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Today, I'm in my home county. Which claims to be the oldest in England,
its name dating back to 41 BC.
It's also home to one of the first and finest light railways.
So, all aboard as we Escape To The Country.
Today, we'll be meeting a couple who can't wait to leave suburbia behind them.
And trade it in for very cosy country living.
Didn't expect this.
I'll show them wonderful country homes that will take them by surprise.
-I'm really impressed by this, aren't you?
-I am, yeah.
And there's the blinding mystery house. Which will call for some hand-holding.
I want you to turn around and reveal.
Today I'm in Kent, the Garden of England.
Now, this county is full of history.
Being home to over 17,000 listed buildings and these beautifully preserved steam engines.
So, get ready to discover this very special corner of Britain.
Kent lies in the south-east corner of England
and has spectacular coastlines. The sea shaped this county.
Renowned for it's rich naval history and the iconic White Cliffs of Dover.
A symbol of Britain.
Venturing inland is Canterbury, home of the Anglican Church.
And the Hythe Weald which Henry VIII referred to as the Garden of England.
For it has some of the most fertile land in the UK.
But Kent is perhaps most famous for its oast houses.
Many of these Victorian hop-drying buildings have been converted into beautiful luxury homes.
Well, hopefully Kent's grabbed your interest.
Let's hope it'll tempt our buyers.
Today's property hunters are Phil and Philomena from Sidcup in Kent.
Phil's an account director for a health company.
And his wife Philomena, who Phil refers to as Phil Number Two, works as a PA in London.
Phil and Phil have been living in their five-bedroom detached house for eight years.
With their two daughters grown up and moved on.
And with retirement on the horizon, Phil and Philomena have been dreaming of a fresh start.
Our current home isn't ideal for us any more. I think it's outgrown us.
It's just the two of us now. We don't need this amount of space.
We can't enjoy what we want. Which is the peace and quiet of the countryside.
This has left them with a clear idea of what they want from their new home.
We'd like a three-bedroom detached house with character.
-It has to be in a quiet road.
We'd like an en suite if possible and I'd like a kitchen-diner.
And also I'd quite like to have a range cooker in the kitchen.
Philomena loves cooking.
So having somewhere big enough to entertain is important, and she's attached to her dining table.
I really love this table. It took me ages to find it.
So, when we move there's definitely going to have to be a space for it.
It must have a double garage or space to build one.
And a fair size garden.
Phil and Philomena want to get back to nature.
To enjoy walking and country pursuits.
Phil's also keen to start growing his own vegetables again.
We love being out in the garden.
But it's too shady to be able to grow vegetables.
When we move to the country, that's one of the things we're looking to be able to do.
Before we start homing in on properties, we've invited a local agent in to give a valuation.
It's a lovely Edwardian family home, in a great location.
All in all it's a very desirable property.
And my recommendation is to market the property at £725,000.
The Phils want to put some money aside for their retirement.
Leaving them with a budget of £500,000.
Will we be able to thrill our Phils and their £500,000 budget,
in this rather expensive part of the country?
Essentially they're going to get excited about a kitchen diner,
open fireplaces, a large garden and a garage to store Phil's tools.
So, we're going to charm them with properties that have oodles of history and lots of character.
But, will we deliver?
Let's find out.
We'll be starting out search close to the Kent and Sussex border,
in town of Tenterden. Where there are plenty of trains into London.
Useful for Philomena's commute into the city.
I'll be taking Phil and Philomena to see three properties in the local area.
They'll be viewing them without knowing the asking price.
Which I'll be revealing at the end of each tour.
The last of the three will be the mystery house.
Chosen to put the cat among the pigeons.
So, Phil and Phil, welcome to Kent.
I believe you already live in the county?
Only by postcode. We're in the London borough of Bexley.
Now originally your budget was 500,000.
But you've added a bit more.
We've realised that if we want to get the house of our dreams,
we're probably going to have to spend £550,000.
-So, shall we start looking at some properties?
-Come on then.
Phil and Phil have upped their budget to £550,000.
And although they're downsizing, they still want
three bedrooms, a kitchen diner, a garage and a large garden.
So that Phil can grow his own vegetables.
Property number one is located at Sissinghurst, in the south of the county.
It's great for commutes, as the nearest train station is just five miles away in Staplehurst.
The property we're going to see is just off the main road into Sissinghurst.
This is why I've brought you here. Take a look at this property.
-It's certainly different. It's beautiful.
-It looks quaint.
Character property which is what we're after.
It's exactly the sort of thing that we, we'd like to own, I think.
-Shall we take a look?
Come on in.
-It's a little warmer in here.
-Yeah, it certainly is.
It's a good job we're not too tall, to come through the door.
-Oh, I like this.
-The original house was actually built in the 16th century.
-So, it's Grade II Listed.
But from this partition, this stone wall here onwards, that was built in the 1700s.
And then through there into the kitchen, that was built in the 1930s.
It's got areas from all periods in the house.
On the way to the kitchen is a cloakroom and a bright bedroom - perfect for guests.
But this is what I wanted to bring you to see. The kitchen.
Well, I think you might be about to make my wife very happy.
-Yeah. A range.
-You've got the range there.
That heats the whole of the house.
I think this is exactly what you wanted, wasn't it?
-A kitchen like this.
-This is important for me.
You've got the butler sink there.
-I'm the butler.
-There you are. We've found your place.
-You'll be doing the washing!
-Plenty of storage too.
Because that's something that's often lacking in a kitchen.
-So, a thumbs up for the kitchen.
-Yup. I think so.
-I think so.
-Thumbs up for the hallway.
-It's a good start.
-It is a good start.
Let's keep looking and exploring.
At the other end of the hall, in the 17th century part of the house, is the dining room.
Packed with period features. And just enough room for Philomena's prize possession. Her dining table.
And this is the living room.
-Inglenook fireplace. That's something we're after.
-You could stand up in there.
Yeah. We, we could. Might do that in a moment.
-And again - every room we've been in has been light.
-It is light and airy, for an old house.
And what do you think about the feel of the room?
Does it feel quite tranquil to you?
-Yeah. I think.
-Yes. it does. I can... I can still hear the road though.
You can't deny that's it's there.
So, lots of good points and just one negative so far.
Will the deal be clinched when they see upstairs?
You feel the walls leaning in as you come upstairs!
-It is quite higgledy-piggledy.
Oh, not... not too bad a size.
No, the size is fine. And the bathroom is something I can change and alter. So, the actual...
-it's just the size that's important. And the size is fine.
-But you did want an en suite.
Now unfortunately with this house we can't get you one.
-But the good news is the master bedroom is just next door.
-Oh, that's handy then.
Welcome to the master bedroom.
What do you think?
Well, first impressions, it's quite small I think.
It's light again though. You've got the windows at both ends.
It is light in here. Which is good.
I haven't seen anything inside that's put me off so far.
-You know, reasonable size.
-You would only have one wardrobe in here. And you have several.
-We'll get rid of your clothes first.
-I don't think I dare comment.
I'll start an argument here!
The reality of downsizing is beginning to hit home.
But there's more space up more stairs.
Very steep stairs but I think you'll agree it's worth the climb.
Because this is the other bedroom.
Oh, this is lovely and light, isn't it? And a cot already.
Ready for the grandchild.
There is a problem with storage space, I think, in this house.
My concern about wardrobes isn't for me. It's for my wife.
-He's very caring, isn't he?
-He is, yes.
Although storage may be an issue, they need to appreciate
that downsizing means getting rid of things.
But what about outside?
Will that suit Phil's DIY needs and his green fingers?
Quite a mature garden over here.
You've got your vegetable patch.
You've got your greenhouse.
And you've got that beautiful pond. And then you've got the garage that you so want.
The garden's themselves I think are, size-wise, are fine.
So, both Phils, you know what's coming next.
How much do you think a property like this is on the market for?
I think it's probably about 525.
-Were it not for the road, it would be a lot more than that.
-I'd actually price it at 485.
-That's quite low.
-Well, this house is actually on the market for £465,00.
So, you actually were closest.
-Cheaper than you thought.
-Yeah. I think it would be worth an awful lot more
were it not for its position, I think.
Before you make up your minds. Why don't you go have one last look around it?
OK, thank you.
This pretty 16th century property comes in at £465,000.
And that gets you three bedrooms, a lovely big kitchen and a double garage.
It even has the vegetable patch Phil wants in his garden.
The question is, were they put off by the lack of storage?
Downstairs probably exceeded my expectations.
Though I liked the upstairs, I could see that Phil probably didn't.
We are supposed to be downsizing. But it's just a little bit small.
I know that you're worried about storage.
But if we could solve that, I think this room is perfect.
I'm looking forward to seeing the next few properties.
This has opened our eyes to things we wouldn't have looked at.
It's set quite a high standard.
-Well, that's one down. But there's plenty more to see. You ready?
-Yeah, we are.
-Great. Off we go.
For our next house we're off now to Horsmonden,
down towards the East Sussex border.
What will please Phil is that it's packed full of history.
As the guns for Charles I's forces, during the English Civil War, came straight from the local ironworks.
There's also no shortage of things to do.
With the weekly farmers market and an annual fair on the village heath.
So, a nice quiet country lane.
Because I know that's important for you two.
And here's the property we want you to take a look at.
-Wow, that does look impressive.
It's an 18th century weather boarded house.
It's Grade II Listed. It was originally a pub.
If you look you can see it's attached to the house next door.
-But apparently the local farmer got so upset with his workers coming to frequent the pub.
-That he actually bought it and turned it into a house.
-So, let's go have a look inside.
-And here's the kitchen.
-Lovely. This looks very promising.
-A good size for you two?
-Yeah. Very good size, yeah.
-Yes, very nice.
-Well, let me take you through to the dining room.
-It's my taste.
So, we're now walking into the older part of the house.
The 18th century.
I notice the ceilings aren't as low as some beamed rooms that you go into. So, it's nice.
-It makes it feel more spacious, doesn't it?
-Yeah, it does.
-Those beams are from Chatham Dockyard.
-So, we know the house is 18th century.
But they're probably far, far older. They might have even gone round the world a few times.
So, what do you think of this room, as a dining room? Would it work?
Yes, it's great.
I think it's really lovely.
So, it's a great entertaining room. You've also got a cloakroom, opposite the front door.
-I brought you in the tradesman's entrance.
-That's the one I'm allowed in!
And then this leads straight into the living room.
Now, what about this?
Oh, that's really great. Yeah.
-Just the thing we're after.
-It's not a huge room, but it has a spacious feel.
-Suit me down to the ground, I think.
-So, the downstairs of this property is working out quite well.
We've got some more good stuff upstairs.
Back through the dining room are the main stairs, leading up to the first floor.
Where we find two characterful bedrooms.
Down here... I like to think of this as your guest wing.
This delightful snug room is ideal for family or friends.
And even has its own en suite.
Further along the hall is this simply furnished family bathroom.
But this is what I really wanted to show you. The master bedroom.
Oh, this is great. This is just the sort of the bedroom we're after.
-What do you think about the size though of this room?
-Yeah, it's a good size.
-Is this what you had in mind when you're escaping to the country?
-It's better that what we had in mind.
-I'm really impressed by this. Aren't you?
-I am, yeah.
But I've got something else to show you.
Phil, I want you to lead the way up the second flight of stairs.
Up in the attic the owners have made ingenious use of the loft space.
Well, this is... ha! This is different. I didn't expect this.
Ah well, this is another extra bedroom, isn't it?
You certainly have to mind your head.
But we are literally in the rafters.
-And you can imagine our grandchildren growing up.
And wanting to sleep up here away from everybody else.
So, I love it.
Opposite is another smaller room.
Ideal as an office or hobby space. As long as you can get your hobby up here!
If your past time requires a bit more room, then there's plenty of space outside.
So, it's a third of an acre.
Sort of split into three, the way it's been done.
Quite mature. I know you're a keen gardener, Phil.
-Could you work with this?
-Nothing phases me about it. Because I want to grow vegetables.
And I think there's plenty of space.
And it's got the right aspect to do that as well.
-I think this house sets the standard for any other houses that we see, so...
I like that. So, bearing that in mind, what do you think a house like this is on the market for?
-Do you want to go first?
-No, you go first.
OK. Well, I would imagine...
because it is attached and it does need a garage... It's probably priced at, I think, about 525.
OK. And, Phil, what do you think?
No, I think it's going to be higher than that. I think it's nearer the 550.
This house is on the market...
-There you go.
-That's good. That's very good.
-It's really good.
It does leave change, should this be the property of your dreams...
to build your garage and your workshop. With all your tools.
-You've made me smile.
-There we are.
With that in mind, do you want to have one last look round?
-Yeah, we will do, yeah.
-OK. See you in a minute.
So, this period property on the market at £495,000
definitely has the character they're looking for.
It has the fireplace they want.
Plus that kitchen/diner for entertaining.
It even has the garden Phil is hankering after
to grow his own vegetables.
And with this property well under budget,
this one could be a winner.
I really like this house.
But I think my wife is smitten by it.
It's a beautiful house.
Everything's, you know, lovely in it. It's well looked after.
You walk in and it has that nice warm feeling about it.
Great kitchen, dining room. I think it's a good space.
Nice units. We've got a table. That's something I wanted.
I think the space in this house is perfect. Exactly the right size.
Ah, smiling faces.
That's always a good sign!
As the last of the afternoon sun fades away, it marks the end of our first day of house-hunting.
Well, it's the beginning of day two and I thought yesterday went pretty well.
We showed them properties at the lower end of their budget.
But today we're upping the ante.
For the mystery property, we're slipping across the border.
Near to the tiny hamlet of Netherfield in East Sussex.
And, if it's history you're after, then just up the road is Battle.
The site of the 1066 Battle of Hastings.
Your eyes have instantly caught the mystery property.
-A barn conversion.
-Yeah. And it's really nice-looking, isn't it?
-It looks contemporary.
-But it actually is a Grade II Listed building.
-Doesn't look it.
-Oh, that's surprising.
It's been done really carefully.
To the side isn't a garage, but there is permission to have a double garage built there.
That's fine. As long as I can put my garage up.
So, can you imagine yourself living in a building like this?
-I can't wait to get inside.
-What about you, Phil?
-I'm not sure.
So, I think I'll reserve judgment until I get in there.
-Can we go inside, please?
-Are you desperate to?
I'll put you out of your misery. Come on then.
This stunning barn conversion has been painstakingly taken apart. And put back together again.
Perfectly marrying tradition with cutting-edge modernity.
Here we are. The glass hallway.
Certainly a different style to anything we've seen.
I wouldn't expect this in a barn.
It's very different. What are your first impressions?
I was expecting to walk into a barn. And this clearly isn't just a barn.
This is a house of two halves.
I like to think of this as the guest area.
You've got fabulous York stone through here.
Lots of glass and this.
This would be the guest bedroom.
-Phil, you're speechless.
-I think we both are, really.
What do you think about the room itself, for your guests?
-I think the guests would like it.
-I think they would think it was so different.
It's not like anything else they're ever likely to stay in.
Although there's a lot of glass it doesn't feel cold particularly.
No. Interesting, I think.
The extensive use of glass creates a solar gain.
And actually heats the property, keeping the warmth inside.
Next door has the signature high vaulted ceilings.
And under floor heating to warm up your toes on the way to the bathroom.
So, there's your bathroom for your guests. Go in and have a look.
Wow, this is a nice size. Yeah, I like the tiling. Like that radiator.
Quirky that one, isn't it?
But now I want you trust me.
So, step on out, Phil.
Hold my hands.
-Close your eyes.
-Oh, close our eyes.
-Because now is the important bit.
-This is where you two could possibly live.
One, two, three, four, five.
Keep them closed. I want you to turn round and reveal.
-Ah! Oh, the spiral staircase.
-But what a spiral staircase.
-It's all one space.
-This is contemporary living, isn't it?
It is contemporary living in the country.
-You don't know what to say. Ha!
-I don't know what to say.
-You're never speechless. Unusual kitchen.
Completely different from anything else we've seen.
-It's like something you see in a magazine.
-It is, yeah.
You do have your dining area. Very close to the kitchen.
Whether that's a big enough space for my table, I'm not sure.
Whether the table would fit in.
But as an entrance when you look at this room,
and the light reflecting off this staircase.
This glass staircase...
-it cost £30,000. How's that for a statement?
30,000. It's suspended from the two beams. So, it's a massive feat of engineering.
And it literally just hangs there.
That... that is a lovely view, to look out there.
It's like having a big picture.
Let's wander through the room.
What's really clever is the use of glass.
The large windows bring the outside in.
And the floating staircase almost disappears.
It's the first room I've seen where a large flat screen TV doesn't look large.
We could out-do our friend Keith. Who's got the largest we've ever seen.
You could get 100-inch one on there!
Well, this room is dominated by this amazing staircase. So, let's take a look.
It's certainly a grand entrance.
-Wherever you are in this property, you get those amazing views outside.
You're also on intimate terms with your neighbours. Because this, this is your bedroom.
It's certainly big.
The height makes it seem, you know, much larger than the floor space.
-It's a good size and...
But not too much storage in here. I don't see much.
Where do they keep their clothes, I wonder?
That is a very good question. They obviously are minimalists.
We've seen one big wardrobe in one of the bedrooms and that is it.
It's certainly different. It's not a normal way of living.
Neither is this amazing en suite.
Which, as with everything else in this bespoke property, is finished to the highest standards.
And as Phil may be wondering, could be cranking up the asking price.
So, here's your garden. You've got railway sleepers along here.
You've got the York stone here.
Nice little private dining area.
Obviously you've got the railway sleepers and the York stone -
leading up to the rest of the garden.
There's a bit of land up here.
-But the great thing about this area is you get to appreciate that barn.
-Yes, you can see it.
Yeah. As a recreation garden it is a lovely view, isn't it?
So, how much do you think this property is on the market for?
It's got to be on the market for over 600,000. And I'd probably say 620.
-620. OK. Phil, what do you think?
-I don't think I'll go as high as that.
-I reckon it's 600,000, yeah. 600,000.
-Put us out of our misery!
600,000. Well, I have to tell you that Mrs Phil is the closest.
-Because this is on the market for £595,000.
-That's quite a surprise!
And do you fancy the idea of modern living in the countryside? Because it is contemporary.
How much to rent it for a year, do you reckon?
I'm liking your style. We might have to negotiate.
-Go and take another look around. All right, see you in a minute. Enjoy.
-Thank you. Bye-bye.
So, at £595,000 our Grade II Listed mystery house is over budget.
But with three bedrooms, that stunning steel and glass staircase.
And all the mod cons you could possibly need for luxury living.
Will our house hunters consider pushing the boat out?
When you come inside and you see all the work lavished on it...
the staircase, the kitchen.
It's something quite special.
No storage. Don't know where we'd put anything!
I think if I were to get divorced tomorrow then yeah, probably could.
It'd be a nice place to come off and pack down.
But I'm not going to get divorced. Promise you that, Phil!
Time to leave the mystery property.
And to make some serious choices.
Phil and Phil have seen all the properties.
So, it's time to collect their thoughts and make a decision.
Well, it's decision time.
And we've seen such a range of properties, my head is spinning.
But what about theirs? Let's find out.
So, Phil and Phil. Well, our journey's nearly over.
But we've seen some beautiful parts of Kent and East Sussex. Mustn't forget that.
Well, the first property, the weather boarded house. What were your first impressions?
It was a nice-looking house.
I might not have even looked at a house of that age.
And that's one view that I certainly changed when we went inside.
What about that beautiful house that used to be a pub?
It was a lovely-looking house.
And then when we went through the front door, I thought you know... the kitchen was just what I wanted.
I guess when I walked in I felt, I've got a battle on here.
Because I knew that Phil had fallen in love with it.
And for myself I thought, what am I going to do if I move into this house?
-It gave you all the land you wanted.
-And I think that could have been your project.
You've got a starting point.
-Perhaps I'll go and drive steam trains when it rains.
-A strong contender.
It would be fair to say that we've seen quite different properties over the last few days.
But I don't think you were expecting anything like the mystery house.
It was so different from anything I would choose to look at.
The excitement you felt from just walking in and looking at it. You couldn't deny that.
You certainly had to admire all the work they'd done in it.
-They'd got it spot on.
-Well, that brings me to crunch time really.
We're going to have to make a decision. Out of all the properties you've seen over the last few days,
is there any one you're really interested in?
-The old pub, I think, for me. And you can come and have a pint.
-Yeah, it was in the perfect place.
Had a wonderful garden.
There was no road noise.
-I think that was a great place to live.
-Yeah, if the price was right
we might well consider putting an offer in.
So, quite possibly we might have found you the house of your dreams.
-So, you can escape to the country?
-I think you might have done.
I've enjoyed showing Phil and Phil round my home county of Kent.
And delighted we may have found them a property to suit their needs.
What I discovered is that when you're looking for your dream house, you have to keep an open mind.
Until next time, bye-bye.
And if you'd like to escape to the country and need our help,
please contact us via our website at...
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