Jules Hudson helps a couple who are looking for a period property in Norfolk for the very first time and tempts them with a former stable block with an impressive interior.
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Today we're in a county which amongst other things is famous for these medieval churches.
They're also uniquely round towered, so why were they built like this and where am I?
Well, join me in just a few moments and I'll tell you.
On today's show, we're in cahoots with a couple wishing to escape
chaotic town life in Buckinghamshire.
Not only does it promise to be a real journey of discovery...
It was very different to anything I've had before.
..but there'll also be a few firsts along the way.
Never in our lives have we looked at an older property.
So it's out with the new and in with the old.
Oh, wow! We got a "wow!" Yes. Oh, yes. Yes!
The first "wow" of the week!
Well, today I'm in Norfolk, and this is just one of the 126 round-towered churches
that the region is famous for. But why round?
Well, if you think about it, if you're going to build square towers,
you need nice big slabs of stone.
Norfolk is not famous for its quarries, but it is well-known for this stuff, for flint,
a material that really lends itself
to creating these great big tubular structures,
and they've gone on to inspire the faithful
and generations of architectural historians for centuries.
Bordering Lincolnshire, Cambridgeshire and Suffolk,
Norfolk is the largest of the counties
that originally made up the area of East Anglia.
Stretching out to the north and east are 100 miles of sweeping coast
with wide expanses of sandy beaches,
flanked by grassy dunes, much of which have been designated
as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Moving inland from its peaceful shores to the heart of the county,
you'll find the city of Norwich,
dominated by the 315-foot towering octagonal spire
of its medieval limestone cathedral.
County-wide, you'll find stunning flint properties
that characterise the Norfolk landscape.
Well, take it from somebody who grew up in East Anglia,
Norfolk is a wonderful part of the world and will, I hope,
provide a very welcome home to today's buyers.
Meet David, a self-employed tax consultant
and his wife Marion, a retired book-keeper,
who've lived in their 1960s home in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire,
for the last 15 years.
But they're now keen to shake off the hustle and bustle
of their urban surroundings
in favour of a roomier rural retreat in Norfolk.
We've only ever lived in or around towns in our life and wanted to move
to a more country location.
Well, we're looking forward to moving to a smaller community where we can
integrate with the local people, and we like ballroom dancing.
But what do they need from the property?
Three to four bedrooms,
an en suite to the larger bedroom, a good garden.
Preferably, I'd say, a lounge and a dining room, separate.
Yes. And it would be really nice to have a study.
It would be nice to have a study. For your work.
What I would like is a bigger kitchen to house all my kitchen equipment.
But what style of house
will be filled with the aroma of Marion's freshly-baked treats?
I certainly wouldn't want particularly
to live in an open-plan type of house.
I'd quite like that, though. I wouldn't mind an open-plan kitchen.
We have looked on television at barn conversions,
and they'd be interesting,
although normally they tend to be open-plan,
so perhaps I'll forget I've said that.
We shall have to see.
They may have conflicting views about the layout,
but they're both agreed
that the location must have good transport links.
David is partially-sighted,
so I have to drive him everywhere,
so we're sort of joined at the hip, really.
Their house is already on the market for ?369,000,
so what's the final figure for David and Marion
to waltz their way from Wycombe to the Norfolk countryside?
I think if the property actually ticked all our boxes,
we would be happy to pay ?350,000.
For urbanites David and Marion, this is a big move.
It's their first foray into the countryside,
but if we can find a nice big kitchen and a garden
to keep Marion happy and get her creative,
and a location good enough to service the sort of amenities David needs access to,
you never know, we might stand a fair chance
of finding them their new dream home in the country.
Good transport links are essential for our buyers, not only to give David more independence
but so they can visit their two grown-up sons in London, therefore our house search will take us
to some wonderful country villages which are well connected to Norwich
for trips into the capital.
Over the next couple of days,
we'll be taking David and Marion to see some great homes,
but I'll be keeping the prices to myself until the end of each tour.
And of course, to top it off, we'll be venturing
into previously uncharted territory with the mystery house.
Well, guys, I'm pretty optimistic about our chances of finding you something that I hope will prove
of interest and will be a workable solution to the new life that you're trying to create.
Just remind me of the budget.
350. If it was a little bit higher, we could probably stretch to 370.
Yeah. But it would have to be a wow. Yes.
They're all going to be wows, Marion, come on!
If it was a question unless you paid 370, you'll not get it
and we said we really want it, then we probably could...
Yes, when you see the house you like, you almost do anything to get it.
The weather is supposed to get better. Good.
Let's see what we can find, shall we? This way, David. OK.
So, for a slightly flexible budget of ?350,000, David and Marion
are after a property that has three to four generous bedrooms
with an en suite to the master, a large kitchen/diner,
two further reception rooms and ideally a separate study.
Marion wants a decent-sized garden for growing veg, and the location
needs to be on the edge of a village with good transport links for David.
Well, without hesitation,
we're taking our buyers straight out of their comfort zone.
Our first house takes us back a few hundred years
and it's set on the rural outskirts of Elsing.
With a pretty 14th-century church and a local pub,
Elsing is a quiet rural village
with a bus route that reaches Norwich in just under half an hour.
As for the property, we're starting off with
an attractive former farmhouse dating back to the 17th century.
Now then, what do you think? Looks all right. It does. I like the frontage.
We're in a very, very very quiet lane here.
It's a lovely property, this. Right.
Shall we have a look? Yes, please. Come on then, follow me this way.
It's an impressive approach up to the property, a large gravel drive,
and once inside the farmhouse,
it boasts terrific period features throughout.
Right, what do you think?
Oh, it's old. It's very old this.
I never thought I'd have the opportunity to have an old house.
Well, now's your chance, Marion. Now's your chance.
This is something of a corridor come dining room, as you can see. Yes.
But it leads on very nicely into this reception room.
Now then, come on in here, cos if you want cosy cottage...
Oh, nice. Oh, yes.
Come on in, David. Lovely cosy feel this has to it.
Yeah. That's another thing I've never had which is a proper fire.
In size, compared to what we've got now, it's probably a little smaller.
Would you be happy in here on a winter's day with a glass of wine?
Lovely. Yes. I think so. Definitely.
With its magnificent inglenook fireplace as the centrepiece,
the drawing room sits at the back of the property,
with a lovely stable door that leads to the back garden.
But we're heading back to the main hallway to see what Marion makes of the kitchen.
Come on in. Oh, yes. Yes. Yes. A range cooker.
Yeah. Very nice.
I mean, it's not the biggest kitchen in the world.
No. You tell me. This is a place you're going to want to spend a lot of time in.
Yes. Yes. It's a bit small, really.
Unusually for a property of its age,
this building isn't listed, so to maximise the space for Marion,
there could be the potential to extend this area, subject of course to planning.
Downstairs also houses the family bathroom
with an elegant freestanding roll-top bath taking centre stage.
That wraps up the ground level, so time to take it up
another level, to the first floor, where there are four bedrooms.
The smallest one is presented as a snug,
which could make a good office space with a front-facing aspect.
And there's also a pretty single room as well as a light, bright double.
Now then, guys, this would be your master bedroom.
Right. We'd probably want to put a larger bed in, cos we're big wide bed people. Yeah.
A lot of people are, you know, you're in good company.
Right. Certain you could get that in here, couldn't you?
This is nice, though. A vaulted ceiling.
Like tall ceilings.
The one thing you said you did want was an en suite.
Yes. And this has one. It's in here.
Tucked away behind this door. There you go. Unexpected.
And it's got a shower, David.
Nice big shower too. Exactly the sort of shower I pictured.
For what is a modest cottage... Yes.
..this is a very, very, generous en suite. Yes. Absolutely.
It's safe to say that the space upstairs seems to have impressed,
but back outside, I've got a surprise in store for them
which will more than make up for the possible lack of space downstairs
and unusually, it's actually attached to the neighbouring house.
Right, come on into here. This is really interesting.
Yes. Totally, yes. It's sort of self-contained.
We've got a living room, a very generous double bedroom, bathroom, and you know, kitchen area as well.
Right, yes. My mother, who's nearly 93, can't get upstairs any more
so if she comes to stay with us,
this would be perfect, have her own space.
I'm thinking of the boys. Yes.
They'd love it. They'd love it.
They'd love it so they didn't have to talk to their parents so much!
We'll finish the tour in the back garden. It's a bit of a blank canvas at the moment,
so for our keen gardeners,
this presents a good opportunity to get creative.
What do you think it's worth?
I would say, because of the annexe, perhaps 360,000.
Yeah. OK. I would say, perhaps, it might even be 365 or 370 even.
Yeah. Yeah. You're very good.
The pair of you are very good.
Really? Yeah. This could be yours for ?365,000. Right. Right.
At ?365,000, our first offering is a lovely
detached 17th-century farmhouse that's full of period features.
It's got four bedrooms, including a master en suite
and two reception rooms as well as a kitchen breakfast room.
Outside there's a good-sized garden
and even a separate one-bedroom self-contained annexe.
But will the quirky historic character here manage to charm
buyers who are so accustomed to straight late 20th-century builds?
Out you come. Did you enjoy that one?
Very interesting indeed. Yes.
Very interesting and very unexpected. Very unexpected.
Yes. I didn't have anything like this in mind at one time. No.
You're on Escape To The Country, guys. Indeed.
It's always about the unexpected. You should know that by now.
I should do. I should do.
Norfolk's level terrain and coastal location have ensured that it's had
a long and distinguished role in Britain's aviation history.
And by World War II, there were over 30 airbases
built here for use by the American Air Force and the RAF.
One aviation legend who's experience these times first-hand
is Wing Commander Ken Wallis, who took his first flight in 1936.
I've come to meet him to find out more about his extraordinary life.
Well, Ken, East Anglia is famous for its flying pedigree, not least for its wartime...
Oh, yes. You obviously had a passion for flying.
Tell me where that came from. Well, it started with my father and my uncle, who made an aeroplane in 1910.
Flying and indeed, inventing, runs in the family.
In 1964, Ken retired from the RAF to concentrate on developing his very own aircraft,
of which he has now amassed a private collection of over 30 models.
By improving the design of a gyroglider to his own specifications, and including an
engine, the revolutionary autogyro was to steer his career in a whole new direction.
The autogyro is exactly the same principle as the sycamore seed.
It's rather like when two seeds join together, they're circling
around each other. So you're pushing yourself into the wind,
all the way? That's right. Yeah.
One of his models was to take him to Hollywood.
It was featured in the film You Only Live Twice.
And it was Ken himself who doubled as James Bond for all the aerial stunts.
So this is the one in which Sean Connery sat? Yes.
Fabulous. It was hung up and there was a fan ruffling his shirt.
And the background scenery being moved.
And even in his 90s, Ken can't resist taking to the skies.
In fact, he's in training to break his own autogyro world speed record, which currently stands at 129 mph.
Well, they do say you can't keep a good man down,
particularly not a magnificent man in his flying machines.
It's time we return to the house hunt.
We're travelling 12 miles south,
close to the market town of Wymondham.
Dotted with Elizabethan and Jacobean buildings,
Wymondham also has a medieval church
and features a half-timbered 16th-century market cross in the centre.
House number two is three miles away in the village of Wicklewood.
We're stepping further forward in time to the 1800s
with our second house,
this handsome Victorian cottage lying in a quiet country lane.
Here we are, there it is. What do you think?
OK. It looks nice.
It's fairly substantial by the look of it.
It's very substantial. There's a lot of it.
What's interesting about this one for you two,
is the location.
Right. Wicklewood is a really busy good village. Right.
The pub is ten minutes walk away.
Right. The village hall is, you know, pretty much next door,
and they have their own village ballroom dancing classes.
See, I thought you'd like it.
So location I think is good.
Right. Transport links brilliant.
The only thing that remains to be seen is whether or not you can fall in love with that building.
Yeah. That's the next step.
Can we go and have a look?
Yeah. Come on then.
Well, the possibility of a quickstep right on the doorstep
has certainly got David and Marion hotfooting it inside.
Let's see whether the interior will get them moving, starting with the sitting room.
Marion, what do you think? Yes.
Another cosy room. Yeah. It is.
I mean, we haven't got the huge inglenook of our earlier property. No.
Although, in some ways, this feels a bit more spacious, I don't know why.
Yes. Yes. I know exactly what... I wonder if it's because of the beams.
Possibly. Maybe, you know, less of it's fireplace because you've got that nice breast there.
That's true, yes.
With French doors opening out to the front garden, the simple uncluttered
style of the sitting room seems to be hitting the right notes.
And right across the hallway, is a similar-sized dining room.
I think this is rather nice. Yes. This is a nice room. Yes.
Cosy, cottagey, but elegant at the same time.
Come and have a look at this, Marion. Tell me what you think.
There you go.
Oh, right, that's the kitchen.
Yeah. Isn't it? That's the kitchen. Yes.
It's got loads of character, this.
It's all built in. Hand-finished kitchen.
You know, classic kind of Belfast sink and so forth. Yes.
This is more my type of kitchen.
Is it big enough? Yes. Yes. Definitely. Hurrah.
Things are definitely looking up with the large kitchen/diner, so time to get upstairs.
The family bathroom serves a total of four large bedrooms, one of which is set out as a twin.
Then there's another smart double guest bedroom, and the third bedroom
is kitted out as an office with a built-in desk and study space.
Then finally, of course, there's the room that David and Marion might call their own, the master bedroom.
It's got that feeling of space in a bedroom. I'm so unused to it
that it makes me think it's a nice-sized room.
I mean, I do appreciate it's going to be quite hard for you to fall in love with a property
straightaway, because as you said in the car, this is the first time in what, 15, 16 years... Yes.
..that you've actually looked at a property at all. Yes.
So you've hit the ground running with us. Yes.
And never in our lives have we looked at an older property.
On all sides, the house is completely enveloped by its own grounds.
It even has a little pond, attracting all manner of wildlife.
But what's more, the plot comes with a huge double-garage block which could be converted into a
separate study or even make a really useful space for David and Marion to practise their ballroom dancing.
Let's have a think about the money, then.
You went first last time, David, so, Marion?
355. Yeah. David? I've got a feeling it's going to be a bit more than that.
380, I would say. 380.
That's very interesting. You're very astute, sir.
This is on the market for ?375,000,
so teasing the top end of the budget, obviously.
I know you said you would go to that if it was perfect and if it wowed you. Yes.
Has it wowed you, I wonder?
Don't answer that question just yet. No. OK.
At ?375,000, our second house is a great Victorian cottage that comes
with four double bedrooms, a separate dining room, alongside a huge kitchen/breakfast room.
Outside, there's a double garage with project potential
and a large landscaped private garden.
This may be another historic property, but it's a later build than our first house, with spacious
dimensions and a classic layout - more the type of home our buyers are accustomed to.
Did you enjoy that one, then? Yes. Yes, indeed. Yes, I did.
Good. Well, it's a very, very nice house in a fantastic spot.
So as the sun sets over the famously flat Norfolk landscape, the first day of our house hunt
comes to an end.
So having had a chance now to sleep on it, do you think
your attitude to looking at properties has changed a little bit?
Yes, slightly, yes. It has.
I think you've kind of opened a new world to us, really.
So the mystery house has a fairly good chance of being received well?
Yes. Yes. I think so. I think so. Good.
And just in the distance, straight ahead of us, is the small
village of Beeston, where our mystery house lies.
Beeston is a peaceful rural place that has recently been voted Norfolk village of the year.
And our mystery house is a contemporary brick and flint
open-plan barn, parts of which date back to the 19th century.
But this type of property is something our buyers
specifically said they didn't want, so let's see if we can tempt them.
Right, chaps, well, this is the mystery house. Right.
That's totally different. Yeah.
I mean, it's effectively a barn conversion. Right.
OK. The old bit is this bit to our left here with these lovely arched windows in it.
They're cute. What's interesting is, that bit over there that contains
the second storey and the garage, that's all brand-new. Right.
It ties in exactly with... You'd never know.
No. Of course, it does incorporate some of the features that you'd expect in a building of this style.
Right. Old beams and that sort of thing.
Yes. But with all mod cons. Are we getting there? Yes.
Yes. I like what I'm hearing so far. Great. Come on then, let's have a look inside. Right.
The layout is open-plan so let's see if they'll be open to our latest proposition.
We got a "wow"! Yes. Yes. Yes.
We got the first "wow" of the week. Yes. That's very nice.
The mental picture of what we've had. Something like this. Yes.
This is it, you've achieved it. The floor, what do you think of that?
Now then, under-floor heating throughout. Oh, right, great.
It's something else that we talked about. Look at the smiles!
This property is empty. It's ready for you to move into. Right.
But you'd get a very generous dining table in there.
Yes. And of course, you've got doors out there to the little patio.
All right. Yes. Very nice. That's just what I wanted.
Yeah. So you're cooking, friends are chatting.
Yes. That's right. Yeah? Yes.
Exactly as we'd envisaged.
Now, reception rooms you've been challenged by, I think. Right, yes.
I think they've all been lovely, but hopefully this one is a bit bigger for you.
Yes. That's a lovely size.
That is a lovely size. Yes. Nice fire.
Now, I know that you're not traditionally sold on open-plan.
I know that you're loving this. Yes. OK. What do you think, really?
This is the best compromise that I've ever seen, because
it's open-plan but it's not open-plan, because it's got this lovely feature here. Yeah.
Which, as far as I'm concerned, makes all the difference.
The use of a full-height exposed brick chimney breast is an attractive and practical solution
to dividing the space up, designating clear zones for living and dining.
But at the far end of the single-storey part of the barn,
a room has been partitioned off which could make a lovely study for David.
Lovely size. Absolutely perfect size for me, this would be. Yeah?
Yeah. I can picture the desk with me sitting at it.
The study makes up one of the four bedrooms in this property, and
another ground floor bedroom lies in the newer wing at the opposite end, the dual-aspect double room.
A good-sized utility room and modern family bathroom with
separate bath and shower cubicle can also be found down here.
And if the huge open-plan kitchen/diner wasn't enough,
there's also a separate dining room with double doors out to a patio.
But next, it's time to take the oak staircase upstairs to explore the top level.
..the final two bedrooms and this, your master bedroom. Oh, gosh.
En suite in here, look, there you go.
Oh, yes. This is nice. Beautiful.
Very nice. I mean, anywhere else that would be quite a handy, you know, family bathroom.
Yes. Yes. Indeed.
The other bedroom up here is also a comfortable double room,
featuring generous built-in wardrobes, but as this is the mystery house,
there's another twist.
OK, Marion, come on out. This is the compromise, isn't it?
This is the end bit you've got to think about. Yes.
The rest of it, as you have seen, is absolutely lovely. It's beautiful. Spot on.
OK. Well, let's get down to the kind of hard bit of it, our final discussion of money over the week.
Go on, David. You go first this time.
I'm fearing it could be about...400.
I'm hoping it's 370. You're hoping it's 370?
Well, it is the mystery house.
We do like to sort of push you in all sorts of ways.
I think we've pushed you in terms of the design and style of this building.
What we haven't done is push you on the price. Right.
Cos this could be yours for ?340,000. Really?
Right. Wow. That's good news.
I think that buys you a courtyard garden.
That is fantastic. Yes.
Yes, cos that's the difference, isn't it?
You're not paying for that extra bit of land.
Surprisingly under budget at ?340,000, this beautiful period barn conversion is awash with character,
without compromising on space inside.
It has four double bedrooms with a master en suite, a separate dining room and living area,
and to top it off, we've even found the perfect kitchen/breakfast room for Marion, and it's huge.
But there is a trade-off with the bijou garden.
So, will they be willing to downsize on their preferred plot of land?
Brilliant. I've had to drag you kicking and screaming out of the mystery house.
Didn't think we'd get them out of there!
Well, it's now decision time for Marion and for David.
I have to say, when we started this house search, it all seemed pretty straightforward but my sense is that
they've learnt a lot more about themselves and property in general than they ever thought they would.
So let's go and see what they think now.
Let's think about the first property that we showed you. Yeah.
That lovely little cottage with the holiday lets. What did you make of that one?
When I first saw the outside, the front especially, I thought, "Great, looks really, really nice."
Went inside and was quite surprised by the exposed beams
because I hadn't thought about anything like that.
The rooms, some of them were a little bit smaller than I'd imagined they might be.
We took you to our second property. Yeah.
Lovely Victorian build surrounded by a very generous garden. Yes.
Double garage on the edge of the village, a village complete with...
A dancing class. A dancing class. I mean, come on!
Yes. That was a real bonus if you'd like to have that sort
of community village there, which was something we'd very much wanted.
And the garden was also beautifully set out.
Yes. I liked the garden and I liked the house in many ways,
but again, there were aspects of it that we would have liked to have changed.
I would have liked to have added on another bathroom and perhaps a utility room. Yes.
Yeah. And that would have cost extra and it was at the top of our budget.
But again, the location there was so good. Yes, it was. Yes.
That was a big consideration, and I found it difficult because I could actually imagine living there.
Let me take you to our final property, the mystery house, which I was very excited about.
Tell me what happened when you walked into that kitchen, Marion.
Well, yes, blown away, because I loved the kitchen.
The kitchen was definitely a "wow", and so was the whole thing, really.
Yes. It was very well done.
You could absolutely just move in there. Yeah.
There is nothing you would have to do. No.
No. The only thing you would need to consider
is the garden. Yes. Yes.
So are we going to furnish you with our mystery house, I wonder? Cos that's the only contender.
Well, yes, indeed. Yes. Yes. Well, it's...
obviously, as I think you know, there's the problem with our own house.
If that went through, I think we'd be...
Knocking on the door. I think we would be.
Good. Well, best of luck, and let us know how you get on.
We'll certainly do that. Thank you.
Well, there's no doubt that this has been an enjoyable and eye-opening journey for David and Marion.
And the good news is that the Norfolk property market
seems to have delivered the perfect home for them in the form of our mystery house.
I'm absolutely delighted.
If you would like to Escape To The Country
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Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
It's a case of 'out with the new and in with the old' as Jules Hudson helps a couple who are looking for a period property in Norfolk for the very first time with a budget of £350,000. He tempts them with a former stable block with an impressive country-chic interior.