Property series. Jules Hudson helps a couple based in Spain who are looking for a five-bedroom house with up to 30 acres of land in the Shropshire countryside.
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Today I'm in a county whose county town is the birthplace of none other than Charles Darwin.
And, as a county, it's also home to Britain's oldest fortified manor house.
So, if you're interested in houses with history, this is a great place to be.
But where am I? Well, stick around and I'll show you.
Today we're helping a couple say adios to Spain
and hello to a creative life in the country.
Alistair can write downstairs. I can say, "Gin & tonic, dear."
But this property search is all about finding the right feeling.
I'm not picking up great vibes.
So will we succeed?
-How's our feeling meter?
-Love it, love it, love it. I want it. I love it.
I think we might.
Today we're in Shropshire where,
back in 1809 in Shrewsbury, Charles Darwin was born, the man,
of course, who revolutionised our understanding of human evolution.
But this gorgeous building behind me is also worthy of note.
This is Stokesay Castle, Britain's oldest fortified manor house.
As you can see, the county is packed full of history,
but it's also packed full of some gorgeous houses set within beautiful rolling countryside.
I think Shropshire is a real gem, the perfect place to escape from it all.
'And there's plenty of space when you get here
'because Shropshire is England's largest landlocked county,
'but also one of the least densely populated.
'Bordered by four English counties and Wales to the west,
'you'd be hard-pushed to find a more idyllic rural landscape.
'And don't just take my word for it, author PG Wodehouse of Jeeves and Wooster fame
'was so inspired him he described it as "The nearest earthly place to Paradise".
'It's a big county with some equally big claims.
'250 years ago it was the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution,
'and Ironbridge Gorge, the UK's first World Heritage Site is a lasting testament.
'The smokestacks are long gone from Shropshire,
'but what you will find are pretty villages and two of England's best preserved medieval towns -
'Shrewsbury and Ludlow. Whilst Shrewsbury is a must-see for history buffs,
'with over 600 listed buildings, Ludlow has become a Mecca for foodies,
'with two Michelin-starred restaurants and an annual food and drink festival.
'So I think you'll agree there is plenty to whet the appetite.'
Let's think about house prices.
They have, of course, dropped nationally in the last 18 months.
Here in Shropshire, since April 2008, they've fallen by 13%
- great news, of course, if you're a buyer.
And when you get an idea of the quality of the housing stock that's on offer at the moment,
there's a very good reason for being tempted to be one.
'For pure luxury, check out this six-bedroom mansion in Winnington.
'Dating from the 1890s, it's been modernised and extended to include five reception rooms
'and sporting facilities fit for an Olympian.
'If that doesn't keep you busy, I'm sure the 17 acres of land will.
'But you'll need deep pockets to purchase this one -
'it's on the market for £2.75 million.
'For slightly more modest budgets,
'how about this five-bedroom individually designed brick and timber house near Market Drayton?
'The contemporary accommodation includes two reception rooms,
'a stylish kitchen and an indoor pool.
'And you can take the plunge for £590,000.
'But if it's a character home you're after,
'this four-bedroom Grade 2 listed Tudor house
'in Ford near Shrewsbury could be yours for £375,000.
'It's been sympathetically restored
'and the three reception rooms retain plenty of must-have period features.
'And the garden is the perfect spot to enjoy a glass of wine.'
So, as you can see, some very attractive properties
at some pretty attractive prices, which is exactly why today's buyers want to move here.
'Linda and Alistair have found love second time around
'and tied the knot in 2004.
'Shortly after, they made an escape to the country,
'but to a different one altogether - to Spain.
'Together with Linda's youngest son, Max, they live in a five-bedroom villa above the hills in Malaga.'
Since buying it four years ago, we've developed it extensively,
-both adding rooms and outside as well.
-We decided the first priority
was an outdoor kitchen and bar and barbecue area.
We worked our way round the garden, building different areas like the raised vegetable garden,
the herb garden, the kissing terrace, the gin and tonic terrace.
-And how often do we kiss on the kissing terrace?
-Oh, all the time, all the time.
'This creative couple - Linda is a writer and painter and Alastair an author of historical novels -
'have clearly put their heart and soul into creating their dream house, so why do they want to leave?
'Well, with four grown-up children between them
'back in Shropshire, family ties are proving a much bigger pull
'than their laid-back Spanish lifestyle.'
This is a beautiful home and it's a beautiful setting.
It's a lovely place to live but it's not a home without the children,
and we miss them so much.
So I think the decision to go back to the UK so we can be close to them is the deciding issue for us.
And also it would make Linda so happy to see much more of the children.
And if she's happy then I'm happy.
'Having lived in Shropshire before, it's a county they know and love.
'But leaving their Spanish dream is going to be an almighty wrench
'and their next property will have a tough act to follow.
'So what exactly do they have in mind?'
We want it to be rustic and have a magical feel,
whether it's already there for its got the potential
for us to transform it into a magical place.
'So what ingredients will a house need to cast a spell on these two?'
In our next house, I think we definitely need five bedrooms,
a large kitchen cum dining room/family room with a range stove
and an open fire would be nice if we could get both.
'Character will be a master, but what else is going to charm Linda and Alistair?'
As you can see, I love books.
I am a bookaholic and, if there's only one thing we can take
back with us to the UK, it would be all the books, so it is essential
that we have a room that can be converted into a library.
This place has been an absolute inspiration for me
in my writing and I'm hoping that, when we move back to England,
there will be something there that is equally inspirational,
-whether it's fantastic views or the ambience of the house, that sort of thing.
-'But it's not just literary ambitions Linda and Alistair
'have for their return home.
'Having grown vegetables in Spain, Linda wants to set up
'a smallholding business growing local produce and keeping everything from chickens to alpacas.'
When it comes to the land I think we've decided the minimum would be five acres.
We don't mind going up to around 30 acres.
'An exciting new venture awaits but, before they can head home,
'they need to know how much they can spend on their country property,
'so we've invited a local agent in to value their villa.'
Most impressed. A very unique property that blends a lot of architectural styles,
offers coastal living in the countryside,
which is what most people are looking for.
I would value this house at 2.2 million euros.
'With that in mind, what's the final figure in sterling for Shropshire?'
We're looking to spend up to £1 million.
'Today we're spreading the property search county-wide
'from Oswestry in the north to Ludlow in the south
'so we can show Linda and Alastair the most inspirational homes on
'the market and soften the blow of leaving Spain.
'We've tracked down some amazing period houses to view, but I'll be
'keeping quiet about the prices until after we've looked around.
'And finally, our mystery house will challenge their wish list,
'but will it get their creative juices flowing?
-Guys, welcome to Shropshire.
This is where you wanted to be, this is where we've brought you, all the way from Spain.
-Yeah, and the sun.
-And the sun. You might be forgiven for thinking we were still at your place.
Many people watching this will be saying, "Why are you moving?
-What are you doing?"
-I know, I know.
Well, it is mainly because of the children.
They're over here, they can't come over to see us as much as they'd like,
and we miss them, so we thought we'd like to come over
and set something up business-wise as well, and make a home here.
The budget - a very generous budget of a million quid or so.
I know you don't want to spend all of it but it's a nice, round figure to start with.
-I think we'll be all right.
-Looking forward to it.
-Let's go and see what we can find then.
'So, for their million-pound budget, Linda and Alistair are looking
'for a truly magical character home to inspire their creativity.
'On a practical level, it must have five bedrooms,
'a large kitchen diner where all the family can congregate,
'and a library or space to create one.
'For the organic smallholding, which they do have some experience in,
'they're looking for between five and 30 acres which,
'even on their budget, is a big ask.
'But we're always up for a challenge.
'For our first property, where popping just over the border
'into Worcestershire, to the rural hamlet of Kyre,
'although we're not leaving Shropshire far behind - Ludlow is just 14 miles away.
'And the countryside here is equally stunning.
'But, for their all-important amenities, they will need to head to Tenbury Wells,
'just 2.5 miles away.
'Situated on the River Teme, this market town has resisted the influx of high street chains.
'Instead, independent shops and pubs thrive,
'and a wealth of period properties add to the old world charm.
'But it's back to the countryside for our first viewing.
-There we are. What do you think of all this lot?
-That's rather nice.
-It's incredible, yes.
-It's a lovely setting, isn't it?
-That is very pretty.
-I know you're coming from your dream home in some respects,
so offering you anything, it's got a lot to compete with.
-It has, really.
-It has, but this is completely different to the styles that we've got in Spain.
Very interesting, that.
Good. All right, let's go and see what you think of the inside.
'Originally three barns dating from the 1800s, 'the property was converted in 1981
'to create a very spacious family home.
'It has period features aplenty and a rather quirky lay out,
'which I'm hoping will appeal to Linda and Alistair's artistic natures.
-Very nice. I just love this brick, all the timbers.
You can feel the character as soon as you walk in.
-I think it's wonderful.
-Good, let's continue to the kitchen. Come on through here.
-Come on in.
-Yeah, nice. Light, very light.
Bit bigger would be good.
Just thinking, all the children, all sat round.
The great thing about this, as well as that,
you've got your little dining area. Next door is the main dining room.
-Have a look, you can get all the kids in here.
-There we are.
-Oh, that's a good size.
-That's a very good size.
-I think you would get most of them in here.
-Maybe even room for more.
-Yes, it's very, very nice. I love the stove.
Sat there, big roaring fire at Christmas. Keep us warm.
You'll get used to the weather again, really.
'I think Alastair and Linda are warming to this house,
'but what will they make of its interesting layout?
'On this level are two of four bedrooms,
'one double and one single.
'However, there's no living room down here. For that, we need to head upstairs.'
Perhaps unusually, up here is the main living room.
-Now, that's a surprise. Wow.
-Not bad, is it?
That's a surprise. I like it.
-It's got great character.
Everything we've seen in here so far, and the light, is just great,
got large-sized windows.
It's even got a bar in the corner! A small bar, but it's a bar!
You've a little sort of terrace out there,
which is quite interesting, so you can overlook all that you own.
If you're going to buy a house, have one you'll remember,
-that your friends will remember, and family.
-You want a wow factor, don't you?
If you think this is crazy, wait till you see the rest of it!
Because the surprises keep coming!
'Bedroom-wise, back across the hallway is a good sized double,
'and the master bedroom comes complete with an en-suite.'
-This is for you guys, I'm thinking.
-Oh, very nice. Very nice.
-Attic beams again.
-It's nice, isn't it?
-Yes, it is. Very nice.
I like the idea of the terrace here, which is important, isn't it,
on those few sunny mornings...
-For breakfast outside!
-We can go and read.
It's not heavy, the feeling about it, is it?
It's nice and light, and it's a good size.
And through that door there you've got a walk-in dressing area, loads of storage.
Right. Good size.
-So, size-wise, we're quite happy with what we've seen so far?
-Yes, I think so.
'That sounds promising, and there's one very special feature of this house
'that I haven't shown Alistair and Linda yet,
'the converted hop kiln.
'I think I'm saving the best till last,
'but to appreciate its full impact, let's head back downstairs.'
How about this for a writer?
-Oh, I say.
-Come on in! What do you think?
-Look at that brickwork.
-Isn't it great?
-You love brickwork.
I do like it.
-That is really unexpected.
-That is great. That is a writer's place, don't you think?
Yes, so we're going to fight over it, are we?
Well, fight over this, cos it goes on. Have a look up here.
Now, what would you do up here?
-I think this would be mine.
I'm sorry to disillusion you, but I think I'll be writing up here.
-No, this is a painter's studio, isn't it?
Look at the light, it's just amazing, it's beautiful.
Fantastic views, beautiful views everywhere you look.
-Alistair can write downstairs, I can just say, "Gin and tonic, dear."
-It will be brought.
'Well, I thought that would spark their creative impulses,
'not to mention a healthy bit of competition.
'But there are plenty more options outside.
'This property also has two unconverted barns,
'which, with the right planning permission,
'could be converted into a painter's studio for Linda.
'However, the outside space is a vital component to this house search,
'so let's see if the land here will measure up for size.'
-Now, all in all, it's probably just under two acres.
The whole plot, the courtyard, the barns, these gardens,
paddock beyond that post and rail, up to that, the hedge,
and back around where the tower is.
Right, a bit less than we wanted.
It is less than you wanted, but it's our first property, so go with it, see what you think.
In terms of bedrooms, there is a separate annex to this place, which has another bedroom in it.
Oh, right. Full of surprises.
So let's have a think about the price, shall we?
Come on then, Alastair!
Well, you know, we're not that familiar with UK prices at the moment,
but just as a wild stab at it, I would say something in the region of 800,000?
-See, I was going to say that!
-You can agree!
-You can go above or below!
No, I was going to say 800,000, I was. I'd say about that.
This could be yours...
-in excess of 695.
-That's quite encouraging.
-You get a lot for your money, don't you?
You do get an awful lot for your money. I think this is a real treat.
-And then I could stock the bar!
-Exactly! Stock the bar, exactly.
Go and explore the annex, and a few other bits and pieces, and I'll catch up with you later.
Off you go.
'Well, there you have it, for offers over £695,000,
'this is amazing value for money.
'There is work to be done converting the barns,
'so I'm sure the £300,000 spare change will come in handy
'and what's left over can be invested
'in Linda and Alastair's new smallholding business.
'It's a huge period home with four bedrooms, two reception rooms,
'Alistair's very own writer's tower,
'and it comes with a one-bedroom annexe.
'At just under two acres,
'the land isn't quite as much as they'd hoped for,
'but will they be able to compromise on the outside space
'for this very inspirational home?'
That's all self-contained.
Somewhere I could go if I was banished.
-Would I banish you?
So, kitchen, bedroom. Yeah, it's nice.
My initial thoughts about this house are that it's really attractive.
'Just so many nice little quirky things,
'like the writer's tower, for example.'
There are a few things that I think are missing
from what we would be looking for.
'It would be nice if it had a bit more land.'
Well, this would be perfect for doing a vegetable and herb garden.
I think the house is really nice, actually.
I think it's definitely got a magical feel to it,
'which was really important for us.'
This certainly fills a lot of the criteria for what we're looking for, definitely.
Oh, duck. Aren't they lovely?
-Yes, yeah, very.
-Just taking it all in.
-Well, the sun's still shining.
-Let's go and see what else we can find you.
'Leaving Spain after four years to return to Shropshire
'will be a big lifestyle change for Linda and Alistair,
'so, keen to get reacquainted with some of the cultural highlights,
'they're visiting one of the region's oldest market towns, Ludlow.
'Once described by poet Laureate Sir John Betjeman as the loveliest town in all England,
'it's home to over 500 listed buildings, from Tudor to Georgian.
'But perhaps the most impressive is the 11th century castle,
'and local historian John Goode is giving them a quick tour.'
'We're at the top of the gatehouse keep.'
This is not only the oldest building in the castle,
it's also the oldest building in Ludlow.
'And in this direction is Wales,
'and one of the reasons for the castle having been built was to keep the Welsh at bay,'
and to make a statement that some new lords and masters were here.
'In the early 14th century, the castle was extended
'into a magnificent family home, and for the next 300 years
'became a palace for many a Tudor king and queen.'
This was a seat of government,
because it was here that the English ruled Wales from,
a bit of Tudor devolution, you might say.
'Prince Arthur came to Ludlow.
'Prince Arthur was the elder son of Henry VII,
'and it was here that his bride, Catherine of Aragon, came.'
Well, if it was good enough for Catherine of Aragon,
-it's good enough for us, really.
-A very good point.
'So, plenty of inspiration on tap for our historical writer,
'but will our next house be the perfect muse as well?
'To make sure we're giving Alastair and Linda the full flavour of Shropshire,
'for our next property we're heading far north to the small hamlet of Crickheath
'on the outskirts of Oswestry, where England means Wales.
'Slap-bang on the Welsh border,
'Oswestry is north-west Shropshire's most vibrant market town,
'with more than its fair share of speciality shops and eateries.
'An important agricultural centre,
'it should provide business opportunities
'for Alistair and Linda's organic farming plans.
'Our property is situated a 13 minute drive away in rural Crickheath.
'It's a fantastically old country house
'with all the period detailing I know Linda and Alistair love.
'But this one also come up trumps with land, seven acres in all,
'so it should be spot on for their new business venture.'
-What about this one, then?
-Well, that's impressive.
Some of that chimney looks like it might be original.
Well, there's an awful lot that is original here. Some of it's about 1480.
-Yeah. So for a man that writes books about history,
you might have a story here, Alistair, you never know.
Now, no surprise it's listed, as you'd probably expect,
but it has been renovated very recently.
Not all of it, but a good proportion of it.
Right, let's go and see the inside.
'This house has a really rich historical fabric
'that's evolved through the 15th, 17th, 18th,
'and now 21st century.
'The recent renovation work has actually won architectural awards for its faithful restoration,
'and I'm sure it will impress.'
-Right, in you come. What do you think?
-Ooh, wood floors.
Lots of lovely features in here, actually, and as a hallway, it's pretty impressive.
It looks great. Yeah, I'm intrigued.
Good, right, let's continue through here.
Now, this is described as the drawing room,
but I'd call it sitting room, lounge, living room, whatever you want.
-Could be a library.
-You can't really put books against the panels, though.
Oh, course not, no.
-Very, very nice fireplace. Restored, yes?
The surround is new, as you can see. The back of it is not, that's original.
I'm not picking up great vibes.
-Not grabbing you yet?
-No, it's not.
It just hasn't got the right feel for me. It doesn't feel homely to me.
Interesting. I wonder why that is.
Let's see if we can find a bit more homeliness.
'Well, I wasn't expecting that. I'm actually quite shocked.
'I thought this would be right up their street,
'so it just goes to show how difficult finding the right feel can be.
'Not all the rooms are as austere.
'Just next door is a reception room, which would make an ideal study or library.'
This is the dining room, as currently displayed on the particulars.
Well, I do like the old dado railing thing there.
Size-wise, I think it's not bad. Again, you've got these huge floor-to-ceiling windows.
Nice, lots of light.
I did say that at its heart, it's about 1480
and there is a fireplace to go with it which is next door.
Go through there, Alistair. There you go.
-That's a fireplace!
It is, isn't it?
-And then some.
You've got so much space. If you just want a cosy room
for everyday use, this is probably the one.
This is it. A little snug.
Exactly. You're off the front of the property,
privacy from round the back,
and you're next to the kitchen, so if you want a cup of tea, follow me.
Now then, kitchen.
I know what you're going to say.
-Not big enough.
It could have been I was going to say that, yeah.
It could just do with a bit more space, I think.
I don't think you would be able to extend, because it's listed.
But in terms of what you do inside, in terms of refitting it,
that's not a problem. OK. Let's have a look upstairs,
because it does continue, and there is an awful lot of it.
'This house doesn't seem to be filling Linda with enthusiasm
'so let's see if we can change her mind upstairs.
'It's very spacious, with a very homely atmosphere.'
There we are! What do you think?
-Well, that's what you call a good wooden floor.
That could tell a story or two, I should imagine.
And that's lovely.
Yeah, the fireplace there.
'It looks like we could be winning Linda over,
'and the further three double bedrooms definitely add to the homely feel.
'Now none of the bedrooms are en-suite
'but there is a good-sized family bathroom.
'But, of course, it's five bedrooms Linda and Alastair have asked for,
'and I may have the perfect solution up in the attic.'
Come on up.
Yeah, wow indeed.
I'm speechless. There's a lot of space up here.
There is. And a lot of decorating. But it would be good.
A lot of decorating.
You've got so much space. You've got this landing area here,
all these gorgeous original floorboards too.
Very, very good-sized room through there.
This one would make a fantastic bedroom, I think.
It's a good size, isn't it?
How are we doing on the house? You were saying earlier on downstairs, Linda,
that you weren't grabbed.
I appreciate the structure and everything is beautiful,
but I'm just not getting...
-Feeling the love?
I actually go with Linda on this.
You'd imagine that a writer of historical fiction
would just adore living in a place like this,
but somehow I don't know...
vibes as well. Maybe I'm getting them from Linda.
I'm trying not to get them. They're contagious.
Up here would be a fabulous adventure, I have to admit...
A nice little project.
..to do this and to make it something really special.
'Inside may not have the right vibes,
'but this property search isn't just about finding a home.
'We also need lots of land for a smallholding and with seven acres,
'this house is a really viable option, so will it sway them?'
You get this huge swathe that goes right around us.
You can't see all of it from here.
It runs on beyond those trees and up to a point up there,
including all of that meadow as well.
-Yeah, that's good.
Now what are you thinking of doing with all of this land?
Ooh, goats! Alpacas!
Alpacas on there, I think.
A lot of chickens! The alpacas would love it.
-Alpacas would be good.
-Some sheep, maybe one cow.
-A couple of pigs.
OK. Right. So all in all, you've got lots of different areas,
so loads of space, loads of storage space for feed, hay,
bedding materials, tractors, toys!
Exactly! So I think in terms of a modest smallholding...
Yes, seven acres would be fine.
-So let's have a think about the money, then.
I think I'll take a wild stab at 750,000.
God, you keep on saying the same... I was going to say 750!
I'm going to have to go first next time. I would have said 750.
OK, it is more than £750,000.
-We weren't that far out, then.
-Not far out.
It's still technically very comfortably under budget
and in terms of the lifestyle you're trying to embrace, you'd have space.
-Go and have a look around. See what you think.
Off you go.
With an asking price of £825,000, this is still £175,000 under budget
and it's a grand period home which on paper has almost everything
Linda and Alistair have asked for.
Four reception rooms, four bedrooms,
but with potential to create more, and more importantly,
it does come with seven acres of land,
ideal for their smallholding.
But this property search is all about instinct,
and my gut feeling says Linda's not entirely convinced.
It's an elusive thing, this magical factor.
-I could do vegetables and herbs here.
-Yeah. Could create a nice...
-Yeah, chickens definitely.
I think the house is really interesting.
Not sure whether it's for us.
I think maybe there's just a bit too much that I'd need to do
to get it to how I could see it flowing for the family, I think.
The house is very impressive. I absolutely love the history of it.
I know that appeals to Linda as well.
And the project upstairs would be amazing. But...
I just share slightly with Linda just a little bit of an issue
with the feel of the house, really.
There you are, Jules.
Sunning yourself. Making the most of it.
Why not? It's a gorgeous day. Gorgeous house, gorgeous day.
-Are we all done?
-Yeah, I think so.
OK. Well, what else can we find you, I wonder. Come on.
Once Alistair and Linda make the move back to Shropshire,
they won't have far to travel for some literary
and artistic inspiration, because right on their doorstep
they'll have one of the finest early medieval homes in the country.
Built 700 years ago by Laurence of Ludlow,
it's not actually a castle, but England's oldest fortified home.
I've come to have a proper look around
with tour guide Julie Hall.
Very nice to see you.
Tell me a bit more about Laurence of Ludlow.
Yes, Laurence Of Ludlow was a wealthy wool merchant
and he was a friend of King Edward I
and he built this place to show off his wealth, basically.
-He did that in style.
-He had a lot of money!
It's thought construction work started here in 1281
and was completed just ten years later.
Whilst some form of defence was considered wise
in vulnerable border territory such as this,
the castellation was more a fashion statement than a show of strength.
Where Laurence was really showing off was the Great Hall.
It's amazing, isn't it?
That is absolutely fabulous, isn't it?
Isn't the cruck roof wonderful?
They are a real feature of this period, aren't they?
Yeah, and it's the original roof.
'You could say Laurence started the craze for
'open-plan living and a love of wood,
'because halls of this size were usually aisled off
'with posts and pillars supporting the roof.
'But cruck roof was at the cutting edge of carpentry innovation
'and used curved timbers to support the whole structure,
'enabling owners to open up spaces
'and show off the magnitude of their buildings.'
Give me an idea of what would have gone on in here.
He would have entertained.
The servants would have probably slept here at night.
He did actually have glass in those windows.
He was so rich, he had glass.
And up there, if you just look across there, there's the peepholes.
These two little square windows?
Yes, the room there was the solar and that's where the family ate,
looking down on their minions.
It's that classic medieval structure.
God at the top, then the king, then the Lords
and then the rest of us, you and me, down here.
For the next 400 years, the house changed little,
until it was purchased in 1620
by the Lord Mayor of London's son, William Craven.
Like so many homebuyers, he was keen to put his own stamp on the place.
That too has left a legacy of historic architecture,
from the Jacobean panelling in the family living quarters
to the highly decorative timber-frame gatehouse.
But an Englishman's home is his castle,
so I went to check out the keep.
-These are narrow.
I wouldn't want to do this in a suit of armour.
OK there, Jules?
Now, this is impressive, isn't it?
This is the top floor of the keep.
What do we think would have happened up here?
We think it was either for guests to sleep in, or maybe retainers
to the castle, or maybe garrisoned.
-Not a bad guest room.
Is it en-suite?
Yes, there's a little place there.
'This really is history told through the fabric of a building.
'And I have to say, if this doesn't inspire Alastair's next novel,
'then I don't know what will.'
'So with the sun setting over the stunning Shropshire countryside,
'our creative couple have their first chance
'to mull over today's properties,
'but will they have been inspired?'
So, what did you think of the barn conversion?
I liked it. There was lots of it I really liked.
I thought it had a great appearance when you approached it.
It was quite perfect, really, the outside, wasn't it?
-Yes, I loved the writer's tower.
-Well, painter's tower.
It was so unusual.
Those views, the light.
Maybe not quite as much garden for me to do, plants-wise.
-We wouldn't be able to have animals there, really.
The Tudor house inside was full of so much history.
Mmm, those floors, the fireplaces.
Fireplaces in different rooms upstairs as well.
It had a good acreage.
Yes, the grounds, the land was really nice.
But I think there's a down-side.
Yeah, I just didn't quite feel the magical bit for me.
Today has shown me what a brilliant place Ludlow is.
-Yes, the location I think is going to be priority.
-Maybe less land, for location.
Let's go forward. We'll find it.
Alistair and Linda want to swap Spain for Shropshire
so they can be close to their children.
For a huge budget of £1 million,
they're looking for a big country home with a magical feel,
which so far has been difficult to nail.
Can we cast the right spell with our next property?
It's moved me.
And today's mystery house is a real challenge,
but will it be the business?
A bit more than a smallholding - that is a farm!
You know, the thing I love about Shropshire
is that around every corner there is something pretty to look at.
But it's not all about views.
We are of course here for a very important reason
and that is to try and find two very discerning buyers
a house with the all-important feel-good factor.
It is an elusive thing, but we have two more houses to go,
including of course the mystery house.
Can we find it? I think we can.
How are the properties matching up to what you have been hoping for?
I haven't seen the dream house yet.
I haven't felt the right vibes yet.
Let's explore this business of feeling.
-It's hard to define in some ways, isn't it?
-It's an emotion, isn't it?
It's hard to describe it,
to put your finger on what creates that because it's probably different with every person.
So you can only go by
your gut instinct, I think, when you go somewhere.
-I suppose the key thing is that you know you will recognise it when you feel it.
We've just got to find it.
-Well, that's the rub, isn't it?
-We've got to find that magic feeling.
-It could be difficult.
It could be, but there again, we might just get there.
You sound very optimistic.
I'm feeling quietly confident about our first house of the day.
It's situated in the small rural hamlet of Richards Castle.
However, it's just four miles from historic Ludlow.
Having revisited this exceptional market town,
Linda and Alastair have realised it's the place they want to be.
Not only is it close to most of their children,
but as the gastronomic capital of Shropshire
with its thriving farmers' market, food and drink festival
and abundance of speciality shops, it holds plenty in the way of business potential, too.
Let's have a look at this one and see what kind of feelings you get.
That was built before they had spirit levels, wasn't it?
It certainly was, but it is absolutely gorgeous.
That takes your breath away.
Love it, love it, love it.
It looks like a dream property.
Let's see if it will fit your dream, shall we? Come on.
That's the kind of reaction I've been looking for
and I have very high hopes for this Tudor, grade-two listed farmhouse.
We'd be hard-pushed to find a home with more character
and I have a sneaking suspicion
it might just have the magic Linda is looking for.
We are going in through the side door and starting with the kitchen
because I think it has what it takes to impress.
Kitchen wise, what do you think Linda?
-Plenty of room, yeah.
-And a range.
-Yes, that's very lovely, isn't it?
When you walk in, you can just feel, it feels so homely.
It's got a great feel about it.
In terms of kitchen, it does go on a bit because we've got this...
little dining area here
-which isn't your dining room.
-This is exactly what I wanted -
-kitchen, separate area.
-I want it!
-Right, mate, you know what to do.
-More to see.
-Follow me through here.
'Great, I think Linda's already moved in.'
The dining room.
-Are you a bit lost for words?
-Yes, I am, it has moved me.
Moved is good, moved is what we want.
In terms of that feeling...
-It's got it, hasn't it?
-What is it?
It's just got that feeling of a home, it doesn't matter what the size
of a property is, if it hasn't got the feeling and the right vibes...
-It's just so important to me.
To me, it has a nautical feel to it.
When you look at the angles and the shape of the room, it could almost be a captain's cabin.
OK, it's not rocking or anything, but it's enclosed and cosy and...
-Good. Want to see some more?
'Even Alastair is waxing lyrical.'
It looks like this room could inspire a novel or two
and there's plenty more to get the creative juices flowing across the hallway.
Here we are, your principal living room, effectively.
-Another gorgeous room.
-Another perfect room.
And look at the fireplace.
You could be forgiven for thinking you were in a castle.
It's just an amazing house.
Everywhere you look, you can't find anything you could fault, really.
-You just think, I love it!
And even better, just next door is a study
which could be the perfect resting place for Linda's beloved books.
So it is safe to say that downstairs is a resounding success.
Let's see if upstairs will get an equally effusive response.
The master bedroom, come on in here.
-Yes, it's lovely.
How is the history vibe going, Alastair?
It's going! It's ticking, yes.
A real taste of Elizabethan grandeur.
It's absolutely gorgeous. En suite, go and check that out, I think you'll love it.
-There we are!
-It's great. Isn't it a good size?
A brilliant size, loads of light, all the storage you need in these cupboards.
I love it, nice and light.
-We're onto a winner by the looks of it!
I think we are! Good, I'm glad to hear it.
Music to my ears, but I do have an admission.
There are just two further bedrooms up here, although both are doubles but there is a solution outside.
The Old Granary has been converted into a self-contained annex
with a kitchen, living room and two further bedrooms.
That makes five and that's not it by a long shot.
OK, I'm thinking,
-studio, office, writing.
-Oh, yes, art studio, it would be fantastic for it.
Yes, I could even write in here, is there room for me?
You're in the other room, I'm in here.
-It's all getting very territorial already.
Lots of options. A fantastic space.
Let's get on with that garden, we can't put it off any longer.
Now so far, Linda and Alastair haven't found any negatives with this property which is fine by me.
However, at 2.5 acres, the outside space isn't as much as they were hoping for
so can they compromise on land for a house that obviously has it all?
Look at this!
Oh! This is like everything we put on the list.
-And more, I suspect.
This has to be the noisiest and tidiest chicken run and veg patch I've seen.
In terms of land, you also get that meadow.
It has just been cut for hay.
You get this, the plot around the house, all in, it's about 2.5 acres.
-That's a nice size.
-It's not the five acres you asked for.
Well, we'll leave the alpacas out.
So, suddenly, they're out the window! OK. All right. Good.
Let's go back to the main lawn and have a look at the house
in the setting of this glorious garden and talk about the money.
'So, there's no question the house and gardens are working for them, but will the price?'
Let's finish off our garden tour here on the main lawn.
What a way to see this property, it is stunning, isn't it?
Words don't describe it, do they?
No, it is so unusual to come across something like this, with all this.
It's just a beautiful home.
And I'm completely lost for words.
I think we all are, to be honest with you, we're all taken aback at it.
Let's get down to the slightly mucky discussion about the money.
-Go on, Linda.
-I would say around £900,000.
Probably about £925,000, or something like that.
This is on the market for £900,000.
Where's the cheque book?
Go and enjoy it,
plan your future here.
I suspect that's what you going to be doing. Off you go, I'll catch you later.
We are all a bit moved by this, I have to say.
Certainly Linda and Alastair are.
It is an absolutely gorgeous property.
I have a slight confession to make,
over the years, I've probably lost count of all the houses I've shown
on Escape To The Country, but this is one I will never forget.
It is quite simply remarkable.
At £900,000, this extraordinary home is £100,000 under budget
and they could move in straight away without lifting a finger.
It has Linda's longed for kitchen/diner, two reception rooms and a study.
With three bedrooms in the house plus two more in the annex,
there is plenty of space for visiting children.
The 2.5-acre grounds are simply stunning
and it sounds like Linda and Alastair
can compromise on acreage for a truly magical house.
That's neat, isn't it?
It's nice, you've got a fire, it looks like it works and French doors going out.
This would be great for the children, wouldn't it?
It's pretty near perfect.
All the things I would have imagined and visualised, it's more or less here.
I have used the word magical quite a few times, but this must be it.
-Can you smell... What's that?
The house itself... Immaculate in the sense that it's not straight.
I think that's just superb.
It's got a wonderful atmosphere, a great feel to it.
I know that Linda is totally taken with this house and to be honest, so am I.
It has taken a lot of will power to make myself believe
that I personally could move from our paradise in Spain.
Um... This house does it, it really does.
Here we all are exploring the garden!
I'm tempted to say, have you seen enough,
-but there is so much to take in.
-It would be nice to stay for a bit longer.
I don't know about you two, I don't want to leave, but leave we must, I'm afraid.
Well, it's mystery house time and the mystery house in question
is right down there at the bottom of that valley.
To be honest, even by our standards, the mystery house
is going to have to go some way into changing my buyers' minds.
I think they've already made them up,
but it wouldn't be the first time we've thrown a cat among the pigeons at the 11th hour.
So, let's go and see what they make of it.
We're not straying too far from Ludlow,
just 13 miles west to the village of Bucknell.
Set in an idyllic pastoral landscape, this medieval village is about as lovely as they come.
Tudor timber-framed houses and a 13th-century church should provide inspiration for Alastair,
and amenities come in the way of a butcher, a village shop and one pub.
The mystery house is set in a wonderful rural landscape, but it will be a huge project,
as this 17th-century thatch is only partly renovated.
Linda and Alastair don't mind some work, but they haven't considered taking on such a big challenge.
'Will they be up to the job? Let's find out.'
Let's have a look at this one.
The final property, our mystery house.
-Very pretty. Great spot.
If you'd come here six or seven years ago, you'd have seen a very run down cottage with a tin roof.
Completely derelict. A lot of the work has been done,
but it's not finished. It's completely empty inside.
No kitchen, no nothing.
It's absolutely about you putting your own stamp on it, OK?
You get, not just that, but a huge barn, which in itself would make a fantastic family home.
It'd be interesting to see the potential of what you could do.
Come and have a look.
'This farmhouse is full of beautifully restored character features,
'but it's a completely blank canvass, so Linda and Alastair will need to pull their creative vision
'and get their imaginations in gear.
'We're starting off in the first reception room.'
In many ways, the first exciting thing about seeing a building in this...state of renovation
-is the rooms are whatever you want them to be.
-You can use your imagination.
They're all a good size. Lots of wood burners dotted around as well.
-It's very nice.
This is such a rare opportunity to create a home exactly to their spec,
and with a further two reception rooms,
it has the same amount of space as the previous house that they loved.
What would you do with this?
This is the kitchen. I'll tell you why, because...
-here is the inlet for a gorgeous cast-iron range cooker.
-I'd imagine you'd go out of those doors and have a nice outdoor...
-The view is excellent.
-We could have a nice terrace outside.
God. Have to be busy, wouldn't we?
The herbs could be growing right out here.
What a view. It's all there.
Let's go check out the staircase cos it's even more interesting up here.
'There may still be a bit to do, but most of the hard work has been done.'
What do you think of that?
-This looks intriguing.
That's...what kind of architecture?
In medieval terms, it's a cruck frame - one of the earliest forms of roof support.
Classically medieval. This is doing it's best to look original. But it's not.
But it fits in perfectly with this property.
Looks splendid, though.
It's a very imposing statement and quite a bold thing to do.
I think it goes to the heart of what the renovators were trying to achieve with it.
This is technically a third bedroom. OK?
-Is this the master bedroom?
it has an en suite through there. I think it's a bit wasted as a master bedroom.
You could use it as a lounge, couldn't you? I like it.
-Again, food for thought, really.
-Lots of food for thought!
The rest of this floor consists of three much smaller rooms designed as bedrooms and a family bathroom.
Finding that elusive fifth bedroom has been tricky in this house search,
'but as always, we have a solution, and this one is very impressive.
'The barn outside has planning permission in place to be turned into an eight-bedroom annexe.
'Of course, Linda and Alastair could tear up the plans completely
'and re-apply with their own ideas.'
In terms of buildings, I think this is where we need to stretch our minds a little.
This in itself would make a handsome barn conversion and a big family home.
But let's turn our attention to the outside space,
as with a massive 15 acres, this has the best smallholding potential of all the properties we've seen.
Right, well, let's... Let's think about this land.
We're pretty much in the middle of it. The house is behind those trees.
So you get that field, that paddock down there, down to the river,
the one beyond me over there and all of that up there.
-That's a lot of land.
-Bit more than a smallholding. It's a farm, isn't it?
It's nice the way it's all linked. You're not going through gates across something else.
It's joined up nicely. And there's a river at the bottom.
Yes, and you own half of that. That meanders along the lower border of the property.
-Let's have a think. Our final price guess.
-Go on. Alastair, you go first.
-I'll go first? OK.
I would say...£650,000.
I'd go £600,000.
That's even more optimistic! You're both way off, I'm afraid.
The mystery house is on the market for £750,000.
-Is it for you? I wonder. Go have a look.
-I'll see you later.
At £750,000, this is a massive £250,000 under their budget,
so plenty of spare change to finish the house and convert the barn.
And what a character home Linda and Alastair could end up with.
And with 15 acres of land, it has enormous rural business potential.
But the million pound question -
will they want to tackle such a big project?
The surroundings of the mystery house are absolutely gorgeous,
rural and plenty of room for livestock of any description.
The river is exciting too, with the fishing and so on.
I think it has great potential, but maybe just bit too much work for us.
It's not just a house. There's the house,
the outbuilding, create a garden, do a courtyard and manage the land.
-Well. Well, you may say well.
-There was a lot to see.
A lot for you think about now, I suspect.
It brings me out in a bit of a sweat thinking about all that work.
We've given you plenty to think about over the last couple of days,
so let's get you somewhere where you can mull it all over,
then I shall see if you've made your minds up. Come on.
I think it's safe to say there's a clear front runner in this property search,
but will it still come out on top after they've had a chance to discuss everything they've seen?
Let's find out.
-You look tired.
-But very happy.
-Good. Has it all been worthwhile?
Yes, it has. It's been very interesting.
Let's think about where it all started with the huge converted barn
-with the tower study and studio.
-The writer's tower.
The writer's tower and all that.
That was very magical. You approached it, you saw that pond, ducks, weeping willow...
It was beautiful - the old barn, the building,
-the bricks. It was very attractive. I liked that.
-What about the writer's tower?
Yeah, I could see myself sitting up there with lots of reference books
in that nice area below, whiling away the days writing page after page.
I'm so glad you feel like that. I think I'll be painting.
The light would be great for painting up there. It was very different.
Then we took you to a gorgeous late-15th-century building.
It was. I mean, the history and what was in there -
the floors, the wood panelling - that was amazing.
-The vibes wasn't right for me.
-The business of feeling was emerging, wasn't it?
I think it was, yes
And if the vibes aren't right for Linda, they sure ain't right for me.
There's a man who knows which side his bread is buttered.
We then had time to sleep on it all and we woke you up and took you out for your final day's house hunting
to a property which...
absolutely took my breath away. A house with a garden.
-What happened there?
-Amazing. Like a dream property. It had everything.
It's the house, the gardens, vegetables, poultry, stream...
For both of us, it was almost an epiphany.
Last but not least, it was time for the mystery house
which I think was a very viable property for you to think about. What did you think?
It was an excellent mystery house.
We're not afraid of hard work. But possibly JUST a bit too much.
With the house, the barn, the land, no garden, so that would have to be created,
you had numerous projects there. It wasn't just the house.
I think it might have been too overwhelming.
We gave you the spectrum. You tell me. What happens next?
-Well, we'd like to see the house with the garden again.
-I thought so.
The most expensive! She's that kind of girl.
I'm not cheap.
We'd like to go see that again and see how everything goes and hopefully take it further.
Let us know how you get on. When you move in I want to come back and see it.
And that garden.
I do love it here. For me, Shropshire is a real hidden gem.
But the reason I think we've been successful isn't just because it's beautiful,
but because we have found an elusive and intoxicating cocktail of factors
that have all combined to give us overall success.
They are - the right area, the right budget, the right buyers and the right property,
but also something else, something far more elusive still -
a property with, as Linda would say, the right feel.
In my experience, when something feels right, it generally is right.
I'll see you next time.
I'm delighted to report that Alastair and Linda have made an offer on the Tudor house,
but it's conditional on the sale of their home in Spain.
Let's hope their villa finds a buyer soon so they can start living their Shropshire dream.
If you'd like to escape to the country
and would like our help, please, apply online...
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E-mail: [email protected]
Jules Hudson helps a couple say adios to Spain and hello to a creative life in the Shropshire countryside. With a whopping million-pound budget, they want a magical property that will inspire their creativity. On a more practical level, the house must have five bedrooms, a large kitchen-diner where the family can congregate, and a library, or space to create one.
As they want an organic smallholding, the property must also come with up to 30 acres of land. Finding a house that fits the bill won't be difficult - finding a house that feels right may be trickier.