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 -
have been eaten in Britain for literally thousands of years.
But it was the Romans who first declared oysters from these particular waters a delicacy.
Where am I? Well, stick around and I'll tell you.
'On today's show, we help a couple find the perfect family home in the country,
'and they like what they see.'
This is incredible.
'And it just gets better and better.'
-This is just amazing!
-Yeah. Grand enough for you?
'But am I spoiling them for choice?'
You ask, I deliver.
Today, I'm in Essex, on the banks of the Blackwater River,
where conditions for farming oysters are perfect.
And whether you love them or loathe them,
they've been part of our British diet since prehistoric times.
Now, right here in Essex, you will find two kinds of oysters -
the native oyster, which, as you might gather from its name, is indigenous to these waters,
and this fella here, the rock oyster,
which was introduced here in the 1980s.
As for me - well, I love them.
'Positioned on the coast north-east of London,
'Essex is a county famed for its natural beauty.
'Inspired by the landscape,
'19th-century British painter John Constable
'depicted one Essex riverbank
'in arguably his greatest work, The Hay Wain, in 1821.
'But Essex isn't just about beauty.
'This is a land with a long, rich history,
'from Bronze Age travellers drawn to the salty marshlands
'to the Romans, who first discovered the now famous oysters in the mudflats.
'In fact, when the Romans built a fort on the site of Colchester in 44 AD,
'they inadvertently created the original capital of Roman Britain.
'By the 17th and 18th centuries, Essex had become a centre of trade,
'due to both readily available seafood from its 350-mile coastline
'and its rich agricultural land.
'Because of this rich and diverse past,
'today Essex is awash with period properties,
'set in charming villages which all have one thing in common -
'an easy commute to London.
'Which means that those that live here
'can have the benefits of both rural life and access to the city.'
Despite its proximity to London, Essex is in fact mostly rural,
with 70% of its land given up to agriculture.
And period housing stock isn't in short supply either,
with over 14,000 listed buildings county-wide.
Of course, all of this has an impact on price.
Essex comes at a cost - around £44,000,
which is how much more you'd pay for a detached house here
when compared with the UK average.
So, let's take a look at a selection of houses currently available.
'Dating back to the early 19th century,
'this £975,000 five-bedroom Grade II-listed farmhouse
'is set in three acres.
'The country kitchen suits the rural location
'and the drawing room is elegantly appointed.
'The property has plenty of original features,
'like the exposed beams and the feature fireplace
'in the living area.
'If a 400-year-old thatched property is more your style,
'then for £595,000, this three-bedroom home could be yours.
'The property has been extended over the years to add space,
'which means the bedrooms are large and the kitchen is modern.
'From the conservatory, you can take in the views of the garden and the horses in the paddock beyond.
'For £430,000, this 17th-century thatched property
'is set in half an acre and has period features aplenty.
'Timber is certainly the name of the game,
'with character oozing from the exposed beams and the solid oak flooring.
'And the kitchen/diner offers the best of both worlds,
'combining character features with a contemporary, bright feel.'
Some great Essex properties there, with three more coming up,
including, of course, our mystery house.
So, will any of them tempt today's buyers? Only time will tell.
Let's meet them.
'Radiologist Bal and his wife, Kinder, a business improvement leader,
'were married six years ago.
'Along with their two children, Amrit and Arjun,
'they live with Bal's parents and close family
'in a six-bed house in Epping.'
The house is fairly large, with a large lounge.
And the kitchen's a very good size. It's the hub of our family.
Upstairs, we've got five bedrooms.
-We've also got a decent garden for the kids.
'Although they enjoy living with all the family,
'Bal has just taken a new job at a Chelmsford hospital,
'which means he needs to move closer to work.'
The area I'm working for has to be 30 minutes from the hospital.
And also, because both of us work,
we need to organise child care for the kids as well.
So, we need to be within, also, commuting distance back to Epping
for when the grandparents look after the children.
-So, again, 20 to 30 minutes...
'However, the move is also about a change of lifestyle.'
For me, I'm a fitness fanatic, so I'd love the great outdoors
for going for a jog any time that I wanted to.
Also, I'd ideally like to, sort of, really get into gardening
and have my own veg patch.
And hopefully, there'll be room for a pool table to fit in the house somewhere.
'Bal may well be snookered on the pool table,
'but what other boxes need to be ticked on the list of must-haves?'
We're going for a detached house, four bedrooms,
of which at least three should be good-sized rooms,
for a decent lounge, a nice, large kitchen.
-Garden. For...for the kids.
Those are the absolute musts and essentials.
-And three large reception rooms.
-Three large reception rooms.
'A comprehensive list.
'But is there a style of home that really appeals?'
It could be a barn conversion. It could be a new build.
It could be an old house, as long as it was fairly modern in side.
'Flexibility is helpful,
'and because Bal and Kinder have been living with his parents,
'they've managed to save a large deposit.'
And if we did find the right property, we would be in a position to go for it straightaway.
'So, how much do we have to work with?'
Our maximum budget for the move is £750,000.
On the face of it, this all sounds fairly straightforward.
Four bedrooms, good-sized garden, good-sized kitchen,
and we've got a good-sized budget, £750,000,
in a massive county - 1,417 square miles.
But there's a but, and let's face it, there usually is.
We're not looking at the whole county. We're looking at a fraction of it.
Because Bal has to be within 30 minutes' drive to work.
So we need to find a big house in a very small space.
'So we'll be focusing our search north-west of Chelmsford
'in an area with good road links
'and within easy reach of his parents, in Epping.
'We've found some excellent properties that will hopefully impress Bal and Kinder,
'but I won't be telling them the price until the end of the tour.
'And then there's the mystery house, which promises to challenge their idea of country life.'
-Good morning. How are we doing?
-Morning. Not so bad. Yourself?
Normally I'd welcome you to Essex, or the county where we are,
-but you already live here, so you should be welcoming me.
I mean, at the moment, you live in...a large house
with a lot of people, a lot of family.
-Seven adults and three children.
-So, this is gonna be a huge change for you guys, isn't it?
Probably more so for me, cos I've experienced the house since I was a young kid.
What's a big no-no in the house itself?
A small kitchen.
-The kitchen's gonna be the hub of the home...
..and it needs to be spacious and luxurious.
Let's talk about the budget, then. How much have we got to spend?
I would say £700,000.
You would say £700,000? Would Bal say something different?
-Oh, right. OK.
You're saying 700, Kinder. What says Bal?
-I think we can push up to about 750.
-Don't look at me like that!
-OK, so, maybe up to 750.
-I'll see if I can get anything cheaper, Kinder.
-That'd be great.
All right, well, we've got some fantastic properties lined up today.
-Let's go have a look, shall we?
'With a maximum budget of £750,000,
'Bal and Kinder would like a detached four-bedroom house
'with a large kitchen.
'Bal likes the idea of space for a pool table
'and Kinder wants a vegetable patch so she can grow her own produce.
'Our first property is on the rural outskirts of Great Dunmow.
'It's perfectly situated
'just 20 minutes from Bal's work in Chelmsford
'and 30 minutes from his parents for when they need the child care.
'Home to around 9,000 people,
'this idyllic location on the River Chelmer has an inviting high street
'littered with bric-a-brac shops and local speciality stores.
'However, if it's a countryside location that Kinder is after,
'she'll find it with our first house.'
So, property number one...
..is, obviously, a barn conversion, with an extension on it.
-It looks good.
-Looks very nice.
Local intelligence suggests it's about 1750s.
And these are your outbuildings. A garage. Triple garage, really.
-What are your thoughts?
-It looks very nice, I think.
-What do you think of that lovely, long drive?
-Very impressive, isn't it?
-Give me a moment.
-You look almost speechless.
-I am. Indeed.
Well, hopefully we'll have something to talk about inside. Follow me.
'Bal's holding back and Kinder's giving very little away.
'But I think this 2002 conversion will eventually win them over.'
Your entrance hall.
These flagstones - local Essex flagstones, they are.
And - just peek your head.
-You've got an office there.
I'm thinking you'll always be dying to get into this main room, cos it's quite special. Follow me.
Do you know what I mean when I say you'll look forward to coming in here?
Wow. That is a grand entrance.
That's lovely. It's really nice.
I mean, this is what I always have in mind.
When someone says "barn conversion",
I always hope to see a room like this,
where they haven't had to use all this wonderful space and these big, lofted ceilings.
They make the use of all the timber as well. It's such a big, impressive room, isn't it?
Ever had an open fire before?
-No, but it was a desire.
I like the windows too. They're really nice, even with the decor.
-You won't find another barn like this.
Every barn conversion is different,
especially when they keep so much of the old timbers and the original features.
-You look really taken with this, Kinder.
They've used the space really well.
-Now, both of your eyes seem to be going up to that dining area.
So, let's have a look at that, but first, the kitchen on the way.
'This room has certainly hit the mark for Kinder,
'but it's in the kitchen that I think she'll be really impressed.'
Now, I know that this is the most important room to you guys.
It is. It's gonna be the hub of the home, the heart,
the functioning part of the family.
And this is incredible.
It's really nice. I'm liking it.
I'm liking the hardtops.
I'm liking the informal dining area
for them to have their messy breakfasts.
This is brilliant.
That looks like a utility room over there, separated.
You've done well.
-It IS lovely, isn't it?
-It is beautiful.
You know, the French doors
and the light that it's drawing in - it's brilliant.
It makes the room really spacious and bright.
Which is what you need when you're gonna spend a lot of time in here.
-Now, upstairs, remember that dining area?
-Let's take a peek?
Now, it might mean you've got to carry some food up the stairs,
but I thought this was a great place to have formal dining.
You're not wrong there.
This is really nice.
They've used the space so well!
-I'm just thinking a Christmas party.
-It could be hosted here!
-It's a real entertaining house, I think.
-It is. It's really nice.
'So far, so good.
'Back through the kitchen/diner, on the other side of the gallery drawing room,
'still on the ground floor, are two bedrooms.
'One is currently being used as a playroom and both are en suite.
'Now for upstairs, where we find the two other bedrooms -
'again, both en suite.'
Now, mind your heads.
Now, it's pretty obvious what I'm gonna suggest this is.
It's very nice.
Now, you mentioned your daughter as having a bedroom to herself,
but the one potential compromise of this house
is there's a staircase that separates two bedrooms from two other bedrooms.
You've got two bedrooms on this level here, and right below are the other two bedrooms.
So...would you be happy with that
or would you initially maybe have them sharing?
If we're moving into such a spacious property, I don't think it's gonna be a big deal.
I'd rather they had their separate bedrooms.
OK. Children's bedrooms all done.
Your master bedroom, I think, is just over there.
So you can lead the way if you like, Bal.
-It's all gone quiet.
-It's a very nice room.
-Oh, good! Whew!
-Very nice room. Lovely windows.
A lot of space.
Because I've always thought, "I want a really big, spacious, 20ft room."
But, do you know, because of the light, the windows, the character,
you know, I can compromise.
Let's go and look at the garden and start thinking about price. OK?
'We're heading out through the informal dining area
'into the garden to the rear of the property.
'Hopefully a quarter of an acre will be plenty of space for their growing children.'
-Now, you said it's important for Amrit and Arjun to have a usable garden.
What's this like for size?
-It's very nice.
-It's great. You can ride a bike up and down.
Now, the owners of this place have got a young toddler,
and you can see there's plenty of playthings for them around.
But behind that wall, there's a secure garden,
which I think would make a fantastic vegetable garden.
A kitchen garden, if you like.
Totally protected from the elements, except sun, and it's south-facing.
So you can see some tommies growing up the walls there, couldn't you?
-Absolutely. What a great idea.
So, all in all, how much do you think it is?
I think it's probably a bit more than that.
Cos it is quite a big size.
Big, impressive room downstairs and quite a large garden.
Maybe about 785.
Kinder, have you been sneaking at my sale particulars in the car?
-It's spot-on 745! Well done!
-I'm a bit taken aback with that, really.
Well, look, there's two bedrooms you haven't had a look at.
Go and look around those rooms now. Start adding up which ones you'd use for what.
-I'll catch you in 10 minutes or so.
'For £745,000, this barn conversion
'is just under budget
'and delivers the four bedrooms
'Bal and Kinder are after.
'The high-spec kitchen/diner has
'met with a very positive response,
'as did the formal dining area.
'And it even has space
'for Kinder's veggie patch
'and a garden for the children.
'All in all, a very good result.
'But will the layout of the bedrooms
'cause Bal and Kinder
'to have a rethink?'
Being on two split levels. We want the kids to be on the same level as us.
When you really like something, you start compromising,
but then you have to...reflect
and think, "How practical, how realistic is it going to be?"
And I'm not sure whether the bedrooms would work for my children and me.
So, that's the first one done. Much to think about?
-Yeah. A few bits and bobs.
-Yeah. Nice house, though.
Good. Off to the next one.
'Since the 17th century, Essex has been the trade link
'between London and the east coast of England,
'transporting everything from textiles to agricultural goods via the Thames.
'And crucial to this trade was Maldon,
'one of the county's oldest towns, with 5th-century Saxon origins.
'In a prime location on both the coast and Blackwater Estuary,
'Maldon has historically made the most of its ready-made natural transport links.
'And to find out more,
'earlier in the week, we suggested Bal and Kinder drop anchor
'and meet up with local historian Stephen Nunn at Maldon's Hythe Quay.'
-Welcome to Maldon's Hythe Quay.
Nice to see you both. Let me show you round one of the barges.
'So important was Maldon as a commercial port,
'it evolved a unique variety of flat-bottomed barge
'for transporting cargo.
'Known as "stackies", as they often carried haystacks on deck,
'these barges were built at Hythe Quay,
'and many, such as the Thistle, are still moored here today.'
So, how many barges operated in its heyday from here?
Well, along the east coast,
there were probably around 2,000 barges at one point.
But the numbers sort of dropped off,
and now you'd be lucky if there were 200 survivors anywhere.
'And many of them can be found right here in Maldon.
'But they're not the only historic relics in the town.
'With 364 Grade I- and II-listed buildings,
'Maldon's architecture spans six centuries.
'One of the finest examples is the Grade I-listed Moot Hall.
'This 15th-century structure has pride of place
'being the oldest brick building in the county,
'and inside, it has many unique features.'
So, do you notice anything unusual about this staircase?
-Is it the wrong way round?
-It IS the wrong way round.
It's an opposite spiral, which is one of the many mysteries of this place.
But it's a wonderful building,
and I want to show you a really wonderful view now.
So, although it's really windy, I wanted to bring you up here,
because, as you can see,
we've got some wonderful views from the top of the Moot Hall.
This building started off as D'Arcy's Tower,
and it was built sometime between 1420 and 1440.
Was it unusual for a building in that time to be built from brick?
Very unusual, yes. All around would have been timber-framed.
But D'Arcy was a powerful man.
He was MP for the borough, well in with the royal family,
and he wanted a defended town house.
And you can see lots of other historic sites from the roof.
You can see All Saints Church, with its unique triangular tower.
You can also see the slope of the high street
and you suddenly realise that Maldon is built on a hill,
and that's why it's called "Maeldune" -
the Saxon word for "hill marked by a cross" or "hill of assembly".
'Another important brick building for Bal and Kinder is coming up,
'so it's time for the next house tour.'
The house you're in now is very different.
-There's, what, seven adults there?
All your family around you.
Are you gonna miss living in that kind of environment?
I think I will. Um...but...needs must.
And for me, I'll be dropping off the kids to the grandparents' house.
-I'll be going there Monday to Friday!
Every day. So, you know, it's not a huge thing.
'And that means the location for our next property is perfect.
'Situated in the countryside surrounding Stansted Mountfitchet,
'our second house is within easy reach of the grandparents,
'and Bal is half an hour from work for when he's on call.
'"Stansted" is Saxon for "stony place",
'while "Mountfitchet" is derived from the Norman baron who settled here in the 11th century.
'Today there are 6,000 residents making the most
'of some beautiful thatched cottages, Tudor coach-houses
'and a variety of period homes,
'all benefiting from good transport links
'which help to make it such a desirable location
'to bring up a family.
'And just over a mile away, off a pristine gravelled courtyard,
'our next property is one of five
'within this barn conversion complex.'
And whilst you've already seen a barn conversion,
I think it's important for you to see this one,
not only to compare and contrast,
but you should see the best property available at any one moment of time.
I believe this to be one of them.
This is Victorian.
Now, we are looking at - see that black downpipe? -
the right half of that entire building.
-What are your first impressions?
It's a nice cul-de-sac.
Well, these are very different first impressions from the last place.
Already, you're not animated. What's going through your mind, Bal?
It's not as striking as the other one.
But you can never judge a book by its cover.
I feel like I'm playing a bit of catch-up here. Am I?
Like you said, let's not judge the book by its cover.
All right. Follow me.
'Well, I knew they wanted a detached house,
'but we couldn't resist showing them this, because it's a real show-stopper,
'with a modern interior finished to a high standard.'
In you come. Mind that swinging door, Bal.
What do we think now? We're inside the cover of the book.
It's looking good.
-Got a smile on my face.
It feels very spacious. Draws in a lot of light.
I like the brickwork. I like the wood.
For you, Bal, a really nice office tucked away there -
if you wanted to keep it as an office.
If you look just round there, there's another raised area,
which is a snug, or could be a dining room,
-or it could be a little play area as well.
'Other than the snug, there's a large formal dining room
'branching off the living space.
'But it's the kitchen Kinder is most interested in.'
And into the kitchen.
What say you?
Immediately, the size hits you.
Um...however, I do like the interior. It's very high-spec.
Could you live with it this size?
-I think I'd have to balance it with the rest of the property.
'The kitchen may not have impressed,
'but upstairs should receive a more positive response.
'All in all, there are four bedrooms.
'Two are en suite, which was certainly on Kinder's list of must-haves.
'The big benefit here is that they're all on one floor,
'which was a real stumbling block in the last property.'
Now, then, a master bedroom normally needs an ensuite, of which you have.
Ensuite bathroom with separate shower -
-so, it's a good-sized bathroom there.
What about this, then?
It's a good size.
There's plenty of cupboard space for all my clothes.
I think it's a very good size.
-I like the space.
But what you couldn't see when we first walked up - cos you couldn't see any windows -
there's a whole other level to this property.
-So let's go up there now.
'Time for this property's secret weapon.'
Up you come.
-Oh, my God!
There you are - look. Pool table.
-You ask, I deliver.
So, it's obviously huge.
One thing to bear in mind, though,
is it's not just this that's the opportunity.
Behind that door, you've got a fifth bedroom,
with a loo and a wash-hand basin, OK?
You do have so many options here.
Is there any more floors?
-No. At the moment, no.
I mean, this is over 3,000 square feet, this home.
-It's a lot.
'Heading out through the glass doors,
'the garden is separated into two parts.'
So, you've got this formal space here
and so much more back here.
This is quite different, isn't it?
It certainly is.
It is. It's lovely.
So, how much do you think this is, then?
Who wants to go first?
OK. I'll say about 720.
720 from Kinder.
I was thinking more... pushing our upper limit - 750.
Because of the floor space.
Now, I'm gonna make sure that seatbelt is tight in my car.
-Sure you've not been looking through the sales details?
It's on the market for £725,000.
-I was about to say that.
Well, you were pretty close.
OK, go back into the house now, then,
have a look at those other bedrooms you haven't yet seen, OK?
-I'll catch you in a minute.
'For £725,000, you get a lot of barn
'for your money -
'two of which are en suite,
'and all on the same level,
'a high-spec kitchen,
'a large open-plan living area,
'and a sizeable
'formal landscaped garden.
'Bal even has his pool table.
'There's bags of space,
'but will that be enough for them
'to consider what essentially is
'a semidetached property?'
So, do I get to keep the pool table, then?
I think the house is really accommodating.
Um...where it's gonna go, I'm not sure.
-But I can't see why not.
It just got better... and better...and better.
And the garden - again, I was blown away.
-How did you get on? OK?
-Yeah. It's been a great experience.
Good. Well, hopefully, two potential homes to consider.
Let me drive you back.
'I feel like we've achieved a lot today.
'And as the sun sets over Essex,
'I'm sure our househunters will have plenty to talk about.
'Living in Epping with Bal's parents,
'Bal and Kinder want to escape to the country.
'They've already seen two fantastic barn conversions.'
This is incredible.
'But coming up next is our mystery house -
'a property aimed at challenging our buyers' wish list.
'And Kinder has already decided
'how she's going to spend her afternoons.'
Ain't it great to have a cuppa?
-Afternoon tea and scones.
See? You're getting into this now, aren't you?
I'm putting yesterday down as a success.
Two barn conversions and great reactions in both of them.
But, as with a lot of barn conversions, especially when you bear in mind their layout,
there was an element of compromise in both of them.
So, today, of course, we've got our mystery house.
It's certainly no barn conversion
and it's not exactly what they asked for,
but you never know - they may just go for it.
'Our next property is conveniently positioned in Braintree,
'20 minutes from Bal's work in Chelmsford.
'Once a Roman settlement,
'Braintree has been a centre for trade for hundreds of years.
'St Michael's Church dates back to 1199
'and the period housing stands testament
'to a once thriving agriculture and textile trade.
'Our mystery house is not quite the rural idyll they're expecting,
'as it's just on the edge of town,
'but it definitely has something of the country manor about it.'
So, for the mystery house, we've gone all Georgian on ourselves.
Very impressive. Very nice.
In a lot of ways, this is the sort of house
that those barns might have belonged to, that we've looked around.
This is...quite something, isn't it?
It is amazing.
Can't wait to get in, to be honest.
-You look happy.
-I am indeed.
'I think Bal and Kinder are a little overwhelmed
'with the regal, 300-year-old frontage,
'and the inside should continue to impress.'
Nice, big doorway, isn't it?
So, you like an entrance hall, don't you?
Wow! I do indeed! This is just amazing!
Grand enough for you?
-What do you reckon, Bal?
-It's a lot of space. It's fantastic.
Now, you're buying a piece of history here.
This is a Grade II* property.
The "star" refers to that staircase there, OK?
As the children get older, there'll be some sliding down that banister.
I don't think it will be just the children.
-You two as well?
Now, you've got reception rooms galore here.
Front - just there - great-sized room.
I think that's perhaps your drawing room, OK?
Your main living room - more likely through here.
You like a nice, big living area.
This is a very good size, isn't it?
-It's very nice.
-A very, very big size.
Do you like this style of room?
I mean, this is very period, isn't it? It's totally Georgian.
-It's very nice.
-Love the fireplace.
Warm. Cosy. Winter. I love the floorboards.
-You wouldn't carpet over these?
Good. Correct answer.
'Heading further down the hall,
'on the right is their third reception room.'
Now, for a formal dining area, I thought this was rather grand.
I think "grand" underlined. Very nice.
Now, you've got access going around this room.
You don't have to walk through it to get through to the kitchen.
Now...kitchens make or break a house for you, don't they?
-They do indeed.
-Shall we look at this one?
Mind your step.
So, island, dining table. Open fire if you wanted it.
-And a range.
-A range. Wow.
It is incredible. It's massive.
You've got a little conservatory just around on the right as well.
'Leading off the other side of the kitchen
'is a space that may need reconfiguring.
'In the 1960s, a self-contained flat was added,
'and although it is in need of an update,
'it could easily be used as a guest wing.
'But it's up on the first floor that this house continues to deliver.'
You can see why there's a star against the listing for this staircase.
-Wonderful, isn't it?
-It is. Absolutely lovely.
Lots of light.
It's a very lovely...landing.
It's really nice. It's so bright.
And I still can't get over the window.
'On the left at the top of the stairs is a modern family bathroom.
'But we're heading to the master suite.'
This, I think, would be your master bedroom.
Hear the echo?
-It's a big room. Very nice.
-It's a good size.
It's en suite. Through there is a lovely freestanding bath.
This is a six-bedroom building that we're in at the moment.
Three double bedrooms on this floor.
-So, your children sleep on the same floor as you.
You might be thinking, "Where are the other three bedrooms?"
They're very well disguised. Rather quite natty, actually. Follow me.
'This house really is full of surprises.'
Did you spot the secret door?
Quite cool, isn't it?
Three more bedrooms up here.
'On the "secret" second floor,
'I've a feeling Bal may have something in mind
'for at least one of the rooms - Kinder permitting, of course.'
Right. We're now on the top floor.
Probably would have been staff quarters.
They're rather quite nice, aren't they?
They ARE rather nice.
You've got three bedrooms up here - or is it two bedrooms and a...?
-Is that the cherry on top of the cake?
-I think so indeed.
If you could get a pool table up here. I'm not giving you a hand carrying it.
'All three rooms are large doubles
'and the exposed beams give a less formal atmosphere than the rest of the house.
'This floor also benefits from a shower room.
'It's downstairs and out into the garden
'that finishes this property off.'
I just want us to have a quick pause in this courtyard garden,
cos it's... well, it's worth it, isn't it?
-Isn't it great to have a cuppa?
Afternoon tea and scones.
-See? You're getting into this now, aren't you?
-I am indeed.
This is where you would "take tea", yes.
But the main event of the garden is through this door.
'Just like the house, the gardens keep on giving -
'a separate lawned area, perfect for the children to play in,
'and plenty of space for Kinder's vegetable patch.'
Now, I'm told by the agent
this house sits in around half an acre plot.
That's a great size for the kids to roam around in.
It's as grand as the house. It's lovely.
So, do we have a grand price?
And I was just about to lead on to saying
the price tag is probably gonna be very grand.
I'm thinking it's 7...750.
-You've been on good form with your pricing.
I thought...probably around 785.
This has just been reduced by £100,000
and it's now on for £699,995.
-Oh, my God! Ka-ching!
Look, we've had a whistlestop tour of this beautiful period house.
Go and have a look. I'll give you a bit of extra time.
Go and look in every room, OK?
Cos after you have a look at this, we'll sit down and have a chat, OK?
-I'll catch you in a bit.
'What a result.
'£50,000 under budget
'at a shade under £700,000,
'this property has it all.
'three reception rooms,
'a huge kitchen and breakfast room,
'a study for Bal,
'and a large garden so the children
'can play to their hearts' content.
'I have a sneaking suspicion
'this could be their dream home.
'Will there be any second thoughts?'
What do you think?
I'm just blown over.
Oh, it's just...amazing.
Doesn't really fit the description accurately. Do you know what I mean?
It's a really lovely house. It ticks boxes.
And I couldn't believe the price.
If I didn't have to think at all...
..I would take the house right now.
-You found the front door, then?
We did. Just about.
So, lots to think about now, isn't there?
Let's find somewhere to have a chat amongst yourselves, catch up,
-and then we'll have a talk about it all later.
'I may have found Bal and Kinder some property pearls in Essex,
'but it's in the waters of Mersea, off the coast,
'that oysters grow naturally.
'Not the sort you'd find expensive pearls in, though -
'these are the oysters you'd find on a plate at a good restaurant.
'I'm a bit of an oyster fan,
'so I visited Richard Haward, a local hero here,
'because his family have been farming the oysters in these waters for over 200 years.'
What makes these waters in Essex so great for oysters, then?
Well, these creeks here, which run to the marshland,
are, if you like, a unique environment.
We move the oysters from the deep water in the river
into the creeks, where it's shallower and warmer, in the summer
and the food comes out of the marsh.
They get a special kind of plankton - oysters feed on plankton -
and that's what makes them the plump product that they are.
-It's a beautiful day to go out on a boat. Let's do just that.
'With 350 miles of coastline,
'Essex has relied on its maritime trade routes since the Romans founded Colchester,
'and one of the major exports were the oysters native to the estuaries in Essex,
'such as those here at Mersea.
'In fact, it was the Romans that first tasted oysters in the mud near Colchester
'and declared them a delicacy.
'By the 17th century, large beds of oysters had been identified around Mersea,
'and by the 19th century,
'there were 150 boats and 200 men working the oyster beds.
'Although they're a delicacy now, in the 19th century, oysters were actually a food for the masses.
'The further up the society ladder you climbed,
'the less likely you'd be to eat oysters.
'It wasn't until disease and water pollution limited the supply
'that they became the food of the well-to-do.
'And although his family have been dredging oysters since the reign of George III,
'the limited supply has meant there are now just 10 men left fishing these waters,
'and Richard is one of them.
'We're heading to Salcott Creek,
'where the Haward family's seven acres of seabeds are marked by withies - basically tree branches.
'To get the oysters into the boat, Richard uses a dredge,
'dragging it, then hauling it onto the boat.
'Then he simply picks off the oysters one by one.
'I thought I'd give him a hand.'
-Pull the handle.
-This one? Up or down?
'After sifting through the haul, John was able to show me
'the difference between the two varieties of oysters that live in these waters.'
What's what here, then?
This is the native oyster here - the flatter, rounder one.
The deeper, normally a bit longer one,
which looks a bit craggy, like a rock, is the rock oyster.
OK. So, the native one, is that the one the Romans discovered here?
That's the one a Roman found here 2,000 years ago.
Now, we've just pulled these in -
we've caught them, if you like - with that device.
Do people farm them as well?
Well, yeah, and we are in fact farming them.
These oysters were brought from the deeper river out there
and then we bring them in here.
Out in the river, they don't seem to get the right food to make a nice, plump oyster.
So we are farming them - moving them to a better place and also taking all the pests away.
-So, kind of like a free-range farming, then?
-Yeah, very similar.
'But we'll be throwing these ones back in, because it's currently breeding season,
'when they don't taste their best.
'And by keeping stocks high at this time,
'it helps ensure that future populations continue to flourish.'
'Inland, Bal and Kinder have had plenty of time to weigh up our three properties,
'so let's find out how they've got on.'
Well, you've found somewhere nice to have a chat.
Cast your minds back to yesterday morning.
The first property I showed you was a barn conversion.
-We had pretty good reactions there, didn't we?
-It was amazing.
It was a barn conversion that really bowled me over
the moment I walked in,
to the extent that I was even thinking,
"Can I make that compromise
"of having my kids on a different floor?"
It was that good.
I still look at it and I think, "I want something like that."
You've obviously since discussed why perhaps it doesn't work for you.
-It's the bedrooms, isn't it?
-It's the bedrooms.
We prefer the kids on the same level as us.
OK. Well, I thought sticking with barn conversions would be wise, cos we had some great reactions there.
We went to another in the afternoon.
That second barn got better and better as we went through it.
It was...large, it was airy, it was bright.
Downstairs was nice and an area was cordoned off.
Bedrooms - the same level, nice size.
Upstairs - fantastic room upstairs.
-Cos it had a pool table?
-Cos it had a pool table.
-And a cinema system to boot.
-But there were compromises, weren't there?
-Yeah, there were.
-There was the kitchen.
-It was small.
A little bit dark as well.
And then, even though the garden was absolutely fantastic, laid out,
I just thought kids growing up probably need a little more space.
-And it's not just yourselves. This property search, it's all about the family, isn't it?
So, a new day, and thank goodness for the mystery property,
because that was something quite different, wasn't it?
Beautiful. It was amazing. It's grand and...
And I just can't believe the price tag.
It's a family home that pleases our children and us.
Plenty of space for them to roam and feel their way out in the open.
Mmm. OK. Well...it's a clear favourite.
What do you want to do about it now?
The next step for us is, one, chat to our parents,
secondly, do the timings from the house to where we need to be,
make sure that the timing's right for us in travelling.
And then...second viewing...and...
-With the parents?
-With the parents.
-And make a decision.
This is rather exciting. We could have found you your new family home.
-And thank you for that.
-The very best of luck, and please let us know how you get on.
Sounds like we came pretty close with those first two properties,
but then we hit the nail right on the head with that mystery house.
Today's been all about the family -
not just Bal, Kinder and their children,
but the grandparents as well.
So it seems pretty prudent
they bring them along for a second viewing.
I really hope the grandparents like it as much as Bal and Kinder.
See you next time.
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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.