Essex Escape to the Country


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Essex

Jonnie Irwin is in Essex helping a young couple find an equestrian property in the Home Counties with a budget of £575,000. He also gets a master class in brick making.


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On first impressions, this building may appear fairly unassuming,

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but it has grand claims.

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It's the oldest wooden stave-built building in Europe

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and the oldest wooden church in the entire world.

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So ancient, in fact, that the oak trees used to build it

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would have cast shade over the Romans.

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So, which particular part of Britannica am I in today?

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Join me and find out.

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Today's couple are hoping to swap a small two-bedroom flat

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for a spacious country home.

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Every room in this house is bigger than the biggest

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room in our house, so yes.

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We're impressed. They have quite a list of must-haves.

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Starting with land for their horses.

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Horses are a huge part of your life,

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and now they're a huge part of your life as well. Whether he likes it or not.

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They'll be moving in with the in-laws,

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but who will get the en suite?

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I thought you wanted an en suite so you didn't have to share with your parents.

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I don't want to share with him! Right, now we're getting to it.

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Today I'm in Essex, and this is Greenstead Church,

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hidden away here in the countryside since the 11th century,

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when the trees used to build these walls were felled.

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It may have changed over time, but at its heart is the timber nave.

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Now blackened and weathered through age, it's still

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as the original craftsman would have built it some 900 years ago.

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Stood here, it's hard to believe we are just 30 miles from London,

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but this part of Essex isn't the only part of the county

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that remains unchanged through modern times.

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Sandwiched between Greater London

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and Suffolk in the south-east of England, Essex is a diverse county.

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70% of its land is devoted to agricultural use,

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and heading east, it has a coastline that stretches over 300 miles.

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Essex turns into Constable country near the Suffolk border with gentle

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rolling hills, winding country lanes and small market towns, peppered

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with charming period buildings and the capital of Roman

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Britain, Colchester, boasts the largest surviving Norman keep

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in Europe and was the first royal castle to be built outside of London.

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It may be on the doorstep of London,

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but Essex has enough country properties to make the Big Smoke seem like a million miles way,

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and that's just what today's buyers today are hoping for.

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Let's meet them.

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Today we are helping Simon, an IT analyst, and girlfriend Mandy,

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a self-confessed workaholic, to swap their hectic north London life

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for a fresh start in pastures new.

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I've been here for about nine years now.

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I've sort of outgrown the flat a bit. Mandy moved in.

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Since we've got the dog, the place is not big enough.

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So their dog Charlie needs more space,

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but Mandy always wants her horses close by.

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I haven't got a good work/life balance at the moment.

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I think that if the horses were at home, I would be at home more,

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I would get to see Simon more and have a nicer quality of life.

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That's what I'm hoping for.

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Mandy own three horses, is a riding instructor and works at a livery.

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The question is, where does she want to be trotting off to?

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We have decided to move to Essex, mainly because of its location.

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It's not too far away, but it still offers a country feel.

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We are still going to commute to work, so Essex was centrally

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suited for my work in Enfield and Mandy's work in Leyton.

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That makes sense, but equestrian properties in Essex don't come cheap,

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so Mandy's parents will be making the move with them.

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That means we will need to find more space inside.

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What style of property are they after?

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Me, personally, I would like the house that

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when you drive up to it, it looks period-looking.

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When you get inside it has a modern feel.

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I'm really hoping for more space in the next place.

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Because it's too small here. I don't enjoy cooking.

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Simon doesn't get a proper meal often enough, and unfortunately,

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microwave meals is often as good as it gets.

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OK, so a character property with a modern interior and a large kitchen.

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What else is on the menu? We really do need a detached house.

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Four bedrooms? Yep. Outside we're looking for two to three acres.

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Some outbuildings.

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Stables, and some kind of exercise arena,

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menage, for the horses as well.

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With Simon, Mandy and Mandy's parents putting their properties

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on the market, what sort of budget are we looking at?

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Our maximum budget for this move would be ?575,000.

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According to the British Horse Society, the number of people

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owning a horse has doubled since the turn of the century.

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Now 2.8 million people own a horse. Little wonder then, that equestrian

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properties so close to London now come in relative high demand.

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So if we're going to find anything suitable for Mandy and Simon,

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something has to give.

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If it's not the budget, then maybe the compromise

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has to be the location.

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Simon and Mandy need to commute to north London for work.

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So we are focusing our search around Colchester, as it has direct train

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links to London.

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We'll be viewing three properties without telling them the price

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until the end of the tour, the last of which is the mystery house,

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chosen to challenge our house hunters by encouraging them

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Good to be in the countryside? BOTH: Very nice, yes.

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So, horses are a huge, huge part of your life

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and now a huge part of your life, aren't they?

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Whether he likes it or not!

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So, how much land are you looking for for your horses?

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Realistically for my own three, around three acres, four acres, if possible.

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In future we would like to possibly run a business as

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a livery yard, so, then if that came into play, we would want more land.

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Right, so budget-wise, how much are we talking about today?

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Anything up to ?575,000 we're looking for,

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but, obviously if you can get cheaper, even better.

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OK. That's a fair budget, but we are looking for quite a lot.

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How far our are you prepared to go from your search area?

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We understand that we might have to go further out.

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OK. The rain is starting to come down.

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The first house is lined up. Let's get there and see what you think.

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With a budget of ?575,000, Simon and Mandy are after a detached

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property with four bedrooms and a large kitchen.

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Key to the search is finding acreage for the horses,

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and ideally they would like outbuildings to develop into stables.

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Our first property is 11 miles from Colchester,

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near the village of Weeley.

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The impressive Grade II listed red brick church

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dates back to the 16th century and the local pub is said to have

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been a haunt of highwayman Dick Turpin.

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On the outskirts of the village, there are plenty of lanes

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and farmland to explore on horseback

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So the location should suit our enthusiastic equestrian.

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Situated off an A road, the first offering is conveniently

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positioned for commuting but also benefits from a rural setting.

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I'm excited to see what you think.

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We decided to go big and hopefully beautiful. What do you guys think?

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I quite like the modern look, actually.

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I like the red brick and the dark slate. It's a relatively new house.

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Just over ten years old. Let's see what you think of the inside. Excellent.

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Because this search needs to accommodate Simon, Mandy

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and her parents, space is key.

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This property has plenty.

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In here, I think you start to

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appreciate the sheer scale of this house.

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Hmm. It's quite big, isn't it? Blimey. It's a good size.

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You have your wood burner there as well. Yeah, really nice.

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So, The lounge is sizeable, and to the rear,

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the kitchen can certainly handle catering for four hungry adults.

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Very nice. I'd actually WANT to cook in here.

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You even have an oil-fired range.

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Yeah, I noticed that. There's something I'll show you next.

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I'm interested to see what you think of it, what you might do with it.

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Now, obviously there is a bit of an anteroom here, office area.

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Obviously this is the dining room, isn't it?

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Yes. At the moment, there is an unused annexe upstairs,

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a bit like a first-floor flat.

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You could incorporate this room and the room next door,

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with the upstairs of the annexe and almost have a semidetached house.

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Good. You do have builders on board, don't you? Yep, both dads.

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Perfect, it keeps the cost down. Definitely.

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So let's have a look at the bedrooms as they are at the moment. Lead the way, Simon.

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The space keeps coming on this level with a boot room,

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a utility room and a downstairs shower room.

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This room is your master bedroom. We like or don't like? We like.

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Not sure about the wallpaper, but that can change.

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Strange shape. Quite a nice en suite? That is quite nice.

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Every room in this house is bigger than the biggest room in our house.

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So, we're impressed. Well, it's a big house, there's lots to see.

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Let's keep moving on. OK.

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The other two bedrooms are large doubles,

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and there's a single bedroom on this floor.

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Outside, the property's surrounded by mature trees

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and a well-maintained garden.

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This move is all about the land for the horses.

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Now I know we're stood in the middle of some land, but at the moment

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this land isn't included with the sale of the house. But from what you

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have seen, how much do you think it is on the market for at the moment?

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I would have said the top of our budget. 575. OK. Simon?

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I'll go a bit more. I reckon 580. Both good guesses.

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You're on the money.

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It started off life a year ago at 595. It's now been reduced to 575.

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OK.

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The reason we're here is because I have had a conversation with

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the owner, who is prepared to negotiate and talk about including some of this land.

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The owner of the house owns around 14 acres here,

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which includes those stable block. Right. Wow. OK.

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Plus, you've also got other land there which might be getting

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sold off by a separate owner.

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OK. More than enough land for a livery business. Definitely.

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What's your thoughts?

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At the top of their budget, this house offers four to five

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bedrooms, depending on the configuration.

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There's a sizeable living room, a large farmhouse kitchen

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and a decent-sized garden.

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By separate negotiation, the land and the stables could be

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available for Mandy's horses, so I think we're off to a solid start.

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So, lots of options to consider. Yeah.

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Now, to confuse you even more, time for the second property.

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One of the reasons buildings like Colchester Castle and the 12th-century Coggeshall Abbey

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were built using reclaimed Roman bricks

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was because Essex has very little naturally occurring stone.

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Sitting on an area known as the London bed, Essex may not have stone under its rolling hills,

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but it does have clay - the most important ingredient needed to make the humble, yet all-important brick,

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and the region is considered to be the country's historical centre for brick-making.

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Bulmer Brickworks claims to be the oldest of its kind in England

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and for over eight decades, Peter Minter's family have been hand-making bricks that have

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helped restore buildings such as Hampton Court and Windsor Castle.

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So, right at the face of it here, now. Right at the face, yes.

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So what makes this clay so special?

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The minerals in there are helpful because they give us a range of

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colour, quite naturally.

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And where does this cut-away clay then go to?

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It's taken up to where we're going to be making, behind the mill,

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where we're preparing the clay for the makers.

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OK. And it's stored over winter. It's allowed to weather, which helps to break the clay down -

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part of the traditional process - and then it's used the following year.

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Can we get closer to where it's happening? Of course. Lovely.

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The clay that we've seen dug is soaked with water, put in the

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back of this machine, which mixes it up into what we refer to as a pug.

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A pug? '300,000 bricks are made just like this every year.

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'A tough job.'

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What's going on here?

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They're drying. They have to be almost perfectly dry

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before they go in the kiln, and you can't dry them too quickly.

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The whole nature of the process is that they want to be dried steadily.

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The firing of the brick must be perfect, otherwise all the previous processes have been a waste of time.

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Peter, this has been absolutely fascinating. Thank you so much.

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Shall we let them get on and fill this kiln up?

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I think it'd be a good idea.

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Our second property is in Little Clacton.

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Two miles from a direct train to London,

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the village is well placed for our commuting couple.

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Apart from the stunning 12th-century Norman church,

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the village also has a selection of character properties.

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There are plenty of bridleways and open tracks for Mandy and her horses

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to explore as well as a village shop for life's little conveniences.

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So, all in all, an attractive village, and an ideal

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location for our next house, a timber-framed character property.

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Now, for both of you,

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a very different proposition to what you asked for.

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Now, start looking at the house here. Wow!

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First impressions of the house as you see it? Very nice. Yeah. Different.

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Much different from the last one. Totally.

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This has hundreds of years on property number one.

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The original parts of the house are 16th century.

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It's got a Victorian extension to the back, much later addition

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being that conservatory, so it is a mishmash of styles.

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Who'd like to live in a period property, or would you both like to?

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My mum and dad! Would they? Definitely.

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Is this what they'd be imagining?

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Yeah. Yeah. This is it. Good. Let's take a look inside.

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This house may be more appealing to Mandy's parents,

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but unlike the first property, it does come with land for the horses.

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OK. So, very different proportions to the first house we saw this morning.

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Yes. Very different style. You've got all this timber everywhere,

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a nice big open fireplace with the wood burner.

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That's a nice feature, actually. As a size for a living room,

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it's not bad, is it? No, it's not bad.

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It's not that much. Actually, it's quite a bit smaller than my parents'. Yeah.

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It may not be the size they were expecting,

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but there is another reception room on the other

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side of the fireplace and also a small study and third reception room.

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Adding further to the living space downstairs is the conservatory.

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Clearly, a very recent addition to the house, but a welcome addition nonetheless.

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A bright room, yeah.

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I like this. It's nice. It is nice.

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Big, isn't it? It is big but it's nice and light, isn't it?

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And it's in keeping with the rest of the house, which is really nice.

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Now, there is work to be done in the kitchen. Follow me. Right. OK.

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'I think Simon and Mandy are starting to see the potential now, but they're not giving much away.'

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As it stands, you've got the dining room and a small kitchen there.

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Yeah. It's quite small, isn't it?

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Yeah, you could have a couple of stools there and have a kitchen sort of diner.

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Like a bar type. Yeah, bar type, yeah. Yeah.

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OK. You've got a door spilling straight out into the back garden.

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We won't go out there yet. OK. Right. Upstairs to the bedrooms. OK.

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'In all, there are a total of five bedrooms for Simon, Mandy and her parents to choose from.'

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Now, this is the biggest of the bedrooms. OK.

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This isn't as small as I thought it was going to be, actually, for this sort of house. No.

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It's quite nice. This is a unique shape, isn't it?

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You have a family bathroom on this floor and then a separate loo on this floor, OK? Right.

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My thoughts are, you might be able to make one of the other rooms into an en suite.

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Oh, OK. That's an idea, isn't it? Yeah. OK? Let's keep going on.

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'The other four double bedrooms are all a good size, so Mandy's parents will be well catered for.

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'And outside, there's a triple garage and a two-acre garden.

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'But it's the land for Mandy's horses that's driving the move,

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'so we're going to explore what's on offer.'

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This part of the land measures apparently four acres.

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OK. More than you asked for, yeah?

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More than I asked for, that's good.

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How much do you think this one's on the market for?

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I would say around about 550.

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I'm going to go more. I'm going to go 560.

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Well, this house is on the market for offers around ?575,000. Oh, OK. OK.

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For ?575,000,

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this property comes with five bedrooms and four reception rooms.

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Including the garden, there's a total of six acres,

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but will it be enough

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for Mandy's plans to create a livery in the future?

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So, hopefully today has given you plenty to think about. It has, yes. Yes.

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Let's find you somewhere to get your heads together and mull things over, shall we? OK.

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As day turns to night, Mandy and Simon will be considering

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all that they've seen on their first day of house-hunting in Essex.

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At the top of this search, we were told it was all about the land,

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which made yesterday's house tours all the more puzzling, really.

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The first house I got great reactions from,

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but it only had the potential for a couple of acres of land.

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And the second property sat in two acres with an additional

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four acres of land and, at best, the reactions were lukewarm.

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So for today and for the mystery property, we'll focus on

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the house itself, which is a bit of a gamble.

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Our mystery house lies just outside the village of Gestingthorpe,

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the home of Captain Laurence Oates,

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one of the ill-fated companions on Scot's Antarctic expedition.

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In terms of architecture, the village has a prime example

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of a red brick church dating to Norman times,

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as well as a collection of typical country cottages.

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The local pub has a good reputation and our mystery house

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is just moments away.

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So, the mystery property.

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Here she is. Very nice.

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Yep. It is nice, isn't it? Yeah, gorgeous.

0:20:100:20:13

Built around 1988, at least most of it was.

0:20:130:20:16

OK. So you like what you see? Yes, I do. Very much so, yeah.

0:20:160:20:20

This property is the mystery house for good reason.

0:20:200:20:23

It's the only house that gives you a genuine annexe. OK!

0:20:230:20:26

A fully self-contained, straightaway you can move into it, or your parents could.

0:20:260:20:30

The other reason why it's the mystery property is there is a compromise with the land.

0:20:300:20:36

OK. All right?

0:20:360:20:37

Let's have a look inside first, and we'll deal with the land after.

0:20:370:20:41

It may lack acreage, but Mandy has said she prefers open-plan living,

0:20:430:20:47

so the interior should be a pleasant surprise.

0:20:470:20:50

Right, then. What do we think of this?

0:20:520:20:57

Nice, I like it. Open plan.

0:20:570:20:59

Nice kitchen...diner.

0:20:590:21:01

It's very open plan, isn't it? Yeah.

0:21:010:21:04

It's nice. I like that.

0:21:040:21:06

Cosy, but spacious at the same time.

0:21:060:21:09

What it gives you is still defined living areas, haven't you?

0:21:090:21:13

You've got this wonderful sitting room there with that wood burner. Nice. Very nice.

0:21:130:21:18

And then you've got a big sweeping flow right through to the utility.

0:21:180:21:22

Really nice. A nice set-up, isn't it?

0:21:220:21:25

Let's go over here, have a look at this kitchen.

0:21:250:21:28

It's oak. The kitchen spreads out behind you. You can see where the range is.

0:21:290:21:33

Oh, wow! Wow!

0:21:330:21:34

I mean, this is genuine open-plan living.

0:21:340:21:37

So, is that good, is that bad?

0:21:370:21:39

Yeah, it's nice cos obviously, if we're in together,

0:21:390:21:42

I'm in the living room, she's cooking, we're still sort of close to each other.

0:21:420:21:46

Yeah, in our current property, we're often at opposite ends of the house almost, aren't we? Yeah.

0:21:460:21:50

Brilliant, OK. Let's take a look next door. That's a really nice feature as well.

0:21:500:21:55

'In the last property, the conservatory impressed, so the next room should be well received.'

0:21:550:22:00

It's a great size.

0:22:000:22:02

Yep. You could eat out here as well, dining table...

0:22:020:22:04

There's loads of room, isn't there?

0:22:040:22:06

OK, good. Good reaction so far, hey?

0:22:060:22:08

Yeah, I like it. Good. OK.

0:22:080:22:10

Let's take a look upstairs at the bedrooms, shall we? OK.

0:22:100:22:13

'As predicted, the open-plan layout has gone down well.

0:22:150:22:18

'Whilst upstairs, the floor plan is much more traditional.'

0:22:180:22:22

This is the master bedroom.

0:22:230:22:25

It's one of four on this level. OK.

0:22:250:22:28

Very nice. It's all right, isn't it?

0:22:280:22:30

It's master because you've got an en suite bathroom...

0:22:300:22:33

Nice. Plus, the other side of this wall, there's a family shower room.

0:22:330:22:37

OK. So, that's mine and that's yours.

0:22:370:22:40

Yep. So now... Look how you're dividing it up! I thought you wanted

0:22:400:22:43

an en suite so you didn't have to share with your parents?

0:22:430:22:47

I don't want to share with him. Right, now we get to it.

0:22:470:22:50

I want you to look through your parents' eyes next, because we'll go into the annexe.

0:22:500:22:59

'There are two more spacious double bedrooms and a large single in this part of the house.

0:22:590:23:03

'The annexe has a separate entrance, but is also joined to the main house via the kitchen.'

0:23:030:23:09

So, welcome to your parents' living quarters, if you like.

0:23:110:23:16

Yep. OK.

0:23:160:23:18

It's ready to go, isn't it? It's split up at the moment into two flats.

0:23:180:23:24

There's a bedsit below us and this forms a one-bedroom flat. Oh, OK.

0:23:240:23:29

A nice little two-bedroom annexe.

0:23:290:23:32

Yeah. So, quite excited? Yeah. Good, OK.

0:23:320:23:36

This house comes with planning permission to extend the annexe and that's reflected in the price.

0:23:380:23:43

Outside, the gardens are laid out over half an acre,

0:23:430:23:46

and although there's no land for the horses, there are options available.

0:23:460:23:50

There's no additional land at the moment. OK.

0:23:500:23:54

Now, there's a land owner that'd be prepared to lease you some land.

0:23:540:23:58

OK. Seven acres in total, within a mile, but -

0:23:580:24:03

there is a bonus there - you can get to the land. There's a bridleway.

0:24:030:24:07

The back of these houses goes straight to the field, really.

0:24:070:24:10

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

0:24:100:24:14

You can go first!

0:24:140:24:19

Um... I'm going to say, based on the fact it's planning permission as well, already, 570?

0:24:190:24:25

I'm going to go 580.

0:24:260:24:29

Split the camp - it's on the market for 575.

0:24:310:24:34

Oh, OK!

0:24:340:24:36

Loads, also, to think about, then, not just for you guys but for your parents. Yes.

0:24:360:24:40

Once again, we've found them a property on-budget at ?575,000.

0:24:440:24:49

In the main house, there's an open-plan ground floor and four good-sized bedrooms.

0:24:490:24:54

There's also an annexe and an option of land for the horses -

0:24:540:24:58

a different proposition from our first two properties.

0:24:580:25:01

We've shown Mandy and Simon three properties now, each giving them

0:25:120:25:15

different options as regards to land and living accommodation.

0:25:150:25:19

Let's find out what they think.

0:25:190:25:21

Let's go through the properties one by one. The first house.

0:25:260:25:30

You seemed to fall in love with it outside the front door, almost, didn't you?

0:25:300:25:35

Yeah. Definitely had that wow factor.

0:25:350:25:37

You looked at it and thought, "I can see myself living there."

0:25:370:25:40

From the outside, inside, it was just big, it was spacious, it was light. It had everything to offer.

0:25:400:25:44

It had the land across the road which was slightly detached but that worked for us, I think.

0:25:440:25:50

The land was the variable, wasn't it?

0:25:500:25:53

Yes. The potential for land with some shrewd negotiating.

0:25:530:25:57

Yes. So, that afternoon we went to the second property,

0:25:570:26:02

a period house.

0:26:020:26:04

Yep. Not everybody's cup of tea and it looked like you had mixed emotions in there. What went on?

0:26:040:26:09

It was a beautiful house, wasn't it? And it was set in a really pretty location, but...

0:26:090:26:15

And even though it had five bedrooms, it just didn't feel big, did it?

0:26:150:26:18

No, it didn't have the wow factor as the first one did.

0:26:180:26:22

It had a nice conservatory. And with the land, because it was four acres,

0:26:220:26:25

but also it was in natural land, with the trees and everything.

0:26:250:26:29

It would have been quite a big job, I think, to uproot some of what needed to be done.

0:26:290:26:34

So, you had a chance to sleep on things, and then it was the mystery house.

0:26:340:26:37

Always a little bit out there.

0:26:370:26:40

What do you think about that now?

0:26:400:26:41

That was a beautiful house as well, wasn't it?

0:26:410:26:44

Yes. The fact that it's got an annexe, all ready to move in.

0:26:440:26:49

Two-bedroom, and it had got planning permission to extend...

0:26:490:26:53

Yes, and in a nice village, nice setting.

0:26:530:26:56

Lots to like.

0:26:560:26:58

Obviously, the compromise with the house was the land. Yeah.

0:26:580:27:00

But there's options there, isn't there?

0:27:000:27:02

There's options, and I think we'd just have to do a bit of research ourselves, maybe,

0:27:020:27:06

and see what land was available, and see what we could do with that, because we did like the area.

0:27:060:27:10

So, you've two properties in the running, the first house and the mystery property?

0:27:100:27:16

Yep. Well, look. What's next? Mum and Dad going to come up for a second viewing, are they?

0:27:160:27:19

Yep, I think we'll come up together, arrange another viewing for both properties,

0:27:190:27:23

and get an idea of what they think.

0:27:230:27:26

Well, I wish you the very best of luck.

0:27:260:27:28

Please let us know how you get on with it. We will.

0:27:280:27:30

We will do. Thank you very much. Thank you.

0:27:300:27:33

I knew it wasn't going to be easy

0:27:380:27:39

finding Mandy and Simon a property with all of their requirements, especially when you bear in mind

0:27:390:27:44

their fairly limited budget in an expensive part of the world, but, as the sun goes down, I'm feeling

0:27:440:27:50

pretty chuffed, because in making compromises, they found not one but two potential properties.

0:27:500:27:55

So, fingers crossed Mandy's parents like at least one of them and they can settle on a clear winner.

0:27:550:28:01

See you next time.

0:28:010:28:03

If you'd like to escape to the country

0:28:030:28:05

in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland

0:28:050:28:07

or England or even to the Continent, and need our help,

0:28:070:28:10

please apply online at:

0:28:100:28:11

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:28:270:28:29

This is Malcolm, who owns Iceland. He's the one

0:28:450:28:47

that's going to present us with the ten grand. When we win it.

0:28:470:28:49

You've just got to make it as bearable

0:28:490:28:52

Jonnie Irwin is in Essex helping a young couple find an equestrian property with a budget of £575,000. But as the Home Counties are notoriously pricey, they may have to do some lateral thinking to get the house and acreage they are after.

Jonnie also gets a master class in making bricks from the oldest brickworks of its kind in the country.