Monmouthshire Escape to the Country


Monmouthshire

Jules Hudson visits Monmouthshire to help a couple with a budget of £500,000 find some rural peace and space for pigs, chickens and alpacas.


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Transcript


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These are the remains of one of the last great aristocratic homes of the 17th century.

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But where are we? Well, stick around, and I'll tell you.

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In today's show, I'll be helping a Welsh boy return to his homeland.

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And it's a roller-coaster of emotions.

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I hate to use the word "perfect", but...

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It's getting close, it's getting close!

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Use perfect! Please use perfect!

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And I'm desperate for our properties to hit the mark.

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Does it...worry you?

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No, not at all. I love it.

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-You see!

-HE LAUGHS

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But then, we blow them away.

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Just overcome.

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Today we're in South Wales.

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These are the glorious remains of Raglan Castle,

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here in Monmouthshire. During the time of the English Civil War,

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it was held by the Earl of Worcester, a royalist through and through,

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who forbade the garrison here to either swear or drink -

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possibly one of the reasons why Raglan was one of the last places to fall during the conflict.

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Monmouthshire's landscape still bears the scars of its war-torn past,

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claiming more castles per square mile than any other county,

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due to its strategic position on the Welsh-English border.

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It was only some 35 years ago when Monmouthshire's status

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as a Welsh county was confirmed once and for all,

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ending over four centuries of controversy.

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And what a county it is!

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Boasting, of course, the magnificent Wye Valley to the east,

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and to the West, the Brecon Beacons National Park.

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Monmouthshire's 31 conservation areas encompass many of its historic

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towns such as Abergavenny, a foodie's heaven,

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and Tintern, with its awe-inspiring abbey.

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So it's no wonder this border county

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holds such appeal for aspiring escapees.

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In Monmouthshire, the average house will set you back

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somewhere in the region of £176,000,

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just 6% above the national average.

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Hop over the border into Herefordshire, or indeed South Gloucestershire, and to be honest,

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prices are pretty much the same. It really is a question of scenery.

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So for my money, if you want something that feels that bit more rural,

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then Monmouthshire is definitely the place to be.

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For top-notch splendour, this five-bedroom

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Georgian country house in Whitchurch comes in at just under £1.3 million.

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It has a reception room for every occasion, whether it be an

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evening's music recital or a game of billiards, or even a spot of tennis.

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From the 9.5 acres of grounds, there are stunning views across the Wye Valley.

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On the market at just short of £600,000,

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this five-bedroom former cider mill in Llangovan

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retains its character, with an inglenook fireplace to cosy up in front of and exposed beams.

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Outside, there's plenty of scope for sitting and surveying your two acres of grounds.

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And for £365,000,

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this attractive modern four-bedroom stonefronted lodge in Bishopswood

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has a welcoming kitchen, and a lounge

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that leads out to a decked veranda with stunning views.

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As you can see, this county does have some fantastic properties on offer.

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I love house-hunting here in Monmouthshire.

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All we need now are a couple of people who want to buy one.

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After 17 years together, David, a financial manager and Wendy, an administrator, have decided

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to realise their dream of a lifetime and up sticks from their four-bedroom house near Reading.

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With retirement on the horizon, they feel there's no time like

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the present to seek out a rural retreat in South Monmouthshire.

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I was brought up outside a small village in South Wales,

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and I look forward to being able to return to the rivers

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and the valleys of South Wales.

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I think a move to the country is going to be

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-a change of lifestyle.

-We want to live in a village where

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there's a decent community setup,

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and enjoy our life in general.

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And when they do finally retire, it sounds like they'll have no problem keeping busy.

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One of the things I'm really looking forward to in the countryside is the wildlife.

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I love birds, I love birds of prey.

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The opportunity we'll have in the countryside to pursue

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that side of our interest even more is really good.

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With eight moves in 17 years under their belt, they certainly know what they want this time around.

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The next house for me needs to be detached.

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I'd need two, three reception rooms, three, four bedrooms.

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Ideally, a large garden, and also, somewhere that had a view.

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We really need a big kitchen, a big family room.

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We'd like an open fire in the living room.

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Ideally, an en-suite bathroom to the main bedroom, and a utility room.

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We're not very good at DIY, David and myself, but I think

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if there was a small amount of work to do, then we'd look at that.

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And they both want their own space to play in.

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This is my study and as you can see it's rather small.

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In my next house I'd like to have a much larger room,

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to have my computer,

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perhaps a nice easy chair where I can come and read.

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Just a place for me to come and chill out when I feel like it.

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In moving to the country it's really important for me to have some outside space.

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Ideally, I'd like up to five acres. I'd like to be a hobby farmer

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with some alpacas and maybe some pigs.

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So are there any property styles they don't want?

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I think for me, I don't want to buy a house

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that's dark inside.

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No beams particularly. I'm not sure I'd like a barn conversion,

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because they all seem to be open plan.

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To me, it's quite important to have the individual rooms.

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David and Wendy are in the enviable position of having sold their current property.

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So, with £415,000 in the bank, how much do they have to spend?

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The budget for our next house is £500,000.

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It is indeed great news that Wendy and David have now sold their house

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in Reading, which gives them the magical title of being cash buyers.

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They've got half a million pounds weighing down their pockets,

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that they're determined to spend on a house in glorious Monmouthshire.

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Our house hunt is focused around the historic market towns of Abergavenny and Monmouth.

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We've lined up some super country properties for them to take

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a look at and, as always, I'll be asking them to guess the price.

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Finally, I'll be trying to convert them with our mystery house,

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where you can never predict what will happen.

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-Good morning. Very nice to see you.

-Good morning.

-Welcome to Monmouthshire.

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-You're very much coming back home, aren't you?

-Something like that. I was born and bred in South Wales,

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-so it's a bit like that for me.

-A trip back home.

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As I understand it, you're in a very enviable position in terms of moving?

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Yes, we are. We've sold our property and we're ready to go.

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-Ready to go! How much money have we got in the bank?

-About £500,000.

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A cool half a million pounds!

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So this move now, is this another short-term hop or is this the real deal?

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I hope it'll be a long-term thing. We want to move to a nice area

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where it's quiet so we can have a sort of more rural way of life.

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I'd like to have some livestock, a few sheep and chickens,

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-and possibly a couple of alpacas.

-OK, good.

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Let's see what we can find you.

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So for their £500,000, David and Wendy want a house with at least

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two bright reception rooms, a cosy fireplace, and a large kitchen/diner.

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An island would be a plus, but beams are a no-no.

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Along with three to four bedrooms, Wendy wants her own study.

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In addition, David's hobby farming dream

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means he's looking for up to five acres of land.

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I fear a dose of realism may have to figure somewhere.

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We kick off our property search in the village of Caerwent,

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around 25 miles from both Monmouth and Abergavenny.

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These days it's a quiet village with a local pub

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and a handy Post Office, so all the peace and charm they could ask for.

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But uniquely, Caerwent's Roman past is everywhere.

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These are the ruins of fourth-century shops, and they practically reach

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the front door of our first property -

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this lovely detached cottage, renovated and extended in 2004.

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Let's start with this one.

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What do you think?

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Looks very nice from the outside.

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-Looks excellent.

-What is it that appeals?

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I think the style of the building is quite attractive.

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It's got a lovely conservatory.

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It's got hills all around.

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At its core, the house is about 1850.

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We've also that that for you, David, the garage. That's a new addition.

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-We can explore that later.

-That'll keep me busy.

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-Absolutely - there's a lot to keep you busy round here! Let's go and have a look.

-OK.

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The style of this cottage has made a good first impression.

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Let's explore what's on offer inside.

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In you come.

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Have a look in there, David. After you, Wendy.

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There we are. What do you think? Cosy?

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It's cosy, yeah. A lovely fire.

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-Nice and warm. Yes.

-I know light is a big thing for you, isn't it?

-Definitely for me, yes.

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-It's really important, but it's a cosy area at night. You can see the fire roaring away.

-It's lovely.

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-I like the fact they've brought the stone through as well.

-Very nice.

-Makes a bit of a difference.

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It does have a certain open-plan feel, but hopefully not so open-plan that it feels impersonal?

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-No, it does feel cosy.

-Good. Well, it does get a bit bigger.

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Come and have a look through here.

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There we are. The kitchen. You did say you wanted an island.

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I did, yes. That's very nice.

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-Isn't it?

-Really nice.

-It's very sweet. I think it's great.

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Through that door, to the right, quite a useful little utility area and a downstairs loo as well.

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-OK, and this one has got a nice view out the window as well.

-Good. So the kitchen is working?

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-Yes, it is.

-Definitely.

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Let's explore that conservatory, because that is enormous.

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Step up there...

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-It's lovely, isn't it?

-Isn't it great?

-Really nice.

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Double-glazed, and you'll notice, no radiators anywhere.

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Underfloor heating?

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Underfloor heating. What would you expect in a Roman town?!

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There's nothing new, you know.

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-It's lovely.

-And the views, of course, are terrific.

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-It's lovely out there.

-And the great thing about being in the middle

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of a scheduled monument like this is that none of that is going to change.

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No.

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You'll have those views forever.

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The only thing that's going to change are the seasons.

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In terms of reception areas, this is obviously the biggest and,

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I suppose, one would say the family room, if you like, because of the way it works.

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But the way they've heated it and insulated it and so forth, this is good all year round.

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It's lovely.

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Let's go upstairs. After you.

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I love the fact that this cottage has kept its warm feel,

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but the renovations have made it spacious and light, great for Wendy.

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I think they're quietly positive.

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Perhaps a surprise upstairs will get them excited.

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But first stop, a potential guest room.

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Let's start in this one.

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Probably the lightest room in this part of the house,

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-and certainly anybody staying in here will find that view quite memorable.

-Yes, it's lovely.

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Nice top shot there of part of the ruins of the old city of Caerwent.

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-And of course, the view as well.

-Fantastic, isn't it?

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You can see for miles.

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Also on this floor are two other bedrooms -

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one which could be a small double and a light single room.

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The bright, modern family bathroom has a bath and a corner shower cubicle.

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But here's a surprise - the master is upstairs again, in the roof space.

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Up here...

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Is your very own little eyrie.

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-If you have got guests, you're well out of the way of them.

-That's a great space, isn't it?

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It really does make a big addition to this place, because it's effectively quite a compact,

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albeit well-appointed cottage.

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Coming up into the roof space gives you a very generous master,

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I think, in some respects, with some storage all round.

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And it's bright and airy as well.

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Really bright and airy, and again blessed with the views and the dual aspect through these skylights.

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Yes, in terms of lightness, waking up, sound of the birds, in the middle of a Roman city.

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What more could you want?

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You could have an en-suite, which you've got through that door!

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-Which is rather nice. Big shower room, etc. Do you like it so far?

-Very nice. Thank you.

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-Yes, nice.

-Good. Well, let's continue back outside and see what else we've got amongst the ruins. After you.

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Internally, this cottage answers a lot of the demands on Wendy and David's wish-list.

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It is light and there would be no work for them to do.

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Let's see if the garden and its historic surroundings can clinch it.

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Let's settle where we started.

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Now you've had a chance to look around the inside, are your feelings still as encouraged?

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Yes, it had a nice feel inside.

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I'm not sure the garden is quite big enough, but...

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That is the kind of rub with this one, that's the compromise.

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It's not acres, it's probably a fraction of an acre, probably a third to a half.

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Enough for some domestic chickens, as the current owners have.

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Probably not enough for the alpacas, in fairness.

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But rather successfully, they have of course created that

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garage arrangement, and the study that comes with it,

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which I'm going to the you explore your own a little bit later.

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There is a lot on offer. Whether it's enough is down to you two and what you really think about it.

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And of course, the price.

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Yes, the price.

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How much do you think you're going to have to part with to get this little number?

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-I'm going to say about 440.

-440?

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I think slightly less than that, I think probably about 425.

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Interesting. Well, it's currently on the market for £485,000.

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I suspect you probably want to be starting around the 440, 450 mark

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to make a sensible and respectful offer.

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-As a Welshman, I liked 425!

-Of course you did. There's a lot more for you to see.

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-Go and explore the garage and the office and I'll catch up that you a little bit later.

-Thank you.

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So, under budget at £485,000, this cottage may not have space

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for David's alpacas, but it's ready to move straight into.

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Its clever layout offers a large kitchen diner,

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a conservatory for all seasons, with underfloor heating.

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Four bedrooms with a master en-suite.

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And a third-of-an-acre garden.

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Along with being a stone's throw from a complete Roman town and with

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beautiful countryside views, you couldn't ask for a better location.

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This is the office. Do you think this would be enough for you?

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In a word, no.

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Well, we could see what we could do with it. It's just a stud wall.

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-Make it bigger and it could work then.

-We could try.

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My first impression of the house was it was very pleasing from outside.

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I wasn't quite sure about the size of the garden, but the area is very nice, lovely country views.

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I like the house from outside but it looked small.

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Then when you started to look around the house, you realised how much bigger it was than you imagined.

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Outside is a reasonable size, and it would allow me to have some chickens as they have it now.

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But it wouldn't be enough space for me to become a hobby farmer really, to be honest.

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It's marvellous, isn't it, the Roman ruins.

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-Think how long they've been here.

-It's good. It's in keeping with the house, and the wall of the house.

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It looks excellent, doesn't it?

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-You're soaking it all up, aren't you?

-We are.

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-Yes.

-It's pretty unique.

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How often do you get to live next to 2,000 years of history?

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Not every day. It's quite a rare one, I have to say.

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I could spend all day here, but we've plenty more to show you.

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With over 50 castles in this county, I can really indulge my passion for archaeology.

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But Raglan is one of my favourites, so I couldn't resist delving further into its fascinating past.

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Historian John Kenyon has kindly agreed to join me to explore these dramatic ruins.

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John, this is the most romantic of ruins, it really dominates

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the skyline in this part of Monmouthshire. But how did it all begin?

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It's one of the great late medieval buildings of Britain.

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It was begun by a fairly minor member of the Welsh gentry who made two very good marriages,

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and William ap Thomas, he started building Raglan with his great hexagonal tower with its own moat.

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And his son continued building it, the domestic apartments

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and the great gate house, and the closet tower round to the right the 1450s and 1460s.

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It really showed that this Welsh family had arrived on the scene.

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It's a remarkable building - a fortress palace is probably the best way to describe it.

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-A fortress palace. I think we should go through the gateway and find out more.

-Indeed, yes.

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Built as a sign of military might but also as a show of status and power, Raglan's 15th century

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remains still show off its French influences, from the moated tower

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to the double courtyard mansion protected by its imposing gatehouse and towered walls.

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By the late 16th century, Elizabethan extravagance had kicked in,

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including a banqueting hall, lavishly furnished with wooden panelling and tapestries.

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This is quite something, isn't it?

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-It's terrific, yes.

-Absolutely amazing.

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It's Raglan transformed. You've got a great kitchen range.

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Brew houses down here.

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The whole here totally rebuilt by the third Earl of Worcester as the

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household grew - household staff, people coming to stay.

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You've raised the building up an extra storey here and there.

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How many people do you think would have comprised that household when this was operating at full strength?

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When the family were here, you must have had at least 100 or so.

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What a legacy to leave behind!

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-Terrific.

-Brilliant.

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Although perhaps it's sad to see Raglan stripped back

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to its bare bones today, it definitely retains its grandeur.

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There's something undeniably fairy-tale about it,

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but the site where Raglan first rose was also where it finally fell.

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Here we are, John, at the base of the original tower here at Raglan.

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What happened to get it in this state?

0:18:410:18:43

-The English Civil War in the 1640s, unfortunately.

-That'll do it, yep.

0:18:430:18:48

The castle held by the Somerset family, Earls of Worcester, great supporters of King Charles.

0:18:480:18:52

Besieged here for 11 weeks by the New Model Army and the parliamentarians.

0:18:520:18:56

Held out, eventually surrendered, and then the parliamentarians collapsed two sides of this

0:18:560:19:01

tower so it couldn't be used again. Raglan remained a ruin ever since.

0:19:010:19:05

So 200 years of castle building and aggrandisement is

0:19:050:19:10

-finished in a matter of weeks during the Civil War.

-Never the same again.

0:19:100:19:14

-And thus it has remained.

-Indeed.

0:19:140:19:16

A very beautiful ruin at that.

0:19:160:19:17

One of the finest in Wales.

0:19:170:19:19

As the sun sets over the Monmouthshire hills,

0:19:260:19:29

it marks the end of our first day's property search.

0:19:290:19:32

David and Wendy want to swap this for a slice of this, and who can blame them?

0:19:410:19:46

Armed with a budget of £500,000, they're desperate to relocate to Monmouthshire before they retire.

0:19:460:19:52

But having moved every couple of years for the past two decades,

0:19:520:19:56

we're going to have to find some majestic properties.

0:19:560:19:59

It's a big Lord of the Rings, isn't it?

0:19:590:20:03

And they might mean business.

0:20:030:20:04

I think it's a very, very generously priced property.

0:20:040:20:09

I think David should be getting his chequebook out!

0:20:090:20:11

For our first property today, we're hopping over the border into Gloucestershire,

0:20:150:20:20

to the village of Alvington, just a 20-minute drive from Monmouth.

0:20:200:20:23

From here, the spoils of the Wye Valley are right on your doorstep,

0:20:230:20:27

and it's just a mile's walk from the local pub in neighbouring Aylburton,

0:20:270:20:30

with red sandstone properties a trademark of the area, and a pretty Victorian church.

0:20:300:20:37

What's more, the stone is an appealing feature of our next property.

0:20:370:20:40

OK, let's start our final day's house-hunting with this one.

0:20:400:20:44

-Looks very nice.

-Not bad, is it?

0:20:440:20:46

Very pretty.

0:20:460:20:48

Much converted over the last 10 years by the current owners.

0:20:480:20:50

But there is one key thing to bear in mind as we go through on the tour.

0:20:500:20:54

You see this long sloping roof here. There are plans that have been drawn up and passed

0:20:540:20:58

to extend the whole thing out above that, to give you an extra three or four bedrooms above.

0:20:580:21:04

With en-suites and so forth. But who knows, maybe you don't need it? Let's have a look.

0:21:040:21:09

So with all the main work done, but the chance to expand if they

0:21:090:21:12

want to, let's check out the inside, and see if they get that warm glow from this character cottage.

0:21:120:21:19

How about that for a front door?

0:21:190:21:20

It's some size, isn't it?

0:21:200:21:23

Well done, David. Right.

0:21:230:21:24

Let's start in here.

0:21:270:21:29

One of the reception areas that this house can offer you. What do you think?

0:21:290:21:33

I think it's lovely, really nice.

0:21:330:21:35

I know light is a thing for you, Wendy.

0:21:350:21:38

It's beautifully decorated, but a change of colour would let more light in, certainly.

0:21:380:21:43

It would, but I actually like the colour.

0:21:430:21:45

-It's got a nice feel about it.

-Yeah? Good. Feeling is all-important.

0:21:450:21:49

It's got to feel right. So that's a good start. Let's continue.

0:21:490:21:52

Follow me through here.

0:21:520:21:54

Now, coming back to this idea of this extension that would go above us now.

0:21:540:21:58

that would give quite a few extra bedrooms.

0:21:580:22:02

The idea being that you would replace these two bedrooms down here,

0:22:020:22:06

so you'd release them to be studies or whatever you want them to be.

0:22:060:22:09

You could have a good old explore of these a bit later.

0:22:090:22:11

But just to put that in your mind.

0:22:110:22:13

There we are, Wendy.

0:22:160:22:19

-The island.

-Yeah, you've got your island!

0:22:190:22:23

Really good kitchen diner, this.

0:22:230:22:25

-It's a good size.

-It's terrific, and very comfortable, too.

0:22:250:22:29

Huge sofa over there.

0:22:290:22:31

And these two double doors going out to the patio and the decking beyond.

0:22:310:22:35

It's nice and light in here, as well.

0:22:350:22:37

Yeah. The dining table there, again, I would suspect that would be your everyday kind of thing.

0:22:370:22:43

But we do have a separate dining room for you across the hallway.

0:22:430:22:46

Come and have a look at this. This is quite special.

0:22:460:22:48

There.

0:22:510:22:52

Wow, those chairs!

0:22:530:22:55

They are amazing, aren't they?

0:22:550:22:57

Very grand, all this, really.

0:22:570:22:59

It's a bit Lord of the Rings, isn't it?

0:22:590:23:01

Whether you keep this as a dining room, or you use it as a separate study, it would work

0:23:030:23:09

-either way. I get the sense this would be your little domain.

-It could be, yeah!

0:23:090:23:15

Right, let's go out there.

0:23:150:23:17

Tucked away off the entrance hall, there's also a nice cloakroom with a WC.

0:23:170:23:22

They certainly seem impressed by the generous rooms downstairs,

0:23:220:23:26

so let's head upstairs and see if they do actually need to build those extra bedrooms.

0:23:260:23:31

This is the master bedroom as it is currently configured.

0:23:310:23:34

Again, like the rest of the house, suitably opulent in the way it's furnished.

0:23:340:23:38

-Very rich, very lavish, very warm, I think. But you don't have an en-suite, of course.

-Right.

0:23:380:23:45

But the family bathroom is literally right next door.

0:23:450:23:48

Up here, it's just this bedroom and a tiny box room across the corridor.

0:23:480:23:52

So again, making sense of these plans to extend, if you did want

0:23:520:23:57

an extra four bedrooms, with two en-suites, that's what's on offer.

0:23:570:24:00

In terms of size of what you've seen so far, the house without the extension,

0:24:000:24:06

-would it work for you?

-Yes, I think it would.

0:24:060:24:08

And we've got the box room for clothes and storage.

0:24:080:24:11

That's what the current owner is using it for, really, a walk-in wardrobe.

0:24:110:24:14

So really, it's just you up here.

0:24:140:24:17

-Very good.

-Yes.

0:24:170:24:19

OK. Let's go outside and explore some land for you.

0:24:190:24:23

I'm delighted they feel the house is large enough for them, as it is, and I'm very excited,

0:24:230:24:28

because outside there's the land, which I think will suit David down to the ground.

0:24:280:24:35

Come through here, David.

0:24:350:24:37

Master of all you survey - look at this!

0:24:370:24:40

-Can you see these three paddocks here?

-Yes.

0:24:400:24:44

There's a menage at the end.

0:24:440:24:47

All of that's yours. All in all, about three acres.

0:24:470:24:49

-Gosh, that's a lot!

-It's a lot.

0:24:490:24:52

-Is it too much?

-No, it's not.

0:24:520:24:54

-There's no such thing as too much!

-Exactly, you can't have too much.

0:24:540:24:58

And of course, you've got that lovely little brook.

0:24:580:25:01

-Fantastic.

-It's a lovely setting, it really is.

0:25:010:25:03

-I hate to use the word "perfect", but it's getting close.

-Use it! Use perfect, please!

0:25:030:25:08

Lovely, very nice, yeah.

0:25:100:25:12

Let's have a think about the price, shall we? What do you think, Wendy?

0:25:120:25:16

-I think we're over budget this time.

-How much?

0:25:160:25:19

I think perhaps 550, even in excess of that.

0:25:190:25:24

-I'd probably even go above Wendy. Maybe 575.

-575.

0:25:240:25:29

That's very interesting, actually.

0:25:290:25:32

-It was on the market for 575 - it's now on the market for 475.

-You're joking!

-Good heavens!

0:25:320:25:39

-That's amazing.

-I think David should be getting his chequebook out!

0:25:390:25:42

Well, don't do it just yet, go and have an explore, see what you get, and enjoy!

0:25:420:25:48

I'll catch up with you later! Off you go.

0:25:480:25:50

Well under budget at £475,000, this property looks like it's in the running, giving Wendy and David

0:25:520:25:58

two reception rooms with those lovely stone fireplaces.

0:25:580:26:02

An enormous kitchen diner, which Wendy loved.

0:26:020:26:05

Three bedrooms with planning permission for more, should they wish to build upwards.

0:26:050:26:10

And more than 2.5 acres of land

0:26:100:26:12

for David's alpacas and the rest of their menagerie.

0:26:120:26:16

Along with their own brook!

0:26:160:26:17

So what do you think about the land?

0:26:200:26:22

I think it's excellent. It's just what we want - plenty of space,

0:26:220:26:25

it's got the brook, which will bring the wildlife in.

0:26:250:26:28

In the summer it'll be fantastic.

0:26:280:26:30

And with three acres, and the paddocks, it's going to have

0:26:300:26:33

plenty of room for some alpacas and some donkeys and some sheep.

0:26:330:26:37

I think the house is lovely. I think you've brought us to somewhere that we could easily make a home.

0:26:370:26:45

It just feels very relaxed in here, and comfortable.

0:26:450:26:48

What do you think of this room?

0:26:480:26:50

It's not a bad size for a single bedroom.

0:26:500:26:53

We've got the option to go upstairs if we want to.

0:26:530:26:56

The house is great. It offers us what we want.

0:26:560:26:58

There's plenty of room as it is at the moment.

0:26:580:27:00

When Jules told us the price, I was absolutely flabbergasted.

0:27:000:27:04

I couldn't believe that it was under budget, and

0:27:040:27:07

it just makes it a serious contender, I think, for both of us.

0:27:070:27:11

It's definitely a 9.5 out of 10, from our perspective, it's probably a 10.5, so...

0:27:110:27:16

I think this has all gone rather well, you know.

0:27:160:27:20

Ah, there you are. Out you come, Wendy, grab the door, David.

0:27:200:27:24

-Happy?

-Very.

0:27:240:27:26

I should think you are. Great price, great house.

0:27:260:27:30

Certainly is, yeah.

0:27:300:27:31

Keep thinking about it!

0:27:310:27:33

Wales is proud of its well-preserved past, with over 120 protected historic sites across the country.

0:27:400:27:46

And more recently, it has also championed its food heritage.

0:27:460:27:50

Monmouthshire has more than 100 local food producers across the county,

0:27:500:27:55

and is home to one of Britain's finest food festivals, held in Abergavenny every September.

0:27:550:28:00

And the town's weekly market is a real draw for people from the surrounding valleys.

0:28:000:28:04

David and Wendy are meeting town guide Sandi Gosden to get a taste of what's on offer.

0:28:040:28:10

So you've come to see our wonderful market?

0:28:100:28:13

We had a campaign in 2001 to keep out

0:28:130:28:17

the big fast food people, and we've succeeded, they're still not here,

0:28:170:28:21

so local people buy local food, and it's all in the market here.

0:28:210:28:25

-Would you like to come and have a look?

-Thank you, yes.

0:28:250:28:28

This thriving market dates back to Norman times, and among the locally

0:28:280:28:32

made jams and regional cheeses, there are some meat faggots to get their taste buds going.

0:28:320:28:38

-Mm! That's lovely!

-That's lovely.

0:28:380:28:42

As well as celebrating its local food producers,

0:28:420:28:45

Abergavenny has also conserved its architectural treasures.

0:28:450:28:49

The remains of its Norman motte and bailey castle still stand,

0:28:490:28:52

as does the restored 12th-century tithe barn.

0:28:520:28:56

St Mary's Priory Church is another of the town's well-preserved gems.

0:28:560:29:01

Inside, among the tombs of medieval dignitaries is this mysterious figure.

0:29:010:29:06

This is Jesse. This is made of one solid piece of oak.

0:29:060:29:10

And it shows Jesse, who was the father of King David, and it would originally have shown the lineage of

0:29:100:29:17

Christ, would have had a tall piece in the middle,

0:29:170:29:20

and would've had the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus on the top.

0:29:200:29:26

It's said to be one of the finest pieces of medieval sculpture.

0:29:260:29:33

-It is excellent, isn't it?

-It's beautiful, isn't it? It really is.

0:29:330:29:37

And very precious to Abergavenny!

0:29:370:29:39

With all this potentially on their doorstep,

0:29:390:29:41

Abergavenny would be a superb local haunt for Wendy and David.

0:29:410:29:45

Our final property is just a few miles away, the mystery house.

0:29:480:29:53

Any ideas, Wendy, as to what we might have lined up for you?

0:29:530:29:56

I think you're going to probably give us a project of some sort.

0:29:560:30:00

-OK. David?

-I'm thinking somewhere along the lines of a Welsh chapel or something!

0:30:000:30:06

You did say you didn't want that.

0:30:060:30:08

I know, and it would scare Wendy to death.

0:30:080:30:12

That would be very unkind, to give you a chapel.

0:30:120:30:14

I know the mystery property is always challenging.

0:30:140:30:18

Well, this one is no exception.

0:30:180:30:20

But I think you might like it.

0:30:200:30:23

Well, I'll be able to enlighten you soon enough, David.

0:30:270:30:30

Our mystery house is a ten-minute drive from Abergavenny

0:30:300:30:33

in the village of Llanvihangel Crucorney.

0:30:330:30:36

Its location is idyllic, set right on the edge of the Black Mountains,

0:30:360:30:40

and with Skirrid mountain rising up impressively nearby.

0:30:400:30:44

It's got all they could want from a quiet Welsh village,

0:30:440:30:47

reputedly the oldest pub in Wales and a mix of eye-catching properties.

0:30:470:30:51

So, time to see if they like what we've lined up for them.

0:30:510:30:55

Right, the mystery house.

0:30:590:31:01

-In the rain.

-Lovely!

0:31:010:31:03

-You said you didn't want a chapel. We haven't got you a chapel.

-No.

0:31:030:31:06

-We have got you a barn conversion.

-OK.

0:31:060:31:10

Just remind us all of your thoughts on barn conversions.

0:31:100:31:13

They all tend to be open plan, so...

0:31:130:31:15

Have you seen many?

0:31:150:31:17

-No, I've never seen one.

-Oh!

0:31:170:31:19

Now then! How the wise have spoken!

0:31:190:31:22

So, here's your chance. If you've never seen one, this is a great place to start.

0:31:220:31:27

-Maybe this is the barn to convert you.

-Indeed.

0:31:270:31:31

Will it change your mind, I wonder?

0:31:310:31:32

-Let's see.

-Let's have a look, come on.

0:31:320:31:35

Even though this is new territory for Wendy, I'm pretty sure that when

0:31:350:31:38

she sees inside our mystery barn, those preconceptions will fly right out of the window.

0:31:380:31:44

Fingers crossed.

0:31:440:31:45

Right, Wendy.

0:31:470:31:48

Come on. This is an induction into barn conversions.

0:31:480:31:53

-It is, it looks lovely.

-What do you think?

-Lovely.

-Come and have a look at this.

0:31:530:31:56

There. Yeah?

0:31:580:32:00

Yeah, it's lovely and cosy.

0:32:000:32:02

It really is nice.

0:32:020:32:03

Nice little wood burner there. Underfloor heating.

0:32:030:32:06

Nice big window over there and one in the corner.

0:32:060:32:07

Let's follow the floor and the heating through to here,

0:32:070:32:10

because, Wendy, you wanted a big kitchen with an island.

0:32:100:32:15

There you go.

0:32:150:32:17

-Wow.

-This is more like an island with a kitchen!

0:32:170:32:20

Well, indeed. It's pretty good.

0:32:200:32:22

-You've excelled yourself.

-Yeah!

0:32:220:32:24

Well, you can't not love it, can you?

0:32:240:32:27

-And I think you get the idea that it really has been done to a fantastic standard.

-Yeah, it's beautiful.

0:32:270:32:32

Let's continue through here, because, again, as dining rooms go,

0:32:320:32:36

kitchen diners go, this is quite exciting and it makes the best of those views. Look at that.

0:32:360:32:39

Fantastic view out there.

0:32:390:32:41

As a space, I think this is all rather good.

0:32:410:32:45

And again, although you've got this sort of free-flowing feel to it, Wendy,

0:32:450:32:49

does it worry you?

0:32:490:32:52

No, not at all, I love it.

0:32:520:32:54

You see!

0:32:540:32:56

I knew. Have a look at this.

0:32:560:32:58

Just round the corner there's another room which could be a perfect little retreat for Wendy.

0:32:580:33:04

And there's yet another surprise.

0:33:040:33:06

Look, it goes on. How about this for your guests?

0:33:090:33:12

-This is for the guests?

-This is for the guests, yeah.

0:33:120:33:15

-Anywhere else, this would be a great master.

-It would.

0:33:150:33:19

You've got a little en-suite, plenty of room for the bed, loads of light and storage.

0:33:190:33:23

-Again, pretty generous dressing area over there.

-This is for me when I've misbehaved.

0:33:230:33:28

Well, you could have it as a bit of a den.

0:33:280:33:31

If you just took the bed out, then it's another study if you wanted it.

0:33:310:33:34

I think I could move here tomorrow.

0:33:340:33:36

You could, it's up for sale!

0:33:360:33:38

It's great. So, this is guests.

0:33:400:33:42

Let's find somewhere for you. Come and have a look at this.

0:33:420:33:44

If any barn will make Wendy change her mind, it'll be this one.

0:33:460:33:50

It's a fantastic conversion, completed some seven years ago and

0:33:500:33:54

with no expense spared, from its oak timbers to slate flooring.

0:33:540:33:58

Let's go upstairs and look at the other three of the four bedrooms.

0:33:580:34:02

One is just large enough to be a double, and the other a bright single with exposed beams.

0:34:020:34:07

But time to take a peek at the master.

0:34:070:34:11

There. This is for you two, the master.

0:34:110:34:14

It's a good size.

0:34:140:34:16

-It's a lovely room, it's nice and bright.

-It's lovely and light.

0:34:160:34:20

Really bright. Now, I know you had a thing about beams, Wendy.

0:34:200:34:22

-Yes.

-Do these beams work for you?

0:34:220:34:24

They do, yes, they're not too dark and I think the wood's beautiful.

0:34:240:34:30

You're gradually converting me.

0:34:300:34:32

Good! Have a look in here, this is great.

0:34:320:34:33

Very well-appointed en-suite for you.

0:34:330:34:35

Oh, right.

0:34:350:34:37

-Excellent.

-Yeah? So, you're happy with the house?

0:34:370:34:40

-Happy with the house and the location, actually.

-Excellent.

0:34:400:34:42

And if Wendy's happy with the house, you're happy with the house?

0:34:420:34:46

-Definitely.

-So, we need to get you happy with the land.

0:34:460:34:48

-Certainly.

-Right, let's go and have a look. Brave the weather.

0:34:480:34:52

Wendy might be holding back a bit with her emotions, but I'm pleased

0:34:530:34:56

she's delighted with what she's seen.

0:34:560:34:59

Outside, the paddock comes in at around an acre, so David can hobby farm on a manageable scale

0:34:590:35:05

to his heart's content, while enjoying the wonderful views.

0:35:050:35:09

There we are, look, Monmouthshire, in the mist!

0:35:110:35:14

Not bad, though, is it?

0:35:140:35:16

-No.

-Imagine that on a nice sunny day, or a crisp winter's morning.

0:35:160:35:20

Even on a day like today, though, it's still a beautiful view. You just can't beat it, can you?

0:35:200:35:25

And of course the key thing, though, is that, which I love.

0:35:250:35:28

It's just really nicely done.

0:35:280:35:30

It is, it's perfect, actually.

0:35:300:35:32

-Yes, I'm converted.

-You're converted to the barn conversion, hurrah!

0:35:320:35:35

Well, if nothing else, we've achieved that, which is great. David, you're happy with it?

0:35:350:35:39

-Oh yeah, very happy with it, yes.

-OK.

0:35:390:35:41

-There's enough land, and if Wendy loves the house, that's the key to it, really.

-All right.

0:35:410:35:45

Well, the final bit of the jigsaw, then, is going to be the price.

0:35:450:35:48

I think it's over budget again.

0:35:480:35:50

-Probably 550.

-550?

0:35:500:35:53

I think maybe a bit lower, I think 525.

0:35:530:35:56

525 would be pretty amazing, I would say.

0:35:560:36:00

If it was 525, could you stretch to that? Would you think about stretching to that?

0:36:000:36:05

Yeah, we'd definitely think about stretching to that, yes.

0:36:050:36:06

OK. So, you'd definitely think about it if it was £450,000?

0:36:060:36:10

You're joking?

0:36:100:36:13

-Gosh.

-Look at your face!

0:36:130:36:16

Yep, it really is £450,000.

0:36:160:36:19

-Wow.

-Give it to the lady in the black coat!

-Sold!

0:36:190:36:22

Sold to the lady in the black coat, brilliant!

0:36:220:36:24

Look, I'm not going to delay this any longer.

0:36:240:36:26

Go away, go and have a good look around, soak it up, move in.

0:36:260:36:31

-Thank you.

-Off you go. Brilliant.

0:36:310:36:34

That's the thing I love about Escape To The Country - when it all works you really can put a broad smile

0:36:340:36:39

on your buyers' faces, as we have just done.

0:36:390:36:42

£450,000 for this is an absolute snip, and it fits them like a glove.

0:36:420:36:48

So, our mystery barn has hit the jackpot.

0:36:480:36:51

Not only is it a whopping £50,000 under budget, but it's done to an impeccably high spec,

0:36:510:36:57

featuring three reception rooms, a large modern country kitchen, four bedrooms with master en-suite,

0:36:570:37:04

and an acre of land for David's small herd of animals,

0:37:040:37:08

surrounded by fabulous scenery.

0:37:080:37:10

What do you think about the house now?

0:37:110:37:13

I think it's beautiful. I don't think you can fault it, really.

0:37:130:37:18

It's just in a perfect location, and

0:37:180:37:22

it's just been designed, and there's been so much thought put into it.

0:37:220:37:28

Hey, don't be silly.

0:37:300:37:33

I think it's lovely as well, so there's no point in getting upset.

0:37:330:37:37

Come on.

0:37:380:37:40

Sorry.

0:37:400:37:41

Here.

0:37:420:37:43

Just...overcome.

0:37:500:37:52

I feel emotional because hopefully this is going to be

0:37:540:37:58

our last move, and to be in such a beautiful location

0:37:580:38:05

is just beyond...

0:38:050:38:08

my wildest dreams.

0:38:090:38:12

It's a wonderful house, there's nothing I can say to criticise it, it's perfect in every way.

0:38:120:38:18

And, yeah, I think Wendy, because it's our final move, hopefully our

0:38:180:38:23

final move, Wendy's really fallen in love with it straight away.

0:38:230:38:27

I'd just love to live here.

0:38:280:38:31

Well, that's it, chaps, I'm afraid.

0:38:330:38:35

House tour of the mystery house is over.

0:38:350:38:38

In fact, all of our house tours are now over.

0:38:380:38:40

Do you feel like it's been a bit of an ordeal?

0:38:400:38:42

It's been a bit of a journey.

0:38:420:38:44

A bit of a journey?! I think you rather liked this one, didn't you?

0:38:440:38:48

Yeah, it's blown me away, actually.

0:38:480:38:50

Caught you a bit by surprise?

0:38:500:38:51

Ah, bless you. Let's go and get you somewhere where you can have a good old think about it,

0:38:510:38:56

warm up a bit, and we'll have a chat about everything we've shown you, see what you think. Yeah? Come on.

0:38:560:39:01

Excellent.

0:39:010:39:03

Wendy and David's incredible property search is at an end,

0:39:090:39:12

and it's time for them to catch their breath and have a serious think about where to go from here.

0:39:120:39:18

Well, Wendy and David are having a good old think about all that we've shown them.

0:39:190:39:23

She said it had been quite a journey. More, I think, an emotional roller-coaster.

0:39:230:39:29

They have had a lot to think about,

0:39:290:39:30

We've shown them some fantastic properties, but, as ever, the choice is up to them.

0:39:300:39:34

Which one will it be, I wonder?

0:39:340:39:37

Well, chaps, here we are. Our final conversation of the week, to bring our house tours to a close.

0:39:390:39:44

It all started with, I thought, a very charming little cottage in amongst the Roman ruins.

0:39:440:39:49

-What did you make of that one?

-The house was in...

0:39:490:39:52

a good spot, but I think, for me, it was too open, and, although it

0:39:520:39:59

was in a village, I didn't feel it was a village community.

0:39:590:40:02

Hmm, interesting. David?

0:40:020:40:03

I really liked the cottage.

0:40:030:40:05

It didn't offer us quite what we wanted.

0:40:050:40:07

A nice kitchen but a bit too small, and it didn't have the land that I was really looking for.

0:40:070:40:12

OK. Well, we brought you back from the end of our first day's house hunt, fed you, watered you,

0:40:120:40:17

put you to bed, and woke you up for our final day, which began, I think, with a quite interesting property.

0:40:170:40:22

What did you think of that one, Wendy, when we got there?

0:40:220:40:25

It worked, in a way, for me. It had quite a lot of space inside, lovely

0:40:250:40:29

kitchen, and the acreage outside and the position were very pleasing.

0:40:290:40:37

I was quite taken by that property because it offered us everything we wanted.

0:40:370:40:41

-I think you said it was perfect?

-It was 10.5 out of 10!

0:40:410:40:45

-Yes, indeed! Now then, you said, "Get your chequebook out."

-Yes, I did.

0:40:450:40:49

-Well, certainly a great property, and I think you had almost made your minds up.

-We certainly had, yes.

0:40:490:40:56

But of course there was one more to come, the mystery house.

0:40:560:40:59

Well, I don't like barn conversions, but you're talking to the converted now.

0:40:590:41:04

It was fantastic, that house. Erm...

0:41:040:41:09

I'm sorry.

0:41:090:41:11

Are you all right? It's clearly a little bit overwhelming, isn't it,

0:41:110:41:16

in some respects? David, what did you think?

0:41:160:41:18

I thought that the mystery house was there to challenge us, and that's what it certainly did.

0:41:180:41:23

It completely turned our feelings upside down,

0:41:230:41:26

which was great for me because I did love it, it was a lovely house, and, most importantly for me,

0:41:260:41:33

Wendy fell in love with the property even before she'd walked through the front door, really.

0:41:330:41:38

Let's cut to the chase, shall we, because it's tradition at this point to say, what happens next?

0:41:380:41:43

But I think we all know what's going to happen next.

0:41:430:41:45

Yes, we want to see the property again tomorrow, but we

0:41:450:41:48

have no questions about the property or the land.

0:41:480:41:51

I think the thing with coming these last few days is you really have no idea what your money will buy, and

0:41:510:41:58

you hope it will buy your dream, and in reality it's actually bought our dream and more.

0:41:580:42:03

Well, I have to say I'm absolutely delighted that we've been able to find you, I think genuinely,

0:42:030:42:09

your dream property, in a great spot,

0:42:090:42:11

for the right price and you're able to move in tomorrow, potentially.

0:42:110:42:15

So I wish you the very best of luck with your second viewing.

0:42:150:42:19

I hope your offer, if you make one, is accepted. I'm sure it will be.

0:42:190:42:22

And I wish you all the very best of luck. Cheers, guys.

0:42:220:42:25

-Thank you for all your help this week. It's been great.

-Cheers.

0:42:250:42:28

Well, how about that, then?

0:42:310:42:33

The mystery house has delivered once again, and in the process has provided

0:42:330:42:37

one of the most emotional responses to any house tour I think I've ever seen

0:42:370:42:41

on Escape To The Country.

0:42:410:42:43

But I have to confess, when we set out on our house search with David and Wendy,

0:42:430:42:47

the idea of trying to satisfy a couple

0:42:470:42:49

who've moved every couple of years in their 17-year relationship, well, it did seem pretty daunting.

0:42:490:42:54

But, as it is, it looks like Wendy may have ended up with the house of her dreams in a property, a barn,

0:42:540:43:00

that she could never, ever have dreamt of living in.

0:43:000:43:03

It just goes to prove the old adage that good property always sells.

0:43:030:43:07

I'll see you next time.

0:43:070:43:09

And the good news is that Wendy and David have had their offer accepted

0:43:090:43:12

on our mystery barn, so they should be moving in some time soon.

0:43:120:43:16

If you want to escape to the country in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland

0:43:160:43:20

or England, and would like our help, then please apply online:

0:43:200:43:23

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:43:380:43:41

E-mail [email protected]

0:43:410:43:43

Jules Hudson is in Monmouthshire helping a couple with a budget of £500,000 find some rural peace and space for pigs, chickens and alpacas. There are tears of happiness when the house buyers' barn aversion becomes the barn conversion of their dreams.


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