In the Cotswolds, Nicki Chapman helps a couple with a million-pound budget decide between a Jacobean and Georgian manor house, or a quirky earth-sheltered eco-home.
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Today, I'm at a castle that's been home to 26 successive generations of the same family.
Mind you, when you have a place like this, who can blame them?
'In today's show, I'll be helping a couple run away to retire to the country
'and we've got a big budget, big houses and big "wows".'
A huge wow...! Oh, my goodness!
I don't believe it!
-'And our mystery house is a real revelation.'
I'm in the Cotswolds and this is Berkeley Castle,
home to the Berkeley family that have lived in this magnificent place for 900 years.
Now, it may seem tranquil today, but if these ancient walls could speak,
they would whisper tales of a brooding past at odds with the peaceful surrounding countryside.
And it's truly magnificent.
Covering 790 square miles and spanning six counties,
the Cotswolds is the largest of the 40 Areas of Outstanding Beauty
across England and Wales.
Its historical towns such as Stow-on-the-Wold and Chipping Campden,
made from the local honey-coloured limestone, read like a Where's Where of the UK's most desirable places.
Jewel in the crown is Burford which, in 2009, a leading US magazine voted
as one of the most idyllic places to live in Europe.
And as one of the least populated areas of England, yet teeming with rich wildlife,
it's no wonder that so many people dream of finding their own haven in this part of the country.
There's no way round it. Property in the Cotswolds comes at a price.
The average detached property here would set you back - hang on to those tweed trousers -
a massive £181,000 above the national average.
This is a stunning part of the country with properties to match.
Just take a look at what's currently on the market.
If budget is not an issue,
how about this five-bedroomed, new-build Cotswolds house in Ascott
on the market for £1.3 million?
Besides a large family kitchen, there's plenty of space to relax
in the two comfortable sitting rooms and conservatory,
or even the summer house, a perfect spot to survey the three-quarters of an acre garden.
Or there's this deceptively large, four-bedroomed, weatherboard home overlooking Howells Mere Lake.
Soak up those waterside views from the huge, open-plan living area with its barn-style vaulted ceiling,
yours for £730,000.
And £380,000 will get you this three-bedroomed, Cotswolds stone barn conversion in Blockley.
The exposed stone walls and beams really give off that warm, cottagey feel
and you've got water on your doorstep with a stream running through the communal gardens.
I love the timeless appeal and subtle sophistication of the Cotswolds.
With a varied array of properties on offer,
I'm delighted to be house-hunting in this area this week. So who's going to be joining me? Let's find out.
Steve and Meera have been married for 12 years
and both work for the publishing company Steve founded 20 years ago.
With the four children they have between them now in their 20s and with retirement on the horizon,
they are excited about starting out anew in the Cotswolds.
I'm a bit of a romantic and I can remember being a young kid going on holidays into the country,
down into Devon and different places,
and I'm really looking forward to going places like that where you swing the doors open,
go out into the fresh air, go for fantastic walks.
I can't wait to get into that kind of environment. That's what I'm looking forward to.
I can't wait. If I found the place, I'd go tomorrow.
They're biding their time in their three-bedroomed flat
and have spent two years scouring the countryside for their dream home, so what are they looking for?
My dream property has to have lots of character.
It has to hit you when you look at it and you just go, "Wow, this is something really special!"
I want it to have a stream,
I want it to have a pond, although I can build a pond, and beautiful views.
Four bedrooms, two with en-suites and then a separate family bathroom,
then it might be quite nice to have an extra little room, a study.
Steve loves his music and he plays it extremely loudly, so a nice music room to shut him away would be good.
And there are some rather large companions to squeeze in too.
This is Denis. He's a beautiful piece of pottery.
We've got all our stuff that we've collected on our travels in storage,
so we are desperate to find a lovely new property to get them all out and enjoy them again.
This is a communal garden. We're looking for a bigger garden, one to three acres,
so we can have our pond, we can have some animals, chickens, ducks, lambs and maybe even ostriches.
I have actually agreed to have a dog,
but he is also talking about sheep and ostriches and pigs,
so that's a little bit scary, really.
We love cooking, we love entertaining, but this kitchen really isn't big enough.
We're looking for a big, open-plan kitchen-breakfast room, comfy sofa,
walk-in larder, French doors opening on to the garden, people can sit round, drink a glass of wine. Lovely.
Meera is also keen to get involved in village life.
I think it would be lovely to move into a village that's still got some of the local shops
like a butcher, like a post office, like a nice pub.
So many of the villages we've looked at don't have those amenities any more.
-I think a village loses some of its...
Identity. So for us, we would love to live close to a village environment,
so that we can get involved and become part of that community.
Steve and Meera are cash buyers,
but bearing in mind the land for ostriches and a perfect village location, how much can they spend?
We're fortunate. Our budget for the next move is up to a million pounds.
Steve and Meera are really fired up for this move and it's great to hear
they're serious about getting involved with the local community they will one day call home.
But when it comes to the house, I do have some concerns.
They both want a home with real character and a warm family heart,
but whether it's out in the sticks or near a village is still up for discussion.
Will they be able to agree? Let's find out.
Our buyers may differ on the exact location of their dream property,
but hopefully, we can offer up something to appeal to them both,
so we're focusing our search between Chipping Campden in the north
down to Cirencester in the south.
We've got three fantastic houses to show them, but before I reveal the price of each,
I'll ask them to have a guess first.
Finally, there's our mystery house which is guaranteed to be a real curve ball.
-Well, Steve and Meera, welcome to the Cotswolds.
-I'm really looking forward to the next few days. I hope you are too.
-We're very excited.
And we've got a very healthy budget, a million pounds to spend.
-Yes, aren't we lucky?
-And cash buyers?
-Which does make it a lot easier, we hope.
But we are in the Cotswolds, the beautiful Cotswolds, which is expensive,
so on paper, a million pounds should be able to buy us a castle,
-but here, you get rather less for your money. Are you aware of that?
-I think we realise that.
You've been looking around. How far have you cast this net?
We're pretty flexible because obviously work isn't an issue now, children aren't an issue now,
-so we can go more or less where we want to.
-That's made it a lot harder because we could go anywhere.
But I really don't want to move too far from where we are now which is Amersham,
mainly because we've got a lot of good friends there.
-And Steve, how far and remote do you want to go?
-I'd go really quite rural.
I would go... No, I would. I'd go kind of three miles from your nearest neighbour - great.
There's a bit of a difference here, isn't there? There is a bit of a difference.
-I wonder who's going to make the ultimate decision?
-I think we probably both will.
Yeah, we'll see. It'll be a compromise at the end of the day.
We've got some amazing properties for you to see and the mystery property.
-Are you ready to get started?
'So Steve and Meera have a very healthy budget of one million pounds.
'Steve wants a beautiful plot for his ostriches to roam in
'and with Meera asking for a village location not too far away from Buckinghamshire,
'fingers crossed, we can find something to keep them both happy.
'Our house search takes us to a very rural spot near King's Stanley,
'17 miles from Cirencester and a two-hour drive
'from Meera's loved ones back in Buckinghamshire.
'Nailsworth would be their nearest market town five miles away.
'It has independent shops and plush eateries. Many of its properties are built into the lush hillside,
'as we find with our next property in the open countryside. I think Steve will love this location.'
Here is your property, made of Cotswold stone.
-It was finished in 2007, so it's still very, very new.
-You've got a slate roof and the most amazing views.
-All the way around.
It's actually five acres in total.
-Steve, you said you wanted a bit of a project.
-You wanted to keep some animals.
-There's enough space for ostriches and llamas in there.
You could have a whole zoo with all that land! Let's see if the house...
-Over my dead body!
-..is up to your taste.
'Although Meera seems a bit scared by Steve's plans for his Noah's Ark,
'I think the interior of this property will really make an impact on her.'
-Come on in.
-Oh, my goodness!
This is just incredible.
You don't see living space like this very often, do you?
Now, you two wanted flexibility, you wanted lots of options.
-I think I'm going to cry.
-You said you didn't mind contemporary.
-I know and I don't. Oh, I've gone all googly!
It's ticking lots of boxes at this stage.
I don't want to get too excited. Let's walk through and you can really see the views.
Now, you've probably guessed this is a topsy-turvy, upside-down house.
But it works so well and it's been designed like that, so you get the most out of that view.
-You can see right across the valley.
-Yeah, it's exceptional.
Even washing up would be a joy!
A nice, big kitchen, you know, granite worktops.
Obviously, entertaining is so important
and somebody wanted a sofa,
so the sofa is in close proximity to the kitchen, so I believe that's going to get a big tick.
Yes, that's my space while Steve is preparing the dinner on a Saturday night. Perfect.
'Brilliant. This superb contemporary interior has bowled them over.
'Let's see if we can keep them smiling.'
I think this house really benefits from having this little private room to the side.
Yeah, absolutely. That is such a fabulous space out there.
But I think if that was all you had, I would have been a bit worried, so I'm really pleased we're in here.
This is lovely, really beautiful.
'Just next door, there's a study which would make a great den for Steve to play his music.
'They seemed utterly wowed by the views and flexible modern layout of this property.
'Meera's sculptures would certainly look great in here.
'Let's head downstairs and hope they'll be thrilled by the five bedrooms that lead off the hallway.
'Two would fit a double bed in nicely, this one with doors leading out to the patio.
'And the third double is a nice, generous size with a lovely, modern en-suite,
'but we'll take in those views from this generous fourth bedroom.'
-I'd be tempted to put my guests in here because look at that view!
-Stunning views, stunning views.
I wish I had a pound for every time we said "amazing, stunning views", but you can't help but be impressed.
It just hits you every time. Every time you come into another room and you see the view, it just hits you.
'Across the hallway is a great wet room-style family bathroom with a corner bath.
'Next door is an elegant master.'
-So again, good size for you?
-Lovely. Lovely size.
The utility room with the washing machine and all that gubbins is down here?
It is. Very cleverly, it's out of eyeshot.
Let's have a look at your wet room and I'll explain a little bit more.
-So here's your wet room.
And the utility is just through that door.
It's a Jack and Jill utility from the family bathroom and yours.
Laundry can go straight in there and no-one sees it.
That's perfect. Your clothes are in your bedroom. The bedrooms are all here.
-All I do is open the door and throw them in.
-Yeah, and they come back clean by magic...
..into your underwear drawer. I don't iron his underwear!
'There may not be much magic in the laundry room, but I'm sure outside will cast a spell on Steve.
'The five acres of land fall within a conservation area,
'so no chance of development getting between them and those views over the Malvern and Welsh Hills.'
The current owners have horses. But these paddocks... Meera, you might not want me to say this.
But they could be ideal for ostriches. No?
They could be. They could be.
You both seem so impressed with the property, but it's time to talk money.
How much do you think it's on the market for? Who's going to go first? Meera?
I'm going to say...
It's only just gone on the market. It's been about four weeks.
-So very early days.
The current asking price is...
-I wish I DID bring my chequebook!
So do I if it's that positive! I'm trying to hold back my enthusiasm.
And with a house like this,
I think your friends would be happy to make the two-hour journey here to see you,
rather than you go back to Buckinghamshire.
-Have another look around the house. I'll catch up with you in a while.
They certainly loved the price tag.
Way under budget at £895,000,
this exceptional, modern Cotswold property seems to have them reeling.
And it's all framed by jaw-dropping views.
I think the setting is exceptional.
I can imagine us standing out here on a summer's evening watching the world go by.
I could see myself living here. The views blew you away. It was exceptional.
-Family and friends would love coming here.
-The sculptures would look fantastic here, paintings...
Absolutely stunning. Took my breath away, really. Made me go all googly.
And for us, a space like this is what we like to live in,
so from that point of view, just couldn't be better.
-Have you two seen enough?
-I think we have.
-Yes, I think so.
-You've still got that grin on your face.
-I have indeed.
-I'm going to have to drag you away now.
'With its idyllic countryside, honey-coloured stone and rich housing stock,
'the Cotswolds is a place people want to move to and never leave.
'Nowhere is there a more compelling example than Berkeley Castle, home to the Berkeley family since 1154.
'Built under orders from Henry II, it has a unique claim to fame
'as the oldest continuously occupied castle by the same family in Britain.
'The castle has borne witness to some startling events over the past centuries
'and I'm meeting Charles Berkeley to learn more about the place he calls home.'
-Were you brought up here as a child?
My brother and I, only 11 months between us, we spent our winter months here at the castle.
It was a magical place.
We lived in the keep which was the oldest part.
That was exciting - really old wooden floors and stone walls.
It was a paradise to grow up in.
There are so many stories of visitors seeing two boys up on the roof.
We respected the castle, but it was our playground. We were extremely lucky.
-I'm used to showing people houses, but I'd love you to give me a tour of your house.
-Let's go, yeah.
'Although noblemen walked through these hallways en route to sign the Magna Carta,
'Elizabeth I slept in its chambers
'and Shakespeare's play A Midsummer Night's Dream was first performed here,
'it is a surprisingly homely place, although Berkeley does lay claim to one particularly dark tale.'
Charles, tell me a bit more about this story, the legend of the King.
Well, Nicki, Edward II was King of England in the 14th century.
And he was brought here as a prisoner in 1326.
On the orders of his wife, he was kept here for six months
and imprisoned in this cell here and they murdered him.
-This is where he was murdered?
-This is the site where he was... Yeah.
'After murder and mystery, a trip on to the roof is a breath of fresh air
'and a chance to take in the wonderful panoramic views,
'but with a £5.5 million appeal for repairs, including the roof,
'maintaining Berkeley involves considerable upkeep, so does Charles feel at home in these castle walls?'
It is very much a castle with its turrets and its towers
and its imposing look,
but it is still a wonderful family home and long may that continue.
'Exploring Berkeley has given me a fascinating insight into 900 years of British history
'and it's extraordinary how this home is still an ongoing concern
'for the same family some 25 generations on.
'As the day draws to a close over the Cotswolds,
'it marks the end of the first day of our property search.
'Meera and Steve are desperate to find their dream country home to retire to in the Cotswolds.
'With their big £1 million budget, Steve wants land for ostriches.
'They've seen one property, but coming up, it looks like Meera is wearing the trousers.'
-Steve cooking, me sitting, glass of wine.
In my handbag is the chequebook.
'But can our mystery house bring them back down to Earth?'
Yesterday went rather well.
With stunning scenery and rural seclusion, the ball was firmly in Steve's court.
But of course, this move is about Meera too, so today, we're going to address the balance.
We're heading for the village of Pebworth just six miles from Chipping Campden
and an hour and three-quarters away for visitors to drive from Buckinghamshire.
I think they'll make the trip because although Pebworth lies just outside the Cotswolds border,
it still benefits from that beautiful scenery.
I think Meera will love this quiet village which has a number of period properties dotted about.
-'But could she live here?'
-Oh, my goodness!
-That whole thing?
-That whole thing.
-I've gone all goosepimply!
-What do you think, Steve?
-It's very big, that's for sure.
The house is made up of three parts.
-The original house is Jacobean.
-At the back of the property.
-This side of the house is Georgian.
-And just because they decided it needed to be a little bigger,
-that's the Victorian extension.
-I think it's time to go in.
'This huge country house in the middle of the village certainly seems to have blown Meera away,
'as it did Sir Ben Kingsley who restored it from flats.
'Leading off the entrance hall is the first of two sitting rooms.'
This is absolutely stunning. And I've gone goosepimply again!
-This is the Victorian side.
-This house is Grade 2 listed.
You have to bear that in mind for anything you want to do to it.
The current owners decided they wanted to knock through to the kitchen.
I think it works really well.
-Does that make you happy?
-A gorgeous range. Steve cooking, me sitting, glass of wine.
-There's no sofa in here. You do have a good-sized table.
-You've got to have somewhere to sit.
-It has a good vibe about it.
-I'd like to see more.
-There is so much more to show you. Follow me.
'The different architectural styles seamlessly flow into one another.
'And our next room is certainly fit for a Jacobean banquet.' If one was going to have a dinner party,
-how would this work as a dining room?
-I'm almost...lost for words, which doesn't often happen.
-The size of that fireplace!
-I mean, it's just incredible.
You've got original leaded windows. The surrounds have been repaired.
-Can you feel the history?
-It just oozes with it.
It comes out of every bit of it.
-This is just...
-You're very animated!
-In a village!
I'm trying to kick myself, hold myself back.
-Where's the driveway?
-Where will the ostriches go?
'Right, on we go. As we step out of the 1600s and move through to the Georgian part,
'we pass a wine cellar, a must for those dinner parties. And what better room to retire to than here?'
-A beautiful Georgian room, presumably.
-You've got sash windows, shutters.
And a great view of the church.
A working fire as well. Wonderful.
-And dual aspect. You can go through the patio doors.
Plenty of light.
'And there's light streaming in to the study off the sitting room.
'Also tucked away on this floor is a cloakroom, WC and utility room.
'Meera has fallen in love with what she's seen so far
'and Steve has been lapping up the historic wow factor.
'I don't think upstairs will disappoint.'
So this house has five bedrooms and this is the master.
-This is lovely.
-That is gorgeous!
-It's so bright as well.
-Look at the view, Steve!
-Everything in this house is pretty large.
-And I know...
-Oh, my goodness!
-..you wanted an ensuite,
-so... Just go and have a little look.
Is it going to be mega?
-Oh, my goodness!
This is just about big enough(!)
-It is enormous.
'All the rooms lead off this sprawling landing. At the end of the hallway is the family bathroom.
'You've guessed it - huge! With a luxurious roll-top bath.
'The second bedroom is currently used as a dressing room
'and is certainly big enough for Meera's sofa.
'Opposite are two bedrooms. Perfect for guests. Back down the hall is another potential bedroom,
'which could make a great den for Steve's loud music.
'Upstairs again is a real treat for their overnighting guests.
'It's a self-contained flat complete with sitting room and architectural history on show.'
-Gosh. Look at this.
-The original wattle and daub.
All the walls were done like them. When they restored the house,
about 25 years ago, it looked so amazing they made it a feature.
'There's also a kitchenette and their guests won't believe their luck
'in the minimal splendour of this bathroom. The space just keeps on going outside.
'Across the driveway is a double garage with two stables.
'Behind that is a small pond for Steve and a superb annexe,
'currently fitted out with a large gym and games room. A fantastic space to have fun in.
'So there's acres of house and the landscape garden is a surprisingly quiet retreat,
'given it's right in the middle of the village. But the ostriches might have to be chickens.
'Is it a compromise worth making for such a sumptuous property?
'Time to catch our breath and consider the price.'
So I think I've shown you everything. How much do you think the current asking price is?
I've got to say... over our budget,
but I'd go for 1.1.
-I'm going to go slightly under Steve and say
£50,000 under what Steve said.
-So just over a million?
-Just over a million.
This house is currently on the market...
In my handbag is the chequebook.
-That is amazing.
-That is amazing!
-Now if this house was probably three or four miles in that direction...
..you would be looking at substantially more
and we're not talking £50,000 or £100,000 more.
But we are just outside the boundaries of the Cotswolds, but it is all around you.
You can see the Cotswolds from your bedroom window.
-Go and enjoy, take your time.
Again under budget at £875,000,
this property has clearly worked its magic on Meera.
Although Steve will have to have a serious rethink on the land,
they've been seduced by its three reception rooms and their character,
its historical features spanning some 500 years and the five bedrooms with that enormous ensuite.
The village location should please Meera and it's still an easy drive back to Buckinghamshire.
I knew as soon as I looked at the outside that I could live here.
I fell in love with it on the spot.
When I came inside, it was breathtaking.
The thing about it is it's got such a...warm, homely feel to it.
I think what happens coming into a house like this, you start off at zero degrees
and in the hall you're at 15 degrees, by the kitchen it's 50.
By the time I got to the dining room I was boiling. It's very special.
There cannot be many like this.
Are you both ready?
I'm as excited as you both are! Come on, we've got to press on.
Meera and Steve are certainly not the only ones to have succumbed to the idyllic charm of the Cotswolds.
Around 280,000 visitors a year flock to its beautiful honey-coloured villages,
including Long Compton with its rich history.
We arranged for them to meet local historian Jan Treadaway
to find out more about the village's mysterious tales from the past. First stop, the lych gate.
-What exactly is a lych gate?
-Lych is an Old English word. It means body or corpse.
And in the Middle Ages, the wool merchants were very powerful around here.
There was a law passed that stated that every corpse had to be buried in a woollen shroud,
-which was quite expensive.
-Nice extra income!
And they had the right to stop a coffin at the church gate
-and open it and inspect to see if the body was dressed...
-..in a woollen shroud.
The church that stands here today is late Norman, but there was one as far back as the 5th century.
It's said that when St Augustine, the first Archbishop of Canterbury, was sent here in the 6th century,
while preaching in the church yard he raised a man from the dead.
There are also numerous burial grounds and ancient sites steeped in legend around here,
including the rollright stones, thought to be older than Stonehenge and linked to witchcraft.
The story goes that an invading king was tricked by a witch who told him, "If Long Compton you shall see,
"King of England you shall be."
When his view was obscured by a hill, she turned him to stone.
These are supposed to be the king's men. Over there is the king's stone, which was the king turned to stone.
Well, these pretty villages shouldn't be taken at face value.
Their rich folklore is a defining feature of the ancient Cotswold landscape.
Every now and then we find a property that just screams out to be the mystery house.
And this is one of those.
Steve and Meera have been wonderfully open-minded
but this house is going to certainly test them.
All will be revealed soon enough.
We're heading to the village of Fulbrook, half an hour's drive from Chipping Campden
and just an hour and a quarter from Buckinghamshire.
The nearest amenities are in the pretty town of Barford, a mile away.
Its lively streets are lined with magnificent stone frontages
and there's a raft of pubs and local shops to pick from,
but I think our mystery house will require me to do some hand-holding.
I'm bringing you to the mystery house. I don't think you'll be too disappointed with the surprise.
On three. One, two, three.
-It's built into the hillside.
-It's an earth-sheltered home.
-Were you expecting this, you two?
-Not in a million years!
I know you both love your first impressions.
-How does this rate?
amazing. Indescribable, really?
-It is. It's just completely different.
-A proper earth-sheltered home, made of Cotswold stone.
So it's in keeping. A double garage there.
You've got a cedar lip there. It's like an umbrella above the property,
like a huge, huge umbrella to insulate it and keep out water.
-So first time for any of us in an earth-sheltered home. Ready for the grand tour?
I think we'll enjoy it.
'Our mystery earth shelter may be an unexpected Cotswolds find,
'but they've been around for thousands of years. It's a fantastic way to combine great architecture
'with making homes more energy efficient. So let's explore.'
It's very deceiving from outside.
-It really is.
-How clever, the way they've got all these different levels in.
-I can't believe the space is so... light.
-Being south-facing, you get the warmth and the light.
Covered in soil, it's insulated. The windows and doors are air-locked to keep that heat in.
'In the spacious utility room is some interesting eco-kit.
'This ground source heat pump absorbs heat from deep underground and warms the house throughout.
'The open-plan area is cleverly split into different zones, like the large sitting room.
'We'll explore the central hub.'
This house does benefit from being open-plan. Here's your dining area.
-And that leads beautifully on to the kitchen. It's really well-fitted.
You mentioned this property being on different levels.
Before I take you upstairs, I'll show you what's down here.
So here's the second reception room. There is potential to convert this to another bedroom
if you wanted a four-bedroom house and not a three.
-Across the hallway, you've got a bathroom and a bedroom.
-It is completely different.
For a surprise house, it couldn't be any more of a surprise.
'I'm not sure they're completely falling in love with this property, but they're impressed by the design,
'flexible layout and great energy-saving features.
'Upstairs includes the third of four potential bedrooms, opposite which is a family bathroom
'with a shower cubicle. Time now to check out the main bedroom.'
-This is the master.
-Good natural light.
-And a good-sized room.
-Yes. It is surprising, given where we are in the house,
how much light comes through. It is surprising.
-It benefits from an ensuite, a large, generous ensuite.
-Which was on the hit list.
This house does have its benefits. It's low maintenance, low heating bills.
-And there are just the two of you.
'Mm, indeed. Well, there's one big surprise to come that might make them consider taking the plunge.'
-..take a look at this.
-I don't believe it!
-Crikey! That would keep us fit.
-It would do that.
That was designed for the owner, so they could keep fit.
-It's what you'd call a bath!
I wouldn't want to clean it! It's got a contra flow system like a water treadmill.
When you turn it on, you literally swim against the current.
'With the house covered, and armed with those brollies, we're going back above ground
'to stand on the roof and admire the surprisingly large garden.'
-It's impressive, isn't it?
-It is. It's very different.
-Without wanting to keep you out here any longer...
-This is difficult!
-It is, but it's the bit I like.
-It's the bit I dread!
-How much do you think it's on the market for?
I'm going to say...
I'll go... slightly less than that.
The current asking price - £850,000.
You're not going to get a house like this in a location like this. It's a one-off.
For the right couple or the right person, it's a tremendous buy.
The big question is... is that you two?
-You're not going to let me know, are you?!
-No, we're not.
Your lips are sealed. Why don't you go back inside where it's toasty,
have another look around, have a think about it? I'll see you later.
'Our cutting-edge Cotswolds stone earth shelter is under budget at £850,000
'and it's a real one-off, featuring large flexible living areas,
'an impressive insulating roof which doubles up as the garden,
'four potential bedrooms with an impressive master ensuite
'and, critically for Meera, it's just an hour to Buckinghamshire,
'so catching up with family and friends couldn't be easier.'
The big open-plan area down there would be fantastic for a party.
And you wouldn't even know you're almost underground.
When Nicki brought us round that corner and we opened our eyes,
I would never have imagined that this was what I'd see. Phenomenal.
Obviously it's low maintenance, the heating bill is very low.
It's very secure. As you get older, you could see yourself moving here.
But it's a bit too early for us. At the moment, I want big grounds.
Sorry to bring you back out!
-That house certainly makes a statement.
-It certainly does.
-So unique, but you guys have got some thinking to do.
-We certainly have!
'Steve and Meera have approached this house search with gusto, but now it's time for a quiet think.'
It's decision time for Steve and Meera.
At the beginning of the week, this couple couldn't decide where they both wanted to live.
Let's hope they've found common ground.
-Well, you've had some thinking to do, haven't you?
-Just a little.
-Shall we start with the first property?
-The vista was superb.
And it really reminded you of how wonderful the English countryside is.
As we approached the house, it was new, then when you opened the door and saw the internal layout,
it had to be one of the big wow factors of the week.
It was phenomenal. It took my breath away really,
but the longer I spent there, I wasn't sure that we could live within that space,
even with the additional rooms on that upper level.
The main bulk of the house was that one open-plan area.
I just felt we needed a little bit more space or additional rooms.
Both of you want to immerse yourself in country life. Meera, it's important you're near a village.
So we found a property right in the middle of a village.
As soon as I looked at the outside, I loved it.
And then when we opened the door, it just blew me away. The more we walked round, I could see us there.
The grounds were lovely, the annexe is another dimension.
And there was a further piece of land that I'd love to turn into a natural part of the garden
and have a small pond there et cetera. It had a lot going for it.
Our mystery house, is always different. The earth shelter. I haven't seen anything like it.
-I don't think you two had either.
-And at no point inside
did you ever feel you were underground. So much natural light.
All those different levels. I thought it was fabulous.
It was great to go and see. We'd seen others like that, but never been inside one.
-Nice to see.
-Wonderful to see. I'm really pleased you showed it.
Well, you've seen these properties.
Where do we go from here? I'm so eager to find out!
Well, I think tomorrow we are going to go back to Pebworth,
-have a good look round the village and who knows?
-See where we go.
Well, that is great news. It's been a wonderful few days.
-All the best. And if you do have any good news, let us know.
-We certainly will.
I've really enjoyed this week.
It was always going to be a challenge finding the right property and location for Steve and Meera,
but they remained open-minded and saw the merits in each of the properties we showed them.
I so hope they're a step closer to making this all-important move
and immersing themselves in country life.
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Subtitles by Subtext for Red Bee Media Ltd - 2010
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Nicki Chapman is in the costly Cotswolds helping a couple search for a fabulous character country house with an equally fabulous budget of one million pounds. The house buyers are spoilt for choice, as they decide between a Jacobean and Georgian manor house, or a quirky earth-sheltered eco-home.