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86% of the county I'm visiting today is given over to agricultural use,
which means it has a good claim to be the most rural county in England.
Find out where I am in just a moment in Escape To The Country.
On today's show, we'll be getting ecological,
as we help a couple to realise their green country dream.
Coming up, we've got some incredible properties that make the grade...
-Another box ticked.
..and others that make them giddy.
-You're lighting up in the eye.
-I like that!
But will it all end in carnage?
-Then you're going to make my life murder?
Today, I'm in Shropshire
and this county really has been formed by it's agriculture heritage.
There are still 7,000 active farms here, and this one,
home to these beautiful native breed, Aberdeen Angus cows,
This one is a pioneer, because it was one of the first in the county
to farm in an ecologically, environmentally and pleasing way.
That means that chaps and chapesses like this
are keeping the countryside fresh and beautiful for people like you.
Lying shoulder to shoulder with the Welsh border,
Shropshire may be one of England's quietest corners,
because it's one of the most sparsely populated
and rural counties in the country.
The Shropshire Hills, to the south,
are designated an area of outstanding natural beauty
and cover 300 square miles of undulating ranges and river valleys.
The county is dotted with attractive towns and villages.
One shining example is Ludlow. Renowned for its culinary excellence
and enchanting architecture, it has over 500 listed buildings
and was described by the poet, John Betjeman,
as "the perfect historic town".
When it comes to property prices, Shropshire is definitely a county in two halves.
The south, which is more picturesque and rural, is more expensive.
An average detached house there costs £304,000.
Because stock is limited and demand high,
prices are already going back up to pre-credit crunch levels.
The north was more badly affected by the economic slump
and even though it's well connected to the big industrial centres in the Midlands, it has got
lower house prices, about £50,000 less, than those in the south.
So, although the south is more desirable, if you go north,
you're going to get a lot more property for your money.
For a premium price tag of £1.1m,
this exquisite seven-bedroom country house
sits far north into the county, near Oswestry.
It is set in over seven acres of land
and has generous accommodation inside, arranged over three floors.
There are a whopping 16 acres surrounding this
modern five-bedroom property in Shrewsbury.
On the market for £695,000.
The upside-down layout places the open plan kitchen and living areas on the first floor,
to provide elevated far-reaching views across its own land and beyond.
Lastly, in the rural outskirts of Church Streatham, this attractive
stone and timber house started life as a school
and has been converted to create a unique four-bedroom home.
Costing £400,000, it features a stylish kitchen
and a main reception that maximises its individual character features.
You see, Shropshire has beautiful property and landscape,
just the antidote for a high-stressed, fast-paced city life.
Which is exactly what we need this week.
Practice nurse Anna and husband, Richard, have lived in their
comfortable four-bed family home in Berkhamsted for the past six years.
Perfectly placed to commute into London for Richard's banking job,
but after re-evaluating their priorities, Richard quit the City
last year and they've been busy hatching a plan which they hope
will bring business to the front door.
I think, ideally, I would like a house that is three to four bedroom,
where you could have a couple of bed and breakfast rooms.
Then, I think, we need some outbuildings that have the potential for development
into self-catering accommodation and then some land for further
expansion beyond that, if we're going to be building sustainable eco lodges in a beautiful environment.
An interesting project, but how much land do they need for their eco lodge business?
I think the minimum amount of land we're looking for is
at least five acres and, ideally, 20 or more,
-but I don't know how we'll get on with that in our budget.
I'm not sure how we'd manage that, either.
They've decided to start up this new venture in Shropshire.
Why do they think it will provide the perfect location for this project?
The county itself is a beautiful county, with lots of access
to other counties around it. So for us, I think it is ideal.
I don't think any of our daughters wants us living at the end of the road.
So, I think living in Shropshire is just about far enough from them.
Now that their three daughters have flown the nest, they're hoping for more quality time together.
So aside from guest accommodation, what kind of living quarters will provide their own sanctuary?
I'd love a house that was detached, light and airy with character features -
open fires, a range cooker, a big family area where all the children could come and congregate,
because this is where we live the most.
Major renovations have allowed them to double the footprint of their
their current home. Will they be up for that challenge again?
I'm prepared to go from a wreck to something that is immaculate,
so long as it's got the potential for all the other bits,
but Anna's probably going to be a bit more picky than I am.
I am not very happy to completely rough it and live in a mobile home.
Well, the jury's out on the extent of renovations
and they're undecided about whether to rent or sell their home.
Let's hope that a local estate agent will help them make up their mind.
This is a beautiful four-bedroomed detached home in a very sought-after location in Berkhamsted.
It's been extended and finished to the highest standard.
With that in mind, you're looking in the region of £1,050,000.
So, how much will have have to spend on the new enterprise in Shropshire?
Our budget is £750,000.
Richard and Anna's is a great story. Not only do they want a lifestyle change in a house in the country,
but they've got a good business proposition. They've done their maths, as well,
because £562m comes into Shropshire every year from the tourist trade.
Half of that comes from the 1.3m people who stay overnight.
So the eco lodges could really work.
The difficulty for me is that I have to find enough land to build the lodges and some outbuildings
to convert and, of course, a house for them to live in, too.
A strong client base is essential for Richard and Anna's ambition,
but location will be a key factor. So, we'll be focusing
our property search in the beautiful countryside
towards the south of the county, between the big tourist draws
of Shrewsbury and Ludlow.
We have some great properties lined up, each offering a variety
of opportunities, but I'll keep them guessing as to the cost.
Of course, there's the mystery house,
though they may have to stretch their gaze further west
to get the biggest business for their budget.
Welcome to Shropshire, got you out in the countryside.
Is this a dream you've been thinking about long?
It feels like I've had a 25-year break from what I really wanted to be doing, working in the city.
This is really a dream. It really is an opportunity to do
something that we were hankering after and talked about for a long time.
Let's talk briefly about the budget, you are selling your house now.
750 is still the budget, but does that include the cost of building all of the eco lodges, or what?
-What does it include?
-It's a phased kind of operation, really.
Initially, I think we need some income to supplement Anna's nursing income, which is not huge.
So if we have bed and breakfast, that will provide us the stability
and the comfort that we've got some income coming in.
If we then move to the next phase of having some outbuildings that we can convert to self-catering
accommodation, that's the next stage. And if there's land for further expansion of the eco lodges,
that gives us time to think about the designs, do more research
-and go from there.
-You are laying it on my shoulders today.
-We are, yes.
Three stages to cater for! Let's look at some properties.
For a top budget of £750,000,
Richard and Anna are looking for a project in South Shropshire
that has the potential for three phases of their letting operation,
including a three to four bedroom home to house themselves
and a couple of letting rooms.
Outbuildings to develop into self catering lets and Richard has his
heart on at least five acres of land on which to site some eco lodges.
Anna wants somewhere with period features
and the location needs to have good road links,
for paying guests and for when their three daughters visit.
Armed with an extensive wish list for their enterprise, let's get started.
The first stop takes us to Astley Abbots in South Shropshire,
a small village, set in picturesque countryside,
but only three miles from the market town of Bridgenorth.
After seeing Bridgenorth from the top of the town,
it's said that Charles I declared it "the finest view in all my kingdom".
By braving a trip on the cliff railway, that Vista can still be enjoyed today.
There's plenty going on here for potential clientele
and the streets are lined with fine period houses, many of which date back to the 16th and 17th century.
And when the many attractions have been exhausted,
the luscious rural outskirts of Astley Abbots have a perfect retreat.
That's where our first property can be found.
Comprising of a gorgeous black and white farmhouse and two brick-timber barns,
I think this place definitely delivers the period features Anna is looking for.
Come along, you two.
You gave us quite a tough brief. Without blowing our own trumpet,
-I think we've done pretty well with this first property. What do you think?
It has all of the outbuildings that we could make use of.
I suppose if I had an image in my mind of what I was expecting from the outside, this is pretty close to it.
It offers a lot of what you want, I think.
But I'm quite keen, because we haven't really talked about
-the "your house", part of it. So let's take a look at that.
'With a history that spans some 600 years, the buildings have been given grade two listing
'and the antique charm that shines on the exterior continues to delight inside.'
Come on in.
-Look at this.
-Do you like the period property?
I like this, but I'm surprised quite how high the ceilings are. It has a nice feel to it.
Well, it continues through in here.
You can see here the historical slopes and curves of the building.
-It's very light.
I thought when we went into that room everything was going to be pokey,
-but it's not.
I could sit here all day with a paper, it's lovely.
-It's very cosy, isn't it?
-It has a nice warm feel to it which is essential in a house.
-And the two rooms have been joined to make a duo of sitting rooms.
It's again very light, very airy.
This one has French windows out into the garden and a real fire.
-That's a working fire, then, yeah?
This is the living area, then we go into the kitchen quarters.
Now, this is the slightly more unusual thing to show you.
It sort of works like an old country kitchen,
-where you had a scullery and then a kitchen.
So this is one bit of the kitchen and this is the other bit.
It is slightly unusual.
This is where you cook, that's where you prepare. That's the traditional way.
For us, if it were just the two of us, this would work well,
but I do envisage this much more as a house to let out,
depending on what we would do with the barn conversions.
That is quite revolutionary.
Usually when we show people property on Escape To The Country,
they want a house to live in, but you're going to give up the best bits for the guests?
-Yeah. And live in a shed?
-Yes. But is it the best bits?
-because it depends on what we'd do with the barn conversion.
But I think this house has bags of character.
It has a lovely homely feel and ticks a lot of boxes for anybody coming on holiday.
I'd love a place like this on holiday.
So, immediately they're thinking with their heads, not their hearts.
If they can bear to give up the chance of living here themselves, there's no doubt that this would
make a luxurious rental proposition, but they don't have to make their minds up just yet
as there's more to see up on the first floor, where there are three bedrooms.
-Well, is it quaint?
I love the fireplace.
It's the right response. All of the rooms are about this size.
-This is the master bedroom, because of the view over the garden.
-It has. It's a beautiful view.
Must be be lovely to wake up and see that view.
There's not very much storage in this room and if the other room
is a similar size, that confirms to me that this might be a better holiday let than a house to live in.
I'm liking this line of thinking, it's unorthodox, but you know, let's go with it.
There are two further cosy twin bedrooms on this floor,
which both feature the original exposed timber work and there's also a decent sized family bathroom.
The whole farmhouse is ready for them to move straight in, if they wanted to,
but they're not convinced so we need to find somewhere they can call home
and I've earmarked one of the barns.
So this is the west barn.
Now, all of the space has planning permission.
They've already converted the other end into a little self-contained annexe.
-The cog wheels are whirring now.
-I think you could live in here, let that one, do that one up.
Then you've got two to let and one to live in.
I could really see this with the range and a nice, cosy armchair.
The more you talk about it, the more convincing your argument sounds.
But this would be perfect...
This would make a really good family area that you'd use a lot.
That's both guest and living quarters sorted.
The buildings have definitely ticked the boxes for phase one and two,
which just leaves phase three, the land.
In total, there are three acres here, so I think it's high time we talked eco lodges.
As it stands in south Shropshire,
in order to build the eco lodge that you want, you'd have to apply for perhaps a change of use of the land.
I was thinking you could do one long lodge, with three things...
I'm sure you've already thought of a thousand different options.
He's got a lot to say!
What more can you say? I mean, you know.
-This is just the cherry on the cake.
-Another box ticked.
It's not 20 acres. That's all.
It's not 20 acres. The thing that will make you think a lot is how much it costs.
-It is the price.
-I would say, I think it's less than our budget.
I would say 600 and something. 650.
I think it's more than that.
-I think it's more than that.
I think it's a nice house already.
It's got the planning permission, it's got three acres.
It's a nice location.
I'm going for 700.
Yeah, but how much would you have to spend doing the...? Anyway.
I'm not going to tell you. It's too exciting. A cliff hanger.
The price is, split the difference...
-675, that's not bad!
-If we do it in phases, the cashflow you generate from those will start funding this.
-It would, yeah.
-Have a little head scratch, although it sounds like you've decided already.
I'll meet you out in the courtyard and we can press on.
-Thank you. I want to have a look at this barn.
Amazing. They've completely topsy turvied all my ideas about what they were going to do with the house.
Changed it all round, they're going to live here instead of the other place, but it works.
I think they've got their heads screwed on completely the right way,
because the way they see it would work just fine for them.
What an incredible start.
Richard and Anna gave us a tall order and I think our first property has come up trumps.
For 675,000, this beautiful farmstead is brimming with character features.
Comprising of a stunning three bedroomed farmhouse and two brick and timber barns,
both of which have full planning permission for conversion, and all that sits in three acres of land.
That's not the acres upon acres that Richard initially specified,
so will there be enough space for his eco-lodge aspirations, or will he have to scale back his plans?
I think this could work really well.
It's not quite as big as we imagined, but a great start.
It may not have the land that Richard asked for in the beginning,
but I don't think that's a bad thing.
It's manageable here and it's just a great location.
I'm asking myself, what's the catch here?
It is almost idyllic and too good to be true.
The sweetest dog, unfortunately he doesn't come with the house, sadly.
-Had lots of thoughts?
Let's press on. Bye.
Richard and Anna's dream of creating a sustainable sanctuary in rural Shropshire means they'll want to be
within easy reach of some attractions to engage their guests.
So they met up with Helen Cromarty to tour the town of Much Wenlock
whose heritage is showcased through the medieval monastic ruins of the Wenlock Priory
and the Regency and Georgian buildings in the town centre.
But it's best known for its sporting prowess, having inspired the modern Olympic Games.
The Wenlock Olympian Games were begun here in 1850 by William Penny Brookes.
He inspired Baron Pierre de Coubertin to begin the Olympic movement
and the first Olympic Games, which were in 1896.
As the local doctor, Brookes' vision was to exercise the minds and bodies
of the poor townsfolk to keep them fit and well.
More than 100 years later, the Wenlock Games are still an annual fixture
that could provide a good source of income for our budding hoteliers.
We get between 2,000 to 5,000 spectators and competitors,
a good year is 5,000, you know,
but that's the time when accommodation here, bed and breakfast, is at a prime.
It's really a necessity.
-That's worth knowing, isn't it?
-It is, yeah.
A demand for lodgings is a priceless insider tip but before they cash in,
Richard and Anna have come to the foot of the Shropshire hills near Ludlow
to meet Kate Grubb at her eco holiday let to give them an idea of what's involved.
I built this six years ago, this is a simple timber frame.
It's insulated with sheep's wool, lined with reeds
and then lime plaster on the inside and clad with larch on the outside.
Eco lets come in all shapes and sizes and can be constructed from a variety of materials
which should be environmentally friendly and sourced locally where possible.
The same goes for all the furnishings and utilities inside, but it's essential to understand
the target market before committing to build.
There's now enough scope and enough people interested in taking a holiday like this,
that you can have a budget holiday, a luxury holiday, you can have all the way in-between.
Brits spent an extra £7 million holidaying on home turf last year.
Tapping into the eco tourist trade in south Shropshire is a good choice of location
as the county currently has a policy to support environmentally conscious developments like eco lets.
But it's our challenge to find Richard and Anna the land to build them.
We may have shown an extremely tempting proposition in the form of our first property,
but there's plenty more to see.
So we're heading west into the countryside that surrounds the small town of Bishop's Castle,
just over a mile away from the Welsh border.
With a few shops and places to eat and drink, the pretty agricultural scenery of Bishops's Castle
may be just the ticket for visitors who value peace and quiet.
A short drive out of the town into glorious unspoiled territory takes us to our second home.
This place has definitely got the upper hand when it comes to terrain.
It's approached by a very long private drive across its own land,
which totals some nine acres of breathtaking landscape as far as the eye can see.
So, you can see the house from the outside, it's a Welsh longhouse.
It was built probably... Victorian, 1840s, I should think.
I quite like the look of it.
Have you given us a bed and breakfast?
It seems to have a lot of rooms.
Can Anna ever take her mind off work?
This house actually doesn't operate as a B&B, the business side comes later.
It started life as a farmer's cottage
which has been modernised over time to create an attractive family home.
Come on in.
We go straight into the kitchen.
Oh, this is nice.
This is good. I like this.
You have got a proper utility room and a very big pantry.
-A walk-in pantry?
-A walk-in pantry.
-I like that.
What is also interesting is that there is planning permission, recently approved to extend...
This isn't listed?
An extension could be useful to add extra living areas,
but as it stands, there's still plenty of reception space.
Here's the sitting room.
-Lovely, I like the French doors, looking out.
-It's a nice room.
I like the proportions.
It doesn't hit me...
in the same way, I don't know about you?
That first property we looked at, that was real external visual appeal.
The way it was laid out around the courtyard.
This is all in one dimension, it's one room deep.
It's just a different layout.
It continues through to the study.
-Purpose-built book shelves.
-I like this.
-I like this.
This is very good, actually. I like this space.
I think there's going to be some competition for this space.
-That's the only problem.
-You could take out this bookshelf
and put a desk there so one person has a view down that side of the valley and the other...
No, this is going to be my room.
Well, we could have a fight on our hands as to who gets the study!
What's more, we've had no mention of guests yet.
We'll continue to explore upstairs where there are four bedrooms.
To one end lie two double rooms, a single and a family bathroom.
At the other end is the largest bedroom,
but will they be resting their heads here, or will it be for rental?
We've got a very swanky master suite.
A big en suite bathroom...
-And the bedroom.
-I like this.
I like the way it's decorated. I like the way it was decorated downstairs and the way it's done up here.
I think we could give this to the guests.
Ah, you're already planning who you could give it away to.
If this was a B&B, this would be your guest room because you've got the en suite.
The guests have won again.
It seems this beautiful house hasn't persuaded them to doff their business hats
in favour of a more comfortable retirement, so we better get outside and size up those nine acres.
There aren't any outbuildings here, but I want to talk about
alternative opportunities the land could present.
This is a different option from the first house which offered you phase one, two, three.
-Here we have phase one - the house where you can live, with amazing views.
-You could just stop there, if you like.
-We could just stop there.
-Tempting to pull up the drawbridge and forget phase two and phase three.
-Not bother working at all!
That's interesting you say that because that's phase one
-and I'm suggesting you skip on to phase three - the eco lodges.
-So you're missing out the bit that is hard work.
-But what happened to the holiday annexe?
-The reason you needed the holiday annexe was why?
-To fund stage three.
-To fund stage three.
-Yes, that's true.
-Bear that in mind and let's talk about the price of this.
-Oh, that is interesting.
Amazing house, what do you think it's on the market for?
-I'm guessing that this might be 675.
-Same as the first house.
-Yeah, because of its location.
-What do you think?
I think the location is going to count for a lot.
I think the land and the views will help.
I would come in under and say around 650.
Well, the reason why we've brought you to see this house is because this is on the market for £560,000.
-Wow! That's very good.
-Which means that you would walk away with 200,000 in your pocket...
-To do the eco lodges.
-To spring over the period between moving in, living here and having the eco lodges.
Yes, that's interesting.
That's given our buyers serious food for thought.
At £560,000, this property is so far under their budget,
it would leave them with almost £200,000 to put towards developing their long-term enterprise.
The house comes with four bedrooms - enough for a couple of B&B rooms,
but there's also planning permission to extend, which could give them
extra room alongside the large diner and study on the ground floor.
Although there are no outbuildings, the property is set in nine acres of incredible countryside.
That's plenty of room for eco lodges but will their ecological endeavour,
in principle, match their natural instincts in practice?
It's a fantastic site. It's absolutely stunning.
I can't think of a better place if you want to be in the middle of the country than here.
It's a beautiful location, but I think it would be a real shame to carve up the countryside
and put something which we regard as being kind to the environment into its place.
I'm very up for it.
I think you've got so much to gain in terms of this location.
I fear it may be a bridge too far for Anna.
My angst is, if it's an eco lodge, it's not just the way it's built
and how it's made, but where you site it.
I don't want to do anything that would harm the landscape.
I hope I have given you lots to think about and not made you too disheartened?
No, I'm not disheartened.
I didn't think so. Let's go on.
As the sun sets on what's been a very thought-provoking time in Shropshire,
the first day of our house hunt draws to a close.
With a budget of £750,000, Anna and Richard want to swap Berkhamsted's commuter belt,
for a more sustainable lifestyle in Shropshire.
Our tour so far has given them two fantastic properties with near clairvoyant precision.
If I had an image in my mind of what I was expecting outside, this is pretty close to it.
But coming up in the mystery house, who could have foreseen that Richard would be banished?
You'll be living with the geese, dear.
Things are hotting up in this property search. We love that.
Anna's a bit more keen to move into something that's ready made,
and ready to have some guests come and pay, and Richard,
he's going after the dream to break into unspoiled beautiful landscape
and build those eco lodges.
So, for us, the question is, how do we get the beautiful, unspoiled landscape,
but a bigger house for Anna for the same money?
Well, ta-da - we cross the border.
How do you feel about the location? We've been in south Shropshire,
through all of this lovely countryside,
are you wedded to that particular area or willing to look elsewhere?
I wouldn't want to go too far west, for example, because of
the accessibility for our daughters visiting, that kind of thing.
When you say too far west, what do you mean?
Anna's fear is about to come true, as we are indeed, venturing
even further west out of Shropshire, out of England and into Wales.
The twist of our mystery house is the location,
for it's in the rural wilds of Powys, four miles from Meifod.
There are a few shops and amenities in the small village of Meifod, but the area is largely countrified,
with rolling hills and sheep grazing. Although Anna might need some convincing,
the location should satisfy Richard's craving for an escape to the great outdoors.
Our mystery property actually meets a lot of their criteria,
but it will certainly test their geographical boundaries
and their commitment to a grand, ecological enterprise.
So, bore da, as they say in these parts. We're in Wales!
I think it's spectacular.
It is beautiful, isn't it? Look at the sun again.
-It's just fabulous.
-You're going to make Richard really happy and give him lots of land.
We're hoping to make you both happy.
That's what you're going to do! Then you'll make my life murder.
No. No. This property, we believe, offers you a lot of what both of you want.
Clearly Anna's very apprehensive, but she should be pleased to know
that we've really upped the space stakes with this house.
Spread over an enormous 4,500 square feet, it's been developed around an original 200-year old stable block,
sandwiched between two large modern extensions.
Right, you get a vista of your empire,
the eco empire. Look at that, though!
That is what I call a garden pond.
It certainly is. The island has a pair of nesting Canada geese. Anna, you're silent.
I'm more drawn to the view of the hills behind than the pond itself.
All of this land, none of it is protected, this is your woodland.
This, I think, would be a perfect spot to build some of your eco lodges.
You've got nine acres to play, you could put it anywhere, to be honest.
-Shall we have a look inside?
-Let's do that.
Come in. We talked so much about the outside, let's look at the inside.
I'll be honest, it's smaller than I expected. Is this the family room?
This is the main family room the biggest room in the house.
Great for our guests when we're living in a caravan further down the site!
You'll be living with the geese, dear!
I'd say that was a somewhat lukewarm response.
So, let's see if we can crank up the heat through the historic parts of the house.
The former stable block now houses a bedroom that the owners use as their master.
Another large bright double bedroom.
A family bathroom and a more intimate second sitting room.
Overall, an unconventional layout that could lend itself to a number of uses.
I'm hoping that the extended wing at the other end will finally fuel their imagination.
What do you think of this?
I like this. This is the kitchen, then.
It is the kitchen.
It's a good size.
-It's a lovely size, actually.
-I like it.
It is very similar in having a family room to what we have at the moment.
Unlike that wing, which is single storey, this wing goes down...
-..into some more accommodation.
At last, was that a flicker of interest?
It's clear they don't really care about the benefits of this place
as a restful family home, so let's talk work.
So, down here is an interesting business proposition.
You've got three bedrooms
and a bathroom. And they rent them out as B&Bs.
One of the interesting things you could do is
think about this complete end of the house as a letting unit
and then the far end of the property becomes our end.
-So put in another kitchen at that end?
It looks like it's business as usual.
The guests have come first again.
But I'm glad to see they're finally opening their minds as to how they
could tailor this property to suit both of them and their business.
So, time to get thinking about figures.
Down by the pond you can get a better view of the whole house.
So, it's a big chunk of property,
but also, I think a big chunk of potential land for your eco lodges.
-What do you think it's worth?
-I would say this is just under £500,000.
What do you think?
I think 450.
450! Well, it is nine acres,
it is about three times the size of the property yesterday.
This is actually on at 625.
Well, have a wander around and I'll meet you up front.
Under budget again at £625,000.
The mystery house is our biggest property and has a unique layout
that houses five bedrooms, a huge drawing room
and an impressive kitchen/family room.
There are nine acres of land, including its own lake and woodland.
In terms of their plan,
this place could help them reach their ultimate goal sooner,
but will they compromise on their preferred Shropshire location,
to get the space for their eco lodges in the Welsh countryside?
I think it lends itself more to the eco lodges here
than where we were yesterday afternoon, don't you think?
That view of the hillside, I can't get my eyes off it, it is absolutely beautiful.
You've given us the opportunity to look at somewhere with much more of a blank canvass,
where it's probably going to be easier to build the eco lodges and it's really good to see that.
I can imagine the setting being really delightful when guests arrive,
but the access to get here may be pretty poor.
In a rental market, you would be looking much more
at the fine weather rather than when the weather's bad.
It wasn't the most enthusiastic response to a mystery house we've had on the show
but it may have brought everything into focus, surely a good thing.
time for some decision-making, but not here.
During the week, I couldn't miss the opportunity to visit a farm on the Weald Moors near Newport,
which is one of the first and one of the largest farms in Shropshire
to take up the Government funded higher level stewardship-scheme.
With biodiversity under threat, through the rise of modern and more intensive farming techniques,
this scheme was originally designed in 1991
and aims to support farmers financially, so they can operate
in a more environmentally and sustainable way. I'm meeting up with the farm's owner, Georgina Dobson,
to find out more.
What's the benefit of the scheme?
It means that the environmental resources we've got on the farm
aren't being depleted and hopefully they're getting enhanced.
Having things like hedgerows isn't really economically viable.
It's a lot cheaper to go in and just put a post and rail fence in. If we're being driven
solely by the economics of it, all of those things would have suffered and the wildlife would have suffered.
While the scheme promotes biodiversity
and aims to provide protection for native wildlife and their habitats, it hasn't meant that Georgina's farm
has been turned into a nature reserve.
This is a working farm set in over 400 acres of land
which has been in her family for some 40 years and now specialises
in hardy heritage breeds.
So, these are the red poll cows and calves, these calves are probably a couple of months old.
So they're a traditional breed.
What's distinctive about them? They're reddish.
Well, they're a dual purpose cattle, so you can either milk them or have them as beef.
So, even though there is a market for these heritage breeds,
that's not the reason why you introduced them, is it?
Continental breeds of cattle would require a more nutritious forage than the grass that we're growing here,
so these traditional breeds can actually thrive on the poorer quality grass that we're growing.
So, in many ways, the land determines what you do with it rather than the other way around?
Yes. Exactly! We've looked at the environmental assets
that we've got and tried to build on that.
It's not just about working the assets, it's also about enjoying them.
Through the development of a network of footpaths and bridleways,
there's public access to the varied natural environment.
It includes wild flower meadows and wetlands.
On a personal level I know that
your mum and dad had the farm and they went into the stewardship programme.
Would you have taken on the farm before then?
I think going into the scheme has definitely made me more interested in it.
It's certainly an area I would like to see, develop and carry on with.
I've got a young daughter, I want to make sure that she can enjoy it too.
It is something we can pass on to future generations, hopefully in a better state than we got it in.
Well, it looks like this part of Shropshire is in safe hands,
but what does the future hold for our other eco warriors?
Richard and Anna set us a real challenge with the eco lodge projects.
It's been interesting to see how the eco lodges have faded in and out of focus
with each house that we've shown them.
Now it's time to find out which of those houses you liked the best.
-Here you are, guys. So, a busy couple of days?
Talking about the first house, which was the lovely farmhouse.
-Tell me about that?
-That house which looks so good in that location, you know, scored a lot of points.
We've been away and thought about it.
There are lots of ways you could make that work both as a home and a business.
Despite the amount of land that it had, it would have been even nicer if it had more land
but sometimes that's the compromise you have to make when you're getting a lot of other things that you want.
Let's talk about the second house, what it offered in terms of the house and the land.
What do you think about it now?
I don't think that all nine acres of that land were usable.
You could put eco lodges on either side of the valley, but in many ways that's not what we wanted to do.
We set out with the idea that people who come in to eco lodges don't want to be on top of each other.
I think the location was almost too beautiful in the sense that
I felt really quite strongly you could have spoiled the landscape by having eco lodges there.
Now, the mystery house did not set you afire, but I was wondering if it made you think about certain things,
the issue of the eco lodges, the location, whether those things had crystalised in your mind.
The house itself was big, it was rambling.
You could have used it in different ways, but it didn't grab us enough to even want to try.
Overall, the eco lodges, how do you feel about them generally, in the long view?
We learned that it's not as simple coming down to a site and shoving something on the ground.
You have to work with the site that you are on.
I don't really need to ask, but which of the houses did you like
the best and what's going to happen next?
-Well, we received an offer on our house at home today.
We haven't accepted it yet. It may be that this catalytic week is even more shattering than we expected.
So, that's a possibility.
I think it's safe to say... You explain what I'm going to do next.
We're going to go for a second viewing, funnily enough at the farmhouse.
If they accept the offer, or if YOU accept the offer,
-would you put in an offer on the farmhouse?
-We'd like to see the conversion plans.
We'd like to talk to the vendors about the history of the house.
Why they haven't done that sort of thing themselves, but I think if
we didn't unearth real problems, I feel very tempted to put an offer in.
-Wow, that's fantastic.
Well, you've been great fun and very inventive -
with the first house, you totally turned our ideas of what the use of that house was on its head,
and came up with a whole new set of uses for different rooms and different houses.
-So, good luck!
-Good luck. I hope that they pay up and buy your house.
-Thank you very much.
Well, that's a turn up for the books.
Richard and Anna gave us the brief that they wanted lots and lots of land
to build modern and innovative buildings and, in the end, they went for the property
that had the smallest parcel of the land and was full of old antique barns.
But that's part of the magic of Escape To The Country, so make sure you join us for more next time.
I'm delighted to report that, after a second viewing,
Richard and Anna made an offer on the farmhouse, which was accepted.
So we wish them all the best with their new life in Shropshire.
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