Essex Escape to the Country


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Essex

Jonnie Irwin helps a young family with ambitions of grand country living in Essex. They are spoilt for choice, viewing a couple of barn conversions and a Georgian manor house.


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This rather big chap here - or, rather, his cousins -

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have been eaten in Britain for literally thousands of years.

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But it was the Romans who first declared oysters from these particular waters a delicacy.

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Where am I? Well, stick around and I'll tell you.

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'On today's show, we help a couple find the perfect family home in the country,

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'and they like what they see.'

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This is incredible.

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'And it just gets better and better.'

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-This is just amazing!

-Yeah. Grand enough for you?

-It is.

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'But am I spoiling them for choice?'

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You ask, I deliver.

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Today, I'm in Essex, on the banks of the Blackwater River,

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where conditions for farming oysters are perfect.

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And whether you love them or loathe them,

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they've been part of our British diet since prehistoric times.

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Now, right here in Essex, you will find two kinds of oysters -

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the native oyster, which, as you might gather from its name, is indigenous to these waters,

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and this fella here, the rock oyster,

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which was introduced here in the 1980s.

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As for me - well, I love them.

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'Positioned on the coast north-east of London,

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'Essex is a county famed for its natural beauty.

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'Inspired by the landscape,

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'19th-century British painter John Constable

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'depicted one Essex riverbank

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'in arguably his greatest work, The Hay Wain, in 1821.

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'But Essex isn't just about beauty.

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'This is a land with a long, rich history,

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'from Bronze Age travellers drawn to the salty marshlands

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'to the Romans, who first discovered the now famous oysters in the mudflats.

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'In fact, when the Romans built a fort on the site of Colchester in 44 AD,

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'they inadvertently created the original capital of Roman Britain.

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'By the 17th and 18th centuries, Essex had become a centre of trade,

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'due to both readily available seafood from its 350-mile coastline

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'and its rich agricultural land.

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'Because of this rich and diverse past,

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'today Essex is awash with period properties,

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'set in charming villages which all have one thing in common -

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'an easy commute to London.

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'Which means that those that live here

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'can have the benefits of both rural life and access to the city.'

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Despite its proximity to London, Essex is in fact mostly rural,

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with 70% of its land given up to agriculture.

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And period housing stock isn't in short supply either,

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with over 14,000 listed buildings county-wide.

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Of course, all of this has an impact on price.

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Essex comes at a cost - around £44,000,

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which is how much more you'd pay for a detached house here

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when compared with the UK average.

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So, let's take a look at a selection of houses currently available.

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'Dating back to the early 19th century,

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'this £975,000 five-bedroom Grade II-listed farmhouse

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'is set in three acres.

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'The country kitchen suits the rural location

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'and the drawing room is elegantly appointed.

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'The property has plenty of original features,

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'like the exposed beams and the feature fireplace

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'in the living area.

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'If a 400-year-old thatched property is more your style,

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'then for £595,000, this three-bedroom home could be yours.

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'The property has been extended over the years to add space,

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'which means the bedrooms are large and the kitchen is modern.

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'From the conservatory, you can take in the views of the garden and the horses in the paddock beyond.

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'For £430,000, this 17th-century thatched property

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'is set in half an acre and has period features aplenty.

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'Timber is certainly the name of the game,

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'with character oozing from the exposed beams and the solid oak flooring.

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'And the kitchen/diner offers the best of both worlds,

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'combining character features with a contemporary, bright feel.'

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Some great Essex properties there, with three more coming up,

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including, of course, our mystery house.

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So, will any of them tempt today's buyers? Only time will tell.

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Let's meet them.

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'Radiologist Bal and his wife, Kinder, a business improvement leader,

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'were married six years ago.

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'Along with their two children, Amrit and Arjun,

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'they live with Bal's parents and close family

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'in a six-bed house in Epping.'

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The house is fairly large, with a large lounge.

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And the kitchen's a very good size. It's the hub of our family.

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Upstairs, we've got five bedrooms.

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-We've also got a decent garden for the kids.

-Absolutely.

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'Although they enjoy living with all the family,

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'Bal has just taken a new job at a Chelmsford hospital,

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'which means he needs to move closer to work.'

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The area I'm working for has to be 30 minutes from the hospital.

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And also, because both of us work,

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we need to organise child care for the kids as well.

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So, we need to be within, also, commuting distance back to Epping

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for when the grandparents look after the children.

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-So, again, 20 to 30 minutes...

-Max.

-..maximum.

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'However, the move is also about a change of lifestyle.'

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For me, I'm a fitness fanatic, so I'd love the great outdoors

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for going for a jog any time that I wanted to.

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Also, I'd ideally like to, sort of, really get into gardening

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and have my own veg patch.

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And hopefully, there'll be room for a pool table to fit in the house somewhere.

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-SHE LAUGHS

-You wish!

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'Bal may well be snookered on the pool table,

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'but what other boxes need to be ticked on the list of must-haves?'

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We're going for a detached house, four bedrooms,

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of which at least three should be good-sized rooms,

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for a decent lounge, a nice, large kitchen.

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-Garden.

-Garden. For...for the kids.

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Those are the absolute musts and essentials.

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-And three large reception rooms.

-Three large reception rooms.

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'A comprehensive list.

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'But is there a style of home that really appeals?'

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It could be a barn conversion. It could be a new build.

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It could be an old house, as long as it was fairly modern in side.

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'Flexibility is helpful,

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'and because Bal and Kinder have been living with his parents,

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'they've managed to save a large deposit.'

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And if we did find the right property, we would be in a position to go for it straightaway.

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'So, how much do we have to work with?'

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Our maximum budget for the move is £750,000.

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On the face of it, this all sounds fairly straightforward.

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Four bedrooms, good-sized garden, good-sized kitchen,

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and we've got a good-sized budget, £750,000,

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in a massive county - 1,417 square miles.

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But there's a but, and let's face it, there usually is.

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We're not looking at the whole county. We're looking at a fraction of it.

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Because Bal has to be within 30 minutes' drive to work.

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So we need to find a big house in a very small space.

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'So we'll be focusing our search north-west of Chelmsford

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'in an area with good road links

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'and within easy reach of his parents, in Epping.

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'We've found some excellent properties that will hopefully impress Bal and Kinder,

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'but I won't be telling them the price until the end of the tour.

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'And then there's the mystery house, which promises to challenge their idea of country life.'

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-Good morning. How are we doing?

-Morning. Not so bad. Yourself?

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Normally I'd welcome you to Essex, or the county where we are,

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-but you already live here, so you should be welcoming me.

-Absolutely.

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I mean, at the moment, you live in...a large house

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with a lot of people, a lot of family.

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-Seven adults and three children.

-Wow.

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-So, this is gonna be a huge change for you guys, isn't it?

-Indeed.

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Probably more so for me, cos I've experienced the house since I was a young kid.

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What's a big no-no in the house itself?

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A small kitchen.

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-The kitchen's gonna be the hub of the home...

-OK.

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..and it needs to be spacious and luxurious.

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Let's talk about the budget, then. How much have we got to spend?

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I would say £700,000.

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You would say £700,000? Would Bal say something different?

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-He would.

-Oh, right. OK.

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THEY LAUGH

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You're saying 700, Kinder. What says Bal?

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-I think we can push up to about 750.

-Don't look at me like that!

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THEY LAUGH

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-OK, so, maybe up to 750.

-Maybe.

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-I'll see if I can get anything cheaper, Kinder.

-That'd be great.

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All right, well, we've got some fantastic properties lined up today.

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-Let's go have a look, shall we?

-Yeah.

-Brilliant.

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'With a maximum budget of £750,000,

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'Bal and Kinder would like a detached four-bedroom house

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'with a large kitchen.

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'Bal likes the idea of space for a pool table

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'and Kinder wants a vegetable patch so she can grow her own produce.

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'Our first property is on the rural outskirts of Great Dunmow.

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'It's perfectly situated

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'just 20 minutes from Bal's work in Chelmsford

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'and 30 minutes from his parents for when they need the child care.

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'Home to around 9,000 people,

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'this idyllic location on the River Chelmer has an inviting high street

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'littered with bric-a-brac shops and local speciality stores.

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'However, if it's a countryside location that Kinder is after,

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'she'll find it with our first house.'

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So, property number one...

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..is, obviously, a barn conversion, with an extension on it.

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-It looks good.

-Looks very nice.

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Local intelligence suggests it's about 1750s.

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And these are your outbuildings. A garage. Triple garage, really.

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-What are your thoughts?

-It looks very nice, I think.

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-What do you think of that lovely, long drive?

-Absolutely fantastic.

-Fantastic.

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-Very impressive, isn't it?

-Very impressive.

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-Happy?

-Give me a moment.

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-You look almost speechless.

-I am. Indeed.

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Well, hopefully we'll have something to talk about inside. Follow me.

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'Bal's holding back and Kinder's giving very little away.

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'But I think this 2002 conversion will eventually win them over.'

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Right, then.

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Your entrance hall.

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These flagstones - local Essex flagstones, they are.

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And - just peek your head.

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-You've got an office there.

-Fantastic.

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I'm thinking you'll always be dying to get into this main room, cos it's quite special. Follow me.

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Do you know what I mean when I say you'll look forward to coming in here?

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Wow. That is a grand entrance.

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That's lovely. It's really nice.

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I mean, this is what I always have in mind.

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When someone says "barn conversion",

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I always hope to see a room like this,

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where they haven't had to use all this wonderful space and these big, lofted ceilings.

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They make the use of all the timber as well. It's such a big, impressive room, isn't it?

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Very impressive.

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Ever had an open fire before?

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-Nope.

-No, but it was a desire.

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-Was it?

-Yeah.

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I like the windows too. They're really nice, even with the decor.

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-You won't find another barn like this.

-No.

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Every barn conversion is different,

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especially when they keep so much of the old timbers and the original features.

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It's quirky.

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-You look really taken with this, Kinder.

-I am.

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They've used the space really well.

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-Now, both of your eyes seem to be going up to that dining area.

-Yes.

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So, let's have a look at that, but first, the kitchen on the way.

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'This room has certainly hit the mark for Kinder,

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'but it's in the kitchen that I think she'll be really impressed.'

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Now, I know that this is the most important room to you guys.

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It is. It's gonna be the hub of the home, the heart,

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the functioning part of the family.

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And this is incredible.

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It's really nice. I'm liking it.

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I'm liking the hardtops.

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I'm liking the informal dining area

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for them to have their messy breakfasts.

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This is brilliant.

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That looks like a utility room over there, separated.

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You've done well.

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-It IS lovely, isn't it?

-It is beautiful.

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You know, the French doors

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and the light that it's drawing in - it's brilliant.

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It makes the room really spacious and bright.

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Which is what you need when you're gonna spend a lot of time in here.

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Yes. Good.

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-Now, upstairs, remember that dining area?

-Indeed.

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-Let's take a peek?

-Yeah.

-All right.

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Now, it might mean you've got to carry some food up the stairs,

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but I thought this was a great place to have formal dining.

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You're not wrong there.

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This is really nice.

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They've used the space so well!

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-Absolutely.

-I'm just thinking a Christmas party.

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-Yeah.

-It could be hosted here!

-SHE LAUGHS

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-It's a real entertaining house, I think.

-It is. It's really nice.

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'So far, so good.

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'Back through the kitchen/diner, on the other side of the gallery drawing room,

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'still on the ground floor, are two bedrooms.

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'One is currently being used as a playroom and both are en suite.

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'Now for upstairs, where we find the two other bedrooms -

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'again, both en suite.'

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Now, mind your heads.

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Now, it's pretty obvious what I'm gonna suggest this is.

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-Amrit's bedroom.

-Yeah.

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It's very nice.

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Now, you mentioned your daughter as having a bedroom to herself,

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but the one potential compromise of this house

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is there's a staircase that separates two bedrooms from two other bedrooms.

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You've got two bedrooms on this level here, and right below are the other two bedrooms.

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OK.

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So...would you be happy with that

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or would you initially maybe have them sharing?

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If we're moving into such a spacious property, I don't think it's gonna be a big deal.

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I'd rather they had their separate bedrooms.

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OK. Children's bedrooms all done.

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Your master bedroom, I think, is just over there.

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So you can lead the way if you like, Bal.

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-It's all gone quiet.

-It's a very nice room.

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-Oh, good! Whew!

-Very nice room. Lovely windows.

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A lot of space.

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I'm taken.

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Because I've always thought, "I want a really big, spacious, 20ft room."

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But, do you know, because of the light, the windows, the character,

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you know, I can compromise.

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Let's go and look at the garden and start thinking about price. OK?

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'We're heading out through the informal dining area

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'into the garden to the rear of the property.

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'Hopefully a quarter of an acre will be plenty of space for their growing children.'

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-Now, you said it's important for Amrit and Arjun to have a usable garden.

-Yes.

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What's this like for size?

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-It's very nice.

-Yeah?

-Yeah, definitely.

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-It's great. You can ride a bike up and down.

-Absolutely.

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Now, the owners of this place have got a young toddler,

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and you can see there's plenty of playthings for them around.

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But behind that wall, there's a secure garden,

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which I think would make a fantastic vegetable garden.

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A kitchen garden, if you like.

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Totally protected from the elements, except sun, and it's south-facing.

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So you can see some tommies growing up the walls there, couldn't you?

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-Absolutely. What a great idea.

-Mmm.

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So, all in all, how much do you think it is?

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745?

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745.

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I think it's probably a bit more than that.

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Cos it is quite a big size.

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Big, impressive room downstairs and quite a large garden.

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Maybe about 785.

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Kinder, have you been sneaking at my sale particulars in the car?

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-No.

-It's spot-on 745! Well done!

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-Fantastic.

-I'm a bit taken aback with that, really.

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Well, look, there's two bedrooms you haven't had a look at.

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Go and look around those rooms now. Start adding up which ones you'd use for what.

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-I'll catch you in 10 minutes or so.

-OK.

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'For £745,000, this barn conversion

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'is just under budget

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'and delivers the four bedrooms

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'Bal and Kinder are after.

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'The high-spec kitchen/diner has

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'met with a very positive response,

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'as did the formal dining area.

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'And it even has space

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'for Kinder's veggie patch

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'and a garden for the children.

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'All in all, a very good result.

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'But will the layout of the bedrooms

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'cause Bal and Kinder

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'to have a rethink?'

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Being on two split levels. We want the kids to be on the same level as us.

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When you really like something, you start compromising,

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but then you have to...reflect

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and think, "How practical, how realistic is it going to be?"

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And I'm not sure whether the bedrooms would work for my children and me.

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So, that's the first one done. Much to think about?

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-Yeah. A few bits and bobs.

-Yeah. Nice house, though.

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Good. Off to the next one.

0:17:210:17:23

'Since the 17th century, Essex has been the trade link

0:17:290:17:32

'between London and the east coast of England,

0:17:320:17:35

'transporting everything from textiles to agricultural goods via the Thames.

0:17:350:17:39

'And crucial to this trade was Maldon,

0:17:390:17:41

'one of the county's oldest towns, with 5th-century Saxon origins.

0:17:410:17:46

'In a prime location on both the coast and Blackwater Estuary,

0:17:460:17:50

'Maldon has historically made the most of its ready-made natural transport links.

0:17:500:17:54

'And to find out more,

0:17:540:17:56

'earlier in the week, we suggested Bal and Kinder drop anchor

0:17:560:17:59

'and meet up with local historian Stephen Nunn at Maldon's Hythe Quay.'

0:17:590:18:03

-Hi.

-Hiya.

-Welcome to Maldon's Hythe Quay.

0:18:040:18:07

Nice to see you both. Let me show you round one of the barges.

0:18:070:18:11

'So important was Maldon as a commercial port,

0:18:110:18:14

'it evolved a unique variety of flat-bottomed barge

0:18:140:18:17

'for transporting cargo.

0:18:170:18:18

'Known as "stackies", as they often carried haystacks on deck,

0:18:180:18:22

'these barges were built at Hythe Quay,

0:18:220:18:24

'and many, such as the Thistle, are still moored here today.'

0:18:240:18:27

So, how many barges operated in its heyday from here?

0:18:270:18:31

Well, along the east coast,

0:18:310:18:32

there were probably around 2,000 barges at one point.

0:18:320:18:36

But the numbers sort of dropped off,

0:18:360:18:38

and now you'd be lucky if there were 200 survivors anywhere.

0:18:380:18:43

'And many of them can be found right here in Maldon.

0:18:430:18:46

'But they're not the only historic relics in the town.

0:18:460:18:49

'With 364 Grade I- and II-listed buildings,

0:18:510:18:54

'Maldon's architecture spans six centuries.

0:18:540:18:58

'One of the finest examples is the Grade I-listed Moot Hall.

0:18:580:19:01

'This 15th-century structure has pride of place

0:19:010:19:04

'being the oldest brick building in the county,

0:19:040:19:07

'and inside, it has many unique features.'

0:19:070:19:09

So, do you notice anything unusual about this staircase?

0:19:100:19:14

-Is it the wrong way round?

-It IS the wrong way round.

0:19:140:19:17

It's an opposite spiral, which is one of the many mysteries of this place.

0:19:170:19:22

But it's a wonderful building,

0:19:220:19:25

and I want to show you a really wonderful view now.

0:19:250:19:28

So, although it's really windy, I wanted to bring you up here,

0:19:290:19:32

because, as you can see,

0:19:320:19:33

we've got some wonderful views from the top of the Moot Hall.

0:19:330:19:37

This building started off as D'Arcy's Tower,

0:19:370:19:40

and it was built sometime between 1420 and 1440.

0:19:400:19:44

Was it unusual for a building in that time to be built from brick?

0:19:440:19:47

Very unusual, yes. All around would have been timber-framed.

0:19:470:19:51

But D'Arcy was a powerful man.

0:19:510:19:53

He was MP for the borough, well in with the royal family,

0:19:530:19:56

and he wanted a defended town house.

0:19:560:19:58

And you can see lots of other historic sites from the roof.

0:19:580:20:01

You can see All Saints Church, with its unique triangular tower.

0:20:010:20:06

You can also see the slope of the high street

0:20:060:20:08

and you suddenly realise that Maldon is built on a hill,

0:20:080:20:12

and that's why it's called "Maeldune" -

0:20:120:20:14

the Saxon word for "hill marked by a cross" or "hill of assembly".

0:20:140:20:17

'Another important brick building for Bal and Kinder is coming up,

0:20:170:20:21

'so it's time for the next house tour.'

0:20:210:20:23

The house you're in now is very different.

0:20:280:20:30

-There's, what, seven adults there?

-Yep.

0:20:300:20:32

All your family around you.

0:20:320:20:34

Are you gonna miss living in that kind of environment?

0:20:340:20:37

I think I will. Um...but...needs must.

0:20:370:20:40

And for me, I'll be dropping off the kids to the grandparents' house.

0:20:400:20:45

-I'll be going there Monday to Friday!

-Every day.

0:20:450:20:47

Every day. So, you know, it's not a huge thing.

0:20:470:20:50

'And that means the location for our next property is perfect.

0:20:520:20:56

'Situated in the countryside surrounding Stansted Mountfitchet,

0:20:560:20:59

'our second house is within easy reach of the grandparents,

0:20:590:21:02

'and Bal is half an hour from work for when he's on call.

0:21:020:21:05

'"Stansted" is Saxon for "stony place",

0:21:050:21:08

'while "Mountfitchet" is derived from the Norman baron who settled here in the 11th century.

0:21:080:21:13

'Today there are 6,000 residents making the most

0:21:130:21:16

'of some beautiful thatched cottages, Tudor coach-houses

0:21:160:21:19

'and a variety of period homes,

0:21:190:21:21

'all benefiting from good transport links

0:21:210:21:23

'which help to make it such a desirable location

0:21:230:21:26

'to bring up a family.

0:21:260:21:27

'And just over a mile away, off a pristine gravelled courtyard,

0:21:270:21:31

'our next property is one of five

0:21:310:21:32

'within this barn conversion complex.'

0:21:320:21:35

And whilst you've already seen a barn conversion,

0:21:350:21:37

I think it's important for you to see this one,

0:21:370:21:40

not only to compare and contrast,

0:21:400:21:42

but you should see the best property available at any one moment of time.

0:21:420:21:45

I believe this to be one of them.

0:21:450:21:47

This is Victorian.

0:21:470:21:50

Now, we are looking at - see that black downpipe? -

0:21:500:21:52

the right half of that entire building.

0:21:520:21:56

-OK.

-What are your first impressions?

0:21:560:21:58

It's a nice cul-de-sac.

0:22:000:22:02

-HE LAUGHS

-"Nice cul-de-sac"!

0:22:020:22:04

Well, these are very different first impressions from the last place.

0:22:040:22:07

Already, you're not animated. What's going through your mind, Bal?

0:22:070:22:11

It's not as striking as the other one.

0:22:110:22:14

But you can never judge a book by its cover.

0:22:140:22:17

I feel like I'm playing a bit of catch-up here. Am I?

0:22:170:22:20

Like you said, let's not judge the book by its cover.

0:22:210:22:24

OK.

0:22:240:22:25

All right. Follow me.

0:22:250:22:27

'Well, I knew they wanted a detached house,

0:22:280:22:30

'but we couldn't resist showing them this, because it's a real show-stopper,

0:22:300:22:34

'with a modern interior finished to a high standard.'

0:22:340:22:38

In you come. Mind that swinging door, Bal.

0:22:380:22:40

Now, then.

0:22:420:22:44

What do we think now? We're inside the cover of the book.

0:22:460:22:49

It's looking good.

0:22:500:22:51

-Whew!

-Got a smile on my face.

0:22:510:22:54

It feels very spacious. Draws in a lot of light.

0:22:540:22:58

I like the brickwork. I like the wood.

0:22:580:23:01

Absolutely lovely.

0:23:010:23:03

Good.

0:23:030:23:05

For you, Bal, a really nice office tucked away there -

0:23:050:23:08

if you wanted to keep it as an office.

0:23:080:23:10

If you look just round there, there's another raised area,

0:23:100:23:13

which is a snug, or could be a dining room,

0:23:130:23:17

-or it could be a little play area as well.

-Fantastic.

0:23:170:23:19

'Other than the snug, there's a large formal dining room

0:23:190:23:22

'branching off the living space.

0:23:220:23:24

'But it's the kitchen Kinder is most interested in.'

0:23:240:23:27

And into the kitchen.

0:23:280:23:31

What say you?

0:23:320:23:33

Immediately, the size hits you.

0:23:360:23:38

Um...however, I do like the interior. It's very high-spec.

0:23:380:23:44

Could you live with it this size?

0:23:440:23:46

-I think I'd have to balance it with the rest of the property.

-OK.

0:23:470:23:52

'The kitchen may not have impressed,

0:23:520:23:55

'but upstairs should receive a more positive response.

0:23:550:23:58

'All in all, there are four bedrooms.

0:23:580:24:00

'Two are en suite, which was certainly on Kinder's list of must-haves.

0:24:000:24:04

'The big benefit here is that they're all on one floor,

0:24:040:24:07

'which was a real stumbling block in the last property.'

0:24:070:24:10

Now, then, a master bedroom normally needs an ensuite, of which you have.

0:24:110:24:16

Ensuite bathroom with separate shower -

0:24:160:24:18

-so, it's a good-sized bathroom there.

-Fantastic.

0:24:180:24:21

What about this, then?

0:24:210:24:23

It's a good size.

0:24:230:24:25

There's plenty of cupboard space for all my clothes.

0:24:250:24:28

I think it's a very good size.

0:24:290:24:31

-Good.

-I like the space.

0:24:310:24:33

But what you couldn't see when we first walked up - cos you couldn't see any windows -

0:24:330:24:37

there's a whole other level to this property.

0:24:370:24:40

-Wow.

-So let's go up there now.

0:24:400:24:42

'Time for this property's secret weapon.'

0:24:420:24:45

Up you come.

0:24:460:24:47

-KINDER LAUGHS

-Oh, my God!

0:24:520:24:55

There you are - look. Pool table.

0:24:550:24:56

-Fantastic.

-You ask, I deliver.

0:24:560:25:00

Fantastic.

0:25:000:25:01

So, it's obviously huge.

0:25:010:25:03

One thing to bear in mind, though,

0:25:030:25:05

is it's not just this that's the opportunity.

0:25:050:25:08

Behind that door, you've got a fifth bedroom,

0:25:080:25:11

with a loo and a wash-hand basin, OK?

0:25:110:25:15

You do have so many options here.

0:25:150:25:17

Is there any more floors?

0:25:170:25:18

-THEY LAUGH

-No. At the moment, no.

0:25:180:25:21

I mean, this is over 3,000 square feet, this home.

0:25:210:25:24

-It's a lot.

-It's big.

-It is.

0:25:240:25:26

-All right?

-Mm-hm.

0:25:260:25:29

'Heading out through the glass doors,

0:25:290:25:31

'the garden is separated into two parts.'

0:25:310:25:33

So, you've got this formal space here

0:25:330:25:35

and so much more back here.

0:25:350:25:38

This is quite different, isn't it?

0:25:420:25:44

It certainly is.

0:25:440:25:46

It is. It's lovely.

0:25:460:25:48

So, how much do you think this is, then?

0:25:480:25:50

Who wants to go first?

0:25:530:25:54

OK. I'll say about 720.

0:25:540:25:57

720 from Kinder.

0:25:570:25:59

I was thinking more... pushing our upper limit - 750.

0:25:590:26:03

Because of the floor space.

0:26:030:26:05

Now, I'm gonna make sure that seatbelt is tight in my car.

0:26:060:26:10

-Sure you've not been looking through the sales details?

-No.

0:26:100:26:13

It's on the market for £725,000.

0:26:130:26:15

-I was about to say that.

-Were you?!

0:26:150:26:16

Well, you were pretty close.

0:26:160:26:18

OK, go back into the house now, then,

0:26:180:26:20

have a look at those other bedrooms you haven't yet seen, OK?

0:26:200:26:23

-I'll catch you in a minute.

-OK.

0:26:230:26:25

'For £725,000, you get a lot of barn

0:26:250:26:29

'for your money -

0:26:290:26:30

'four bedrooms,

0:26:300:26:31

'two of which are en suite,

0:26:310:26:33

'and all on the same level,

0:26:330:26:34

'a high-spec kitchen,

0:26:340:26:36

'a large open-plan living area,

0:26:360:26:38

'and a sizeable

0:26:380:26:39

'formal landscaped garden.

0:26:390:26:41

'Bal even has his pool table.

0:26:410:26:43

'There's bags of space,

0:26:430:26:44

'but will that be enough for them

0:26:440:26:46

'to consider what essentially is

0:26:460:26:48

'a semidetached property?'

0:26:480:26:49

So, do I get to keep the pool table, then?

0:26:490:26:51

I think the house is really accommodating.

0:26:510:26:54

Um...where it's gonna go, I'm not sure.

0:26:540:26:58

-But I can't see why not.

-Fantastic!

0:26:580:27:01

It just got better... and better...and better.

0:27:010:27:05

And the garden - again, I was blown away.

0:27:050:27:09

-How did you get on? OK?

-Yeah. It's been a great experience.

0:27:090:27:12

Good. Well, hopefully, two potential homes to consider.

0:27:120:27:15

Let me drive you back.

0:27:150:27:17

'I feel like we've achieved a lot today.

0:27:190:27:21

'And as the sun sets over Essex,

0:27:210:27:24

'I'm sure our househunters will have plenty to talk about.

0:27:240:27:27

'Living in Epping with Bal's parents,

0:27:290:27:32

'Bal and Kinder want to escape to the country.

0:27:320:27:34

'They've already seen two fantastic barn conversions.'

0:27:340:27:38

This is incredible.

0:27:380:27:40

'But coming up next is our mystery house -

0:27:400:27:43

'a property aimed at challenging our buyers' wish list.

0:27:430:27:46

'And Kinder has already decided

0:27:460:27:48

'how she's going to spend her afternoons.'

0:27:480:27:50

Ain't it great to have a cuppa?

0:27:500:27:52

-Yeah!

-Afternoon tea and scones.

0:27:520:27:54

See? You're getting into this now, aren't you?

0:27:540:27:56

I'm putting yesterday down as a success.

0:28:010:28:03

Two barn conversions and great reactions in both of them.

0:28:030:28:06

But, as with a lot of barn conversions, especially when you bear in mind their layout,

0:28:060:28:11

there was an element of compromise in both of them.

0:28:110:28:13

So, today, of course, we've got our mystery house.

0:28:130:28:16

It's certainly no barn conversion

0:28:160:28:18

and it's not exactly what they asked for,

0:28:180:28:20

but you never know - they may just go for it.

0:28:200:28:23

'Our next property is conveniently positioned in Braintree,

0:28:240:28:27

'20 minutes from Bal's work in Chelmsford.

0:28:270:28:30

'Once a Roman settlement,

0:28:300:28:32

'Braintree has been a centre for trade for hundreds of years.

0:28:320:28:36

'St Michael's Church dates back to 1199

0:28:360:28:39

'and the period housing stands testament

0:28:390:28:41

'to a once thriving agriculture and textile trade.

0:28:410:28:44

'Our mystery house is not quite the rural idyll they're expecting,

0:28:450:28:49

'as it's just on the edge of town,

0:28:490:28:51

'but it definitely has something of the country manor about it.'

0:28:510:28:54

So, for the mystery house, we've gone all Georgian on ourselves.

0:28:550:29:00

-Wow.

-SHE LAUGHS

0:29:000:29:02

Very impressive.

0:29:020:29:04

Very impressive. Very nice.

0:29:040:29:06

Very grand.

0:29:060:29:08

In a lot of ways, this is the sort of house

0:29:080:29:11

that those barns might have belonged to, that we've looked around.

0:29:110:29:14

This is...quite something, isn't it?

0:29:140:29:18

It is amazing.

0:29:180:29:19

Can't wait to get in, to be honest.

0:29:200:29:23

-Ready?

-Yep.

-Yep.

-You look happy.

-I am indeed.

0:29:230:29:27

'I think Bal and Kinder are a little overwhelmed

0:29:280:29:30

'with the regal, 300-year-old frontage,

0:29:300:29:33

'and the inside should continue to impress.'

0:29:330:29:36

Nice, big doorway, isn't it?

0:29:360:29:38

So, you like an entrance hall, don't you?

0:29:380:29:41

Wow! I do indeed! This is just amazing!

0:29:410:29:44

Grand enough for you?

0:29:440:29:46

It is.

0:29:460:29:47

-What do you reckon, Bal?

-It's a lot of space. It's fantastic.

0:29:470:29:51

Now, you're buying a piece of history here.

0:29:510:29:54

This is a Grade II* property.

0:29:540:29:57

The "star" refers to that staircase there, OK?

0:29:570:30:00

As the children get older, there'll be some sliding down that banister.

0:30:000:30:04

I don't think it will be just the children.

0:30:040:30:06

-THEY LAUGH

-You two as well?

0:30:060:30:08

Now, you've got reception rooms galore here.

0:30:080:30:11

Front - just there - great-sized room.

0:30:110:30:13

I think that's perhaps your drawing room, OK?

0:30:130:30:16

Your main living room - more likely through here.

0:30:160:30:19

So.

0:30:210:30:22

You like a nice, big living area.

0:30:220:30:25

This is a very good size, isn't it?

0:30:250:30:27

-It's very nice.

-A very, very big size.

0:30:270:30:30

It's lovely.

0:30:310:30:33

Do you like this style of room?

0:30:330:30:35

I mean, this is very period, isn't it? It's totally Georgian.

0:30:350:30:39

-It's very nice.

-Love the fireplace.

0:30:390:30:42

Warm. Cosy. Winter. I love the floorboards.

0:30:420:30:46

-You wouldn't carpet over these?

-No!

-No.

0:30:460:30:49

Good. Correct answer.

0:30:490:30:50

'Heading further down the hall,

0:30:500:30:53

'on the right is their third reception room.'

0:30:530:30:55

Now, for a formal dining area, I thought this was rather grand.

0:30:550:30:59

I think "grand" underlined. Very nice.

0:31:000:31:04

Now, you've got access going around this room.

0:31:040:31:06

You don't have to walk through it to get through to the kitchen.

0:31:060:31:09

Now...kitchens make or break a house for you, don't they?

0:31:090:31:13

-They do indeed.

-Shall we look at this one?

-Yeah.

0:31:130:31:16

Mind your step.

0:31:180:31:19

So, island, dining table. Open fire if you wanted it.

0:31:230:31:28

-And a range.

-A range. Wow.

0:31:280:31:30

It is incredible. It's massive.

0:31:300:31:35

You've got a little conservatory just around on the right as well.

0:31:350:31:38

'Leading off the other side of the kitchen

0:31:380:31:40

'is a space that may need reconfiguring.

0:31:400:31:43

'In the 1960s, a self-contained flat was added,

0:31:430:31:46

'and although it is in need of an update,

0:31:460:31:48

'it could easily be used as a guest wing.

0:31:480:31:50

'But it's up on the first floor that this house continues to deliver.'

0:31:500:31:55

It's huge!

0:31:550:31:57

You can see why there's a star against the listing for this staircase.

0:31:570:32:00

-Wonderful, isn't it?

-It is. Absolutely lovely.

0:32:000:32:03

Lots of light.

0:32:040:32:06

It's a very lovely...landing.

0:32:060:32:10

It's really nice. It's so bright.

0:32:100:32:11

And I still can't get over the window.

0:32:110:32:15

'On the left at the top of the stairs is a modern family bathroom.

0:32:150:32:18

'But we're heading to the master suite.'

0:32:180:32:21

This, I think, would be your master bedroom.

0:32:210:32:23

Hear the echo?

0:32:230:32:25

-It's a big room. Very nice.

-It's a good size.

0:32:260:32:29

It's en suite. Through there is a lovely freestanding bath.

0:32:290:32:32

-Wow!

-Really cool.

0:32:320:32:34

This is a six-bedroom building that we're in at the moment.

0:32:340:32:37

-Goodness me.

-OK?

0:32:370:32:39

Three double bedrooms on this floor.

0:32:390:32:43

-So, your children sleep on the same floor as you.

-Mm-hm.

-Fantastic.

0:32:430:32:47

You might be thinking, "Where are the other three bedrooms?"

0:32:470:32:50

They're very well disguised. Rather quite natty, actually. Follow me.

0:32:500:32:54

'This house really is full of surprises.'

0:32:540:32:57

Did you spot the secret door?

0:32:570:33:00

Quite cool, isn't it?

0:33:000:33:02

Three more bedrooms up here.

0:33:020:33:04

Oh, wow.

0:33:040:33:05

'On the "secret" second floor,

0:33:070:33:08

'I've a feeling Bal may have something in mind

0:33:080:33:11

'for at least one of the rooms - Kinder permitting, of course.'

0:33:110:33:14

OK?

0:33:140:33:15

Right. We're now on the top floor.

0:33:160:33:20

Probably would have been staff quarters.

0:33:200:33:23

They're rather quite nice, aren't they?

0:33:230:33:25

They ARE rather nice.

0:33:250:33:26

You've got three bedrooms up here - or is it two bedrooms and a...?

0:33:260:33:31

-Pool room.

-Huh?

0:33:310:33:33

Mmm.

0:33:330:33:34

-Is that the cherry on top of the cake?

-I think so indeed.

0:33:340:33:37

If you could get a pool table up here. I'm not giving you a hand carrying it.

0:33:370:33:41

'All three rooms are large doubles

0:33:410:33:43

'and the exposed beams give a less formal atmosphere than the rest of the house.

0:33:430:33:48

'This floor also benefits from a shower room.

0:33:480:33:50

'It's downstairs and out into the garden

0:33:500:33:53

'that finishes this property off.'

0:33:530:33:55

I just want us to have a quick pause in this courtyard garden,

0:33:560:33:59

cos it's... well, it's worth it, isn't it?

0:33:590:34:02

-Isn't it great to have a cuppa?

-Yeah!

0:34:020:34:05

Afternoon tea and scones.

0:34:050:34:06

-See? You're getting into this now, aren't you?

-I am indeed.

0:34:060:34:10

This is where you would "take tea", yes.

0:34:100:34:12

But the main event of the garden is through this door.

0:34:120:34:15

'Just like the house, the gardens keep on giving -

0:34:190:34:22

'a separate lawned area, perfect for the children to play in,

0:34:220:34:25

'and plenty of space for Kinder's vegetable patch.'

0:34:250:34:28

Now, I'm told by the agent

0:34:290:34:30

this house sits in around half an acre plot.

0:34:300:34:34

That's a great size for the kids to roam around in.

0:34:340:34:37

It's as grand as the house. It's lovely.

0:34:370:34:41

So, do we have a grand price?

0:34:410:34:43

And I was just about to lead on to saying

0:34:430:34:45

the price tag is probably gonna be very grand.

0:34:450:34:49

I'm thinking it's 7...750.

0:34:490:34:53

-You've been on good form with your pricing.

-She has.

0:34:530:34:56

I thought...probably around 785.

0:34:560:35:00

This has just been reduced by £100,000

0:35:000:35:03

and it's now on for £699,995.

0:35:030:35:08

-Oh, my God! Ka-ching!

-Wow!

0:35:080:35:11

-Ka-ching!

-Wow.

0:35:110:35:14

Look, we've had a whistlestop tour of this beautiful period house.

0:35:140:35:18

Go and have a look. I'll give you a bit of extra time.

0:35:180:35:21

Go and look in every room, OK?

0:35:210:35:23

Cos after you have a look at this, we'll sit down and have a chat, OK?

0:35:230:35:27

-Mm-hm.

-I'll catch you in a bit.

-Thanks.

0:35:270:35:29

'What a result.

0:35:290:35:31

'£50,000 under budget

0:35:310:35:33

'at a shade under £700,000,

0:35:330:35:35

'this property has it all.

0:35:350:35:36

'Six bedrooms,

0:35:360:35:38

'three reception rooms,

0:35:380:35:40

'a huge kitchen and breakfast room,

0:35:400:35:42

'a study for Bal,

0:35:420:35:44

'and a large garden so the children

0:35:440:35:46

'can play to their hearts' content.

0:35:460:35:48

'I have a sneaking suspicion

0:35:480:35:50

'this could be their dream home.

0:35:500:35:52

'Will there be any second thoughts?'

0:35:520:35:55

What do you think?

0:35:550:35:56

I'm just blown over.

0:35:560:35:59

Oh, it's just...amazing.

0:35:590:36:02

Doesn't really fit the description accurately. Do you know what I mean?

0:36:020:36:07

It's a really lovely house. It ticks boxes.

0:36:070:36:10

And I couldn't believe the price.

0:36:100:36:12

If I didn't have to think at all...

0:36:120:36:14

..I would take the house right now.

0:36:160:36:18

-Ah.

-Hiya!

-You found the front door, then?

0:36:200:36:23

We did. Just about.

0:36:230:36:24

So, lots to think about now, isn't there?

0:36:240:36:27

-Absolutely.

-There is.

0:36:270:36:28

Let's find somewhere to have a chat amongst yourselves, catch up,

0:36:280:36:32

-and then we'll have a talk about it all later.

-Great.

-Mmm.

0:36:320:36:36

'I may have found Bal and Kinder some property pearls in Essex,

0:36:420:36:46

'but it's in the waters of Mersea, off the coast,

0:36:460:36:48

'that oysters grow naturally.

0:36:480:36:50

'Not the sort you'd find expensive pearls in, though -

0:36:500:36:53

'these are the oysters you'd find on a plate at a good restaurant.

0:36:530:36:56

'I'm a bit of an oyster fan,

0:36:560:36:59

'so I visited Richard Haward, a local hero here,

0:36:590:37:01

'because his family have been farming the oysters in these waters for over 200 years.'

0:37:010:37:06

What makes these waters in Essex so great for oysters, then?

0:37:060:37:10

Well, these creeks here, which run to the marshland,

0:37:100:37:13

are, if you like, a unique environment.

0:37:130:37:15

We move the oysters from the deep water in the river

0:37:150:37:18

into the creeks, where it's shallower and warmer, in the summer

0:37:180:37:21

and the food comes out of the marsh.

0:37:210:37:23

They get a special kind of plankton - oysters feed on plankton -

0:37:230:37:27

and that's what makes them the plump product that they are.

0:37:270:37:30

-It's a beautiful day to go out on a boat. Let's do just that.

-OK.

0:37:300:37:33

'With 350 miles of coastline,

0:37:330:37:36

'Essex has relied on its maritime trade routes since the Romans founded Colchester,

0:37:360:37:41

'and one of the major exports were the oysters native to the estuaries in Essex,

0:37:410:37:46

'such as those here at Mersea.

0:37:460:37:48

'In fact, it was the Romans that first tasted oysters in the mud near Colchester

0:37:480:37:52

'and declared them a delicacy.

0:37:520:37:54

'By the 17th century, large beds of oysters had been identified around Mersea,

0:37:540:37:58

'and by the 19th century,

0:37:580:38:00

'there were 150 boats and 200 men working the oyster beds.

0:38:000:38:05

'Although they're a delicacy now, in the 19th century, oysters were actually a food for the masses.

0:38:050:38:10

'The further up the society ladder you climbed,

0:38:100:38:12

'the less likely you'd be to eat oysters.

0:38:120:38:15

'It wasn't until disease and water pollution limited the supply

0:38:150:38:18

'that they became the food of the well-to-do.

0:38:180:38:21

'And although his family have been dredging oysters since the reign of George III,

0:38:210:38:25

'the limited supply has meant there are now just 10 men left fishing these waters,

0:38:250:38:29

'and Richard is one of them.

0:38:290:38:31

'We're heading to Salcott Creek,

0:38:310:38:33

'where the Haward family's seven acres of seabeds are marked by withies - basically tree branches.

0:38:330:38:38

'To get the oysters into the boat, Richard uses a dredge,

0:38:380:38:42

'dragging it, then hauling it onto the boat.

0:38:420:38:44

'Then he simply picks off the oysters one by one.

0:38:440:38:47

'I thought I'd give him a hand.'

0:38:470:38:50

-Pull the handle.

-This one? Up or down?

-Just there.

0:38:500:38:52

'After sifting through the haul, John was able to show me

0:38:540:38:57

'the difference between the two varieties of oysters that live in these waters.'

0:38:570:39:02

What's what here, then?

0:39:020:39:03

This is the native oyster here - the flatter, rounder one.

0:39:030:39:06

The deeper, normally a bit longer one,

0:39:060:39:09

which looks a bit craggy, like a rock, is the rock oyster.

0:39:090:39:13

OK. So, the native one, is that the one the Romans discovered here?

0:39:130:39:16

That's the one a Roman found here 2,000 years ago.

0:39:160:39:19

Now, we've just pulled these in -

0:39:190:39:21

we've caught them, if you like - with that device.

0:39:210:39:23

Do people farm them as well?

0:39:230:39:25

Well, yeah, and we are in fact farming them.

0:39:250:39:28

These oysters were brought from the deeper river out there

0:39:280:39:31

and then we bring them in here.

0:39:310:39:33

Out in the river, they don't seem to get the right food to make a nice, plump oyster.

0:39:330:39:37

So we are farming them - moving them to a better place and also taking all the pests away.

0:39:370:39:42

-So, kind of like a free-range farming, then?

-Yeah, very similar.

0:39:420:39:45

'But we'll be throwing these ones back in, because it's currently breeding season,

0:39:450:39:50

'when they don't taste their best.

0:39:500:39:52

'And by keeping stocks high at this time,

0:39:520:39:54

'it helps ensure that future populations continue to flourish.'

0:39:540:39:58

'Inland, Bal and Kinder have had plenty of time to weigh up our three properties,

0:40:000:40:04

'so let's find out how they've got on.'

0:40:040:40:08

Well, you've found somewhere nice to have a chat.

0:40:080:40:11

-Yes.

-Yep.

0:40:110:40:12

Cast your minds back to yesterday morning.

0:40:120:40:15

The first property I showed you was a barn conversion.

0:40:150:40:17

-We had pretty good reactions there, didn't we?

-It was amazing.

0:40:170:40:21

It was a barn conversion that really bowled me over

0:40:210:40:24

the moment I walked in,

0:40:240:40:26

to the extent that I was even thinking,

0:40:260:40:30

"Can I make that compromise

0:40:300:40:31

"of having my kids on a different floor?"

0:40:310:40:34

It was that good.

0:40:340:40:35

I still look at it and I think, "I want something like that."

0:40:350:40:38

You've obviously since discussed why perhaps it doesn't work for you.

0:40:380:40:42

-It's the bedrooms, isn't it?

-It's the bedrooms.

0:40:420:40:44

We prefer the kids on the same level as us.

0:40:440:40:47

OK. Well, I thought sticking with barn conversions would be wise, cos we had some great reactions there.

0:40:470:40:52

We went to another in the afternoon.

0:40:520:40:55

That second barn got better and better as we went through it.

0:40:550:40:59

It was...large, it was airy, it was bright.

0:40:590:41:04

Downstairs was nice and an area was cordoned off.

0:41:040:41:08

Bedrooms - the same level, nice size.

0:41:080:41:11

Upstairs - fantastic room upstairs.

0:41:110:41:15

-Cos it had a pool table?

-Cos it had a pool table.

0:41:150:41:17

-And a cinema system to boot.

-Yeah.

0:41:170:41:19

-But there were compromises, weren't there?

-Yeah, there were.

0:41:190:41:22

-There was the kitchen.

-Kitchen.

-It was small.

0:41:220:41:25

A little bit dark as well.

0:41:250:41:26

And then, even though the garden was absolutely fantastic, laid out,

0:41:260:41:31

I just thought kids growing up probably need a little more space.

0:41:310:41:35

-And it's not just yourselves. This property search, it's all about the family, isn't it?

-That's right.

0:41:350:41:41

So, a new day, and thank goodness for the mystery property,

0:41:410:41:45

because that was something quite different, wasn't it?

0:41:450:41:48

Beautiful. It was amazing. It's grand and...

0:41:480:41:52

And I just can't believe the price tag.

0:41:520:41:55

It's a family home that pleases our children and us.

0:41:550:41:59

Plenty of space for them to roam and feel their way out in the open.

0:41:590:42:05

Mmm. OK. Well...it's a clear favourite.

0:42:050:42:08

What do you want to do about it now?

0:42:080:42:10

The next step for us is, one, chat to our parents,

0:42:100:42:14

secondly, do the timings from the house to where we need to be,

0:42:140:42:20

make sure that the timing's right for us in travelling.

0:42:200:42:23

And then...second viewing...and...

0:42:230:42:27

-With the parents?

-With the parents.

0:42:270:42:29

-Yeah.

-And make a decision.

0:42:290:42:31

This is rather exciting. We could have found you your new family home.

0:42:310:42:35

-Absolutely.

-Absolutely.

-And thank you for that.

0:42:350:42:38

-The very best of luck, and please let us know how you get on.

-Will do.

0:42:380:42:41

Sounds like we came pretty close with those first two properties,

0:42:440:42:48

but then we hit the nail right on the head with that mystery house.

0:42:480:42:51

Today's been all about the family -

0:42:510:42:54

not just Bal, Kinder and their children,

0:42:540:42:56

but the grandparents as well.

0:42:560:42:58

So it seems pretty prudent

0:42:580:42:59

they bring them along for a second viewing.

0:42:590:43:02

I really hope the grandparents like it as much as Bal and Kinder.

0:43:020:43:05

Fingers crossed.

0:43:050:43:07

See you next time.

0:43:070:43:09

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0:43:090:43:11

in Northern Island, Wales, Scotland or England

0:43:110:43:14

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0:43:140:43:17

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0:43:210:43:25

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0:43:250:43:29

Jonnie Irwin helps a young family with ambitions of grand country living in Essex. They have a budget of £750,000 to spend and, presented with a couple of barn conversions and a Georgian manor house, are spoilt for choice. Jonnie also goes dredging for oysters in the creeks of the Blackwater River.