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This old schoolhouse behind me dates back to 1617,
and the village it sits in once inspired Thomas Hughes
to write one of Britain's best-loved children's novels.
Any idea where I am and what the book was called?
Get it right, or there could be some punishment.
On today's show, we help a young family swap the hectic metropolis
for rural harmony, and we've got wonderful properties to show them.
Yeah, this is a perfect kitchen, I think.
You look like you've just come home!
-While some rooms fit the mould...
-It suits our lifestyle, I think.
..others don't shape up quite so well.
Maybe a little bit too rectangular.
Stop slouching, will you? If you said Tom Brown's Schooldays
and Uffington in the Vale of White Horse, well done, top of the class!
If not, it's detention one more time.
Someone has to take this cane away - I'm getting into the character.
This is where Thomas Hughes was born and spent his long summer days
rambling on the Downs and stickleback fishing,
getting up to all the activities his protagonist used to enjoy so much.
Stretching from the edge of Oxford to the south-west corner,
the Vale of White Horse is a separate district,
but historically the area took in the Berkshire Downs and beyond.
The name comes from the oldest chalk figure in Britain,
an ancient pagan symbol carved into these chalky soils
over 3,000 years ago.
The historic town of Abingdon forms the heart of the vale,
surrounded by pretty villages with Cotswold stone architecture
and picture-postcard thatches.
But it's the proximity to London
that's made it a desirable retreat for commuters,
who flock here to take in excellent country pubs, beautiful river walks
and idyllic village life.
So, as you can see, the Vale has plenty to offer.
It's actually the sixth best rural place to live in the south-east,
12th overall in Britain.
Now, an average detached property here will set you back £427,000.
That's 24% above national average.
Pricey, yes, but not when you take into account South Oxfordshire.
There you will pay an extra whopping £130,000.
That's 62% above national average.
It makes the Vale a bargain. Here's what's currently on the market.
And for starters,
how about this four-bedroom thatched property in Uffington,
thought to date back to 1635?
Priced at just under £600,000,
the elegant interior oozes charm and character,
and the delightful gardens outside have the benefit of facing south.
Or if you're property shopping with £375,000,
this three-bed brick and stone house in Buckland is over three floors
and features a Shaker-style kitchen
that flows through into a large conservatory.
Lastly, a £250,000 budget would bag you
this recently improved two-bed Victorian cottage in Fringford
that comes with two reception rooms and a smart kitchen-diner
with double doors opening onto a pretty terrace.
Having seen what's on offer, I can't wait to see these great properties,
but first let's meet the buyers.
Optometrist Tim and his journalist wife Maggie
are in their second year of marriage,
and the family home is an Islington flat in London
that Tim bought some 20 years ago.
Since the arrival of baby Evie, they want a bigger, rural retreat
surrounded by fields and fresh air.
We want to move to the country because Evie is now one.
She's growing up rapidly, she's about to start running around,
and we'd love to have a garden, we'd love to have some outdoor space.
And the pace of London living is also taking its toll.
I guess the lifestyle change we're looking for
is just improved quality of life, isn't it?
To get away from the sort of pollution and the noise.
Yeah, slightly more laid-back,
not having to rush to the Tube every day to get to work.
They want some peace and quiet away from the city,
but nothing too isolated.
-So good transport links.
-Also good schools, we'll need that.
-In the next few years.
-We've got to think about schools.
I think, you know, a village
with a bit of history and culture and a few amenities,
definitely a few shops and a pub would be lovely,
and parks and things like that.
And they have very definite ideas about the location of this village.
We know we want to move to somewhere quite green and pretty,
about an hour or not too much over an hour outside London, erm...
We've got parents in Bath and Buckinghamshire,
so we want to be within easy access to both of those places.
So what about the actual house itself?
Our ideal property would be a beautiful period family home
with four bedrooms and a lovely garden
and a really light kitchen and ideally two bathrooms
in a lovely secluded village.
We prefer period properties, but we're not keen on poky cottages.
-Victorian and Georgian.
-We like high ceilings and big windows so...
This is Evie's bedroom, and it doubles as her playroom,
and we're in the bedroom next door, so two double rooms.
It would be really nice to have three or four bedrooms, ideally,
because we'd like to have one as a spare room for family and friends.
-Yeah, exactly, and then potentially one more
if and when we have another child, so that would be our ideal.
Tim and Maggie's flat isn't yet on the market,
so we've invited around a local estate agent to value the property.
Properties like this in Islington are extremely desirable,
especially with private entrances.
There's a lot of demand in the marketplace at the moment,
and I would recommend an asking price of £450,000.
With that in mind, what's the budget for this country move?
We're looking for around about the 550 mark.
If we had to, we could probably stretch to 600.
If we found our absolute dream home, we could stretch a little bit more.
Maggie and Tim have a great budget and they're open, amenable people.
Their wish list isn't impossible.
They want a detached property in a village location,
they want big rooms and the all-important kitchen diner.
Of course, who doesn't?
And outside space, a bit like this, for daughter Evie to run around in.
But what will impact on the budget is that one-hour commute to London.
They'll be joining three-quarters of a million other people
who regularly come into central London from outside the M25.
I wonder if that will impact upon their life.
A recent survey found out
that for every 60 seconds closer to central London you are,
you can add £2,250 to the value of your property.
Tim and Maggie need good commuter links back to London
for both work and socialising.
They also want a location with easy access to both sets of parents,
so we'll be concentrating our search
in the rural villages between Oxford and Swindon.
I'll be taking them on a tour of some great country houses,
but I won't be revealing their prices straight away.
And, of course, there's the mystery property,
which promises to be a real journey of discovery.
-How are you?
-Nice to meet you.
Welcome to the Vale of White Horse.
-What do you think?
-Oh, it's lovely.
You asked us to find an area for you to live in,
this is what we came up with, but I must warn you,
an hour from London comes at a price.
-I know, it's tricky, a tall order.
-We realise that.
-Detached, semi-detached, flexible?
-I'm flexible, you'd prefer detached.
Yeah, but it's not a priority, it's lower down the list.
We're sort of open-minded about that.
I'm loving the open-mindedness, I really am, long may it continue.
-What about renovation?
-We're up for a bit of renovation,
but not completely gutting a house and redoing it.
Painting a couple of walls, that's probably about it.
Or putting a kitchen or bathroom in, we did talk about that.
This is a result for you - she said, "WE are willing to do renovation."
It's usually, "I think he's willing to do a little bit."
As you know, the market's not teeming with properties,
but we have three lovely properties, including the mystery one.
-I think we should get on with it.
-Come on, let's go.
With a maximum budget of £600,000, Tim and Maggie have set their sights
on a three to four-bedroom period property.
It must have spacious proportions
with a kitchen-diner that opens onto a manageable garden.
The perfect property should be located in a village
and ideally within an hour commute of London.
What about the commute?
How flexible are you? You don't have to go to London every day.
No, we don't have to go to London every day.
I work a three-day week in London, so, you know,
a commute of a reasonable distance is bearable.
We'd like to be close to London in case we miss it,
to pop back occasionally.
Well, we've got some great locations to quash their city cravings,
starting with our first stop.
We're destined for the western edge of the Vale
in the village of Watchfield, a 15-minute drive from Swindon,
which has a train service that reaches London in just over an hour.
The quiet windy lanes of Watchfield are lined with properties
featuring thatch and Cotswold stone.
The village has a post office, good primary school
and a pub.
Dating back to the 18th century, our first property
was an old farm cottage and has been substantially extended over time.
Ooh... It looks more modern to begin with,
but as you look closer, you can see older bits of stonework.
One thing you're not going to get in that property is a box room, OK?
-Lots of interesting shapes and sizes in there.
-I think we should get in.
-I can't wait.
-Come on, let's go.
Despite its conventional appearance, you could describe this
as somewhat of a labyrinth,
as old and new parts come together to create a sprawling ground floor.
The bright, modern hallway
leads through to the more historic half of the house,
which features a large kitchen-diner divided by two deep archways.
-You wanted an open-plan kitchen diner.
-This is impressive.
Just behind the door there, you've got a utility room as well.
I love it, it's really bright, about the size I had in my head.
This is great, really good.
-It is quite quirky but I like it.
-Is it big enough?
'Off the kitchen-diner is a good-sized office,
'which could be used as a dining room or a great snug,
'and it houses the original access up to the first floor.
'Right next door is the living room, and although a comfortable lounge,
'they've asked for large rooms,
'so I've got a more spacious option
'in the extended wing right at the back of the house.'
-And this could be your alternative living room.
-This is interesting.
-It's currently a workshop, as you can see,
but it has potential, because there's actually a working...
-or potentially working fireplace.
-A chimney breast.
Yeah, this could make a lovely lounge,
-overlooking the garden again.
-And it's very bright,
and I love these exposed beams here.
Because it's not at the front, it feels more secluded.
-So more private.
But I could see that other room being something else,
maybe a playroom, another kind of room.
-But this feels...is the place
I'd like to sort of sit down and relax at the end of the day.
All good on the ground floor so far,
so it's back to the hallway at the front,
and up the grand stairwell to the first floor, where there are six bedrooms.
To one side, in the original part of the house,
there's a large en-suite bedroom,
and the family bathroom serves a further three rooms,
two double rooms and a single being used as a study.
The extended half of the property has a somewhat unconventional layout
as it was once let as a separate annexe.
There are two bedrooms, one turned into a kitchenette,
and the other is a large L-shaped en-suite room,
which could be the one for them.
-So this could well be your master bedroom.
-Come on in.
-There's another bit here.
-Did you not think there would be?
-And a bathroom.
There's a very Art Deco 1920s bath there.
Again, a very unusual space, very unexpected.
-There's a lot of stuff in here, so imagine all of that out.
It's going to give you a pretty big bedroom.
-Lots of light coming in as well.
A little balcony to walk out on.
Let's go out onto the veranda, have a look at the garden
and in the 20 steps or so that you make,
keep thinking about how much money it's going to cost if you go for it.
The veranda runs the length of the two en-suite bedrooms
and overlooks the large garden to the rear
with lawned areas, mature trees
and a variety of shrubs and borders.
-70 foot by 70 foot, something like that.
-It's just about the right size, actually, for us.
-A little bit of road noise, I noticed.
-For the first time.
-That's the A420.
We didn't notice that at the front,
-but on the roof, you can hear it.
-You can hear it a bit more.
Let's talk money. What do you reckon it's on the market for?
-You go first, Tim.
-I reckon... I reckon 550.
I think it might be slightly less than that,
-because it does need a bit of work. I'd say...
-It does need, yeah.
-Yeah, but it's a big....
-It is big, it's true.
It's a bit of a gamble, but I'm going to stick with that.
-You should have listened to your partner.
It's currently on the market for £595,000.
Oh, OK, OK. So we were both out, but I was way out.
-But still just within budget.
-Yeah, just within.
-Leaves you five grand to spend.
-It's a lot of house to take in.
So go and explore some of those nooks and crannies,
and if I don't find you, I'll be by the front door, OK?
-Yeah, we may get lost.
-See you in a couple of weeks!
-See you later.
Just £5,000 short of their top budget
our first option is a character property with generous proportions.
The house comes with six bedrooms,
two en-suites and three reception areas.
Not to mention the huge kitchen/diner.
The garden has bags of space for Evie to run around in.
I think the kitchen is a really great space.
I love the way it leads on to this dining area.
This is my favourite bit.
I think this house is really charming.
It's very unusual, it's got a creative feeling which I love.
It's all higgledy-piggledy.
It's kind of like lots of different houses mashed together.
I didn't get that, "Wow, it's amazing," when I walked in feeling.
I think that's quite important.
I think it's a good gut feeling.
If you don't have that, maybe it's not good sign.
The quirkiness is...
a little bit strange. I haven't quite got my head around that.
You look perfect walking through that arch together.
-Seen enough quirkiness for now?
-I think so, yeah.
-Lovely garden as well.
-We've definitely seen lots of quirkiness today.
-Come on, let's go.
Tim and Maggie want to move somewhere
that's full of character and history.
They'll be spoilt for choice in the Vale
as it has so much ancient folklore.
So, starting with the elegant white horse
which has graced the landscape for thousands of years.
Local museum curator Sharon Smith was on hand to tell them more.
It's believed to be 3,000 years old.
It was just dated recently by archaeological investigation.
How it was made was a deep trench was dug
about a metre deep and then packed with fresh chalk.
The way that they were able to date it
was by seeing when the bottom of the trench underneath all the chalk
was last exposed to sunlight.
-What exactly does it symbolise, do you know?
-We're not quite sure.
We can't know, really, but it's thought to be a tribal symbol
and it can be seen for miles around.
Seen specially from the sky so made for the gods, it is said.
More evidence of the Vale's historic ancestors can be found nearby
in a Neolithic chambered long barrow called Wayland's Smithy,
a 5,000-year-old burial chamber
named after the Saxon god of metalworking.
It's called Wayland's Smithy because there's a legend here
that, if you leave your horse overnight with a coin,
when you come back in the morning, you'll find it shod.
Wayland the smith was supposed to inhabit...
-this burial mound.
-It's quite atmospheric, isn't it?
It's a lovely spot here with all the beech trees enclosing the mound.
It's quite unique in that it's got this entrance of sarsen stones.
From the foundations of these ancient settlements,
the Vale developed and is now home to small, attractive market towns,
such as Wantage,
believed to be the birthplace of King Alfred the Great in 849AD.
His statue stands proud in the town centre.
A less obvious monument associated with this Anglo-Saxon king
lies in a cottage garden in a nearby village.
This is another sarsen stone, a very curiously shaped one.
It has lots of holes in it.
King Alfred was said to have summons his Saxon troops
by blowing into the holes
-and making a sound.
-It's not very portable, though, is it?
-It's an ancient mobile phone device.
-If you make a good sound out of it,
-apparently you are the next king of England.
Would you like to have a go?
Yeah, why not? I'll give it a go. I'm not sure which hole to use.
Maybe this one, it's worn away.
Not a bad effort,
but I don't think Tim's about to be awarded royal residence just yet.
It's time to get back to the house hunt to see
if we strike the right notes with our second property.
Our next stop takes us to Drayton on the eastern side of the Vale,
just five miles from Didcot,
which has a 45 minute fast-train line into the city.
Drayton is a leafy residential village
full of historic properties,
with a church built in a Norman style during the early 13th century.
The village also has two convenience stores as well as a couple of pubs
serving a population of around 2,500 residents.
And in a secluded position just off the high street
and down a long gravelled drive
is our second house,
which should really test their commitment to period properties.
-You've probably gathered that this is it.
I mean, the first thing that strikes me is it looks quite new.
It's actually four-and-a-half years old.
-Oh, my God!
-And that next door.
The current owner is an architect.
He designed this house and next door and he currently lives in it.
He's moving away to tackle another project.
He also designed the garage behind you which is oak-framed.
That porch is an oak porch as well. The bricks are hand-made,
the tiles are hand-made, the windows are oak -
he's gone to a lot of bother to make this look like an old property
to fit in with this old village location.
It looks really well done.
-It's amazing, isn't it?
-I think we should get in there.
Are you sure you want to, you keep staring as if you're not sure.
I'm really intrigued by this one.
Be intrigued. Come on.
Take your coat off.
-What strikes you first is this great oak door.
And limestone flooring.
Fantastic. It's a beautiful floor, really beautiful.
Let me bring you into the kitchen.
This is lovely, isn't it?
-This is a perfect kitchen, I think.
Look at you two! You look like you've just come home.
-Double doors opening out into the garden.
-French doors as well.
Your kitchen units are made by the same people that made your windows.
The other great thing about this property is
this limestone flooring's underfloor heated, in the whole ground floor.
That is such a luxury.
-So it's a tick?
Across the hallway is the utility room, next to a compact study,
but we're heading for the main reception room.
-I like these doors as well.
-This is fantastic.
-This is good.
-This is a really great room.
Again, you've got the hand-made bricks and it's a working fireplace.
He basically says you don't really need the heat coming from it
but imagine this room at Christmas. A roaring fire.
I can just really imagine it throughout the year actually.
And you've got that view.
-Looking out on a summer's evening.
-It's pretty stunning.
This feels good, this house.
It really does.
It's got a very special feeling.
-I can just see us in this property more, can you?
It suits our lifestyle, I think.
That finishes the ground floor, so let's go upstairs
to see if the first floor will be a perfect match too.
The four bedrooms up here include a single room and two doubles.
Nice room for Evie?
-She'd love it.
-I can imagine her in this room.
And because it's a new-build, four-and-a-half years old,
and he's built it to his specification,
there's loads of storage space. Every room has this.
That's so handy because that's something we've got a lot of now.
-We've got a lot of junk.
It's just always handy to have, isn't it? That's great.
Right across the hallway is the family bathroom
and our last stop is the largest bedroom up here.
This is your master bedroom with en-suite.
Good size en-suite.
-It's a good size room.
-It is, isn't it?
-It's really nice. Again, loads of storage.
-And looking on to your garden.
-Lots of light.
I can imagine waking up in this bed and looking out at the view.
I really like this property so far, I really do.
I'm surprised. I didn't think I'd like any modern properties.
I thought it would be hard to find a modern property that I'd like.
Now the house tour is complete
and it's been a real eye-opener for our buyers.
Time to get outside into the garden and think cash.
Come on out.
This would be a lovely suntrap.
-Brilliant. Then there's a great view of this field,
-which I'm assuming is farmland?
The front garden is bigger than the back.
-The only thing that strikes me is a bit of road noise.
-A little bit.
The wind is blowing this way, apparently, says the owner.
The A34 is quite a distance away.
-But it's there in the background, isn't it?
Let's talk money. You have to go first this time.
-OK, I'm going to go first.
-Go for it.
I think this is right at the top of our budget.
I think it might even be a bit over because of the quality
of all the materials of making it. The finish, the attention to detail,
so I would say...620?
That's what I reckon.
I'm going to undercut you.
I think it's going to be less than 600.
I'm going to go for 580 on this one.
-It's in the middle.
It's currently on the market for £595,000.
Again, you've got that £5,000 to play around with.
I'm sure he'll throw the swing in for good measure at that price.
What do you think?
I think that's very reasonably priced.
It doesn't need anything doing to it.
It doesn't need anything, you could just move in
and then just relax and enjoy the house.
Go and have a look at the front garden,
maybe take in the garage as well. It's pretty large.
I'll come find you, OK? Keep smiling!
Once again, just under budget at £595,000,
the second property is an attractive modern cottage
built in a traditional style with an emphasis on quality.
There are four bedrooms, a large sitting room,
a superb kitchen/breakfast room
and a manageable garden surrounded by open countryside.
I love this front garden. It's an added bonus, really, isn't it?
I can imagine Evie running around here, can you?
Plus it's all contained, she can't escape.
I'm very impressed with it. It doesn't need anything doing to it.
It really doesn't need anything done at all.
I think this would be a good home for us.
This kitchen is fantastic, isn't it?
-It's just what we really like.
-I think it's the best kitchen
-I've seen for a long time, actually.
-It's got a big table in the middle.
I can really imagine us enjoying cooking in this room, can't you?
Having friends round the table.
I really like it. I'm quite surprised
because we don't generally love modern properties.
We really prefer period properties.
This one is done so well.
The architect who designed it has really paid attention to detail.
It ticks all the boxes for me.
And you are still smiling. One coat, sir.
Two very different properties you've seen today.
I think you need time to digest it all, don't you?
-Let's go and we'll reconvene later.
As daylight fades over the Oxfordshire countryside,
the first day of our property quest comes to a close.
With a budget of £600,000, Tim and Maggie are looking to exchange
their London flat for a family home in the Oxfordshire countryside.
We've shown them two fantastic properties so far.
Coming up, the mystery house presents a few surprises.
And I'll be out on the lawn testing my aim.
Yesterday went rather well on the whole.
We found out quite a bit about our lovely couple.
For instance, the way to Maggie's heart
is definitely through a kitchen.
For Tim, it's all about peace and quiet.
That fellow can hear an A road a mile off.
Today, we hope to satisfy both their needs.
Let me tell you, it does come at a cost, and I'm not talking money.
I'm talking time, for the location of our mystery house
will stretch Maggie and Tim's preferred one-hour commute.
It's in the village of Leafield,
10 minutes from a mainline train station,
offering a 1 hour 15 minutes service to London.
Lying on the edge of the Cotswolds,
Leafield has a mid-19th century church, a pub
and a community shop with a post office that's run by the locals.
The village is centred on the green
with a picturesque primary school founded back in 1839.
Behind the school sits the mystery property
which combines three Victorian cottages and a 300-year-old barn.
This is the best bit, OK?
Is that an A road I can hear? No.
Yeah, this is much more secluded, isn't it?
I'm liking it so far.
What about the house?
It's very impressive looking from the outside.
What strikes me, for a cottage-type property, it does seem quite large.
It's a property of history.
It's intriguing again.
I want to go and explore.
Let's go, follow me.
The location is hitting the spot. How will it fare inside?
Mind your step. Come on in to one of your two lounge receptions.
Yeah, it's a good size.
That's pretty good. It's very light, it's got big windows.
-What about all this exposed brickwork?
-I love this.
Maybe a bit too rectangular for me. That's not a big problem.
You prefer square?
-Square is better, I think.
-Not a fan of rectangular?
No, but it's all right.
I'm not complaining.
-Follow me to the kitchen.
What's that, you're a big fan of rectangular?
It's a bit of a galley kitchen, isn't it?
It's quite unusual having the table at the end there.
I like that idea, to be honest, because it's going to be bright.
Yeah, it is quite sweet. It's not my perfect kitchen, though.
-As you know, the kitchen's really important to me.
-I do know.
I don't get that sort of excitement I got with the kitchen yesterday.
-I get more of a deflated feeling when I walk into this one.
The oldest part of the property
is at the back of the house where the barn once stood.
It now houses the dining room with doors onto the garden
and yet more reception space used as a music room
and featuring a spiral staircase to a private study with exposed beams.
I think this area seems
-a more natural kitchen area, funnily enough.
-I agree with you.
I think you could have a lovely kitchen there, couldn't you, Tim?
What would you do with this?
-You could probably make that into a huge square living room...
That makes much more sense to me -
to have that as a really big front room, a lovely big lounge area.
And if they do go with that plan, they could create a utility room
out of the office that sits right next door.
The office also has the only access to a first-floor guest room.
But we're heading back to the front of the property
to the main entrance hall, off which is the cosy TV room
and, up the main flight of stairs,
we find three of the five bedrooms.
Let me take you into this bedroom.
At a push, I would say a girl's room.
-Judging by the amount of pink.
-What do you think?
-It's great, isn't it?
It's a good children's bedroom, very bright.
You do get a sense that this is a family home.
Yeah, it's definitely got that feeling.
It's got a very warm family feel to it.
Back off the landing is the family bathroom,
as well as a single bedroom.
And there's yet another staircase leading up to the master bedroom.
If it's a bright bedroom you want, look no further.
This is great, I like this. We're on the third floor now?
This is the Victorian part of the house -
third floor, Victorian part of the house!
-This is great.
-Look at the views, Tim.
Oh, wow. That is stunning.
Look at all that traffic(!)
The views here, you really can't beat them.
So what do you think, big enough for you?
Definitely. I love these attic rooms.
I like that it's a wooden floor.
I think it's really practical in a bedroom to have a wooden floor.
I just love the fact it's got windows on both sides.
And the sunny aspect has certainly brightened
the attitude towards this house as the tour has unfolded.
Time to weave our way back downstairs
and out into the secluded back garden,
where a long rectangular patio leads through to a sheltered lawn.
This is great.
Look at you two lovebirds hand in hand, good to see.
It's a nice garden, isn't it?
Yeah. It's a really great space. Very lovely and light.
It's a good garden for a party, I would say.
-A lovely little Wendy house there for Evie to play in.
-I love that.
Come on then, Tim, what do you think?
It's hard but I think it's going to be another 595.
Because it's that much further away from London,
it is a bit further away,
I would say that should bring the price down a bit. I think 580.
You're in for a big old shock then, aren't you?
It's actually on the market for £800... No, I'm only joking.
It's on the market for £499,950.
That is a pleasant surprise.
-I'm very surprised.
-That would actually give us, um,
more money left over to make some changes -
if we moved into a property like this - we'd like to make.
It also means our mortgage wouldn't be as big as we thought.
-I'll see you by the front door.
-See you later.
Massively under budget at £50 shy of £500,000,
the mystery lot is a substantial period property
in a delightful country village.
The flexible accommodation lends itself to five double bedrooms
and five reception rooms with lots of scope to adapt the layout.
They'll be making a huge saving of over £100,000 with this property,
but will the extra 15 minute commute to London be too much to bear?
This is quite a cute little room, isn't it?
-I love this room.
-It's really great.
This is really cute. What an inspiring study.
-I can imagine sitting up here working.
-This is great.
It just ticks more of the boxes for me than the other two.
Do you think you could live with this kitchen?
Do you know what, looking at it again, I think I could live with it.
It's something that I'd like to change at some point.
But we could totally move in and be comfortable in this house.
The commute - it's hard to say because we don't know
how much commuting we're going to need to be doing in the future,
but I don't think that's a big problem.
The more you look at this property, the more it grows on you.
I think it's a really, really strong contender, actually.
I'm glad it's not raining. I was about to say you're taking ages.
-Got a bit lost.
-You can get lost in that property!
All three properties have been quite different, haven't they?
There's a lot to take in. Shall we go and find somewhere
-where we can chew the cud and relax a bit?
-That would be a good idea.
Oxfordshire has an abundance of country houses
complete with beautifully manicured gardens
and synonymous with such perfect lawns
must be the summer sport of croquet.
It was in the grounds of this 17th-century Jacobean mansion,
that the rules of lawn croquet were first codified back in 1865.
I must admit that I've never really played the game before,
so I've come to the mansion grounds for a lesson with Norma Rayne,
chairman of the Thames Valley croquet team.
Norma, you didn't tell me I had to dress in white.
No, that's a shame, isn't it? But it is only during the summer,
otherwise you can be in mufti for the winter play.
We play all the year round at the Thames Valley Croquet Club.
Now, a mallet is the sort of thing you need for action.
Square or round, depending on which you like.
I prefer the round so I'm giving you the square.
Great, thanks. Yes, boss.
-Are you are right handed?
-Right, you grab it with your left.
That's absolutely right.
You put your right hand down the back of the actual mallet
and you put the mallet between your legs on the ground.
You have a ball at the end of your mallet on the ground.
That's right. It's a swinging pendulum action
so you take the mallet back between your legs
and you kiss the ground and follow through.
The game of croquet is thought
to have come to England from Ireland in the 1830s.
It became very popular during the mid-to-late 19th century
as a pastime that could be enjoyed by both men and women side by side.
But the sport was eclipsed a decade later
by the more action-based lawn tennis.
In Britain, association and golf
are the two main variations of croquet played.
Golf croquet has much simpler rules and a faster pace.
The opposing sides can be one or two players,
making single or doubles teams,
hitting balls consecutively through the hoops.
-I imagined this to be a lot heavier.
-No, it weighs a pound,
they're all a pound in weight.
-What's it made out of?
It's changed over time. It used to be wooden ones.
-Some of your colleagues are playing with black, red...
They're primary colours and you play as a partnership.
-Black and blue go together, red and yellow go together.
-I've got you.
Opposing sides each have two balls and the course consists
of six hoops with a winning peg. Players contest each hoop
and the winner is the first side to win the most hoops
with a deciding hoop played if the scores are equal.
-So I've got to stop it just in front of that hoop?
Quite hard. Brilliant, that sounds fantastic.
-Look at that, a beginner!
-Wow, look at that!
That's one hoop down with possibly another 12 to go -
I'm going to enjoy this challenge.
Not bad, not bad.
Croquet involves a combination of mental and physical skills
and every stroke presents a tactical challenge.
-That was very close.
If that had gone through, I'd have retired.
I would have allowed you to.
It's suitable for all ages, making it a very inclusive sport
that's a pleasure to play, even on a wet summer's day.
Three very different properties, all with positive points, mind you.
The question is will Tim and Maggie go for one of them?
It's time to find out.
-Guys, you found a fantastic spot.
-Lovely location, isn't it?
Sorry I can't offer you any of THESE houses.
Let's talk about the ones that we have seen.
-We'll start with the quirkiest of houses ever!
-You can say that again.
I loved the creative feel and that, every time you opened a door,
you didn't know what you were going to get.
There was lots of light. There were lots of positive things about it.
-The garden was good.
-The garden was good, it was in a very sweet village.
-It was also massive.
-It was huge
and it had this quite incredible roof terrace overlooking the garden.
In actual fact,
we thought ultimately the size was maybe a negative thing
-because it was just too big.
-I think it's just a bit too much.
It needed quite a bit of work and it was right on the top of our budget.
Let's move on to the property that looked old
-but was only four-and-a-half years old.
-It completely fooled us both.
It was done beautifully and I think the architect owner
had obviously put a lot of his heart and soul into it.
Maggie, did you like the kitchen in the second property?
-Yeah, it was all right.
-You loved it, didn't you?
-I did, I did.
-I loved it as well.
-That kitchen was a dream kitchen.
It was just faultless, really.
And the fact that everything was new and well-finished
and of really high quality.
-Was it big enough for you?
-I think maybe not quite.
Yeah, we differ on this one. I think you can have a house that's too big
and I think that one was just the right size.
It filled a lot of the criteria that we need, really.
I think I was just a bit put off by the fact that it was modern
even though I didn't realise it was modern.
I think maybe the small windows and the low ceilings,
which kind of had to be like that, didn't it?
It was very in keeping with the surrounding area.
-That's exactly why he's done it.
-It was so well done.
But I think, ultimately, we did differ on it.
I liked it more than you liked it.
-I think it was as simple as that.
-I liked the third house more.
OK, let's move on to the third house then.
The third house, it's fair to say,
-didn't have your dream kitchen.
-It didn't have the dream kitchen.
In fact, I didn't like the kitchen when I first saw it at all.
But the house grew on me the more I walked around it.
And the price just blew me away, I couldn't believe it.
Was it the price that did it for you? You say there's not much to do,
but you were talking about moving the kitchen
and knocking down a wall to make the reception double the size.
-That's a lot of work.
-It is because, when we were looking round,
I thought it'd be at the upper end of our budget and it would impossible.
When we found out the price, I thought, actually, it's achievable.
I think the thing we learned with the third property was that
if you're willing to do just that 10-20 minutes extra over an hour,
you get so much more for your money. You get more property for your money.
-We didn't realise how much of a difference it would make.
Are you going to go and see any of the three properties again?
I wouldn't mind seeing the third one again.
That's, in my mind, the only real possibility.
The third one just feels the most viable actually.
It felt ultimately, when we look back on all three,
it felt like the most family-home property.
What if you go back to the second property
and there's no wind at all and you don't hear any traffic?
I would be intrigued to go back to the second property too.
Listen, I hope that you two are going to be extremely happy here.
I think that Evie, when she gets here, is going to be happy as well.
It's been fantastic meeting you.
You've been so positive and fun to be with, so cheers!
Thank you very much.
Thanks, Aled. It's been great.
And as they gather in the harvest here,
isn't it good to know we may have found Maggie and Tim a new home?
But even if they don't go for one of our options,
at least we've opened their eyes to the possibility of what's achievable
if they look further afield than that magic one hour from London.
If they do that, who knows -
they could be escaping to the country before we know it.
Until next time, goodbye.
And if you would like to escape to the country
in Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland or England, and need our help,
please apply online.
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