Cambridgeshire Escape to the Country


Cambridgeshire

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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Transcript


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This is the ancestral home of the reputedly hard gambling man

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who gave his name it to the most humble of foods -

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the sandwich.

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Where am I?

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Join me to find out for another lip-smacking Escape To The Country.

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With their London terrace on the market,

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today's city-based house-hunters are seeking sanctuary in the country,

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for both themselves and their children.

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Room for the kids to run. That's what it's about.

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I think Jack would be happy here.

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I think this would be great for the children.

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It's really quirky, isn't it? Upstairs?

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And a character property is definitely on the agenda.

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Amazing! Look at the fireplace.

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But will their country escape suit parent and child?

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-Do you like it?

-I don't know.

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Today I'm in Cambridgeshire, and this is Hinchingbrooke House,

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once home to John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich.

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Now the story goes that as a voracious card player,

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he'd get his valet to bring him meat,

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tucked into two pieces of bread,

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so he could continue his cribbage without getting his cards greasy.

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In time, others used to ask for "the same as Sandwich"

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and the name was born.

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But it's not the only thing in this county to make your mouth water.

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In the heart of East Anglia,

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the landlocked county of Cambridgeshire

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covers over 1,300 square miles.

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In 2009, over 4.5 million people made a beeline to Cambridge,

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to gently punt along the River Cam,

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and soak up the sights of the world famous university.

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But there's more to Cambridgeshire than this historic town.

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Delving deeper into the countryside to the north,

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you'll find Holme Fen, the lowest point in Britain

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and one of nine nature reserves in the county.

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The horizon of the Cambridgeshire Fens is only broken

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by medieval churches and cathedrals

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that stand like soaring monoliths across the landscape.

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Towering over the east of the county is the 11th-century Ely Cathedral

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which sits within one of the smallest cities in England.

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Fondly referred to as The Ship Of The Fens,

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it could be seen for miles across this vast, watery plain.

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But it's the villages that so easily charm passers-by.

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Timber and brick homes built from locally-sourced materials

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add the finishing touch to this attractive county.

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A detached property here in Cambridgeshire

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would set you back around £265,000.

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That's just 7% higher than the national average.

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But these figures don't give the true picture.

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Never historically a wealthy county,

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the construction of the M11 was the making of modern Cambridgeshire,

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putting the south of the county firmly in the London commuter belt.

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That prices in the south are on average

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37% higher than in the north is testament to that fact.

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So let's take a look at what's currently on the market.

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In Terrington St John,

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this detached house is on the market for just under £300,000.

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The rustic beams in the spacious living area

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continue into the kitchen diner.

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There are four good-sized bedrooms

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and the conservatory looks out over a finely manicured garden.

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Further up the property ladder in Conington, you can pick up

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this beautifully restored period property for £499,000.

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The country kitchen is simply stunning.

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The living room boasts a host of period features

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that continue in the bedrooms.

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And to the rear, a patio looks out over the expansive garden.

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Finally, for £825,000,

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this Grade 2 listed village house in Shudy Camps dates back to 1537.

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With character oozing from the kitchen

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and exposed beams in every room,

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the period features just keep coming.

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The two reception rooms both have an inglenook fireplace.

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The four bedrooms are charming and the garden's immaculate.

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With its rural charm and properties to match,

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Cambridgeshire has plenty to tempt even a self-confessed city slicker.

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And this week's couple are definitely that.

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So let's meet them.

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Professional couple John and Natalie

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have lived together in John's three-bedroom East London terrace,

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since Natalie moved in four years ago.

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With their son Jack fast approaching school-age

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and one-year-old Rebecca growing up fast,

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it's now or never if they want to make their rural dream a reality.

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The priority now is, basically, schools.

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Jack is one of those children

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that will probably be the youngest in his class.

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He's three quite soon so he's only got another year

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and we need to get settled before he starts school.

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Definitely. We have talked about moving for so long

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so it's now or never really.

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So how do John and Natalie picture life in the country?

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I think what we're really looking for is to find somewhere

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that's nice and peaceful, some beautiful surroundings,

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some nice, open spaces.

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-We don't want to be too remote.

-It's for our children.

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We're not looking through rose-tinted glasses. We've thought this through.

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It's a lot to leave behind but it's an adventure going forward.

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And what sort of property should we be looking for?

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Four to five bedrooms, detached property.

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We'd like a nice country kitchen

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-because most of our socialising is all in the kitchen.

-Yeah.

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I would like a utility room and definitely a downstairs toilet.

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They're also after a workshop for John to practise his hobby of model-making

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and more outside space than they currently have.

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One of the most important things for us

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is to find somewhere with a bigger garden for the children.

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When it comes down to brass tacks,

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if we don't get a nice size garden for the kids to run around in

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and that feeling of space and freedom,

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especially for the youngsters, we may as well stay here.

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Sounds logical but why Cambridgeshire?

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I work in Newham, East London,

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and the roads are perfect to lead down to Cambridgeshire.

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We initially said an hour from my place of employment

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but now we've stretched that to an hour and a half.

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But that extra half an hour gives us another 30 miles on the motorway,

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which takes us 30 miles past the commuter belt

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Also, we get more for our money the further we go out.

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Finally, how much do John and Natalie have to spend

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on their first family home in the country?

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Our absolute limit for the new house is £450,000.

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That's with the sale of this house and some savings we've got.

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That's our absolute limit.

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Weary of London life,

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John and Natalie are hoping to swap city sirens for birdsong

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with their aim of bringing their brood up in rural Cambridgeshire.

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They're after a detached property with four bedrooms,

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enough space downstairs so the adults don't trip up over the children

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and, crucially, a large enough garden so the little ones can run free.

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So far, so good.

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But their budget of £450,000 won't stretch that far

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in the south of the county so we may need to look further afield

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to find them both something that fits the bill.

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To find a family home that meets their expectations,

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we'll be casting our property net to the north of Cambridgeshire,

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ensuring that John is within reasonable distance to his place of work in east London.

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We'll be showing our couple from the capital three properties

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but won't be telling them the price until the end of the house tours.

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Then there's the mystery house,

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a property chosen to push their boundaries.

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John and Natalie, welcome to Cambridgeshire.

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I think we've picked the most fantastic day to start our search.

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You know Cambridgeshire a little bit

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and I'm sure you're both aware that its close proximity to London

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means that you are still in the commuter belt,

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which is reflected in the prices, especially in the south of the county.

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-John, I know you're going to commute back into London?

-Yes.

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So are you both prepared to be a bit flexible about that?

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We might have to look further afield to make sure your money gets what you want.

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I think 90 minutes or maybe just a little more each way is doable.

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There's a cut off, you know.

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I don't want to spend four or five hours a day on a motorway.

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Of course.

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-I think 90 minutes is probably... maybe a little bit more.

-OK.

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-That's good there's a bit of flexibility.

-Definitely.

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We're happy to look.

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If you can show us the house of our dreams and we walk in and that's the one then...

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-You'll weigh it all up.

-Definitely.

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Now, let's talk money.

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-Your budget is still £450,000?

-Yes.

-Yeah, we said 450 max.

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We don't want any work to be done on the property.

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If it's 450, it needs to be pretty much everything's there.

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Well we've got three great properties lined up for you and the children.

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-So shall we get started?

-Definitely.

-Come on then.

-Cool.

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With a top budget of £450,000,

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John and Natalie are after...

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How well do you think you'll both settle into country life?

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Because it is so different than living in a city.

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I think that's what we're looking forward to.

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It's like a new chapter of your life.

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It's all about learning new things, new ways of living.

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The idea is to change

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so we're kind of looking forward to the challenge or the opportunity, whichever way you look at it.

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Our first property is tucked inside the Cambridgeshire border

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near the village of Welney, which just nudges into Norfolk.

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Once famed for its ice-skating and wildfowl hunting,

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both have become part of a bygone era.

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But this charming village does have an impressive 19th-century church and a pub

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so John and Natalie can get to know some of the 500 residents.

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Although it pushes their ideal commute,

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this property has loads of kerb appeal.

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Let's take a look.

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-That's nice.

-A cottage.

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Good first impression?

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Definitely. It's detached, I can see, just looking round.

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It's actually an old farmhouse,

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built at the turn of the century but extended in 2003.

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It's a nice quiet location. It looks a lovely-size detached property.

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I just want to get inside and have a look.

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We want to get inside, all three of us. Come on.

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Off to a good start.

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The mix of old and new on the outside is seamless

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and inside, it gets even better.

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So you come through the porch straight into this little snug.

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That's nice. Beams!

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I've never stayed in a place with beams.

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-Have you not?

-No.

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And this is one of the reception rooms, as you walk in.

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You've got another one behind us,

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-that's currently used as a children's room.

-Fantastic.

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With little ones, if you do have the next door in their play area,

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-you want to be quite close, don't you?

-Definitely.

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The great thing is the layout of this house, it really flows,

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-because the kitchen's just through here.

-Great.

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-This is nice.

-Yeah, this is lovely.

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I know you're both keen to get a country kitchen, quite a large one.

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Yeah, it's top three on the list,

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because I've got quite a big family that like to visit en masse

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and we socialise in the kitchen.

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There's plenty of room in here, in this house.

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You could have the family dinners here,

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but when you've got the extended family with you,

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you're going to need a little bit more room.

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So we've got an answer to that in the conservatory.

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Because through here is the dining room in a conservatory.

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That's very nice. I didn't expect that.

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No, didn't expect that.

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It's a good space.

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Nice size table.

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The floor follows us through.

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The parquet flooring, all the way through - nice.

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I haven't shown you the biggest room of the house downstairs.

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I'll squeeze past you, back through the kitchen.

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So far we haven't put a foot wrong.

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and I have a little surprise for John on the way.

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En route, I just wanted to show you this.

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The utility room that leads through to the downstairs cloakroom.

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-Just for you, John, because I know...

-Top of the wish-list!

-Top of the wish list!

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-That's going to make you happy.

-Definitely. Thank you.

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-Wow!

-Lordy, lord.

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That's unexpected.

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There's more. Gosh, I love the floor.

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-That's a beautiful room.

-You've got oak flooring.

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Fireplaces. A lovely view outside. Lovely French doors that open up, patio area, decking area.

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-Is this new? Is this an extension?

-This is. This was done in 2003.

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I think it works so well with the property.

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Lovely. Really surprised.

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Well let's head upstairs

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and hope there's enough space for you there as well.

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Apart from an upstairs family bathroom,

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they're four double bedrooms in all,

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the largest has a dual aspect, but we're heading to the master suite.

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-Oh, God.

-Step inside.

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That's what I'm talking about, a window .

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-Stunning, absolutely stunning.

-Yeah.

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-What's through here? What's this door?

-That's storage.

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So you've got a walk-in closet, cupboard, there.

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Through that door, you've your own en-suite.

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-OK.

-That's amazing.

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The house seems to have hit the spot for the both of you.

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Let's go downstairs to see what you think of the garden

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and at the same time, you're going to have to consider how much this is all worth.

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This property just keeps on giving. Set in half an acre,

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the lawned garden has plenty of space for the children.

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So at the end of your garden, you have the most spectacular view,

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literally right over your fence.

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It's beautiful.

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Amazing, didn't expect this.

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You don't ever imagine you could live on the end of a field, do you, John?

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How wonderful.

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That is lovely, but what about the garden?

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I just think this is a fantastic space.

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But the question is, is it big enough?

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I know the garden is very important to the both of you.

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-Plenty of room for the kids to run, that's what it's about.

-You've got a double carport.

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It looks like a chalet standing this side of it, it's actually a workshop.

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They keep their dogs in it at the moment,

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but you could easily transform that into a workshop.

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And the gazebo here has electricity. There used to be a hot tub in it,

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-that might be worth reinstating.

-Yeah, why not?

-How much do you think this house is worth?

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I'd say £450,000.

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OK. John?

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I think Natalie may be right, but maybe...

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£435,000.

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You're hedging your bets. Natalie might be right, but £435,000.

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Maybe, I don't know what property goes for a little bit further out, so I don't know.

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Current asking price,

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£375,000.

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-Gosh!

-No.

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Well below your budget.

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-Really?

-With views like this, I'm surprised.

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Exactly, with this amazing location,

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beautiful village, primary school in this village,

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and one in the surrounding area as well,

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why don't you go and have another browse around,

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because that does give you more money to play with.

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-Thanks very much.

-Thank you.

-Off you go.

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It may be just outside the 90 minute commute to John's work,

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but that is reflected in the £375,000 price tag.

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But will the commuting distance be an issue?

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If my kids can get what they want,

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a nice quiet lifestyle,

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plenty of room to run around in,

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then the commute and the price makes it more than worthwhile.

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-Enough room?

-Definitely enough room.

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I think Jack would be happy here.

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It's brilliant, the kids will love it.

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It's fantastic. I can see things around me.

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I'm not completely on my own, it's not remote.

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Well, you two, have you seen enough?

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-Yeah, we've seen enough.

-Yeah?

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-Wonderful.

-Look at those smiles!

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It's a great start, but we've got more to show you.

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So let's keep going. Come on.

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Cambridgeshire may be a county of horizontals,

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but what it lacks in hills and dales, it makes up for in rich farmland.

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89% of the Fens in the north of the county are of the highest farming quality

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and by the Middle Ages, the marshy waterways were teeming with customers and cargo.

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Reaching its height in the 12th century,

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St Ives grew up as a busy commercial centre on the River Ouse,

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and once boasted the biggest market in England.

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John and Natalie are newcomers to the area

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so we've organised for local historian, Bob Burn-Murdoch,

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to give them a tour of this interesting medieval town.

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Hello, there. How do you do? Welcome.

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Built in the 1420s, this bridge is one of the last remaining

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in the country to have an integrated chapel.

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The idea behind this architectural curiosity

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was to offer travellers a place to give thanks for a safe journey.

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There were a few bridge chapels built in the Middle Ages

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but very few have survived.

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St Ives is the only good looking bridge chapel left.

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You had the chapel up on the road level.

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Also, chapel and toll house together, because you had to pay to cross it,

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and of course, the ideal place for having a toll house, is in the middle of the bridge, like this,

0:18:510:18:56

so you can't sneak past without paying.

0:18:560:18:58

Upstairs, the vicar-come-traffic-warden

0:18:580:19:01

would offer services in the chapel,

0:19:010:19:03

while demanding a charge for those crossing the bridge.

0:19:030:19:06

But this bridge is also unique

0:19:060:19:08

due to the pointed Gothic arches on one side, and rounded arches on the other.

0:19:080:19:13

In the 17th century, during the English Civil War,

0:19:130:19:16

half of the bridge was blown up by Cromwell's Roundheads

0:19:160:19:20

to stop the King's troops advancing.

0:19:200:19:22

By the beginning of the 18th century,

0:19:220:19:24

the townsfolk decided to reinstate the stone arches,

0:19:240:19:28

but in the rounded Cromwell-esque fashion of the day.

0:19:280:19:31

Controversial to the last,

0:19:310:19:33

Cromwell had a way of splitting public opinion even after his time.

0:19:330:19:37

In 1901, a statue of the man was erected causing quite a stir.

0:19:370:19:43

So, here we are. This is the statue of the most famous St Ives resident, Oliver Cromwell.

0:19:430:19:48

And we shouldn't really have the statue here,

0:19:480:19:50

because Cromwell only lived in St Ives for a few years,

0:19:500:19:53

and he was born in Huntington, just up the road.

0:19:530:19:56

But when they were going to put the statue up in 1899,

0:19:560:19:59

the people of Huntington were a bit horrified at having a statue

0:19:590:20:02

to the man who cut the King's head off

0:20:020:20:04

and so instead of putting it there, it came to St Ives.

0:20:040:20:08

People in St Ives were perfectly happy with the idea

0:20:080:20:10

and fund-raising went ahead very briskly

0:20:100:20:13

and we raised the money to pay for the statue,

0:20:130:20:15

and it's the only statue of Cromwell anywhere in the country

0:20:150:20:18

that's paid for by public subscription by the ordinary people.

0:20:180:20:22

All the other statues were paid for by benefactors.

0:20:220:20:25

-So how much did it cost?

-Just over £1,000.

0:20:250:20:28

-Which was an extortionate amount of money.

-That's right, yeah.

-Absolutely.

0:20:280:20:32

Cromwell isn't the only public figure the people of St Ives dubiously claim for themselves.

0:20:330:20:38

The town is named after Ivo,

0:20:380:20:40

a Persian bishop who was supposedly buried here at the beginning

0:20:400:20:44

of the 11th century, but even this fact is shrouded in uncertainty.

0:20:440:20:49

Here we are. This is stone wall here is now all that's left

0:20:490:20:52

of the Priory, St Ivo's Priory, built on the spot where the bones had been found.

0:20:520:20:57

But about 1,000 years later,

0:20:570:21:00

we discover what we think is the true story behind those bones.

0:21:000:21:03

And when these houses here were built in the 1980s,

0:21:030:21:06

there was an archaeological dig on the site

0:21:060:21:09

and they went down through the layers associated with the priory

0:21:090:21:12

and underneath, they found the remains of a Roman villa

0:21:120:21:15

and the Romans buried their dead in stone coffins.

0:21:150:21:18

So, we think the real explanation for that coffin

0:21:180:21:20

was it wasn't a Persian bishop, it was a Romano-British farmer.

0:21:200:21:24

They may have found some sort of inscription perhaps with an IV,

0:21:240:21:27

the Latin letter, the Latin number four,

0:21:270:21:30

and misinterpreted that as being the name Ivo.

0:21:300:21:32

After all these years, we finally discover that the whole town,

0:21:320:21:36

the name of the town, is a case of mistaken identity.

0:21:360:21:38

Mistaken identity or not, the quirky history of St Ives is intriguing.

0:21:380:21:44

But it's time to get back on the road.

0:21:490:21:53

Just 90 minutes from John's work,

0:21:530:21:54

our second property is in the village of Great Gidding

0:21:540:21:57

in the north-west of Cambridgeshire.

0:21:570:22:00

The thatched properties that were once so prevalent have all but disappeared,

0:22:000:22:04

save a few prize examples,

0:22:040:22:06

and the local church is in a stunning condition

0:22:060:22:09

and dates back to the 13th century.

0:22:090:22:12

Because John and Natalie didn't want to be too cut off from village life,

0:22:120:22:16

we've chosen a property right in the midst of all the action.

0:22:160:22:19

So this farmhouse, which was attached to the manor, is our second property.

0:22:220:22:26

-What are your first impressions?

-A very nice property.

0:22:260:22:30

-It looks fresh and new.

-Yeah, very attractive.

0:22:300:22:33

It has been refurbished about 24 years ago,

0:22:330:22:36

but the farmhouse actually dates back to the 1850s.

0:22:360:22:39

It was attached to the manor house that was just up the hill.

0:22:390:22:43

The one thing is property does do is it backs on to a main road.

0:22:430:22:46

How do you feel about that as a location?

0:22:460:22:49

I think with our children being so young, it would probably cast a shadow.

0:22:490:22:54

We just need to divert that road.

0:22:540:22:56

Yeah, it'd be nice.

0:22:560:22:58

Let's take a step inside the farmhouse and have a look around.

0:22:580:23:02

Although the exterior is in good condition,

0:23:030:23:06

there is work to be done inside to turn this house

0:23:060:23:09

into the family home that John and Natalie are looking for.

0:23:090:23:13

Do come on in.

0:23:130:23:15

I'm bringing you straight into one of the main reception rooms.

0:23:150:23:19

So, very, very different from the house we saw this morning.

0:23:190:23:23

-But full of character and charm.

-It's definitely full of character.

0:23:230:23:27

-The ceilings are quite low.

-Yeah.

0:23:270:23:29

And it's just completely the opposite to what we live in now.

0:23:290:23:33

But you can see the merits?

0:23:330:23:35

-Yes.

-Yeah.

-Definitely.

0:23:350:23:37

-It's a nice room, it's very nice room, yeah.

-Excellent, OK.

0:23:370:23:40

Let's continue through.

0:23:400:23:42

John may have his doubts so far, but to the rear of the property

0:23:420:23:46

I have some surprises that should sway his opinion.

0:23:460:23:50

So, through here we have the dining room.

0:23:500:23:52

As you walk through this farmhouse, you get a feeling

0:23:520:23:55

that it's like a cottage in a way, the way the rooms are laid out.

0:23:550:23:59

But what this dining room does have is the most amazing view.

0:23:590:24:03

-Beautiful.

-Absolutely.

-I'll show you through there soon.

0:24:030:24:06

I want to take you to explain about the kitchen.

0:24:060:24:09

So, this obviously is the current kitchen.

0:24:110:24:14

Average space, but...

0:24:140:24:16

..you want a nice, big country kitchen, don't you?

0:24:160:24:20

You could knock this through, with the right planning consent, and actually take it next door

0:24:200:24:26

because that is a study.

0:24:260:24:27

Next door - John, this is just for you - the downstairs cloakroom.

0:24:270:24:31

I know that gets you excited. It's also got a shower as well.

0:24:310:24:35

And the reason it's got a shower is across the hallway

0:24:350:24:38

is a downstairs bedroom.

0:24:380:24:40

Fantastic.

0:24:400:24:41

Also on this level is a conservatory,

0:24:410:24:44

a perfect children's play area.

0:24:440:24:46

But we're heading upstairs to explore John and Natalie's sleeping quarters.

0:24:460:24:50

-So this is your master bedroom.

-OK.

0:24:500:24:54

A real cottage-y feeling in the upstairs of the property.

0:24:540:24:57

And, how many wardrobes can you fit into a bedroom?

0:24:570:25:01

-There's quite a lot there.

-Plenty!

0:25:010:25:03

Thing is, would it be big enough for the two of you?

0:25:030:25:06

It is cosy in here, definitely. It's a nice room.

0:25:060:25:09

This level has another double bedroom

0:25:090:25:11

and a single bedroom.

0:25:110:25:13

There's also a family bathroom.

0:25:130:25:16

But we're heading out into the fantastic garden that comes complete with a huge workshop,

0:25:160:25:22

perfect for John's penchant for model-making. So, here's an amazing garden.

0:25:220:25:26

And not only that, you've got cows right at the very end.

0:25:260:25:30

-Do you think the kids would like cows?

-I think they'd love it. This has completely won me, to be honest.

0:25:300:25:35

-This is just outstanding, it's amazing.

-It's an amazing garden.

0:25:350:25:39

Someone's put a lot of work in and it's a beautiful.

0:25:390:25:42

It is beautiful. It's just over half an acre.

0:25:420:25:44

You've got a Wendy house there,

0:25:440:25:46

-which the owner actually built himself.

-OK.

0:25:460:25:49

The stable block has been converted into a gym.

0:25:490:25:53

That's got electricity, so you could use that as a play area,

0:25:530:25:56

as a bar for your friends and family, whatever you wanted.

0:25:560:25:59

And you're surrounded by countryside.

0:25:590:26:02

So, how much do you think this house is currently on the market for?

0:26:020:26:06

I would have thought maybe £440,000.

0:26:060:26:10

-Natalie?

-Yeah, I'm going for 415, actually.

0:26:100:26:13

Maybe I'm being too optimistic? Cos we have a lot of land. I mean, it is lovely here.

0:26:130:26:18

If it was 415, do you think that's a good price,

0:26:180:26:21

that you'd be interested?

0:26:210:26:23

Yeah, because we got the money there

0:26:230:26:25

and that would be enough to make the changes.

0:26:250:26:28

The garden for me is just outstanding.

0:26:280:26:31

I just want to put it Jack in here now, really.

0:26:310:26:34

The current asking price for this property is £415,000.

0:26:340:26:38

-Really? Gosh.

-You were absolutely bang on the money.

0:26:380:26:42

-It wasn't just wishful thinking, then!

-No.

0:26:420:26:45

You've just said to me you'd be interested, so I'm hoping that is the case.

0:26:450:26:49

Have another look round the house, if you could really work for you,

0:26:490:26:52

-because there always has to be a compromise somewhere.

-Definitely.

-Off you go.

-Thank you.

-Thank you.

0:26:520:26:58

For Natalie, the impressive space outside

0:27:000:27:02

clearly outweighs the close proximity to the road,

0:27:020:27:05

and the property is well under-budget.

0:27:050:27:10

There's a country kitchen with room to expand, four bedrooms,

0:27:100:27:13

and outside there is a huge workshop and that garden.

0:27:130:27:17

But will the work needed inside be a stumbling block for John?

0:27:170:27:21

The garden for me sort of sells the house.

0:27:210:27:23

-I don't know about you, what you feel?

-It's a beautiful.

0:27:230:27:26

I like the house, I like the look of the house.

0:27:260:27:30

You can see it's been treated with tender, loving care over the years.

0:27:300:27:34

I'm just a bit concerned that the upstairs

0:27:340:27:39

is a bit small for what we need.

0:27:390:27:41

I just love the garden. I want this to be mine.

0:27:410:27:44

I want to sit in here in the summer. I want all my friends to bring their children and enjoy it with us.

0:27:440:27:49

Are you guys happy? Have you seen enough?

0:27:520:27:54

Yes, thank you.

0:27:540:27:55

It is typical, it's a lot quieter now as we leave. Come on.

0:27:550:27:59

As the sun drops below the Cambridgeshire lowlands,

0:28:070:28:10

John and Natalie will have plenty on their minds

0:28:100:28:12

after their first day house-hunting.

0:28:120:28:15

Today's house hunters are swapping a terraced house in London

0:28:180:28:23

for a character property in the country.

0:28:230:28:26

This has completely won me. This is just outstanding, it's amazing.

0:28:260:28:31

Up next, we'll see how character and history combine.

0:28:310:28:34

This coaching inn's most famous guests allegedly was Dick Turpin.

0:28:340:28:39

But will this grand old place be too much for our country newcomers?

0:28:390:28:43

I've not seen the like of it before.

0:28:430:28:45

Has it taken your breath away.

0:28:450:28:47

It has. I didn't expect to see something like this.

0:28:470:28:49

Yesterday we showed John and Natalie

0:28:530:28:55

two very strong but different options.

0:28:550:28:58

They were both on the edge of John's commute.

0:28:580:29:02

They reacted positively to each of the houses.

0:29:020:29:05

Today we're going to show them the mystery property.

0:29:050:29:08

Now they have said they want character and charm.

0:29:080:29:11

Well, with this home you've got six centuries' worth.

0:29:110:29:15

Our mystery house is in the village of Little Stukeley

0:29:150:29:18

in the north west of the county.

0:29:180:29:20

Just an hour and 20 minutes from East London,

0:29:200:29:23

it is also the closest property we have found to John's work.

0:29:230:29:27

Boasting a plethora of charming thatched properties,

0:29:270:29:30

and an impressive 12th-century church,

0:29:300:29:32

this rural idyll may seem peaceful now.

0:29:320:29:35

But the village is likely to have been a haunt

0:29:350:29:37

for notorious robber Dick Turpin.

0:29:370:29:39

In fact, he may well have stayed in their next property.

0:29:390:29:44

John and Natalie wanted character,

0:29:440:29:46

but they weren't expecting to walk back in time quite this far.

0:29:460:29:50

So which property is it? Is it the thatch, or is it this period house?

0:29:500:29:57

We did say no thatch.

0:29:570:29:59

You did say no thatch. It is this beautiful house here.

0:29:590:30:03

-Oh, OK.

-Lovely.

0:30:030:30:05

Now, originally it was built in the 1400s,

0:30:050:30:08

and it was a timber home,

0:30:080:30:10

but in 1676 it was completely refurbished.

0:30:100:30:14

The outside walls, which are brick, were added,

0:30:140:30:16

and the plaster, all that plastering,

0:30:160:30:18

has actually been rendered around.

0:30:180:30:20

It was added. Because the owners made it into a coaching inn.

0:30:200:30:23

-I'm intrigued.

-You are going to love it.

0:30:230:30:25

You're going to absolutely love it.

0:30:250:30:27

'This medieval coach house is an acquired taste.

0:30:270:30:31

'It's something that John and Natalie would never have considered,

0:30:310:30:34

'so it'll be interesting to see how they respond to the inside.'

0:30:340:30:37

Let's step back in time.

0:30:370:30:41

-Gosh.

-Just mind your head on the beam.

-Wow.

0:30:430:30:46

-Wow.

-It's an amazing entrance, isn't it?

0:30:460:30:49

And although it's quite low here,

0:30:490:30:51

are you surprised how high this ceiling is?

0:30:510:30:54

-Definitely, yes.

-I would have expected them to be a lot lower.

0:30:540:30:57

But just take in the walls, the exposed beams and timbers...

0:30:570:31:02

It is a treasure trove of history, this house.

0:31:020:31:05

It's like walking into some historical, I don't know, house, isn't it?

0:31:050:31:09

-Yeah, like a museum.

-Yeah, a museum.

0:31:090:31:12

It's also has some infamous guests staying here, allegedly.

0:31:120:31:15

Not just us. I'll explain more while we go round.

0:31:150:31:19

-Now, how's this for a medieval room?

-Amazing. Look at this, John.

0:31:220:31:26

Look at the fireplace.

0:31:260:31:27

It's not what I imagined at all, actually. It's a throwback in time.

0:31:270:31:31

I've just not seen the like of it before.

0:31:310:31:33

Has it taken your breath away?

0:31:330:31:35

It has, really. I just really didn't expect to see something like this.

0:31:350:31:38

-It's kind of stately home-ish, isn't it?

-Yeah.

0:31:380:31:41

-Do you like it?

-I don't know.

0:31:410:31:43

Could you be lord of the manor?

0:31:430:31:45

I'm not sure, to be honest. It's kind of thrown me a bit.

0:31:450:31:49

With this house, there is plenty more to see. This is just the start.

0:31:490:31:55

'John is clearly stunned by the grand rooms, while Natalie seems intrigued.'

0:31:550:32:00

So another good-size reception room here.

0:32:010:32:06

I love the door over there.

0:32:060:32:07

-Yeah. Look at the age of it. Looks like an original, doesn't it?

-Yeah, it does.

0:32:070:32:11

-So you like this room? It's got a good feel?

-It's nice.

0:32:110:32:13

-Is it big enough for you?

-Yeah, I don't see why not.

0:32:130:32:17

-This is your snug, isn't it?

-Yeah.

-I think so.

0:32:170:32:19

-That leads us through to the back of the property and the kitchen.

-OK.

0:32:190:32:23

'This house may be old,

0:32:230:32:25

'but thankfully the kitchen has been updated sympathetically.'

0:32:250:32:29

Now, you'll be pleased to know this isn't a period kitchen,

0:32:300:32:34

it's pretty modern.

0:32:340:32:36

Yeah, I love this. I love the cabinets and surfaces.

0:32:360:32:40

Fantastic sink there. Is that the butler sink?

0:32:400:32:43

-That's a butler sink. It's a dual butler sink.

-Yes.

0:32:430:32:46

You've got marble on the floor here, and, believe it or not,

0:32:460:32:49

these units are brand-new, recently gone in, but they've been done

0:32:490:32:53

in a sympathetic style so they don't look too new.

0:32:530:32:55

'Also on this level, there's a utility room

0:32:550:32:59

'and a downstairs bathroom, a must-have for John.

0:32:590:33:02

'Upstairs, there are six bedrooms set over two floors.'

0:33:020:33:05

Mind your head as you come through.

0:33:080:33:11

How's this for a bedroom?

0:33:130:33:15

It's in keeping with the rest of the house.

0:33:150:33:18

So it really does give you an idea of what you can create in a room

0:33:180:33:21

with a little bit of time and effort.

0:33:210:33:24

'The owners have modernised the other double on this floor,

0:33:240:33:27

'and there's also a small single bedroom.

0:33:270:33:30

'On the next level, there are two further large doubles and a small single,

0:33:300:33:34

'but on the stairs there is a curious surprise.'

0:33:340:33:37

Now, one of this coaching inn's most famous guests,

0:33:380:33:41

allegedly, was Dick Turpin.

0:33:410:33:44

And here we have a priest hole,

0:33:440:33:47

called that because centuries ago the priests used to hide,

0:33:470:33:50

but apparently,

0:33:500:33:51

the highwaymen used to hide in this very hole in this house.

0:33:510:33:54

So can you imagine what this inn has seen over the years?

0:33:540:33:58

And Dick Turpin could well have hidden in here.

0:33:580:34:02

'So there's even a place for Jack to play hide-and-seek

0:34:020:34:05

'when it's raining.

0:34:050:34:06

'Speaking of which, we're braving the recent downpour

0:34:060:34:09

'and heading back out into the garden.'

0:34:090:34:12

Now, the all-important garden.

0:34:140:34:18

As long as we don't clash umbrellas in this drizzle.

0:34:180:34:20

Where we're standing at the moment, the house was set up as a B&B,

0:34:200:34:24

so you've got a huge driveway.

0:34:240:34:26

Now, I know you wanted plenty of parking

0:34:260:34:28

because that's at a premium where you live at the moment, however,

0:34:280:34:31

you perhaps don't need this much parking.

0:34:310:34:34

So you could actually lay this all to turf.

0:34:340:34:36

So, as garden size goes, how is this for you?

0:34:360:34:39

I was just thinking as I walked out, "where's he going to kick his football?"

0:34:390:34:43

And there's the gravel.

0:34:430:34:45

So yes, if we could remove this somehow, if we could park down here,

0:34:450:34:48

that would be great.

0:34:480:34:49

So, this unique 15th-century house,

0:34:490:34:53

how much is it currently on the market for?

0:34:530:34:55

Just over, maybe, or...say £475,000?

0:34:550:34:59

I agree. I would have thought, maybe, 460, 465.

0:34:590:35:04

Well, you're both right. It is over your budget.

0:35:040:35:08

The current asking price is £485,000,

0:35:080:35:12

but they're emigrating so they're going to put the furniture

0:35:120:35:15

into the final sale, and they would be interested

0:35:150:35:19

in taking offers in the region of £450,000,

0:35:190:35:23

-so the top of your budget.

-Oh, OK.

0:35:230:35:26

So why don't you go back into the dry, have a look round,

0:35:260:35:29

because it is the most wonderful home. It really is.

0:35:290:35:32

It's there to be loved.

0:35:320:35:33

-The question is, are you two the right people to do it?

-Sure.

0:35:330:35:36

-Go and enjoy it. I'll catch up with you later.

-Thank you.

0:35:360:35:39

Although it's over budget at £485,000,

0:35:390:35:43

the vendors are open to offers.

0:35:430:35:45

With six bedrooms, a stylish country kitchen and two reception rooms,

0:35:450:35:49

there's plenty of space for visitors.

0:35:490:35:52

There's a downstairs cloakroom for John

0:35:520:35:54

and a large garden for the children.

0:35:540:35:56

But is it all too much for our city slickers?

0:35:560:36:00

It just keeps going on, doesn't it?

0:36:000:36:02

I think this would be great for the children.

0:36:020:36:04

It's really quirky, isn't it, upstairs?

0:36:040:36:06

You could almost give them the floor, couldn't you, with a friend, to stay?

0:36:060:36:10

The mystery house is probably one of the most unique houses

0:36:100:36:12

I've ever been into.

0:36:120:36:14

Really not what I expected at all.

0:36:140:36:16

It's a step back in time, but as I went through the house

0:36:160:36:19

it warmed up for me. It got better and better, really.

0:36:190:36:22

-All right, guys?

-Yeah, good.

-Are you happy?

-Yes.

-Yes.

0:36:230:36:28

You guys have a lot to think about, so let's find you somewhere

0:36:280:36:31

-where you can gather your thoughts.

-Thank you.

0:36:310:36:33

It may have been the busy waterways that created vibrant and historic riverside towns such as St Ives,

0:36:450:36:50

but it's agriculture that has generated

0:36:500:36:53

high-quality produce, bringing commerce and trade to the county.

0:36:530:36:57

And the Fens are a major part of this, being such a fertile

0:36:570:37:01

and well-irrigated part of the landscape.

0:37:010:37:04

But not all Fens produce ends up on our plates.

0:37:040:37:09

As far back as the 11th century,

0:37:090:37:10

reference was made in the Domesday Book

0:37:100:37:13

to the area around Wisbech as a centre for the country's flower industry,

0:37:130:37:18

and despite the influx of flowers from overseas,

0:37:180:37:21

horticulture is still very much at the heart of farming here.

0:37:210:37:25

To find out more, I'm meeting local rose expert John Turner,

0:37:270:37:31

who's been growing flowers on his holding for over 30 years.

0:37:310:37:34

-John, great to meet you.

-Nice to meet you, Nicki.

0:37:350:37:38

Standing here, it's a feast to the eyes.

0:37:380:37:41

-We're surrounded by... roughly how many rose bushes, would you say?

-850,000.

0:37:410:37:46

My goodness. I mean, just this variety here... Which one's this?

0:37:460:37:49

This is Lady Of Shalott.

0:37:490:37:51

It's beautiful colours, as far as the eye can see.

0:37:510:37:54

What is it about this part of the world

0:37:540:37:57

that is so good for growing roses?

0:37:570:37:59

Well, for horticulture in general, Cambridgeshire and the Fens?

0:37:590:38:02

Well, the soil is very good soil structure.

0:38:020:38:04

Good free-draining soil, mostly.

0:38:040:38:06

And got good body in it, so the roses like it.

0:38:060:38:10

I can see, John, people hard at work, part of your team,

0:38:100:38:12

with the plants.

0:38:120:38:14

Is there any process that could be done by machinery,

0:38:140:38:17

or is it all done by hand?

0:38:170:38:18

No, there are some processes,

0:38:180:38:20

but you still need the skilled labour to carry out certain jobs

0:38:200:38:23

on the nursery, and budding and patching is a prime example.

0:38:230:38:29

If you'd like to see that, we can show you that on another field.

0:38:290:38:32

I'd love to. Am I going to be a budder or a patcher?

0:38:320:38:34

-You'll have to be a patcher, I'm afraid.

-Why's that?

0:38:340:38:37

-You're not quite skilled enough at the moment.

-Very wise.

0:38:370:38:40

-Well, I know I'm in safe hands. Let's see if I can have a go.

-OK.

0:38:400:38:43

An estimated 20 million roses are grown every year in the UK,

0:38:440:38:49

and although some of the process can be mechanised,

0:38:490:38:52

budding and patching is not one of them.

0:38:520:38:55

Roses can be grown from seed, but the variety of rose you end up with

0:38:550:38:59

may not be what you expect, so, on a commercial level, it's much safer

0:38:590:39:04

to grow a root stock of roses and attach, or patch, a bulb to the stem.

0:39:040:39:09

This ensures a hardier, more resilient plant, and also means

0:39:090:39:12

that you'll definitely get the variety of rose you're expecting.

0:39:120:39:16

So, this whole field has got to be done by hand?

0:39:160:39:19

That's right, by skilled budders.

0:39:190:39:21

So you're budding and I'm going to be putting...

0:39:210:39:23

-It looks like a plaster.

-That's right.

-OK. Let's go.

0:39:230:39:26

'Working in groups of two, the skill of budding

0:39:270:39:30

'and patching takes time to perfect.

0:39:300:39:33

'I just hope I'm up to the challenge.'

0:39:330:39:35

-OK. Which bush are we going to select?

-OK, Nicki,

0:39:350:39:39

-we'll have a go on this one.

-Yep.

-Make the cut.

0:39:390:39:42

-Open the stalk up.

-Yep.

0:39:430:39:45

And insert the bud.

0:39:450:39:47

-Cut the tail off.

-So, here is the patch.

0:39:490:39:52

That's right.

0:39:520:39:54

-Pull it round.

-Yes.

0:39:540:39:57

-It really is like a plaster.

-That's right.

0:39:570:40:00

And then it goes through. Ooh.

0:40:000:40:03

-Without going through my skin.

-That's well done.

0:40:030:40:06

-So that is going to protect it?

-That's going to protect it.

0:40:060:40:09

So when will that plant be available to be sold?

0:40:090:40:12

That will be available 2011/2012.

0:40:120:40:15

Wow, could be a championship variety there.

0:40:150:40:19

Probably call it Nicki.

0:40:190:40:21

-We'll see it at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

-We might do, yes.

0:40:210:40:24

John, thank you so much. I don't think I could do 5,000 of those.

0:40:240:40:29

I think I'd manage to do about one row, I think, in a day.

0:40:290:40:32

-And that would be pushing it.

-Probably me also.

0:40:320:40:35

-John, thanks very much indeed.

-Thank you very much.

0:40:350:40:38

Now that John and Natalie have gathered their thoughts, it's time to find out

0:40:430:40:47

which property is closest to their dream of a house in the country.

0:40:470:40:52

Well, John and Natalie,

0:40:560:40:58

boy, have we travelled the length and breadth of this county?

0:40:580:41:02

Have you truly fallen in love with it? Is it what you expected?

0:41:020:41:06

-Love the county, I'm glad we chose Cambridgeshire.

-It's turned out

0:41:060:41:09

to be everything we expected and a little bit more.

0:41:090:41:12

We started off our search in a little village called Welney,

0:41:120:41:15

right on the Norfolk and Cambridgeshire border.

0:41:150:41:19

What were your initial thoughts when you saw that?

0:41:190:41:21

I liked it, I thought it was a lovely place.

0:41:210:41:23

The house was very nice.

0:41:230:41:25

The room sizes, I loved the sizes of the rooms there.

0:41:250:41:28

-It was great, and the kitchen was good.

-It ticked all the boxes, as well.

0:41:280:41:32

-So a good start, that property, for you both?

-Yeah, definitely.

-Very good start, yes.

0:41:320:41:36

Now, we looked at a house, 1850, in the village of Great Gidding.

0:41:360:41:41

It was right in the centre of the village. There would have to be a little bit of upkeep with it.

0:41:410:41:45

Could you imagine yourself living there?

0:41:450:41:47

For us to live there, there'd be work to do on the house, but...

0:41:470:41:51

Quite extensive work, isn't it?

0:41:510:41:52

What we want to do to it, that's the thing. But for that garden, I mean, I'd be prepared to do that.

0:41:520:41:57

I don't think you can beat that.

0:41:570:41:59

The last house was the mystery property.

0:41:590:42:03

And possibly a property that you two wouldn't even have considered.

0:42:030:42:07

The more I saw it, the more I felt comfortable with it.

0:42:070:42:10

The more it became homely, really. It didn't at first.

0:42:100:42:12

It was very quirky, you know, awkward-shaped steps.

0:42:120:42:16

-It's something that you'd get used to.

-Yeah.

0:42:160:42:19

It was a beautiful place,

0:42:190:42:20

but I don't know if I'd want to live in a place like that.

0:42:200:42:23

Natalie, you lost your heart a bit to it, didn't you?

0:42:230:42:26

I did, and I was surprised, really, because at first I was intimidated.

0:42:260:42:30

-As I saw more...

-Intimidated in a nice way?

-Of course.

0:42:300:42:33

What's your next move going to be? Because I can't quite read you.

0:42:330:42:37

I know you loved the first one, but was it enough? Put me out of my misery.

0:42:370:42:41

We kind of had a little chat about it,

0:42:410:42:43

and we'll probably go back and see both the first and the second property.

0:42:430:42:48

I mean, that is brilliant news.

0:42:480:42:50

And I'll be keeping my fingers crossed with both of those properties.

0:42:500:42:53

-All the best, because it is such a big move.

-Thank you.

-Thank you.

0:42:530:42:56

For John and Natalie,

0:42:590:43:01

this move is all about giving their children the rural childhood they didn't have.

0:43:010:43:07

And I think the last few days has really confirmed in their minds

0:43:070:43:11

that they are ready to leave the smoke

0:43:110:43:13

and make Cambridgeshire their new home.

0:43:130:43:17

Now, if you're tempted by the countryside, join us again soon.

0:43:170:43:21

If you'd like to escape to the country

0:43:210:43:23

in Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland or England

0:43:230:43:26

and need our help, please apply online at bbc.co.uk/beonashow.

0:43:260:43:33

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:43:450:43:48

E-mail [email protected]

0:43:480:43:51

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?


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