Alistair Appleton helps a couple searching for a rustic family life. They are hoping that a budget of £450,000 will buy their children a dream country lifestyle.
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I am 3,560 feet above sea level.
On a clear day, I could see all four countries of the UK from up here!
On a clear day!
But not today. Find out where I am in just a moment on Escape to the Country.
Today, I'll be helping a couple gallop over the Welsh border and find a homestead in the country.
But what they're after could be a tall order!
There he is! He's in.
A cork in a bottle.
But then we give them more than they ever expected.
I'll get my cheque book!
I was hoping it wouldn't be shrouded in cloud,
but that is the mighty peak of Yr Wyddfa, or Snowdon, as it's known in English.
It's right here in the middle of the Snowdonia National Park
which, rain or shine, is one of the most beautiful bits of the UK.
It's certainly a highlight in North Wales, which is a good job, as that's where we're looking today.
Spanning six counties, including the island of Anglesey,
North Wales offers up stunning scenery.
From the coastline of historic Conwy,
fortified by King Edward I in the 13th century,
to over 820 square miles of mountains, forests and lakes
that make up the Snowdonia National Park.
Throughout the centuries, man has made his mark on this epic and timeless landscape.
Since opening in 1896, the Snowdon mountain railway now carries up to 1,000 passengers a day
to the top of the mountain.
And local pride is strong amongst the 26,000 people
who live within the Park's borders,
with over 65% of people using the Welsh language.
North Wales buildings speak of the area's mining past,
with the local slate and limestone being a defining feature of its properties.
A detached house in North Wales costs about £185,000.
That's £75,000 less than the national average.
But lower house prices are not the only reason to come here
because the Welsh National Assembly is making a concerted effort to invest in the north
including a brand-new government building in Llandudno
and £27 million invested in the transport network.
That's not a bad thing.
And there are some fabulous properties to invest in, too.
For £535,000, this converted four-bed water mill near Bethesda
uses traditional materials outside and in,
combining Welsh slate flooring with a light, modern interior.
Or there's this 200-year-old chapel conversion, priced at £349,000.
With its original arched windows, the superb open-plan interior
has a light, bright, welcoming feel.
Along with three bedrooms, there are outstanding views over Snowdonia.
On the market for £250,000
this three-bed cottage near Ithyn
has character beams throughout its spacious reception rooms.
Outside, the pretty, cottage-style garden
offers up great views over the Vale of Clwyd.
As you can see, North Wales has some of the most spectacular countryside in the UK
and with properties to match, it's the perfect place to start the good life.
Will it be good enough for our couple today?
Mark and Dawn, along with their three young daughters,
have lived in their four-bedroomed detached property in the suburbs of Manchester for four years.
But despite all the home improvements,
they're now after the ideal location that will give their family space to grow.
I grew up in the country.
Just being able to run free and have horses and play tennis,
the roads were really quiet and safe.
I was so lucky to grow up like that
and it would be fantastic if they could do that as well.
Dawn can continue managing the accounts for her family's business from home,
but Mark's work as an engineer takes him to London during the week, so he has big plans for family weekends.
Hopefully, when we move to the country, we can expand on the sports and hobbies we already have.
I like walking, so to have Snowdonia ten minutes' away would be fantastic.
Pick my bag up and go. Katie is desperate for a quad bike
so we'll end up with two quad bikes and two ponies, cos you love horses.
Our youngest, Lucy, is obsessed with horses.
So I'll teach her to ride and then I'll get myself one again and get back into it.
I haven't rode for about ten years and I'm really missing it.
So that's my main ambition.
It may seem a romantic notion,
but there are practical reasons for the location and timing.
It's now or never because our oldest is coming up to changing to secondary school,
and she's going to have to start working hard, no disruptions.
-The youngest is just starting reception.
-Now's the time to move and get settled
before they move schools.
We decided on North Wales because it's not too far from family and friends here.
North Wales we've got the coast and the train line.
For my commute to work, the train is very important.
I can be on the train and in the centre of London in a couple of hours.
The location fits the bill, but what are they looking for in their ideal country home?
A detached house, three, maybe four bedrooms.
-Two reception rooms. That works for us.
-One for the kids, one for us!
-And a nice big kitchen.
-Yeah, we love the kitchen.
-We love to socialise in the kitchen.
-I'd like high ceilings as well.
The size of me we need high ceilings. And two bathrooms, with four girls in the house!
-A log-burning fire.
-Yeah, open fires.
-That epitomises the countryside, a log-burning fire.
-A winter's night with the fire roaring.
But it's not the house that's going to swing it.
-A must for me is the land and the outbuildings.
-That's what the move's about.
Enough land for the ponies and the kids to play, the quad bikes.
-We'd be happy with a three-bed house if there's room to extend.
With their house already on the market for £415,000,
how much do they have to spend on the move?
The maximum budget for our move is £450,000.
Mark and Dawn are swapping their Mancunian roots for a slice of countryside
so their daughters can have a childhood to relish.
They want to transport their four-bed house in Manchester
out into two acres of lovely land and outbuildings
and that's not impossible in North Wales.
They have a budget of £450,000, which is a healthy one,
so fingers crossed.
So that Mark's weekly commute to London is as painless as possible,
we'll be basing our house search within easy access of main train stations,
such as Conwy and Wrexham.
I'll be showing three prime properties in the area
which we hope will fit the bill, but I won't reveal the price until they've had a guess.
And we'll try to unbridle them from their preconceptions with our mystery house.
-Welcome to Wales, guys.
-It's a bid damp for summer.
But you can't have everything. The forecast is good for our house-hunting.
-Why North Wales?
-I spent my holidays as a kid in Wales
so I was drawn to it and talked Dawn into it.
How big a component of the move is the land?
It's a major part. The main reason. The only reason, really, for me.
-Get some animals, get outside for the children.
Let's talk money. What's the absolute pain limit of your budget?
-We've said 450,000 for everything that would need to be done.
-We need some money left over for the extras.
Chickens, ponies, quad bikes.
Ponies? Wow! That halves your budget instantly!
-So 450, but if you needed to do work, it would have to be less than that.
OK. It's a good budget. But have your compromise hat on, just in case! Let's go.
Mark and Dawn's £450,000 budget needs to include any work they'd have to do.
But the essentials for their ideal property are...
-In terms of planning this, have you been dreaming about it for a long time?
-I'd say this has been about eight years.
We didn't think the children would be up for it, really, did we?
-We thought if we suggested it they'd be heartbroken and upset.
When we come back from our friends' in South Wales, we say, "Wouldn't it be lovely to move to Wales?"
This time, they went, "Yeah, brilliant." So I went, "Right, that's it. We're moving!"
We're kicking off our property search in Denbighshire,
just outside the village of Cyffylliog, a 40-minute drive from Wrexham train station
for Mark's commute to London.
Set in a pretty, rural location,
there's a primary school for the girls, and five miles away, the market town of Ruthin
serves up a secondary school and a charming array of independent shops.
'So let's see what they make of our first property which started life as a dairy farm in the 1700s.'
-Wow, it's beautiful.
-Yeah, it looks lovely.
-It's a stunner, isn't it?
This is a really lovely Welsh cottage, incredibly well situated.
Amazing views down the valley. Lots of land which we'll explore.
The front part is actually the newer part, from the 19th century.
The back is from the 18th century. So it's a listed building.
-But you'll see inside they've done a lot of work to it.
'They seem impressed by the historic charm of the outside.
'Let's hope we can build on that when we see inside.'
Come on in.
This is the 19th-century part of the house. The front of the house has higher ceilings
and yes, no headroom issues with you, Mark. That's good.
Lovely big windows in two directions. Dual aspect.
You can see this is the blue stone here, it's been limed, around the fireplace.
-And a log burner.
-I like that. This is my room.
-Well, you've got log burners everywhere, so no need to fight!
I know you wanted two spaces. One for the kids and one for you. It does have two sitting rooms.
Let's look at all the rest.
-I'd be tempted to have this room as your room!
-Wow! It's massive!
I like that.
-You wanted a log burner. That's a proper one!
-That's a real fireplace.
-I like that.
-It's an amazing beam.
-I really like that.
-He's touching the beam. That's a good sign!
So we're going into the older part.
In the olden days, Mark, people were short!
-They were little.
So it's through into the kitchen. A bit lower.
-Right. I'll keep out of the kitchen!
-Exactly. Send the girls to get your food!
-Mind your head!
-This is nice and big.
You can actually stand up. You don't have to crick your neck. Stay between the gaps.
What a lovely big room!
They've done a beautiful job of combining... These are the outhouses.
There's the old bread oven where the range is.
-They've absorbed all these outbuildings and made it into one big space.
There's a beautiful walk-in larder there with a double Belfast sink.
-This has all been done in the last couple of years.
Wooden work surfaces. Another deep sink there.
-In terms of your head...
-That's the only stumbling block. The size of it
is great. The little room with the table, I really like that.
But I'm really struggling with the head height.
-It's even lower at the other end.
-No high heels for you!
I mean, the one option, it's an expensive one, I won't hide the fact, is to lower the floor.
You dig out the floor and maybe put in underfloor heating,
so you step down into this area. But it would be a huge job.
Let's look at the dining room.
This used to be the cow barn.
That window was the food chute where they threw in their food.
We could feed the kids like that!
There's lots of space downstairs. Is it enough for you and the girls?
As long as it's got land outside, it'll be fine.
-It's got land outside.
Could be worse. The ceiling height is something I'd have to get used to.
-You'd have to be careful.
-But I could live with that.
-What about upstairs?
-We shall see.
'Well, they won't have to lower their expectations of upstairs
'as there are the four bedrooms they wanted.
'Although Mark might have to duck!'
This is going to be very funny when Mark comes in.
There he is, he's in.
A cork in a bottle.
This is the master bedroom. There are two rooms in the front which are quite grand.
-This is the master because it's got an en-suite shower room.
-It's very pretty.
-It's big enough. Love the ceiling height.
It's unusual in a period cottage to have high ceilings upstairs. Both have got cast-iron fireplaces.
-Nice feature. I like that.
-Nice, deep windows.
Next door to the master bedroom is a lovely light double room
and leading off the landing, the smallest bedroom currently serves as a study
with a bright, modern family bathroom next door.
And Mark should think highly of the following bedroom.
This room is a nice surprise to the back. This was the hayloft.
Very high ceilings and this lovely hayloft door with steps down into the garden.
So four bedrooms. All in really good nick. You could move in tomorrow
and not have to do anything. How does this feel?
There's a lot more space than I thought there'd be. More roomy.
It's a lot bigger than I imagined.
The historic charm and space this house offers seems to have hit the spot.
But as we know from Dawn, it's all about the land outside.
The adjacent stone outbuilding doesn't come with the property.
But it's used for lambing by the neighbouring farmer so it'll no doubt keep the girls amused!
But can we deliver on the land?
Tell me again what you want to do in your land?
With the girls, what are you going to be doing?
-For me, ponies, horses, quad bikes.
-A goat was mentioned.
Basically, you've got the formal gardens and you've got this L-shaped paddock
that wraps all the way round, all the way down to the road.
So in total, the plot is two acres.
-What do you think?
-I think we'd have to put stables possibly down there.
There are hard footings with water and electricity.
-There's a base there. It's whether the land is enough for a horse and a pony.
-It's incredible. Look at the views.
The hills, and unspoilt countryside all around you.
How much do you think it's on the market for?
-I'll go 440, then. Just to be different.
-Split the difference and you'd be spot on.
It's on at 435.
-So it's under your budget.
-There's 15 grand to play with.
-Build the stables.
So I think this is an absolutely corking place.
-It does work.
Have a wander round.
-Have a look inside, go round the grounds,
see of it'll work with you and the girls.
-I'll meet you at the porch and we'll push on.
-OK. Thank you.
Under budget at £435,000,
this spacious character cottage would require no work
and answers many of the demands on their wish list.
-I really like this kitchen.
-I'm just struggling with the head height.
-Yeah. It's a shame.
Every time I come I'll bang my head, when I go out I'll bang my head, and walking across, I'll bang my head!
I was really surprised at how modern it was. It's a lot bigger than it appears from the outside.
I think Dawn loves the house. I can see her being happy while I'm away.
The kids being happy.
I think Dawn's only concern is the outside space.
This will be a hard act to follow.
-Are you ready?
-I won't ask your thoughts on this. I'll drag you onwards.
The Snowdonia National Park offers up swathes of glorious mountainous terrain
which has shaped its villages and towns.
Acting as gateway to this area, Betws-y-Coed shed its image as a lead-mining town,
flourishing from the early 1900s as a fashionable Victorian resort,
inspiring the likes of landscape painters such as J.M.W.Turner.
Although it's now a busy tourist destination for climbers and day trippers,
its traditional architecture remains intact
although the boom years did impact heavily on its oldest building,
St Michael's church.
Earlier in the week, Mark and Dawn met the chairman of the St Michael's Trust, Jim Bowton,
to find out more about this humble gem.
Welcome to Betws-y-Coed and St Michael's church in particular.
Betws-y-Coed means "the bead-house in the wood".
That's the literal translation, a prayer house,
and St Michael's is, in effect, that chapel.
This building is 14th century.
It's built on the site of a much earlier chapel.
The interior is very plain and simple.
But there is the stone effigy of Gruffydd ap Dafydd Goch,
who is related to the last native Prince of Wales, Llewellyn.
It has a special place very much in our hearts.
After 140 years of neglect,
the Friends Committee has raised £130,000 to restore it to its former glory.
Following in the footsteps of the Victorians, many of today's visitors, including Mark and Dawn,
come with a lust for outdoor adventure.
So, with that in mind, we've arranged for them to indulge in a spot of canoeing near Bala
under the watchful eye of instructor Andy Butler,
who's going to teach them the basics.
We often call these divorce boats.
When married couples get in, they're always blaming each other
and end up getting divorced!
Let's see if teamwork reigns, or if someone's rocking the boat!
-You're not even paddling!
-Steering's far more important!
Over 30,000 people take to these waters every year to enjoy the rapids,
which fortunately are graded, ranging from a class one ripple
to a class six, known as danger to life and limb!
But it's not as easy as it looks to navigate.
That wasn't meant to happen!
With over five miles of river to explore here,
it's a huge outdoor playground
that's sure to keep the family busy.
We continue our property search with land at the top of the agenda,
crossing over the Conwy border to the village of Groes.
Although there are no amenities, a ten-minute drive would bring them to Llansannan,
home to this striking statue by a student of Rodin, William Goscombe John,
and the church of St Sannan.
Set in rural seclusion outside of Llansannan, our second property certainly makes a statement.
I'm excited about how you'll react to this one.
-It is a whole chunk of property.
We can't afford this!
We're thinking, "OK, pull out all the stops. Let's go big."
It's definitely big!
What's lovely about this property is this property has land.
-I want to show you the land first.
-'And they'd better brace themselves for a big surprise!'
-Climbing boots on.
-I'm thinking we need a lawnmower, a sit-on.
You'll need more than a sit-on lawnmower! You'd need a tractor!
I'm getting my cheque book.
Because your land is this field, that field, and the field beyond.
-Nine and a half acres!
It's brilliant for the bikes, though. Quad bikes on here!
-Look at the view!
The girls could just run and run and run and ride and ride and ride!
-It's not listed, but it's a historic property.
I'll warn you now, you'll probably want to do some work in there.
-It's not as pretty as the first house.
-Just preparing you! Let's have a look.
'Now that we've sweetened them up with a huge amount of land on offer,
'let's see if they can get creative with the living spaces inside these fabulous stone walls.'
This is the second sitting room.
Not the only sitting room. Thing is, a lady's lived here for 11 years
and it's beautifully maintained. We need to think about the size of the rooms
-and whether they'd work for you and the girls.
I think you'd have to remodel it a bit to make it work for you.
I'll show you.
-Your girls like pink, cos they'll love this kitchen!
It's pink, isn't it? Pink draining board.
-Pink salt and pepper mill.
Pink fish! You knew!
But this is where the remodelling comes in. This was great for the two of them,
but not for you and the girls.
you've got this room which is inadequate to your needs,
and then next door...
..you've got this room, which is a formal dining room.
So I was thinking you have to work within the walls of this property.
-There are some very, very thick walls.
You take out all that space up to the very thick outside wall, where that arch is.
And make it one big kitchen/diner.
-It would be a nice big kitchen.
-That would work for us.
What do you think? That's quite a bit of remodelling.
-Structural changes. It's not listed.
-It would depend on the price.
Right. There's the biggest room at the end here.
You see, this is a big room.
-Fire's gorgeous. Lovely.
-A giant fire.
It's a beautiful room.
This would be your main sitting room. What do you think?
It's really nice. Sound.
-A sound property.
Let's have a peek upstairs.
'It's great that they're so positive about seeing past the decor and layout of downstairs.
'Upstairs, there are four bedrooms.'
The bedrooms are pretty big.
This is the master. Mind the beam. This beam would catch anybody.
This is the master because it's got an en-suite.
-But I was thinking, you said two of the girls wanted to share a room.
-They'd quite like to.
-With their own bathroom.
-What do you think?
-I really like this room.
-It's a good space.
That doesn't bother me at all. That's a feature, part of the house.
And I thought this room would be OK for you guys.
It doesn't have an en-suite.
It's big enough, though.
If the kids have got an en-suite down that end, it doesn't bother me.
-As long as there's two bathrooms.
-Dawn, you're not convinced!
I'm thinking of wardrobe space.
-You'll have to leave your clothes in London!
There is a little bit of an issue about storage.
You have these two big rooms
and two quite small rooms.
-And the family bathroom.
The third bedroom is a light single, perfect for their other daughter,
with the fourth currently set up as a study.
There's also a spacious family bathroom.
With the interior of the house covered,
let's survey the fantastic setting of this farmhouse
and contemplate the price.
From here, you get a better view of the house. We saw a bit from the other side.
But you couldn't see the house in the dip. It's really wrapped around on all sides.
-It's good, that.
-How much is it on the market for?
-I think top end of our budget. I think 450.
I think it's more, to be honest.
Definitely more than 450. I'd like to say under, but...
-Yeah. Why not?
It's actually on the market for... Get this - £400,000.
You would have 50 grand to play with if you moved here,
-as well as nine whole acres of lovely land!
Oh, my word! Brilliant!
Have a wander round. Inside is where you need to scratch your head most.
Explore, but it'll take ages to explore nine acres! So I might be ruthless and get you back.
Under budget at £400,000,
there's a generous £50,000 pot left over for work on the house,
which has real potential.
Schools are in nearby Denbigh for the girls,
and Rhyl's mainline station for Mark's commute to London.
When we first came into the house, there's a fair bit of work needed to bring it to the way we'd like it.
But that doesn't put me off.
I think this house and land would really work for Mark.
He says he doesn't need much, but his face lit up when he saw all the acres!
He actually does want quite a lot of land.
He wants to be the farmer!
Might have to get some sheep.
To keep the grass down!
Like Animal Farm.
Quite an impressive drive you have here.
-On your North Wales estate!
-With your four paddocks!
Are you happy?
-Glad we came?
-It's been a big day,
-so let's have a little quiet time.
As the sun sets over the Welsh countryside,
it marks the end of our property search.
Armed with a £450,000 budget,
Mark and Dawn want to swap this for a huge slice of this!
So far, we've shown them two properties,
one of which they really warmed to with the space they wanted for their daughters
and their horses.
Let's hope they don't bolt when they see our mystery house!
And I seek out tea and sympathy with these pioneering ladies!
-It's so easy!
Yesterday went really well. Mark was so enamoured of the house with all the land.
He talked about "his" nine acres, which is a good sign.
So I could rest on my laurels.
But look at all this. When you've got this much North Welsh beauty to explore,
you can't rest on your laurels. You've got to push further.
So, for the mystery house, we're going to add extra value - equestrian opportunities.
Our mystery property takes us to Moelfre,
a hillside retreat with a scattering of rural properties.
Four miles away, the coastal town of Abergele has that useful primary school
and serves up all the amenities including a train station,
with the fairytale Gwrych Castle overlooking the town.
Our mystery house is all about housing the horses and complete rural seclusion,
with glorious views down the Elwy Valley,
which I hope will take their breath away.
Now this is what I call North Wales!
We've come a bit further north and a bit further west.
We're a bit further away from Sale.
But that's a good thing. This is why this is the mystery house
because you're still quite tied to your job, to your job in London.
I'm wanting you to get bewitched by the view, by the house,
and by the...
..horses. The secret ingredient of the mystery house is horses.
-We'll look at those later. What about the house?
-Amazing views. Amazing house.
What's nice is this house really takes advantage of the views.
-Let's look inside.
'You can't ask for a better first reaction than that.
'I hope the high spirits continue inside.'
Ta-da! Straight into a nice big entrance porch.
And then into the sitting room.
-What do you think?
-It's really big. Brill.
-Nice high ceilings!
Nice high ceilings. No banging your head at all.
In many ways, it's similar looking to the last property we saw.
It's got a big fireplace with a beam above and a log burner.
-And the beams above. But everything is lighter and bigger.
The thing about this house, the layout is very simple.
Three big rooms on this floor and this magnificent conservatory.
I think this is a magic space because you're indoors, but you've got views all around you.
Fantastic space, this.
It's beautiful. Gosh!
-Can you imagine the girls in here, doing their homework?
'And the living areas just keep on going.'
Next to that big sitting room, a smaller room. Quite flexible what you do with them.
This would be nice for the girls, wouldn't it?
So I feel a bit of a dip of enthusiasm. Is that the case?
I don't know. As soon as we came out of there into this room, I just sort of dipped.
It's like haunted. It's an enthusiasm dump!
-Sucking all the energy out of you. Quick, let's go to the kitchen.
Wonder what you'll think in here?
-It's a big size.
-It's nice and big.
-Ceilings are good.
-It is a continuation of the 1980s extension,
so how's your enthusiasm? Air levels?
-Coming back up?
-Yes, they are a little bit, yeah.
-I'm inspired again now.
-The thing about this property is it has good bones
simply by virtue of where it's located.
Let's look upstairs.
'We had a wobbly moment there,
'but the downstairs of our mystery property is a light, blank canvas
'with big living spaces that easily flow into one another.
'Upstairs, the four bedrooms are a generous size, too.'
Nice and bright. This is the girls' room. Two girls in here.
-It's bigger than I expected.
-It's really big.
It's a big, bright upstairs room.
'Next up, we'll check out where they would sleep.'
-This is the master bedroom.
-It's a good-sized room.
-Yes. Nice to have an en-suite.
-An en-suite, yes.
-It's a bit '80s.
-But look at the views!
-It's still '80s now.
-Look at the views!
-Can't fault the views. By far the best views.
But on a rainy day in December, when I'm sat inside, I'd be struggling.
Let's go outside and cheer you up!
Their third daughter can take her pick from the other two bedrooms,
one a bright single or another large enough to be a double.
No doubt the girls will be delighted by the family bathroom, fit for a pink princess!
Mark and Dawn are finding it hard to see past the decor and style of the inside,
although the room sizes and ceiling heights really measure up.
But they were euphoric about the location.
Outside, they should be delighted by the six acres with its very own manege.
Plus four stables and a tack room.
So lots of space for humans and horses alike.
But at what cost?
A big equestrian property
with space for lots of horses.
Amazing views. What do you think the market price is?
I think about 465,000.
-Do you? Probably because of the work to be done inside,
I think less. 450, maybe?
I'm afraid in this instance, Mark was right.
It's considerably over your budget. It's on at 475.
-I think if the house was more...
Yes, more character towards our tastes, or we could make it the way we liked,
I would definitely put a cheeky offer in.
-See how it went.
-The view is fantastic.
Do have a wander around. There's more to look at.
Wander round, peek your head in the house again.
-I'll see you at the front.
Our mystery property is £25,000 over budget at £475,000.
But it's a stark reminder that finding a spacious family home
with enough land and outbuildings for horses is a challenge.
Something might have to give.
We've had a reality check in the last couple of days.
Yeah. I really thought that it would be the land and outside that would be more important than the house.
But coming round here,
I've realised I actually do want the nice house as well as the land.
-Yeah. We need to find a good balance between the two.
It's opened my eyes to the way we're looking at things.
When I walked down the drive, I was blown away.
The mystery house, absolutely stunning.
So pretty and the views are amazing.
I had a look over the fence and saw the menage and stables
and thought, "Yes, this is the one!"
The lounge I loved. I liked the beams and the fireplace was gorgeous.
But then everything else from that point on unfortunately lacked character.
-Right, let's go and discuss these properties.
North Wales doesn't do things by halves.
It lays claim not only to this country's largest national park, Snowdonia,
but it was here that the largest voluntary organisation for women was born.
History was made when in 1915 in Llanfairpwll,
the first UK women's institute was founded.
Formed to encourage women to get involved in food production during World War I,
today it has over 200,000 members.
I'm meeting Audrey Jones, chair of the Anglesey Federation,
to find out about its history and how it's still relevant today.
I see you've made some tea!
Yes, we've got to have tea and scones.
I thought this was the image you wanted to get away from!
-It is, but we've got to eat!
-Shouldn't you be drinking cocktails?
We've got some Buck's Fizz for the evening.
Buck's Fizz! You've got celebrations coming up. In 2015, you'll be 100 years old.
Everybody must remember that it is this branch's birthday - Llanfairpwll.
-That's what's important.
-I hope you'll be celebrating with cake and scones.
-We've got to have scones.
But the tea and cake are a foil for the huge amount of national campaigning
the WI does.
The 500 Welsh foundations also get involved on a local level,
teaching cooking skills to young parents,
helping schools' gardening projects,
and teaching crafts,
one of the staple skills of which being knitting.
I'm performing under pressure cos you're all watching!
It's much easier with big needles. You're not holding the needle.
Put the needle into that stitch, the same way.
-It's so easy!
I'm being applauded by the founding women's institute!
Historically, the zeal for being part of the original federation
has filtered down through generations,
as this photo of Gweno Williams' grandmother, taken in the 1920s, shows.
Which one's your grandmother?
She's that one with the slight moustache!
-Showing her ankles as well.
She had four daughters, so she was quite up to date!
So it's had a big influence in lobbying for women's rights.
Are you hopeful about the way it's going? Are you pleased with how the WI is shaping up?
I think so. Not perhaps our WI because we're most of us retired now.
But we have an evening WI, which is flourishing.
Presumably by the time it's 100 years old, they'll have taken over from us.
-You're five years shy of your centenary.
-What would you hope to be able see in...
-I'd just hope to be able to see!
It's heartening to meet these passionate women
who have helped champion this national institution.
And with an average of 500 new members joining nationwide every month,
it looks like the WI is set to grow and grow.
I'm pretty certain I know which one of those houses
they don't like.
But I'm a bit hazy about which one Mark and Dawn like of the first two.
Let's find out.
I thought we'd take ourselves to the beach cos we haven't seen the sea.
-Half the joy of being in North Wales is you're close to the sea.
-Is it clearing your head?
The first property we looked at was the Blue Stone cottage.
What about that in retrospect?
-I still like it a lot.
-I really like it.
But it's just not practical for Mark with the ceiling height in the kitchen.
Which is a shame. I couldn't fault it. It was beautiful.
It would have been nice to get more acreage, but if you can rent it, that's fine.
It would be interesting to find out how much it would cost to drop the floor.
If it was 15 grand, you'd still be in budget. You wouldn't have to spend anything else.
-No, it's beautiful.
-Nothing you'd need to do.
The land question was quite a big one.
You say two acres wasn't enough. How important has it become
that you actually own all the land you want?
-I don't know.
-I think if you...
-You've got to own some land, I'd have thought.
The Blue Stone House, you had land at the side, and if you struck up a rapport with the farmer,
he would maybe sell you a couple of acres joining your land.
It's something else to look into.
The second property, the Long House, had lots and lots of land!
-The land was fantastic.
-What are your thoughts about that one?
I really like that one.
Although it needed work done to the kitchen to make it how we'd want it,
and you would do quite a lot of work cosmetically inside,
the outside worked perfectly for me.
It was nice that the land was all the way round the house.
It was nice and safe for the girls to play.
Dawn, what do you think about the inside?
I can see through all the decor and the carpets.
So it's whether... I think you'd need to come out a bit at the back
and make the upstairs two bedrooms a bit bigger.
Although they're small and they'd be OK now,
when the girls are older, they'd probably want more room.
-Certainly not putting me off.
-The mystery house?
Outside was great, absolutely. The land, the horses, the stables.
It was fantastic. But the house was really too modern.
Without being up-to-date modern.
It was like '80s, '90s. It's a shame cos the view was absolutely amazing.
-Out of all those properties, is there any that stand out?
That you'd go back and visit?
-I think the first two.
-We could enquire on prices for the floor and the extension on number two.
And see about all the bits you'd want to do.
-They both would need stables.
-Two. That's a good score.
I suppose the big question then is, which of those two would the girls like best?
The first one, I think. Pretty.
-I would have said the second one.
Well, I can't wait to hear back from you which one the girls test.
I think we should take them to both.
Let them decide!
I know it's a massive move for you,
and it's a real quantum leap from Manchester out to the country with the girls.
Fingers crossed that one of those two work out.
-If not, some other one.
-Thanks for being such good sports.
-Thanks very much. It was fun.
Send us pictures from your first gymkhana!
I think the whole house-hunting business would have gone much quicker
if Alice, Lucy and Katie had been helping!
It would have been, "Yes, no, no." And we could have gone home for tea!
If you've enjoyed today's show, you and your children,
make sure to tune in next time
for more Escape to the Country.
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in Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland or England,
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Alistair Appleton is in North Wales with a couple searching for a rustic family life with ponies, chickens and goats all on the wish list. They are hoping that a budget of £450,000 will buy their children a dream country lifestyle.