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On a tour of the British Isles, Daniel Defoe described today's county as having the finest wool,
the richest cider, and - that staple of British ale - the best hops in all of Britain.
And today, that tradition continues and this is the main hop-growing region in the whole of England.
So stick with us as we serve up another bumper crop of properties on today's Escape to the Country.
Today, our couple are swapping life in suburbia for a character property in the country.
It's exactly what you were kind of picturing. Yes, it is. Yes, spot on.
I like the corner window! Yeah, it's lovely!
Can we just buy it now?!
And they're both keen on a period property, so what will they think of our new-build mystery house?
This is stunning.
I'm in rural Herefordshire. Hops have been grown here since the 1500s,
and this is the key ingredient that separates a pint of British bitter
from our smooth Continental neighbours' lager.
Now traditional hop varieties like Goldings and Fuggles are prized
for the fruity aromas and bitterness they impart on the nation's favourite drink.
Situated in the southwest corner of the West Midlands bordering Wales,
Herefordshire has over 5,000 farms,
making it an agricultural stronghold which is not such a surprise
when you consider it's one of the least populated counties in England.
Herefordshire boasts 3,000 orchards, more than any other county in the UK.
Apples have been cultivated here since pre-Roman times
and the cider industry has blossomed since the 16th century.
Hereford cattle are a characteristic feature of this county,
as are the 65 square miles of outstanding natural beauty that make up the Malvern Hills.
In the city of Hereford,
the cathedral sits proudly alongside the 12th-century Bishop's Palace
and this 17th century black and white house which is simply known as the Old House,
just a taste of the character properties mirrored in this county's villages.
But what are today's buyers actually after? It's time to find out.
Lee, an IT manager, and his wife Heidi live in a modern four-bedroom home near Reading.
With their three children all at university, Heidi is longing to fulfil a lifelong ambition.
Well, I've always wanted to move to the countryside ever since the children were tiny.
Always fancied some views,
just fancied the country-style living really.
And Herefordshire is the practical choice for their country dream.
Herefordshire really brings me a little bit closer to my customers
who are in the Midlands. And also they have some beautiful character houses there.
No prizes for guessing the style of house that they're looking for, then.
Yes, would be a black and white little cottage with land all the way around.
A cottage with kerb appeal it is, so let's get into the details.
What we want from the next property would be three/four bedrooms,
a large kitchen, preferably one we can put a table in.
One of the must haves would be a large garden - half an acre would be great.
I do tend to be the only gardener so it would only be me tending it, so I don't want anything unmanageable.
I do a bit. Yes, you do a bit.
Anything else on the list then?
We need somewhere for both of us to work,
for me working at home and you for your business and your embroidery.
OK, so an office for two as well, but how far into the countryside will this cottage be?
For me, you can't get too rural because I still need reasonable speed broadband, 1.5 meg,
to make sure I can still work. And mobile phone connection. Signal.
With their house on the market and receiving interest, they need to find a property soon. What's the budget?
If the house ticks all the boxes, we could pay ?350,000.
Now their children are flying the nest,
Lee and Heidi can concentrate purely on themselves for this move,
but the one thing they're very clear on is they want plenty of character.
But black and whites aren't known for their ample interiors,
especially those in the ?350,000 price bracket.
So that much-longed-for period cottage, well, it may be more of a dream than a reality.
Lee and Heidi are particularly keen on an area near the Malvern Hills
so we'll be focusing our search in the east of the county.
We have a variety of properties to show them, and at each one,
I'll ask them to guess the price before I reveal it..
And then there's the mystery house - a property chosen to challenge their idea of a dream home in the country.
Lee and Heidi, welcome to Herefordshire. Thank you.
This is an important move for you both because your children have flown the nest.
I know some come back occasionally. Yes, part-time children just now.
It's a place for us really that we are now looking for, aren't we?
Now budget wise, top end of your budget still ?350,000?
Yes, find us the perfect house - ?350,000. Yes, that would be great.
Do you think you're realistic about what that's going to buy you?
Maybe some compromises need to be made. Some flexibility.
What might go?
We did specify three/four bedrooms - if we find somewhere with three
with a space somewhere we could make into an occasional bedroom,
when our son comes home from university, that would be fine.
Because ?350,000 is a good budget
but we have quite a few demands to go with it, including the two offices,
but let's see what we can come up with.
We've got some great properties lined up for you today, one of which of course is our mystery house.
So are you both ready to hit the road? Absolutely. Come on then.
For a top budget of ?350,000, Lee and Heidi are looking for
a three to four bedroom character property in a rural location.
They'd like a large kitchen and about half an acre for a vegetable patch.
Crucial to the move is a work space for both of them.
11 miles from Hereford, our first property is in the village of Pencombe.
The Norman-style church sits high amongst the village cottages
and provides a great vantage point across the surrounding countryside.
There is a local pub, so Lee and Heidi can meet some of the 350 locals.
And our first offering is, as requested, a black and white.
How is this for your first cottage?
It looks very nice, it looks lovely.
Yes, really pretty. It's exactly what you were picturing, I think.
Yes, it is. Yes, spot on. Ready to go in? Definitely. Come on then!
It's hard not to be impressed with the character.
It's grade two listed but technology has found its way into the house
in the form of that all-important broadband.
So come on through. I'm going to bring you straight into...
It's currently being used as an office.
I know how important offices are for you two.
I like the corner window. Yes, the corner window's lovely.
That is extremely rare. That is a cantilever window
and it looks from the outside like the window is taking the whole weight of the side of the house.
It gives you all that natural light, and you've got a real fire there.
Wow, yes. Could this be the perfect office for you, Lee?
Oh, absolutely. Very nice. A very good start.
I'm going to lead us through into the family room.
So as you can see, much larger proportions.
Lovely sized room, isn't it?
Originally this house was a tavern, called the Huntsman's Tavern.
Oh, really? So this is where the bar would have been.
I can have another bar in. You could if you wanted to, yes.
Stepping back in time. Look at those beams. Lovely.
Well, let's go through into the kitchen.
So down steps to this very long galley kitchen.
So how is this, not the conventional kitchen?
No. But still plenty of work space. Loads of worktop space actually.
I love this area here. Yes, more than you've got.
More than I have currently actually.
But it is important you have somewhere to dine,
so if we just go through the kitchen, this might be the solution.
This would have been the original cellar of the tavern,
but the owners have transformed it into a dining room.
It's a little dining area. Quite compact, but isn't it lovely?
It is. Very cosy little area. Yes, all good so far.
Let's head upstairs.
There's also a bathroom on this level and upstairs there are three bedrooms to choose from.
Straight into the master bedroom, This is big.
It is so much bigger than I was expecting.
I love these beams, gorgeous room.
This is stunning. This would be right. This is right.
And we still haven't shown you everything.
Next door to the master is another inviting guest bedroom and there's also a cosy single on this level.
But outside in the garden, I have a surprise for Lee and Heidi.
The question is, who will make the most out of the space?
So in addition to the house, you've got your own summerhouse, which we think would make the perfect office.
Yes, I like this. Yes.
I thought you might. His or hers?
You could do your embroidery in here. I could.
Or it could even be used as an extra put up bedroom, all sorts of things.
Heidi seems to be enthralled by the property,
but it doesn't stop here, we've still got to explore the garden.
It's about a third of an acre.
It's a good size garden, lovely space isn't it? Lovely garden.
It is, yes. I am thinking, can we just buy it now?
And we haven't even discussed the price.
I know! A brilliant start.
How much is this beautiful cottage on the market for? You can go first.
I would say 345?
I was thinking less than that when we first came in,
quite a lot less I thought when we first saw the first room.
The top of your budget is ?350,000.
It is. Right, OK.
You wouldn't get any change, the asking price is 350.
You were closest then. OK, yes.
Well, quite a result.
Topping their budget at ?350,000, this property has three bedrooms
and a living room with a feature fireplace.
There's a study for Lee, and annexe for Heidi,
and a large garden.
This one is going to be tough to beat.
The stakes are high after seeing this. Yes, indeed.
Herefordshire may be known for orchards and cider but hops, a key ingredient in the production of beer
that grows in the form of a flower, has also been an agricultural mainstay throughout the centuries.
In the 1800s, the county had more acreage devoted to hop growing than any other shire in England.
The recent resurgence in the popularity of real ale helped to buoy up this 500-year-old business.
Martin Powell-Tuck's family have been growing hops for generations,
so I've headed a few miles north of Ledbury,
one of the classic hop growing regions, to help him harvest this year's crop.
Martin, Explain to me what they're doing.
Tractors and trailers are cutting and pulling the vines ready to go to the hop-picking machine.
The forward momentum of the tractor is what causes the vines to come off the top.
With a window of only one month to harvest the hops, the work needs to be done quickly and efficiently,
and that means a little help from some heavy machinery.
It looks like a vegetarian butcher's to me, what exactly are they doing?
Those are going through pluckers,
which basically strips the hops and leaves off the vines.
The rest of the machine is just concentrated with separating the hops from the leaves and stalks.
Inside the ultramodern kiln where the hops dry out, it's easy to see how successful the end result is.
So how can you tell if this is a good Herefordshire hop?
The important thing about these hops is their aroma for the brewing,
and what he would do is rub those hops like that.
Be careful you don't sneeze because it is a bit powdery.
Wow, I can smell it from here.
And that's considered ripe for brewing.
At one time, more than 70,000 acres were given over to hop growing in England,
now just 5,000 acres are utilised nationally.
Herefordshire looks set to continue hop farming for years to come.
Our next property is two miles from
the rural village of Burley Gate near the Malvern Hills.
Horses graze in the paddocks that surround the black and white cottages.
There's a local post office here but just 15 minutes away,
Lee and Heidi can pick up supplies from the market town of Bromyard.
With festivals held here throughout the year, this may be a good location
for Heidi to sell her embroidery.
And once again, we found a property with bags of character.
Well, you both fell in love with the first property,
hopefully our second one is equally going to hit the spot.
So here is your grade two listed farmhouse.
Yes. Right. It looks delightful, doesn't it?
It does, and it looks like it goes all the way round with the garden.
And it has a gravel driveway. I've always fancied a gravel driveway.
But going back to the actual property, standing here,
it is so quiet, Heidi,
is this your dream of living in the country? Absolutely. So peaceful,
absolutely no traffic at all, no road noise.
Fantastic, something we just dream about really.
Let's hope you dream about the inside of the house as well. Come on. OK.
Clearly the grounds are appealing to Heidi, let's hope the features inside meet the same reaction.
Let the second tour commence, come on in. Thank you.
It's quite an unusual layout, you've obviously got the hallway,
but they've utilised the space and made it into a dining area as well.
A quite clever use, I think.
Yes, it's a nice little area. Let's keep going.
So here would be your sitting room.
OK. It's very cosy, isn't it? It is, isn't it?
Very cosy, nice fireplace.
You always wanted an open fireplace. They've actually restored it
and they've opened it up, put it back to its former glory.
You've got Welsh stone surround and the original flagstones at the bottom. Very nice.
Office space is important, and there's an extra room just off here.
At the moment, it's a children's playroom but could make a very good size office.
A very good size office. It's about the size you've got now.
Probably slightly bigger actually, slightly wider.
For you or for me? For you. For me? Yes, your space.
I noticed that - for you. How good was I?! Very kind, thank you.
I'm not hearing the same excited tones that I heard in the first house from Heidi.
Maybe the modern kitchen will turn things around.
So down the hallway leads into...
a brand-new Shaker-style kitchen. Gosh.
Very nice, very nice units, aren't they? They are.
There's some space for a small table there. Yes, thinking breakfast?
And you have access to the garden.
But first, I want to take you upstairs.
The family bathroom is also on the ground floor and, once again, we have three bedrooms on the next level.
This is the master.
Very twee, isn't it? It is, isn't it?
You've lost a little bit of the room but you have gained an en suite.
I think that's a good compromise.
Definitely a useful addition. It is, yes.
From outside, I thought this property looked quite big.
But inside, it's a little bit more compact. It is. Yes.
But it does have the added bonus of more land.
Right. Time to head outside.
The other two rooms up here include a good-sized double and a small single,
but it's on the outside that this property comes into its own.
So you've got about three-quarters of an acre of plot
surrounded by sheep in the fields,
so a substantial garden. Yes. It is. Looking around,
you've got the greenhouse, sheds, lots of little buildings.
With permission, you could have a summer chalet out here
if this was the right house for you. But beautiful gardens.
It is wonderful, couldn't ask for more in the garden aspect.
Well, it does come to the time where you've got to guess the price.
Slightly smaller house, bit more land - tough one.
This face isn't giving anything away. Oh, please! I don't know, 330?
I would say a fraction under that, maybe 325?
Both of you are actually quite a bit out. Are we?
Really? ?350,000. Oh, really?
Yes, that's a surprise.
A lot of work has been done on the property inside and also you're paying for this location.
I'd say their expectations versus the realities
of what their budget can achieve are starting to hit home for our buyers.
For ?350,000, this is a stunning property. Inside it offers
three bedrooms, a modern, fitted kitchen and two living rooms.
Outside, there's three quarters of an acre,
more than they'd asked for.
But the dimensions inside might be the problem.
It's been a pretty good day, hasn't it? It has. Very enjoyable.
You two have got a lot to think about now, haven't you? You can relax until tomorrow! OK.
As the sun slips from view after their first day of house hunting,
Lee and Heidi are weighing up all they've seen so far.
It's the second day of our property search,
and we're heading to the rural village of Longtown.
14 miles from Hereford, this is the furthest west we've been so far.
Given the name of Longtown because the original settlement was strung out on the road connecting two towns,
this village has a splendid example of a Norman motte and bailey castle
boasting glorious views across the countryside.
Once again, our offering has plenty of character but being a new build,
I'm interested to hear what Heidi makes of it.
So we've travelled west of the county and I know you both love lots of character, quirky houses.
Well, our mystery house certainly has that.
I really like the stone front. It does look lovely, doesn't it?
I would say it looks a new build but built in a traditional way.
Heidi, you're practically there.
This is why it's a mystery house because the stone is all reclaimed, all over 100 years old.
But you have all the mod cons, all the comforts of a modern house.
So it's a good balance there. It is!
So are you ready to step inside? Absolutely.
Inside, we are met by the first of two reception rooms.
So, step inside.
Gosh, wow. Not what you were expecting? Not at all.
This is stunning.
Isn't this amazing? Amazing, yes. Got a wood burner as well.
Now that's a multi-fuel wood burner.
I don't know if you can see, it's actually dual aspect. Yes, amazing.
Now, Lee, I like you to be happy as well.
Unlike the other house, you have your own office here so we don't have to cram you in any other room.
It's quite snug but fully functional and I think that could be perfect.
It does look very good. Exactly. Let's continue the tour.
So we have a large modern country kitchen.
It's lovely, absolutely super. And the table. And the table.
Gosh, it's more than I can imagine really. It's fantastic.
In addition to this, there's a very large utility room behind this door,
again handy if you want to the white goods out there.
Well, I think we're getting good vibes, aren't we? Yes, definitely, very good vibes. Yes? Yes.
So, as well as the front reception room, you have this.
Very cosy, isn't it? It is.
Like you say, the dual aspect fire. Yeah. Come through here.
So you've got three reception rooms in total with this house.
This is lovely, it's very light. It is, isn't it?
Now, Lee, you're considering this as your office, aren't you, because you currently use your conservatory? Yes.
Could you work in here? I could work in here quite easily.
Unless you've got somewhere hidden for her.
The layout, it does give you choices. It certainly does, very flexible.
Gosh. I like that, gosh and wow, I've heard quite a few of those.
Let's head upstairs. OK.
All the reception rooms are a good size and there's a downstairs cloakroom.
Upstairs there are four bedrooms, one more than both the other properties -
I like to start off with the master bedroom.
It's very nice. Oh.
And! The en suite. We've never had an en suite. Have you not?
No. No, what a bonus.
On the rest of the floor, the other three double bedrooms are all large and tastefully decorated,
and there's also a family bathroom up here.
But there is a compromise, the garden.
So here is your garden.
Now it's not the biggest garden but it does have the most tremendous views. Yes, it does.
Stunning views. Lovely, lovely views. Yes.
It's still larger than the one we have. Yes, that's true.
And the broadband connection here is very good, which you can't often say in the country.
I know that was a major... Yes, that was a big test. It's fantastic really.
Time to guess the price. The scary bit.
OK, you first then.
OK, well, I think it's got to be the top end, 350?
I would say 340?
You're actually the closest. Yes?
It is on the market for ?335,000.
Gosh. Wow. That's 15,000 under your top budget.
Well, it's very good news. Absolutely. I'm so pleased.
I thought the first house was a fantastic find.
A great result for the mystery house, and well under budget at ?335,000.
There are four bedrooms, three reception rooms
a study for Lee and a large kitchen.
Outside, the garden may not be huge, but the views
Well, it's been a successful house hunt here in Herefordshire
with two out of the three properties hitting the mark for Lee and Heidi,
but what is their next step going to be? Let's find out.
We started off with a black and white Herefordshire period property,
Tell me what you thought about it.
We really, really liked that house, didn't we? Oodles of character,
really quite quirky. Yes, the living room was nice and big with the fire.
Yes, fantastic kitchen. Loved the garden, loved its terraces.
Well, it was a very positive start. It was. Gave us loads of energy.
Now the second one, very different, it was a farmhouse
set in an ample amount of land and in quite a rural location.
You were quite taken with that as we walked up the drive?
Yes, a beautiful location.
We were quite excited the fact that it had a nice driveway.
Yes, and obviously lots of land. It was a bit too compact, especially
when we have people round. Yes, I think we'd struggle on space really.
And then our third property, well, the mystery house.
What a surprise that was.
That house seemed to have the best of both worlds.
I think it did actually, the stone gave it a lot of character,
yet inside, it was really quite contemporary, which is what you tend to... Lean towards.
But it was quite stunning as you step in and you had that fire...
for the living room and the dining room, that was quite a feature.
It really made it look very impressive. It was.
New kitchen. And large, it has a table in it.
So after hearing all of that, what is your next step going to be?
I think we'd like to start making some enquiries about
probably number three property.
I think we'd like to have a look at that one again.
It was... Yes. Definitely try and take that forward if we can.
Delighted we've been able to play a part in that. Thank you very much to you and your team. It's been great.
Yes, really good. Well, we've enjoyed it just as much. All the best, thank you.
Well, the mystery property has done it again.
Lee and Heidi went into this search looking for plenty of character
and they found it where they least expected it, in a very modern mystery house.
So as soon as they've managed to sell their property in Reading,
they'll be hurrying to Herefordshire and escaping to the country.
Join us again next time.
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