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Today I'm standing in front of what may look like
a big bush, but actually it's the largest tree in the UK.
And which county is home to such a magnificent tree?
Join me in a moment to find out.
In today's show we'll be helping a couple currently living in Kuwait
find a slice of England to call home.
-This is lovely. You've achieved your wow. Well done.
I'll be showing them a selection of rural gems...
I'm just starting to get those shivers up my spine
that normally mean that Jan is about to write a cheque!
..and then there's our mystery house, a splendid offering where
they will get more than they bargained for.
Today I'm in Staffordshire, and this yew tree
is officially the largest tree in the UK.
It dates back to the 1400s and it stands here on the Shugborough estate.
It looks so unusual because its branches have become so heavy
that they've drooped down and created this huge circumference.
But I am told that you can still explore right the way through
to the centre to find the heart of this very, very old tree.
So, while I navigate my way through to the centre, why don't you explore
what else there is to see in this wonderful county?
Staffordshire sits slap bang at the heart of England
and covers just over 1,000 square miles.
Our property search focuses on the north of the county.
Back in the 18th century, it was the availability of
local coal and clay that made this area ideal for the pottery industry
that was to become world famous.
It was to boost this growing trade that in the mid-1770s, Josiah Wedgwood
became instrumental in helping create the Trent and Mersey Canal.
Linking up with the rivers Trent, Mersey, Severn and Thames,
it opened up valuable trade routes with much of the country.
Farming the Staffordshire moorland was a hard task.
Many farmers were forced to turn to the pottery trade to supplement their income.
Today, it's that same wild and rugged land that's attracting
thousands of visitors keen to explore this varied landscape.
And the Peak District National Park is an ideal place
for those seeking outdoor pursuits.
Staffordshire's close proximity to Birmingham means there's a massive
variation in house price from one end of the county to the other.
The areas closer to Birmingham are the most expensive.
The cheaper areas are closer to Stoke-on-Trent and Newcastle-under-Lyme, further north.
Now, recently announced plans to build 5,800 new rural homes
in the south are afoot.
But estate agents still think this is unlikely to meet the demand
for large semi-detached properties.
But if location is no consideration and money is no bond,
there's still some great houses out there for the taking.
So have a look at these.
If you are torn between period and contemporary, then this 1.5 million
house in Tutbury could be the property of your dreams.
Dating back to 1850, the huge rooms have been lovingly restored.
A new extension has created contemporary living space
tailor made for family living.
Or if you're looking for a large family home for considerably less,
then how about this four-bedroom house in Haycroft?
On the market for £595,000,
it started life as two separate houses,
which means there's bundles of space, with four reception rooms
and a good-sized mature garden.
Finally, if a barn conversion is up your street, this four-bedroom
home in Leek is up for grabs for £50 short of 370,000.
Immaculately decorated throughout, it sits on a three-quarter-of-an-acre plot
with a sweet seating area to take in the far-reaching views.
There's plenty to be found roaming around the Staffordshire countryside,
and speaking of roaming, let's meet today's buyers,
who've been on the move for over 20 years.
Today we are giving a guiding hand
to an RAF Tornado navigator Martin and his wife Janet.
Martin's career means they're rolling stones
who clocked up ten homes over the last 22 years.
They're currently living in a fabulous five-bedroom rented villa in Kuwait.
Martin and Janet will be returning to the UK in the near future and have decided it's high time
they press the eject button on their nomadic lifestyle and buy a home
where they can put down their roots.
They're over in the UK on a house-hunting holiday
and are staying with Martin's uncle
whilst they find their dream home. Unearthing a house to match
their Kuwait palace could be tricky.
We moved there a year ago, to Kuwait,
and I think we did fall in love with the house,
because it's just so unlike anything we've had before.
It's massive. Big, sweeping staircase, loads of bedrooms, loads of bathrooms.
Space, light, everything, fantastic.
But despite their huge house and the endless sunshine in Kuwait,
Martin and Janet still find themselves drawn back to the British countryside.
We want to move to the country primarily for all the things that we don't have in Kuwait.
We love the countryside so much. We want to be able to walk and buy some dogs.
Being part of a village community, for me, particularly if Martin does
end up working away during the week, is going to be paramount.
Something with a little bit of life but not a town, not a huge town
or anything that's too busy, perfect.
We have said that we have one prime criteria for this house,
and that is that it has to be within walking distance of a pub.
Not because we like to drink heavily.
It's because we see the pub as the heart of a community.
So to that end, we wouldn't want to be right out in the sticks.
A thriving village, even a small town,
but somewhere where there's a community, where we can meet people
and where, if we do have to go away for a while because of work, when we come back
people will remember us and they will know which is our house.
So, the location is nailed,
but what about the interior requirements for their new home?
The most important room in the house for me is the study.
It's my sanctuary.
I have a massive shoe collection.
Over 200 pairs of shoes.
I've bought 47 pairs of shoes in the last six months.
So what I'll be looking for in my bedroom is even bigger space than this.
That's an incredible number of shoes, even by my standards!
What sort of house would be befitting for such a collection?
Either a detached or semi-detached,
like a barn conversion that would be a bit open-plan inside.
We're looking for between two and four bedrooms,
a smallish garden and a big kitchen. There's a lot of things that you can add on to your wish list.
I'd love to have a larder. An open fire would be wonderful.
And once they get all settled, Janet can't wait to lead a country lifestyle.
I'd just like to get some dogs and walk in the country.
I keep going on about it, that's all I want to do.
Without a property to sell,
they are ready to sign on the dotted line right away.
But before we can start the search,
we need an idea of how much money there is to play with.
Our budget for this is 350,000.
But for the right house,
we would go up to about 400,000.
Although not mammoth, with no chain and cash in the bank,
the budget is attractive to sellers. And their property requirements are pretty simple.
It's got to have a big kitchen,
be easy to maintain and have a pub nearby.
They're even willing to look at semi-detached houses,
so that should make our job a little bit easier.
Martin and Janet are looking forward to
leading an outdoors lifestyle in the UK.
They're keen to be close to the Peak District National Park.
Over two days, I'll be taking them on a tour of three tempting houses,
but will keep the prices a secret until they've finished each viewing.
Our final stop will be the mystery house,
which often pushes the boundaries and is always a gamble.
-Hi. Good to meet you.
-You could have brought some sunshine from Kuwait with you!
-Wish we had!
We wish we had, yes!
It's pretty different. You're on holiday, aren't you?
-Yes, we are.
-Have you done much property hunting?
We've done bits and pieces. We've done quite a lot of research before we came over here.
We need to have a home base that we can call home. When everybody says
"I'm going home," they've got somewhere to go home to,
which we don't have.
And then over the next few years we'll spend more time there,
and when we finally move back, we'll have the home we want.
We have got some fantastic properties to show you, including the mystery house.
I suggest we get out of the rain and get property searching.
So, Martin and Janet have up to £400,000 available
to find a property they can come home to.
They're looking for two to four bedrooms, a large kitchen and a small garden.
With no property to sell
and all ready to go,
they're in a strong buying position.
I'm certain you've got quite a network of friends
and an entertaining circle back in Kuwait.
We do a lot of stuff back home,
and actually the one thing that's scaring me a little,
moving from a city, where we do lots of things, I belong to choir groups
and this group, and we play games and have social events,
and we have a good social network.
Just a little bit scared of moving and having to make new friends in a village.
I have no doubts or qualms
that you will make friends very easily!
To find that house, we're kicking off in Lapley,
nine miles south-west of Stafford.
Embedded in glorious Staffordshire countryside, this village
was awarded best-kept small village in Staffordshire in 2009.
But despite the pristine surroundings,
it doesn't have the pub Martin and Janet are seeking.
Just as well that Wheaton Aston a mile away comes to the rescue,
with a canal-side watering hole popular with the locals.
The towpath would offer them lovely walks when they get their puppy.
In Lapley, we've arranged a viewing
in a conservation and design award-winning development.
And the style of home is top of their wish list.
This is the first property we want to show you. It is a barn conversion,
which I know is on your wish list.
-Is that the garden? Is that it?
I knew you'd spot that straightaway!
-No, that's good.
-That's a good thing.
-Is that about the right size for you?
-We don't want to garden!
-Yes, that is the garden.
-That's all we want!
Yeah, first impressions, very favourable.
-Doing well, but it is raining, so let's get inside and have a proper look.
This barn conversion in this pretty village has got us off to a good start.
Right, in we come.
Into the dry. This, as you can see,
could be an entrance hallway, but it's a little room, really.
It's a striking entrance.
You come in and you walk into here and it gives you... Well, I've already got
a warm, homely feeling about it.
It's nice, I like it.
But I think it works as it is, as a sort of a snug.
We'll install you here, let's find somewhere for you! Come on.
So here we are, a much bigger space for your living room,
and the feature you just can't miss.
-What a beautiful fireplace.
-Stunning, isn't it?
It is gorgeous, actually.
Fireplaces are a big thing for us.
We like to sit around the fire.
There's nothing quite like sitting around an open fire.
So this room's another tick then?
Not exactly, I wouldn't say.
-A small tick.
-It's getting there,
but it's not giving us that sense of space that we are looking for.
Our main criterion that we need is space,
and this is lovely, cottage-y, cosy, quintessentially English,
which is what we're looking for, but it's not giving us that feeling of space.
But you have been living in Kuwait, where everything is a lot bigger!
So, you're back in little old England, things are a lot smaller here.
Yeah, we have made an allowance in our minds for that.
We knew we weren't going to get the space that we've got now,
but it's still there in our mind, this space. We know it's possible.
Let's go and have a look at the kitchen, because I think that's got a nice size and feel to it.
-Here's your kitchen.
-Oh, that's lovely.
-Lovely, I like that word! What do you think?
It is, it's just cottage-y, isn't it? It's just lovely.
I can actually see us in here.
It's got a lot of work space, which is what Jan likes. It's not huge,
-but we can exist in here. It's nice.
-As a kitchen, it works perfectly.
The one thing we're missing with the house so far
is there's nowhere that we can get our dining table.
Entertaining is a big part of our life, and it's not something I'm prepared to compromise on,
not having anywhere for people to sit and dine.
I did consider... This wall could be maybe taken down, and you'd open
this up into one big kitchen dining space, with the living room there.
-That would be gorgeous.
-That's very interesting.
That would then give us space to put our big table with,
what has always been Jan's desire,
to be able to be cooking and still interacting with guests.
I hate that, I'm in the kitchen and missing everything that's going on.
Eventually I come in all ragged and hot, carrying food,
and think, "I've missed three hours of conversation."
So yeah, actually this is the open-plan space thing that we're desperately wanting,
so that I can cook and interact and talk with friends,
not all in different rooms.
Something to think about, and while they're at it,
they could incorporate the utility room into the kitchen,
making the space even larger.
So, that wraps it up for the downstairs.
Upstairs, it feels incredibly spacious, and the first stop is the family bathroom.
Poke your heads in, have a look.
-Yes, very nice indeed.
Very tasteful. Yes.
The vaulted ceilings in this property certainly make the bedrooms feel bigger.
The first is a single and could always act as a study.
Then there's two small doubles, and that leaves just one more room.
What do you think of this as a master bedroom?
-More than adequate, yes. Nice. Again, I love the height.
The height compensates for the lack of floor space, if you will.
It feels like a very light, airy room.
We have just noticed a lack of storage space, as well.
You've got all your shoes to accommodate!
-Well, goodness me!
-Well, that's one bedroom!
Yeah, that's like a bedroom, never mind a storage space!
Martin might have a good point there, and although this room
isn't as large as they'd hoped, it has an en-suite shower room.
Finally, we are heading outside, where I have a small surprise in store.
Right, back outside, and hallelujah,
I think the rain is easing off now!
Come on out.
Now, we're back in our little small bijou garden, but here is your double garage,
all remote controlled.
Don't give him that, you know what men are like with their little toys!
Sold! I don't care about the rest of it!
Just play with this all the time!
-It's a really good space, actually.
-Yes, a nice, big garage.
-And you said this garden is just about what you're looking for?
Minimal. We're not in a position to be able to upkeep a garden at the moment,
and it's just perfect. Lots of pots. I can do pots.
-It's a courtyard feel to it, hasn't it?
Come this way, there's just a little bit extra I want to show you.
-I hope it's not a field!
It's not exactly a field!
-A little bit more bijou!
-It's really sweet, though.
I might have to wait a while before I buy that croquet set I've been promising myself!
It's really, really sweet, actually.
And this is it. You've now seen the whole property in its entirety.
Which brings us to the question
of how much you think you'd have to pay for a house like this.
-I'd go for about 365.
Possibly 375, I think. Probably in the middle.
Martin, you're amazing.
Having not had a look at a property in this county, you're spot-on!
That's 1-0, Jan!
It's started raining again, so I think you should go back inside
and have another look around, and I'll see you later on.
Thank you very much.
Well, there you go. I think we got off to a good start there.
It's been a while since they looked, but they were spot-on.
It's a little bit smaller than they might like, but downsizing from a Kuwaiti palace
is something they're going to have to get used to.
At £365,000, this barn conversion sits comfortably within their budget,
and it's in the middle of a village,
providing the community environment they're looking for.
The lounge has the fabulous fireplace they're so desperate for.
There's four bedrooms, including a master en suite.
And the outdoor space is manageable.
With this house, there is a but. It meets so many of our criteria.
It ticks so many of our boxes.
Unfortunately, there are two things, really.
One of which, there's not much storage space.
The open-plan in this reception area, we'd struggle to entertain,
to get our dining table in.
Apart from that, it's a cracking house, it really is.
-Now, that's a cracking fireplace, isn't it?
-I absolutely adore it. Absolutely.
The only problem I find with the whole house is just this area here.
It's not big enough for our dining table.
I love the fact that the rooms are airy
and the colours are neutral.
However, it's just a tad small, I think, for what we're looking for.
We're a couple who like to entertain.
We're looking for a comfortable home for two, but with room for 30.
A-ha! There you are.
You've had a good explore?
-Thank you very much, yes.
-But we've got a lot more to do,
-so let's keep exploring.
Martin and Janet enjoy living in Kuwait,
but are looking forward to returning to England and all things English.
Lichfield is Staffordshire's premier heritage city,
so to find out more about the place, they're meeting up with
tourism office Lynn Norman at the cathedral.
There have been three cathedrals on this particular site.
The first one was 700s, then there was the Norman
cathedral in the 11th century, and then later on there was the Gothic.
It's the Gothic that we're looking at today.
This is the only medieval cathedral in the country
with three spires.
The cathedral has seen much repair work over the years,
but it was architect Sir George Gilbert Scott who was
responsible for the restoration work in the mid-1800s,
leaving the cathedral as it is today.
So as we're walking along here, you can see this beautiful
Sir George Gilbert Scott screen coming into view.
Across the top are the musicians.
The design, as I say, was by George Gilbert Scott himself,
but the ironmongery was all done by a gentleman called Skidmore.
It's certainly an impressive piece of craftsmanship to be enjoyed.
Just a stone's throw from the cathedral
is the museum of Dr Samuel Johnson, a prominent writer who held
the accolade of producing the first English language dictionary in 1755.
It took him ten years to write this dictionary.
He'd anticipated that it was only going to take him three years.
The strange way that he created this dictionary was to collect
all the books that he knew of and liked,
and then emphasised from A to Z.
And that was then passed on to his workman,
and that's how they created this great dictionary,
the forerunner of all the dictionaries we have today.
To round off the afternoon,
they're stopping off for a quick refreshment.
In the 1730's, there was a pub
for every 40 members of the community.
The women were very well known for brewing in the area.
They were given a licence to brew in their backrooms
and of course, it was from that period where all the names
associated with the brewing industry came from.
So we have the lounge, which was part of the house,
We have the bar,
which was as far as the customers could go within the house.
So that's where all of those names came from.
-So they were barred from going into the house?
I'm sure their new-found knowledge will come in handy
for many a pub quiz to come.
For our next house,
we're navigating our way over the border into Shropshire
to Childs Ercall, 19 miles from Stafford.
Surrounded by agricultural land, the village is small,
yet has a buzzing community.
The Social Club has got to be the number one spot to meet the locals.
'If they fancy taking up a new hobby,
then, there's a bowling club.
The house we're viewing sits on the edge of the village
and although it was built just four years ago, it's full of charm.
-This is the house.
A-ha! It's lovely.
That's a very impressive outside.
Isn't it? Brick and timber.
-Yeah, stunning, actually, from the outside.
Let's go inside.
-Right, in you come.
I think you'll be pleased.
It looks beautiful. I'm almost speechless.
It's like a show home.
Something out of a design magazine.
It's got that wow factor, certainly, when you walk in.
-I'm feeling a bit low.
Just initially, my first thought is I'm feeling, yet again,
-just a little bit low.
-If you're feeling a bit close in here,
-let's look at the kitchen, cos that opens out.
So, here you go.
A kitchen which is big enough for you to dine in.
And it wraps round the corner, there, into a little snug area.
Now, this is getting there.
-Love the dual sinks.
-A lot of work space, as well.
-It's quality. All the things that we like.
Out there, you've got your utility space
and there's a downstairs cloakroom and shower.
So, so far, so good.
-So far, so good.
-Right, let's have a look at the living room.
I mean, what do you think of it for room size?
Without trying, we'd fill this room with furniture.
It is just on the small side.
-But so well done.
Yes, I can't fault it at all. It has got a lovely feel.
I could see it being really, really cosy in the winter.
We have a very eclectic group of furniture and hangings
and we've got wall hangings.
I should imagine after 20-odd years of travelling around the world,
you've got a lot of memorabilia.
Turkish rugs and Indian wall hangings
and big pieces of Dutch furniture.
Sadly, it doesn't fit in every house and we're struggling with this.
But this is going to be base camp for a while.
Exactly. Maybe, we need to change the way we look at things.
You are downsizing.
Quite a nice property to do it in, if you get to that point.
-I think you're searching for a tick and it's not quite coming.
-Well, maybe not.
I'm going to sell this room.
Look at these amazing timbers!
Look at that wood-burning fire! That's a great focal point.
Come on, you two. You did say you wanted a cosy log fire.
This house may be just a few years old, but the design,
incorporating quality oak beams, provides wonderful character.
Now, up here, I think...
Well, it certainly opens up, doesn't it?
-They've made an impressive upstairs hallway.
-This is lovely.
-You've achieved your wow. Well done.
Fantastic. Glad to hear it.
Two of the three bedrooms here are singles,
one of which could be a study for Martin,
but will they fit their possessions into what would be their room?
So, here is the master bedroom.
-Oh, very nice.
I have a feeling, so I'm going to say it for you,
that you might mention the lack of storage.
-We can buy wardrobes.
We can get round it for the right property. It's not a drama.
But this is a very nice bedroom.
You looked a bit shocked. Is he not usually this placid and accommodating?
I'm shocked that you think it's my clothes we'll have trouble with
and actually, Martin is the proud owner of about 70 shirts.
70? What do you mean 70 shirts?!
-Probably more like 50.
-No. No, when... No, more like 70.
There's a lot of shirts. I don't throw them away. They all get used.
-50, 70 - what's the difference?
I want to take you through to the bathroom, which I think you'll like.
It looks like an en-suite but, actually, it's a Jack and Jill,
so it is the family bathroom. Let's look.
Now, this is a gorgeous bathroom, I think.
Oh, isn't it? Yes.
It's really well done.
It's a wow, it's romantic, it's comfortable.
It's great. Lovely room.
There's no doubt this beautiful house
has been carefully designed
and I think the outdoor space will be easy to maintain.
-Oh, this is pretty.
Absolutely just the perfect size for us, isn't it?
It is. Just what we want.
Some mature little things, but just this area for sitting.
Or you could put your hot tub here, darling.
Space for a hot tub.
We had to give up our hot tub when we went to Kuwait and we miss it dreadfully.
It's just a manage itself garden.
-And it attracts so many beautiful butterflies.
-I can see, yes!
I love this wildlife garden, but the land doesn't end here.
Round the corner is a good-sized lawn,
bordered by young shrubs.
The owners are planning to put up a fence
to screen out the neighbours beyond.
Well, it begs the question, now, then -
how much do you think this property is worth?
-I don't know.
I think, just looking at the quality of the building,
the fact it's been designed, bespoke,
it's got some really, really nice touches.
I think this is up towards the top end of our budget.
I reckon this is about 400,000.
I'm going to go on 370.
-Yeah, yeah, really.
So, it's fairly expensive, then,
for not providing all the space that you need.
Tell me how you feel about it now, then,
because this property is on the market at £337,000.
I'm quite surprised at that. I thought it would be a bit more.
I am. I was quite comfortable with my 400,000.
No, I was thinking it wasn't as much as four but certainly,
not as low as that.
So, pleasantly surprised.
-It's certainly a beautiful house.
It won't be too much torture to send you back in
-to have another look.
-No, we'd love to.
Just wander round it and take in the attention to detail.
-I will see you later on.
At £337,000, this property is well under their guess-timates.
And for that price tag, they get an open-plan kitchen/diner,
the bonus of a utility room,
three bedrooms, including a master en-suite
and a garden that, apart from a good mow,
should be easy to maintain.
-It's absolutely delightful.
It's a stunning house.
It's a real shame this room is just too small.
-You wouldn't get most of our furniture in here.
It's not big enough for us two to stamp our character on this house.
We're big people with big furniture and big ideas.
Frustration is my overwhelming feeling,
having looked round this house, now.
It's so close, it's so lovely, it just doesn't work.
I think they've probably seen enough of this one.
-Are you ready?
-Yes, thank you.
-Come on, then. Let's keep moving.
Staffordshire is home
to one of the most intact pieces of history in the UK -
It's the only complete, working, historic estate in Britain
and as Martin and Janet are looking forward
to immersing themselves in English culture,
I'm sure it will be top of their wish list of places to visit.
I couldn't resist a tour and my guide is Judy Chivers.
Now in the hands of the National Trust,
the house belonged to the Earls of Lichfield,
the Anson family for over 300 years and today,
they retain 36 rooms as a private residence.
In its heyday, there would have been 30 servants here,
busily attending to the family's every need.
Not least at mealtimes.
Oh, wow, Judy.
This is a very stately dining room.
Presumably, this really does show you
the Upstairs Downstairs sort of mix
that you would've had because you'd have had the family, here,
served by how many servants?
Well, depending on how many people were to have dinner,
they would have a footman each.
But this house is unusual. Look at this.
Ah! So, we've got a bank of mirrors, here.
Yes, and the footmen would have stood here
and instead of behind the chairs
where they could listen to salacious gossip,
they could ascertain by looking in the mirrors,
when anybody needed more food or wine.
The working environments of the mansion have been recreated
so visitors can step back in time to the 19th century.
First stop for me is the engine room of all homes.
So, here we are in the heart of the home, in the kitchen.
This is Sarah, the kitchen maid.
-Hello, Sarah. Nice to meet you.
-Hello, nice to meet you.
Now, what are you making here?
I'm making some biscuits for the nursery.
They're called Tilly's Teatime Treats - the children love them.
-Ah, and how many children do they have in the nursery?
-Keeps us busy.
I'll let you get back to the baking.
The living history continues in the laundry,
where back-breaking work was carried out six days a week
with simple tools. The estate was almost self-sufficient.
Grain was ground in the flour mill, and a variety of breads made in the bakery.
They even had their own brewery.
The kitchen garden grew a huge range of produce, and even now
ancient varieties of fruit can still be found here.
There's so much more history to be soaked up, but for now, it's time to move on.
As the sun sets over Staffordshire, Martin and Janet return to base
to reflect on the day's events.
So, what did you think of that converted forge?
Actually, I really quite liked it but...
it just wasn't big enough for what we wanted.
It was well finished, I thought it was in a nice place.
Um...and yeah, there were some gorgeous features,
-and I would kill for that fireplace.
-It felt right, didn't it?
That suggestion Denise made of knocking the wall down.
If we had the time to do that...
-it's pretty close to a solution, isn't it?
-It is. Almost, yeah.
What about your thoughts about the new build cottage that we looked at?
From the outside, it looked like there was so much space,
I got quite excited standing outside it.
And then we went inside.
Kitchen was pretty good, but it was just that lounge.
We put one bit of furniture in there, and that's the room full.
Our coffee table would take up the whole room.
-It was great upstairs.
-Beautiful house, well appointed.
I've always wanted a bath like that,
-but you can't buy a house just for a bath.
Close but no cigar.
RAF Tornado navigator Martin and wife Janet are currently based in Kuwait.
But their latest mission is to snap up a slice of the English countryside they can call their own.
They have a budget of up to £400,000, and so far have viewed two houses.
Coming up, we might have found our target.
-Now we're getting there, yeah.
-Oh, it's beautiful.
After yesterday, one thing is very clear.
Jan and Martin are looking for a house for two people
that can accommodate up to 30 for entertainment!
And I think that's a tall order on anybody's budget, but especially theirs.
Today, we do have a couple of options
and I think they may just do the trick.
So let's get going!
So, it's chocks away at full throttle!'
Our first house this morning is a more unusual proposition,
and it's in Wychnor, 20 miles from Stafford.
The property we're viewing sits in a development of 12 dwellings,
in the grounds of a country club with fabulous facilities.
The local shops are in Barton-under-Needwood, a five-minute drive away.
And there's more pubs than Martin and Janet can poke a stick at. Let's see what they think.
Wow, it's beautiful round here.
BIRDS CHIRRUP FAINTLY
-Pretty good, huh?
-The sound of silence!
The sound of silence.
This club has facilities like a golf club,
swimming pool, tennis court, pub and restaurant.
When I say on your doorstep, I do pretty much mean literally.
-Has anybody ever kissed the presenter?
When I show you the house, you may well just! So save that thought!
-Let's have a look.
I think this neat, self-contained little community could suit them down to the ground.
I'm sure you're dying to know which one we want to show you.
-Got an idea?
-The one right in front of us, I guess.
-No. That one!
This one in the corner.
-It's so cute, actually.
For your purposes, the fact that you're going to be
travelling backwards and forwards, having neighbours...
-Ready-made community, peace and quiet, the ticks are rattling.
-Let's get in!
Let's get in, come on!
And, if that's not enough, this house also comes with
a four-acre wood shared with the other properties.
I can't wait to see their faces when we get inside.
-Now, this is, I think, what you're looking for.
Now we're getting there, yes.
-Oh, it's beautiful.
It opens up, doesn't it?
You can see all the space of... Instead of just looking there,
you just look up, you just can't help looking up.
That's what I wanted to do. Look at that fireplace.
-It's great, isn't it?
-I just love it, it's gorgeous.
No, I love it.
Yes. Wow. Tick.
Tick, yes. Tick, tick!
-You like it so much, you've both gone speechless!
It's funny, because it's such a big room, I don't know what to look at.
I'm trying to find something wrong with it. That's the thing.
You know me, I'm desperately trying to find something wrong with it.
Ever since we have arrived here, it's been, "Wow, wow, wow."
I'm just waiting for the disappointment round the corner when it's not what we want.
I'm pretty confident there won't be one, but, let's see as we work our way through the rooms.
I'm just starting to get those shivers up my spine that normally mean Jan is about to write a cheque!
I get the feeling you're quite impulsive.
-We've got a mystery house as well.
-I'm very impulsive.
-But this is a really rocking start to this property.
It's about to get better. Let's keep going.
So I'm hoping there's space for your mammoth dining table in here.
Yes. It would fit in here.
-It would fit beautifully here.
As you can see, we're looking straight onto the kitchen.
This is exactly what I was looking for, yes.
Even more than that, just to give you the geography of this place,
-we're in the original dovecote of this property.
-Yes, I saw that outside.
The hexagonal-shaped roof.
So, this is where we are now. Off that way you've got a double garage.
You have one bedroom through there, that could be the guest bedroom.
and we've even got a little bit of office space.
-It's got practicality and quirkality.
-Is that a word?
It is now.
This is the first house I've walked into and thought, "I can feel us here."
You know when you start placing your own furniture, that's when you know.
-The practical items will fit, and we will fit.
-Shall we go through to the kitchen?
-Jan, the kitchen. This is what you've been looking for.
I think it's definitely that cooker that will do it for you.
I'm desperately trying to find something I don't like in here, and there's just nothing.
That cooker is my idea of heaven.
This has got, from what we've seen of the house so far, it's got the old, the country feel.
But it's got that contemporary edge that we were talking about. I can see Jan in here.
I thought he was going to say, "I can see Jan there, chopping vegetables."
He can see you being happy here, Jan!
I don't know, you have to work a bit harder to make sure she's happy!
-"I can see Jan making my tea in there."
He can, he'll be sitting right there!
I'll have a little sofa here, and I'll read the paper whilst you're cooking tea.
-Some things haven't changed and gone contemporary!
-Some things haven't modernised, you're right.
Somebody has to pay for the house, Jan.
Yes. There is that. I knew he'd come in useful at some point.
But I think this could be it? Even I could picture you, Jan, right there.
I certainly can't find anything about this whole place I don't like.
We'll keep exploring. I'm pretty positive you won't find, but let's keep looking.
This house just keeps on delivering.
-Here we are, upstairs in the dovecote.
-This is beautiful.
In your master bedroom, and look up.
-I can't even see all the way up!
-Deary me, you're right.
-I could lie in bed all day and just look at that ceiling.
It does deliver in spades, doesn't it?
You've got plenty of space, you could put a huge bed in here.
Plenty of space.
This is another room where, as Jan was in the kitchen downstairs,
you can't actually find anything wrong with it.
It's a blank canvas, almost, in terms of you being able to put your own belongings in.
-And they would fit.
The great thing is that the family bathroom is just over there.
I say family bathroom, there's only one bedroom up here so it's your en suite. Let's have a look.
I don't even think you could complain about this.
-No. Not at all.
Huge bath, and just look round the corner.
Ah-h-h! No running up and down the stairs to the shower.
-It just keeps delivering, this house, doesn't it?
-I could literally move in.
And actually might.
I just love it. Love it.
-Of course, for that to happen, we need to get the right price for you, don't we?
Which is what we haven't talked about yet!
-It's the worrying part.
-So, let's go out to the garden, have a look at that,
and then talk about how much it will cost. OK? Come on.
Did you notice that? WILL cost. Did you notice that?
Finally, the garden.
This is perfect.
Not too much lawn.
-Just perfect, low maintenance.
-Another great entertaining space.
-Small place to sit outside.
-Room for a hot tub.
-How much do you think you'd have to pay for it?
What it's on the market for?
-All the fixtures and fittings and the actual reception area,
I think if it were three bedrooms we'd be looking at another 30.
I think it's 399.
If it's over our budget, I'll be very disappointed.
-Because it's made such an impact on us.
-Are you ready to get your chequebook out?
This property, I can't believe how accurate you are, given that you've been in Kuwait
and out of the property scene completely! It's on at £399,950.
It was on at £440,000 for a while, it's been dropped recently, so that's pretty much the price.
That's it. It's within budget. I know you've got a lot to think about now.
No, there isn't a lot to think about.
Well, we've got the mystery house to see.
Oh, sorry, there is one other thing. This has got to be a first for telly.
Ooh, I'm going to blush!
But if you buy this house, then I'm very, very happy.
And on that note, in you go, before it gets any more risque!
You're such a tart!
That's definitely a first for telly. I got a kiss because we may have just found their perfect house.
But we've still got the mystery house to come and that could just put a spanner in the works.
It's crystal clear
that Martin and Janet love this immaculate property,
on the market for £50 short of £400,000.
It offers spacious and light accommodation, with a large lounge,
fabulous kitchen, two bedrooms
and a study for Martin.
This is what we've been chuntering about, isn't it? Light, airy...
Can you just imagine us cuddled up in front of this fire?
Stunning. I used that word a couple of times
with the other houses,
but this time, it just ticks all our boxes.
The list of criteria that we have mentioned, it wipes the first half-dozen off
without even batting an eyelid and then just keeps going.
The location, I think, is absolutely perfect. It's so beautiful.
Coming up the country lanes, where the fields have just been harvested...
The car park to the country club appears to me to be further enough away that you won't hear
the clanking of car doors constantly. As far as I'm concerned
it's an added bonus, because that's the facilities that we're going to make full use of and utilise,
from the sports facilities to the bar. Everything's there.
It's got a sense of homeliness, it's got style, it's got a bit of contemporary.
It's light, it's airy, there's space, there's room for our things.
I can see us living here, I really can.
-Hello, you two.
I hate to drag you away from this near-perfect property, but our journey is not over quite yet.
Let's keep going.
Staffordshire is widely regarded as one of the finest producers of china in the world,
thanks to the efforts of famous producers such as Josiah Spode and Josiah Wedgwood.
As a early as 1785, the operations in Stoke-on-Trent
employed 20,000 workers, giving the area the name the Potteries.
Martin and Janet are meeting up with Janice Beech for a tour of the Gladstone Pottery Museum.
It's the last standing Victorian factory.
There were about 2,000 bottle ovens in Stoke in their heyday, in the Victorian times.
All firing away, 24/7.
The men that worked in the ovens, of course, they spent
up to four, five days in here, never going home, working, and loved it.
And if you read the histories, they're all proud of their job and thought it was wonderful.
The huge bottle ovens were the workhorses of the process and could hold up to 2,000 containers,
known as saggers, which were used to protect and hold the china pieces when being fired.
How hot did it get in here when they were firing?
It would've been about 1,250 degrees.
Which took quite a few days to get to temperature.
And just sheer skill, really, cos no thermometers.
Timing and temperature were critical,
but after seven days of firing and then cooling,
the saggers were removed and the pieces were ready for decoration,
And Janice is keen for Janet to put her creative talents to the test.
During the 1700s, massive quantities of beautifully decorated white porcelain
were imported from China. It was cheap,
and an ideal accompaniment for the tea chests the vessels were carrying.
And it also acted as a ballast for the ships.
The colour and clarity of the porcelain soon gained popularity,
and the English potters became envious of the material.
The local potters, Spode and Wedgwood, tried desperately to copy it.
Eventually Spode, who was born in Burslem, so was Josiah Wedgwood,
actually eventually discovered by putting bone into the pottery
that he could achieve this lovely white translucency.
I think that's absolutely fantastic, actually.
Can you give me a job?
I think so! I've been trying to recruit people. I think you should apply for a job.
-Wonderful. Did you know you were artistic?
-I do now!
For our mystery property, we've decided to deliver some of what our couple are looking for.
It's certainly got community spirit and there's plenty of space to entertain, but I'm pretty certain
it's something so grand even they wouldn't have considered it.
Today's mystery house is an unusual offering,
and it's just outside Biddulph, 10 miles from Stoke-on-Trent.
The busy high street of Congleton
is just three miles away and caters for most needs.
And, of course, there's the all-important pub for socialising.
Our mystery property is one of just nine apartments
that form part of Biddulph Grange, a handsome Grade 2 listed house.
It sits within 73 acres of woodland and meadows,
which would be perfect walking territory for Martin and Janet.
Gosh, you've done it again, haven't you?
Surpassed myself. This is how far your budget could stretch!
-Maybe a small part of it.
-You're on the right track, yes.
This is an old Victorian manor house. It's so grand, isn't it?
Beautiful, absolutely stunning.
It's been divided up into nine apartments.
-That surprises me, I thought it would be more.
-Yeah? So a lot to look forward to there.
-I hardly dare think about what might be inside.
Again, you could've just... You can work up for another kiss.
Be causing a divorce at this rate! Come on, let's go!
The apartment I want to show them is located at the back of the building,
overlooking a lovely communal courtyard.
So as you come through, you have a potential bedroom there, family bathroom behind me
and through into this hallway, you get the idea,
it's all on one level.
-What do you think?
-Yeah. It's a bit dark.
-It feels dark.
Let me show you a lighter room, then. Let's go into the kitchen.
-What do you think of this for a kitchen?
-Oh, I love it.
This is great, isn't it? Yes.
Just ever so slightly still too dark.
The lighting can be sorted out, but, no, it's a lovely space.
It's got a nice...
Nice area in the middle here for eating, and this little step all adds a little bit of style to it.
-Really nicely done.
-Yeah, lovely. Very nice.
Well, we've scored well on the kitchen. Let's see some of the other rooms. This way.
-Here is your living room.
-That's light and airy, isn't it?
-Isn't it just?
-This is a big room into which big furniture could go.
I almost feel like I haven't got anything that'd fit in with the character of this property.
I almost feel like this property requires a character, and that's not the one that I've got.
Well, it's not over yet. The second of the three bedrooms
has a huge arched window and is being used as a study,
but I want to show them the master, which will surely accommodate
a wardrobe or two for all those shoes and shirts.
-And this is yet another grand room in this house.
-Oh, it is.
-Your master bedroom.
-It's rather lovely.
Although I feel, really, that I would love this as my dining area.
Bigger reception, put more of my things in here.
I just somehow feel it's a little bit of a wasted space just for...
Except for the en suite, do we want an en suite dining room?
-I don't know if there is one.
-There is one right here, good point.
-Let's have a look, and then you can work out whether it would work being next to your dining room.
A big en suite with the master bedroom, so you are right,
if you had it as a dining room it would be interesting to have this
located at the end. Got a big stand-up shower there,
-huge bath and all the space around here.
-It's a fantastic bathroom.
It is, actually. Again, it's dark!
-Nothing that a bit of lighting can't fix.
-You don't want a really bright bathroom, though.
-Yes, you do!
-You do want a really bright bathroom.
-Yes, you do!
This has got to be the largest en suite I've ever seen, but I can't see the bedroom
working as a dining room for entertaining all their friends.
Just as well I have something else up my sleeve to tempt them, and it's outside.
If you're wondering why I've brought you away from the apartment, it's because this is obviously
an old manor house and the common parts are shared by all nine residents.
And the Grand Hall is one of the common parts, just through here.
This could be the answer to the problems of how you entertain all your many guests. Come this way.
Now, come in here.
This area here...
-is an amazing room, isn't it?
-Isn't it just?
And the beauty of this mystery house is that you all get equal access to it, you all own it.
Current residents use this for parties, black-tie events, they've had weddings, they've just had
friends round, sitting round in this area. The only stipulation is
if you are doing something you invite the others, that's it.
Other than that, it's everyone's to use.
Objectively, it's a lovely place and I like this room,
but I don't feel comfortable about this.
Let's go outside, stand on that amazing, beautiful, pristine lawn,
and ponder how much it could cost to live in a house like this. Come on.
Well, they certainly didn't bargain for all this.
There is no doubt it's a unique property, but how deep will they have to dig in their pockets?
It's a very grand, big house, beautiful apartment, a great location,
but how much do you think it will cost you?
I think it's going to be right up at the top end,
possibly just even a little bit over our budget, maybe 410.
I think a little bit under, I think probably about 380, 385.
Quite a bit under.
So, a big split in your price range this time, and...
you're both wrong!
You've lost your credibility now.
-It's somewhere in the middle, it's on at £400,000.
-So bang on the top of your budget.
-What do you think about that?
It's lovely, it's impressive, it's stunning, it's really well-presented,
it's genteel living, it's not Martin and Janet.
It's more a beautiful retreat for the weekends,
but we are looking for a home base that we can mess about with and mess up, and it's just too nice.
Why don't you wander off and have another wander round the grand Victorian palace?
-I will see you later.
At £400,000, this mystery property is at the top end of their budget.
It's an unusual proposition, but it would offer them
the community feel they're looking for.
There's a large high-spec kitchen, three bedrooms,
including a master en suite, and the use of a communal hall and grounds.
In your career and everything else we've had forced communal living
for a long time, people telling you where you can and...
What you can and can't do. I just feel that this is our opportunity to have
our own piece of countryside. I don't want other people telling me what to do.
We've done that regimented communal living with rules and regulations.
Overall, I still don't think it would work for us.
We're back to the classic rooms, and it is a classic building, so there's no reason it shouldn't have rooms.
It just hasn't got that flow, that openness that we're after.
It's a very, very dark property, and it's not that open space that we are looking for, you know?
The joy of those high beams, it's just not there.
-A lovely spot just to sit and think about things.
I see you've found a place to rest your feet.
I hope your brains are still working, because you have a think about what you're going to do next.
As Martin and Janet's mission draws to an end, it's time to consider
their options and for us to discover whether we have hit the target.
For the first time in ages, I am certain of the favourite
property of our couple, and my money is going on the converted dovecote.
But am I right? And more importantly, do they love it enough to make it their home?
Let's find out.
Well, my dears, it's been 22 years
and a journey from Kuwait back all the way to Staffordshire,
but here we are trying to find you a perfect house in the country for you to settle down.
We started with the old converted forge.
Cast your minds back, what did you think when we first walked up to it?
It looked very much like what we were after from the outside.
So then when we went in, did it live up to the promise?
It didn't have that open-plan look we're looking for.
It was warm, it was country,
it was homely and it was really well done,
but it was...just lacked that ability to flow through the downstairs.
We looked at a detached property together, didn't we?
A new build, built to an old design.
Lots of timber and brick.
From the outside, that was impressive,
but how did you feel when you went in and had a wander round?
The kitchen was nice, it was beautiful, large, well-appointed.
I liked the fact it went round the corner, that was the open bit of it.
But as we discussed, we wouldn't get our furniture in that living room.
One thing we won't compromise on is making everything we own fit the house.
-It's got to be the other way round.
We're prepared to make certain sacrifices,
but not changing our lifestyle to fit into a house that clearly isn't us.
We'll thin our stuff down, it's got to happen,
but as Jan says, not to just be able to buy one property
are we prepared to throw away all our cherished possessions.
It almost felt like a mystery house when we got to the old dovecote.
It looked so tiny from outside,
this lovely little cottage in the corner,
and initially I just thought, "Oh, no.
"This is going to be low beams, little cottage, exactly what I'm not looking for, tucked in the corner."
But a surprise for you as you walked through!
Exactly the opposite effect from the other house. You went inside,
and it seemed to go back and back and back and, yeah...
And the essence of space the moment you walked through the door, I just loved everything about it.
Yeah. It just...
-It hit everything.
-Well, to end the journey we, of course,
had the mystery house just to throw a spanner in the works.
It was a lovely show home experience for me that I'd be proud
to show people, but I couldn't see myself living in it.
-It's genteel living.
-And it's time to move on from that?
-You were here on holiday, but we've been on a property search.
Of course, that brings us to the question of have
any of the properties we've shown you hit the mark?
I think it's very clear which one the winner is, it's the old dovecote.
That's hit the spot.
But what is the next step for you?
We've got three next steps in our minds.
One of which, we just need to establish what sort of access
there is to the leisure facilities that are next door,
we just need to talk to the bank to make sure that their provisional offer still stands for the cash,
and we need the phone number of the estate agent so we can go tomorrow morning for a second viewing, because
we leave the country in four days' time and we've got to get moving.
I love it, so impulsive, so direct. So military!
"I have a three stage plan!"
-And if it all goes ahead...
-It'll be happening at 0900 tomorrow morning!
-You'll be moving in!
-THEY ALL LAUGH
-And are you on board with that plan?
-Thank you both very much, it's been an absolute pleasure.
Jan and Martin may well have spent the last couple of years living it up on the Kuwaiti sand dunes,
but all they've really wanted is to come home to the Staffordshire hills
and to live a simple life with a traditional home, a roaring fire and a pub on their doorstep.
And do you know what? I think we've found it for them.
I'll see you next time on Escape to the Country.
If you want to escape to the country in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland
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Denise Nurse helps a couple relocate from Kuwait to Staffordshire. They will be leaving a palatial house behind so will she succeed in finding them their rural idyll? With a top budget of £400,000, they are after a large kitchen-diner and a small, low-maintenance garden.