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I do love a good castle and this is one of the best.
It's the largest surviving Norman keep in England
and it comes with some pretty impressive vital statistics.
That tower is 110 ft high.
And it's said that the walls are 12ft thick,
which goes some way to explaining why it has been here for the last 900 years or so.
So join me as we lay siege to yet more gorgeous,
rural properties on today's Escape To The Country.
Today we have two London-based sisters looking for a country property
to suit their sense of individuality and style.
This is me!
Mwah! Ohhh! Jules!
And when they see the mystery house, there's a moment of enlightenment.
# Hallelujah! #
Today we're in Essex, inside the great keep at Hedingham Castle.
Home to the de Vere family for the last 550 years,
over the centuries, they have had some pretty impressive house guests,
amongst them Henry VII, Henry VIII and Elizabeth I.
All of whom, it's thought, dined here in the banqueting hall,
underneath this enormous arch,
thought to be one of the biggest Norman arches in England.
All 28ft of it.
Situated north east of London and due south of neighbouring Suffolk,
Essex offers up the best of both town and country.
With excellent transport links into the city,
West Essex is a popular base for commuters to set up home,
while the north of the county is full of picturesque villages with beautiful countryside,
which inspired some of the country's most prolific landscape painters.
Meanwhile, more than 300 miles of coastline makes the most
of some of the highest summer temperatures in the UK.
In the heart of the county,
Colchester was the capital of Roman Britain
and still boasts remnants of the occupation.
Many buildings, such as the Norman-built Colchester Castle, appropriated Roman bricks
as there's very little natural stone in the area.
Essex's rich history explains its 14,000 listed buildings,
characterised by the medieval timber-framed houses scattered throughout the county.
So, if value for money is what you're after, Essex could be a pretty good bet.
There is plenty on the market. What are today's buyers after?
Well, let's go and meet them.
This is Morva her younger sister Doreen, who,
after raising a family in her three-bedroomed terrace in South London,
wants to swap the city for the country and has enrolled her big sister to help.
Although Morva won't be moving,
she knows better than anybody what makes her sibling tick.
Doreen is a self-confessed dreamer with one big personality,
so this move isn't just about a better quality of life.
This is about fulfilling a lifelong ambition - and she wants it all.
Which is where her sister comes in, to keep things in perspective.
We are really a team because, of course, my imagination is huge,
but my pocket is small.
Although Doreen loves her current home,
this move is about changing location.
The area has never been ideal. It's just very, very busy.
If there is a diversion, it goes down this road.
So, it's goodbye to city traffic, and hello to Essex countryside.
But what style of property is she after?
New builds - no, that's not me.
But Edwardian, Victorian... Oh, my God, churches.
With the old features still there, intact.
The steeple again. That's what we've talked about before.
The smell of old wood.
Doreen, don't get carried away!
Before we lose Doreen to her impressive imagination,
let's find out about the details.
Detached property that has three to four bedrooms.
That Gone With The Wind hallway, where the stairs go up like that.
You're not going to get that!
Huge kitchen, enough to put a settee, fireplaces.
Love fireplaces in the living area.
En suite is good, two is a bonus.
I love windows that are very church-like. I don't like square.
I'm not a square person. Don't give me nothing square!
No, don't give me square. It must have some form of curves on it.
Good-sized grounds. A great plot. Enough plot that I can manage anyway.
Anything under my budget so that I'm able to change things to how I want them would be the ace card.
It sounds like Doreen is expecting a country manor to me.
Thank goodness we have Morva to calm things down.
Doreen will be selling her house to fund the move,
so what is the budget?
The maximum budget that I have to spend is ?400,000.
Well, I think I'm in for a bit of a treat here.
Doreen is clearly good fun and is after a nice property
with a few quirks and as much character as she's got.
Squares are out, curves are in and modern?
Well, that's a dirty word as far as Doreen is concerned.
But she's also clearly a bit of a dreamer.
?400,000 for a mansion in Essex with a Gone With The Wind staircase,
that is going to be tricky.
But fortunately, she's brought her sister along to keep her feet firmly on the ground.
That is going to be quite a task.
Doreen wants a rural home
that also has good commuting links into London,
so we'll be focusing our search between Braintree and Colchester.
We'll be showing them three properties
without telling them the prices until the end of the tours.
The third, of course, is the mystery house,
which may challenge Doreen's idea of a character country home
and push the boundaries of her colourful imagination.
Well, guys, it's lovely to see you here in Essex.
How does it feel to be finally starting your house hunt, Doreen? Very, very exciting, Jules.
Just remind us of the budget.
Well, the budget I have is ?400,000.
And how do you feel about her moving out of London?
All your family are there, your extended family.
You've got a huge family. You're going to be out on a limb.
No, no, no, because as I said, it's only an hour
and that is no distance because we are enormously close, so an hour is nothing.
We've got three properties to show you, including, of course, the mystery house.
Let's go and see what we can find you. OK, please, let's go.
Follow me, follow me.
With a budget of ?400,000, Doreen is after a detached character property.
She'd like a kitchen that could accommodate a sofa,
a spacious living room, and at least three bedrooms.
Ideally, she'd also like outbuildings, a garage and land.
All quite an ask for the budget. So this is going to be a tough one.
Our first property lies in Sible Hedingham, a mile away
from the attractive medieval village of Castle Hedingham.
Developed around the Norman motte-and-bailey castle,
Castle Hedingham also boasts an impressive 12th century Gothic church.
The area is home to a wide selection of timber-framed houses that date back to the 1400s.
Just 15 minutes from Braintree with good rail links back to London,
our first property is ideally situated for commuting
and also has loads of period charm.
Let's start with this one. What do you reckon?
Oh! It's very different.
A lot of the properties here are listed. This is one of them.
It's listed? Yep. It used to be the old bakery, years and years ago.
It has been extended in the '70s
but it has also been recently renovated.
That's good. So, you've got something with loads of character and history.
Jules. I just so want to go inside. Please, let's just get inside!
Stop talking, Jules. Come on!
Well, no messing about, then. Let's see what this old bakery can cook up for Doreen and Morva.
Now then. Come on in. What do you reckon? I think it's lovely!
This is definitely me, I've got to say.
I just think that it's a bit small.
Mm. I've got four boys who are 6ft 3in.
Do you know what I'm saying?
I'm thinking they will be walking like...
They made 'em smaller in medieval England.
Not a bad first impression
but Doreen has to realise that a period property on her budget
isn't going to have the dimensions of a stately manor.
So, leading on, we've got this. This is quite sweet. Dining area for you.
Yes, it's actually sweet.
You see, Morva's worrying me because I know exactly what you're doing.
You're saying small, small, small. It's a very cosy dining room.
Nice multi-fuel burner there. Really, really cosy.
This would be more like a study. As a study, would it be better?
Yes it would be, I think so. No, it's a hallway.
Excellent. Let's carry on and have a look at the kitchen.
This is the kitchen, as you can see.
Oh, it's sweet. You see, I'm worried straight away. This is gorgeous.
I do like the feel of the kitchen. I could work in here.
But it's not big enough at all.
Well, let's have a look upstairs through the dining room, well, hallway, shall we say?
Nice chimney breast there. That's coming up from downstairs.
It's got such a good feel.
Nice, isn't it? I do. I really like the feel of up here.
Now, you know, I'm changing again. I'm thinking this works.
This is a nice room. I do like that.
OK, so you're happy in here? I'm happy in here.
Let's find you a master bedroom.
This is your room.
I love this. I do.
This is just the type of bedroom I love. It is nice.
The rusticness of it is so me.
The other two further bedrooms are set in the eaves
with one currently being used as a library, and there's also a family bathroom.
Outside there's a charming 100-foot garden for Doreen to make her own.
Out you come.
What do you think of the garden?
It's a workable garden, I'll give you that, yeah. I think so, too.
Yeah? You've got the patio behind us.
Then over there, quite a well-established vegetable patch and so forth.
Let's have a think about the price, shall we? Yeah.
The price I'm thinking of is 389,950.
389,950, yeah, OK.
I think ?350,000. ?350,000? Is that what you're trying to say?
Actually, yeah, that's what I'm trying to say. ?350,000.
Well, the good news is that you're both wrong.
This could be yours for 335.
Jules, that is actually very good.
Ah now, look at you change your tune, Doreen!
That's a decent price, isn't it? It's a very good price.
It's a very good price.
You have got my feel. That's definitely got me written on it.
Under budget at ?335,000, this property has four bedrooms,
a practical, modern kitchen
and the living areas offer a host of period features.
There's a good-sized garden to the rear
but will the dimensions of the property
satisfy Doreen's high expectations?
Let's go and find you... something else. Yeah.
Over the last century, Essex has lost 59 historic houses.
Including Marks Hall, in Coggeshall, which was demolished in 1951,
after falling into disrepair.
This once magnificent mansion was part of an estate
that covered more than 2,000 acres
and although the house no longer stands, a charitable trust was established in 1971
to breathe new life into the grounds.
I went to meet head curator Jonathan Dukes
to find out about the impressive arboretum that's been developed.
How many acres does it cover? The area here we've got as a garden arboretum
is about 200 acres.
The estate is now home to a stunning collection of trees and plants
from around the world, including many rare and endangered species.
I have to say, it's absolutely lovely.
In terms of the planting we've got here, is this typical?
The way we decided to form our collection here was geographically.
This is pretty much Asia. A lot of these are Chinese, Japanese species in here.
So, plants like to grow with their friends, so we group them like that.
I love that!
So, after a stroll through Europe, past one of the last
of 700-year-old oaks left in the park,
it's time to experience something even older.
This looks very prehistoric. What is this?
This is the Wollemi pine.
This was found, astonishingly,
growing in Australia in the early '90s.
So it was lost to us completely?
This is what tree collections are all about.
A rare plant in an endangered environment,
propagated and moved all over the world, so it's safe in collections.
It's a terrific testament to your 25 years here, Jonathan.
You've rescued this estate from certain destruction.
So, whilst the house may have disappeared from Marks Hall,
thanks to Jonathan and the rest of the team here, they've gained an important arboretum
and saved the estate from being swept away into the mists of time.
It's time we returned to the house-hunt.
Our second property lies near the village of Panfield.
Mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086,
the village is also home to a charming 15th century church.
If Doreen wants to get to know the locals, there's an inviting pub
and it's also just ten minutes from Braintree for those all-important rail links.
Jules, where are you taking us?
Well, it's not the normal approach to a property on Escape To The Country, is it?
But it will all make sense in just a moment, look. Have a look at this.
Now, what was that thing about chapels you said? I love chapels.
There you go. Is that a chapel? It's a converted chapel.
Late Victorian chapel. Described as an "Evangelical" chapel. Really?
Just like me. Just like you!
Jules, my heart is beating too fast. Yeah?
Can we get inside, please? She wants to go in - we'd better do that!
Well, it looks like this former Evangelical chapel is singing the right tune for Doreen so far.
Come on in here.
Let's start with one of the two reception rooms you've got to play with.
Oh, it's nice.
I'm feeling a bit belly belly belly, because I'm liking it so much, I love it, yeah.
It's just so me. Yeah, no, I love it. Is the floor...?
That's all original. So light, yeah, I know, seriously, loving it.
It does feel good, and I think this is Doreen. It's actually me as well.
But you're not buying it! I know! Brilliant.
Well, then, come and have a look at this kitchen. Yeah.
I love this house. Come on in.
Come on in! Now then.
It's nice. I love this house!
Please, guys, I'm so grateful. I'm going to cry.
Don't cry, don't cry, don't cry.
Because I want you to take it all in.
This was the old Sunday school bit of the chapel.
It's got this old, you know, this feel about it, that is so me.
It's so my family. It's got my cooker. I've got that cooker at home!
In green. Really? It's a sign! It's a sign!
So, the whole sofa thing? Yes. My spirit has moved in.
I'm here already.
Come with me. Come and have a look at the third room. Come on. In here.
Right, now then, you've got this other second reception room.
Oh, my God, do you know what I feel like? This is the honest truth.
I feel like I've won the lottery. This is me! This! Is! Me!
You may have to win the lottery to pay for it! Jules! Mwah!
Oh, my God, Morva.
There's always a first on this show, and that's a first!
I love this house, just love it! It is nice. Oh, Jules.
I am speechless, and that's very rare.
She's not speechless at all - I can't shut you up!
Hopefully, the bedrooms will continue to impress.
Let's start in here.
Come here, darling.
Now, this is one of the three that's up here. Three bedrooms.
Now, two of them are this size and there's a smaller box room next door. Right.
OK, so this would be the guest room.
This will be where I will be and I think it's a nice room.
It's enough, yeah. I'm loving it. I'm loving it. Isn't that an advert?
I am... Yeah!
Well then, a thumbs-up from Morva and Doreen.
Now for the master bedroom.
And then this, Doreen, is for you, and to be honest with you, they're both very similar,
although this one is next to the family bathroom, because there's no en suite. I see.
Well, it looks like we've got a deal, so will the garden seal it?
Out you come. Look at this. Lovely, late evening sunshine.
I'm home, I've said it. She's landed. I am home.
Let's have a think about it. You've got ?400,000 to spend, Doreen.
Yeah, but I think it's over budget.
I think it's 400, 415. 415. Yeah?
Morva? I think it might be just spot-on.
Well, here's the thing.
You're both sort of right and you both sort of wrong.
It's offers in excess of ?400,000.
But it's within your grasp.
It's meant to be. It is meant to be. Enough said.
For offers over ?400,000, it is potentially just over budget,
but Doreen does seem completely taken with this place.
There are three bedrooms, two reception rooms,
and a garden with a lovely rural aspect.
Not to mention that there's even room for that sofa in the kitchen.
Quite a result.
Come on, let's go.
So, as the sun sinks over rural Essex,
I'm pretty sure that both Doreen and Morva will be curious to see whether
the mystery house tomorrow can compete with our second property.
Well, it's our final day and it's mystery house time.
The mystery house, as often happens on this show,
has a lot to compete with after a successful day yesterday,
but can it be done, I wonder? I'm pretty sure it can, and who knows?
If I'm successful, I might get another kiss!
Just 20 minutes from rail links in Colchester,
our mystery house lies in the rural village of Layer Breton.
Surrounded by agricultural land,
the village itself offers a local pub, a convenience store
and a charming church with a timber tower.
Our final property is in a prime location overlooking open heathland.
OK. That is the mystery house.
Oh! Now then, Doreen, what do you reckon?
It is adorable. I'm loving it.
What we've got here is a Sunday school.
Ha-ha! Argh! # Hallelujah! #
Isn't it great?
I am so excited.
This is my dream. It is just... Morva, it's lovely!
It does look good from outside. Yeah? Yeah.
Let's have a look inside, follow me. I don't know if I can contain myself!
Now, to be honest, the Victorian facade is a little misleading
because, whilst Doreen does love period features,
our mystery house today has been gutted
and totally modernised inside, with not a beam in sight.
So, I can't wait to see what she makes of it.
Come on in, guys. There we are.
I think it's a lovely house. Isn't it? Yes. It's a lovely house.
Let's start in here with this reception room.
Yeah, it's lovely.
It's big enough.
I mean, this is workable. It's very clean, and, yeah, I am liking it.
On the other side of the hallway
there are two smaller reception rooms, both currently used
for office and study space. But let's cut to the chase
and get to Doreen's favourite part of the house.
Through here is the kitchen...
Oh, the kitchen's lovely.
I love the kitchen. This is a nice kitchen.
It's really, really welcoming. I am feeling it as well.
Are you? Yes.
Just off the kitchen is a utility room,
but there's also something here none of the other properties have.
OK, have a look in there. That's your dining room.
Oh, yeah, this is a lovely room.
Yeah? Yeah. Lovely room. I do like this room. That's true, it's a lovely colour.
It's very inviting, this room. I think it's lovely.
And if you like it down here,
I actually think it gets better upstairs.
Really? Which isn't the case with many houses.
Because up there, not only have we got four bedrooms,
we've also got you three bathrooms.
No! Yeah, come and have a look. Come and check this out.
This place really does get better and better.
If you ask me, it's a real competitor to the property yesterday that Doreen absolutely loved.
It's lovely. I love it. Love it, love it, love it.
The feeling here is, yeah. It's beautiful.
I am amazed that up here is like this. OK. So this could be you then?
Um, I haven't seen all the rooms yet!
Well, you can fight over the master bedroom because this is nice. Have a look at this.
Now then, Doreen, I think this is going to work...
Wow! Of course this is Doreen's room. ..in a way none of the others have, really.
I love this room.
I am seeing that dream, do you know what?
You see? You've got the views, you've got a really gorgeous en suite in there.
Well, go and get excited with what's through there. Off you go.
What's through there? Go and have a look.
Oh, my God! Ha-ha!
Oh, my God, a dressing room! I can't believe this!
I'm loving this! Come on, out you come. Oh, Jules, mwah!
I am in your bedroom after all, so it's all fair enough, isn't it?
The other two bedrooms are both a good size
and also benefit from skylights.
There's also a modern family bathroom and a shower room,
so the only thing left to view is the garden.
Right, guys, out you come.
Oh! Yeah. Now, it's very manageable, this.
But we have got the common opposite.
And that's the thing.
The location is perfect. This, to me, doesn't matter.
Because I've got - that! It just feels so right.
Well, let's see if the price is right.
Let's get Morva to guess our final price of the week.
450,000, which would be way over the top,
and even if you could push it, to 425, but it's a lovely property.
That location there is what my dream is.
Because 425 is the figure that's attached to this house.
It's been reduced. This could be yours for ?390,000.
Really? Yes, really. Oh, my God!
Yes, really. I love you!
It's been reduced? This has been quite a week, you know?
Fantastic. That's good.
Team hug. There we are. Brilliant.
So, for ?390,000, this Victorian detached house
offers plenty of character on the outside and, inside,
there's a large kitchen-diner and four good-sized bedrooms.
Although the garden is small,
the property's location opposite the heath has clearly impressed Doreen.
Well, guys, that was the mystery house. Beautiful house. Happy?
I am so happy. You love that one, don't you? I do, I do.
She's loved them all, in a way.
No, but I think that's the one she really... Look where we are.
What's not to love?
We're in the middle of nowhere! Come on.
It's now decision time for Morva.
And in particular, for Doreen. What does the future hold, I wonder?
Well, after the week we've had, it could be anything with these two.
It's been a huge amount of fun.
Let's remind ourselves of where we started.
That lovely, beamed 14th-century cottage in Sible Hedingham.
I wasn't over-loving the outside of the property, and then,
when I got inside, you had to keep ducking and that really wasn't practical.
That was the first thing that struck me, the beams were so low.
And the upstairs, oh, I loved the upstairs
but that wasn't practical for the same reason, but I loved it.
Well, it was with some nervousness that we then took you to our second property.
Oh, Jules. I just loved it. Straight away.
The kitchen is what I'm coming from, but just a little bit bigger.
And that dining room! Oh! It is just perfect.
But my dilemma came in when I went upstairs.
I didn't feel the same love upstairs.
Now then, the mystery house.
I always said, outside my house, I want to see the land.
I fell in love straight away because it felt so good.
When I went inside I felt like, hmm, yeah, it was all do-able and whatever.
But upstairs was awesome.
You couldn't even count the showers we had up there!
And then, to top it off, my own dressing room.
Your own dressing room. The price, ?390,000. And the price
was another thing, so the jigsaw puzzle just slotted in.
The price was a give-away price. It was meant to be. I'm very happy.
So, what happens next, then?
Well, now, obviously I've got to sell my house,
so it's a case of, whoever wants my house, come and buy it.
I don't think it will be hard to sell. No.
Thank you very much indeed. And best of luck selling yours,
and I hope to see you moving in there in the near future. You will.
Thank you so much, and thanks, everybody on the show. Pleasure. Thank you.
Well, there's no doubt about it.
Doreen's not the first person to come on this show
with an overly ambitious list of requirements,
but the good news is we've been able to simplify all that.
Armed with the good sense of her very sensible sister, Morva,
what we've got is something much more realistic.
Gone is the mansion, the stables, the sweeping Gone With The Wind staircase,
and in her words, "a nice house in a nice location".
And, as you can probably tell, we've had an awful lot of fun along the way.
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# One, two, three, four... #
A family memoir that captured the hearts of millions.
A potter telling stories out of porcelain
and making objects out of words.
Jules Hudson is in Essex, helping a couple of sisters find a quirky home with a big character to match their own. With a budget of £400,000 they fall head over heels with both the property and Jules.