzled...
I'm quite interested to get inside and have a look.
-That sounds like you're withholding judgment.
-Because you don't like the outside?
-Not over keen, but...
-What don't you like?
-It's just so close to the road.
-And in terms of period in property, I mean. 1920s, is that OK?
It's probably later than we're actually looking for.
We're looking at Georgian, Edwardian, Victorian.
You may well be looking Georgian, with half an acre...
That's going to be quite tricky to find around here. Yes.
It would be a big house as well, whereas we want the small, yes.
So maybe Georgian? Let's have a look inside.
Well, when Jenny claps eyes on the garden,
I have a feeling that road may all but be forgotten.
However, first the house.
Although it's 20th century,
I'm hoping it will deliver on space and room dimensions.
In you come. This is the hall that they extended out.
This is the sitting room
and this would have been the extension, do you see the beam here?
-That's an RSJ they would have extended out.
-And they've turned it into this big sitting room.
-It's a nice size room.
It's a nice comfortable size.
Unfortunately, you can, even though it is good double glazing,
you can still hear the traffic noise.
Yes, if you wanted the windows open in the summer, I think you'd get the traffic.
Do you spend a lot of time at home watching telly?
How do you use your home?
-Yes, we spend a lot of time in the sitting room, don't we?
-Yes, we do.
-We will be spending more time in the kitchen/diner.
-When we have one.
That comfortable room, when we have one. At the moment, we've got a separate dining room.
-Which we don't use, do we?
-Which we don't really use.
Well, let's go and explore that area here. OK.
There is a little study that's being used as a music room there.
It looks out to the front. This is the kitchen.
-Right, well, are you taking it all in?
I quite like it, but I know Chris is going to hate it.
-Why are you going to hate it, Chris?
-It's a country kitchen.
-You don't like country kitchens?
but I do actually like the style of this.
So what is it you don't you usually like about country kitchens?
-Big taps, butler sinks, wooden worktops.
-You've got some very specific tastes!
You don't like hung tiles, big taps.
That's quite strange, what about you, Jenny?
Although I do quite like this, it isn't what I'd choose, so...
-What would you choose?
-I'm not exactly certain. I'm hoping I'll know it when I see it.
'Ah, that old chestnut.
'Fingers crossed, we'll come across it.
'What a pity this kitchen isn't to Jenny's taste
'because it would be a crying shame to pull it out and refit it.
'Just down the hallway is a separate dining room which could be used as a spacious study for Chris.
'But that's it for the ground floor, let's turn our attention upstairs.'
This is the master bedroom. It's a quite conventional room.
I think you also have this image of a master bedroom that's probably not this, is it?
Well, no. I am very lucky, I have got a very large bedroom at the moment
with a lovely en-suite so I don't really want to...
-Well it does have an en-suite.
-Through here. Do you want to go and check that?
Ah, when Chris sees this loo...
-What's wrong with the loo?
-High-cistern toilets. Don't like them.
-You are so fussy! High-cistern toilets, tiny taps...
I've never liked that.
I can't take him anywhere!
Yes, it would be too small for what we're looking for in an en-suite.
You're looking for a giant master suite with a giant en-suite?
We're looking for a large bedroom with an area where you could go to
where one side would be a dressing room,
the other side would be a normal family-sized bathroom.
So when you say you're downsizing, you're not actually downsizing.
-The number of bedrooms - we could do with just two.
-Oh, I see. OK.
This house hunting is turning into quite a voyage of discovery.
Jenny and Chris may not know exactly what they want,
but they're very clear about what they don't want.
However, there could be a solution to extending the master bedroom,
as there is a further double bedroom
and the dividing wall isn't structural, it's just a partition.
There is an option here that you could knock this through.
You could put a door at the top of the stairs
and make this your giant, massive master suite with a fantastic en-suite.
-Yes, could work.
-Take away that evil high cistern.
-With small taps.
-With small taps.
-The small taps in the kitchen.
Giant taps in the bathroom!
Sadly no gargantuan taps in the family bathroom,
but along the hall are two further good-size bedrooms.
However, for Jenny, the garden is equally important, if not more so,
than the house itself and, at half an acre, this one should be spot on.
There's even an added extra hiding behind the garage.
Dining area and...
-A swimming pool.
-..and a swimming pool.
When we were seeing bits of the garden,
we were thinking, "Where would we put the goats?"
One of the thoughts was behind the garage, but they would be swimming!
-A sunken goat garden!
-So the swimming pool's not a big plus?
-No, not at all.
-Not for us, no.
The rest of the garden is absolutely fabulous.
Well, there's plenty more of it and more space for your goats.
Well, that surprised me.
I can usually rely on a pool to get a big reaction,
but no, in this case, space for the goats is the top priority.
You said you wanted some land and it certainly goes on.
-This is the end with this new fencing here.
-And he did actually used to have goats here.
-Right, OK. Certainly enough room for goats
and maybe a donkey as well could squeeze in here somewhere, yeah.
-See? More land, more animals.
This piece here is certainly big enough for two pygmy goats.
Huge potential, this garden, it really has.
-It's a great garden, isn't it?
This is what I mean, when you're here, the road is a distant memory.
-The plot of land goes a long way back.
How much do you think this is worth in very expensive Buckinghamshire?
Um, I guess maybe £580,000?
What do you think?
I would say, because there is the pool and because it's finished,
probably the upper end of the budget, £595,000.
-OK, so this is on the market at £650,000.
So, we don't usually show properties that are way over,
but in terms of this market, I kind of wanted to show you something
that sort of came up to scratch but is just...
This is what you have to pay to get all this round here, finished in this way.
It is the finished article and it's got the pool.
Have a walk around and see where compromises could be made.
-I'll see you out the front.
Despite this hung-tile house being over budget at £650,000,
it has been on the market for 14 months
so there should be a little room for negotiation.
It has the large kitchen/diner Jenny wanted,
although maybe not the right style. It has four bedrooms
which could be knocked through to create two big rooms
and the half-acre garden is perfect for goats.
And for some, there's the added bonus of a swimming pool.
So with some re-jigging, could Jenny and Chris make it work for them?
I love the kitchen and I love the way it flows onto the garden.
It is nice but I think we want the dining area...is the bit that flows.
Yes, we did want the table to look into the garden while we're eating
-and it's the other way round.
-And the dining room would be wasted
-being at the other end.
-Yes, same as we're doing now - we don't use it.
I love the garden. I love it so much I'm trying to make the house work.
So I've really got to step back and think again
because it's really having a big effect, how wonderful the garden is.
So I've got to do some thinking about that.
It's fantastically decorated, we can move straight in.
The garden is absolutely fabulous, it's perfect.
The unfortunate part about the house is the road noise.
We wouldn't be able to live with it, but overall, you know,
there's lots of bits about the house that we like,
but there's too many that would outweigh.
-Hello, all done?
-Hi, yes, thank you very much.
OK, pull the door to and we'll go.
With a new warehouse near Haddenham,
Chris and Jenny are well acquainted with the area
but, keen to explore further afield, earlier in the week, they visited
the picturesque market town of Old Amersham
where local historian Anthony Toufaux was on-hand to give them a guided tour.
The whole area is a conservation area. The reason is that
there are a lot of 17th and 18th century buildings here.
But going back in Georgian times, before planning rules came along,
a lot of these houses along here, which were medieval houses,
they added on to the front these Georgian facades.
They wanted the big windows bringing more light in,
and also they were fashionable.
It gave the right impression to the neighbours.
Keeping up with the Joneses it may have been,
but it's this wealth of historic and unusual architecture
that resulted in a conservation order
which has kept Amersham old town so perfectly preserved.
With its designer shops and delis, it's definitely a well-heeled place,
but it's a far cry from the busy commercial centre it would have been 300 years ago.
Located on a couple of vital trade routes and roads,
it was the first stop out of London
and a whole industry grew up to cater for over-night visitors.
The coaching inns are still here,
today serving up locally grown produce to Amersham's residents
and a couple have even played host to Hollywood,
appearing in the Brit-flick Four Weddings And A Funeral.
No time for the movies now though, we still need to find Jenny and Chris their dream home.
For our next property, we're heading to Gibraltar,
not the rocky outcrop off Spain,
it's a tiny hamlet just two miles from Haddenham,
which is where Chris and Jenny will go for supplies as well as work.
Haddenham's centrepiece has to be
its 13th-century church, village green and pond -
home to the famous Aylesbury duck.
It's a vibrant community with seven pubs, restaurants and a smattering of good old-fashioned shops.
The quiet lanes are home to a plethora of period properties
and if it all looks rather familiar, well, you may have spotted it
on more than one gentle-paced, Sunday night detective drama on TV.
But we're in the business of finding rural abodes,
not solving countryside crimes.
So it's off to Gibraltar for property two,
which is in a very quiet setting near the end of a no-through road,
so no passing traffic here.
This would have been a one-up,
or two one-up, one-down farmer's cottages
which have been knocked through together...
-..and pretty heavily renovated 20 years ago.
-Let's have a look inside.
A somewhat muted response, but to find a smaller property
in a quiet location with a big garden is a tough challenge.
I think this 17th-century cottage fits the bill on those fronts.
In through the back door - country style - into the kitchen, also country style.
-What are your thoughts?
Yes, but it's a small country cottage.
-I have to say, can't pretend that it isn't.
But again, we're looking in a very expensive part of the country,
so snugness might be the way forward.
Mind your head,
because here we go into the original building
which is, as you can see, quite low.
Low, right OK.
You're not banging your head, Jenny?
-No, it's just right for me, just, just.
So this is...they're using it as the dining room.
Obviously, it's next to the kitchen, but it could be used as anything.
I get the impression that you're not madly keen on this sort of property.
If I was going on holiday to the country,
I would adore to stay in something like this because it is amazing,
-but I don't think I'd like to live in it.
-So you're basically not looking for a period property?
-So you want something modern?
-Something more modern than this one.
-When people were taller.
-When people were taller.
It gets a little bit taller next door.
This is their sitting room, this is definitely higher.
-Yes, it's all right for you two, yes.
-Yes, definitely feeling more space.
Obviously, it's an old property but I think it's been done up in a very contemporary way.
It's light colours, there's no horse brasses
and they've got this beautiful inglenook,
a proper inglenook where you can sit on either side.
-And this gives off buckets of heat.
-I can imagine, yes.
-In winter, it's a real roaring fire.
-It's a nice cosy, small room.
It's not such a bad size for a living room if you don't need to get around tables, chairs
and all the work in the kitchen. It's more of a... It's nice, yes.
The fire seems to have done the trick as they seem to be warming up to this property, ever so slightly.
So let's check out upstairs while the going is good.
New staircase, quite wide for a country cottage,
up into this landing area that was the bathroom they opened up.
Straight through into this little bedroom.
Wow, really cute, isn't it?
Yes. Lovely little bedroom.
And then you've got the bathroom which is also very charming.
Nice little study area and a very sweet bathroom.
Yes. It's different, very nice.
Very nice, lovely little window down there.
-And there, yes, very nice.
They're going for this very kind of contemporary,
kind of boutique hotel type feel,
you know, this beautiful roll-top bath, light and bright.
So this is the only bathroom in the house.
Everything is scaled down,
-but you do have en-suite in your master bedroom.
-So this is the bedroom.
-It's very nice, isn't it?
-The whole upstairs is really nice.
-Yes, because it's higher, isn't it?
-A much better feeling about the whole house, isn't it?
It's got more of a sense of space upstairs. And there's an en-suite?
-I say an en-suite, it's an en-suite toilet.
-But you do have the bathroom next door.
-Yes, it's not too far to go.
-But you've really effectively only got two bedrooms.
Which could pose a problem.
Well, where there are problems we do like to provide solutions.
Chris and Jenny could remodel
the upper level of this house into their very own sleeping quarter with dressing room,
because out in the garden is a possible answer to guest bedroom and office space.
In you come, different change of tone here.
-Yes, what a nice surprise.
-Very nice surprise.
-Is this more your style?
-This is more our style.
-Could you think of using this?
-This could potentially be an office,
but I think it would be a wasted space for an office really.
There's space upstairs as well. Let's have a look at that.
Now I'm a bit confused, I thought Chris wanted an outside office.
Very cunning Swedish staircase leads you up into all this.
Ah, much better.
-It's quite a significant space, isn't it?
-This could work very well as an office.
-I don't know what else we'd do with it.
It is difficult finding all...
You seem to have a very specific idea of what you want, and really not that massive a budget to get it.
So is there anything you would compromise on? You don't seem very compromise-ready.
We're quite... I think it's going to be a smaller garden.
-OK, that's good.
-To get a little more living space downstairs where you don't feel cramped.
Well, miniature goats don't take that much space.
Neither Jenny or her goats will have to compromise on outside space here
as this garden comes in at one-third of an acre.
You've got a lovely orchard
with some apples, plums, a pear tree.
-Very nice, yes.
-It's a super garden.
It is a lovely garden.
It's a super spot.
I'm interested to know how much you think it costs, all this beauty?
-I'd say probably £575,000.
-That's very interesting.
It's interesting what you've been saying about the property. It does really only have two bedrooms.
-It's on the market for £500,000.
-So it's considerably under your budget
-and you'd have £100,000 to play with.
-But what would you do with it?
Being listed, it would be difficult to extend.
-These are all things to consider.
-Beautiful house though.
-Well, why don't you have a wander around?
-See you later.
At £500,000, this cottage is under budget and has lots of options,
though they would have to seek planning consent for any changes they'd wish to make.
It's a beautiful country cottage as it is,
but it has potential to create a bigger kitchen/diner
and has two reception rooms and two bedrooms.
The converted garage delivers both Chris's office space
and a guest room and finally,
outside, Jenny's goats would have one-third of an acre to call home.
Is that enough to convince Chris and Jenny to rethink their wish list?
What would you do with the upstairs?
Well, the upstairs I think would be the office, yes.
-Maybe this could be a room for when the girls come and stay over.
-But we'd have to probably put a shower or something in as well.
It is a fantastic looking house if that's the sort of style you like,
but we're not really fans of the thatched cottage style
and the rooms are a little bit on the small side for us.
And although we're downsizing, what we're looking for
is large rooms but less of them. I don't think this would work for us.
Mmm, I really like this room. I think you've got more height
and it just gives a lovely feel to the room, doesn't it?
Yes, it's nice, it's sort of nice and cosy,
looking out both directions and the fireplace.
This is such a gorgeous quaint little cottage,
I'd love to come and stay here on holiday or to visit friends,
but I can't see living here would work for us.
Making a break with tradition, we'll leave through the front door.
Buckinghamshire has no shortage of places of interest
for Chris and Jenny to discover once they've made the move here.
But being a literary fan, I couldn't resist the opportunity
to take a proper look at the country escape
of 17th-century poet, John Milton. A museum since 1887,
today it's in the capable hands of curator, Edward Dawson.
-Good morning, Edward.
-Lovely to meet you.
I feel I should say, "Hail!" or something in iambic pentameter!
Oh, I think we can let you off there.
-So this is Milton's cottage?
-It is indeed.
-His garden no less.
-What was he writing here?
He was writing probably the last two books of Paradise Lost
and then the inspiration for the sequel
also took place here in the cottage.
It's an inspiring property.
The cottage, built from an oak timber frame and red brick,
is a fine example of 16th-century Buckinghamshire architecture.
So exemplary in fact, it's one of approximately 100 cottages in the UK to have Grade I listed status.
And it's not just the house.
The garden's the only cottage garden in the Chilterns to be listed too.
And what are you doing to make the garden Miltonian?
Well, we plant out as many of the plants mentioned in his poetry
as we can through the seasons.
What would be an example of that?
Well, a famous plant that all the poets handled was the acanthus.
It's the plant of resurrection,
because this huge, massive, prickly plant
just disappears into the ground every season and reappears again.
Milton moved here from London in 1664 to escape the plague
and, despite living here for less than two years, the cottage is of paramount importance today
as it's his sole surviving residence.
All others were destroyed, either by the Great Fire of London or World War II,
and it's now home to the finest collection of Milton first editions.
-Where are we now?
-In Milton's study, possibly a study-bedroom
because he couldn't get upstairs.
Blind from the age of 44 and only a ladder.
So you can't ask a blind man to run up and down a ladder.
So how did he write? What was going on?
He used to rise at 4 o'clock in the morning,
40 or 50 lines of perfect iambic pentameter, locked in here, with corrections and reading over,
ready for dictation to the amanuensis,
he used the lovely word, Latin word for secretary, at 11 o'clock.
-And English language, does that owe much to Milton?
-It does indeed.
There are 630 words of Milton's.
He was the greatest neologist - it's called neology, the coining of words - in the English language.
Cambridge University did this exercise...
-Greater than Shakespeare?
-Shakespeare is in fourth place
behind the dictionary man Dr Johnson and John Donne.
-So what's an example of a new Miltonian word?
Well, you use it every day, Alistair,
but I can offer you terrific,
and, of course pandemonium - Satan's headquarters in Paradise Lost.
Whether literature, architecture or horticulture is your bag,
there's plenty to take in at Milton's cottage.
In fact I'd go so far as to say, it's terrific.
Fingers-crossed the rest of our property search doesn't descend into pandemonium.
Well, it seems we've had more downs than ups today
so now Chris and Jenny have had time to reflect,
will they change their minds about either of our property offerings?
The first house we saw today was a fabulous house, wasn't it?
-Once you were inside.
-Yes, it was a nice house.
But on that road, there was a lot of noise.
The garden was absolutely fabulous, you know.
More than we'll probably ever see again.
It was an interesting surprise the swimming pool.
-But a waste on us because we'd never use a swimming pool.
OK, what about the second one, the thatched cottage?
The thatched cottage, I didn't like that one.
-Looked beautiful from the outside.
-It was a gorgeous little house, but the word little...
It didn't fit any of our room needs.
-Had a lovely garden though.
-It had a nice garden.
That's why we were there I think,
-because the garden was so...
-Nice long garden.
-Could we see the goats there though, in that garden?
Hopefully, tomorrow, there'll be some more surprises.
-It's certainly been an interesting experience.
-So here's to tomorrow.
Here's to tomorrow.
Chris and Jenny want to swap Herts for Bucks
and have a healthy budget of £600,000,
but in this county, that won't stretch far.
They want to be close to Haddenham where Chris works,
and would like a two-bedroom period house but with a super-size garden.
They know they can't have it all, so where will they compromise?
We'll just have to not have any guests!
Or will the mystery house have them making plans?
Day two and things are getting a little tricky.
On the one hand, I really admire Chris and Jenny
for sticking to their guns because £600,000 is a lot of money
and they deserve to get what they want.
On the other hand, what they want is a period property with land
with two big open plan rooms downstairs
and one massive bedroom upstairs.
But, back in the day they didn't build houses like that.
If they had big houses, they had eight rooms downstairs
and eight rooms upstairs and those cost millions of pounds
and we don't have that sort of money.
So, today we're going to have to change our tack.
It's become clear that big rooms,
but fewer of them, are our top priority for Chris and Jenny
so that's what we're going to deliver with our next property.
And for that we're popping over the border into Oxfordshire to Thame.
But Chris needn't worry, this vibrant market town
is just three miles west of Haddenham.
The well-maintained high street is home to a great mix of pubs,
family-run shops and architectural styles ranging from Tudor to Victorian,
all of which make it a popular postcode.
Our property is situated on the outskirts of town
on a quiet country lane in a very rural setting.
In fact, it's peace and quiet personified.
And we're looking at this property which as you can see is a barn.
Now this is what we're hoping might kind of answer some of your needs
since barns are, by nature, quite big and spacious and period.
What do you think about barns?
I quite like barns but he put me off them.
-"Oh, we're not having a wooden barn."
But I do like the look of it and I love the setting, so I really want to have a look.
-Don't listen to him. Listen to me.
That's our best reaction yet
and I'm glad because it's a truly impressive barn.
Dating from the 1600s, it's Grade II listed
and has all the interior space they've asked for.
Come inside to your very own grand hall.
Ceilings high enough?
-I don't think the ceilings could be higher.
You could be on a pogo stick and still manage not to bang your head.
-I love the oak.
-It's beautiful, isn't it?
Wood in its natural state, it's beautiful.
-Can you imagine what you'd do here, Jenny?
-My mind is buzzing actually.
The present owners have partitioned this end of the barn and put in a false floor,
and then they've put the bedroom, that's the master bedroom up there, so you get views both ways.
Let's look upstairs so you can make sense of it.
It looks like the dimensions are going down well.
So this is the bedroom, the master bedroom.
Now, it's not cavernously big,
but it does have all this huge expanse of view.
And you've got a little toilet in here, washroom.
This is why, even though it's not a massive space,
and it won't be a massive space, somehow it feels big
because you've got all that light and all that space.
-The height of the ceilings gives the whole feel.
-Let's see some more.
Let's see the kitchen.
Wow, Jenny is positively itching to see the rest,
so let's turn our attention to the kitchen.
It could do with some updating,
but then Jenny could create the kitchen/diner of her dreams,
although planning permission may be required.
What I'm thinking is that these walls are all thin and you've got a utility room
on the other side of this strange corridor that doesn't lead anywhere.
So the present owner was saying
that she would just knock out all of these walls and have one big space.
You could either have a separate kitchen
or you could actually make it flow into that space there.
So there's a lot of scope here. I would tend to just open out the whole space
and just make it one big open plan space and have a kitchen at the end.
Right. Yes, sounds like that could work.
Now, this is the stable block, what was the stable block.
It's converted into a chain of rooms. You've got a sitting room
and then a bedroom and then an en-suite, OK.
What might you use this for?
It seems too nice just to keep it for guests.
I like your thinking because I'd never sacrifice a nice room.
Yes, the oak here is just magnificent, I really love it.
This could probably work as the kitchen.
Take out the wall in the dining room and then it goes in to the garden.
But that would leave you no rooms for your guests.
We'd just have to not have any guests.
That's what I love about house hunting - this is very important
until I see the right house in which case I don't care!
It seems an awful lot of work, but when people start redesigning rooms,
it's usually a good sign. They're already buying into the potential.
But in this case, integrating the kitchen into the main barn would be a far more cost-effective solution
and it would still leave them with the bedrooms.
So positive reactions to the interior, but what about the garden?
Well, in addition to the front lawn,
the back garden is currently patio-ed and gravelled
but could easily be made more goat-friendly,
or they could take up the concrete hard-standing and make a pen.
But if that isn't enough, there are other options afoot.
-The present owner owns all this paddock around.
And she'd be willing to rent you the quadrant
-so you'd get a little bit of extra land.
Hmm, I wouldn't be too happy about renting my garden off someone.
If I own the house I'd want to own the garden as well, wouldn't you?
-Is that an option?
-Well, it's always a point of negotiation.
Now this is going to really interest me what you say this is worth.
It doesn't have the land unless it's going to be negotiated as an extra,
-and there is work required on the house.
-Plenty of, yes.
Plenty of, which we're happy to do.
So I'm thinking £475,000.
I'll say about £500,000.
This property's on the market for £595,000.
I was afraid you were going to say that. So without a garden for our goats, we'd have to say no.
-But it's wonderful.
-Yes, it's a lovely house.
-Not for us.
-It hasn't got the land that we need.
Well, it seems like you've made your mind up. But have a look around
-and I'll see you at the front, OK?
-We've still got the mystery house.
-Lovely. Look forward to that one.
Well, you know, I don't mean to be mean, but that is the price.
I didn't make the price up and that is what the vendor's selling it for,
so that's the price I had to give.
However, the £595,000 price tag should be negotiable as the barn has been on the market for a year.
Internally it has all the space Chris and Jenny have asked for.
Two large reception rooms,
potential to create an open-plan kitchen/diner and two bedrooms.
There's work to be done, but it doesn't have to be a huge project
and if they're willing to rent
or negotiate to buy the land from the current owner,
also the next door neighbour, then the land issue would be resolved.
So I really hope they haven't written it off straight away.
Maybe open-plan to the living room
or the living room could go in that room
and then maybe put the kitchen here with a granite worktop or something.
Would be good, but either way we think of it,
it's a lot of money to be spent, a lot of work to do.
I like quite a lot of bits about this house
and how certain things could work.
It's just a fantastic bit of space downstairs,
it could work really well.
The biggest downside to this particular property was the garden.
There was no garden that was worth talking about.
This is a huge, wonderful building with bags of potential
and there's so many ways you could change it around, moving bedrooms and kitchens.
It's a dream in many ways although it is at the top of our budget,
plus with the tiny garden, I don't really think it's for us.
Guys, one more to go and hopefully no more disappointment.
For many people, a move to the country goes hand-in-hand
with keeping a few chickens and growing veg,
but Jenny has her heart firmly set on a kid or two,
of the four-legged variety. It's been her dream to keep pygmy goats.
So we've sent her and Chris to the Bucks Goat Centre
to meet farm manager Lauren Godfrey to find out more.
-Hi, I'm Chris.
-Nice to meet you.
-So you're interested in getting a couple of pygmies.
-Yes, we are.
We've looked at a lot of goats around here.
There's lots of pretty females and males. What would be the best to get?
What we're looking at is for pets, not for milking, nothing else.
It depends how big a space you've got really.
If you've not got much of a space, then these are perfect, really.
They're perfect pets. They're a nice manageable size.
-These are miniature pygmies?
-Yeah. Nice manageable size, you don't need an awful lot of space.
Well, with half an acre on Jenny's property wish list,
how much of that will go to the goats?
Probably something about half this size if you're having a couple.
They don't need an awful lot of space.
They need a shelter
because they hate the rain, their coats aren't waterproof.
So they need a good size shelter if they're staying out all year round.
-Or a raincoat!
A garden shed's quite a good idea.
It's nice and enclosed.
So even the goats need a property and it will need to be built to last
as these hardy little animals, originating from Africa,
have a life span of 12 to 15 years, so it's a real commitment.
However, for those looking to take small steps down the self-sufficiency route,
pygmy goats are a great starting point.
They don't take up much room but they do produce a lot of milk for their size -
just under two gallons a week,
which could keep your average household in milk all year round,
and the manure is a much-needed ingredient for any successful veggie patch.
-So are these males or females?
-These two are females
but if you're looking for two for pets, castrated males are probably the best.
-How old are these?
-These are a year old now.
-Are they going to grow much bigger?
-A little bit maybe.
They're fully grown at 18 months normally.
-And what do they eat?
-Concentrate and hay. If you've got grass they'll nibble a bit,
-but they're not massive grass eaters.
-We'll still need a lawn mower?
And take heed, your pygmies require more maintenance than your average dog or mog.
Every 12 weeks they need worming, de-fleaing
and their hooves need trimming.
It's vital to learn how to do this from trained professionals or get your vet to do it.
Finally, all pygmies need to be registered with DEFRA -
the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
Ooh, do you want some milk? Come on, Leila. Leila. Yay, look at that!
Well, it looks like Jenny has found her goats.
Let's hope we can find them the house and garden they can all call home.
Buckinghamshire is a hard taskmaster
and it's so heartbreaking to see particularly Jenny so disappointed
by the price of that last property,
but we've got one more to go and I'm hoping the mystery house,
by bringing things down to ground level,
is going to provide us with a solution.
For that, we're heading to the outskirts of Wendover
which is a manageable 12-mile commute to Haddenham.
Tucked away in a crease of the Chiltern hills,
this charming little town
is prime stockbroker territory with direct rail links into London.
Awarded a royal market charter in the 15th century,
the stall holders stopped trading years ago.
But today the community is served by trendy little shops,
coaching inns and cafe culture is de rigeur.
As you'd expect from a town
that was once partly owned by Anne Boleyn's family,
period properties aren't in short supply.
Not that the mystery property is period,
in fact, it's hardly a property at all.
Situated well back off the road to Stoke Mandeville,
it's a major project.
Chris and Jenny aren't averse to knocking down walls, but will they want to start from scratch?
This could be the perfect solution
to finding the elusive mix of small house and big garden.
This is not what I want to show you, because this is a building plot.
And this plot of land has come up and I was thinking
that maybe building what you really want might be the way forward.
Um, yeah. We did look into self-build at one point
and to get a self-build mortgage is a bit of a premium.
Well, this is going to be coming down obviously,
but the plot goes a lot further to the back
and we've got the architect at the back
with the plans of what's going to be built, so we can discuss it. OK?
Chris doesn't sound convinced
and Jenny's not talking at all which doesn't look bode well.
But I think self-build could be a viable way for them
to get the house that they want, with the land that they want, for the right price.
Architect Sarah Wolstenholme and developer Nick Keeler have the approved plans.
So talk me through your design, Sarah, what did you actually, what was your idea of the house?
Well, for the plan, we were trying to capture as much of the natural light as possible.
It's quite overgrown at the moment but, if the shrubbery's removed,
there's open views over the countryside, so it's trying to capture that with main rooms.
So you've got a big living room here and a big breakfast/diner there.
And a big sun room which can open out into the garden.
Is there anything else around, are there houses either side?
-You've got an eight-acre field over there.
-No neighbours there.
And there's 30 odd acres in that direction again, no neighbours.
The current plans are for a 2,100 square foot detached house,
including five bedrooms, a kitchen/diner and sunroom,
two reception rooms and a study, all on a three-quarter acre plot.
And in terms of planning, Nick, is it difficult to move anything around
or change it?
Internally, there wouldn't be any problems at all.
It's the external elevations and siting of the property
that will require a revised planning application.
So you're not tempted, because then you could get the big rooms...
-Yes, it's possible.
-..by redesigning them? It doesn't appeal to you?
It appeals to me if it was a design and build as a finished product
on a plot that wasn't so remote and near a road.
If it was in a village location and someone was doing the shell for us,
then, yes, it would be something we could then go in
and do the internal layout ourselves. That would be ideal.
Are you interested in finding out about the price?
-That would be interesting to find out.
-And what do you think?
Three-quarters of an acre, open countryside.
I'd say probably about £200,000.
-What about you, Jenny?
-Er, I think maybe a little less.
-Oh, dear, you're quite a bit off. It's actually on at £350,000.
And what did we say the estimated cost of the house would be?
I think it was in the region of £250,000.
But it's not something you're interested in?
Unfortunately not. The location is too remote and too near a main road.
Well, if we weren't pushing boundaries, it wouldn't be a mystery house.
At £350,000 plus the estimated £250,000 build cost,
this property would be bang on budget.
The approved plans for the detached house include two reception rooms,
a kitchen/diner, a study and five bedrooms.
Now the internal plans, both downstairs and upstairs,
could be changed completely to give Chris and Jenny
the two reception rooms and two massive en-suite bedrooms they want.
But I think it's safe to say that this one is a project too far.
Well, that was our last shot and that didn't work either
-so I'm afraid we've disappointed you again.
But let's go off and regroup and see what we've learnt.
Well, that's it for our property tour of Bucks
and it hasn't gone to plan. With Jenny feeling increasingly poorly,
she's decided to leave it up to Chris to fill me in on what they've concluded.
Well, it's been quite a challenging few days and I guess that it seems
that none of the properties we've shown you have struck home.
So maybe if we go through them one by one
and we can talk about the pros and cons
and what you didn't like about them, primarily, by the sounds of it.
-We're starting with the 1920s' house.
-It had a fantastic garden.
The house itself it had a nice layout to it.
Not ideally to our taste, but it could be turned around
and moved to what we wanted it to be.
The main key factors that were a problem
was the road outside was a bit of a rat race.
And then I took you to a very pretty, charming, period property -
the lovely thatched cottage in Gibraltar, very quiet location.
What are your thoughts about that?
Yes, that was a very nice location, nice hidden sort of area.
The house was very quaint, very pretty
but totally not the sort of style of house that we'd want.
The barn conversion - that seemed to be quite positive at the beginning.
What happened as we were walking around there?
We did get excited over what could be done there. We understood what the general cost could be
for what we needed to achieve and then, when we realised the price
was at the top of our budget and it didn't have a garden,
it was quite a blow.
-It did have a garden, but not the garden that you wanted.
-Didn't have the garden that we would need.
And the mystery house,
now this was £350,000 for a plot to build a property,
and this didn't charm you at all.
It was long and narrow which was quite worrying.
But the major factor was it was on a main busy A road.
So none of the properties really seemed to offer what you want
even though they were lovely properties in themselves.
What do you think you've learnt looking at the whole process?
Um, I think what we need to be
is much clearer on what we express as our wishes to people,
and the criteria we need to get estate agents
to understand exactly what we want
when we continue with our search
and hopefully it'll work and find us the right property.
It's a difficult time to be buying, there's not a lot on the market
and, you know, you've picked a hard place to shop,
-but I wish you all the best and I hope you find what you're looking for.
-OK, thank you very much.
Well, you can't win them all and it looks like Chris and Jenny
weren't impressed by any of the properties we showed them here in Buckinghamshire,
but perhaps you were and you'd like to move here, or any other rural part of Britain.
So tune in next time for more Escape To The Country.
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