Nicki Chapman goes house-hunting with a couple hoping to move to Cambridgeshire from east London. With two children, good schools and a large garden are a must.
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This is the ancestral home of the reputedly hard gambling man
who gave his name it to the most humble of foods -
Where am I?
Join me to find out for another lip-smacking Escape To The Country.
With their London terrace on the market,
today's city-based house-hunters are seeking sanctuary in the country,
for both themselves and their children.
Room for the kids to run. That's what it's about.
I think Jack would be happy here.
I think this would be great for the children.
It's really quirky, isn't it? Upstairs?
And a character property is definitely on the agenda.
Amazing! Look at the fireplace.
But will their country escape suit parent and child?
-Do you like it?
-I don't know.
Today I'm in Cambridgeshire, and this is Hinchingbrooke House,
once home to John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich.
Now the story goes that as a voracious card player,
he'd get his valet to bring him meat,
tucked into two pieces of bread,
so he could continue his cribbage without getting his cards greasy.
In time, others used to ask for "the same as Sandwich"
and the name was born.
But it's not the only thing in this county to make your mouth water.
In the heart of East Anglia,
the landlocked county of Cambridgeshire
covers over 1,300 square miles.
In 2009, over 4.5 million people made a beeline to Cambridge,
to gently punt along the River Cam,
and soak up the sights of the world famous university.
But there's more to Cambridgeshire than this historic town.
Delving deeper into the countryside to the north,
you'll find Holme Fen, the lowest point in Britain
and one of nine nature reserves in the county.
The horizon of the Cambridgeshire Fens is only broken
by medieval churches and cathedrals
that stand like soaring monoliths across the landscape.
Towering over the east of the county is the 11th-century Ely Cathedral
which sits within one of the smallest cities in England.
Fondly referred to as The Ship Of The Fens,
it could be seen for miles across this vast, watery plain.
But it's the villages that so easily charm passers-by.
Timber and brick homes built from locally-sourced materials
add the finishing touch to this attractive county.
A detached property here in Cambridgeshire
would set you back around £265,000.
That's just 7% higher than the national average.
But these figures don't give the true picture.
Never historically a wealthy county,
the construction of the M11 was the making of modern Cambridgeshire,
putting the south of the county firmly in the London commuter belt.
That prices in the south are on average
37% higher than in the north is testament to that fact.
So let's take a look at what's currently on the market.
In Terrington St John,
this detached house is on the market for just under £300,000.
The rustic beams in the spacious living area
continue into the kitchen diner.
There are four good-sized bedrooms
and the conservatory looks out over a finely manicured garden.
Further up the property ladder in Conington, you can pick up
this beautifully restored period property for £499,000.
The country kitchen is simply stunning.
The living room boasts a host of period features
that continue in the bedrooms.
And to the rear, a patio looks out over the expansive garden.
Finally, for £825,000,
this Grade 2 listed village house in Shudy Camps dates back to 1537.
With character oozing from the kitchen
and exposed beams in every room,
the period features just keep coming.
The two reception rooms both have an inglenook fireplace.
The four bedrooms are charming and the garden's immaculate.
With its rural charm and properties to match,
Cambridgeshire has plenty to tempt even a self-confessed city slicker.
And this week's couple are definitely that.
So let's meet them.
Professional couple John and Natalie
have lived together in John's three-bedroom East London terrace,
since Natalie moved in four years ago.
With their son Jack fast approaching school-age
and one-year-old Rebecca growing up fast,
it's now or never if they want to make their rural dream a reality.
The priority now is, basically, schools.
Jack is one of those children
that will probably be the youngest in his class.
He's three quite soon so he's only got another year
and we need to get settled before he starts school.
Definitely. We have talked about moving for so long
so it's now or never really.
So how do John and Natalie picture life in the country?
I think what we're really looking for is to find somewhere
that's nice and peaceful, some beautiful surroundings,
some nice, open spaces.
-We don't want to be too remote.
-It's for our children.
We're not looking through rose-tinted glasses. We've thought this through.
It's a lot to leave behind but it's an adventure going forward.
And what sort of property should we be looking for?
Four to five bedrooms, detached property.
We'd like a nice country kitchen
-because most of our socialising is all in the kitchen.
I would like a utility room and definitely a downstairs toilet.
They're also after a workshop for John to practise his hobby of model-making
and more outside space than they currently have.
One of the most important things for us
is to find somewhere with a bigger garden for the children.
When it comes down to brass tacks,
if we don't get a nice size garden for the kids to run around in
and that feeling of space and freedom,
especially for the youngsters, we may as well stay here.
Sounds logical but why Cambridgeshire?
I work in Newham, East London,
and the roads are perfect to lead down to Cambridgeshire.
We initially said an hour from my place of employment
but now we've stretched that to an hour and a half.
But that extra half an hour gives us another 30 miles on the motorway,
which takes us 30 miles past the commuter belt
Also, we get more for our money the further we go out.
Finally, how much do John and Natalie have to spend
on their first family home in the country?
Our absolute limit for the new house is £450,000.
That's with the sale of this house and some savings we've got.
That's our absolute limit.
Weary of London life,
John and Natalie are hoping to swap city sirens for birdsong
with their aim of bringing their brood up in rural Cambridgeshire.
They're after a detached property with four bedrooms,
enough space downstairs so the adults don't trip up over the children
and, crucially, a large enough garden so the little ones can run free.
So far, so good.
But their budget of £450,000 won't stretch that far
in the south of the county so we may need to look further afield
to find them both something that fits the bill.
To find a family home that meets their expectations,
we'll be casting our property net to the north of Cambridgeshire,
ensuring that John is within reasonable distance to his place of work in east London.
We'll be showing our couple from the capital three properties
but won't be telling them the price until the end of the house tours.
Then there's the mystery house,
a property chosen to push their boundaries.
John and Natalie, welcome to Cambridgeshire.
I think we've picked the most fantastic day to start our search.
You know Cambridgeshire a little bit
and I'm sure you're both aware that its close proximity to London
means that you are still in the commuter belt,
which is reflected in the prices, especially in the south of the county.
-John, I know you're going to commute back into London?
So are you both prepared to be a bit flexible about that?
We might have to look further afield to make sure your money gets what you want.
I think 90 minutes or maybe just a little more each way is doable.
There's a cut off, you know.
I don't want to spend four or five hours a day on a motorway.
-I think 90 minutes is probably... maybe a little bit more.
-That's good there's a bit of flexibility.
We're happy to look.
If you can show us the house of our dreams and we walk in and that's the one then...
-You'll weigh it all up.
Now, let's talk money.
-Your budget is still £450,000?
-Yeah, we said 450 max.
We don't want any work to be done on the property.
If it's 450, it needs to be pretty much everything's there.
Well we've got three great properties lined up for you and the children.
-So shall we get started?
-Come on then.
With a top budget of £450,000,
John and Natalie are after...
How well do you think you'll both settle into country life?
Because it is so different than living in a city.
I think that's what we're looking forward to.
It's like a new chapter of your life.
It's all about learning new things, new ways of living.
The idea is to change
so we're kind of looking forward to the challenge or the opportunity, whichever way you look at it.
Our first property is tucked inside the Cambridgeshire border
near the village of Welney, which just nudges into Norfolk.
Once famed for its ice-skating and wildfowl hunting,
both have become part of a bygone era.
But this charming village does have an impressive 19th-century church and a pub
so John and Natalie can get to know some of the 500 residents.
Although it pushes their ideal commute,
this property has loads of kerb appeal.
Let's take a look.
Good first impression?
Definitely. It's detached, I can see, just looking round.
It's actually an old farmhouse,
built at the turn of the century but extended in 2003.
It's a nice quiet location. It looks a lovely-size detached property.
I just want to get inside and have a look.
We want to get inside, all three of us. Come on.
Off to a good start.
The mix of old and new on the outside is seamless
and inside, it gets even better.
So you come through the porch straight into this little snug.
That's nice. Beams!
I've never stayed in a place with beams.
-Have you not?
And this is one of the reception rooms, as you walk in.
You've got another one behind us,
-that's currently used as a children's room.
With little ones, if you do have the next door in their play area,
-you want to be quite close, don't you?
The great thing is the layout of this house, it really flows,
-because the kitchen's just through here.
-This is nice.
-Yeah, this is lovely.
I know you're both keen to get a country kitchen, quite a large one.
Yeah, it's top three on the list,
because I've got quite a big family that like to visit en masse
and we socialise in the kitchen.
There's plenty of room in here, in this house.
You could have the family dinners here,
but when you've got the extended family with you,
you're going to need a little bit more room.
So we've got an answer to that in the conservatory.
Because through here is the dining room in a conservatory.
That's very nice. I didn't expect that.
No, didn't expect that.
It's a good space.
Nice size table.
The floor follows us through.
The parquet flooring, all the way through - nice.
I haven't shown you the biggest room of the house downstairs.
I'll squeeze past you, back through the kitchen.
So far we haven't put a foot wrong.
and I have a little surprise for John on the way.
En route, I just wanted to show you this.
The utility room that leads through to the downstairs cloakroom.
-Just for you, John, because I know...
-Top of the wish-list!
-Top of the wish list!
-That's going to make you happy.
-Definitely. Thank you.
There's more. Gosh, I love the floor.
-That's a beautiful room.
-You've got oak flooring.
Fireplaces. A lovely view outside. Lovely French doors that open up, patio area, decking area.
-Is this new? Is this an extension?
-This is. This was done in 2003.
I think it works so well with the property.
Lovely. Really surprised.
Well let's head upstairs
and hope there's enough space for you there as well.
Apart from an upstairs family bathroom,
they're four double bedrooms in all,
the largest has a dual aspect, but we're heading to the master suite.
That's what I'm talking about, a window .
-Stunning, absolutely stunning.
-What's through here? What's this door?
So you've got a walk-in closet, cupboard, there.
Through that door, you've your own en-suite.
The house seems to have hit the spot for the both of you.
Let's go downstairs to see what you think of the garden
and at the same time, you're going to have to consider how much this is all worth.
This property just keeps on giving. Set in half an acre,
the lawned garden has plenty of space for the children.
So at the end of your garden, you have the most spectacular view,
literally right over your fence.
Amazing, didn't expect this.
You don't ever imagine you could live on the end of a field, do you, John?
That is lovely, but what about the garden?
I just think this is a fantastic space.
But the question is, is it big enough?
I know the garden is very important to the both of you.
-Plenty of room for the kids to run, that's what it's about.
-You've got a double carport.
It looks like a chalet standing this side of it, it's actually a workshop.
They keep their dogs in it at the moment,
but you could easily transform that into a workshop.
And the gazebo here has electricity. There used to be a hot tub in it,
-that might be worth reinstating.
-Yeah, why not?
-How much do you think this house is worth?
I'd say £450,000.
I think Natalie may be right, but maybe...
You're hedging your bets. Natalie might be right, but £435,000.
Maybe, I don't know what property goes for a little bit further out, so I don't know.
Current asking price,
Well below your budget.
-With views like this, I'm surprised.
Exactly, with this amazing location,
beautiful village, primary school in this village,
and one in the surrounding area as well,
why don't you go and have another browse around,
because that does give you more money to play with.
-Thanks very much.
-Off you go.
It may be just outside the 90 minute commute to John's work,
but that is reflected in the £375,000 price tag.
But will the commuting distance be an issue?
If my kids can get what they want,
a nice quiet lifestyle,
plenty of room to run around in,
then the commute and the price makes it more than worthwhile.
-Definitely enough room.
I think Jack would be happy here.
It's brilliant, the kids will love it.
It's fantastic. I can see things around me.
I'm not completely on my own, it's not remote.
Well, you two, have you seen enough?
-Yeah, we've seen enough.
-Look at those smiles!
It's a great start, but we've got more to show you.
So let's keep going. Come on.
Cambridgeshire may be a county of horizontals,
but what it lacks in hills and dales, it makes up for in rich farmland.
89% of the Fens in the north of the county are of the highest farming quality
and by the Middle Ages, the marshy waterways were teeming with customers and cargo.
Reaching its height in the 12th century,
St Ives grew up as a busy commercial centre on the River Ouse,
and once boasted the biggest market in England.
John and Natalie are newcomers to the area
so we've organised for local historian, Bob Burn-Murdoch,
to give them a tour of this interesting medieval town.
Hello, there. How do you do? Welcome.
Built in the 1420s, this bridge is one of the last remaining
in the country to have an integrated chapel.
The idea behind this architectural curiosity
was to offer travellers a place to give thanks for a safe journey.
There were a few bridge chapels built in the Middle Ages
but very few have survived.
St Ives is the only good looking bridge chapel left.
You had the chapel up on the road level.
Also, chapel and toll house together, because you had to pay to cross it,
and of course, the ideal place for having a toll house, is in the middle of the bridge, like this,
so you can't sneak past without paying.
Upstairs, the vicar-come-traffic-warden
would offer services in the chapel,
while demanding a charge for those crossing the bridge.
But this bridge is also unique
due to the pointed Gothic arches on one side, and rounded arches on the other.
In the 17th century, during the English Civil War,
half of the bridge was blown up by Cromwell's Roundheads
to stop the King's troops advancing.
By the beginning of the 18th century,
the townsfolk decided to reinstate the stone arches,
but in the rounded Cromwell-esque fashion of the day.
Controversial to the last,
Cromwell had a way of splitting public opinion even after his time.
In 1901, a statue of the man was erected causing quite a stir.
So, here we are. This is the statue of the most famous St Ives resident, Oliver Cromwell.
And we shouldn't really have the statue here,
because Cromwell only lived in St Ives for a few years,
and he was born in Huntington, just up the road.
But when they were going to put the statue up in 1899,
the people of Huntington were a bit horrified at having a statue
to the man who cut the King's head off
and so instead of putting it there, it came to St Ives.
People in St Ives were perfectly happy with the idea
and fund-raising went ahead very briskly
and we raised the money to pay for the statue,
and it's the only statue of Cromwell anywhere in the country
that's paid for by public subscription by the ordinary people.
All the other statues were paid for by benefactors.
-So how much did it cost?
-Just over £1,000.
-Which was an extortionate amount of money.
-That's right, yeah.
Cromwell isn't the only public figure the people of St Ives dubiously claim for themselves.
The town is named after Ivo,
a Persian bishop who was supposedly buried here at the beginning
of the 11th century, but even this fact is shrouded in uncertainty.
Here we are. This is stone wall here is now all that's left
of the Priory, St Ivo's Priory, built on the spot where the bones had been found.
But about 1,000 years later,
we discover what we think is the true story behind those bones.
And when these houses here were built in the 1980s,
there was an archaeological dig on the site
and they went down through the layers associated with the priory
and underneath, they found the remains of a Roman villa
and the Romans buried their dead in stone coffins.
So, we think the real explanation for that coffin
was it wasn't a Persian bishop, it was a Romano-British farmer.
They may have found some sort of inscription perhaps with an IV,
the Latin letter, the Latin number four,
and misinterpreted that as being the name Ivo.
After all these years, we finally discover that the whole town,
the name of the town, is a case of mistaken identity.
Mistaken identity or not, the quirky history of St Ives is intriguing.
But it's time to get back on the road.
Just 90 minutes from John's work,
our second property is in the village of Great Gidding
in the north-west of Cambridgeshire.
The thatched properties that were once so prevalent have all but disappeared,
save a few prize examples,
and the local church is in a stunning condition
and dates back to the 13th century.
Because John and Natalie didn't want to be too cut off from village life,
we've chosen a property right in the midst of all the action.
So this farmhouse, which was attached to the manor, is our second property.
-What are your first impressions?
-A very nice property.
-It looks fresh and new.
-Yeah, very attractive.
It has been refurbished about 24 years ago,
but the farmhouse actually dates back to the 1850s.
It was attached to the manor house that was just up the hill.
The one thing is property does do is it backs on to a main road.
How do you feel about that as a location?
I think with our children being so young, it would probably cast a shadow.
We just need to divert that road.
Yeah, it'd be nice.
Let's take a step inside the farmhouse and have a look around.
Although the exterior is in good condition,
there is work to be done inside to turn this house
into the family home that John and Natalie are looking for.
Do come on in.
I'm bringing you straight into one of the main reception rooms.
So, very, very different from the house we saw this morning.
-But full of character and charm.
-It's definitely full of character.
-The ceilings are quite low.
And it's just completely the opposite to what we live in now.
But you can see the merits?
-It's a nice room, it's very nice room, yeah.
Let's continue through.
John may have his doubts so far, but to the rear of the property
I have some surprises that should sway his opinion.
So, through here we have the dining room.
As you walk through this farmhouse, you get a feeling
that it's like a cottage in a way, the way the rooms are laid out.
But what this dining room does have is the most amazing view.
-I'll show you through there soon.
I want to take you to explain about the kitchen.
So, this obviously is the current kitchen.
Average space, but...
..you want a nice, big country kitchen, don't you?
You could knock this through, with the right planning consent, and actually take it next door
because that is a study.
Next door - John, this is just for you - the downstairs cloakroom.
I know that gets you excited. It's also got a shower as well.
And the reason it's got a shower is across the hallway
is a downstairs bedroom.
Also on this level is a conservatory,
a perfect children's play area.
But we're heading upstairs to explore John and Natalie's sleeping quarters.
-So this is your master bedroom.
A real cottage-y feeling in the upstairs of the property.
And, how many wardrobes can you fit into a bedroom?
-There's quite a lot there.
Thing is, would it be big enough for the two of you?
It is cosy in here, definitely. It's a nice room.
This level has another double bedroom
and a single bedroom.
There's also a family bathroom.
But we're heading out into the fantastic garden that comes complete with a huge workshop,
perfect for John's penchant for model-making. So, here's an amazing garden.
And not only that, you've got cows right at the very end.
-Do you think the kids would like cows?
-I think they'd love it. This has completely won me, to be honest.
-This is just outstanding, it's amazing.
-It's an amazing garden.
Someone's put a lot of work in and it's a beautiful.
It is beautiful. It's just over half an acre.
You've got a Wendy house there,
-which the owner actually built himself.
The stable block has been converted into a gym.
That's got electricity, so you could use that as a play area,
as a bar for your friends and family, whatever you wanted.
And you're surrounded by countryside.
So, how much do you think this house is currently on the market for?
I would have thought maybe £440,000.
-Yeah, I'm going for 415, actually.
Maybe I'm being too optimistic? Cos we have a lot of land. I mean, it is lovely here.
If it was 415, do you think that's a good price,
that you'd be interested?
Yeah, because we got the money there
and that would be enough to make the changes.
The garden for me is just outstanding.
I just want to put it Jack in here now, really.
The current asking price for this property is £415,000.
-You were absolutely bang on the money.
-It wasn't just wishful thinking, then!
You've just said to me you'd be interested, so I'm hoping that is the case.
Have another look round the house, if you could really work for you,
-because there always has to be a compromise somewhere.
-Off you go.
For Natalie, the impressive space outside
clearly outweighs the close proximity to the road,
and the property is well under-budget.
There's a country kitchen with room to expand, four bedrooms,
and outside there is a huge workshop and that garden.
But will the work needed inside be a stumbling block for John?
The garden for me sort of sells the house.
-I don't know about you, what you feel?
-It's a beautiful.
I like the house, I like the look of the house.
You can see it's been treated with tender, loving care over the years.
I'm just a bit concerned that the upstairs
is a bit small for what we need.
I just love the garden. I want this to be mine.
I want to sit in here in the summer. I want all my friends to bring their children and enjoy it with us.
Are you guys happy? Have you seen enough?
Yes, thank you.
It is typical, it's a lot quieter now as we leave. Come on.
As the sun drops below the Cambridgeshire lowlands,
John and Natalie will have plenty on their minds
after their first day house-hunting.
Today's house hunters are swapping a terraced house in London
for a character property in the country.
This has completely won me. This is just outstanding, it's amazing.
Up next, we'll see how character and history combine.
This coaching inn's most famous guests allegedly was Dick Turpin.
But will this grand old place be too much for our country newcomers?
I've not seen the like of it before.
Has it taken your breath away.
It has. I didn't expect to see something like this.
Yesterday we showed John and Natalie
two very strong but different options.
They were both on the edge of John's commute.
They reacted positively to each of the houses.
Today we're going to show them the mystery property.
Now they have said they want character and charm.
Well, with this home you've got six centuries' worth.
Our mystery house is in the village of Little Stukeley
in the north west of the county.
Just an hour and 20 minutes from East London,
it is also the closest property we have found to John's work.
Boasting a plethora of charming thatched properties,
and an impressive 12th-century church,
this rural idyll may seem peaceful now.
But the village is likely to have been a haunt
for notorious robber Dick Turpin.
In fact, he may well have stayed in their next property.
John and Natalie wanted character,
but they weren't expecting to walk back in time quite this far.
So which property is it? Is it the thatch, or is it this period house?
We did say no thatch.
You did say no thatch. It is this beautiful house here.
Now, originally it was built in the 1400s,
and it was a timber home,
but in 1676 it was completely refurbished.
The outside walls, which are brick, were added,
and the plaster, all that plastering,
has actually been rendered around.
It was added. Because the owners made it into a coaching inn.
-You are going to love it.
You're going to absolutely love it.
'This medieval coach house is an acquired taste.
'It's something that John and Natalie would never have considered,
'so it'll be interesting to see how they respond to the inside.'
Let's step back in time.
-Just mind your head on the beam.
-It's an amazing entrance, isn't it?
And although it's quite low here,
are you surprised how high this ceiling is?
-I would have expected them to be a lot lower.
But just take in the walls, the exposed beams and timbers...
It is a treasure trove of history, this house.
It's like walking into some historical, I don't know, house, isn't it?
-Yeah, like a museum.
-Yeah, a museum.
It's also has some infamous guests staying here, allegedly.
Not just us. I'll explain more while we go round.
-Now, how's this for a medieval room?
-Amazing. Look at this, John.
Look at the fireplace.
It's not what I imagined at all, actually. It's a throwback in time.
I've just not seen the like of it before.
Has it taken your breath away?
It has, really. I just really didn't expect to see something like this.
-It's kind of stately home-ish, isn't it?
-Do you like it?
-I don't know.
Could you be lord of the manor?
I'm not sure, to be honest. It's kind of thrown me a bit.
With this house, there is plenty more to see. This is just the start.
'John is clearly stunned by the grand rooms, while Natalie seems intrigued.'
So another good-size reception room here.
I love the door over there.
-Yeah. Look at the age of it. Looks like an original, doesn't it?
-Yeah, it does.
-So you like this room? It's got a good feel?
-Is it big enough for you?
-Yeah, I don't see why not.
-This is your snug, isn't it?
-I think so.
-That leads us through to the back of the property and the kitchen.
'This house may be old,
'but thankfully the kitchen has been updated sympathetically.'
Now, you'll be pleased to know this isn't a period kitchen,
it's pretty modern.
Yeah, I love this. I love the cabinets and surfaces.
Fantastic sink there. Is that the butler sink?
-That's a butler sink. It's a dual butler sink.
You've got marble on the floor here, and, believe it or not,
these units are brand-new, recently gone in, but they've been done
in a sympathetic style so they don't look too new.
'Also on this level, there's a utility room
'and a downstairs bathroom, a must-have for John.
'Upstairs, there are six bedrooms set over two floors.'
Mind your head as you come through.
How's this for a bedroom?
It's in keeping with the rest of the house.
So it really does give you an idea of what you can create in a room
with a little bit of time and effort.
'The owners have modernised the other double on this floor,
'and there's also a small single bedroom.
'On the next level, there are two further large doubles and a small single,
'but on the stairs there is a curious surprise.'
Now, one of this coaching inn's most famous guests,
allegedly, was Dick Turpin.
And here we have a priest hole,
called that because centuries ago the priests used to hide,
the highwaymen used to hide in this very hole in this house.
So can you imagine what this inn has seen over the years?
And Dick Turpin could well have hidden in here.
'So there's even a place for Jack to play hide-and-seek
'when it's raining.
'Speaking of which, we're braving the recent downpour
'and heading back out into the garden.'
Now, the all-important garden.
As long as we don't clash umbrellas in this drizzle.
Where we're standing at the moment, the house was set up as a B&B,
so you've got a huge driveway.
Now, I know you wanted plenty of parking
because that's at a premium where you live at the moment, however,
you perhaps don't need this much parking.
So you could actually lay this all to turf.
So, as garden size goes, how is this for you?
I was just thinking as I walked out, "where's he going to kick his football?"
And there's the gravel.
So yes, if we could remove this somehow, if we could park down here,
that would be great.
So, this unique 15th-century house,
how much is it currently on the market for?
Just over, maybe, or...say £475,000?
I agree. I would have thought, maybe, 460, 465.
Well, you're both right. It is over your budget.
The current asking price is £485,000,
but they're emigrating so they're going to put the furniture
into the final sale, and they would be interested
in taking offers in the region of £450,000,
-so the top of your budget.
So why don't you go back into the dry, have a look round,
because it is the most wonderful home. It really is.
It's there to be loved.
-The question is, are you two the right people to do it?
-Go and enjoy it. I'll catch up with you later.
Although it's over budget at £485,000,
the vendors are open to offers.
With six bedrooms, a stylish country kitchen and two reception rooms,
there's plenty of space for visitors.
There's a downstairs cloakroom for John
and a large garden for the children.
But is it all too much for our city slickers?
It just keeps going on, doesn't it?
I think this would be great for the children.
It's really quirky, isn't it, upstairs?
You could almost give them the floor, couldn't you, with a friend, to stay?
The mystery house is probably one of the most unique houses
I've ever been into.
Really not what I expected at all.
It's a step back in time, but as I went through the house
it warmed up for me. It got better and better, really.
-All right, guys?
-Are you happy?
You guys have a lot to think about, so let's find you somewhere
-where you can gather your thoughts.
It may have been the busy waterways that created vibrant and historic riverside towns such as St Ives,
but it's agriculture that has generated
high-quality produce, bringing commerce and trade to the county.
And the Fens are a major part of this, being such a fertile
and well-irrigated part of the landscape.
But not all Fens produce ends up on our plates.
As far back as the 11th century,
reference was made in the Domesday Book
to the area around Wisbech as a centre for the country's flower industry,
and despite the influx of flowers from overseas,
horticulture is still very much at the heart of farming here.
To find out more, I'm meeting local rose expert John Turner,
who's been growing flowers on his holding for over 30 years.
-John, great to meet you.
-Nice to meet you, Nicki.
Standing here, it's a feast to the eyes.
-We're surrounded by... roughly how many rose bushes, would you say?
My goodness. I mean, just this variety here... Which one's this?
This is Lady Of Shalott.
It's beautiful colours, as far as the eye can see.
What is it about this part of the world
that is so good for growing roses?
Well, for horticulture in general, Cambridgeshire and the Fens?
Well, the soil is very good soil structure.
Good free-draining soil, mostly.
And got good body in it, so the roses like it.
I can see, John, people hard at work, part of your team,
with the plants.
Is there any process that could be done by machinery,
or is it all done by hand?
No, there are some processes,
but you still need the skilled labour to carry out certain jobs
on the nursery, and budding and patching is a prime example.
If you'd like to see that, we can show you that on another field.
I'd love to. Am I going to be a budder or a patcher?
-You'll have to be a patcher, I'm afraid.
-You're not quite skilled enough at the moment.
-Well, I know I'm in safe hands. Let's see if I can have a go.
An estimated 20 million roses are grown every year in the UK,
and although some of the process can be mechanised,
budding and patching is not one of them.
Roses can be grown from seed, but the variety of rose you end up with
may not be what you expect, so, on a commercial level, it's much safer
to grow a root stock of roses and attach, or patch, a bulb to the stem.
This ensures a hardier, more resilient plant, and also means
that you'll definitely get the variety of rose you're expecting.
So, this whole field has got to be done by hand?
That's right, by skilled budders.
So you're budding and I'm going to be putting...
-It looks like a plaster.
-OK. Let's go.
'Working in groups of two, the skill of budding
'and patching takes time to perfect.
'I just hope I'm up to the challenge.'
-OK. Which bush are we going to select?
-we'll have a go on this one.
-Make the cut.
-Open the stalk up.
And insert the bud.
-Cut the tail off.
-So, here is the patch.
-Pull it round.
-It really is like a plaster.
And then it goes through. Ooh.
-Without going through my skin.
-That's well done.
-So that is going to protect it?
-That's going to protect it.
So when will that plant be available to be sold?
That will be available 2011/2012.
Wow, could be a championship variety there.
Probably call it Nicki.
-We'll see it at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.
-We might do, yes.
John, thank you so much. I don't think I could do 5,000 of those.
I think I'd manage to do about one row, I think, in a day.
-And that would be pushing it.
-Probably me also.
-John, thanks very much indeed.
-Thank you very much.
Now that John and Natalie have gathered their thoughts, it's time to find out
which property is closest to their dream of a house in the country.
Well, John and Natalie,
boy, have we travelled the length and breadth of this county?
Have you truly fallen in love with it? Is it what you expected?
-Love the county, I'm glad we chose Cambridgeshire.
-It's turned out
to be everything we expected and a little bit more.
We started off our search in a little village called Welney,
right on the Norfolk and Cambridgeshire border.
What were your initial thoughts when you saw that?
I liked it, I thought it was a lovely place.
The house was very nice.
The room sizes, I loved the sizes of the rooms there.
-It was great, and the kitchen was good.
-It ticked all the boxes, as well.
-So a good start, that property, for you both?
-Very good start, yes.
Now, we looked at a house, 1850, in the village of Great Gidding.
It was right in the centre of the village. There would have to be a little bit of upkeep with it.
Could you imagine yourself living there?
For us to live there, there'd be work to do on the house, but...
Quite extensive work, isn't it?
What we want to do to it, that's the thing. But for that garden, I mean, I'd be prepared to do that.
I don't think you can beat that.
The last house was the mystery property.
And possibly a property that you two wouldn't even have considered.
The more I saw it, the more I felt comfortable with it.
The more it became homely, really. It didn't at first.
It was very quirky, you know, awkward-shaped steps.
-It's something that you'd get used to.
It was a beautiful place,
but I don't know if I'd want to live in a place like that.
Natalie, you lost your heart a bit to it, didn't you?
I did, and I was surprised, really, because at first I was intimidated.
-As I saw more...
-Intimidated in a nice way?
What's your next move going to be? Because I can't quite read you.
I know you loved the first one, but was it enough? Put me out of my misery.
We kind of had a little chat about it,
and we'll probably go back and see both the first and the second property.
I mean, that is brilliant news.
And I'll be keeping my fingers crossed with both of those properties.
-All the best, because it is such a big move.
For John and Natalie,
this move is all about giving their children the rural childhood they didn't have.
And I think the last few days has really confirmed in their minds
that they are ready to leave the smoke
and make Cambridgeshire their new home.
Now, if you're tempted by the countryside, join us again soon.
If you'd like to escape to the country
in Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland or England
and need our help, please apply online at bbc.co.uk/beonashow.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
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Nicki Chapman goes house-hunting with a couple who are ditching east London life to move to Cambridgeshire with their two children.
With a budget of 450,000 pounds, good schools and a large garden are a must. They are after contemporary country living, so will a medieval 15th-century coach house be too daunting a proposition?