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I'm in part of the country famous for its waterways and fenlands.
It's a wet and wild habitat for this tasty resident,
traditionally served up as something of a delicacy in this part of the world.
Curious as to where I am?
Join us, as we escape to the country.
In today's show, we'll be helping a family escape the confines of the Big Smoke,
and get more for their money out in the country.
And we're hoping to blow them away with all the lovely properties we've lined up.
Some of them take their breath away.
-Are you still breathing(?)
And finally we'll end up at the mystery house, which will hopefully be a resounding success.
You can hear the echo on it, it's so big!
I'm in East Anglia, where Fenland eels have been trapped and eaten for generations.
They were once so important to the local economy
that a bag of eels could be used instead of money.
If only that were the case these days.
But there's more to East Anglia than eels.
We're here for the houses. Today our property search takes us to north Cambridgeshire.
Cambridgeshire sits in the east of England.
The landscape is shaped by the fens, a vast region of wetlands
rivers and waterways created by centuries
of water drainage and land reclamation.
It covers some 1,500 square miles
stretching across the top of Cambridgeshire and west Norfolk,
and they contain over 250 different species of wildlife.
The county's capital is Cambridge, home of the world famous university,
and there's the town of Ely, with its imposing medieval cathedral.
It's the incredible view from its impressive spire that gave rise
to its nickname, the Ship of the Fens.
So what about the architecture?
Predictably, there's a bit of everything for all tastes,
from cosy country cottages to classic Victorian
and Georgian properties.
But if you're looking for something quirky, you could snap up something like this - a converted windmill.
So, what's the cost of living, with all these liquid assets?
Well, I can tell you that the average property price here in Cambridgeshire
is just over £254,000, 4 per cent above national average.
It's a property market that consistently holds its own, thanks to architecture,
and really good rail links to London.
It's a very popular destination for growing families in search of more room to roam.
Tempted? You might be, after you've seen some of the finest properties currently on the market.
If it's pure luxury you're after,
how about this magnificent 17th century Grade II country pile in Glinton, near Peterborough?
The living space is breathtaking, and there's a wealth
of period features too. The price tag for this impressive house? £975,000.
£625,000, on the other hand, would buy you this five-bed,
stone-built home in Alwalton. Entertain to your heart's content
in this beautifully fitted kitchen and dining room
and tasteful living space. It's got great transport links too.
But if it's something smaller that you're after,
how about this four-bedroom detached property in Wisbech?
Lots of warmth here with its great use of wood and natural materials.
Plus it has the bonus of each bedroom having ensuites.
On the market for £295,000.
With such a wide range of properties available here in Cambridgeshire,
let's hope we can satisfy today's house hunters.
Today we're with Mark, an audit manager and his wife Dinah, a retail manager.
They live in Ilford in a four-bedroom semi, with their two boys, Joshua and Joel.
When we moved in here 12 years ago,
it pretty much was our dream house, but we've got children now,
and we just feel that we're looking for our new dream house.
The boys share a bedroom, and it would be good for them to have one bedroom each.
I also work from home a lot, and I'm tucked away in the loft,
which isn't properly converted, and it would be great to have a study that I could use for work.
We'd also like a reasonable size garden, so the boys have got more room to play.
I'd also like a guest room, for people to come and stay.
They'd like to be near a church, too. It's all about quality of life, especially for the boys.
We'd like to move to the country
cos we really feel it'd be good for us as a family and for the boys,
a better lifestyle, lots of nice country air, country walks.
All four of us also like motor racing as well,
-and it would be good to get the boys into quad biking or go-karting.
-We'd like a village location.
We like to feel part of a community and have people around us, though not right on top of us.
And it's also very important for our children to be able to make friends, and for us to make friends as well.
Mark and Dinah want to have the big outdoors on their doorstep,
but they need a location where it's easy to get to and from work.
They've set their hearts on Cambridgeshire.
It's still within a reasonable commute back to friends and family in this area, but...
it's well away from the built-up area we live in now.
They both have clear ideas about what they want from their new home.
It would be good to have some special features,
like an open fireplace, perhaps a few oak beams, although not too many.
We'd like to have a bit of character to it as well, to have some rooms that are nice and light and airy.
This kitchen's been great for us, but in the new property
I'd like somewhere you can have a table so the children can eat.
A real passion of mine is music. I play the flute, piano and guitar.
The piano's here, but the other instruments are spread out round the house at the moment.
It'll be great in the new property
to have a music room where we can keep the instruments and I can just enjoy my music.
Mark and Dinah have sold their property already.
They put it on the market last year, and sold it for £335,000.
-So, what's their budget?
-Our budget for the new property
is £365,000, but if we actually took out a small mortgage we could stretch to £400,000.
Mark and Dinah have a good budget for their new family home.
With two growing sons, space is going to be the key.
Not only are they after four bedrooms, but ideally they'd like three reception rooms,
so that would give Mark a good-size study and that all-important music room.
They also want a good-size garden, and they want all of this in, or on the edge of, the village.
No pressure, then!
Well, actually, yes, quite a lot of pressure.
There's huge demand from families for this type of property in Cambridgeshire.
We'll just have to get there before the rest!
We'll start our search near the Cambridgeshire border.
The towns Cambridge and Ely have great transport links,
important as Mark and Dinah will both need to commute.
I'll be taking them to see some fantastic properties,
but as usual I won't be revealing how much they cost until after they've had a good look around.
And then, just to throw a spanner in the works, I'll show them the mystery house.
welcome to north Cambridgeshire. Really good to meet you.
-Home of the fenlands. You want a village location.
This is typical of what you get in this area.
-You've still got the budget?
-Yes, we haven't spent it yet! Still the maximum of £400,000.
-I'm glad about that.
-You're circumstances have changed, haven't they?
We've sold our house and are renting accommodation, so we're desperate to move out quickly really.
-The pressure's on.
-The pressure's on.
-My reservation is you're after this substantial property
and you want it in the village or on the edge of it.
-Will you move further out?
-If we fell in love with something you showed us
then perhaps we would consider moving further out, yes.
-So I can sway you.
-Might be able to.
-Even a couple of miles out?
-Shall we get on with it?
So, Mark and Dinah have a budget of up to £400,000.
They'd also like to be near good schools.
-You're moving with the boys very much in mind, aren't you?
We just feel there's a better quality of life,
and as the boys get older we want to make sure that they've got better schooling,
and that they grow up really having that extra quality of life that the country brings, I feel.
-How do the boys feel about this move?
-Now we've moved into the rented property,
because it's so small,
they're really looking forward to having their space back again.
So they're quite excited about us finding something, really.
Absolutely. We promised them space, so we've got to keep to our promise.
There's plenty of space for the boys at our first property.
It's in Lakes End, in the north of the county.
Surrounded by the fens, this village really has that
get-away-from-it-all feeling about it.
There's a pub, and it's an hour's commute to London from Peterborough.
It has good schools nearby, too.
Let's hope this period detached house, which oozes history,
is as appealing inside
as it is out.
-I can't wait to see what you think of this.
-Do come in.
-So, instantly, a bit of luxury for you here.
-A grand hallway with a wonderful sweeping staircase.
-It's a lovely staircase.
You usually come into a property dating this period and the hallways can be quite small, quite dark.
-But you get the impression of light airiness. Shall I lead you on?
Come with me!
Mark, Dinah, this is the sitting room.
-Double aspect. Plenty of light coming through.
-Sun coming through.
-Can you imagine yourselves as a family sitting here?
-Yeah, it's a nice room.
-Lots of original features.
-Yes, I can see that.
-French windows leading out in to the garden. Don't look out into the garden yet!
-And the shutters.
-Yeah, they work!
-It's a lovely touch.
-And I know, Mark, you were after a fireplace that also worked.
-You've got a coal fire there.
-The ceiling looks like it needs a bit of attention.
-I noticed that...
-You don't miss a trick, do you?
-That's what you call in this sort of property, "character".
Oh, right. We've got that character in our rented property at the moment, actually.
-But you can imagine yourself in this room?
-Yes. It's a nice family room.
-It's a nice size.
-Onward and upward!
-Peel off to the right when you come through the door.
'The cracks in the ceiling aren't structural,
'and can be easily fixed with some plastering and a lick of paint.'
So Mark, if you do decide to escape to the country
-one of your requirements is a study.
-You're going to be working from home.
-Working from home.
-This is currently a study.
-Big enough for you?
Yes...that's ample space. I think the only concern here would be that
it needs to be somewhere I can get peace and quiet.
Being near the sitting room, don't know quite how that would work.
-Tell you what, this room that we're going into now is currently a playroom.
It could well turn into a music room, of course.
-That'll be good to have the study and music room close together.
This'll be my part of the house.
And in here you'd have, what? The baby grand piano?
Yes. The two guitars, flute, and hopefully one day
if I can get the boys on drums. That's my only way to get a drumkit, you see,
I get one of the boys on drums and we buy a drumkit.
-Let's go and have a look at the rest of the house. Come on!
'So, a few pluses already.
'Now we're leaving the 18th century part of the property behind and going back to the 17th century.'
-Um, and, er, not a straight line anywhere!
-There's a great story behind this amazing inglenook fireplace...
-which is such the focal point of this room.
The current owners found it, basically.
-There was a 1950s fireplace in there.
They went further back, there was a Victorian fireplace in there,
-and eventually they unearthed this.
-That is lovely.
-It's got real character.
-You can cook your dinner off this.
It's not on now, thankfully. I've just put my hand on it! Um...
-What do you think of this room?
-It's got a lot of character.
-I like this room.
-Let's got through to the kitchen.
With a vaulted ceiling.
Lots of the original beams evident here.
And if you look at that one over there,
-there's a name engraved into it.
-Oh yes, I can.
"John Clements, 1787." Basically he was the builder
-that built the 18th century part of the house.
-They found the beam outside and put it into the kitchen.
So, you've got the electric range.
It's got a Belfast sink - also that was found chucked outside.
-So they've used original features that the owners before them got rid of.
-Got rid of.
-Then put them back in.
-It's a typical farmhouse kitchen.
-Shall we go upstairs?
-Sounds good to me.
-Watch your head.
'The kitchen seems to have gone down well, but I think they'll really like the space upstairs.'
So, first off I'll take you to the north wing, the 17th century part of the house.
-Two potential boys' bedrooms?
-And the first thing that strikes you when you walk into this room?
-Ooh yes, yeah.
-It's almost like being on a boat.
-The current owners have been quite ingenious.
-They've got a huge brick under that side of the bed so it brings it all up.
-Good size, though?
-Would the boys be happy with this?
-Yeah, they would be.
It wouldn't be long before they'd put their cars one end of the room
-Let them run.
-Propelling them to the other.
-It's a great room for that.
I almost feel like we should do that now!
-But let's not. We've got plenty more bedrooms to see.
-Peel to the left when you go outside.
'This house certainly has lots of character. And there's another, quirky room next door.'
-It's an unusual-shaped room.
-You've got the chimney breast going that way.
-What do you make of it?
-It's a nice-sized room for one of the boys. It'd be fine.
-Do you think they'd be happy in here?
-I think they would be, yes.
-I hope they don't bounce too much.
-Yeah, the floor's...
-You can feel...
-Wow! It really does move.
-You can feel it giving a little.
-It's interesting. The room we've been in sloped one way and this slopes the other.
-That's all right.
-You don't mind that?
-No, that's the nature of the house because of the old style of it,
and that's the way it is.
Along the corridor there's also a large third bedroom, plus a bathroom with a nice view over the fields.
But we've saved the master bedroom till last.
This would probably be your bedroom.
-No more sloping floors.
-We're back in the Georgian part so it's straight lines everywhere.
-Lovely spacious room.
-That's very nice. It is very big. Yes.
-Probably room for an ensuite if you wanted one.
-South-facing windows. Very bright.
We've seen the whole house now.
-Shall we see outside?
-That could sway your opinion.
-There's plenty of outside space.
-Let's go and have a look.
'Maybe this lovely old property is just a little too quirky for Mark and Dinah's tastes,
'but I think they, and the kids especially, are going to love the enormous garden.'
-Nice size garden.
-You see, I can imagine you both sat there with a glass in your hand
-watching the boys on their trampoline...
-Or in the pool.
-There's plenty of space for that.
-I like the way it's got trees and shrubs around.
You've got quite a lot of privacy.
-You've got your mature garden.
-You're totally private here.
And I say part of the grounds,
because over in the back you've got paddocks. The current owners have horses.
But you could change it into a garden.
It's work in progress, really.
So how much do you think this property's on the market for?
I actually think this is probably over our budget.
And I would say...
How about you?
I'm going to go for 420.
-So you both think that this property's over your budget of 400,000.
Well, I can tell you, and I will tell you,
that this property was once on the market for...
-It's no longer on the market for £435,000.
It's on the market for £350,000.
-Well, that's really interesting. That's a big drop, really, isn't it?
-It's a huge drop.
-Well within your budget. You're dying to get back in there!
-I am, yeah.
-Take a look around. Take your time and I'll see you back here in a few moments.
Well. Not quite sure how that went.
I get the impression that they liked half of the property, the Georgian half of the property,
They're not quite sure about the 17th-century characterful bit. Um...
Maybe the price of the property's changed all that.
But I'm not sure that all that quirky character
has won them over.
I do like this room. Lovely and spacious.
-Yeah, it is nice.
-I think if you put in an ensuite it would ruin it because it'd be a lot smaller.
But the boys would be in the bathroom.
-Well. We just have to make sure we're first in there.
I like the house a lot. I particularly like the Georgian side of it.
I like the study,
and the music room together. I could really make that my part of the house, if you like.
I'm a bit concerned about a few substantial cracks in the ceilings.
Other than that, I like the house a lot.
I thought it was a nice big property. Had potential to do things we'd like to do with it.
The garden was nice and spacious.
The boys would really like the garden. But the money it was on for, 350,
was actually a fantastic price for this sort of house.
-Oh! I'm loving the smiles.
-Let's move on. Plenty more to see.
Taking a break from property hunting, Mark and Dinah decide to check out the local area.
Ely is the jewel in the county's crown. Its name means Isle of Eels,
as once eel fishing and wild fowling provided the sole livelihood of all fen men.
Before the fens were drained in the 18th century, the town stood alone,
surrounded by water and marshland. Dominating the centre
of Ely old town is Ely cathedral,
which dates back to William I's reign in 1083.
Ely cathedral's long nave was built in the 13th century, so the style is Romanesque.
The main transepts are the oldest surviving part of the cathedral.
Today, they're being shown around by the local tour guide John Webster.
You've come right to the very heart of the cathedral.
This is the place where this wonderful Norman church was begun in 1081.
Originally here in the centre was a small, square tower. Today,
a very big octagonal tower. But it's not the original tower.
The central tower collapsed in 1322 and then it took 18 years
to build this new octagonal tower.
The walls go up for about 120 feet.
And then inside it was built the lantern tower.
'So, time to climb up those 165 long steps to the top.'
If you come round here and look out there, you might get a surprising view.
-You can look all the way down the nave of the cathedral.
-If you look up to the top,
you can see that - it's called a boss. Right in the centre up there.
It's carved from a single piece of oak.
It took one of our monks a year to carve that from a single piece of oak.
And that was put there as the finishing touch.
That is awesome. That really is.
If you do come to Cambridge,
and I really hope you do, this is one of the views you'll become accustomed to.
We're looking due east. We're right on the top now.
We're about 120 feet up on top of the lantern tower.
And right in the distance,
12 miles away over there, is Thetford Forest.
You can see for miles.
This could be our local area that we're viewing here.
I don't think we'd be viewing it from this high, though, normally(!)
I hope not!
-I'd get scared of heights if this was the top of my house.
-It's lovely though.
It is. It's beautiful.
And, after all that climbing,
what better way to round off a trip
than a traditional English tea at one of the area's finest tea shops?
A welcoming round of sandwiches, scones and cake
should be enough fuel to keep them going for the rest of the day.
This looks really lovely, doesn't it?
It does, yep.
-I don't think we'll bring the boys here. We'll come just the two of us.
-When they're at school.
-Afternoon tea while they're busy working.
-That sounds really good.
The next property I'm showing them
is in Haddenham.
A great location for Mark
as it's only an hour train commute into London.
This picturesque village is one of the most popular in the area,
and has all the amenities you'll need,
including a pub, post office, and a selection of shops.
Very pretty house, with a central village location.
-What do you think?
-It is. It's pretty. It's well cared for.
-Do you want to have a look inside?
-Let's have a look.
This is the hallway.
-Victorian tiles on the floor.
-I like the floor. That's good.
-How do you feel about opening the door with the staircase right in front of you?
-It's a bit small
than what we're used to in our old house. But you don't spend time in the hallway, normally.
-So, it's what the rest of the house has to give.
-I'll show you the rest of the house.
-If you just walk that way.
-Head off into the living room.
-You don't expect it when you look at the house from the outside.
-No, certainly not.
One of our criteria for moving
was we wanted to get involved in the church, cos we're involved in our church at home.
This looks like we're actually in the church!
You wouldn't have to go anywhere. Why don't you invite the village to you?
-Invite the church to us.
-Exactly. It's actually green oak, the entire structure.
-It does look very church-like, doesn't it?
-It does, yeah.
-What a room for entertaining!
-It really is something else.
-Yeah. Christmas in here would be really lovely.
We always have big family Christmases and that would look great.
Also, it's very warm now but I can imagine in the winter it might get a little bit cold.
-You know, all the glass.
-I've already spotted
an interesting feature over there, which looks like something that's going to keep it warm.
I hate to disappoint you but it's not a woodburner.
It's a gas fire.
-So they've been very clever in putting the wooden logs next to it.
-They've fooled us.
-But don't panic because it's got underfloor heating in this whole area.
And also real stone flooring. Let's move on, to the kitchen.
Yeah, this kitchen was fitted 18 months ago, only,
-and nothing needs to be touched.
-I love pine. Most of my furniture is pine.
So it would just fit in really well.
Is the underfloor heating here as well?
-But let's gloss over that.
-If you don't want this property, I'm having it!
'Hey, it looks like we're on to a winner.'
Over here you've got a downstairs toilet.
Very useful utility room.
-Plumbing for washing machine, fridge-freezer, dryer.
-And down here, your all-important study.
-Is it big enough?
-It's some study.
-I know you're after the music room as well.
But you could probably get your mini grand piano in here.
I think that would certainly... be Dinah's use for the room.
-It would, wouldn't it?
-So you've got your music room and your study in one.
-Yeah. Not sure how that would work. The study is actually for work-work.
And squashed in there with a grand piano - not 100 per cent sure on that.
But with what we've seen already, you know.
-We're going to have to compromise on something, so...
-You don't have to spend that long in a study, do you?
-Much better a music room.
It's great to have so much choice.
One of the upstairs bedrooms could be turned into a music room,
still leaving plenty of bedrooms for the boys and a good-sized bathroom to boot.
I'm thinking this one for, maybe, Joshua?
-That one for Joel?
-Yeah, I think this is ideal for them.
They've both got single beds so they'd fit nicely into these rooms.
A lot of thought has gone into this building and the way it's been refurbished,
You've got sash windows to the front of the building.
-They're all double glazed.
-So you don't hear the traffic going past.
If you turn to your left.
And here we have the master bedroom.
-Nice box bay window seat there.
-That's nice. I could just see myself sitting there,
in the summer, nothing else to do.
-No mention of Mark.
-He's at work.
-Oh, of course. OK.
-Is this a big enough master bedroom?
-This is a lovely size master bedroom, yes.
-I've got a really nice surprise now. Go in there.
Oh, the bathroom! Ensuite, that's really nice.
-And Mark's shower.
-That's great. You wouldn't know that was here.
-That's really good.
-Have you got one of those at home?
At the moment you can be in the bath and everyone seems to come piling in to use the toilet.
So you'd be away from either guests or family. They could use their own toilet
-you could have yours.
-That would be really nice.
-You haven't seen the garden yet. Come on.
'So the upstairs has all the rooms they want. There's the music room and study too.
'Will the outside clinch the deal?'
-So, follow me out to your potential garden.
It's basically a 300-metre sloping garden.
-So almost as far as you can see, is your garden.
-You've got a man-made pond.
No, it's really nice. I really like this garden.
We've come to that bit again. What price do you think it's on the market for?
-It's got to be 450 at least.
-450, says Mark.
I think 425.
-Somewhere in the middle, actually. It was initially on the market for 450.
-It's now on the market for 435.
But before your jaw drops even more,
I should tell you that the owner will take an offer.
-And by that I mean the owner WILL take an offer.
So it...could be within budget.
-How do you feel about it now?
-It's something to think about.
-Go and have a think. Go back inside.
-Enjoy the underfloor heating.
-It's warm in there!
-I'll stay out here and freeze.
-Not a problem. I'll see you in a while.
They seem disappointed.
It's obvious that they really, really love this property.
They're already talking about how they can incorporate their life into that space.
Is it out of their budget?
In this current climate, anything could happen.
And if they do move in, I want to be invited to the Christmas party.
It may be over budget, but you get a lot for your money.
The question is, are they prepared to push the boat out for it?
-What do you think to the bedroom?
-It's a beautiful master bedroom.
-It is lovely.
The ensuite shower is really good.
-It's a bonus, really.
-And our furniture would look nice.
-I was thinking that.
-It's quite similar to what's here already.
I like the house ever such a lot. I'm a bit...scared to like it too much, actually,
um, because it's out of our price range.
We'd have to think seriously about how much we can afford.
And what sort of offer we would be able to put in on the property.
But it's an excellent family house, and I'd like to think,
love to think, that it could be the next Jordan house.
I really like this house. This is my favourite room.
This oak conservatory is just absolutely fantastic.
I could see my family here. The garden is lovely for the boys. They'd really enjoy that.
The only downside is the price.
If we really liked it and put in an offer, would he come down and meet us at some point in the middle?
-You took your time!
-Yeah, nice and warm in there.
-How cold is it out here?
-Come on, let's move on.
Time for Mark and Dinah to meet their prospective new neighbours.
This area is home to the fenland eel, which has helped shape the lives of people
here in the fens for centuries. In the old days, eels were the local currency.
With every village paying taxes in eels. There were so many of them,
it seems everything was made out of them too, from wedding rings to garters.
Eel fishing is now a dying trade and one of the last eel fishermen in the region is Peter Carter.
We've come to meet him
in his favourite stretch of fen fishing ground.
-This is the eel man of Cambridgeshire.
-Nice to meet you.
-Pretty impressive title.
-It's an old family tradition, a family trade. We've been doing it 200 years,
catching eels on the fen.
-What sort of life is it?
-It's a good life.
It can be hard work. The weather can be hard. But...
It's peaceful, isn't it? And that's what I like about it.
-So there are eels in there now?
-Yes! They're in the mud at the bottom.
They're there all year round. They hibernate in the mud in the winter,
-and go out feeding in the summer.
-So where do they come from?
-Sargasso Sea, which...
-About 4,000 miles away.
-I didn't expect you to say that.
-They come up with the Gulf Stream as tiny glass eels, or elvers.
They stay here on the fen about 20 years before they make the trip back.
-They die and lay their eggs.
-How do you catch them?
-We use our eel traps.
-Traditional trap, around for over 1,000 years.
-Is that what they are?
-That's what they are, yeah. I can show you how they're made.
-Yeah, come on.
-Let's go for it. I was hoping you'd say that!
'Eels are commonly caught using hives made of willow,
'which was an original industry on the River Ouse as far back as pre-Norman times.
'European eels stock has plummeted, and as an endangered species,
'they enjoy special protection and can only be caught under license.'
-How long does it take you to make a whole trap?
-About three hours.
I like to sit in the winter, in front of the fire, and just make these up ready for the new year.
-Do you want to have a go?
-Yep, that'd be great.
-All right. See what you can do with that.
-MARK TAKES SHARP INTAKE OF BREATH
Watch what you're doing, will you!
So how do you trap them?
Oh, well the way it works, is they've got an entrance with spikes on.
That's an old fen word, it means "chair".
Chair is an old name for a narrow gap. Then you've got a second chair, in there.
-Which is even narrower.
So as the eel works his way up, he can't turn back there, and he tries to go in there
-and gets stuck, leaving that empty for the next eel.
-How many can you get in there?
-A dozen eels in there, on a good night.
'Well, that's enough fishiness for now. It's time to hit the road again.'
As the day draws to a close in the Cambridgeshire countryside, Mark and Dinah take time
to mull over the two properties they've seen so far.
-It was a busy day, wasn't it?
-It was a busy day. Enjoyable, but busy.
What did you think of the farmhouse we saw?
I felt as though I should like it cos of the sheer amount of space,
but I could see faults. I was surprised at the price being so low.
-Yeah, I was surprised at the price being so low.
-Quite a bit of work.
-A lot of work.
-What about the house in Haddenham that we saw?
-Excellent. I could imagine that being our next house.
-But, one slight problem. The price.
-The price. It was a lot of money but it was beautiful.
-The garden room...
-..was lovely. The oak ceilings. It just looked like a chapel
when you walked into it.
-It was nice it was a bigger village.
It had its own primary school. The boys could make friends
-and go on to senior school with them.
-It was an excellent property.
-Perhaps best sleep on it.
-Yeah. See what tomorrow will bring.
-That's right. OK.
We're looking for a spacious family home
for Mark and Dinah, who can't wait to leave Ilford in Greater London behind and start a new life here,
in north Cambridgeshire.
They have a budget of £400,000, and so far they've seen two very different houses
with some unusual features.
This looks like we're actually in the church.
This house will make them think with their hearts, not their heads.
-My heart's stopped beating!
-It's stopped beating now.
But will I set the cat amongst the pigeons with the mystery house?
So, the search continues to find Mark and Dinah their dream family home
here in north Cambridgeshire. We've ascertained they don't want a newly built property.
But also we found out yesterday that a 17th-century cottage with "bouncy floors", as Mark put it,
is also too much to take on.
What I think they're after is a property with character, but with all the modern touches.
Let's hope the third property comes up trumps.
It's on the outskirts of the village of Christchurch.
It's a real find as it overlooks nothing but open fields.
It's not on the edge of a village as such, but the nearest one isn't that far away.
That's where they can find a pub
and a few local shops.
-That's the property.
-That looks fantastic.
-I like the symmetrical-ness of it,
-with the windows at the top on either side.
-Lots of windows. I like lots of windows.
-You do like lots of windows.
Do you think it's old or new?
I don't know. It gives the impression it could be old, but it's probably new.
-It's a tale of two houses. The original deeds to this house date back to about 1840.
No one lived here for 20 years.
And then in 2002, the present owners renovated it...
-To a really, really high standard.
-Shall we get in there?
-I'd love to.
-It's a bit cold out here!
Come on in.
-Oh, wow. Lovely!
-Mark, you asked for a fire,
and I think I've delivered a fire.
-You can feel the warmth from it. That's really nice.
-I'm going to take my coat off.
-Make myself at home.
-You're making yourselves at home. That's a good start.
-Well, this is the original brickwork.
-From the 1840s cottage.
-The interesting thing about this is, some bricks taken from a local windmill.
-They're a slightly different colour.
-You can see.
-There's a lovely cubby hole there. Take a look.
-That was from the original cottage. But it's a lovely snug.
-You can actually smell the wood in here, can't you?
-Let's get the work aspect over and done with.
-Sounds good to me.
-Follow me into the study.
First thing that hits you is this massive reclaimed oak beam.
-I hope it doesn't hit you.
-You're not tall enough. You're fine. So, the current owners have this as a study.
-You come in through the front door.
-Straight into the office.
-But it could equally be a music room.
-It's big enough. Would you keep this as a study?
-That depends on what there is in the rest of the house.
-Pwhoar. You've thrown down the gauntlet.
-What isn't there in this house, is more like it.
-Let me take you through to the living room. OK.
So you can't but be impressed by this room.
-No, this certainly is impressive.
This vaulted oak ceiling
-It gives tremendous space.
-And a lovely fireplace.
-Another lovely fire. And those Tudor bricks
-in a herringbone design. It's really effective, isn't it?
-It is. That's lovely.
-I think the boys would love it. Especially looking out. Lovely scenery.
-It's a really grand space.
-But it's also a homely living room.
-Nice and warm as well.
-There's plenty more to see.
Watch your heads.
-And even more so here.
-Stairs leading up to the first floor. I'll show you that later.
-Mind your head again.
-Dinah, you probably don't have to, do you?
-Look at that!
-I can fit through that.
-It was made for her (!)
-What with all the sun you get in Cambridgeshire, you need a sun room.
-This is a sun room.
-This is a lovely space.
-It's a sun room/dining room.
You've got underfloor heating.
-And I like what's over the top of it. The galleried landing.
-You can imagine Romeo and Juliet...
-Where art thou, Romeo?
-There you go.
You've got the part! And you've got these...
Oak screens. French doors leading out into the garden.
-Another eating area.
-That's really lovely. You can imagine
-coming out of the bedroom and looking out. It'd be really lovely.
-Let me take you to the kitchen.
Wow. Look at that. Great!
It's massive, isn't it, for a kitchen.
It's a good size, isn't it?
You've got a wonderful range.
The oak beam running above the range, that's from a local church.
-What do you make of it?
-It looks really nice. I love the units. Lovely.
-You've got the Belfast sink as well.
-You say this is a large kitchen, but it's actually, yet again, a warm, cosy kitchen.
-Pushing the right buttons?
-Absolutely. Downstairs is really excellent.
Upstairs is really excellent, too. Come on, follow me!
'So far so good. Another bonus is the utility room for all that extra washing they'll need to do
'after those country rambles.
'There's also the garage, that Mark wants, but I'm desperate to get them upstairs
'to show them the bedrooms.'
Step up, into the master bedroom.
-This is a big room.
-Good space for you?
-It's a very good-sized room.
-Follow me through here.
-This is the dressing room.
-And the substantial ensuite bathroom.
-Oh, I like that.
-That is some ensuite shower room.
-That's really big.
-Don't say anything until you've seen this.
Along the corridor are two more of the four bedrooms,
also with the characterful beams they like.
There's plenty of space for the boys to have a room each,
which is what Dinah wants. And there's even more upstairs.
Up here, you've got this wonderful communal space.
It's just...room after room. I don't know what we'd do with it, actually.
-It's a mind game to try and work out what to do with it all.
-Again, you've got the view there.
-Oh yeah. More farmland!
-You're definitely not overlooked here.
-No, you're not.
-More communal space.
-Plenty of headroom. What do you think you'd put here?
-The boys do have a snooker table.
-So they'd want that up here, probably.
-In either room, really.
If the boys have got their snooker table here, you'd want to keep that room as a bedroom,
-because I was thinking, could be a study, could be a music room. Have a look.
-Wonderful window, by the way, as you walk in.
-Fantastic window. I love that window.
-With that window like that,
-I could see Dinah sleeping in this room, rather than in the master bedroom.
-That's Dinah's sort of thing.
-I like things that are a little bit different, sometimes.
-You've got one more room to see.
-Can you guess what it is?
-Family bathroom. We've already got an ensuite shower room.
-But lead the way!
-This could be my bathroom. You have the other room. I'm having this one.
It's good that you're planning ahead!
And if it's a family bathroom you're after...
Wow, that is a big room. A big bathroom.
Again, you've got light coming in as well.
-Wonderful long window.
-Love a lovely window. It's one of the biggest bathrooms I've ever seen!
OK, we've seen the inside.
-Get your coats back on! Let's go outside.
-So come on outside.
This is a lovely garden, isn't it?
I can see a big decision in the summer,
whether you eat your meal here, or on your personal decking.
-Yeah. We had decking at our old house but it was nowhere near the size of that.
-This is a good size garden.
-Very good size garden.
-Three-quarters of an acre.
-You've got the man-made pond. Lovely pond with a bridge.
-Yeah. Lovely property, lovely garden.
-Have another look before I ask you the big question.
-The big question.
Take it all in.
How much do you think this property is on the market for?
So, do you think you're above or below the mark?
I'm hoping that we're above the mark.
-It was initially on the market for £650,000.
You still breathing?
You can breathe.
It's currently on the market for...
They're that desperate to move?
-I kid you not. It's been on the market for two-and-a-half years.
-It's a long time.
-This property could be yours for £395,000.
That's amazing, really.
-My heart's stopped beating now.
-He looks like he's going to cry!
-It's stopped beating now.
-So, 3,700 square foot...
-..Of property could be yours
-I've stopped worrying about the money and started worrying about the schools.
Don't worry about the schools!
Lovely schools, lovely village close by, and you have the neighbours as well.
-But more than anything, you've got a remarkable property.
-Don't decide yet. Go and enjoy it. See you at the front door.
-See you. You might have to come and find us!
-I don't know if I can, there!
What a great reaction!
Did you see Mark's face?
I'm so thrilled for them. They've loved this property from the beginning.
They were worried that it was out in the open and remote, but with a house like that,
you're never going to be short of house guests.
this property is just under budget.
But is it too far out on a limb for them?
I cannot believe you can get so much property for 395,000.
Although it's outside a village, it's such a good property,
that it's one that we would want to be top of our list.
It's an excellent bathroom.
-I think the boys... They wouldn't believe how big a bathroom could be.
-Yeah. They'd be gobsmacked,
-about the house.
-They would be.
This is an amazing property. It's been wonderfully built. Everything's been thought about really well.
It's got so much space. The children would love it.
The fact it's outside a village might just make me think a bit more. But actually, my heart says
this is our property.
Come on, you two. I'm dragging you away.
-But we want to stay.
-You can't. Come on.
When you move to the country, what greater opportunity is there
to take up a new hobby. The family already have a passion for motor racing,
and they've chosen the perfect place to indulge in their hobby, as the flat landscape
is just ideal for it.
So today they're with Malcolm Swan at Wildtracks off-road activity park.
He'll be giving them a taste of the motor sport they can enjoy when they move to the area.
Right. What we have here, Thunder Hawk kart, 270cc.
We'll get you strapped in and I'll explain all the controls.
The first thing they need to do is get their safety gear on
before they let rip and get ready for lots of mud.
OK, guys. Are you ready? I'll just start the karts up and away we go.
The karts are not for the faint-hearted, as the 90 bhp off-road beasts
can reach a top speed of 30 miles an hour,
and as the karts are so low to the ground, this makes for quite a bumpy ride.
Although motor racing is not a typical countryside pursuit, it's a great way to get outside,
-and get muddy.
And it looks like Dinah reached that chequered flag first.
-I can't see!
-Thanks ever so much. That was really good.
-You're most welcome.
-I think I must be as muddy as you are.
-We're both pretty muddy. That was excellent though.
-The boys'll really love it.
-We'd better go and get cleaned up.
-You're right. Let's go.
-Come on, then!
Well, now it's time for our mystery house.
I'm not quite sure how our couple are going to react to what I've got on offer.
They're both Christians, both heavily involved in the local Baptist scene in Ilford.
We've found out that they like a well-presented property
with bags of character and spirit.
Well, I can promise them spirit.
Holy spirit, in fact. But will they think it's heaven, or hell?
You're like two children in a sweet shop, which must mean you're excited about the mystery house.
Yes. We are really excited about the mystery house, but I'm not sure what it's going to be, really.
Oh, I reckon I've got a few good ideas.
I think it's going to be either a thatched property
cos Dinah really doesn't like thatch,
and I'm not that keen either, to be honest.
Or, it's going to be a barn conversion.
Out of the two? If I was a betting man, which of course I'm not,
I'd put my money on...the thatch.
I'm not giving the game away just yet.
Our mystery property is in Upwell,
just over the border, in Norfolk.
This little village has all the amenities they've asked for,
including that all-important primary school for the boys.
-I'm taking you back to chapel.
-I can see.
It is indeed a chapel.
-It's going to be interesting seeing what it's like inside.
How the features have been turned round to be homely.
-The good news is that you don't have to wash in the font, so come on. I'll show you inside.
'This former Baptist chapel has bags of character on the outside,
'and some original features inside too.'
Come on in.
As you can see, it's no longer a chapel inside.
It's really nice. Quite impressive, actually. Nice hallway.
Lovely little touch here.
-These doors were the original Sunday school doors from the back of the chapel.
-They're acid-etched, and they've moved them to the front.
-Very nice, yeah.
-I like the moulding above the doors. That's really nice too.
-Let's go through to the kitchen.
-It's a big kitchen.
-I thought you would say that.
-You can hear the echo on it.
-Granite work surfaces.
All the mod cons.
-Not quite a chapel kitchen that...
-No, that we're used to.
-That we're used to.
But again, it's got those big windows letting a lot of light in.
This is my favourite bit of the kitchen. Have a look up there.
-Yeah. Surround sound in this room, in the living room
and in the master bedroom.
-Can't be bad.
-I knew you'd like that.
-Could get used to that.
I know what floats your boat now.
'Also downstairs is this lovely spacious and light lounge,
'with its marble fireplace and exposed floorboards.
'There's a utility room and the study Mark's after. On the first floor we'll start
'with the first of the five bedrooms.'
I'm thinking maybe a guest bedroom?
Yeah. There's a double bed in here now, so it's big enough for a guest bedroom, yeah.
I'm sensing that you're not loving the mystery house.
But there's no special features. There are no oak beams being pointed out.
You know, it's...
-It's got nothing special.
-Yes, it's minimalistic.
-But if it's special features you're after, I've got a couple to show you.
Here's a lovely little feature. From the original chapel.
I recognise the feature. I don't know what it is. All I know is they're in the roofs of chapels.
It works on a pulley system,
and you can open it to let cold air in if it gets too warm in the chapel.
-It still works, apparently.
-Where's the pulley?
-We won't do it today.
-Can't show you now.
-Take my word for it.
'This house may not offer Mark and Dinah the character they wanted,
'but the fact that there are five bedrooms more than makes up for it.
'Dinah could even have her own walk-in wardrobe if she wanted one
'and the bathroom is equally generous in size.
'Finally, there's one more bedroom to show them.'
What do you think?
It's a nice bedroom, a nice master. It's very much similar to the other rooms, actually, in style.
It's all very sort of clean and clinical.
It is at the moment. But can't you imagine your life in here, if you like?
Do you think you'd be able to put your Jordan stamp on this building?
I actually think this bedroom is too small for us to put our furniture in it.
-Cos we have a lot of bedroom furniture. The bedroom of our old house was quite big.
-Don't say no just yet.
-Let's go and look at the grounds.
-Then you can make a decision.
-That'd be lovely.
-Come on then.
'OK. A few negatives upstairs,
'but will the three-quarters of an acre of space outside sway them?'
So this is your totally private side garden, if you like.
Not overlooked at all.
-It's gravel, so...
-Difficult for the boys to play football, I know.
-But there's the possibility of purchasing some land behind that fence.
So, that's grass. What do you think?
Yeah, I mean I don't really like the gravel,
-but that interests me with the land behind, possibly.
I'm not sure if this is a property you'd want to buy. Maybe I'm wrong.
But if you were going to put in an offer, how much do you think it's worth?
I think that's too high.
I'm going to go for 380.
-It's on the market for £335,000.
-Well within your budget, that chapel is.
-It is, yeah.
-Do you want another look around?
-Go on then.
-All right. See you in a bit.
There was me thinking I was giving them a surefire hit.
19th-century converted chapel with all the modern extras, and they want beams
and uneven floors.
I tell you, if I was going to live in a chapel, I'd probably live in one just like this but...
I get the impression that this isn't a property where Mark and Dinah feel closer to God.
Let's see what they think.
I'm not sure the best use of the space has been made. I mean,
-there's a lot of space up there.
-And if the walls had been brought forward a bit,
-there'd be more space for the bedrooms.
-I think this old Baptist chapel is really good at the price,
but the bedrooms are very small and we'd have to think about extending the garden,
perhaps putting a conservatory on the back.
I don't think we'd want to be going down that route, so probably this isn't a contender for us.
The conversion from an old chapel... is good,
but I don't think it's been converted in the right way to make the property right for us.
By the time all our furniture comes in there, there wouldn't be the room we needed,
If it had been converted into four large bedrooms, for us that would have been better.
Ah, Dinah, Mark, that's it. The property search is over.
-No more properties to see.
-Huge smile on your face.
Don't tell me what you think yet. Take your time. Think through the options.
-How about we meet later?
-For a drink?
-Sounds like a plan to me.
-Sounds good to me.
Our journey is almost over. Mark and Dinah have now seen all the properties.
It's only fair to give them a bit of thinking time to try and work out which, if any,
are right for them.
Let's talk about the properties you've viewed.
-We'll start with the old farmhouse.
-It was very old. We wanted something with character,
but that was very old. The way, you know, the floorboards were sloping in some rooms.
It was of very old character, which was older than we were actually really looking for.
-Were there any positives?
-I think the Georgian part of it.
Straight walls and ceilings that didn't sag or bounce up and down was good.
OK, what about the cottage in the heart of the village?
Liked this one very much, really did.
From the outside it looked nice. The school was opposite.
-It just gave you that real wow factor.
-It was so spacious.
When you looked up, it was like being in a church.
The kitchen was nicely done, the bedrooms had been well done.
There wasn't much you could say that you didn't like about it.
It was slightly over-budget
and we're talking about what's Mark going to do for a study.
That would mean more money.
Moving on to the slightly remote converted house. I think you liked this one.
-I would say it's probably close to my dream house.
I liked the sheer volume of space in that house.
A lovely house, but it's quite a bit about community for me
and I don't know if the community would be there.
He said it was his dream home!
It was CLOSE to being my dream house, I think I said!
Right. Come on, then - why is it not your dream house?
Pick it up and move it to the edge of the village.
Other than that, it was my dream house.
And finally, sent you back to Sunday school.
-What do you think of the chapel?
-It just hadn't quite been converted
the way we would have liked it converted.
-Any redeeming features?
-The hallway, again, was lovely.
It did give you that wow factor.
So, not for you?
No, I don't think so. Not for us.
How long have you got left on your rented property?
-Five and a half months.
-So, you've got to find somewhere quick.
I'm sensing that there's a choice of two here -
the house in Haddenham and the remote house.
Or has this experience said to you, let's rent our property for another six months?
No! No way!
-No! We're still desperate to find somewhere and move quickly.
It could be one of these two houses but we desperately want to move.
-That's excellent news! So, we've succeeded, in a way.
Mark and Dina's house hunting has gone remarkably well.
They're really keen on two of the four properties we've shown them,
but they had to find somewhere.
They've sold their house, they're living in rented accommodation
with time fast running out,
but that added pressure seems to have focused their minds.
They're really committed to this move.
Maybe that's the incentive we all need
when considering an escape to the country.
Till next time, bye-bye.
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