Alistair Appleton is in Devon house-hunting with a couple looking for their first home together. One of them is a hoarder while the other wants a minimalist home.
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That is the Tavistock viaduct, one of the last great railway viaducts built in Britain.
It was finished in 1907 and it joins two counties
and spans a river whose banks were once the greatest producer of tin, copper and arsenic in the world.
Intrigued where we are? Find out in just a moment on Escape To The Country.
Today, we'll be helping a couple of Londoners swap busy streets for a laidback rural lifestyle...
I've got my chair and tree picked out!
We'll be viewing some breathtaking West Country homes...
Not many people leave me speechless, but that just left me speechless!
Or will it be the Mystery House that converts today's buyers?
I have a feeling you're home.
This is the River Tamar which, historically, has always
separated Devon, over there, from Cornwall on this side.
Back in the day, it was mining where the money was - in mediaeval
times, silver and tin, and in the 1800s, copper was the big thing.
Of course, now, the mining days are long gone but, in 2006, the European Union pumped in £6m-worth
of development money and that's been good news for the tourists and also for the housing market.
Sandwiched between Dartmoor National Park in Devon
and Bodmin Moor in Cornwall, the Tamar valley stretches from
Plymouth in the south to Tavistock and near Launceston in the north.
At just 75 miles square, the valley is by no means vast, but packed into this little slice of Cornwall and
Devon is some of the most lush countryside to be found in the UK.
And, in 1995, the entire region was designated "an area of outstanding natural beauty".
At the heart of the valley is the River Tamar itself.
Along this scenic stretch of water, you'll find ancient woodlands, pretty villages and, of course,
the striking remains of the region's mining past.
Today, it's farming that's the bread and butter of the Tamar,
with 75% of the area given over to farmland.
So, if it's a Victorian cottage or a rambling farmhouse you're after,
you're more than likely to find it along the Tamar's shores.
As well as separating the two counties geographically,
the Tamar also separates Devon from Cornwall financially.
Over there in Devon, an average detached property will set you back £278,000, whereas here on this
side, on the Cornish side, it will cost you £265,000, which is still 13% above the national average.
On both sides of the river, prices have been going down, but take a look at what you can buy.
If you fancy living like a lord and lady of the manor, then this five-bedroom historic Tudor family
house in the grounds of Buckland Abbey, near Tavistock, could be just the thing.
For a rather stately £2m, you get spacious period accommodation, 16 acres of land
and, just in case that's not enough, there are two separate three-bedroom cottages included in the price.
For something more modern, check out this individually
designed four-bedroom house in St Dominic, Cornwall.
On the market for £595,000, the contemporary accommodation
is built around a huge reception hall and galleried landing.
But it's the setting that makes this a real stand-out,
with nearly every room enjoying far-reaching views over the Tamar valley.
If you're after a traditional cottage, then this 19th-Century
four-bedroom stone farmhouse in Portgate, Devon, could be yours for just under £400,000.
For that price, you get two good-sized reception rooms, complete with character features,
a farmhouse kitchen-diner, plus a self-contained one-bedroom annexe.
And you won't need a tractor to look after the pretty landscaped gardens.
Beautiful properties on both sides of the river here in Cornwall and
Devon, but will it be enough to lure our buyers from their homes in the Big Smoke?
For US-born Bob and Londoner James, retiring to the West Country would
be a huge step, as these two have never lived together before.
Whilst James has a two-bed flat in Surbiton, Surrey,
for the last 40 years, Bob's home has been this five-bedroom Edwardian
terrace in West London, but they've been planning a rural escape together for the last nine months.
The home I'm in now is past its sell-by date as far as I'm concerned.
I've just run out of space.
And there's too many stairs for me every day.
I've been up these stairs, you know, five times today already and that's wearing me out.
Arthritis means stairs are no longer an option for Bob, so a versatile
living space will be key, but what else are they looking for?
Something with a bit of character.
I quite like conversions, either barns, chapels...
What I'm looking for is a spacious home that would allow me
to live mostly on the ground floor, with a bedroom and a bathroom.
Whilst James lives in a very modern, almost minimalist, flat, Bob's home is crammed full of
period features and furniture, so will these two be able to agree on what they really want?
I'm more for the more modern interiors than Bob.
I'd hate something old-fashioned.
I don't mind modern if it's got some period features, but a completely modern house, I don't know...
Well, I could adjust to it.
'Style-wise, then, this could be quite a tricky balancing act,
'but at least they're agreed on the space they want.'
This is what passes for my kitchen, but originally it was a box room, so that's why it's so small.
I love to cook and part of the joy of cooking for me is preparation,
and there's just simply no space in here to do any of that.
And, of course, you need somewhere for your wine.
Well...keep that in the cellar.
Oh, we're getting a cellar, are we?!
And outside is equally important.
This is Bob's garden, very easy to maintain. It's also secluded.
This is the sort of garden we would like in our new place, but a bit bigger.
A barbecue area would be really good.
But, for opera fan Bob, it's the interior space he wants to up-scale.
This is what somebody affectionately referred to as my "wall of sound".
There are tapes all over the house, a DVD collection,
and I, literally, have no place to put them anymore.
I would like to have a room where I could separate where I live from the actual collection.
Before they can home in on their new country pile, they need to know just what they can afford,
so we've invited a local estate agent round to value Bob's home.
This is a substantial Edwardian family home,
on three floors, with five bedrooms. In my opinion,
the value is £650,000.
That's a good sum of money, but do they intend spending it all on their new pad?
After pooling our finances, we will have money to live on.
Our budget should be round about the £550,000 mark.
As I've understood our brief, what we're looking for is a four-bedroomed
house with at least one of the bedrooms and a bathroom down on the ground floor.
Also space for Bob's amazingly huge operatic collection,
though I haven't quite fathomed how big that actually is.
I'm sure I'll find out.
And then a manageable garden although, interestingly, at this budget in this area,
most properties come with enormous gardens, so that might be a problem.
To maximise our chances of finding Bob and James
their very spacious dream house, we're starting today's property
search on the Cornish side of the River Tamar,
where they should get more for their money.
To appeal to their very different tastes, we'll be viewing
a real mix of contemporary and character country homes.
As always, I'll be staying tight-lipped on the price tags until they've had a good look round.
Last of the three is the Mystery House, which should challenge them to think outside the box.
-Hi. You've made it to the amazing Tamar valley.
-Isn't it gorgeous?
-A change from smoky old London?
-It certainly does.
-My God, yes.
Now, why have you picked this bit of narrow little corridor of the West Country? Why here?
Well, it's far enough away from London, but it's still accessible
to the main roads if you want to get to the airport or anything.
Yeah. Exeter, as well. You can go to all those places.
Your budget is a bit more fluid than we originally thought?
Yes, we've extended it slightly.
-Well, about...50,000, maybe?
-So you could stretch up to 600?
Very good. That's very good news.
-Excellent, yes. And this is the first time you guys have
bought a property together, so are there going to be any style issues?
Possibly, because I'm more minimalist and tidy and you're...
-I'm more into clutter.
-More into clutter.
-Clutter makes a home, I always feel.
-Let's call it maximalist.
I'm not sure I can pronounce that!
Well, hopefully we'll find you a property with plenty of space so you can spread out.
That's really what we're looking for.
Well, we'd better get looking. Shall we get in the car? Let's go.
So, for a top budget of £600,000,
Bob and James have a pretty long wish list.
They want a four-bedroom character home with ground-floor sleeping
accommodation for Bob and at least two separate reception rooms.
A huge kitchen-diner is a must,
whilst a big country garden is a must-not.
But with their opposite tastes in decor, I have a feeling meeting both
of their needs under just one roof is going to be quite a challenge.
I know you've got this issue with your opera collection.
-I haven't quite got my head around how big that is. How many...?
Do you need a whole extra room or two...?
Yes, or three.
I probably have more CDs than most record shops have, so it's quite extensive.
That's your primary concern. What about you, James?
I'd just like some really nice room to show off my collection of paintings, modern paintings,
and somewhere to chill out with a really large 50-inch TV screen.
That would be really great.
Well, our first property certainly has plenty of chilling-out space.
It's situated on the outskirts of the Cornish village of Calstock,
In the heart of the Tamar valley, 20 miles north of Plymouth.
Its riverside setting takes some beating.
Almost clinging to the banks of the Tamar, Calstock has been an important port since Saxon times,
but its heyday came with the Victorian mining boom
and the construction of the mighty viaduct.
The miners are long-gone, but their stone cottages still line the narrow streets.
The village is served by the Gunnislake to Plymouth line,
if Bob and James feel like branching out,
or for an entirely more sedate mode of travel,
they can take the village ferry from shore to shore.
We don't have to hire a boat, though, as our property is just on the edge of the village.
-What do you think of this?
Very nice indeed. I quite like it. Is that slate on the front?
-That's Cornish slate. Not just any old slate.
It was a tin miner's cottage. It's been extended.
It's obviously quite a deal bigger than it was when it was first built. Let's have a look inside.
This cottage delivers on versatile living space.
In we come.
-Straight into the kitchen.
-Now that I like.
Because you can just come right in and put your groceries down.
-You don't have to climb 15 stairs.
-This is your area, isn't it?
-Is it going to be big enough?
It's really not much bigger than what I've got now, and I was hoping for one three times the size.
Three times the size. I shall make a mental note.
I wanted a gigantic kitchen. Lots of workspace.
For me, this is a nice size. It's workable.
But then, you cook and leave everything out, whereas I put things away.
-You're the tidy one, aren't you?
-Yes. I like the finish. Nice and modern.
There's a little more space. Next door you've got a large dining room, but I know you've got special
requirements in terms of wanting a downstairs bedroom. Let's talk about that.
'Tricky. James likes it but Bob seems to have written this property off already.
'Let's see if we can turn him around with his own annexe, complete with bedroom, study and bathroom.'
-You don't look totally wowed.
-Well, no. I'm not wowed, and I'll tell you why.
I was hoping for a bedroom that had en suite,
rather than having to walk from there down to here.
I can see there are several little steps.
Small steps, but steps, to get to the bathroom.
That could be a problem at 3:00am.
Let's look at the rest of the house.
'I know Bob doesn't want stairs, but I hadn't realised one step would be an issue.
'Hopefully, the rest of his quarters will get a better reaction.'
This is the downstairs bedroom. At the moment.
But it could be any number of things.
I think it's nice. I like it.
Bob would be the one living down here, so...
There's the step issue but I think it's nicely set out.
-As a bedroom, it's not too small.
-There's a bigger option downstairs.
Let's have a look at that.
'Right next door is a living room, where Bob should feel right at home,
as it's full of the owners' artwork.'
-This is the most spacious room downstairs.
This is the extension they put this way into the cottage.
You can see how the rooms are much bigger and less cramped.
-Also, there seems to be more light.
-Much more. This is south-west facing. You get afternoon sunlight.
-They're very nice views.
-My storage room and your sun room.
-Well, no. If you use it for storage, where's my TV room?
-It would go there.
-Sorry, I forgot.
Such a waste to put an opera collection in here.
'Oh dear, disagreeing already.
But there's no need, as upstairs there are plenty of options.
For a start, this guest room could be used for storage,
and James has his own separatebathroom.'
This, I guess, would be your bedroom, James.
The view is superb.
Amazing view, yeah.
-What about the size, for you?
Don't be so brash, where are you going to put your clothes?
You do have that little bedroom over there,
and you've got a bit of storage, here.
He's going to have all the room downstairs with his opera collection.
Out of bed in the morning, onto the balcony to do your morning exercises.
-Breathe the fresh air.
-I'm not sure there's room for aerobics out there.
A beautiful balcony. It's quite slippy, mind yourself.
And so unspoilt. You don't have anybody overlooking you.
-It's all your view.
But, that's not all the upstairs has to offer.
'I'm saving the best room for last, for James, anyway.
-That's a surprise.
-It is, isn't it?
-This is fabulous.
-Why couldn't this be downstairs?
-He's getting envious of your space!
-This is really good.
-It would be a great space, I thought, for an upstairs lounge.
Very spacious. I was not expecting this at all.
-What would you do with it?
-I'd have a nice, large television, there.
It would be great. Let's have a peek outside.
'I know Bob and James want a little garden,
'however, small gardens and big, country houses don't usually go together.
'But this one is relatively manageableat just under an acre.'
The best thing about this property is the view from the land.
The land itself is quite small, because it's just all this hedgerow, the ditch,
-over to there, beyond those trees.
-It's enough. Larger than a London...
-Larger than my current one.
But it's not unmanageable.
Looking at the property from here, and considering the location,
what do you think it's on the market at?
I'd probably say 499.
It's difficult because I don't know the area.
I would say a bit lower.
Well, it's on the market at your price.
-Offers around 500.
So that's the benchmark of prices in the area.
Obviously, in the current climate,
-there's quite a bit of leeway.
Now you're armed with that bit of information, have a wander round, we'll meet at the front.
'Well, we're off to an interesting start.
'This house is a hit for James but a miss for Bob.
'At half a million pounds, it's a massive £100,000 under budget,
'and has nearly everything they've asked for.
'Three reception rooms, three bedrooms and the downstairs annexe.
'But neither the annexe nor the kitchen is quite right for Bob,
'so we're going to have to look harder at finding something that suits both their tastes.'
The major sticking point in this house would be the kitchen.
Because, frankly, it is no larger than the kitchen I have already,
and there's no workable space.
The other problem would be that the ideal room for my purposes, in terms of my music collection,
would be the upstairs artist room, but I don't want to have to climb those stairs.
It's just not practical.
Well, this is a fabulous room.
It's a terrific size. It's great.
But that wall cries out for a "wall of sound", to me.
-But then you can't do the stairs.
-I can't do the stairs.
For me, it's great, but I have to think about Bob as well.
I don't think that downstairs would work for him.
I could make it work but I don't think Bob can.
I've been exploring the bottom of your garden. It's very nice.
-The whole of Cornwall is at your foot slips.
-I know. It's great.
'Despite having visited both Devon and Cornwall before,
'the Tamar valley is a relatively unknown area for Bob and James,
'so before making the all-important decision to buy,
'they are keen to soak up some of the region's many cultural and scenic highlights.
'First stop is the thriving market town of Tavistock in Devon.
'The birthplace of Sir Frances Drake, its rich historical past is in evidence just about everywhere,
and the remains of Tavistock Abbey are a must-see for history buffs.'
It would have been mammoth, I would have thought.
And quite inspiring.
'The abbey was founded in 961, but was destroyed in the 1500s,
'during the dissolution of the monasteries,
'when the monks surrendered it for a paltry £100.
'For some peace and quiet, the river Tavy, running through the centre of the town,
'is the perfect setting for a gentle stroll.
'But the Tavy isn't just pretty, it played a vital role in the 1800s' industrial boom
'by feeding the Tavistock canal, which serviced the Cornish port
'and mining town of Morwellham Quay, three miles away.
'Once the busiest port in the UK - at its peak busier, even, than Liverpool,
'the village is now a heritage site
'and is preserved in all its Victorian glory.
'Well worth a visit to appreciate the region's past, even in the rain.
Imagine what it must have been like to live in a thriving village like this in Victorian times.
'Dawn Todd, Morwellham Quay's education co-ordinator,
'is more than happy to give Bob and James the answer.'
You see behind you the river Tamar.
Boats would travel up the river to Plymouth in that direction, carrying ore.
Behind you, you can see the tracks for the wagons.
These would carry the ore from the mine down to the dressing floor,
where the girls, the bal maidens, would work with young children,
breaking rocks all day long, so that they could reveal the copper at the centre of the rocks.
'That sounds like hard work.
'Let's hope finding Bob and James their dream country house won't be.'
-Thank you very, very much. That was wonderful.
'We're venturing north-west towards the wilds of Bodmin Moor
'and the edges of the old mining village of Pensilva.
'If it's peace and quiet Bob and James are after, this little village should be perfect.
'It started life specifically to house miners during the expansion of the copper mines at nearby Caradon.
'What's left of that industrial boom is a vast array
'of quarry-stone cottages, but our property is on the outskirts of Pensilva, overlooking the valley.'
Look where I've brought you.
-Isn't it good?
-I can hear the river.
-Your own valley.
And this is an ideal property, because you come in at the top.
It's a sort of upside-down house, then there's another floor underneath, which will be yours.
-It look very small from this angle, but I'm sure it's not.
-I'm sure it goes long ways.
You're seeing the end of it, if you can imagine.
'This house was originally two cottages built in 1850,
'but converted into a single dwelling ten years ago.
'There's one thing that it's not - and that's small.'
Come into your, hopefully, dream kitchen.
-You like it?
-It's big, huh?
-I love it. Everywhere I look, there's counter space.
It's just fabulous.
It's huge. Huge. It really is huge.
-Enough space for you...
-I think so, yes.
'I think Bob's a bit overwhelmed.
'I just hope the rest of this floor can live up to that kitchen.'
Now, Bob, there are some steps but, at the moment, this is
used as the bedroom, largely because of this exceptional view.
It is exceptional, isn't it?
I like it, yes, very much.
Would you have issues with the steps?
Well, I can do one or two steps.
-It's having to climb a flight of steps that I'm trying to avoid.
I think this is just about right.
Let's take a look at next door, and then you can make a decision about what goes where.
'So far, so good. Even the steps and lack of en-suite don't seem to be dampening Bob's spirits.
-And more steps.
-So, a nice log burner...
No, actually, it's a fake gas fire, but it gives off a lot of heat.
This would be your drawing-room/lounge/opera room.
-Yes, I think it has potential for that.
-'I would say that's a result.
'And next door is Bob's bathroom.
'It may not be an en suite, but it's definitely roomy.'
-I think I could fit in that.
-Put plants in the bath tub.
It's a nice size.
'That should be Bob's upstairs accommodation sorted,
'but when they see downstairs, they might have other plans.'
Now, downstairs, they've replaced the steps with ramps...
-..because there is the option of actually reversing the whole set-up and you could have this floor
-and then French doors that open out into the garden.
-Wake up to that in the morning.
They've put this awning across the French windows.
I don't quite know why, cos you could get rid of it and get a lot more light.
You'll see there are...three, four, five rooms off this corridor
-and they do get a lot of light, so let's have a look at those.
'This ground floor just keeps on going.
'There are two guest bedrooms - one is currently a study -
'a small sitting room and a guest bathroom.'
This, I guess, would be your TV room.
Oh, very nice.
Is this kind of enough for what you need?
For me, yes, perfect.
Well, now, if you didn't have this as a TV room...
-..I think I could get the entire collection into this room.
I'm living upstairs, aren't I?
You're being edged upstairs.
But what about the stairs?
You'd have to negotiate the stairs a fair bit to get to the kitchen.
Well, when I say I could fit the entire collection in here, I'm talking about storage,
so I don't come down and take out
the CDs that often.
What I'm thinking of is some place to put them...
-..where I'm not having to live with them.
But he is.
But he'd have to find somewhere else to put his TV!
That's all I'm saying, if he found somewhere else to put his TV,
then this would be ideal for that.
'James seems suitably unimpressed with that idea.
'Maybe sharing a house will be more difficult than they anticipated.
'Let's nip this debate in the bud and get them outside.
If they thought the last garden was big, wait 'til they see this one. Over two acres.
If you turn, you can get a better look at the house.
It's big, huh?
-It is very large, yes.
-So the big question is - can you afford it?
How much do you think it is?
I would say 575.
I was thinking more in terms of 595.
Well, you're both wrong.
It is actually a shade under £500,000.
-That was the sound of your jaw dropping.
Not many people leave me speechless, but that line just left me speechless.
Yes, it's a great bargain.
-Don't tell the owner!
If you want to start making your way upstairs - it might take some time...
-I can afford the ski lift now.
Or a tunnel or a chute.
That always makes me very happy, when people guesstimate the price
of a house they really like about £75,000 over the real price.
And I think they really like it and, bar the ski slope of a garden, it's got a lot going for it.
'With a price tag of just under £500,000,
'this house is massively under their £600,000 budget,
'and what a lot of house there is for the money.
'Bob gets his huge kitchen-diner, at least five times the size of
'his one in London, there's ample upstairs/downstairs living space
'for them both, if they can decide who gets which level. It has two reception rooms and four bedrooms.
'The only thing I can see letting this house down is the two-acre garden.
'It's not often I get to say that.'
There's so much here. The downstairs bedroom,
which I would have, is fabulous, and the price is incredible.
I can't believe it.
Imagine getting up to that.
It'd be well worth waking up, wouldn't it?
I'm not sure how you'd manage the slopes on the different levels.
Well, I probably wouldn't.
-In terms of the garden, we'd have to get somebody in.
-Oh, yes, it's too much.
The rooms are quite nice, they look comfortable, they're useable.
I want to separate out my living area from my music area and that is doable
in this house, but the kitchen is ideal cos it had absolutely everything I was looking for.
I can't think of one thing that's even missing.
There's plenty of scope to do all kinds of things here.
Are you taking in your view?
We are. We're just discussing who would do the gardening. Do you know a good gardener?
Neither of you...? Well, I'd love you to just feast on all these lovely landscapes,
but we've got much more of Cornwall and Devon to explore, so come on.
'We may have found Bob his dream kitchen, so what better time for a spot of culinary inspiration?
'To get the creative juices flowing, we've come to Buckland Abbey just outside of Tavistock
-'to meet Pat Coxson for a cookery masterclass of the historic kind.'
-Welcome to Buckland Abbey.
'Converted from the abbey into this grand Elizabethan manor in the late 1500s,
'it was the family home of Tudor seafaring hero Sir Francis Drake,
'and was owned by Drake's descendants until the 1940s when it was passed to the National Trust.
'But it's the kitchens we're interested in, and the catering facilities here are far from modern.
'Pat is more at home in traditional surroundings, knocking up traditional Tudor fare.
'Whilst the normal Tudor diet was made up of bread, cheese and seasonal vegetables,
'for important households like the Drakes, food was more elaborate
'and, today, we're cooking a genuine 15th-century fish dish.
I've cut a shape here.
First we skin the piece of fish.
I've learned something already.
So, if you would like to use this bacon to wrap around the salmon.
So if I move to your side...
So salmon, presumably they would've just taken out of the river.
Would've taken them out of the river and they would also have fish ponds
here, which would have meant they would be fully stocked.
In fact, they were very self-sufficient.
'This is a really simple recipe if you want to try it at home.
'Use shortcrust pastry, cut into the fishy shape of your choosing,
add a sprinkling of parsley, a splash of red wine,
and the dish is almost complete.
-Oh, I see. That's the Tudor way.
-That's the Tudor way.
'Seal with egg and crimp the pastry,
'and our historic pasty is ready to be cooked.
'In a modern oven, Tudor salmon en croute takes just 20 minutes.
'And the proof, they say, is in the pudding and, for once, we're all speechless.'
-I'm too busy.
-You're too busy.
I can't talk with my mouth full.
'As the sun sets over the Tamar valley, Bob and James mull over the houses they have seen.'
What did you think of the Calstock property?
I liked it very much. It was great. The setting was fabulous.
You couldn't fault the setting, but the thing that was out for me was the kitchen.
That was way too small.
I didn't think there was enough rooms.
Then there's the one in the valley, which was incredible.
I'm a bit speechless about that one.
It had everything I wanted in a kitchen. It was fabulous.
Plus, it's got all those extra rooms.
We'd probably be arguing over who had the downstairs bedroom.
-There's enough rooms there, I'm sure we could sort it out. The views...
-The views are wonderful.
I think it had everything that we needed in a home.
I can't wait 'til tomorrow. See what Alistair's got for us.
'Bob and James want to retire from London life and set up home
'together in the Tamar Valley, on the border of Devon and Cornwall.
'For their £600,000, they want a big character property with downstairs sleeping accommodation,
space for their large opera and art collections, and a huge kitchen.
It's just fabulous.
But coming up, there's plenty more to whet their appetites.
And will today's Mystery House get the thumbs-up?
Chef definitely says yes.
Another beautiful Cornish morning.
This is something I love about the countryside. The honesty box.
You can get your blue hen's eggs, £1.20, and no food miles.
But as regards to our house hunt for James and Bob,
yesterday we showed them lovely countryside locations,
but quite modern properties and interiors.
Today we're going to go along the rustic route.
Since Bob and James seem to love the Cornish countryside so much,
we're sticking to the western side of the Tamar
and heading to the outskirts of the village of St Cleer, situated on the southern slopes of Bodmin Moor.
This lofty moorland village started as - yes, you've guessed it - a mining town.
Today, it offers residents a large slice of rural tranquillity, ideal for Bob and James.
St Cleer has two pubs and a post office, but the real focal point is the medieval church of St Clarus
whose well waters are said to have healing properties.
Perhaps a quick splash could ease Bob's aching joints.
And, as you'd expect, the majority of houses here are
old mining properties, so character homes aren't in short supply.
Well, if I speak personally, I don't think we've found a more beautiful
-rural location in quite some time than this.
-I have to say - wow!
I wasn't going to say it, but wow!
Cornwall has come up trumps here because this is the River Fowey,
these banks are yours.
Could be yours. You have fishing rights.
There's brown trout, all sorts of trout, and also otters.
Can you imagine sitting here, watching the otters?
I certainly can. I've got my chair and my tree picked out already.
'And these two said outside space wasn't that important.'
Not a massive amount of land - that's good for you - but you do get this!
-You're going to get a double wow!
Double wow! Ah.
-It's very old.
-It looks old!
-And yet it's clean in features.
If the inside's anything like the outside, how soon can I move in?
Is this your dream country cottage?
I think it looks fabulous, but I'm a bit concerned whether it's going to be big enough inside.
'Built in 1850, this traditional cottage
'is the smallest house we're seeing, but what it lacks in stature, it makes up for in character.'
It's very different from the other interiors.
-It is, yes.
-I find it a bit dark, and I'm a bit concerned
as to where to put paintings, but it's got so much character.
There'll have to be lots and lots of compromises.
Yes, I have to agree with that.
So this was... They had it as a restaurant,
as a restaurant for a long time, so this was the dining room where the guests came.
-The fireplace is...
It's got a bread oven where you can let your bread raise, and this hook where also you can put this...
-Kettle on there.
-You can cook steak and kidney pudding on there.
Does it have a kitchen?
-No, you remember I said this was a restaurant?
-So what comes with a restaurant?
-A massive kitchen.
Oh, yes, a massive kitchen.
I forgot! It's what we came for.
Oh, my Lord!
-There's some serious cooking going on here.
There certainly is.
I've never seen a cooker like that.
That's because it was a restaurant.
From the restaurant trade. And you've got all this as well.
So again, it's a different sort of tone from the one we saw.
Very different, yes.
It's certainly workable, that's for sure.
And also, you've got a second exit, which is always good for French farce moments.
'So plenty of space here for Bob to show off his culinary skills,
'but will the rest of his quarters be roomy enough?'
So another set of steps.
These are quite easy to do.
This wing - let's call it a wing, shall we?
-This wing is eight years old.
It's more modern than the rest of the house.
So this is... I was thinking of it as your bedroom.
-It's got a nice en-suite with a big double shower.
Oh, yes, that's enough room.
-It's not massive. And then you've got a built-in closet.
I get the impression it's not big enough for you.
Well, I have a walk-in closet where I live now, so I'm quite used
to that, and I'm the sort of person that, if you give me space, I fill it up, so my closet is choc-a-block.
-If we give you a little space, do you thin it out?
I didn't think it would work.
But you have got a walk-in next door.
I move when you give me a little space!
-How about this?
-Oh, this is lovely.
It's got a fireplace as well.
This is a proper fireplace, wood-burner, and I was thinking this could be your opera room.
It has potential. Lots of wall space for putting the shelving on.
-I'm just thinking this would be a nice TV room!
-Here we go.
-So where's the TV room gone?
Well, shall we look upstairs cos that's your realm.
OK. It would make a nice TV room, wouldn't it, cos you could put the TV over the fire.
'Ah, the ongoing TV-versus-opera-room battle.
'It's becoming quite a feature of our house tours.
'Maybe upstairs has the solution.
'There's a study area and guest room, neither of which are huge, but could
'be rejigged to create more space for a flat screen.'
And then we've got a nice family bathroom here.
There's no shower. That's easily remedied.
Lots of wall space but you can't put many paintings.
Not in the bathroom, no.
And then your bedroom in here.
This, I suppose, is what they'd call the master bedroom, although they're all the same sort of size.
That's a good size.
It's quite small but if the other room was a dressing room, it wouldn't make any difference.
No, could use it as an en-suite.
It's lovely but I don't think it's going to work.
I mean, the setting and the aspect is absolutely wonderful,
but the room sizes just don't seem to be quite big enough.
Maybe I should get you back outside and get you all kind of enchanted by the setting again.
-And the otters.
-Let's go and see if the otters will persuade you.
Oh, what a shame. Such a beautiful setting but they're right, it is a bit small.
Of course, the garden isn't lacking in size at all, nearly two acres.
On the plus side, there's a workshop which already has planning permission to be extended by 50%
so potentially a good storage place for Bob's CDs.
This is a...
I mean, it is a stunning location.
How much do you think this is on the market for?
I think this is more. I think the location is stunning, it's a fabulous house.
I think it's above the budget. I would say 625.
Well, you're both very pessimistic on the prices.
This is actually on the market for 575,
-and it's been on the market for about nine months.
So have a stroll around and we'll meet out front.
Yeah, I can't really see the inside space working so
well, not with the massive opera collection, the massive TV, but it's such a shame because this...
It's got to be priceless, surely?
'At £575,000, this cottage is still £25,000 under budget.
'It definitely delivers in terms of character and comes complete with
'a professional kitchen, three bedrooms and two reception rooms.
'But I don't think character or location
'is going to make up for the cosy dimensions.'
The setting is stunning, the house is beautiful, the rooms just don't work for us.
My heart wants to buy, my head says no.
This is a nice size.
Oh, yes, it is. This would
make a great music room if it was attached to the house.
-You could still use it for storage.
It's a very useful space.
It is. The only problem is that the rooms are too small.
I don't think there's adequate space here to accommodate everything that I have and everything that James has,
which is too bad, because I'm really in love with it.
If I were to change my lifestyle and throw everything away, I'd buy it tomorrow.
-Bye-bye, pretty cottage.
-Bye-bye, otters, if they actually exist.
-Mustn't forget the otters!
'As this is a retirement move, Bob and James will have plenty more time to indulge in their hobbies.
'For Bob, that's cookery and opera, but it's art James is interested in,
'and he couldn't have picked a better spot than Cornwall or Devon.
'The region is home to hundreds of artists and galleries,
'so they're dropping into the studios of local portrait sculptor, Luke Shepherd,
'where James can try his hand at modern art of his own.'
-Luke, I'm Bob.
'Luke's sculptures range from traditional to modern.
'And he's been commissioned by a host of celebrities and politicians.'
-James, I hear you like abstract art.
-I'm very much into modern art.
Not that I don't appreciate the old stuff. I'd like something a bit quirky, a bit unusual.
-Can Bob be a model?
-Why not? Bob's a good model.
-I'll sit over there, shall I?
-That's a good modelling chair.
'Traditionally, Luke uses clay as his base sculpting material, and copper casts the end product.
'But for James' modern sculpture, he's made plaster blocks moulded in drainpipes,
'which will make up the main body of abstract Bob.'
This'll form the structure, the armature, of the piece.
We're going to put the shoulders across here.
From now on, you need to start making decisions.
How wide do you want the shoulders to be?
'This building block technique is really simple and ideal for beginners.'
The plaster mixes into the water.
Then a quick stir and you end up with a thick, gooey paste,
which is going to act like a glue and cement.
'The whole piece is then covered with the plaster mix.
'It's at this point you can create the sculpture's shape and texture and add personal flourishes.'
That's the way to do it.
The only part of the sculpture I've seen is the back part.
When do I get to see the front part?
'The great thing about the plaster, for impatient models,
'is that it dries quite rapidly, so artists need to act quickly.'
-OK. You ready?
-How about that?
Oh my God! That's amazing!
That's fantastic. I really like that.
'Let's hope one of the homes we show them will be the perfect setting for modern Bob.
My carefully worked-out theory that James's desire for sleek-line minimalism was crushing Bob's more
varied and colourful desire for rustic clutter has completely gone
out of the window because neither of them really cared for the beautiful interiors of that rustic cottage.
However, they do want big rooms with white walls so they can hang lots of art, and the Mystery House has both
of those, including something that's going to please the sun-loving James and the sun-hating Bob.
So what about the Mystery House? What will it be?
Maybe a converted barn or something like that, or school or something similar.
'The big reveal isn't far away.
'It is, however, the very first property we're viewing in Devon, as we're on our way
'to the north-eastern outskirts of the Tamar valley,
'and the countryside around the village of Lifton.
'Situated in the valley of the River Lyd, Lifton is one of the earliest recorded villages in West Devon,
'and is mentioned in King Alfred's will of 880AD.
With its ancient brooks and streams criss-crossing the land, the village is tranquillity personified.
Although Lifton prospered during the mining boom, leaving in its wake a wealth of fine Victorian homes,
it's farming that has always been the mainstay of life here.
The Mystery House is on the outskirts of the village and should be the perfect combination
of character and contemporary living. Fingers crossed.
-Your guess about the barns wasn't far wrong.
-No, I can see that.
But what a barn conversion it is.
-It's very unusual.
-That is different.
-There are barn conversions and there are barn conversions. This is the gold standard.
Well, I must say I like it already.
-Should we go in?
'This old cider barn was converted in 2003.
'It's beautifully finished and comes with lots of space.'
This is the vestibule.
-Beautiful oak floors.
-Isn't that beautiful?
-Proper, proper oak.
Let's look at the winter room, shall we?
Bob, I think this is yours.
The winter room.
Now, how do you feel about the size of the rooms?
-It's an excellent size.
You've got lots of wall space.
Some original touches. These are the original beams that they salvaged from the original barn.
But it's a whole wing, actually.
They use it for guests here, so the guests come and go without having to bother the owners.
So let's take a look at the rest of the wing.
-Then, here we have
your bedroom, I guess, Bob.
Oh, another good-sized room.
Very good size. The wardrobe's very large.
Space for storage.
But there's more. This wing is completely self-contained
with a tiny kitchen and bathroom, separated only by a partition wall.
You could just knock this wall out and make it a huge wet room.
-Isn't that funny?
I was thinking the same thing.
Before we see your wing, let's take a look at the kitchen.
Oh, that's right, I have to have a kitchen, don't I?
For the main event, we need to go back through the annexe.
Culinary heaven, or not?
-What does the big chef think?
-Chef says yes.
-Chef definitely says yes.
-Do we like the granite tops?
I love the granite tops, I love the fact that there's the island in the middle. I've never had one.
This is really nicely done, isn't it?
-It's very high-end finish.
-Well, you could stay here if you like because it's his turn now, his wing.
Oh, no, no, no. I want to find out what he's got that I don't have!
And judging on past performances, Bob will probably want it too.
Let's start with the living room.
Welcome to the summer wing.
Look at that. What a view!
That is incredible.
I have a feeling you're home.
Now, if you can't get a 92" television on that wall, then there's something wrong!
-It's great, isn't it?
-This is unbelievable.
It's a lovely, lovely reception room. Lots of light.
And if there's not enough white walls to put your paintings...
-It's practically a gallery.
-This is not all. This is the beginning of the summer wing.
-Oh, my goodness.
And this is the summer lounge.
They're using it as the dining room, but you could use it for whatever you liked.
It's fabulous, again.
And again, the size.
'There's no end to the space in this barn.
'Right next door is a study which I'm sure, if Bob asks nicely, James will
'give up for some CDs, because upstairs is just as spacious.'
This is the upstairs bathroom. Very nice size.
Very nice size.
Oh, wow, that's a nice shower.
-Nice shower. Yeah, that is nice.
-Lots of space.
There is a miraculously large amount of space. From the outside, it doesn't look as big.
-No, I can't believe it.
-Let's see the master bedroom.
-On this landing, there's also a double bedroom and two single
rooms, so more than enough space for storage and visitors.
-Wow. The master bedroom this is.
The master bedroom. So while you can still get up the stairs,
you'll have to fight over this one.
-Cos you've got enormous closet space.
-And, if you take a look over there, your own en-suite.
Wow, downstairs. Mind the step. This is a nice size.
-This is different.
-Nice shower, and the bath.
'House tours don't really go much better than this
'and I can't see the outside space putting them off either.'
And the garden - like everything about this property, perfectly sized, I think.
-It is. Absolutely.
-Even I could manage that.
Yeah, that's just an afternoon's gentle mowing, isn't it?
-Not gentle, but yes.
If we step back onto the lawn, get the full glory of the property.
-So are you both happy?
-I think we are.
Until I tell you the price.
How much do you think it costs?
Would you be that mean? I'm hoping you wouldn't be mean and I'm hoping it'll be...
I'm pushing it at 600. I think it's a lot more but I'm hoping it's 600.
Well, I was hoping it was 579.
Well, for once, you're optimistic.
You are, however, almost exactly right. It's just a shade under 600.
-And it has been on the market for a year.
For a year? I think it's a fabulous building.
Everything we want, all the rooms we want, space we need.
Go inside and have a look around. See if there's anything you can find fault with.
-I doubt it.
-I'm seriously doubting that one as well.
Remember that it's a buyer's market. You might be able to get more from your budget.
-Try and find a fault.
-Let's go and find a fault.
I'll see you in the Italian courtyard.
-OK. Sounds great.
Well, I have to say that is what you call an unqualified success.
There was nothing they didn't like about it,
which is rare on this show, but it's a beautiful property and within their budget, so I think that
qualifies for a big, fat, golden tick.
'On the market for £600,000, the Mystery House is bang on budget and there's still room for negotiation.
'In terms of living space, it has the self-contained annexe for Bob,
'a high-spec country kitchen, James gets his own ground-floor wing,
'with three reception rooms,
'and upstairs, four bedrooms.
'The icing on the cake has to be the easy-to-manage garden.
'The only question is - if they moved in here,
'would they ever see each other?'
It looked small.
And then, when we got inside, I could not believe the amount of rooms.
I could have one wing all to myself, Bob can have his wing to himself.
There's bedrooms upstairs for guests, and the garden is a perfect size.
Everything is right about this house.
This I would like to keep
sort of as a lounge/sitting room but, because of all the wall space,
I would also want to put some of the opera collection in here.
-I don't see any problem...
-If you can't manage with this...
Then there's something wrong with me.
The rooms are very large here, and it's much more in keeping with what I was looking for.
Something that has larger rooms, plus the ability to live on the ground floor, which it has,
and the kitchen is big enough to do what I want to do as well, so I'd love to make an offer today.
Ah, I was admiring the summer wing from the walls of the winter wing.
It's absolutely fabulous.
-Yes, it's a wonderful, wonderful house.
I said you were sneaky.
-Let's press on.
-Leaving the best for last.
'Well, that's it. Bob and James have seen all of our houses.
'Some have been definite noes and some have been definite maybes,
'so now it's time to decide which, if any, will come out on top.'
Time for some decision-making,
you don't have to be a genius to work out which one was their favourite.
I have an inkling which of the houses you like most,
but let's go through them one by one.
Let's spin back the clock to the first property I showed you,
which was a nice property. What do you think about it now?
That's the property in Calstock. It was a very nice property.
I liked it. A good start.
The area and surrounding countryside was stunning.
The kitchen was a complete no.
For me, that was definitely not the property.
Cornwall has come up trumps in terms of the locations here.
I think we've done you proud in terms of stunning spots.
-The house in the valley
that you seemed to really like.
It was a beautiful location. What do you think about that now?
I still like that one. It's very nice. Lots of rooms.
The property for me was the kitchen. I fell in love with that kitchen and I didn't want to leave it.
But the drawback there would be with the garden,
as far as I'm concerned,
cos it sloped so that I'd never use it.
It would just be complete wasted space.
The garden in the little rustic cottage, however, I thought,
was absolutely beautiful and I think you liked the location a lot.
That was the best location - the whole setting was wonderful.
It was very rustic, in terms of how we imagine rustic to be, with beams and wood.
And I have one problem with rustic, the rooms tend to be terribly small,
and I really don't want small rooms.
I need big rooms cos I have my vast collection of opera and everything else that I have.
-So, come on, let's talk about the Mystery House.
-Yes, it's fabulous.
The amount of rooms in there - I think we'd have space left over.
And the lounge on MY wing -
well, the ceiling, the lights. It was bright, looking onto the garden.
-It was just perfect.
-How did your wing shape up?
Well, my wing was equally as perfect.
I have a sitting room, plenty of space for storing the collection,
and if I needed more room, my God, there's another five rooms upstairs that I could use for storage.
And how might you proceed? Will you go ahead on that property?
We're very interested and we're going to get
a surveyor down to this property and see where we can go from there.
-That sounds like traction, it sounds like you're going to move and take it.
I think so. I hope so.
-I think the Tamar Valley deserves you both.
It'll be a marriage made in heaven. The whole county will rejoice.
-Let's hope so.
I can hear it now, the Tamar Valley ringing with the sound of Italian bel canto opera.
And the chip-chip of James with his new sculptural project,
ready to be displayed in his own personal gallery.
I think you'll agree that that was a successful Escape To The Country.
If you want to join more country escapees, then do tune in next time.
'And great news - Bob and James have made an offer on the Mystery House,
subject to the sale of Bob's London home. We wish them a speedy sale.
'If you'd like to escape to the country and would like our help, apply online at...'
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
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Alistair Appleton is in Devon house-hunting with a couple looking for their first home together. One of them is a hoarder with a passion for character features while the other wants a minimalist home. With a budget of £550,000, they want at least four bedrooms, a room big enough for an enormous music collection and at least two separate reception rooms. A huge kitchen/diner is a must, while a big country garden is a must not!