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This may not be a masterpiece, but today's county
inspired one of Britain's most famous Romantic painters.
His works have been immortalised in pigment for 200 years
and back in 1817, he painted this very scene.
Find out where I am as we escape to the country.
'In today's show, we help a couple escape the fast lanes of Enfield for a slice of the good life.'
A vegetable patch. Hey!
'We'll be checking out some beautiful character homes.'
Wow, look at that!
'But will the interiors even matter?'
Where's my farm and the cows?
'And could today's mystery house blow everything else out of the water?'
Today I'm in Constable county, Essex.
He spent his formative years here, painting wonderful scenes like this.
Dedham Church features heavily in his work.
He used to meet secretly with the love of his life here. How romantic.
When you think Essex, you don't really think rural escape,
but you'd be amazed just how much rustic charm this county has to offer.
'Situated to the northeast of London, Essex is, in fact, mostly rural,
'with a whopping 70 percent of its 1,500 square miles devoted to farmland.
'Historic market towns, picturesque villages and endless pastoral views
'make up the majority of the landscape. And to the east, the 350-mile coastline
'is as much given over to nature as it is to classic seaside resorts.'
'Although Saxon in origin, Essex was the first region the Romans made home,
'following the conquest of AD43, so there's plenty to keep history buffs busy.
'But if you're expecting the Colosseum, you might be disappointed.
'What you will find are more traditional farmhouses and thatched cottages.
'14,200 properties are listed here, accounting for nearly three percent of England's total.'
So, what do you get for your money? Probably not a windmill,
but £295,000 will get you that detached property,
that's 18 percent above national average.
And the further away from London that you travel, the cheaper it becomes.
Agents say that for every minute of commute time,
£1,000 comes off the price.
Well, here's what's available for princes and paupers across the county.
'If you won the lottery and had a cool £1.9 million going spare,
'then this 1920s house near Epping could be yours.
'It's been sympathetically restored and extended
'to include five tranquil bedrooms and three opulent reception rooms.
'But with five acres outside, you might need to hire a gardener.'
'For the slightly more modest sum of £795,000,
'how about this Grade II listed, six-bedroomed Georgian manor near Braintree?
'Recently renovated to its former glory, the three reception rooms
'are overflowing with period details.'
'And the bespoke country kitchen is the ideal place to cook up a storm.
'If downsizing is on the cards, then check out this three-bedroom
'16th century thatched cottage in Debenham, just over the border in Suffolk.
'For the price tag of £395,000,
'you'll get 400 years worth of original features to enjoy.
'The love of beams will be a must. Just watch your head on that ceiling.'
When most people think of Essex, they think of the large, southern towns
or maybe enjoying an ice cream at Southend-on-Sea.
But today's property buyers are pushing northwards, past the kiss-me-quick booths,
in order to find their dream country property. Let's meet them.
'Malcolm, a court clerk, and Anne, a teaching assistant,
'have lived in their four-bedroom semi in Enfield for 14 years.
'Now their children have flown the nest, they share it with their cat, Molly.
'But Welsh country girl Anne is keen to escape their busy main road for a rural lifestyle.'
I want to move to the country because, as a child, that's where I was brought up
and where I spent all my youth, and I long to get back.
The area we're particularly looking at is the north Essex, south Suffolk area,
with quite a few very pretty villages around there, a lot of open countryside,
plus it's manageable to get to my workplace.
My firm relocated me a couple of years ago.
I've been doing a 90-mile round trip to and from work each day.
'So, easy access to Malcolm's work in Witham will be key to the location.
'What does their dream home look like?'
Having some open countryside, quiet roads, looking across fields, that sort of thing, would be superb.
I'm looking for a country cottagey type place with lots of character,
maybe with beams, cos I love beams. But they've got to be high so he doesn't bump his head.
-Well over six foot high.
-And I'd like a bigger garden
and more space for relaxing in.
-More for me to dig, I suppose.
-More for you to dig, yeah. To grow more vegetables.
'So, the outside space will be just as important as the interiors for these two.'
I love gardening, growing vegetables in particular. I've got a good batch of Brussels sprouts coming up.
Come Christmas time, they'll be ready to put on the table. But I'd rather have a much larger area
to grow even more stuff. I'd like cauliflowers and cabbages, as well. I don't have enough space here.
Cake decorating is my main hobby. It's what I really love to do
and I spend a lot of my time doing this, but as you can see, my kitchen is cramped.
I haven't got enough room for any of this stuff. If I could have a larger kitchen, it would be magic.
'And with plans to branch into a cake-baking business, that bigger kitchen will be a must.
'But what other criteria do they have in mind?'
This is my son's xylophone. He's a music student up in London.
'We have a drum kit, a glockenspiel, a set of vibes, all similar sizes, we need somewhere for them.
'And it's not just instruments that need to be housed.'
We have three children, so enough space to put them up if they want to come for Christmas.
I think the essential things will be the four bedrooms,
the large kitchen, so you can do your bits and pieces.
-And enough space to put up the family.
'Before they can home in on a new country pad, they need to put their current house on the market,
'so we've invited a local agent to give them a valuation.'
A spacious four-bedroomed semi-detached family house
in a popular residential road close to Enfield town
and excellent links into the city.
I value it at £400,000.
We've been here 14 years. We paid £120,000 at that time.
-So to go up to that figure, it's fairly reasonable, I think. Can't complain about that.
'It's a sizeable sum, but will they want to spend all of it on their new home?'
To move out to the country, our budget will be somewhere in the region of £390,000.
Essentially, Malcolm and Anne are after the same thing. They want a detached four-bedroom cottage
so that all of their friends and family can come and stay.
They want a bigger garden with a vegetable patch and a place to find solace.
Let's not forget the country kitchen for cake-crazy Anne.
They want all of this away from the main road so that their cat, Molly,
can roam around unhindered in the countryside.
'And as Malcolm doesn't want to be situated any further than a 45-minute drive from Witham,
'we'll be starting the search in the countryside around Braintree, North Essex.
'We'll view some stunning period homes but, as always, I won't reveal the price tag until the end.
'And finally, there's the mystery house, which always has the potential to shake things up.'
-Hi, Malcolm, Anne. Welcome to Essex.
-Thank you very much.
-In your case I should say...
-HE SPEAKS WELSH
-SHE SPEAKS WELSH
-You're from a rural background, right?
Yes, I used to live in South Wales at the seaside, in the countryside. Beautiful there.
-So this is almost like coming home for you.
-But not for you city boy.
-No, born and bred in London, so it'll be a real change for me.
-Your house is on the market. You've had to lower the price, though.
-We originally had it valued at 400
and it's now 380, so hopefully it won't go a lot lower.
-Has the budget changed, then?
-Well, ideally, we'd like to be below 380,
-but if the right house comes along, we might be persuaded to push it a little bit.
-I'll persuade him.
-We'll both persuade him.
-What's your limit?
Probably 400-ish. We wouldn't want to go much above that.
-Shall we get on with it?
'So, for a maximum budget of £400,000, Malcolm and Anne have a long wish-list.
'They want a detached property with bags of character, rural views,
'four bedrooms, two reception rooms,
'a big country kitchen where Anne can get creative with cakes
'and an equally big garden so Malcolm can upscale his veggie plot.
'No pressure, then.'
So what are you like when you look round properties? Do you look with your head or your heart?
Well, I look with my heart and he looks with his head.
We're very different in that respect. I look how easy it's going to be to maintain
and the cost of running it and where the radiators are
and Anne just says, "This is lovely."
-Still excited about it?
-Oh, yes. Very.
'Our first property is on the outskirts of the village of Tiptree
'near Colchester. At just seven and a half miles from Witham,
'it's ideally situated for Malcolm's work.
'This once rural hamlet is now a popular village with over 10,000 inhabitants.
'The commercial centre of Tiptree originally grew up around the Church of St Luke's in the late 1800s.
'But it's now home to all the amenities you'd expect to find in a much larger town,
'so it won't be a culture shock for Malcolm, whilst still catering for Anne's countryside needs.'
Well, it's very pretty.
-It was originally one thatched cottage and then it was split into two,
-extended in the 1800s. Loads of charm and character, don't you think?
I love the design on the wall.
-And it is a very quiet road, isn't it?
-I can't wait!
-Good! Come on!
'It's not detached, but that doesn't seem to be putting them off.
'And inside, this cottage is crammed full of character.'
Wow! Look at that!
-Oh, what a beautiful fireplace!
-Isn't it just?
This is the 16th century part of the house. Lovely touches. You can see where they sharpened the knives.
Yeah. And the little bread oven.
-So, first impressions? You like it?
-Yeah, it's a lovely warm, welcoming feeling as you come in.
There's plenty more to see. Let me take you through here.
'Great reactions. But Anne has baking of her own to do,
'so let's check out the catering and dining area.'
-Yeah, that's really nice.
I'm wondering, when the family come, whether we'd fit them all in
for a meal around here. Could be a bit tight.
-If you took out the chairs, maybe, put a large dining table there.
-We have lots at Christmas.
-Let's hope it's a really nice day and you can eat outside.
-I know you're desperate to see that kitchen, so follow me.
Can't wait. Oh, yes, I like that.
That is lovely. Beautifully fitted.
It's just the sort of kitchen I like, but it feels too small.
It's smaller than we've got now and I was hoping for something bigger.
'Right, back through to the living room, and I think I can predict what they're going to say.'
-It's very pretty, but it does feel a bit small.
-We'd never get our furniture in here.
-You're struggling already.
-Quite a hunch.
-Yeah, I'm conscious of the height. It is much smaller than the room we have now.
'Ah, there's that word small again. But this is the reality of traditional period cottages.
'Will they be able to compromise on space for character?'
Nice wide stairway.
That's what I like about the property. You've got the 16th century side of it
but also you've got the new side, 1800s.
-As you say, you can stand up.
-It's a mix of wood, as well.
Yeah, reclaimed timbers. They've tried to keep the theme going.
Also, it is an old property. Even the new part of it is old.
-But tastefully renovated and redecorated. Plenty of light.
-Have a look at the family bathroom.
-Oh, that's nice.
Yes, I like the tiles. It's very modern.
It's quite attractively finished, but again, it's quite small, quite compact.
'I'm going to use the word cosy instead.
'And up here are two cosy bedrooms.
'One is currently used as a study, but could be a little music room.'
I love the fact that you walk down into your master bedroom.
-Ooh. Look at the beams!
-Do you remember this?
Oh, that's from the fireplace downstairs. The chimney breast.
-And if you look around this room, you're not going to see a radiator anywhere. Come on in.
-Why do you reckon?
-If you have the fire on, the heat all comes from there.
-It comes from the bricks.
-And I love the vaulted ceiling.
The current owners have done this. It was originally there, but it had been blocked off.
So they took the ceiling down and this is what was there. It doesn't end there. Follow me.
Come on through. You've got another staircase here that leads to the sitting room and living area.
And then come on through to Narnia.
Duck and stretch.
How agile are you, Malcolm?
Yes, this'll be a test.
-Oh, so it's a dressing room.
-At the moment, it is, but it could be a bedroom.
-It's not an en suite. You've got the original...
-Oh, isn't that lovely? I like that.
It's a shame to hide it away up here.
-But how exciting for your guests to come through to this old room.
-This would be my room.
-Oh, would it?
-Your dressing room?
-She'd probably need something this size.
Once you got a bed in, there wouldn't be much room.
But you've got to take into account, look at the size of this thing.
-Two feet deep.
But if that wasn't in here, where would it go?
-That's a point. You're going to be difficult to please, aren't you? I can tell.
I also don't know how you would get it out.
-Presumably is was built in situ.
-How the hell did they get it in here?
Through the window, maybe.
How did they get the wardrobe in here?
'Well, the wardrobe might be stuck,
'but we need to get outside and check out the garden.'
-That's a pretty little area, isn't it?
Nice glass of wine there in the evening.
I like the archways.
You've got honeysuckle and passionflower in the arch.
-Oh, that's nice.
-It's like a little oasis, isn't it?
-It's really pretty.
-When it comes out, you'll get a lovely scent.
Wow. You don't expect this to be down here.
Much wider than you think, isn't it?
-Neat little vegetable patch.
Yes, probably wouldn't feed us for very long, growing vegetables there.
-You've got this huge double garage. How about that for your cake-making business?
-It's a possibility.
'Maybe Anne will like this pretty summerhouse.
'And for a true taste of the good life, how about a chicken coop?'
-So, overall, you like the garden?
-Very pretty garden. But, again, small.
Really? Even though you've got the space for three sheds, space for chickens?
It's very long and narrow and quite overlooked and totally dominated by the hedge to this side,
which perhaps is too big a feature for a garden this wide.
So, I have to ask you the question now. What do you think it's worth?
It's beautifully done, so that brings it up.
Because it is absolutely spotless and nothing needs doing in there at all.
-So I would guess 340.
-OK. How about you?
I think that's a bit over the top. I'd go 315, 320.
Cos it's semi-detached, in a fairly built-up area. I think that'll hold the price down.
-She's bang on the money.
-I guessed she would be.
Well done you!
Excellent! How do you feel about it now?
Also, take into account that you haven't seen the double garage yet.
This could be the start of your new career, cake decorator of north Essex.
-I think it's big enough. Go and have a look and I'll come and find you.
-See you in a bit.
'I'm beginning to think these two could be demanding customers.
'On the market for £340,000, this property's a massive £60,000 under budget,
'so there could be scope to convert the double garage.
'This cottage delivers character over and above expectations.
'It has three to four bedrooms, cosy reception rooms
'and a very pretty garden.
'But it will be a compromise on space.'
Really large garage. Do you think you could do your cakes in here?
If I had this converted, I could even maybe have the special ovens in here
and just keep that for the family and do everything out here.
It had a nice country feel to it. It was the sort of country cottage I'd imagined
and I was really wowed by that fireplace in the hallway. That was a really unique feature.
But it was a semi-detached and it looked small.
Not much space upstairs in the bedroom and a little bit cramped, a bit took cosy for me downstairs.
It was a very pretty house, really warm, homely feel to it, but the upstairs was just not big enough.
Having family to stay with, really, one double and one single bedroom would be quite an issue for us.
-Yes. Thank you.
Right, come on, plenty more to see.
'Despite having lived in London and Essex all of his life,
'the northern reaches of the county are largely unknown territory for Malcolm.
'He and Anne may not be moving a million miles away,
'but they will be buying into a very different lifestyle, so they're exploring before they move.
'First up is Braintree. This historic town has had a thriving market since 1199
'and should be the perfect escape for city boy Malcolm
'when country life gets a little bit too quiet.'
-Superb. Little, individual shops.
-There's some big shops up there and then we could have a cuppa here.
-Sit in the shade under the tree.
'For country mouse Anne, Flitch Way is prime rambling territory.
'A 16-mile walk from Braintree to Bishops Stortford,
'this old rail route has now been reclaimed by Mother Nature.'
-I bet there's lots of wildlife around here.
-You can hear birds singing. There's a lot of nests.
It's really lovely just to hear birdsong instead of the traffic we're used to.
'Of course, Anne and Malcolm are keen on character properties,
'so the period splendour of Audley End House just outside Saffron Walden is a must see.'
-Amazing architecture. You see all the columns.
-This is beautiful. Look at those lovely stone window frames.
'Originally the site of Walden Abbey,
'the land was given to Sir Thomas Audley by Henry VIII during the dissolution of the monasteries
'and it took the family a whopping 11 years,
'from 1603 to 1614, to create this grand Jacobean mansion.'
-Wow. Incredible. Look at that.
-I bet they've had some great banquets in here.
-Big table here, people all sitting round.
There could be a wedding. One of my cakes over there.
All the people, all in their finery, all dressed up.
'But it's the land outside that I think will be of more interest to Malcolm.'
-Here you are, Malcolm. How's that for a vegetable patch?
-This is right up my street.
Think of the Brussels sprouts I could grow here! Would keep us going for years.
Never mind your Brussels. I'll have some nice flowerbeds, I think.
-Climbers up the wall.
-Plenty of apple trees, as well. Lots of fresh fruit.
Yeah, that's good.
'Well, it looks like this little taste of the region has whetted their appetite.
'I just hope they're not expecting us to find them quite such a grand property as this one.
'For the next house, we're heading north into true rural Essex and the hamlet of Cornish End.
'Despite being just 19 miles from Witham,
'the winding country lanes mean Malcolm's journey time to work will just be short of an hour.
'I'm hoping the idyllic countryside setting will win them both over.
'The hamlet itself consists of little more than fields and farmhouses.
'But just a five-minute drive away is the beautiful village of Finchingfield,
'complete with shops, restaurants and pubs.
'The words picture postcard perfect could've been coined for Finchingfield.
'In fact, it's considered to be the most photographed village in the county.
'With its 18th century windmill, abundant thatched cottages, pretty pond and green,
'there are plenty of vistas to point a viewfinder at.'
I hope this is rural enough for you, this lovely country lane.
-Miles from anywhere.
-This is the property.
-It's really pretty.
-Half weatherboarding, as you can see. It's semi-detached.
-We might be prepared to compromise.
-Ooh! I didn't expect that. I'm glad you said that.
It used to be the original farm-workers' cottages.
It's also been extended in the 80s.
-Shall I stop talking about it and shall we go and see it?
-Yes. It looks exciting.
'That's what I like to hear. They won't have to compromise on character
'or space inside the Grade II listed cottage.'
-So, we're in the 80s part of the house.
I like the fireplace. Multi-fuel. Yeah. I like that.
I love the view. I love that view.
-That is amazing.
-It's pretty spectacular, isn't it?
-Just what I wanted, a view like that.
-I like the beams. Gives you height.
-Even though it's the 80s bit,
-they've tried to make it feel an old style, as well, and they've succeeded.
OK, let's go and have a look at the rest of the house.
'Of course, at the top of Anne's list is a big kitchen,
'and with this cottage, she gets two for the price of one.'
-You've got the range here. Quarry tiles.
-So this is your smaller kitchen. Small but fully functional.
-This could be my cake kitchen.
-Ah, you think?
We have his and hers kitchens, so if we have a bit of a disagreement...
-What do you do in the kitchen?
-Wash up and...
-Now is not the time for a domestic.
-His and hers kitchens.
-And you probably can't see washing machine
-or dishwasher or anything here.
-Tumble dryer. Fridge.
-Where are those?
Do you know why? Cos I'm going to take you through to what could be kitchen number three now.
Wow. This gets better.
-OK, so it is a conservatory.
-Oh, dead clever!
-That's a sink. It's got electricity.
So how about extending this and making this your cake-making area?
-What else have we got?
-Have a look. You've got plumbing for everything here.
-Dishwasher, washing machine. It's a neat idea, isn't it?
-It is. I like that.
It is a lovely room. I like this. I do like it as it is.
Back through the kitchen and there's yet more living space.
A separate dining room.
-That's really pretty.
-Dining room or music room.
-You could knock through that wall and make it one big space.
-This downstairs area.
Having a separate dining room is useful.
-You're thinking musical instruments in here.
-You can put the piano in here
With these quarry tiles, great acoustics.
-It's very bright, isn't it?
-Right, come back through.
'I think we're hitting the right note. Upstairs shouldn't disappoint, either.
'There are four bedrooms in total. First off, a single, which is currently used as a study,
'and a double guest room.'
Have a look.
Oh, I like the light blue.
It's like a boarded sort of finish. It's good.
-The only thing I'd say, guys, is that this is the only bathroom.
-Not a major problem.
-Good, good. Master bedroom beckons.
-Good, good. Let's have a look.
And you can probably tell by the floorboards that we're going from old to new.
-Guest bedroom there.
-Yeah, that's good. Double bed.
And this is the master bedroom.
-Is it Malcolm and Anne's master bedroom?
-Yes, I think it could be.
Wake up and look straight out onto that, which is lovely.
-Doesn't get much better, does it?
And if you do get bored of that, you can look through...
-Have a different one out that way.
-Wait till you see the garden. You'll love it.
-Can't wait for that.
-Come on, then.
'I know the outside space is vital for Malcolm and Anne,
'and this cottage comes with a quarter of an acre.'
-Oh, yes. So lovely, That's beautiful.
-You've been itching to get out here.
I have. I love the outdoors and it's right there, the countryside is right on our doorstep.
-You touch it, don't you?
-Yeah. That's beautiful.
'And this garden just keeps on going.'
Oh, this is nice. I like this. This garden works really well for me
because it's got lovely flowerbeds that I could work on,
lawned areas, there's a couple of seating areas
and with that view, very attractive little garden, this.
-So serene. So quiet.
-Quiet and peaceful. No traffic.
This is farmland, but the farmer is known to sell his land, so you could probably buy a plot if you fancied.
-But I don't know if you need it.
-There's quite a bit of land here.
-It's a lovely big garden.
-We're only halfway there.
-This is really good.
-Come through this lovely little arch.
-Lots of different areas.
More seating areas through here.
-And then we come to...
-The vegetable patch. Hey!
That's good. It's been well looked after, looking at the soil.
-I could see you extending that, but there's plenty of room.
-Big enough to do what we want, but not too big
to be unmanageable when we're both working full-time. It's good.
-A lot of pluses in the garden. Like it. Well done.
-Let's go back towards the house.
'Well, now I know what it takes to impress these two.
'But what will they make of the price?'
So, you've seen the house, the garden, the vegetable patch and the lovely view.
-What's it on the market for?
-It's really hard to guess, because it's a nice house in a nice location.
I don't know.
380, 390, probably.
I was going to go a bit higher than that, because I think it's got a lot to offer.
Lovely grounds, it's Grade II listed,
it's mostly got character. There are bits I would like to change.
So I'll go for 400.
It's currently on the market, this house with this garden, with that view,
-Ah. So you win.
-I was closer this time.
-Go and have a good look around and I'll catch up with you later.
Well, if only the property was Victorian throughout,
I think Malcolm and Anne would've blown the budget straight away.
It's just the 80s add-on they're not really keen on.
But what do they want, a slightly imperfect house or a perfect view?
'And this cottage is £15,000 under-budget.
'There'd be spare change to make any improvements they want.
'It's got Anne's farmhouse kitchen, four good-sized bedrooms,
'potential for music rooms and a quarter of an acre of garden
'with an established vegetable plot. So, will it come up smelling of roses?'
This house, it's grown on me as we've gone round.
I do actually really like it. I love the garden.
I love the views. It's just that first room that we went into that perhaps holds me back.
-This wasn't what we expected at all. You walk in and it doesn't seem to match the outside.
There's quite a different feel about it.
But the rest of the house has got more charm, which I think is more appealing.
It's got a lot of character, it's in a wonderful location,
conservatory was brilliant, I really liked that,
and the garden was to die for. I could really do a lot with that.
But I do have reservations about the kitchen being in three different rooms.
Things won't all be to hand and I think that will lead to frustration.
Ah, you're smiling.
Don't tell me what you've decided. There are more houses to see. Come on.
'Now, both Anne and Malcolm are wildlife enthusiasts.
'But for Anne, there's one animal she's been longing to see in its natural habitat all of her life.
'It's the badger. So, to try and make her dream come true,
'we've come to the Badger Watch Centre in the woodlands just outside of Braintree to meet Rene Byam.'
-Desperate, they are, to see some badgers.
-Oh, well, let's hope they do. Fingers crossed.
I always thought they came out after dark. The sun is going down.
We need to get in position before the badgers come out, well before they come out,
because they've got a very good sense of smell and also hearing.
'The priority of the Northeast Essex Badger Group
'is the protection and conservation of these beautiful nocturnal creatures.'
So where are you taking us now?
We're going to go and look at a sett before the badgers come out,
cos we can't really go traipsing round all over the sett when the badgers are out,
otherwise we stand no chance at all of seeing a badger.
'I hope the badgers will grace us with their presence tonight.
'But even if Anne isn't lucky this time round, the group are always in need of volunteers
'and their most important task is monitoring the badger setts.'
This has been freshly excavated.
-A badger probably did that last night.
-That's one sett?
-That's one entrance of this sett.
-Will they know we're on top of them?
Yeah, they can probably feel the vibration as we walk across.
-So we have to try not to disturb them too much.
-Be nice and quiet.
'Right, let's get into that hide sharpish, then.'
So now you've got us in here, what do we do?
Just wait. Sit and wait.
-And keep your fingers crossed.
I don't think I've ever been this quiet in my life.
-I can see one.
-There's a badger.
-Yes, I can see one.
You've seen your badger.
I can't believe that we've only been here 20 minutes
-and I've seen a badger.
-Wonderful, isn't it?
-I'm so excited!
-I am, too.
-I think that Anne's actually found her ideal home.
-You're going to move into the hide.
-That was magical. Thank you so much.
-It's fabulous, isn't it?
-It was well worth coming out.
-I'm glad you enjoyed it.
'With the night drawing to a close, Anne and Malcolm have a chance to discuss
'the two houses they've already seen.'
What do you think of the property in Tiptree, the 16th century cottage?
I thought it was beautiful. It had every bit of the character
and charm that I think we're looking for
and a really pretty little garden, but I felt it was too small for our needs.
The rooms were a bit small, the kitchen wasn't big enough really for what I wanted to do
-My biggest concern was the bedrooms.
There was one double bedroom, one single bedroom and the other rooms weren't that big.
For the family to come and stay, it just wouldn't work, we couldn't fit them all in.
What about the Victorian cottage that was near Finchingfield?
That had a lot more going for it. It was a much larger property and we could get people in.
The bit that really hit the buttons for me was the gardens.
I could really do what I want to do with the vegetables. The garden was really what I wanted.
What do you think about it? The kitchen, in particular. That was quite unusual.
I liked the character of it, that it was in three parts, but there were bits I could've improved.
I think what was a bit of a problem for me was when we first walked into that living room,
I was disappointed. It was so pretty outside and I was expecting a bit more charm and character in there.
-It didn't really match, did it?
-But, overall, I liked it, and I loved the setting.
-And now I'm just excited about tomorrow.
-If it's another day like today, it'll be brilliant.
'So, the search continues to find Anne and Malcolm their dream character cottage
'in the north Essex countryside. For a maximum budget of £400,000, they're after quite a lot,
-'including a big kitchen, big garden and great views.'
-That is amazing.
-'But there's plenty more to come.'
-I can see cows. I'll never get out of bed.
'Or will it be today's mystery house that has them signing on the dotted line?'
She's not buying the house, she's buying the view.
So, it's a new day and our search continues to find Malcolm and Anne their dream property
here in rural Essex.
For country-born Anne, this is like coming home, and she's whole- heartedly embracing the experience.
But for city boy Malcolm, this is a journey into the unknown,
and I'm not sure he wants to be too remote.
How far will they escape to the country?
Malcolm, we've been driving around the countryside quite a lot.
Is this too remote for you?
Probably not too remote. I think, when you're in the middle of nowhere
and there's not another house within half a mile, that's probably too remote,
but if there's a few buildings, a bit of community, I'll cope.
But for you, Anne, there's no such thing as too remote.
-No. And the nearer to a farm, the better.
-Really? Why is that?
Because I grew up with farms all around me and I just loved it.
I spent most of my time just in the farms with the animals. Loved it.
-So you're looking for a return to your childhood, really.
-I am, yes.
And this has made me realise that, actually.
-Malcolm's got a worried look on his face.
'Well, I'm confident Anne will love the location of our next property.
'It's just over the Suffolk border and in the extensive farming region surrounding Great Waldingfield.
'But at just three miles from the thriving market town of Sudbury and a 45-minute drive to Witham,
'it shouldn't scare off Malcolm, either.
'Set in traditional Suffolk countryside with origins dating back to the Bronze Age,
'Great Waldingfield is a sleepy little place with a population of 2,000 people and just one pub.
'So our Enfield escapees shouldn't have any difficulties getting to know their potential neighbours.
'And character homes aren't in short supply.
'Many of the thatches and farmhouses around here are over 400 years old.
'Our property isn't quite that old. It's this Victorian farmhouse.
'Although no longer a working farm, there is one next door, so it should be right up Anne's street.'
-It's beautiful. Look at that. That is so nice.
-What do you think?
I think it's really lovely. It's just perfect from the outside.
It was refurbished eight years ago by the current owner,
-so a mixture of old and new.
-Lovely. That sounds just right.
-Shall we go in?
Come on in out of the cold.
-So, cloakroom. Very handy.
-Yes, that's useful, that.
This is your hallway.
Oh, that's a nice hallway. I like the exposed brickwork.
-And the wood. I love wood.
-They've used reclaimed beams.
-Listen, I can't take the pressure any longer. I've got to show you this country kitchen.
-I'd love to see it.
-To see if it's up to scratch.
-Wish me luck.
-Go for it.
-Oh, that's really nice.
-Plenty of room, isn't there?
-Yeah. Love it.
-There's potential, maybe, to put an island.
-Or a big table in.
-Conservatory running off the kitchen. A door out to the garden.
And in front of you, your view is onto the working farm and beyond.
It's really nice. I think this'll do perfectly.
-You can even get your cake tools hidden away somewhere.
-I could. There's plenty of room for that.
-I would move in here very easily.
-OK, let's move on. I'm so happy!
'The kitchen is obviously to both Anne and Malcolm's taste.
'And there's more space just next door.'
Oh. And what room's this?
-This is actually the dining room.
-It's being used as a bedroom.
It could perhaps become a music room. We could get the piano in there
-and some of the musical instruments. It'd be quite good for that.
'And if the orchestra grows, this study could be used for yet more storage.
Oh, yeah, I like this. Oh, yes. I like the brick wall with the beams in there.
-Is this the old part of the building?
-This isn't the original wall,
but it's in the same style, but it's the old part of the building.
-I want to bring you slightly this way.
-Oh, there's my farm with the cows!
Oh! I love being in amongst the farms, like where I grew up. Lovely.
'Well, you can almost touch the cows. You can definitely smell them.
'And with four bedrooms, I can't see upstairs being a let-down.'
-It's a good size, isn't it?
While they've got a single bed in here, you could probably get a double bed in.
-You would, yeah.
-It's not a huge space but...
-Big enough for a double bed.
-Adequate. Yeah. I like it.
-Adequate is good. We like that.
'And I think the two single bedrooms next door should be adequate, too.
'And the family bathroom is definitely functional.' Welcome to your master bedroom.
-This is a nice sized room. Big.
-It's pretty, isn't it?
-Malcolm, she likes the room so much,
-but she hasn't even noticed the view yet.
-Give it a chance.
-She's heading that way. Heading towards those cows again.
Oh, bless them. If I can see the cows through the window, I'll never get out of bed.
Just look to your left.
-Hey! En suite!
Who's a happy girl now then, eh? You've got an en suite, as well.
-Very useful. We've got our en suite here.
-Good size shower.
It's really useful when you have guests to have a separate facility like this.
-Give them theirs and we've got ours.
-Yes, you've got your en suite.
-She's a happy bunny now.
Come back through here. Let's have a look at that outside space.
'I know these two are itching to get outside
'and this garden is the biggest we're seeing, a third of an acre.'
Anne, I'm glad I could tear you away from those cows.
-What do you think of it?
-I love it.
Yes, it's just the right amount of land for what we need.
It's got everything you want, but can you afford it?
-That could be a problem.
-What do you reckon it's on the market for?
Well, I think it's going to be over our budget.
It's further out, so you get more for your money,
but considering all that it's got, the land, the position, I'm going to go 430.
-I think it'll be even more than that.
It's quite close to Sudbury, with the shops and railway, so I think another 5,000 or 10,000 on top of that.
So probably 435, 440, for this location.
It's been on the market for just over a year.
-It's had two drops in price.
The current owners are taking offers in excess of £400,000.
-So it's the top end of your budget.
-But it doesn't push it totally out of limits, does it?
-I thought it would be more than that.
-Look at you! Ooh!
-Got to do some sums now.
-Well, go do some sums, have a look around and I'll catch up with you later.
'Well, Anne is obviously very taken with this farmhouse and its countryside setting.
'Although it's on the market for offers over £400,000, it's been up for sale for some time,
'so they should be able to make an offer in budget and it needs no work whatsoever.
'The kitchen is ideal. It has the four bedrooms they want
'and there's ample room for growing sprouts in the garden.'
This is superb. It's exactly what we're after.
The journey from Witham might be a bit longer than I would've liked,
but I'll have to test it out.
But apart from that, wonderful. It is exactly what we need.
I can imagine, when the sun's shining in the afternoon, having the doors open into the conservatory.
-The light would come through and the heat.
-It's a really nice family area.
I really love the house. I love the way I looks, the way it feels when you go in,
the use of space inside, love it being right in the middle of a farm, a working farm.
It'd be hard for me to fault anything with it, to be honest.
It's just how I pictured my dream house to be.
You're just too late. I've just executed my perfect back flip.
Shall we move on? Why you looking at me like that? You don't believe me, do you?
'Now, no trip to Essex would be complete without a visit to historic Colchester.
'It was here in 43AD that the Roman invaders decided to set up home,
'making it Britain's first ever city.
'2,000 years of history are in evidence just about everywhere you look
'and no building is considered to have more historical importance than Colchester Castle.
'Not only is it the largest surviving example of a Norman keep in Europe,
'its foundations are built on the remains of the most significant Roman building in Britain,
'the Temple of Claudius.
'In 60AD, the temple was all but destroyed by native Britons, led by the legendary Queen Boudica,
'but two days and 30,000 lives later,
'the Romans emerged triumphant to rebuild their city.
'Some of the finest visual examples of the Roman occupation are housed in Colchester Castle,
'and perhaps none more well-preserved than the mosaics to be found here.
'So, to inspire Malcolm and Anne with some Roman home decor,
'we've sent them along to meet local mosaic expert Anne Schwegmann-Fielding.'
We've got a lot of Roman mosaics here
and mosaics would be used to adorn floors and walls and vaults in Roman times.
Would it be a gang of people working on it?
Yeah, there'd be a real workshop of people.
In Italy, they'd be a lot more elaborate. In Britain, they're slightly more simple designs.
But this is quite a good one. We have got some special ones here.
'The Berryfield Mosaic was discovered in 1923 by gardeners digging a hole for their compost.
'It's believed to date from the second century AD
'and would've adorned the floor of a prestigious Roman townhouse inside the city walls.
'A more recent find is the Middlesbrough Mosaic, uncovered at a local dig in 1979.
'Both are fine examples of this ancient art form, which is still alive and kicking today.
'Anne's been creating individual pieces for both properties and gardens for the last 14 years.
'And if you think mosaics are just for walking on, then think again.'
Striking a balance when it comes to location seems to be the key for Malcolm and Anne.
So for the mystery property, we've come up with a wonderful solution.
A house with a great commute for him and solitude and quiet for her.
And it wouldn't be the mystery property without a twist, would it?
Do you want to know what the twist is? It's a house on an island.
'Yes, we're heading just half a mile offshore to the hidden gem of Mersea Island
'and in particular the little village of East Mersea.
'The island sits in the estuary of the rivers Blackwater and Colne
'and is the most easterly inhabited island of England.
'Linked to the mainland by a half-mile Anglo-Saxon causeway,
'its five square miles consist largely of farmland.
'And the entire coastline is designated an area of outstanding natural beauty,
'a haven for wildlife lovers like Malcolm and Anne.
'And if they get stranded at high tide, they needn't worry.
'East Mersea has a shop, a pub and a pick-your-own-fruit farm.
'And just a stone's throw from the water is our mystery house.
'Dating from the 1920s, it still packs a period punch.'
Oh, that's nice!
-That is really beautiful, isn't it?
-Can you tell that all these properties are almost identical?
They were originally owned by the golf club and anyone who had a bit of money in the 1920s
-would come over for a round of golf and they'd put them up in these cottages.
-I like it.
-It looks in really good order, doesn't it?
'And if Anne thought the views have been good so far, wait until she sees what this house has in store.'
Come on in. Don't be shy. It's not like you.
-Ah, you know me well.
A typical 1920s property. Let me show you the sitting room first.
-Oh, this is a lovely room. I like this.
That's a nice feature, the plate trail up there.
-It is. And I love the original fireplace.
-A real coal fire.
-Yeah, I love that.
The bay window, typical of the date of the property.
-Yeah. It's really pretty. Nice warm, sunny room.
-Through to the dining room.
'The dining room is opposite, but it's the kitchen I really want Anne to see.'
-Ooh! Oh, yes!
-It's bigger than I expected.
-It's nice, isn't it?
-It's very you.
-Love the cooker.
-Electric range. No gas on the island.
-But when you live on an island, you put up with that sort of thing.
-I like this very much.
-One thing you haven't noticed is, if you look out the window...
-Look at that!
-Oh, my goodness!
-Across the water.
-It's just beautiful.
-Let's move on.
'Downstairs, this house just keeps on giving.'
-Another impressive room, isn't it?
-Oh, another reception. Oh, I like that fireplace.
-Yeah, that's not 1920s.
-I like the wood.
-Will your furniture fit in here?
-I think it would.
-Plenty of room.
-And you've got that out there.
-You have. Come on.
That view. That is just magnificent, isn't it?
-If I had a pound for every time you've said that to me.
-No, it's good!
She's not buying the house, she's buying the view.
I think that's the case. You're buying the house and you're buying the view.
-The outside is just as important to me.
-The view might be cheaper.
-Shall we go upstairs?
'Well, I'm glad those views have Anne sold, because upstairs isn't quite so spacious.
'First off, the small guest room.'
-A nice bedroom. It goes round the corner.
-There's a lovely little seat in the window.
-Very nice bedroom.
'Next door is a weenie study which could accommodate a few recorders
'and the family bathroom is quite basic.'
And I've saved one of the nicest rooms till last.
-Wow. It's superb, isn't it?
-It's an excellent room.
What I'm worried about in this room is storage, cos you've only got that door, that door, that door.
-His and hers.
-So it'll be hers and hers and a little bit of his.
-I was thinking maybe yours could go under the bed.
And I've left the final room till last.
-A room that's very important to you, Anne.
-An en suite!
-Go on, then, go and see.
-Oh, what a beautiful one!
That's really lovely. And that view! Ohh!
That is really nice, Aled. It's lovely.
'Let's get out into that garden and take a closer look at the view.'
-Is this patio large enough for you?
-You could fit a few people on here.
It just seems to go on beyond the garden, into the fields. It's like it's one continuous piece.
-You're probably wondering about your vegetables.
-Yeah. There's a lot of land.
It's a very wide plot, but it's all used at the moment.
It's whether we can create a space without it spoiling the prettiness of it.
-Shall we go and have a look if we can create a space?
-Have you got your pitchfork?
-Get stuck in.
'At 80 feet, it's a bit of a hike to the end of this garden.'
-It's not a bad view, is it?
-I'm glad you think I'm right, Aled.
-Here I'm thinking maybe his vegetable plot.
We could create space which wouldn't look too unpleasant from the house. This would be good.
And if you don't say anything, listen.
-That's magic, isn't it?
-I know. I would sit here,
-look at that view and listen to that.
-You know what I'm going to ask. What's it on the market for?
A good location, good views,
edge of Colchester, which is not too far away from big shops,
-it's probably around 400, perhaps a tad below. I'll go 395.
I was going to go a bit more than that, because it's in a very special area here,
on the island, magnificent views,
it's a lovely house in excellent condition, although it is only three bedrooms.
I would say 415,000.
Was on the market for £475,000.
-I'm not surprised.
-It's been on the market for a couple of years, though.
-Yeah, go on.
-Oh. Spot on, then.
-Pretty well, yeah.
You both smiled in a way that you thought, "Ooh, that's good."
It could've been a lot more. Probably the location being just out of town on the island reduces it a bit.
Have a look around, have a look around your vegetable plot, garden.
-There's no rush at all. And I'll come and find you.
'So, the mystery house is bang on budget at £400,000.
'Whilst it only has three bedrooms, and one of those is tiny,
'it does have three good-size reception rooms,
'so one could be used as an occasional guest room.
'Both the kitchen and garden are spacious,
'and this bungalow has something none of the other houses do - stunning sea views.
'But will this island idyll be the one for Anne and Malcolm?'
The idea of being on a island is quite fun.
The house itself is a very pretty house, very well maintained,
you could walk straight in and live here without doing work, but there's only two proper bedrooms.
It's too small, really, to use as a bedroom. You would get a bed in here but you wouldn't get much else.
It's a nice office but, as you say, not really a third bedroom for what we would want. It's a shame.
I can't fault the position, on the island here with the views, and the location is just tremendous.
The thing that's lacking for me are period features and character.
Well, that's it. You've seen all the properties we've got to offer here in north Essex.
Don't rush the decision. Go away and think about it.
-Don't argue about views or fixtures and fittings. You promise me?
-We'll do our best.
-I'm glad. I've found a lovely spot to meet up and have a chat later.
'Our property search in north Essex is nearly at an end.
'Malcolm and Anne have viewed all four houses, three of which could be contenders.
'So will it be Anne's heart or Malcolm's head that sways their decision?'
Well, I think it's rather apt that we end our journey here with this rather beautiful view.
-It's been the word of the last two days, hasn't it?
-Very much so.
Let's talk about all the properties. Quite different.
We'll start with the one with that very impressive inglenook fireplace.
-You liked it.
-I loved that, yes.
Beautiful character to it, lovely warm, welcoming feel.
All the period features I'm looking for. Very pretty throughout. But, really, it was just a bit small.
I don't know where we'd have fitted all our furniture downstairs.
And the kitchen was too small and there wasn't enough space for me to make my cakes
-and have them in their various stages of decoration.
-A lot of houses around it,
which made it feel very enclosed, which is not something we were after.
So I took you to the Victorian semi-detached property with three kitchens.
I thought the kitchens could be used for what I need it to be used for.
It had the perfect garden and the views. The location was spot on.
It probably is a bit too remote. I'd like to have a pub or a church or a shop
or something within easy walking distance,
and this was so remote, you couldn't see any other building for miles.
Great for what Anne is after, but it could easily lead to some marital discord there
if it was too remote. THEY LAUGH
We also saw a huge smile on your face when I showed you the farmhouse
-with the cows almost at touching distance.
-That, for me, was my dream house. I thought it was perfect
and I just fell in love with it more and more.
Yet again, this is your dream house and maybe not yours.
I think the house was. When we walked up the driveway and saw it,
I thought, "Wow, this is the house." It just looked so right.
The journey time to Witham could've been an issue. I'll have to work out exactly how long it would take
to get from that house into Witham. But that's not insurmountable. That could be resolved.
And then we ended up here, the house on the island.
And the house was a lovely property.
It didn't have the period features that I liked,
but because it had such a nice, bright feel to it, I could've overlooked that.
What stopped me going for that property was the lack of bedroom space,
because I felt there were really only two useable bedrooms in that house.
It was very 1920s, which isn't a bad thing,
but it isn't really what we're looking for. We want a few beams, inglenook fireplace,
-something with a bit more character from an older era.
-Can I ask you, are you going to follow up on them?
No, I don't think so. I think all the houses had good points and bad points
but I don't think the good points were enough in number
for me to really want to go for one whole-heartedly.
Well, as the sun's setting here, I really do wish you luck as you continue your search
and it's been a pleasure showing you round the properties. So good luck.
Well, we didn't manage to find Malcolm and Anne their dream property,
but with Anne's passion for the rural landscape and the remoteness of it all,
I don't think it'll be that long until she drags Malcolm to the country. Till next time, goodbye.
'If you'd like to escape to the country and would like our help,
'please apply online at:
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
Series in which prospective buyers are helped to find their dream home in the country.
Aled Jones helps a couple escape suburban Enfield for a slice of the good life in rural Essex. With a maximum budget of 400,000 pounds, the couple have a long wish list. They are seeking a detached property with bags of character, rural views, a big country kitchen and an equally big garden to create a veggie plot. Can they achieve all this within budget so close to the capital?