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I'm at the inlet of one of the country's most famous rivers,
where the River Isis meets the River Thame
to form the longest river in England.
And this river has shaped the geographic and political history of this county
because it was in this area that William the Conqueror crossed in 1066 to claim victory over London.
So where am I? Join me in a moment as we escape to the country.
On today's show, we're conspiring with a retired couple to escape the Essex suburbs.
But will the hills be alive with the sounds they're looking for?
I'm not sure about this road.
We strive to strike the right notes.
You can't have complete silence all the time.
And finally, it's music to our ears.
Quiet enough for you?
Just a bell. And a duck.
Today I'm in Oxfordshire,
and this mighty river is, of course, the River Thames.
Or to call it by its correct name, the Thame Isis.
Now, at 215 miles long, its source begins in the Cotswolds
before travelling through Oxfordshire,
creeping and curling through London,
and eventually flowing through to the Thames Estuary
and out into the North Sea.
Landlocked Oxfordshire is the most rural and least populated country in the southeast of England,
with almost a quarter of the countryside lying within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Against a backdrop of the Chiltern Hills to the east,
and the Cotswolds to the west,
this county has some truly beautiful scenery,
and the mighty River Thames meanders through some of Oxfordshire's most picturesque towns.
Right on the banks of the Thames sits the city of Oxford,
famous for its prestigious university founded in the 11th century,
and the oldest university in the UK.
For over 800 years, this city has been home to elite academics,
and is now a major draw for tourists,
with a variety of shops and historic buildings.
From grand houses to pretty thatched cottages,
there's a wealth of handsome property here,
making Oxfordshire one of the most desirable places to live in the country.
There's so much greenery to explore here,
and an interest in all things green certainly wouldn't be a bad thing,
because Oxfordshire is a big-bucks county.
The average detached house here
is about 43% higher than the national average.
The most sought-after properties
are within that golden two-hour commute to London,
No matter how deep your pockets are,
it pays to do your research into this county
so you can work out which pocket of it you could live in.
If you're property hunting with £1,250,000
this detached home in Shiplake is largely laid out on the ground floor,
and comes with six bedrooms, five bathrooms,
a glossy, state-of-the-art kitchen,
and very spacious reception rooms.
Further north in Witney,
this former waterworks has been converted into seven unique properties,
including this stylish four-bedroom studio house.
On the market for just under £700,000,
it has particularly striking open-plan living areas
on the first floor,
which are enhanced by a huge, glass atrium roof.
But if you're looking for something more traditional,
£400,000 could buy you this quaint thatched cottage in Great Haseley.
It has three bedrooms, and recent refurbishments include a handmade oak kitchen
and high-spec bathroom.
Oxfordshire certainly has plenty to offer today's buyers.
But for this pair, I think it's less of an escape to the country,
and more of an escape from their children.
Now, that's got to be a first.
Husband and wife Barry and Karen along with their dog Harvey
live in this eight-bedroom Victorian house in Brentwood.
Barry has recently retired,
but there's no end in sight for Karen's workload if they stay in Essex.
We've lived here for some time now.
Everything's revolved around the children.
They're older now, they are all working. We've got to move on.
And we won't do it if we stay here.
I will still wait on them and run round after them,
so we must move on and live a life of our own,
and they've got to get on with it, whether they like it or not.
But their three sons aren't being left high and dry,
as selling up will release some capital to help them buy.
So with three less people to accommodate, what type of property do they have in mind for this downsize?
We'd like three to four good-size bedrooms,
a nice-size kitchen,
and two reception rooms
so that we can have our televisions in different rooms.
A property with some character, some history,
hopefully some interesting features,
and I'd also like a double garage.
I'd like an en suite
so if the boys do come back, they can pig out in another bathroom,
and not use mine.
They're also looking for some respite, not only from the boys,
but also from each other.
My favourite room is this living room.
I have my jukebox with all my favourite 45s from the sixties and seventies.
And, of course, I have my TV,
with the surround system,
where I can watch all the programmes Karen's not interested in.
We need two reception rooms so we can have our own entertainment.
My favourite room in the house is my kitchen.
When we move I'd like to be able to have a room similar size to this
so I can have a range cooker,
island like this one, and a butler sink.
That's the features of their preferred property. What about their preferred location?
I would like it to be a bit quieter.
I don't like a lot of noise. This is quite noisy, where we live now.
It's also important that if there's a village community, we can get to know that community.
So why have they chosen to flee as far as Oxfordshire?
I've got two sisters who live not too far away,
I'd like to be a bit closer to them.
I would very much like to be near the Thames,
so that I could get a boat.
Very interesting if I could go up the Thames and see some of the other places.
I think he thinks he's going to be Captain Pugwash.
Their current home is already on the market,
but after they've doled out three deposits to help their sons move,
what's left over for Barry and Karen's rural relocation?
We would start at £600,000,
and we would go up to £800,000,
but that would have to be the absolute finished product and tick all our boxes.
Downsizing. It is always a little bit tricky.
The buyers say they want a smaller property,
but they tend to want room sizes like they have in their current home.
For today's buyers, their requirements seem modest.
Three bedrooms, two reception rooms and a double garage.
But to find that on the edge of a village in Oxfordshire,
in a quiet location, at the lower end of their budget
so there's plenty of money left over for the boys, that is going to be the challenge.
Karen wants to move closer to her two sisters,
so our house search will take us near to the Berkshire border
and into the villages of South Oxfordshire.
And we're hoping to quench Barry's nautical cravings,
as our locations lie between Oxford and Henley-on-Thames,
all within easy reach of the river.
Over the next couple of days,
we'll be taking Barry and Karen on a tour of some beautiful country homes,
but I'll be keeping the prices to myself until after the house tours.
And we'll save the mystery house for last,
where we'll be stepping into the medieval past to find something for their future.
Good morning to you both and welcome to Oxfordshire.
It's a great choice of county, isn't it? And a beautiful day.
-You've done part one of your escape. Do your sons know you're here?
Yes, they do now.
-And are they ready for it?
Not at all. Not at all.
It's a big lifestyle change for you, but I imagine it's bigger for them.
It will be. We've always been there for them.
It's time for us to make our own life and let them get on with theirs.
So what exactly are you looking for?
We are supposed to be downsizing.
Exactly, downsizing. You've got eight bedrooms at the moment.
-It's going to be a major shift.
But we have to do it.
You don't want to spend half the time cleaning the place, do you?
No, that's what I do all day.
Something smaller. Less work.
With a smaller house, you can still have plenty of open space around you here.
That's what we'd like. The countryside.
And a small garden. I would like a garden. Nothing this big.
And the river. Being here in Oxfordshire...
-Access to the river.
-That's something I'd like to do.
I'd like to be near the river and hopefully do a bit of boating.
And the budget. £600,000 to £800,000.
That's healthy for what you're looking for, but a very wide range.
We could go up to £800,000, and we'd feel comfortable with that,
so obviously we're in your hands,
and see what values the properties are.
You are in our hands, and we haven't got much time.
Your property, under offer?
We've got an offer on the house and we have to move out in three weeks.
-OK, no pressure.
It's a good job we've got brilliant houses to show you,
and, of course, the mystery house. I'm feeling confident.
With a top budget of £800,000,
Barry and Karen want to downsize
to a detached character property
with at least three bedrooms,
an en-suite bathroom,
a spacious kitchen diner,
and two separate reception rooms.
They also want a double garage
and a low-maintenance garden.
The location needs to be on the edge of a village
away from busy roads,
as Karen wants peace and quiet.
Barry's keen to be near the Thames as he'd like somewhere to moor a boat.
So without further ado, it's time to cast off and head straight to our first property.
We're travelling to South Moreton in South Oxfordshire.
It's a pretty, rural village surrounded by open countryside.
There are good road links out of the village,
useful for Karen to travel to Berkshire to see her two sisters.
The village has a church, a chapel, and a pub.
Set on a corner plot is our first house, a beautiful, detached, period cottage.
Right, step through here.
This is your front garden.
As you can see, we are right next to the village road,
but that does mean you're very close to the village.
-How do you feel about that?
-It would be a problem for us.
And particularly for Karen
because noise affects her far more than me.
And this is the middle of the day.
I just wonder if rush hour it gets worse.
On the whole, it's been quiet,
and also when we go into the house...
Talking of the house, let's have a look at it.
It does look nice.
And not too big a garden. I won't be spending all the time mowing.
You do get more space behind, but we'll see that later.
Straight into lovely, bright hallway.
We go through here to the first of the reception rooms in this property.
-It's a nice room.
-It's nice and bright, isn't it?
Lots of windows.
Lovely French doors looking out onto open farmland.
I like the fireplace.
It's a working fireplace. Great feature. Lovely and warm.
You want two reception rooms.
We do, definitely.
-Who would get this one?
-Depends what the other one's like.
-Yeah, as long as I get the best one.
Let's have a look through here and see another one.
Up through here, this was the old garage,
and they've created a second reception room.
-They've done a good job. It's quite bright.
-You've got windows either side, views.
-There's the view at the back.
And that door leads through to a utility space and boot room
and out onto the garden.
-No, it's a good size.
-It's a nice room.
We are in the extension, but it's got that cottagey feel.
It has. it's a nice room.
And this is just one side, the extension.
So let's pop over and see some more.
Moving back from the converted wing into the original cottage,
the ground floor also has a cloakroom,
a compact study complete with countryside views,
and a large dining room featuring another attractive fireplace.
But next door, there's yet more space to dine,
and the high-quality finish there should make Karen feel at home.
So here is the kitchen, and what do you think of it?
-This is nice.
-This is lovely.
-This is very good.
-I've got my island.
-Yeah, you've got the island.
-And it's bright, isn't it?
Room for a big table.
They've created it in the corner so you've got extra seating.
-And the alcove over there.
-And a snug.
So really, that's an extra reception room.
You could watch television at opposite ends of the house.
Yeah, you're right. And by the way, there's no noise from outside.
We're not hearing any traffic.
It's winning you over.
Yeah, I'm quite sold on it.
Halfway through the tour,
and although Barry is sold,
I'm not sure Karen is ready to reach for her chequebook just yet.
But there's plenty more to see,
so let's find out if the upstairs will persuade her.
This is a good example of one of the bedrooms.
Reasonable size, isn't it?
-Quite good size.
-Not that large, but...
Big enough for one of your boys, I'm sure.
Oh yeah, when they come and visit us, they'd think this was nice.
I think it's more than nice,
particularly when you consider there's an en suite.
-That's fine, isn't it?
And it's got a shower.
And we've got built-in wardrobes as well,
so you've got your cupboard space built in.
You get enough in this room.
-Yeah, it's a good size.
There are three further guest bedrooms on the first floor,
another good-size double, and two smaller, cosy, cottage-style single rooms.
And there's the family bathroom, complete with roll-top bath.
But next we're going to take a look at the master suite.
-Oh, this is nice.
-Isn't this a nice room?
You immediately look up in the eaves.
You've got the beams.
Yes, it's a lovely room.
And nice and bright.
Nice to wake up and look out there and see that view.
And you have an en suite just there too.
Could this work for the two of you?
I think it could.
This is a lovely room.
Isn't it tremendous?
It's really bright and everything.
I think he likes it, Karen.
This house has really impressed Barry.
It looks like he's already packing to move in.
But the jury's still out on whether his wife will be joining him.
Here's the other part of the garden.
It's got a couple of levels, some dimensions,
mature trees, cherry blossom, an apple tree.
And you're, well, one side looking onto open fields,
but of course, you are on the other side, backed by the road.
-It is a lovely house.
-It's a beautiful house.
They've done it beautifully, but I'm not sure about this road.
You can't make up your mind just yet.
You don't know how much it is, which is my next question.
-What do you think?
-I would say possibly £700,000.
Barry, what are your thoughts?
A little bit higher. £725,000.
For a couple who don't know the area well, you're pretty good at this,
and Barry, you are spot on.
-It's on the market at £725,000.
The house is extremely nice. The garden's a little bit small.
It's a big issue, I think, this road.
Which is a shame. The house was lovely.
The house is indeed lovely,
so spend a bit more time with it while you've got the chance.
And I'll see you later on.
OK, thank you.
On the market for £725,000,
this beautiful cottage is chock full of character features
and has five bedrooms, two of which come with en-suite bathrooms.
There are also three reception rooms,
including a family room for Barry
where he can crank up his jukebox without disturbing Karen
at the other end of the house in the large kitchen-breakfast room.
This is a great property, and it does meet all of the criteria and more,
but will its roadside location bypass its benefits?
The property itself looked lovely.
It couldn't be nicer. They've done it beautifully.
But that road, you really can hear it.
I think the kitchen, master bedroom, the main lounge,
and also the dining room, I think they're nice rooms.
The garden, I would have liked something a little bit bigger.
But that would not necessarily be a major concern
if there wasn't the noise.
-It's quite quiet out here now, isn't it?
-It is now.
It is now.
Well, we're not done yet. There's a lot more to see in Oxfordshire.
With Barry's ambition to buy his very first boat,
a trip to Oxfordshire wouldn't be complete
without visiting Henley-on-Thames.
It's a picturesque town on the banks of the river,
and just a short walk from the water
is the pretty market square
with its impressive town hall, shops and restaurants.
Barry and Karen are meeting Town Mayor Jennifer Wood
to find out more about the town's rich heritage.
Henley was founded in the 12th century as a port supplying timber and grain,
and was once pivotal to trade between Oxford and London.
By the late 16th century,
it had become a major centre for the production of malt.
But it wasn't until the 17th and 18th centuries
that the town's wealth was really established.
This was the time that the merchants stayed here, they built here,
the nearer to the river they were, the wealthier they were.
Unfortunately, though, with the advent of the railway,
the river wasn't so important
because it was easier, probably cheaper and quicker,
to transport goods by rail than by river.
All was not lost.
Because what the river became full of was pleasure boats,
and that's how Henley's known today.
Henley's history is intrinsically linked to the river,
which is now a centre for both recreation and sport.
The town is best known for its annual Royal Regatta,
which is held ever summer, attracting some of the world's finest rowers.
It's also a highlight on the British social calendar.
Jennifer is taking Barry and Karen along the idyllic stretch of water
used in the competition.
When did it become a royal regatta?
Well, it started in 1839,
but it became a royal regatta when Prince Albert visited in 1851.
Since then, every royal head of state has become a patron,
and they do come, not every year, but they do come most years, yeah.
Situated a mile and a half downstream from Henley is Temple Island,
which is dominated by an ornamental folly built in 1771,
designed by the English architect James Wyatt.
With wonderful views across the river,
this venue has long been used as a vantage point to watch the regatta,
and the island itself marks the start of the rowing competition,
which has a unique match racing format.
What sets Henley apart?
In the Royal Regatta, you have only two boats rowing at one time.
In an international regatta, or anywhere else, actually,
even at Dorney, you can have seven or eight boats going at once.
There may only be two teams competing for glory in Henley's Regatta,
but we've got three properties in the running for our house quest,
so it's time to head to the next destination.
For our second port of call,
we're travelling six miles south
towards the edge of the county border
to the village of South Stoke,
which is just over a mile away from Goring-on-Thames.
In 2009, Goring-on-Thames was crowned Oxfordshire Village of the Year.
There's a good choice of shops,
and a local railway station has direct links to London,
particularly useful for when Barry and Karen's three sons come to stay.
To tempt them further, back in South Stoke, they'll find a village pub.
Walking distance from the river, situated in a quiet, no-through road,
is our second property.
Not too much noise in the road.
-Happy about that?
-Yes. A lot quieter.
Unless you've closed the road?
No, no, no trickery. This is how it is.
What about the house itself?
Initially, it looked quite a small house,
but I see it goes back further than I expected.
-Well, we are downsizing.
-Yeah, of course.
You're right, it is a smaller house.
And it's got a garage.
A double garage, no less.
You're by the river, you're also by one of the main train lines,
the London to Swansea route.
That's very close, is it?
It's very close. You'll hear the train in a moment.
You will get the trains going by,
but you're close to get back to Essex or for the boys to visit.
No, that's good.
What are you thinking, Karen?
Just wondering about the train.
Well, I don't think that's going to be a problem.
No, we'll see.
We'll see. Reserving judgment.
-You can't have complete silence all the time.
-No. No, but we'll see.
OK. A somewhat shaky start, and I'm not referring to the passing trains.
However, it is set close to the river for Barry,
but seeing as they've both set their hearts on an older, period property,
how will they rate this more modern-style home?
And let's go straight through
into the lounge.
-This is a nice room.
-Do you like?
-Yes, very nice.
-It's all right.
The only thing I feel, I don't think the room's got much character.
It looks all very pleasant.
I think you've got some nice little features.
That's lovely, leading out onto the decked area of the garden, getting in a bit of light,
and sometimes you can add character yourself,
so it could be something.
You've certainly got enough scope here.
Yeah, you could do.
-Yes, not ruling anything out.
You have to compromise when you're downsizing
and you want a particular location.
-It's hard to get everything you want.
Let's have a look at the other side.
Fortunately, they don't have to compromise on separate reception spaces.
They just have to figure out who gets the bigger one.
So this is the second.
Size-wise, it's fine.
And it's light.
-I'd get my television in here, I think.
And it's bright.
So you've taken this as your room?
Well, no, I think Karen would insist this is my room,
as she'd want the larger room.
Let's take a look at the kitchen.
I just want to remind you, this is a smaller property,
we are downsizing, so it's a slightly smaller kitchen.
But I still think you'll like it.
Yes, it is smaller.
I did warn you.
But there again, there's only two of us
so it's not a big issue, is it?
-It's got everything, it's got the big fridge.
-It's bright, isn't it?
And it's functional.
Bright and functional.
I don't think this is a problem for size.
-We can't compare it to what we had before.
I think we've got to say, "Right, OK, we could live with it."
There's enough surfaces to work on, isn't there?
I'm shocked that the modern, immaculate kitchen has failed to impress,
despite Barry's best efforts to convince his wife otherwise.
So let's get moving upstairs to the sleeping quarters.
Perhaps they will help change her mind.
Alongside the newly-fitted, contemporary family bathroom,
there are four bedrooms.
The three guest bedrooms comprise two doubles and a smaller single,
but we're going to see the bedroom Barry and Karen could call their own.
So this is the master suite.
Plenty of storage.
Plenty of storage. Big, deep wardrobes there.
His and hers, so no fighting over space.
That could still happen.
-There's a reasonable amount of space.
Have a look at that bathroom.
It's got a lovely double shower.
-Yeah, that's fine.
So what are you thinking?
Oh yeah, it's similar to ours.
Yeah, this room's fine.
Fine, fine, fine.
I think that's what it is. It's fine.
-That's how I see it.
-Yeah, it's fine.
It's not making us jump up and down.
I must say, I'm really surprised they haven't taken to this house,
as, for many people, this would be a perfect home in a fantastic location.
So let's find out just how much they think it's worth.
The garden's very important to you, Barry.
What do you think of the size of this one?
The size is fine. It's well-maintained, I wouldn't spend a lot of time having to look after it.
Whatever you think of this property,
it comes at a price.
Let's work out what that is.
We'll start with you, Barry, who was spot on last time.
Yeah, OK, I think £625,000.
I think it would be more than that because of the location.
From where it is, I suspect it would be about £720,000.
That's a wide difference between your two guesses.
And this time, I think you've almost split the difference,
but you're slightly closer.
It's on the market at £675,000.
-You're don't love the house, but you like the garden, don't you?
Take one last lap around this garden and I'll see you later.
-Thanks very much.
Under budget again, this time by over £100,000,
this modern, detached property comes with a price tag of £675,000.
It has four bedrooms
with an en suite to the master,
the two separate reception rooms they specified,
a kitchen-breakfast room.
And outside, there's a double garage for Barry
and a low-maintenance garden.
The location may be ideally situated for easy access to the river,
but it's clear they're unwilling to forgo the more traditional features
for something more modern.
The location was lovely.
Right near the river, which was where we wanted to be.
We could have possibly moored a boat there.
But the downstairs space isn't going to be enough.
I know we're downsizing, but we wouldn't have enough room.
Overall, it's not quite for us.
It hasn't got the character that I think we're looking for.
Ah, decided to have one more look inside.
Yes, just one more.
Just see what it looks like.
Well, don't tell me if you've changed your mind yet,
but it has been a long day so let's get a move on.
Leaving Barry and Karen to collect their thoughts
regarding the properties we've shown them so far,
the first day of house hunting comes to an end.
With a budget of £800,000,
Barry and Karen are hoping to cut the apron strings
and enjoy a peaceful retirement near the river in rural Oxfordshire.
So far, we've seen two great properties,
yet try as we might, Karen hasn't been won over.
We can live with it. There's enough surfaces to work on, isn't there?
But coming up, the regal splendour of the mystery house may be the winning ticket.
I feel like a lord and lady.
Well, yesterday didn't turn out quite the way I wanted it to.
For Barry and Karen, there was just too many compromises
they weren't willing to make.
So today, for the mystery house, it's all about the wow factor.
A spectacular interior, fantastic location,
and access to all the amenities they could have wanted.
There are compromises, but I'm hoping the wow factor outweighs them all.
The mystery property is the last stop of our tour,
and takes us eight miles south of Oxford to Abingdon.
One of England's oldest market towns,
it's believed that some of the buildings in Abingdon
date back to the 1100s.
There's a range of high street stores, restaurants and pubs,
and right in the heart of the town
sits the 17th century County Hall,
which now houses the town museum.
Abingdon was built on the banks of the Thames,
which reveals the first clue of our mystery package.
We're taking a more scenic route to get there,
for its location is right on this glorious river bank.
Now, so far, noise has been a troublesome factor in our house tour,
so will Karen's ears be able to take a town centre location?
Now, this is what I wanted to show you.
-Oh, it's tremendous.
-Isn't it amazing?
Is this one house or several houses?
Well, I'm glad you asked.
At one point, it was a couple of houses joined together,
but you will notice that here you have a neighbour,
and there you have a neighbour.
So one thing about this mystery house is that it's not detached.
And I know that's something you could maybe live with, but...
-How are you feeling, Karen?
-I don't know.
It's very open, isn't it?
It is, but just to remind you what we've come from.
-The river is beautiful.
-It looks quite exciting, doesn't it?
It's different, isn't it?
And just for me, Karen, have a listen.
-Is it quiet enough for you?
-Just the bell.
Just the odd bell from the church.
And a duck.
Those are the sorts of sounds you expect in the countryside.
Backing right onto the banks of the Thames,
this captivating property forms part of a 15th century building
that was once owned by Abingdon Abbey
and is tucked away in a quiet street
believed to be one of the oldest parts of the town.
They wanted period features, and that's exactly what we're giving them here.
On a grander scale than they could ever have imagined.
This house is all about drama.
Look at this!
-It feels like...
-I feel like a lord and lady.
-It's like the Tower of London.
The panels were put in around 1910,
and they're all from Flanders, Belgium.
And everything is just so, first-class condition.
The windows were put in about the same time, lovely stained glass,
and obviously nothing obstructing you out there so the sunlight pours in.
It's absolutely marvellous.
It's a huge room, isn't it?
Could that work?
Could you two actually, maybe amalgamate,
and rather than having two reception rooms, share this one dramatic space?
I think you're telling us something there.
Oh, you're quick, Barry.
That's me, you see.
He's not born today.
I think we might have to, don't you?
We may have to, yes.
You seem to be wowed by this room.
Just wait until you see the kitchen. You ready?
-Yes, we are.
I'm ready for another big reaction.
Look at this!
Oh, my word! Look at it!
-This is tremendous.
-Come on, then.
Oh. Isn't this wonderful? It's an amazing kitchen.
And look, there's so many lovely little bits.
Look at this.
I love this. This is a safe, and they're using it now...
If I could open it cos it's quite heavy. It's a proper safe.
-Here we go.
You'll like this.
That's absolutely marvellous.
It's ideal, this kitchen.
Ideal. Karen, that's strong words from you.
-You've really come up with it on this one.
-You're amazed, aren't you?
At last, an enthusiastic Karen, and who can blame her?
The kitchen is stunning.
There's plenty of storage,
and ample room for the whole family to dine together
when their three sons come to visit.
Down on the ground floor, even the cloakroom has a majestic ambience.
Time to go upstairs to find out
what else this beautiful mystery property has to reveal.
First thing I'm going to show you is here. It's four bedrooms here.
And one of them, actually, is being used as an office.
It's a good-sized space
so you don't get a separate downstairs reception,
but you could have a space up here, Barry.
Yeah, that's right.
And it's next to the family bathroom. Very convenient.
OK. No, looks good.
-You'd be happy up here?
-I would, yeah.
Across the hallway there are two more large bedrooms,
both with breathtaking views over the river,
and one of them has an en-suite shower room,
ideal for their visiting sons.
But they may have to be coaxed into leaving
once they've sampled this house's delights.
At the opposite end of the hall,
we've got one more bedroom to see.
Welcome to the master suite.
Oh, my goodness.
This is lovely, isn't it?
Always looking over to the river.
It's just lovely.
-There's only one more thing this room needs.
Oh, this way.
-Prepare to be surprised again.
Look at this!
-This is unbelievable.
-There's a shower.
This was a separate room that they converted into a bathroom
-that you could access from the landing before.
This mystery property is giving them that mystery element they thought wasn't achievable,
in that we're managing to downsize without compromising on space.
There isn't a double garage,
but the property comes with two residents' parking permits
at a yearly cost of around £100 each.
Landscaped gardens lie to the rear
with steps leading down to the river.
Bathed in the scent of that beautiful wisteria, it's time to talk money.
You've seen it all now.
We're back out here where it all began,
peaceful, quiet, the river flowing by.
-It's a lovely spot.
-You've opened our eyes to something we'd never seen.
We're delighted that we've seen it.
Will you be delighted once we've talked about the price?
That may be the problem.
That is the question.
It's time to deal with that one. Karen?
I think it would be at the top end of our budget.
So I suspect it would be probably £795,000 at least.
Yes, I'd say it's the absolute top of our budget, £800,000.
It's on the market at £850,000.
A lot to think about, isn't there?
I think so, cos it is a beautiful house.
It is absolutely beautiful. I agree.
I could even forego it being semi-detached.
But there's no noise, anyway.
Because it's peaceful.
Stop the press!
On that note...
-Aren't you surprised?
Go away and start to talk about how this could happen.
Have another wander round that kitchen, go on.
I will see you later on, and we'll talk decisions.
-Thanks very much.
That is the result I wanted.
Yesterday, so disappointing, saw their faces,
not quite the right location,
not quite the right house.
The mystery house, wouldn't have been on their list, has wowed them.
this incredible waterfront period property is, not surprisingly, over budget.
But it's awash with historic treasures.
On the ground floor there's an impressive, oak-panelled drawing room
and an enormous kitchen-dining room.
Upstairs, there's a family bathroom,
three guest bedrooms,
and, of course, the sumptuous master bedroom with en-suite.
And let's not forget that location,
right on the banks of the Thames with mooring and fishing rights.
This house doesn't tick many boxes.
It isn't detached, doesn't have two reception rooms,
nor a double garage.
But perhaps it's ticked that indefinable box.
The one that stirs your heart.
The mystery property was amazing.
It is a serious contender. It's something we could think about.
We could have a barge like that for you.
What would I do with it?
We could have your television in there, and a Sky dish on there.
Oh, yeah, that's true.
You can sail up and down to the pubs.
I'm very excited about the property
and I just hope that Karen has that same feeling as I have.
I'm sold on it.
Here they come, the lord and lady of the manor.
But not quite yet.
You've got some serious decisions to make now, haven't you?
Let's find you somewhere special to sit and think about them.
OK, thank you.
Being keen to immerse themselves in the community,
a village shop and a pub are often at the top of our buyers' wishlists.
But over the last two years, 1,200 rural shops have closed,
and it's expected that another 400 will shut by the end of 2010,
forcing people to travel into the towns for their shopping needs.
The village of Stanton Harcourt in rural Oxfordshire
lost its shop in 2009.
Fortunately the residents didn't have to wait too long for their groceries
because local landlord Derek Wilby took matters into his own hands,
and opened a shop in part of his pub.
You've been landlord a long while.
You must know the community well. How was it when they knew the shop was shutting?
A lot of people were really upset
because for the most part, if you haven't got a car or transport,
you can't get to the next village,
which is about three and a half miles away.
So it's pretty much a lifeline for most elderly residents, if you like.
And if you've just got home from work, for instance,
forgotten a pint of milk,
nip down to the local shop, there's your pint of milk,
chocolate, sweets, emergency buys, if you like, last-minute items.
As well as village shops,
country pubs are also facing an uncertain future.
It's estimated that more than 50 pubs close every week.
So diversifying to meet the needs of the community
is becoming a popular way of protecting their future.
In 2001, Prince Charles set up a scheme called The Pub Is The Hub,
which helps villages facing the same issues as those in Stanton Harcourt.
Since then, 350 pubs in England have sought advice from the organisation,
and they've gone on to diversify in ingenious ways,
ranging from shops to church services, and even keep-fit classes.
Recent reports state that only one pound in every five is spent on groceries from smaller stores
rather than larger supermarket chains,
which is further proof of the need to support local shops.
The shop in Derek's pub is open daily and stocks dairy products,
fresh fruit and vegetables, tinned items, and household essentials.
And in terms of fresh produce, do you source locally?
We try and buy locally from our regular suppliers,
but we also have people in the village with allotments,
growing their own fruit and veg,
that they'd like to push through the shop.
You couldn't get much more local.
There's even a chap with bees, wants to sell honey through us.
Very local honey.
It's just such a simple idea, yet it works so well.
And environmentally, overall,
the impact on the village, and your carbon footprint, so to speak,
must be much reduced.
Well, it is. And as well, with the locals coming here,
they can buy things in the shop,
so rather than having to go into town, to the next village,
their carbon footprint is reduced.
They're not travelling everywhere, they can walk, there's no driving.
No buses, no delivery vans.
-It's all local.
In difficult economic times, it's this type of initiative
that's vital for safeguarding the future of village businesses
and maintaining the community spirit of rural life.
It's so beautiful, who wouldn't want to live here?
And after yesterday's disappointment, today was so much better.
What I want to know now is whether Barry and Karen
are ready to put themselves first for a change, instead of their sons.
We've almost reached the end of our great escape.
You weren't just escaping to the country, were you?
You were trying to help the boys move out of the nest,
and find a home for you.
We started with, well,
let's be frank, we'll call it the roadside property.
It was on that lovely village lane.
It was a nice property. The kitchen was absolutely beautiful.
And also the lounge was nice.
So I think the rooms downstairs were very, very nice indeed.
The property itself looked very pretty, but it was that road.
I just could not have come to terms with that road.
Well, we went from there to a new-build property.
-So not as much history. It was made in 1995.
Location was lovely. You could walk to the river in minutes.
The kitchen was much too small.
There was nothing I felt I could do with the kitchen.
There was two reception rooms,
but I still couldn't have settled there.
Barry, what about you? We got you a double garage.
Yeah, the garage was nice.
Um, but the property didn't have any character as far as I was concerned.
I think it was clear that neither of those properties were for you.
But today, the sun came out,
we hit the river, and saw the mystery property.
-It was a surprise.
-I thought it was a marvellous property.
The history of the property, the size of the rooms,
then being on the river.
I mean, that made it very, very special.
The feeling of feeling comfortable and the history of the place.
It seemed like the place of my dreams.
The place of your dreams,
but it was quite a lot more in price than the other two.
Are you interested in our mystery house?
I think it's a serious contender.
We would seriously think about.
I'm more positive than Karen, and as far as I'm concerned,
I'd like to get hold of the people and see if we could come to a deal.
Now, that's some strong talk there, Barry.
-It is, isn't it?
-That's what I feel.
Well, this is fantastic news, particularly after day one,
to find a house so dramatic and so fitting for the two of you,
and I think you really deserve it, and it's just made my day.
It's something different for us.
The only thing that will really put the cherry on top
is if you put an offer in, and it's yours,
and I can sail down and have a cup of tea.
Thank you both for letting me share this part of the journey with you.
And let me know when you move in.
-Thanks very much.
We have had a laugh with Barry and Karen over the last few days,
and it ended on a high, with us finding a palace big enough
to fit the requirements of our downsizing couple.
And it seems as though finally,
their sons are going to have to find a new place to live.
I'll see you next time on Escape To The Country.
Barry and Karen really fell for our mystery house,
so much so that they made an offer £30,000 over the asking price.
But sadly, they were still outbid.
So the search continues, and we hope they find their dream property soon.
If you'd like to escape to the country in Scotland, Wales,
Northern Ireland or England,
and need our help, please apply online at bbc.co.uk/beonashow
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