Property series. Alistair Appleton is house-hunting in Dorset with a couple looking for a modern house in a county famous for its old, typically English cottages.
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You can't really tell from up here,
but I'm standing on one of the biggest and most eye-catching chalk figures in Britain.
For centuries, maidens from the village down there would sneak up here at night
and lie on the figure in the hope of becoming pregnant.
So where is this most fertile corner of Britain? Find out as we escape to the country.
'In today's show, I'll be helping a couple set sail
'from the island of Jersey to a new life on the mainland.
'But it's not all plain sailing.'
What a lovely hallway.
-This is not actually a hallway. It's the dining room.
-'So will they be dropping anchor?'
-That is something else.
'Or will they be cast adrift?'
-I can't believe that.
I'm in Dorset and this is the Cerne Abbas Giant.
At 55 metres tall, the biggest chalk figure in the country.
While his links to fertility are fairly obvious,
it's still unclear when exactly he was carved.
Some people think it was thousands of years ago and that he depicts Hercules with his club.
Other people date him back to the 1600s,
as a disgruntled reaction by local villagers to Oliver Cromwell's Puritanism.
Whatever his origins, he's a striking addition
to the already very striking Dorset countryside.
Stretching across 87 miles of England's south coast,
Dorset is bordered by Somerset and Devon to the west,
Hampshire to the east and Wiltshire to the north.
A poet and novelist, Thomas Hardy was born here over 150 years ago
but he could have been talking about today's Dorset
when he titled his book, Far From The Madding Crowd,
because without a single mile of motorway, Dorset is a blissful county
the 21st Century seems to have passed by.
Its landscape is rich and varied with a stunning coastline,
England's first World Heritage Site.
Much of the county's agriculture revolves around the dairy industry,
as can be seen in its fields.
Around 150 scenic villages are speckled throughout this delightful county,
about half of which is designated an area of outstanding natural beauty.
Dorchester, its county town, so inspired Hardy
that he based the fictional town of Casterbridge upon it.
With such tranquil surroundings and more sunshine than anywhere else in the UK,
it's hardly surprising Dorset has become an exclusive place to live,
away from the mainstream.
At just over two hours train ride from London,
Dorset is just outside the expensive commuter belt
and yet property here is roughly £50,000 above the national average.
Why is that then?
Firstly, it's a great place to retire.
Three of the top ten retirement towns in the UK are in Dorset.
But even if you have little ones, there's great education
and a very low crime rate, 40% below the national average.
If you add to that the fact that more than half the county
is an area of outstanding natural beauty,
the whole package is very attractive.
If all that has whetted your appetite,
have a look at some of the beautiful properties on the market right now.
Set in 13 acres of land, with fields of lavender and four stables,
this detached farmhouse is an outdoor person's dream.
And with four double bedrooms, a magnificent kitchen diner
with minstrels gallery and exposed A-frame timbers, the inside is a vision too.
It's on the market for £975,000.
For £600,000, one could buy this elegant Grade Two listed regency town house with five bedrooms.
It's charm personified with a wonderfully panelled dinning room,
delightful drawing room with an ornate fireplace,
and a quite splendidly large sitting room.
And last but not least, good things come in threes.
This detached cottage has three double bedrooms
and is surrounded on three sides by a pretty garden.
Inside, there's a light reception room
and stunning triple aspect kitchen diner.
The price? £395,000.
I told you they were beautiful but are they beautiful enough for today's buyers? Let's meet them.
Today's show is all about island hopping.
We've come to Jersey to meet Bob and Susanne,
who have lived here together since 1993.
So why on earth do they want to leave this idyllic Channel island
to cross over to the mainland?
Some people think we're mad to leave Jersey
with all these lovely beaches, the sand and the sea.
But in the UK, we can visit friends and family.
We can just get in the car and drive to see them.
Susanne is Jersey born and bred and I do wonder
whether this island escape will be a real wrench for her.
It doesn't bother me, leaving the island. I was born here.
I've left the island before. I've lived in England before.
I've lived in Dubai. It's not a problem.
How will they feel about leaving the three bed house that they've lived in for just 18 months?
Leaving this house is not a problem because we haven't been here long
and I can look forward to another challenge of getting another garden sorted out.
-It might be already sorted for you.
-It might be.
Then what will I do?!
But this isn't just an escape to the country,
it's an escape to a different country.
But where exactly do they want to move?
We would like to move to Dorset
because we have a lot of friends in Dorset
and the children are spread around within half a day's drive.
So Susanne and Bob have sent out an SOS and we're here to help.
But what are they looking for in their new home?
We need three bedrooms, an ensuite bathroom.
We must have an open plan lounge and dining room, a large kitchen.
And a decent cooker in the kitchen.
-Well, that's... You really are...
-I'm being fussy now!
You're being fussy now!
Susanne might be a little picky about her appliances,
but then Bob's rather choosy about his garden.
I would like a much more open aspect garden,
where I can have a greenhouse, a shed, not surrounded by trees
and that allows everything to grow much better.
We put a lot of time and effort into making this house just how we want it
but we are surrounded by houses from wherever we look.
-We'd like a place with lovely country views.
Bob may be about to join Susanne in retirement, but these two aren't winding down just yet.
In fact, it sounds like they'll be busier than ever.
We would like a bigger kitchen.
We'd like a bigger table so we can have friends and family round
and we can sit round the table and it'll be really sociable.
Before Susanne and Bob can move to the mainland, they'll need to sell their home in Jersey,
so we've asked a local agent to give them a valuation.
It's a good-size family home. It's very close to buses, beaches.
It's been refurbished to a high standard
and in my opinion, the value is £825,000.
That's a significant sum of money
but how much of it will go towards their new home?
If we found a house that really ticked every box and it was perfect,
we would go to about five hundred.
Yes, I think that's fair enough. Yes, definitely.
For their half million pound budget,
Bob and Susanne want a nice, contemporary property,
three bedrooms, big kitchen diner, big garden.
Essentially, what they want is their 1970s house in Jersey transported here to Dorset,
which would be possible because there are new builds here.
But it would be a shame because we'd miss out on all the period properties
that make this county so special.
We'll mainly be house hunting in the north of the county around the town of Sherborne.
I'll be showing Bob and Susanne four Dorset homes to die for
and I won't reveal their prices until after they've looked around.
And we'll be taking them to a mystery house.
A property they might not have considered themselves.
Welcome to Dorset. How was your flight?
-It was fine.
-It was lovely. On time.
-Yes, it was good.
But you still have to get a flight to visit.
-That's right. Or a boat.
-Or a boat, yes.
-Is that one of the reasons why you're moving?
-So that we can actually get in the car and drive somewhere.
It's so exciting!
Jersey's only about 45 square miles in total, isn't it?
-Yes, it is.
-And you've been planning this for five years.
-Off and on.
-Things have been happening.
-What's been holding you back?
Not giving up work, then we had more or less planned last year
and the economy put a slight dampener on things.
So we decided to delay it a year. So we're ready to go now.
-It's not cold feet though, is it?
-No. Not at all.
-It's always been some external factor.
It's interesting because you want a contemporary, spacious house.
You know, not too cottagey,
and yet Dorset is famous for its cottages.
Having seen a lot of them,
they look lovely but we've had houses in the past
and we've had to do them up and we thought, not again.
We'd like something with a lot of light. I'm not terribly keen on tiny windows
Reasonably flexible but there are certain yeses and no's.
How reasonably flexible is your budget?
I always like to know!
We said five hundred but five fifty would be possible.
We'll work on five hundred because that's quite a healthy budget.
-But it's always nice to have a little extra in the pot.
We've got lots of nice houses. You're spoilt for choice in Dorset.
-And the mystery house, which is a bit different. Are you ready?
Bob and Susanne are looking to spend half a million pounds
on a modern house in a county packed with old English cottages.
Hopefully we can find something to convince them
to make that hop across the Channel.
Are you excited to be finally in Dorset, actually looking at properties?
Of course. Very excited.
What about the countryside? Is it very different from Jersey? I've never been to Jersey.
Very different. It's much more open.
It seems much greener, which is lovely.
Our first house is in the rural hamlet of West Orchard,
just four miles from Sturminster Newton.
Sturminster Newton, known to the locals as Stur, is a small market town.
Until 1988, it was the home to one of Britain's largest livestock markets
and the economy of the area is still dominated by dairy farming.
Many delightful stone and thatched cottages
can be found around the town centre, where there are plenty of charming shops.
About one third of Sturminster's population are retired
so there should be plenty of new friends for retiree Susanne and husband Bob.
The house we're taking them to is surrounded by some gorgeous countryside.
Roll up, step right in for the greatest five-bedroom house in West Orchard.
-Gosh! All of it?
-All of it.
-All this is one house?
-All this could be yours.
It was originally two cottages and it was extended in the '60s
and then extended again by the present owners.
-You wouldn't know it to look at it.
-It's been done sympathetically.
Perhaps a bit more rural than we'd first thought we'd be looking for.
But you've got to look at the inside of the house
and if the inside is fantastic, it might be a consideration.
Can't wait to have a look inside.
Susanne is certainly keeping her options open. Let's hope she finds what she's looking for inside.
What a lovely hallway.
-This is actually not a hallway. This is the dining room.
Although it's very long, it's a narrow property. It would have been two cottages.
It's still a welcoming room to walk into, whether it's the dining room or hallway.
It's still welcoming. It's nice.
So after a faltering start, the dining room seems to have won through.
'Next door is the sitting room.'
-This is the new extension.
-It's cosy. It's an OK size, isn't it?
-It's the two of us most of the time.
We used to have a big lounge. This is fine for just the two of us.
-And you've got underfloor heating.
So it's nice and snug in the winter.
You've also got a radiator and a log burner so you can be really snug.
You would. Perfectly. Adequately heated.
I know the kitchen is important, so let's go and look in there.
Thankfully, the sitting room has got a better reaction
and on the other side of the house is some of the open plan living they're looking for.
-This is nice. Lovely.
-Is it good?
You've got a range. That does the heating in the winter. That heats your water.
You've also got all the mod cons. Is it what you were looking for?
Yes. It's big enough to eat in. That was the important thing.
To be able to have a table and chairs you can sit at.
Then you've got the window opening out with a nice open aspect.
You've got a very nice utility room and a big pantry.
Then it all flows into this space too.
Downstairs bathroom. A little office space.
And then, ta-dah!
-A sun room. That's nice.
-Lovely open aspect.
-A view of the fields. That's really nice.
-Lovely and light.
-Would you use this?
-I think I would.
You'd sit and read in here, wouldn't you?
Yes, I definitely would use this.
You'd probably spend more time at this end of the house.
That would be more the entertaining end.
Actual living, you'd live at this end.
'The downstairs seems to have hit the right note.
'Let's see what they make of the upstairs.'
This is going into the modern end of the house.
OK. Good size. Nice wooden floors.
Yes, good thick pine floors.
A little Juliet balcony.
-Oh, yes, that's sweet.
-Look over your land.
We'll talk about that later.
-What do you think of the size of the bedrooms?
-This is a really nice sized room, I like this.
The en suites have been done very tastefully.
There are a total of five bedrooms here.
Another double with en suite bathroom, a single,
a third double, currently with a single bed and family bathroom.
'But what will they make of the master bedroom?'
They're using this as their main bedroom.
That's quite small.
So what do you think about having five bedrooms?
-We'll use them.
Yes, not necessarily as bedrooms, but we can have a study.
True, yes. I could have a sewing room. That's true.
All falling into place.
What's nice is you have this lovely view.
We'll go outside and we can talk about the land and your garden.
Green-fingered Bob is keen to have a garden not overlooked by trees,
so I think this space will suit him down to the ground.
I believe we're entering your realm now, Bob, is that right?
Yes, the garden is certainly a big enough garden.
You've already got veggie beds and a greenhouse.
What's also nice is this field belongs to the village
and they own it specifically to stop anyone building on it.
That's interesting. That's good.
So what do you think it's on the market for?
I would think maybe it's just under our budget.
Around 495, I'm estimating.
I think it could be just over, about 520.
You two are very good, actually, because it's on the market for 515,
but it's actually been sold once and that fell through,
and they took an offer for 500. So between you, you're on the money.
With that salient piece of information,
maybe you'd like to go round the house,
look at the rooms, think about whether they're good,
and I'll meet you out the front and we can continue.
-OK, that'd be lovely, thank you.
Good guesswork, I have to say, for the first house.
Especially when you consider they're from Jersey, a different financial ball-game.
Be interesting to see whether this really offers everything they want,
and whether the other houses are going to be a disappointment.
At £515,000, this 19th-century extended cottage
is on the market slightly over their £500,000 budget.
It comes with five bedrooms, two en suite bathrooms,
and outside space complete with greenhouse - ideal for gardener Bob.
I like the kitchen area like this, going through to the eating area.
-This works very well, doesn't it?
When I'm working at the kitchen sink I'll be able to look out to the garden and wish I was out there.
The garden was certainly big enough. The fact that the second half of the garden was mostly lawn
would not involve an awful lot of work.
I wouldn't want much more but it's certainly not too big.
The location's a little bit rural for what we were looking for,
but the rooms all work well for me and the gardens were lovely.
Oh yea, oh yea!
All prospective home-owners in the Dorset area.
Moving on out.
Dorset, round two.
Although our couple have visited Dorset many times,
neither of them have explored the stunning and historic town of Sherborne.
This former capital of Wessex, the ancient Anglo-Saxon kingdom,
is home to a wealth of medieval buildings that should keep them returning again and again.
Founded in 705AD,
Sherborne's spectacular abbey is one of the great churches of England.
Within it are buried two of King Alfred the Great's elder brothers -
King Ethelbert and King Ethelbald.
On the edge of town is a 15th-century almshouse,
still fulfilling its original role, serving as a home for the elderly.
Sherborne Old Castle is the former residence of the explorer Sir Walter Raleigh,
which was given to him by Queen Elizabeth in 1592.
Archivist Anne Smith takes up the story.
-Hello and welcome to Sherborne Castle.
This was the home of Sir Walter Raleigh.
At first, he lived in the Old Castle, where now you see a ruin.
But when Raleigh first saw it, it was a complete Norman castle.
The legend is that Lady Raleigh found it very draughty
and she persuaded him to build a new house in the deer park attached to the Old Castle.
What he built was the house behind us.
-Would you like to come inside and have a look?
-I certainly would.
Since 1617, this wonderful stately home has been owned
and heavily extended by the Digby family, who continue to live there.
This room was the most important room in Sir Walter Raleigh's house.
This was his great chamber,
in which he would have entertained his most important visitors.
He was a very bookish man, he liked to study,
but he also liked to have lots of visitors staying in the house.
It was in this room he put the most important architectural features.
The wonderful fireplace we see behind us,
and in the ceiling he put his coat of arms,
which is still here today.
This room has layers and layers of history.
The wallpaper and curtains in this room date from about 1860,
-and were put in by the Digby family.
-These are the original curtains?
Thanks very much for showing us round, it's been very interesting.
Not at all, you're very welcome.
Let's hope Suzanne and Bob will find an equal amount of inspiration from our next property,
which is in Yetminster, around six miles south-west of Sherborne.
Yetminster is home to one of the oldest street fairs in Dorset,
that has run almost continually since the 13th century.
Another claim to fame is that Yetminster gave its name
to one of England's most popular folk groups, The Yetties, who grew up here.
Many of the village's striking buildings are made of honey-coloured limestone,
some dating back as far as the 17th century.
The property we're taking them to
lies just behind the village's high street.
The problem with 17th-century villages, they're full of 17th-century property,
which tends to be quite small, little windows, dark.
-So I thought I'd bring you to something in the village, but new.
-How do you feel about new?
Quite like new. As long as it's tasteful.
How do you feel about brand new?
Yeah, always willing to look at brand-new houses.
How do you feel about never-been-entered-before?
That's great! We can do what we like to it.
How do you feel about this one?
That is nice!
Yes, that, in a village like this, is just right.
Doesn't look new.
It fits into the village perfectly.
Just need to have a look inside now.
As you'll see inside, it is extremely new,
so there's not an awful lot to look at. A lot to imagine.
That's a very good start indeed.
I'm particularly pleased they like it, cos finding a modern property that works so well
within its surroundings isn't always easy.
Come on in.
Ooh, it smells like a brand new house!
It does, doesn't it? It's a nice hallway.
It's all finished to a very high spec. We'll look at bits and bobs,
but they've not skimped at all.
I know the most important room for you is the kitchen. We're going there first.
Here we go, more bare bones.
-This is a kitchen, isn't it?
-It's a good size. It's fantastic.
-And so many windows.
-Yeah. You don't usually see a modern house with such thick walls
you can have those sort of window ledges. That is unusual.
-Such a lovely big, square kitchen.
-Yeah. Yes, exactly, yeah.
-Let's take a look at the living room.
-'That's two perfects in a row, nice work!'
-This will be the sitting room, lounge.
-Yes, it's cosy. Big enough...
-as a sitting room.
-..for six, eight people.
-We could get some of our furniture in here.
'It can be very tricky showing people around a blank canvas,
'so I'm pleased Suzanne and Bob have the imagination
'to visualise their own furnishings in here.'
This is the other downstairs room.
-A reasonable size for a dining room.
-You'd make this the dining room?
-I would've thought it was.
-Or a study.
-I was thinking maybe a sort of snug.
-It could be, yeah.
something like that. Home cinema.
-LAUGHTER Hey, yeah, the whole...
'The downstairs certainly seems to appeal to them.
'Let's hope the upstairs with its four bedrooms can do the same.'
This is the family bathroom.
-It's rather nice. You could sit and watch the neighbours as you bath.
-You could, couldn't you, yes?
-So, you have four bedrooms upstairs.
One little single here, which we won't look at.
-You can have a look later.
But we are going to look in here.
They're not massive rooms. This is billed as a double.
You could get a double bed in here.
-You could get... Yes.
-This would definitely be a good guest double.
There's one more sort of smallish double and then the master.
-And here would be your bedroom.
-Good size. Yeah, it's a good size.
-A good size, a nice view.
-And not overlooked.
-The neighbours can't look in.
-You'll never guess what's behind this door.
-Well, not a bathroom, actually. It's a shower room.
-Oh, that's fine. That's a nice, good-sized shower.
-We much prefer showers in the en-suite.
-I'll just go and have a bath down the corridor.
-Where you can watch the neighbours.
-So this is everything upstairs.
There is quite a lot of rooms upstairs.
-There's a lot of rooms and a lot of possibilities.
Almost endless possibilities with the number of rooms.
Absolutely. Well, all this echoing white space is blinding me!
-Let's go into the garden where there's some colour.
'The secluded garden is walled on all sides.
'There are areas of lawn where Bob can get his hands dirty
'and a paved terrace adjoining the kitchen, perfect for some alfresco dining.'
Now, if the inside was a blank canvas for you, Suzanne,
the outside is a blank canvas for you.
-Yes, I can see that.
-Because although there is lawn,
you could really do anything out here.
This is south-facing, so all of this gets lots of sunlight.
You could make a nice little courtyard there,
where you put your veggie garden. I guess that's up to your expert gardening eyes.
-Put it up there, at the back of the house.
-Is this big enough for you?
-It is, actually.
It is a... It's a compromise.
-I would compromise the size of the garden for the house.
-The village, the house, I'll compromise.
We're liking that. OK, so, compromise already.
What about the price, will you compromise on that?
-I think we'll have to compromise on that.
-I think we may have to.
A new build in a village, it hasn't got a lot of ground.
It's beautifully done inside.
I think I'm going to have to say...at least 525, 530.
I actually think it will be more than that. I thought maybe 545, to be quite honest,
cos it is in such a lovely location, beautiful village, and it is beautifully done.
The property is, you'll be surprised to know, on at £450,000.
-I can't believe that!
-I really don't believe it. I will compromise the garden!
So, not only would you have a great location,
-but some money in your pot to buy some nice plants at least.
-I am gobsmacked, aren't you?
-I am amazed.
-Yes, at the price.
-Yeah. I'm amazed.
There you go. There's not a lot to see inside, but have a scoot round
-and use your imaginative powers to decide what will go where.
-And we'll meet at the front and continue.
That's very satisfying, when they guess the price and it's almost
£100,000 more than the actual price! It makes me so happy.
'What fantastic news. It's not often our escapees
'fall for a property and over-estimate its price by so much.
'On the market at £450,000,
'this newly-built cottage made of local stone
'has a large kitchen diner going out on to a secluded garden.
'Upstairs, there are four bedrooms, one with an en-suite shower room.'
This is a lovely house in a village location.
The houses are quite a distance away, so it doesn't feel as though you're being overlooked on all sides.
The mix of the old look on the outside
and the modern interior is perfect and is just what we're looking for.
So what do you think of it, Bob?
You know my opinion on new build, and there's nothing to be done,
it's maintenance free and the village was just...
-Ideal. It was just my vision of what to expect
in a reasonable-sized Dorset village.
I was surprised at the price of the house, I must admit,
I still am surprised.
It's very, very reasonable.
Whoa, the excitement! The excitement. It still smells so fresh.
Make sure you pull the door to.
When you think of rural Dorset,
you probably don't think of trade unionism,
but imagine this, a village in the centre of the county is
one of British socialism's holiest sites.
I'm in the village of Tolpuddle and it was here in 1834 that six unassuming farm workers
planted the seeds of trade unionism that grew into events transforming workers' rights forever.
The story of these labourers,
or Tolpuddle Martyrs as they came to be known,
is of their stand against unscrupulous landowners who were systematically cutting their wages.
With destitution looming, having failed to secure a fair salary,
the farmers formed a union agreeing not to work for less than ten shillings a week
and took a secret oath,
illegal at the time, vowing never to reveal their identities.
Morning, Tim. 'I'm meeting Blue Badge guide Tim Lowesby
'to find out more about these brave souls.'
So, the myth is they met under this sycamore tree, is that true?
That's... Yes, it's popular.
-It's a popular story.
-You're going to tell me it's not true.
-If I was joining a secret union, I wouldn't meet under a tree in the middle of the village.
-Where did they meet?
-In John Standfield's house, which is a little way down the village.
'But they were soon found out, arrested and taken here to Dorchester Crown Court for trial.
'The holding cells and courtroom have been restored to their original condition
'and it's easy to visualise how desperate they must have felt as they waited to be tried.'
-This is the dock where they stood.
-That's right. Really intimidating,
cos it's like an amphitheatre, and they would have been
in pitch darkness down there and the two huge windows behind us
shining into their eyes. Absolutely terrifying.
'The Tolpuddle Martyrs stood their ground and pleaded not guilty,
'but they were charged with administering unlawful oaths
'and sentenced to seven years hard labour in the penal colony of Australia.'
And what was their life like in Australia?
Incredibly harsh, incredibly harsh.
They were worse than the lowest farm labourers.
Very tough conditions.
They were transported in chains and then sold, effectively,
to farmers and landowners out there to do as they would with them.
'The trial caused a huge outcry and a massive protest movement formed
'with 100,000 people turning up for one London rally alone.
'In the face of severe public pressure, the Government backed down
'and four of the Tolpuddle Martyrs were given full pardons,
'but, tragically, no effort was made to trace them and it was years before they returned.'
So how long was it in total before they got back?
George Loveless came back on his own.
The other four came back almost four years to the day that they were convicted,
and then James Hammett came back 1839, almost five years later.
-Was there still interest in them?
-Yes, they were heroes, absolute heroes, yeah.
'Only one of the six, James Hammett, settled again in Tolpuddle, where he died in 1891.
'He's buried here in the local churchyard,
'his gravestone an enduring monument to the roots of trade unionism.'
As the sun sets over this beautiful landscape, it's time to take stock of the house hunt so far.
What a day. Two very different houses.
-What did you think of the red brick house?
-I loved the layout downstairs
but what did you think of the garden?
I did like the rural views, although the actual positioning of the house was a bit rural.
Yes, I thought it was a bit rural. What did you think of the new build?
That's a different question, that really was a fantastic house.
-The village that it's in is just magic.
-It really was perfect
-and inside, well, that kitchen!
-Yeah, you loved that kitchen didn't you?
-Well, something else.
-And it was a good master bedroom.
-With a shower room.
It was a very interesting day, I really look forward to tomorrow.
-Another two different properties.
-I know, what are they going to show us.
-I've no idea!
Suzanne and Bob have been living together on the island of Jersey for 16 years,
but with most of their friends and family in England, it's mainland ahoy.
'They'll be spying some wonderful living quarters.'
-Now, you must admit, this is a master bedroom.
-A MASTER bedroom.
'But will it be enough to persuade them to dock?'
-Oh, wow! Yeah.
Well, I have to say, yesterday is going to be hard to beat, because...
Bob and Suzanne have not stopped talking about that new build all night long.
But, you know, as I mentioned earlier, I'm loathe to just show them new builds in Dorset,
cos this is the home of loads of character, old, beautiful property,
so I'm going to pursue the period path and see what happens.
'Our next property is just outside the village of Charlton Mackrell,
'over the county line in Somerset.
'Today, along the village's pretty bridleways, horses trot
'where, 1,000 years ago, Romans would have trod
'for this is where a major Roman road, the Fosse Way, runs.
'Its other claim to fame is that, oddly, three American Presidents -
'John Adams, Calvin Coolidge and William Taft -
'are all said to have ancestors from this village,
'Yet despite all of its foreign connections,
'Charlton Mackrell is a quintessentially English village that remains timeless.'
Step down into the Italianate gardens.
-Very special rural property.
-As you can see, this is a conversion.
-Very well converted.
-Well, it's very interesting, actually.
It's got a kind of Italian feel to it.
Right. I think it's an attractive looking building, actually.
-Unusual, but attractive. I can't wait to get in and have a look.
-Oh, no, you can't go in.
LAUGHTER Teasing again.
-Oh, look at this! Gosh!
-Yeah, that is...
-That is something else, isn't it?
-You've got the original beams and original walls.
They've all been repointed. Throughout, you have this
incredible array of very high quality material.
-This is Italian grey limestone.
-So it's all been imported from Italy and that's the kind of theme throughout the whole property.
And you have this rather spectacular double fireplace.
-It's something else, isn't it?
-It's very unusual.
Yes, it really is something special. I want to see the rest of it now.
-I want to show you the kitchen. Come round the double fireplace.
-Oh, yes, the kitchen!
'The high-spec finish continues throughout the kitchen with
'handmade units under a stylishly grey Italian counter and top-of-the-range appliances.'
Oh, gosh. That is amazing.
Wow, look at that.
-That is magnificent.
-That's a fantastic piece of oak. It must be at least three or four inches think.
-Isn't it just? Yeah.
-And a rather fabulous range.
-Range. Amazing range.
-That'd be good to cook on, won't it?
-And yet space enough
-for a good nine, ten-seater dining table.
-I think it's a lovely space, don't you?
Yeah, I know we wanted open plan, but this is a complete open plan.
Everything in one. Guests can see you, you're in the kitchen, everything's together.
'Off the kitchen, down a few stairs, are four bedrooms.'
So now we're in the sort of wooden half of the house.
-You've got these beautiful oak floorboards.
-It's a lovely room.
This, again, you could make it an extra bedroom, but it could be
-a study or a TV room.
-A nice study, yeah.
And then let's go look at the bedrooms.
The real wonder about this property is how she's brought so much light in.
The present owner has worked carefully with planning officers,
because, with barn conversions, they're often very sticky
about how much opening you can put into the walls,
so she's opened up these ones on the side
and, also, in the bedrooms, she's brought a lot of natural light in.
-Yes, it's fabulous.
-Yes, it's lovely and bright.
-Very country bedroom, isn't it?
-Yes, it certainly is, yeah.
And you've got the beams as well up there.
-So this is one of the bedrooms.
And this is a lovely family bathroom.
-Oh, gosh, yes, it's lovely, isn't it? Look at that lovely bath.
-Wow! Look at that.
-Isn't it great? And the master bedroom next door.
And this, I think, is a fabulous room.
Oh, isn't it just? Now, you must admit, this is a master bedroom.
-This is a MASTER bedroom.
-This is a MASTER bedroom, definitely.
-And a lovely en-suite.
So, I think, all things considered, the living accommodation here is pretty special.
-Everything is. Not just some of it, everything is.
And we can just step through the master bedroom doors into our personal garden.
-There's certainly plenty of garden.
-Plenty of garden, isn't there?
But it's not just this bit, it's also all that.
-Oh, my goodness.
-So you've got a paddock.
-I was just going to say, we could get a couple of horses!
You've got a little orchard there.
-So, it's quite a big plot of land.
-It's... Yes. In Jersey terms, it is a huge plot of land.
-Shall we just take a stroll through your garden?
'The fashionable touch of the current owner once again shows itself here.'
-And then you've got all this bit again. I had forgotten how beautiful this bit is.
-It's really ideal, that. The end of the house sitting out in the sun.
So, OK, now, this is the property, but how much is it?
-I think I have to have a lot of wishful thinking in this.
At the very top of our outside range of about 550.
No, I'm going to go a bit less than that. I'm going to go for 515.
Well, your wishful thinking is still wildly pessimistic, because it's actually on the market at £500,000.
-Which I think is a great price for what you get.
-It's so different.
-I don't feel bad sending you back into this house, because it's absolutely lovely.
OK, thank you.
Wow! Now, I think they're going to have a bit of a dilemma, because they loved the house yesterday
and they're going to love this, too. It's so difficult!
Obviously, property is a lot more expensive in Jersey.
'You certainly get more for your money on the mainland
'and, at £500,000, it's right on budget.
'This former barn has been converted to the highest spec
'with a stylish living space flowing seamlessly into the kitchen.
'There are four bedrooms in total, one with an en-suite bathroom
'and, with land aplenty, I think the modern cottage in Yetminster
'will have a run for its money.'
I found the whole property very appealing, very beautifully done and no expense has been spared,
but it is very different to anything I've ever lived in.
Is it totally practical?
-It's very well done.
-They separated it beautifully,
the lounge area and you've the dining room. It works very well.
I'm still trying to just imagine living in it.
When you walk into this house, the open-plan space is amazing.
If we could put this house in a village location, it would be absolutely perfect.
Hey, I was just enjoying the sun. It's a real sun trap here.
-It's lovely, lovely.
-South facing. Let's press on.
Bob is a tremendously keen gardener who can't wait to create a garden
from scratch when he makes the move to Dorset.
So, for inspiration and to get a greenhouse masterclass,
we've sent him and Suzanne to wander through a garden
which is on the National Garden Scheme.
The NGS is a charity which facilitates the opening of 3,600
mostly privately-owned grounds to the public.
There here to meet John Halliday at his one-acre, informal valley garden
blooming with over an astonishing 1,000 varieties of plants.
So, John, how did you go about landscaping this garden?
From here it was a green sloping field down to the river.
We wanted something natural that would blend into the landscape,
but we also wanted to create compartments and areas, so you could walk from one are to another.
And the first decision was to create the hornbeam hedges that create this side of the garden -
the kitchen garden and the rose walk down the middle,
and then to develop the meadow area under the apple trees and a bog garden down where
there's a water course running into the river.
It would be fantastic to have a look round, could we have a look round?
Yes, let's go and have a walk down toward the river and the meadow.
Supported by their patron, Prince Charles,
over half a million visitors flock to NGS gardens every year.
And bordering the river Asker,
this tranquil space beautifully exploits the different features
of its natural landscape.
This is the wet area where the spring
comes down to the river that you can hear.
So what sort of plants grow best down here?
Well we're looking at a very good example here, the Swamp Cypress,
which is well away after nearly five years.
The whole area is a flood plain, the river will come over every so often,
but it drains very fast, so the plants are perfectly happy.
Would you like to see the greenhouse?
Quite a few plants in flower there.
Bob has his own greenhouse and when he makes his way to Dorset,
is eager to have a similar one to John's with all its wonderful flowering plants.
Can you give me any tips on keeping a perfect greenhouse?
Well, the first decision was temperature linked.
This end of the house we keep minimum 50 degrees Fahrenheit
for the plants that need that kind of heat.
That end we just keep frost-free,
so temperature control is vital, or you'll lose your plants.
Bugs and pests and diseases, just keeping an eye -
don't bring a plant into the greenhouse without checking if it's got one on it
cos you'll be infested!
So what sort of plants do you keep in this section of the greenhouse?
You've got the succulents here which need the heat.
You've got the crassula and the echeverias here...
-Um, here's a climbing plant, tibouchina - beautiful purple flower.
-That needs the heat.
-Well, John, it's been fantastic looking round your greenhouse and your garden,
thank you so much for showing us round.
It's been a pleasure, it always is with fellow enthusiasts
-and I wish you every luck for your search for a garden of your own.
-Thanks very much.
Since this house hunt started, I've been threatening Suzanne and Bob
with a proper period Dorset cottage
and instead I've been showing them
very lovely contemporary properties,
kind of what they're looking for, but it's the mystery house
and the time for the cottage has arrived.
What do you think I'm going to show you for the mystery house?
Something completely different.
Something that we haven't seen so far.
-Hopefully something interesting.
-What about you, Bob?
I think it will be something different, completely different, just to challenge our thoughts.
-We hope it will be challenging.
-I'm sure it will be challenging.
We're taking them to the village of Briantspuddle,
about ten miles east of the county town of Dorchester.
As one approaches the village, glimpses of its beautiful thatched cottages start to appear.
For most of its history, Briantspuddle was little more than farms and cottages.
However, in 1914, department store tycoon,
Sir Ernest Debenham, bought some land and farms and developed
a self-sufficient model village in an attempt to prove that Britain could feed itself.
And with a population of just around 200,
it remains an idyllic slice of rural England.
The property we're taking them to is Grade II listed and once formed part of the Debenham estate.
Oh... It's so cute.
I wanted to show you this, because it's not your typical thatch in the sense that it's...
It's not hugely old. It was built in 1910, so it's actually very much in the Edwardian style.
Lots of slightly Art Deco-y details around the porch and big windows
and relatively high ceilings, so not your typical Dorset cottage.
-Shall we take a look inside?
-I'd love to.
-Come on in.
-Lots of original features. All wooden staircase.
-Very nice, yes.
I'll take you straight into the kitchen.
Oh, this is nice.
Oh, I like the kitchen.
-This is lovely.
-And it's, you know, it's a fairly simple, functional...
And it doesn't have the huge open plan of...
-..the old barn.
It does flow through, it goes into a little dining room there and then into this sort of sun room.
-Oh, yes. Oh, wow!
A swimming pool. Can I just nip out now for a swim?
-Ah, yes, a hot day.
-The outlook from here is...
-It is, it's lovely, isn't it?
-Is fantastic, yeah.
Well, let's just have a look at the other room, the sitting room, which is also unusual.
-So, it's a lot of sunnier and it's actually two rooms knocked together.
-So it comes round into this side.
-Actually quite a big room.
-It is, isn't it?
-It is, quite a surprise, actually.
Could you use this room? Is this again a bit too small or too big?
No, I don't think so. I think it's...
It's more than usable. You've got quite a lot of room in here.
It's nice cos it's different. It's sort of quirky.
-Let's take a peek upstairs.
-I like this staircase. They've all been stripped back to the pine.
-But they're quite simple and nice.
-I like this colour pine.
-All the doors are nice, original door furniture.
-Yeah, very nice.
-The rooms are not huge.
-Cottagey and quaint.
-Cottagey and high ceilings.
-That's true. Two windows, so plenty of light.
-Plenty of light.
For a bedroom, it's fine.
-Not knocked out?
-Not knocked out, no.
'Also off the hallway is a single bedroom overlooking the garden
'and another double with original beam work.'
This one's a good deal bigger. This is their master bedroom.
-That's a better size, isn't it? Yeah.
-There's cupboard storage and they've done a vanity unit.
-Oh, yes, yeah.
-So there's a total of four bedrooms on this floor.
-That's kind of what you were looking for.
-there's also a secret room.
Oh, yes. This house has secrets.
Here it is.
-That's a door.
-What do you think's on the other side?
-Some form of ladder.
Staircase? It can't be a staircase!
-A small staircase.
-Maybe a lift!
-You're no fun, you guessed!
-We could've spun that game out for ages.
-Oh, good God.
It's actually the cupboard for the ladder that takes us up here.
-Are we in?
-That one's in.
We'll never see him again, it's like the Bermuda Triangle.
Oh, gosh, isn't it dinky?
-It's a dinky little room.
-So, what would we use this for, actually?
We could put the grandchildren here, they'd love to sleep up here.
Do you have any more evil plans(?)
'Back on the level is the two thirds of an acre garden that surrounds the property.'
This is cool. This is a thatched utility room.
-You don't get many of those. The pool pump is in there.
And you've got a stable sort of building and shed up there with your sit-on lawnmower.
-You would need one for the grass here.
-Oh, you'd love that.
And you can see the pool and the interesting modern sculpture.
-I like the pool, I'm not sure about the sculpture.
-Do you know what?
You don't believe me, do you? Yes, obviously, there's a rather large electricity pylon in your garden,
but the present owners have done quite a lot of research
and the electricity board have told them there is a plan to bury it.
-So it doesn't need to be in your garden.
Anyway, you can see the whole package here, lots of features.
-Yeah, that's true.
-So what do you think it's worth?
I think it's got to be outside our top budget range at 575.
That's exactly what I was going to say, yeah, so I'm going to go a bit higher and say 580.
580. I'm going to ask why do you think it's so expensive?
-I think the position, the grounds.
-And the swimming pool...
-It's got a swimming pool.
-And a lovely conservatory.
-I was just checking your logic, cos you are spot on.
-It's on the market for 575.
-Very clever at this, aren't we?
-Got one right!
OK, well, you know, I was getting mixed vibes off you, so why don't
you have a walk around and then we can be regroup at the end...
-..and talk about all the properties.
-Right, thank you.
'Mystery property by name and mystery by nature,
'as I'm not too sure what Suzanne and Bob make of this place.
'At £575,000, it's over their budget, but it does come
'with the requisite four bedrooms, an attic room
'and stunning outside space complete with heated swimming pool.'
I've never been in a thatched cottage, so I was excited to look inside.
I liked the kitchen. It was nice and modern. I loved those cream units
and I like the way it led through into the conservatory, where you could sit and eat.
-With this room leading off it, I think it would work quite well.
-Have the eating area here.
-Quite an open aspect, yes.
To find something like this on a listed building is quite unusual, especially a cottage.
This is more than a cottage, it is a house and the position of it I thought was wonderful.
I'm not convinced about the upkeep.
I'm sure there'll be constant things that need to be done to a house of this age.
-I was just looking at the thatch, actually. It's almost...
-It's probably about five years old, so you've got another 30 years.
-Oh, good. That's a bonus, isn't it?
-Right, let's regroup.
'Suzanne and Bob's journey around Dorset is coming to an end and they have plenty to think about.'
So I don't think that the mystery exactly pulled the thatch over their eyes,
but I'm pretty sure at least which two houses they most prefer,
but I have been very wrong in the past, so let's find out.
I'm hoping that Jersey seems like a dim and distant memory now
after all these acres of Dorset that we've covered.
-I think we've seen the whole of Dorset in the last two days.
-It feels like it.
-And every mile of road on it.
-The first property I showed you was the red-brick house
which was quite unusual cos everything else here in Dorset
-is made of stone.
-What are your thoughts?
I liked the house, I liked the layout downstairs, I didn't feel
the upstairs worked quite well enough for us
and I thought it was a bit too rural for us.
Well, the next property I showed you really didn't have much of a garden
to talk of but it did have a great location.
What are your thoughts about the new build?
-We liked the look of it as soon as we saw it.
The fact that it was new and it looked old, it fitted in.
-It was just perfect.
-Yeah, the location was good for the village.
You could walk to the village shop and there was a pub not far away.
And we could've made the house ours.
We could have put our personal stamp on it and thought our furniture would fit in quite nicely.
-What about the long barn? That was a beautiful property.
-It was. A stunning location
-and the views were amazing.
-Yes, no question about that.
The inside was a bit quirky, but it was nice with all the wood and stone and it just was very interesting.
-It was very, very tempting.
-Tempting sounds like it wasn't quite there.
-No, I think...
There wasn't a village community you could walk to, which was a shame.
You never can tell what people like in properties, for example, the mystery house.
-So beautiful. Chocolate box beautiful when you saw it.
You just wanted to stand and gaze at it, cos it was so pretty, wasn't it?
Yes, everything about it was perfect. The location, the look,
it just was an old building and it would be constantly just needing something done.
-It seems there is a clear winner, is that right?
-The new build.
And will you make any moves? Will you kind of view it again or put an offer in?
-You were going to contact the vendor, weren't you?
-Yes, and see what the...
-Register our interest and maybe have another look if we can, if we've got time.
It was very remarkable to see how enthusiastic you were about that building.
-It's really nice when it clicks like that.
-Thank you very much for showing us round.
-It's been a real pleasure
-and I hope you move here soon, cos I think you two suit this country.
-Oh, thank you. You're so kind.
So, despite my best persuasive efforts, it looks like contemporary won out over period.
I'm delighted to say, of course, that Dorset did trump Jersey
and if Bob and Suzanne's adventures in property have inspired you,
do make sure you tune in next time for more Escape To The Country.
Bob and Suzanne want to sell their Jersey home before putting in an offer on the modern build,
so I'm pleased to report that, having recently reduced the price of their house by £30,000,
they're now in touching distance of their dream move to Dorset.
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Alistair Appleton is house-hunting in Dorset with a couple who are ready to leave the island of Jersey for good. With a budget of £550,000, they are looking for a modern house in a county famous for its old, typically English cottages.