Alistair Appleton gallops through the Buckinghamshire property market in search of the perfect equestrian home for a young couple with a budget of 800,000 pounds.
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Today I'm in a county with beautiful chalky hills,
a murky connection to Henry VIII's love life,
and home to these waterfowl, who've been gracing our dinner plates for the last 200 years.
It's a sort of potent mix of poultry and property on today's Escape To The Country.
In today's show, I'll be helping a horse-loving couple
saddle up and make the dream move from town to country.
-It's your future coming to get you!
We'll embark on a grand tour of desirable residences...
If I sat down and had to draw what I wanted, this would be it.
..and there's our mystery house, which might challenge all their preconceptions.
Today, we're in Buckinghamshire, and the county town is Aylesbury -
home to...the Aylesbury duck! And here we have a perfect specimen.
Lovely white, with this distinctive pink bill.
-All white ducks are not Aylesbury ducks, though.
No, it's a misapprehension that if it's white it's Aylesbury.
In fact, it's a completely different strain to a normal hybrid farm duck.
Very handsome birds. But Buckinghamshire has a lot more to offer.
Buckinghamshire is shouldered by Oxfordshire to the West,
and Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire to the East.
The south of the county is dominated by the Chiltern Hills.
Stretching 75 miles across several counties,
this ridge of chalk and woodland makes an attractive backdrop.
In the 16th century, Henry VIII made Aylesbury
the official county town over Buckingham -
allegedly to curry favour with Thomas Boleyn,
so he could have his wicked way with his daughter Anne.
In the 15th century, the area became known for producing bricks.
Initially, they provided in-fill for the timber-framed houses,
and later, they were seen in grander properties throughout the country.
The great thing about Buckinghamshire is its proximity to London.
You've got beautiful countryside, but commuters can glide elegantly
into all those West London stations. However, it comes at a price.
Buckinghamshire is the second most expensive place in the country to buy a house.
In fact, the average detached property price is a laughable
87% above the national average, at £457,000.
Still, as you're about to see, you can get some beautiful properties.
If Robin and Kirsten had £1.9 million to spend,
then they might snap up this six-bedroom former watermill
in Twyford. The grade II listed building dates from the 18th century
and provides excellent equestrian facilities.
And there's no shortage of grazing land, as there is 88 acres.
Alternatively, £695,000 would buy this four-bed timber-framed property
in Nether Winchendon. Built at the turn of the 20th century
as an estate worker's cottage,
the property has undergone much renovation work,
and now offers contemporary luxury accommodation.
Or, if you're searching for something unique,
how about this two-bed former electricity sub-station
near Burnham. £395,000 buys a slice of a former estate,
commissioned in 1905 by a Russian prince.
Designed to resemble a folly or temple,
the building is truly distinctive.
As you can see, Buckinghamshire has some beautiful properties on offer,
but our house-hunting hopefuls today have a very specific home in mind.
Today's buyers are Robin and Kirsten,
who live in Woking. They both commute - Robin to London,
for his work as an IT project manager,
and Kirsten to Farnborough, for auditing work in defence engineering.
But they never thought of Woking as a permanent home.
We moved in in August 2004.
It's a fairly modern house built in the 1960s -
detached, four bedrooms, three reception rooms -
it's in walking distance to Woking mainline station.
Robin was brought up in the country and is a keen amateur horseman.
His pride and joy is Killie, who's in stables four miles away,
but their dream is to have an equestrian property
-all three can share.
-At the minute, I'm away from home a lot,
I go to the yard where the horse is, spend at least two or three hours
per weekend day there. Because Kirsten doesn't have a horse,
it's difficult for her to get involved.
Riding's not the only activity they plan to do when they move to the country.
I'd also like to get a little weekend car, a two-seater sports car,
and have the space to store it in.
-What about you?
-Well, I see myself obviously getting a horse
and being able to actually enjoy Robin's hobby with him.
I'm also interested in falconry, so I see myself joining a local falconry club
and becoming more involved that way.
But the search hasn't just begun - they've been hunting for their ideal horsey home
for the last 12 months.
It's just the three elements, I guess - the location, the character
and the property itself, and then the land that comes with it.
Those three core elements are difficult for us to find.
So how different will the new house have to be?
We're really looking forward to being in a village,
somewhere with a bit more of a community so we can get to know some people.
Here's our garage - I want a bigger double garage,
and I want to store my cars in it. I'm very car proud.
This is the porch on the way to our front door. All you can see is muddy boots.
What would be great in our new property is a big utility room -
somewhere where Robin can put all his dirty boots and horse stuff.
What's the full list?
It needs to be a detached property, minimum three bedrooms,
we need to have the land - so a garden plus sort of three acres
of grazing land. That land needs to be fairly flat to develop
some equestrian facilities if they aren't already there.
And then certainly the house needs to have the kitchen-dining area.
Four years ago, Robin and Kirsten bought their house for £373,000.
And despite the difficult market, they've just sold for £445,000.
So, what's in the coffers for this new house?
If you find the property that ticks all the boxes for us,
we've got a maximum of £850,000 to spend.
It's a sizeable budget, but will they see eye to eye when our search starts?
The only difficult will be if I really like the house
-and can't see a problem with the land...
-But I've got an issue with the land.
-Then we'll have to discuss things!
I asked a friend of mine whose daughter had a pony
what he fed the horse, and he said ten pound notes!
And it's very true that anything in the equestrian world
comes with a big price tag attached.
So Robin wants an equestrian property for £850,000,
and that's a lot of money in this current market,
but, in Buckinghamshire, in the commuter belt, with three acres -
it's still going to be a tight squeeze.
Robin and Kirsten have already carried out an extensive search
of Berkshire, but not found anything to their liking.
So they're now keen to explore Buckinghamshire,
and our new search will centre on Aylesbury.
In today's show, I'll be taking them on a tour of three equestrian properties,
but, as ever, I won't be revealing the price tags straight away.
The last of the three will be the mystery house, which always has the potential to shake things up.
-Welcome to Buckinghamshire.
-The county's put on a lovely morning for us.
-And this is not even the county that you were looking at,
-you were more south.
-That's right, more Berkshire way - M3, M4,
-that sort of area.
-Well, the M40's good! It's a fine motorway!
It's a good motorway!
But it's good, you've looked at a lot of properties.
We've sold ours, so we're keen to buy.
-We have money burning a hole.
-Well, there's two things there.
One - absolutely fantastic that you sold it.
You're like gold dust in the current market.
And secondly, it meant you'd seen quite a lot of the houses we wanted to show you.
-Sorry about that!
-Which is partly why we've gone a bit further north.
Equestrian properties are at a bit of a premium - even in this current market,
people who want equestrian properties really want them,
so they do tend to go. So we've sorted out some really nice ones,
and we are taking you a little out of your comfort zone,
-so kind of ride with us, as they say!
-See what I did there?
Right! Good. Well, let's get in the car, let's get going.
Armed with a budget of £850,000,
Robin and Kirsten want a house with a minimum of three bedrooms,
a kitchen-diner large enough for entertaining,
equestrian facilities for at least two horses
and three acres of land. It's a tall order,
but, as ever, we'll do our best.
How are you guys feeling?
-Looking forward to it.
-I'm excited. Bit apprehensive.
We've been looking for nine months so I'm not sure that you guys can just find somewhere...
How dare you! You've thrown down the gauntlet now.
-We'll all be working extra hard.
-How very dare we!
What is it that you didn't like about those properties?
I think we're after something really quite niche, with the land and equestrian aspect,
so the places we've looked at,
there's always been something not right - location, not enough land, the house isn't big enough...
-Maybe we're too picky!
We're kicking off our search in Aston Abbotts,
five miles north of Aylesbury.
It's a quiet village with an attractive mix of housing stock from thatched cottages
to more recent dwellings.
At 468 feet above sea level, there are lovely views to the west
across the Vale of Aylesbury
and the many bridleways on offer make this area very popular for horse owners.
Just a tad north of Aylesbury - I know that was your pain limit.
What are your thoughts about the look of it?
-I like it. It looks good.
-She's scratching her chin. Is that good or bad?
Erm, I think the big sloping roof... Not sure how that will impact the upstairs rooms.
-That's my initial concern.
-Sure. Shall we look inside?
Yes. Let's go for it.
Nice double garage here.
In you come.
-This is the entrance hall, which gives a good idea of the tone of the house.
It's so different to what we're used to. We're not used to so much dark wood.
-I quite like that it has more character inside than you might have thought from the outside.
-It doesn't feel dark, it feels light and airy enough.
-Yeah, it does.
That's very true in this room. Let's have a look.
-Open fire place.
-It's a biggy, isn't it?
How do you feel about inglenooks? This is a proper one.
-An inglenook is where you can sit on either side of the fire.
This is a truly, not ancient, but certainly officially an inglenook.
Yeah, it's what we hoped for and were looking for, as a feature for the sitting room.
-It gives a nice snug, cosy feeling.
What do you think about the size? Cos this is the main sitting room.
-It's a good size.
-This is plenty big enough.
-So far, I'd be happy living here.
Well, it flows through into the dining room.
-Nice big glass door into the garden...
-Then, this is the dining room.
It's a big space, a nice space, definitely.
Yeah, I like it. It's a big room, a good-sized dining room.
Ultimately, everyone's looking for the kitchen-diner these days,
-so let's look at the kitchen.
-Kitchen, always the acid test of any house.
-How does it fare?
-It's like a big, square, open room
that you would ideally have as a kitchen.
Yeah, it feels open enough and light. Certainly big enough.
The view over the garden is nice.
Lots of light, windows everywhere. These are nice oak-fronted, arts-and-crafts units.
Would you get rid of those?
-I actually like the style to be honest.
-What is your style of interior?
I don't know, would you go contemporary? Old?
We're quite contemporary but...
-We're trying a bit more character.
-Trying so hard!
-We think we ought to be.
-"Cos we like horses, better have some wood."
What's nice is that you have a nice little breakfast bar and if you want to poke your head through,
there's a utility room so you've got oodles more space.
-Yes, this is fantastic.
This is what we want - somewhere we can come from outside, kick off our muddy boots,
-clean out before we go in the main house.
-Yeah, this is great.
-I can see myself living here very easily.
-It's a very characterful house, even though it's quite young.
You were worried about the space upstairs so let's take a look.
It seems like we got off to a good start.
Just off the hall is the study which will be useful if they ever want to work from home,
and there's a cloakroom too.
Now for the upstairs. Just in front of us is the family bathroom,
which they may want to update, and there's plenty of space for guests,
as this house has five bedrooms.
Two of them are singles, one of which is currently used as a library
and then there are two small doubles, which would be fine for their weekend visitors.
I want to show you the master bedroom which I think is very handsome.
This is great, yeah. A really good size.
How do you feel about the sloping roof and the size of the room?
Erm...obviously got the built-in cupboards here.
Got a walk-in...
They've disguised the sloping roof really well.
-There's a lot of attic space as well, which is good.
-En suite, yeah.
-Very nice en suite.
It's a good size.
Well, this is great.
-And this one's been done up recently, so you probably wouldn't have to do this again.
No, it works. It's nice and white.
-Clean. I love the separate shower. It's good.
-Yeah, it's good.
What do you think? I'm liking it.
Yeah, I'm liking it. I think any change we would make would be very cosmetic.
-We could just move in.
-We could. It all just works.
Too well, maybe!
Ah, you want a challenge, don't you? Don't worry, we'll give you challenges!
-But you're not really buying the house. You're interested in the land with the horses.
Let's go outside.
Well, Kirsten seems happy to move right in. I hope the outdoor space will suit Robin.
It's one of many exits into the garden, which is a good thing, as the garden is lovely.
I think so. What do you think?
It's a very good size.
Looks fairly easy to maintain, I'd say.
Yeah, it's a good size for us, I think.
And you can get a sit-on the lawn mower?
-Isn't that what every boy wants?!
-Exactly. Everyone wants to sit on the lawn mower.
Through very nice copper beach hedge.
Come with me and enter your very own universe of horse.
So, we've got space to put an arena in.
The fence here is the limit of your paddock and this fence at the back,
and you can just see on the brow of the hill at the far corner.
-That's the extent of it. It's two and a half acres.
So, it's a bit under what you were looking for but we need to know now whether that's sufficient.
Sufficient for you, isn't it?!
I always want more and more. But I can see how it would work with a stable block there.
I'm not sure if you could fit the menage in, in the rest of that corner,
but there's plenty of room elsewhere to put it, and I'd say it would work.
So, how much do you think it's worth?
-Million dollar question.
It's not a million dollars.
I'm going to go in at...hmmm...
Wow! That's a big difference, I'm going to go a hell of a lot lower
and I'm thinking, because of the location and the amount of land,
and the size of the house,
I was thinking more 740.
-You're saying because of the location, because it's not near where you want it?
I'm afraid it's right at the top of your budget - it's 850.
-So I was close.
-Of course, you've got to remember, this is the market price now,
but you know that the market is very much geared towards you guys,
so you're in the power seat.
Why don't you have a look around the grounds, have a look at the soil, take some soil samples...
Have another peak indoors and when you've had your fill,
-we'll meet at the front and then we'll press on.
Phew! I thought that would be a close shave with the acreage,
because they were very desperate to have lots of space and it's a little bit short,
and it's our first property. Usually people hate our first property,
but it's been a blinding success!
At £850,000, this house is on the money.
Having this access directly from the road would work really well.
When we first arrived at this property,
I wasn't quite sure...
what I was gonna make of it. It certainly didn't have the kerb appeal.
But coming inside, I really like it.
-I think this is probably my favourite room.
The fireplace is certainly a magnificent feature.
It doesn't have everything we want. There's no equestrian facilities in place.
So we'd have to spend money doing that.
I do like it. I think if we can work with the land, yeah, possibly a contender.
-Yes, all finished.
-Good. Let's press on.
Let's not rest on our horsey laurels.
Robin and Kirsten can't wait to make their move to the country
so they're taking some time to explore what would be on their doorstep.
While Aylesbury is famous for ducks, it has a more serious past.
The town played a vital role in the English Civil War,
when John Hampden raised his regimental quota from his Buckinghamshire tenants,
more commonly known as the Greencoats, from the colour of their jackets.
-What do you think?
-Yeah, I like it. It's peaceful, it's got everything we need here really.
But it still feels rural.
Six miles west of Aylesbury is Waddesdon Manor.
Built in the neo-Renaissance style of a French chateau in the late 19th century,
for the famed banking Rothschild family.
It's an incredible statement of this county's past wealth and the beautiful gardens were the work
of the French garden designer, Elie Laine, and resemble those of the Loire valley.
-Look at the view.
-It's amazing. Our new house is down there somewhere.
For a taste of the local brew, Robin and Kirsten are heading south
to the oldest independent micro brewery in the Chilterns.
-Hi, I'm Robin.
His family have been running this business since 1980.
So this is into the heart of the brewery.
The brew house is where it all starts and the first job is testing the barley.
You'll find that for the rest of the day you'll be trying to get the little husks out of your teeth!
And of course the best part is saved for last, the tasting.
We've got the barley wine. So, I hope you've enjoyed the tour
-and I hope you manage to find a place in the area.
-Thank you very much.
-Thanks for showing us around.
Our next house is in the village of Hockcliffe, just across the border into Bedfordshire.
Woburn is just four miles away and is in an unspoilt village known for its many Georgian buildings,
independent shops and cobbled streets. It's also the place for picking up a few antiques
which might help Robin and Kirsten achieve the period charm they're looking for.
One mile outside Hockcliffe, our next house is approached via a long, winding drive.
So this is the property I want to show you.
Now, it's a fascinating property. If you noticed, as we came in there was a stately house on the hill.
This used to be the barn, the stable and the cottage.
It's an extraordinary plot of land, which we'll look at later.
But a very beautiful house. First impressions?
I think when we first came up, because the house is hidden down, we didn't quite know what to expect
but seeing, um, it's a good-looking house.
-You don't really get much of an idea. We need to go inside.
Eyes right, don't look up there yet. Concentrate on the house.
That's the entrance hall but let's go straight into the former barn.
What do you think of it?
-For me it lacks something, I think.
-Yeah, it's quite...
-It just does seem just like a big space.
There's no sort of one anything that I'm focusing on, it seem to be just a big room.
I'm just trying to imagine our furniture in here and how we would use it.
-We would have to make more...
-More of the fireplace.
-Make that more of a feature.
Let's look at the other side of the house, the dining room and the kitchen.
The dining room is large and flooded with light from the patio doors which lead to the garden.
Next door is the kitchen.
-Nice and sunny.
-Got a nice range. There's also a regular hob as well.
What do you think about this room?
I'm on tenterhooks.
For me, it's not big enough. It's open plan enough for, the kitchen.
I know there's a table there but if people were cooking in here, it would just get in the way.
-Um, so, yeah.
-You're an all or nothing sort of a guy.
-I am, absolutely, black and white.
Good to know. We could save ourselves a lot of time.
-That's why you've seen so many properties, isn't it?
No, I don't like the guttering. Not buying that one.
What about you, Kirsten? You seem more level-headed.
I... I agree, I think we are looking for a kitchen/diner and although yes, there's a small table in here,
-you wouldn't entertain in this room.
This room may not be hitting the mark but at least there's a decent-sized utility room,
which could easily tuck away all their tack and boots.
And also just off the kitchen is a staircase that leads up to two bedrooms
that are currently used as offices. But I'm hoping I can win them over
with the upstairs of the main part of the house.
-There's a landing, a proper landing to sit and read in.
-And a view.
A view. But it's in a dip. It's low down and you just can't see out.
-You like to be high up with elevations.
-I like to see my land.
-See you land.
Well, horses like to be on hills so maybe it's rubbing off on Robin.
Moving swiftly on, there are three large double bedrooms up here,
the second of which has its own en-suite shower room.
And then of course, there's the family bathroom.
But I'm interested in showing them what would be theirs.
Into the master suite. An enormous walk-in wardrobe.
I mean, it's always been my dream to have such a large master bedroom with dressing room and the en suite.
I mean, yeah, it's great for me. It's everything I would want for a bedroom. It's lovely.
You're remaining tight-lipped, Robin!
For me, the master bedroom isn't the be-all and end-all, so it doesn't buy the house for me.
-There's too much missing.
-Sure, the missing hill!
-The missing hill.
If only you'd told us you were a hill dweller.
Well, it's interesting that you mention hill dwelling
because even though the house is at the bottom of the valley,
you own the top of the hill. Let's go that way.
The path up the hill starts here. All these steps and landscaping was done
when they moved into the property, 20 plus years ago,
-because they are fanatical gardeners.
-They sure are.
How do you feel? Is this all too much?
-It's a little...
-It's way too much, let's be honest. Yeah. We couldn't maintain this.
Oh dear and they haven't seen it all yet.
After this formal garden, there's another area with raised beds and greenhouses
but I think I'd better start talking horses very quickly.
Up here, you've got an old workshop and the greenhouse
-but what you've got is solid footings throughout.
-Yeah. Good foundations.
-This would be a perfect area for stables.
-Because this is right next to the paddock.
Well, it sounds like that gets the thumbs up.
Here it is! Finally, your paddock.
The house sits on a five-acre plot, four of which belong to the paddock.
-You've got a smile on your face now.
-You can tell, I'm happier.
This is good, I'm liking this. This is a good sized plot of land.
I could be wining them over but I feel that Robin is still holding back.
You were smiling a second ago and now it's disappeared.
Well, I liked it initially because I can't deny this is a great spot
and then I remembered about the house.
-It's almost a shame that the house isn't up here and the horses can be down there.
That would've been a lot better.
Well, it's s big, big plot of land. Obviously a pretty ambitious garden, if you're that way inclined.
How much do you think it's worth?
Oh... Shall I tell you what I'm prepared to pay for it?
How much do you think it's on the market for?
OK, so it's nicely done out inside
and I think it would be on for probably more than our budget.
I'm going to go a bit higher. I'd go for 895.
-Good because you're both wrong! It's on at 850.
-Still, like naughty school children, I'm going to send you back to have another look.
-Take another look, you might change your mind.
At £850,000, this house is bang on budget but sadly for Robin, not on a hill.
Walking up to it, I thought it was a really pretty property.
It was just a shame for me that it was hidden down in this dip.
I do really like the space in this room and would be great for a party.
Really well kept order. You wouldn't have to do anything to the property.
-The master bedroom has got everything that you really want.
-I know. It is, definitely.
For our needs, for an equestrian property, I'm struggling to see how I could make the land work.
Formal gardens, I can obviously appreciate, very nice but would be absolutely wastes on us.
-I was just pondering the future of this garden.
-Are you going to be looking after it?
-I don't think so.
With Buckinghamshire's rich regal history,
Kirsten's passion for falconry should be well served.
With a course already under her belt, she's keen to learn more.
'We've come to meet Max, a peregrine falcon, and his owner Alan.'
-How are you?
-Fine, thank you.
'Alan's been handling birds for over 30 years.'
-What kind of falcon is he?
-He's a Lanner falcon cross Peregrine.
'Alan has also brought along some of his prize birds, including one of the smallest - American Kestrel.
'But it's Max who's going to stretch his wings today.'
-Can he fly?
-Can we see him do some business?
We'll stoop into the lure, just a leather pad.
-Stoop him to the lure. Great terminology.
-Great. Let's do that then.
Stooping to the lure provides training for the birds to prepare them for hunting.
'The lure is a soft pad which has food attached to it,
'is swung to represent a live catch.'
He's so fast.
He's gonna get it this time.
-It was unreal.
Now I know what it is to stoop.
Well done, Max. That was a sterling show.
Can we have a go with the hawks?
-Not doing the stooping?
No, we can just fly them backwards and forwards. See what happens.
'Flying from the perch trains the bird to return to the handler.
'Let's hope Jimmy the hawk returns to us.'
-Kirsten's go the glove on already.
-Let's do it.
Hold your hand there.
He's not as heavy as I thought he would be.
No, he weighs 1 lb 5 ounces.
That's about average for a male Harris hawk.
The female is always the biggest bird.
Next up, it's Robin's go.
I think Jimmy's the star.
-Just use under the thumb?
-That's it, under the thumb.
-I didn't have him under my thumb after all.
Well, I'd love to spend all day here with Jimmy and the birds,
but we have property to stoop and conquer.
So before you and we get fed up,
-thank you very much.
-It's been a pleasure.
-Thank you very much.
As the day draws to a close in Buckinghamshire,
Robin and Kirsten get a chance to relax and consider the properties they've seen so far.
-What did you think of that house?
-Yeah, I really liked it. Clearly!
When we first arrived, I was unsure about what it looked like from the outside
and what the space inside would be like but when we walked in, and we saw the beams...
-The inglenook fireplace...
-It made it. The only problem for me, A, the amount of land
and B, there's no equestrian facilities there currently so we'd have to put in the menage,
the stables, a barn. And I'm thinking it's already at the top of end of our budget.
-What about the place with the gardens?
-It was almost in a little dip and there were no views
-from the downstairs rooms whatsoever.
-But then there was the big paddock.
But it doesn't compensate for the house
because it's going to be the horses spending their time there, not us.
I think there have been some very good positives, a few negatives. Really excited about tomorrow.
-Yeah, I can't wait.
-Here's to tomorrow.
Robin and Kirsten from Woking are looking to break free from the confines of town-living
and settle in an equestrian property in Buckinghamshire.
They have a budget of £850,000
and so far they've viewed two properties. And coming up...
I could feel my fingers going. I want it, I want it.
Then finally, the mystery house that bucks all the trends
and is a sensible option.
Very interesting day yesterday. They loved the house I thought they would be so-so about
and they hated the house I thought they'd love. So slightly different tack today.
I'm going to press on on the period front because it was interesting,
yesterday, they wanted to feel more grown up.
So we're going to show them a very grown up property and with the other, I think we're going to test
whether they want to get into so much debt.
Our first house this morning is in Leckhampstead,
four miles east of Buckingham.
Deanshanger, just a couple of miles away,
grew up around the ironworks, which date back to 1820.
Today, only the workers' cottages survive,
but the history lives on in the road names.
Many of the houses sit around the village green along with the pub,
where Robin and Kirsten could meet their new neighbours.
This is the house I want to show you.
-You wanted period.
-I've given you period.
-You sure have.
It's two cottages originally that were joined together.
-Probably from the end of the 1600s.
-What are your first impressions?
Yeah, I like it. It's very chocolate box.
So, slightly unusually,
-I thought I'd show you the outside first...
-..then take a look inside. Does that sound all right?
To be honest, I think you'd probably want to do a bit of work inside
and I don't want to put you off cos I know that first sign of trouble,
-you're out of here!
'I'm hoping this strategy will win them over. First stop is the garden.'
-Beautiful, isn't it?
I could feel my fingers going. I want it, I want it.
That's what I want - grabby fingers!
-I don't want push-away fingers.
-This just looks immaculate.
These are the formal gardens. And this is just a big sit-on mower job.
-Not too much to look after.
-But there's a lot more.
KIRSTEN LAUGHS A pool!
A pool. You get hidden extras in this house.
-I didn't want just a view.
-This is a proper leisure house. I'm liking it.
Do you like a pool? Some people are scared off. This is a beautiful one.
Our nephews would love it.
Oh, you'd be so popular!
Good. Well, there's barbecue space.
-I know you like that.
-I do indeed.
-There's another water feature over there.
-This is what we're interested in.
-A tennis court. Wow!
-Do you play?
-I haven't, but I have friends who play.
-Is that a stable block?
-That's your stable block.
-To use a good Northern phrase - this is bob-on.
'Well, that's a new one on me, but it's great to get this reaction.'
And here's the horsey bit.
-It looks big, actually.
-They don't use it for horses...
-but it's built for that in mind.
We'll have a look at that later, but let's look at the paddock. It's about three acres.
It takes us up to the hedge there.
That's all yours and the fence along there. Is it adequate to your horse-rearing needs?
-This is just fantastic.
-If I had to sit down and draw what I wanted, this would be it.
Yeah. You can't really fault it. It's fine.
We're going to have a look at the house too.
-Before we do, poke your head in there and see if it's adequate.
-All right. Let's have a look.
Very good. That's quite pleasing.
It's quite good. I'm working with Robin's psychology.
If he saw something he didn't like, he'd be, "I'm not interested."
So I showed him the things I knew he'd like
because the house needs a little work to make it what they're looking for.
Although it's very period.
You can see where you'd put the back of the stables by that beam.
-Do I have to drag you away?
-I know you'd like to live in here.
Still planning it out.
I think it's safe to say that Robin and his horse will be happy here.
'Let's hope he doesn't bolt when he gets inside.'
Come on in. I'm really looking forward to hearing your first impressions.
Initially, I'm thinking,
"It's really low and dark and small." But, em...
Now I'm in, I'm quite liking it. Yeah.
-That surprises me.
It surprises me as well.
-I'm so unpredictable.
-What about you, Kirsten?
I'm liking it. I'm liking that we've got the fireplace still.
Obviously lots of character.
-I'm liking the idea of sitting here, sort of cosy evenings.
-Tons of character.
-I'll be honest,
-I think you'll want to do quite a lot around the kitchen-dining area.
-But let's just nip upstairs cos there's interesting stuff up there.
'The lounge is open-plan to the dining room
'and is certainly characterful.
'The staircase leads up to a quirky warren of rooms.
'Just to our left is the smallest of the three bedrooms.
'The third of which is on the ground floor.
'The family bathroom is just across the landing.'
Nice big bath, double sinks.
A toilet in that little door there.
DOOR CREAKS Toilet in the cupboard.
So it's slightly quirky.
-It is, yeah.
-Ah, I love it.
-It's great, yeah.
You ARE surprising me today.
-Kirsten, what do you feel?
-My first impression, I like the style of it.
You're just waiting to see how the layout works.
-For me, it's the layout.
-Sure. It is quite unorthodox.
It'll make more sense when we see the master bedroom.
So this is the master bedroom. What do you reckon?
-It's good. It's a surprise. It's bigger than I was expecting.
-It's a good size, isn't it.
-And it's lighter too.
-Yeah, double aspect.
-You've got light coming from both sides.
-Views out the windows.
-The precious views.
-What do you think about upstairs?
-It's manageable for us two, the present layout.
-Good. Grounds are good, downstairs is good. Upstairs is good.
-Kitchen! Let's look at the kitchen.
-Go on then.
'They seem to be open-minded. I wonder how the kitchen will fare?'
In my new strategy of saving the bits you're probably going to like least till last...
-..this is the kitchen.
-Yeah, you can see right out. I like that.
-It's probably not what you were after.
-A big kitchen/diner.
No, but there's obviously space for a little breakfast bar in here.
It's not completely separate to where we can actually eat.
-But...there is good news.
Because, next door, for no apparent reason, is a bathroom.
This second bathroom is a bit of a luxury,
and with the correct permissions, could be knocked through, giving Kirsten the kitchen/diner she wants.
-Are we excited now?
Absolutely. I think, ah, honestly, it would work so well.
Let's go outside and talk about how much it costs.
Just next door to this bathroom is the third and final bedroom,
which has the luxury of an en suite.
And off the hallway there is also a second reception room,
complete with an inglenook fireplace. We're heading outside via the conservatory.
We've come full circle, back into the garden.
So it's a great property.
-And I'm glad that we've managed to show it to you.
What do you think it's worth?
I think you're going to kill our budget with this one.
It's got the pool, tennis court,
it's got the land we want, it's got so much character.
Um, so, 930?
Hmm. I think you've definitely gone over our budget.
I'm going to go for 895.
-You're very close. It's actually on the market for 890.
And the good news is there are indications that they'll take serious offers.
-You're suppressing a smile there.
-Yeah, I am!
I think you might want to have another look around.
-I'm only giving you ten minutes, cos we've got more things to do.
At £890,000, this house may be over-budget,
but as they are not in a chain, it makes them attractive buyers.
If I had a list of what I'm looking for in a property,
this place has got to tick off almost all of them, I'd say.
The entrance is nice. It's pretty. I think I'd say, "chocolate boxy".
It's warm in here. The views onto your own land, it's incredible.
We've already got a stable block, we don't need to do much work,
just a few breeze block walls.
Big contender, this one. Yeah, this has got everything.
-Ah, good. Come on.
-You still in a positive frame of mind?
If it's not horses, it's horsepower that holds Robin's interest.
When he moves to the country, he's keen to buy a sports car to make the most of those winding country lanes.
To put him on the right road, we've arranged for him and Kirsten to meet Brent Chiswick.
-Hi. I'm Brent.
'He runs a local car club
-'that meets twice a month.'
-Do you have to have a car to join the club?
No, anybody can. You can just be an enthusiast.
Do you do track work with them?
Yes, we do. It's really the only place that you can use these cars properly.
Drive up, spin round and drive home again.
Absolutely. Apart from standing talking about the cars,
-the best thing to do is actually drive them. Shall we go and have a drive?
This is what I've been looking forward to.
-That is a good noise!
It's kind of addictive, isn't it?
This is great fun as long as you stay within the speed limits like us.
OK, how was it?
-Fantastic, Brent. I really enjoyed the drive.
I can't wait till I get one of these for my own.
-We'll look forward to having you as a member.
Generally, I'm happy with their reaction to that house with a pool,
because I think they might go for it. But two things are preying on my mind.
One is Robin being slightly panicky about it all being too perfect
and the second is, do a young, early-30s couple
really want to mortgage themselves for a big massive house with a tennis court and a pool,
that really belongs to someone a bit older?
So, the mystery house is a happy compromise.
What do you think the mystery house is going to be?
-Good question. A mobile home with planning permission?
It'll be something that uses our imagination, I'd say.
Yeah, certainly not a formally set up, ready to rock and roll equestrian property.
They could be closer to the truth than they think.
It's time to reveal that our mystery house is in Stockgrove Park
12 miles from Aylesbury.
Nearby Heath and Reach would offer Robin and Kirsten day-to-day essentials,
including a pub. Back in Stockgrove Park,
our mystery house is part of a former estate and sits among 80 acres of parkland.
With a selection of bridleways and beautiful scenery,
there's plenty to keep Robin and Kirsten busy.
The way I see the mystery house is it's a chance for you to let go
of everything you expected to see in a property,
-and start from scratch.
Cos the property I'm about to show you is not all the things you asked for,
-certainly not inside.
-But financially, it gives you the chance to do what you want.
-It's a massive project.
I know you like a project, but part of you also doesn't like a project.
So it's a knife-edge.
-It is. I like the financial aspect of a project.
-I thought you would.
So this is house I want to show you.
It's part of the Stockgrove estate. The main house is way behind
and was split up into residential flats.
-So this is ripe for redevelopment.
It also comes with a lot of land, which already has horses on it,
and all the things like a stable block and some barns as well.
-This is sounding really good.
That's good. But it's not quite as wow as the last property I showed you.
-No, I'm sure it's not.
-Just to brace yourself.
This is more a "hmm" property than a wow property.
So get your thinking caps on and don't be too judgemental.
The hallway is light with an Arts and Crafts feel, and leads straight to the kitchen.
-Yes, I told you it was a "hmm" house.
But let's talk about what we can do with it.
This is the kitchen as it stands.
You have to decide what you want to do with this property,
to maximise the sunlight, the space and all these things.
Because really it's about the land.
It's about the stables and the land.
Is that something you'd be even prepared to think about doing?
-Absolutely, yeah. You're spot-on. It's about the land and the stables for me.
-Can I be honest?
What I've been thinking is that right now, the two of you are working,
it's a huge financial undertaking to take on a massive mortgage
-to get a massive property, and have it all now.
Whereas, it might be worth taking something that's less money,
but has the potential, and doing it bit by bit.
It would take the stress off, definitely.
And like you said, in this financial climate,
my work isn't long-term work. It's contract work.
So it would really help ease any financial worries we'd have about taking on a big mortgage.
This could be the project that you kick off the whole house with.
It wouldn't be at all difficult to knock down this wall,
and build out on the footprint that you've already got here,
and have an absolutely beautiful entertaining space.
-That would be a really good idea.
-As it's a slightly complicated house - the layout -
I'd like you to have a look around, but bear in mind that what you see
is not what you're going to live with for ever. They're all potentials.
Then we'll reconvene in the conservatory.
-Off you go. Imagine well!
Off the kitchen is the wish-list utility area,
and at the front of the house is the dining room.
But Robin and Kirsten may have other uses for it.
-A study would work quite nicely.
-A big study.
Across the hall is a room of identical size.
-Another nice fireplace.
-Shall we look upstairs?
Upstairs there are four bedrooms.
Where to go?
The first two have a slightly unusual arrangement.
-No, it's going around.
-It's an L-shaped bedroom.
-Oh, with another bedroom at the end.
-You've got good views.
If we're planning on extending below,
-you could extend over the top.
-You'd have to go out that way.
-It's good to see they're thinking positively about space.
-Let's see what's at the other end.
Across the landing is a large double with dual-aspect views.
Next door is the family bathroom, but I think they're more interested in the master suite.
This is quite a big double room.
Yeah, this is a much better size.
-And it's got an en suite.
-This is recently modernised
and shows the potential of the property.
-We could live quite easily with this.
-And then do that up in time along with downstairs.
Are you back in a good mood?
-I think we can see some options.
-We have a plan.
-Plans are good!
It all depends on whether you like the land. Let's see it.
Out into the important bit.
These are your equestrian facilities.
Is that adequate?
Yeah, it'll do us. It's fine.
-It's got plenty of room for what we need.
-Old muck keep.
-That'll be where you'll be with a shovel...every morning.
-I'm just alerting you to the reality of horses!
-My new lifestyle!
Don't get too romantic about the countryside!
Remember the muck heap. Let's look at the land.
-Basically, your land starts at this fence here...
-..goes to the fence at the bottom...
..and you're the next three paddocks,
-up to the cottage at the edge.
It's about three acres.
It's well laid out, they've fenced the paddocks nicely
and won't really be any work for us to do here...
-..which is great.
Do you see what I mean? It's a completely different proposition.
This would be your project and you could make it exactly as you wish.
If you had the money.
So how much do you think you'd have to spend
to buy this land and the house?
..and a house that needs work.
I'm going to go for...
Hm. I think it's a bit more.
I was going to go 695.
Well, in this instance,
you are right.
-It's on the market at 650.
-I think it's just, from the financial point of view,
-it's just another option to have in mind.
-It's a sensible thing for us to do.
-It makes it very affordable.
this house would give Robin and Kirsten
a whopping 200,000 grand in change.
Even with a substantial extension,
this house would still come in considerably under-budget.
After having a good look round the property and the land,
it's definitely got all the components.
It's structurally sound, so we could use it straight away.
I like this place.
I think it'll work for us. It takes the pressure off financially.
It's flexible - we'd be able to put our own style to the property.
Putting an extension on isn't a big deal for us.
We could still live in the main part of the house.
Definitely one for us to think about it.
It's probably more manageable and a more sensible option
than maybe the other properties.
Realistically, I can't see anything stopping us.
It's your future coming to get you!
We'll go to the car and head off, eh?
Robin and Kirsten are spending a considerable amount of money,
but they appreciate their wish list is a tricky mix for their budget.
With this house throwing a spanner in the works,
it's time to meet up and find out their final thoughts.
You had a good canter through Buckinghamshire.
-We've seen some really varied properties.
-Would you agree?
-Yeah. We've been surprised by the houses you've shown us.
What about the Aston Abbotts house, the first one?
-To me, that was the right balance in terms of the modern feel
but with the quirkiness.
-The drawback of it was the land.
-I tend to agree.
I think it would be fine for us right now,
but I think looking into the future,
it wouldn't support more than two horses, that land.
Then we also saw the house with all the lovely gardens.
That was quite an interesting one, I think, certainly from my point of view
because, sort of walking inside,
normally that would be...
The decor, the fact that it was just clear, straight lines everywhere,
would normally be what I was looking for in a house,
but I think we are just ready to take on something with a bit more character.
And for you, it was the setting of the house.
Yeah, I just couldn't cope with the fact that it was
in a dip almost and you felt really...
detached completely from the land that came with it.
The thatched cottage?
Yeah. I mean, I think if I was to draw something from scratch,
the quirkiness and the balance with the extension,
-that really worked for me.
But the land was just the icing on the cake for me.
The downside of that one,
-it's over our budget...
..and there would be two changes we'd want to make
within six months to a year of moving in, which would have to be
-the creation of the manege and extending out that kitchen.
-And it would have been a financial worry.
-Maybe now isn't the time to be doing that sort of a stretch...
..even though I want that house!
Talking of financial stretch,
-the mystery house is £200,000 under-budget.
I think with that house,
-you get the house that has the scope for changing to exactly what we would want...
-..and certainly it would ease the financial pressure.
The land worked and there were already stables there.
We could move right in.
-Yeah, it would be a really sensible, good option.
-I don't know whether...
-You're not going to take...!
I don't know! I honestly don't know.
I don't know whether there's something
that is still missing from that
that's making me say, "I don't know," a lot,
or whether it is what we want.
And generally, when you look long-term,
do you think that you would be able to make that big financial stretch
and get the dream house
or make a more sensible financial decision?
I think it's probably the right time in our lives
to have more of a stepping-stone house
-before we get to that absolute dream house...
something slightly below our current expectation on budget
-would be more suitable.
I hope you do find somewhere
-because it's been a real joy showing you round.
I look forward to seeing you trotting on, mucking out, very soon.
-Thanks for having us.
I'm not at all surprised - indeed, slightly relieved -
that the Walkers have dropped their budget from 850 to 650,
and it's amazing how viewing a few houses
can bring so much into sharp focus.
And that's our work all done here in Buckinghamshire
but do join us for more Escapes To The Country.
If you'd like to escape to the country
and need our help, please contact us through our website.
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Alistair Appleton is galloping through the Buckinghamshire property market in search of the perfect equestrian home for a young couple. They want to spend a whopping 800,000 pounds to get a house with wow factor - but will they splash all their cash or listen to Alistair's sound financial advice and settle for something more reasonable?