Alistair Appleton heads to the East Midlands, where a Dublin family with a £600,000 budget are looking for a classic English country home.
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Oh, yes. Where but the great British countryside is it acceptable
for grown men to dress in ribbons and bells
and shake hankies at each other?
Find out exactly who these handsome fellows are in just a moment.
Today we're helping a young family swap the city streets of Dublin
for some English country lanes.
-Wow! Very pretty, isn't it? Really.
Absolutely chocolate box.
We'll be tempting them with some rural beauties.
I love this room. Straightaway, I love it.
Or will our Mystery House level the playing field?
-A little stile goes across into the cricket...
-The kids can live there!
-That's tennis, isn't it?
-I think it is!
We are in the heart of the East Midlands today
and these fine fellows are the Leicester Morris Men.
The origins of Morris dancing are lost in the mists of time
but the myth is it wards off evil spirits and brings good fortune.
Which means that with these guys on our side,
our house hunt today is going to be truly blessed.
Which is just as well, as there's lots of ground to cover
with six counties making up the East Midlands.
All are land-locked apart from Lincolnshire with its 50-mile coastline.
By far the biggest of the six, 92% of the landscape is rural
with a large swathe made up from the gentle rolling wolds,
an area of outstanding natural beauty.
Next is Nottinghamshire, forever linked with the legend of Robin Hood.
It's also home to the UK's third largest river, the Trent,
which meanders through a patchwork quilt of fields
into neighbouring Derbyshire.
Undoubtedly the most dramatic county with the windswept summits of the Peak District National Park
and a whole host of pretty villages
making it a big hit with homebuyers and tourists alike.
Head south to Northants, though,
and you can escape the hordes in a very relaxed fashion
on the Grand Union Canal.
With plenty of historic towns and honey-coloured houses
but no significant tourist hotspot,
you get country charm without the crowds.
Rutland is the smallest county, not just of the East Midlands but of all the UK.
However, it's home to Europe's largest man-made lake,
so it's easy to see why they came up with the motto "multum in parvo" -
"so much in so little."
Last, but not least, Leicestershire.
In a recent poll of the 408 local authorities in England, Scotland and Wales,
Leicestershire, along with Surrey, came out number one county for raising a family.
It's got great schools and hospitals, high employment,
very good family housing and a low crime rate.
So if you feel inspired to buy a property here in the East Midlands,
take a look at what's on offer.
For those with big ambitions, how about this Georgian farmhouse
near Market Harborough.
You get six Louis XIV-style bedrooms,
four character reception rooms,
a huge high-spec kitchen-diner, and somewhere to dip your toes!
Set in an impressive 20 acres,
it has an equally impressive price tag - £1.35 million!
If you want to go the whole rustic hog,
then this 19th-century barn conversion near Lutterworth
is just the ticket.
You can cosy up in two reception rooms,
hold banquets in the dining room,
rest your head in one of the four bedrooms or just relax in the low-maintenance garden.
It's on the market at £565,000.
Last, but not least, how about this unusual new build near Ashwell?
At just a snip under £400,000,
you get modern accommodation with two reception rooms,
three bedrooms and a good-sized laid-to-lawn garden
for some lazy Leicestershire weekends.
There you have it - a handful of beautiful East Midlands properties
with three more yet to come.
All we need now is a couple to show them to.
Meet Julie and Simon and their two children, Rebecca and Jake.
They live in Dublin and share their four-bedroomed house with Molly the cat.
However, Simon recently started a new top job in the UK
for a clothes retailer
and is now commuting between Ireland and England on a weekly basis.
'It's not great being a weekend dad.'
We're a family unit and we really want to be together.
If that's moving to the UK, fantastic.
That's why we're moving.
They've decided to up-sticks from the suburbs and move en-masse
across the Irish Sea. But what's prompted these urbanites
to plump for the English countryside?
My family have a house in Wexford which is on farmland, beside the sea.
When the kids are there, they run amok.
Yes, we've a big back garden, but we can't open the door here and say, "Off you go",
like I imagine you can in the country.
Ah, the outdoor life. But have they decided on a location for their pastures new?
Currently I'm working in Market Harborough.
We don't want to give myself a long commute in the morning
so anywhere a 30- to 40-minute commute into Market Harborough.
-I think from my point of view, probably the most important deciding factor
would be where the kids go to school.
I'd nearly say school first and then house or location second.
So schooling will be key, but what about the property itself?
Julie and Simon spent six months remodelling their Dublin home
so is there anything they want to take with them to Blighty?
I think I'd take our bedroom. I like it.
We were quite selfish in terms of the space we allocated to our bedroom.
The garden I love, but again, bigger.
Certainly four bedrooms, because living away, we want people to stay with us.
Another must-have, we were all so used to the open-plan kitchen/diner.
That would be a must-have. I'm not gone on a separate dining area.
-I love having it all happen in the one room.
-That's a must-have.
With Simon already in the UK Monday to Friday,
he's had a few months to adapt.
But for Julie, who will be giving up her job as a Director of Studies,
this will be a huge lifestyle change.
I'm actually looking forward to the opportunity of simply being a mum.
-Simply being a mum for the first time since the kids were born.
That's something I'm really looking forward to,
just being a mum and a wife, obviously!
However, before they can embark on their new life across the water,
they need to know what they can afford. So we've invited a local agent round
to value their Dublin home.
It's a fantastic four-bed family house.
Houses of this type are always sought after because of their size,
the garden size and schools are in close proximity.
Based on everything I've seen today, the value is around 600,000 euro.
So what's the final spend in English pounds and pence?
Our budget is about £550,000 sterling. Plus or minus.
This is a big move for Julie and Simon, particularly Julie,
because she's leaving behind her country, her parents and her job.
But I'm hoping we can cushion their move
because the average house price in the counties we're looking at is around £241,000 for a detached house
which is six per cent below the national average.
So hopefully their budget of £550,000 will get them the house that will make the move perfect.
Simon and Julie's main criteria is to be located in a village
with a good school, within a 40-minute drive radius of Market Harborough,
where Simon works.
So we can cast the search net over three counties today -
Rutland, Leicestershire and Northamptonshire.
We've lined up two lovely family homes for them to view
but I won't reveal the price tags till they've had a good look around.
And there's the Mystery House which won't be the country escape they're expecting.
Ah, look at you. You're made for the East Midlands landscape. It's fantastic.
Now, East Midlands from Dublin.
So will it be difficult? I know you've been working here
-but will it be difficult for you, Julie?
-I think it's important we're together as a family.
The kids miss Simon, he misses them.
So of course it'll be a wrench,
but I think reuniting us as a family is very important.
-You've had your house valued.
-Can I ask what you got?
They valued it at 600,000 euro, which was a bit disappointing.
-Three years ago, it was twice that value.
The housing market in Dublin is, at the moment, at quite a low.
Does that have an effect on what we have to spend?
Well, our budget is 550.
Six at a push.
Ah, that's what I was waiting for!
-I always ask is there any kind of room...
-I was going to hold back, but no.
-But that's the pain threshold is it?
-What about the schools? Have you been looking at Ofsted reports?
-Yes, from afar.
But we need to look at that in more detail.
It's a beautiful day. Houses look great in this weather. Let's go.
For a maximum budget of £600,000,
Simon and Julie are looking for a four-bed detached home.
Must-haves include a large kitchen/diner
and at least one en-suite bedroom.
Simon's big dream is to have a big garden
and the whole package needs to be situated in a village with a good primary school,
no further than a 40-minute drive from Market Harborough.
They haven't given us much to go on in terms of the style of the house,
so let's hope we aren't way off the mark.
In terms of living in a village, are you prepared for the rural life?
I think so, yes. I think I am.
It'll be a big change. But I'm up for the challenge. Once the kids are in school,
that's a great way for me to make friends
and get involved in the community.
I'll be fine. I'm quite a sociable person, anyway,
so I think I'll make the adjustment alright.
Hopefully the family won't have any problems fitting into our first village, Empingham.
Traffic permitting, it's a spot-on 40-minute drive from Market Harborough.
It's a pretty and busy community village
with a good run of amenities including a shop, a pub,
two churches and most importantly, a primary school
with an Ofsted rating of "good".
There's also no shortage of cracking character housing stock
all of which makes it a popular destination with buyers.
-This is the first property I want to show you. What do you think?
Wow! Very pretty, isn't it? Absolutely chocolate box!
-You wanted chocolate box.
-This is chocolate box. Now,
the exciting thing about this property is that it's twice as big as you think.
-It's not just this door, it's that door as well.
A double chocolate box. A double layer!
-The bigger the box, the better.
-A double layer!
You can see it's thatched. Any aversion to thatch?
I love the look of it. My question would be how long does a thatch last?
Well, this has just been done, so you've got another 30 years in it. Thumbs up from outside?
-Thumbs up so far, absolutely.
-Let's go in.
Originally a farm worker's cottage dating from the 1500s,
it was extended two years ago into a very substantial family home.
Let's hope it measures up to size.
Come on in.
This is lovely, isn't it?
This is the modern part of the house.
There are two front doors but we've come into the modern part
because I think this is the hall. This is all two years old.
But a lot of it is reclaimed. So these beams are the original roof plates from the old cottage.
-Yeah, it's very nice.
-I love the way they've used the wood.
-So do I.
We're going to go into the older part of the cottage.
-Come into the kitchen.
Ah, good "wow"!
-This is lovely.
-It's nice, isn't it?
It's not open plan - you're used to an open plan kitchen.
I can see myself in here now with the kids doing their homework there.
Me cooking. I can visualise that quite clearly.
What's nice is you've got a big utility room and downstairs toilet
-so you can throw unwashed stuff in there!
-And close the door!
Close the door!
There's also a little snug off the kitchen
which could be a cosy playroom, leaving the living room, across the hallway, just for the adults.
This is the final room downstairs, Simon.
-Ah, very good.
-Nice and bright, isn't it?
-I like this room.
-So do I. It's not as deep as I thought it would be, actually.
-Going this way.
-It's very long.
-But it's not very deep.
It's typical of English farm cottages. They were just a room
with a roof on top.
-That's quite typical. The nice thing about that is you get light from both sides.
Yes, what it lacks in the amount of rooms,
the quaintness and the way they've used all the details from the past is nice.
Is that a price you're willing to pay - to have more rooms and be modern?
I don't know, actually.
I think I might prefer more room downstairs.
But quite how I'm not sure.
-And less charm?
-I like the charm, too!
-I kind of want it all!
'Who doesn't want it all? However, getting it all is a different matter.
'Although we're delivering on room requirements upstairs with four bedrooms.
'First up is a double guest room with an en-suite shower room.
Next, the family bathroom.
There's a double bedroom ideal for Rebecca and a smaller room for Jake.
-Oh, I love this room! Straightaway I love this room!
I thought you'd say that. More space, it's airy.
It's big, it's bright. Look at the windows. I love this!
The en-suite. Have a look in, both of you.
-It's a goody!
-Julie, you'd like this!
Oh, this is amazing!
-Beautifully done, isn't it?
-Lovely. And it's big.
'Great reactions. I think this property is going down well.
'Now, what about the garden?
'Simon has massive expectations for outside space
'and this could be one area of compromise.'
The big question for me is is this garden going to be big enough for you?
It's smaller than we're used to.
-It's a no from me.
I want to throw a rugby ball around with Jake, and um...
automatically, unless there's somewhere else I can go and do it, it doesn't have the space.
The nearest sports field is two minutes away, but it's not out in your garden.
-It might be interesting for you to know how much it costs, or to have a guess how much.
I'd say it's the top end of our budget so I'd go with about 595.
I'd pitch it a bit lower, actually.
Split the difference. It's on the market for 550.
-There's a lot of interest in it.
-Well, it's the first house.
-And you did give us a wide brief.
So it's interesting for us to know where's important and where's not negotiable.
Have a wonder round. Look at all the nooks and crannies. See you out front.
On the market for £550,000,
this is a beautifully presented 16th-century thatched cottage.
It's not open plan, but it has a good flow downstairs
with two reception rooms, a country kitchen and a little snug.
Upstairs, it delivers on bedrooms with four in all, two en-suite.
It's a great village location with all the amenities they've asked for
and for anyone not wanting to play rugby,
the garden is a good size.
I wonder if Simon's must-have outside space
will find itself moving down the must-have list?
When I saw the property, I thought, "Wow!" Thatched roof,
amazing. I loved the size of the house.
I was surprised it was two bits, not just the one. I love the kitchen.
I have to say initially I was worried at the lack of open-planness - if that's a word!
But now we've explored, it's growing on me.
My one area of concern would be the garden. But maybe we have to compromise.
Something we said we'd always like to have is a big garden.
Where the compromise is, I don't know, cos the house itself is lovely.
Julie will have to work on me a bit to get this one to work!
Could I see us living here as a family? Yes, definitely.
It's a very family-oriented house.
Plenty of living space, great size bedrooms for the kids. Definitely.
Sensational house-viewing weather.
-Are you done?
-Pull the door behind you.
Let's go and discuss, then there's the rest of the East Midlands to look at!
Now, when you imagine the quintessential English countryside,
Leicestershire probably isn't at the top of the list.
Yet this is a county with a strong farming pedigree.
Even today, a massive 84% of the landscape is classified as rural,
which covers everything from farmland to villages and market towns.
In fact, it boasts the third oldest market town in the UK, Melton Mowbray,
recorded in the Domesday Book in 1086 as having the only market in all of Leicestershire.
People have been haggling over goods on a Tuesday
since it was awarded a Royal Charter for its weekly market back in 1324.
Keen to explore their potential new pastures, Julie and Simon met up with local expert Joan Dawson.
-Nice to meet you.
-This is Simon.
Here we are in the marketplace.
-Very busy, isn't it?
-It's always very busy.
But perhaps not as it was in 1837
because the Marquis of Waterford came here with a lot of his friends.
They'd been to the races and got a trifle tipsy
and decided to paint the town red - literally!
They painted the toll house and the toll house-keeper red!
And that's where the expression of having a good time comes from, Melton Mowbray!
I do like a good tale of drunken derring-do,
but it's country life Simon and Julie are after, and you don't get more rural than the beast market!
OK, it's just cows, sheep and pigs, but a fantastic name.
And it's big business for Melton, with up to 3,000 people visiting each week.
Over 33,000 cows and 250,000 sheep are sold annually.
Pigs are a recent addition to the market, which is strange
when you consider what else Melton Mowbray is famous for -
the birthplace of the pork pie.
So for Julie and Simon's final stop, they met Stephen Hallam,
at the oldest and last shop that produces authentic Melton Mowbray pork pies in the town centre.
Where do pork pies come from, Stephen?
Melton Mowbray pork pies owe their fame to Stilton cheese. That came first.
Going back 200 years, a by-product of the cheesemaking process is whey.
Cheesemakers found that's a good food supplement for pigs.
So they kept pigs and there was loads of pork about.
A grocer and a baker started making pies in Melton Mowbray using the pork. That's how it happened.
Then the fame of the pies spread thanks to hunting.
The pork pie became the staple diet for the hunters' grooms.
Easy to carry and eat on the move.
To be an authentic Melton Mowbray pork pie, it must be hand-made in the area
from uncured meat and cooked without support.
They look about done now, so we'll take those out.
-Oh, they smell fantastic!
-Put them on there.
-They look good, don't they?
-Are they ready to eat?
No, we put jelly in them. They'll cool overnight and they're ready tomorrow.
4,500 pies are sold from these premises every week.
That increases to a staggering 30,000 in the six weeks before Christmas.
What will Julie and Simon think of this traditional Leicestershire fare?
I think Simple Simon has met his pie man!
In Melton Mowbray!
For our second offering, we're heading over the border into Northamptonshire,
to the village of Geddington.
At just 15 miles from Market Harborough,
it's a much shorter 20-minute commute for Simon.
Geddington has plenty to keep the family occupied
with an impressive roll-call of clubs.
Everything from rugby and cricket to tennis and am-dram.
There's also a youth club, and Simon and Julie get a choice of pubs.
The village is also home to the must-have primary school,
again with a "good" Ofsted rating,
and two cornerstones of rural life, the shop and the post office.
However, we're heading one mile out into the country
for our next property,
to a small development of nine houses converted from farm buildings back in 1999.
-Come on in, guys.
So after the first one, which I thought is a beautiful cottage,
-I thought it was perhaps a bit too "done" for you.
So what we have here is an equally beautiful property
but I think it probably has more scope for you to do stuff to it.
-A mini project?
-Not really, you don't need to do anything to it.
-But there's potential to do something.
This is your main garden. There's a back garden as well, but this is the biggest spot of lawn.
-Is this enough to throw a rugby ball around?
-On the drive in,
-there's fields galore.
-You're surrounded by fields and woodland galore.
-So there's plenty of space there.
-Pitch your rugby posts there!
Although this barn is attached, it's really spacious.
I think it could offer them the family accommodation they're after, if they put some work in.
However, having remodelled their current home, I'm sure they could handle it.
-Yes, nice and big.
-Quite a theme on this show.
-I like this one.
-So do I.
It's a much better use of space.
What's nice about this one is it's bigger - everything is bigger in this property.
There are separate rooms, but there's also scope to make it open plan.
Off this hallway is the first reception room.
However, the majority of the living space is on the left-hand side of the barn.
So we come down the corridor into the kitchen.
-This is a nice big room.
-I like this.
-Lovely bespoke pine units all the way through.
-Is this enough work surface, Simon?
-Loads of space.
I know you're not mad keen on corridors.
-Could you live with that?
Because you don't have to. TAPS WALL
-These are all stud walls.
-Right. So there's massive potential.
-There's potential to open this all up so you have all these walls.
-Put your own stamp on it. Or our own stamp on it.
Not mine, no. I'll keep my stamps for myself, thank you!
'Well, that's given them something to think about.
'And still a lot more to see.'
-More and more space.
-This is the main sitting room.
-Oh, I love this!
-This is lovely. I like this.
-That would be the outside of the original barn.
you've got here...
-..lots more options.
-Wow, a playroom for the kids. Look a this.
-With doors outside. A few trees for Jake to climb.
-No, I like this room.
-This is great.
'Tick, tick, tick, down here, I think.
'I'm glad to see they're buying into the potential.
'Hopefully upstairs gets equally good marks.
'There are four bedrooms in all.
'Two very ample double rooms, one of which is next to the family bathroom
'so could be knocked through to create a guest en-suite.
'And there's a good-sized single.'
I hear you planning things as we walk around. Very good.
-It's very red!
-This is very red, the master bedroom. Quite red!
-It's the colour of passion, so fitting!
-Great. You think?
-Well! A nice en-suite which you can explore a bit later on.
Although the other property was fantastic and really well finished,
the proportions here and the ceiling height add a much different feeling of space.
'Simon is far more effusive in this house, which I take to be a good sign.
'But I know outside space can be a sticking point with him
'so let's see what he makes of the garden here.
'As well as the front garden, there's a patch at the back.'
So, the garden at the back is not massive, but it's pretty spectacular.
-You've got the forest to look at.
-Yes, that's nice.
-Very secluded, isn't it?
'Phew, I thought that might be a problem. I have one more area to show out front
'which could be a real bonus.'
This, I think, is a really exciting space.
-This is a continuation of what was the sitting room.
The sitting room.
And they have - or, rather, they had - planning permission
to convert this, put windows in and turn it into a living space.
In the end, they didn't need to do it, so the permission has lapsed.
But it would be easy to get it again.
This, to me, is one of the most exciting bits about this property.
It's totally untapped. I think - if I'm not wrong -
it's the living room behind that wall.
-So there's a fireplace there.
-This, to me, would be a continuation of this.
In order to do that work, you need a bit of money.
-So how much do you think all of this costs?
I think probably...510.
To tell you the truth, it's on with a guide price
which is different from a fixed price.
So you can put offers under. It's on with a guide price of 540.
-I was way off the mark!
-You were very optimistic!
Have a look around. I think with this one there's more head scratching.
-I agree with you.
-Have a look round and I'll see you on the drive.
With a guide price of £540,000
I can't say exactly how much money would be left in the pot
to further convert this barn.
But at least 50,000, I would imagine.
It's already a big property with two formal reception rooms,
a large kitchen, a study and four bedrooms.
It could be even bigger if they decided to convert the barn outside
and the rear garden backs onto prime Northamptonshire woodland.
I think we could have a contender.
I love the size of the kitchen.
But give me carte blanche, I'd build a nice breakfast bar out here,
move the table down, knock out that wall
and you have a lovely big living/breakfast/kitchen area.
From the moment we walked in, Simon's creative juices were flowing
and having done a project before, we're not averse to doing it again.
I could see his mind working,
mentally knocking down walls. I think he likes it, too.
I could actually see us living here.
I must say I like the light and the space.
And it would give us a blank canvas. There's a lot of potential.
There are so many bees in this wisteria - it's Bee Central!
-See this beautiful wisteria? It could be yours!
-Stunning, isn't it?
-Are you excited about this one?
-Yes, I like this one.
I feel a positive energy. Keep that going! Keep it going.
Well, we're two properties down
as the sun sets over the East Midlands countryside.
I think we've given Julie and Simon plenty to think about.
Coming up, we'll be taking Simon and Julie out of their comfort zone
with the Mystery House. Could it be the not-quite-so-country-escape they want?
This is amazing!
-That's what we wanted to hear!
-Isn't it lovely?
And I'll be getting to grips with some traditional English folk.
Day Two of our Dublin to East Midlands house hunt.
Julie and Simon have been very enthusiastic about the beautiful countryside
but slight problems with the layout of these country cottages.
They could do stuff in the second property
but for the Mystery House I'd like to give them the layout they're used to,
but maybe add a little twist
for these cosmopolitan city dwellers.
All will be revealed soon. We're heading to Leicestershire
and will be 30 minutes from Market Harborough,
as the Mystery House is situated in Lutterworth.
A busy market town, it's not the chocolate box village our Dubliners had in mind.
But having a whole host of amenities on the doorstep
might not be such a bad idea for a young family,
including a choice of primary schools and the full gamut of shops and pubs.
Our property is situated near the centre of the town
but it's right next door to the church and cricket pitch,
so it almost feels like a village.
-Obviously, location has changed here.
What are your thoughts about Lutterworth?
-First impressions are that it's noisy behind me.
-There is a road.
What about the house from the outside?
Looks great. Yes, I like it.
A good, substantial looking house.
It is from the '50s. Again, this part on the left is from 1953.
It won an architectural award when it was built.
This part on the right is from two years ago. There's a theme!
There is a theme, yes!
Add-on seamless extensions. So there's a lot of space.
-Can we go inside?
-You like the outside?
-Yes, very much.
'Well, that went pretty well.
'Unless I've read these two completely wrong,
'I think they'll be bowled over by the interior.'
-It's a big, bright hall.
-Into this space here.
-This is amazing.
-Lovely room, isn't it?
Why we wanted to show you this is because it is very open plan.
You're not wrong there!
It flows through the back wall of the house into this new extension.
Look at those windows!
Interestingly, the builder specialises in oak.
-These are oak frames. Green oak, but now they're set.
They're pegged. There's no screws or metal involved.
-I really, really like those windows.
-I love that.
-Lots of love.
-Lots of loving.
-Love in this room!
Great. You could have the kids doing their homework there,
you watching the telly there, and Simon in the kitchen cooking.
Take a look at this.
Ooh, now that's a kitchen... That's a kitchen!
-Beautiful, isn't it?
A lovely island.
This door goes straight into the double garage.
You've got inside access to the garage, so you can bring shopping in here.
-I like this.
Rooms flowing into rooms.
'Downstairs is an unqualified success
'and upstairs won't disappoint.
'Five bedrooms in all, each a very good size.
'There are four doubles, so plenty of room for Rebecca, Jake and grandparents.
'And there's a large modern family bathroom.'
Here's the master.
This is amazing!
That's what we wanted to hear!
-Isn't it lovely?
-you wanted open plan...
-It's open plan!
That is an open plan en-suite!
-Does that work for you?
-This could be our very own play room!
-On so many levels!
But it is lovely. It's an unusual thing to have.
It's not quite a wet room, but it's water-tight. But then...
-on top of that...
-This is great.
-Look at this!
-Come out here...
-There's the church.
Church and the cricket ground to watch the cricket.
-I like this. It's great, isn't it?
-You have to become a cricket fan!
I mean, the noise is something you have to think about.
-MODERATE TRAFFIC NOISE
-Yeah, that's... Yeah.
Let's go in the garden, see if you can still hear.
'It's the biggest garden we're seeing so it should go down well with Simon.
-It's a beautiful garden.
-It's about quarter of an acre.
-Not excessive. It wraps round.
-There's a little stile that goes across to the cricket.
-The kids can live over there!
-Bit of... That's tennis, isn't it?
Croquet! And a lovely veggie patch and another viewing platform.
You can sit... Is it going to be a problem with road noise? That's the question.
That's the big stumbling block for me. The house is perfect.
It ticks every single box. And more.
-I don't know.
-I can't deny, it is a factor here.
It's something we'd have to think about.
-The other thing to think about is the price.
-You go first. I hate this bit!
I think it'll be the top end. Uh... 595.
I'm going to go for 605.
Ah. Right. Throw the difference. It's just a shade under £600,000.
-You get £50 change.
To be honest, the house internally ticks nearly all the boxes.
It's just the road is the bit that doesn't quite do it.
But we have to compromise.
-Why don't you go inside and discuss the compromise.
-I'll see you out the front.
That was a good Mystery House.
So, a snip under our budget of £600,000,
our mystery market town house seems to have hit the spot.
It has a very contemporary huge open plan living area downstairs
including a high-spec kitchen.
Upstairs are five big bedrooms including the master en-suite.
And surprisingly for a town location,
it has the biggest garden we've seen, at quarter of an acre.
It is close to a road, but will it be a compromise worth making?
I just love it. I'd say it ticks all of my boxes, actually.
The only problem is the noise from the main road. It's a bigger compromise for me than for Simon.
The Mystery House has set the cat amongst the pigeons.
A bit of a dilemma.
But a nice dilemma to be stuck in!
I'm going to have to tear you away. I know you like it.
-I don't want to leave.
-Not only do you have to leave, you have to make some decisions.
-You look like you're going to say goodbye!
-We'll go back in!
Apart from country pubs, sheep and hay bales,
for me, nothing epitomises English rural life quite like a bunch of men
dressed in white, shaking bells, sticks and hankies.
However, we're lucky to see Morris dancing at all
as by the end of the 19th century,
with the Industrial Revolution taking over the countryside,
this ancient folk tradition had virtually died out.
Today, though, there are an estimated 14,000 Morris men and women in the UK.
And 17 groups are based here in Leicestershire and Rutland.
So to find out how it's survived, I'm joining Pete Johnson of the Leicester Morris Men.
Now, I'm a Morris dancing virgin. I don't know that much about it.
We're here in Leicestershire. Is it from here?
There would have been dances here, years ago, but nobody recorded them
because they regarded them as everyday stuff.
They were handed down, father to son.
So did they get lost at some point?
They got lost because the Morris virtually died out
at the end of the 19th century.
And they were only saved
because a serious collector of folk songs ran into some Morris men
on the outskirts of Oxford and took an interest
and collected the dances a few years later.
So it's been revived. What's the origin? It's a bit nebulous, isn't it?
Well, to put it into context, it's mentioned in writing in Leicester
It's around that time? It's not pre-history, not pagan?
It's not pre-history, it's not pagan. That's a theory that people put around for local colour!
It does seem to have something to do with the cycle of the year and the seasons.
-So in a sense it's fertility.
-Does it make you fertile?
It is a fertility ritual, but not in a personal sense!
Probably more of an agricultural metaphor!
-You don't have hundreds of children?
-Not that we're admitting to!
I've always had a soft spot for Morris dancing.
Often on this show I do things I'm not so keen on,
-but I'm keen to have a go at this.
-Only if I get to wear the hat and the bells!
-You need all the kit if you're going to do it.
That one can go on your head.
-You'll need this around your neck.
-And you've got some bells.
-Come and kit me up.
This Leicester side - that's what they're called, not a team -
meet weekly throughout the year and perform every Wednesday night
in and around Leicestershire in summer.
So who better to show me a few moves?
Your hats look... Mine looks like a dowager aunt! Yours look manly!
-Right, we need to teach you a few steps, if you want to join the Morris.
The first thing is to go, "One, two, three, hop!"
One, two, three, hop. One, two, three, hop.
BOTH: One, two, three, hop. One, two, three, hop.
'I think I've mastered that. Let's move on to the sticks.'
You hold it still and he'll strike you.
MORRIS MUSIC PLAYS
-There you go. It's better with your eyes open, isn't it?
Now, let's see if I can combine the two!
# Landlord, fill the flowing bowl
# Until it doth run over
# Landlord, fill the flowing bowl
# Until it doth run over. #
You're getting there! Still looking a little anxious at times!
That has got to be the most charming, guileless reason
to move to the countryside ever!
Hopefully, we haven't made such a song and dance
of the house hunt here in Leicestershire.
I think all three properties have given Julie and Simon food for thought.
They need time to weigh up the pros and cons.
The Mystery House seemed to knock them for six,
but will it be enough to make them forget the earlier, more rural contenders?
Let's find out.
Hello! Oh, you've poured me tea. How nice! Earl Grey?
It is Earl Grey, yes.
This is the moment when we have a little chat about all the houses.
So, the very first house, the chocolate box house.
-What do you think now?
-I still think it's a stunning house.
From the outside, it's quintessentially English.
I can't disagree. When we drove up to it, it certainly was a wow.
It was straight off a postcard.
But going into it, it felt a bit claustrophobic.
-And once we went into the back garden...
-It was off, wasn't it?
-Off the radar.
-Just a bit too small.
What about the house in the countryside, with the neighbours?
The hamlet, the barn conversion.
I loved the fact that it was a barn conversion. I liked the idea of the old stone
and the whole developments of that area.
The garden at the front was sizeable enough.
But it also hadn't quite realised its true potential.
There were parts of it, as we talked about, that hadn't been developed.
-What about the Mystery House?
-My first thought was it's a town.
But when I saw the house, it really had the wow factor.
There was a really nice, comfortable feel about it. Of all three,
it was the one where I went, "Wow, this is what I was looking for."
When you look at all three properties overall,
does one stand out as a clear winner?
-In terms of the house, the Mystery House.
-Without a doubt. Absolutely.
-That's the one you'd follow up on?
Would you think about putting an offer in?
I think we have to go and find out more about it. A considered, reflective view.
But if we could pick it up and put it into Geddington, where the barn conversion was,
-we'd put an offer in today.
-Ching! If I had a pound for every time I heard that, I'd be rich!
We could make the barn in Geddington look like the house in Lutterworth!
I hope it works out. I'd love it to be one of our houses, but whichever way,
-I hope it's soon and you're happy.
-We'll send an invite to the house-warming!
-I'd be honoured.
It's quite a challenge to find a family home in an area as big as the East Midlands
especially when you're house-hunting from Ireland.
But I think we did Simon and Julie proud as they relocate to this beautiful bit of Britain.
For more beautiful bits of Britain, tune in next time
for Escape to the Country.
If you'd like to escape to the country in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland or England,
please apply online at:
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
Alistair Appleton dons a flower hat and bells to join the Leicester Morris Men troupe in the East Midlands. With a budget of £600,000, we're helping to reunite a Dublin family. Simon, the father is working in the UK and has become a 'weekend dad', so, in a bid to get the family back together, they are crossing the Irish Sea in search of a classic English country home.