Shropshire Escape to the Country


Shropshire

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86% of the county I'm visiting today is given over to agricultural use,

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which means it has a good claim to be the most rural county in England.

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Find out where I am in just a moment in Escape To The Country.

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On today's show, we'll be getting ecological,

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as we help a couple to realise their green country dream.

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Coming up, we've got some incredible properties that make the grade...

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-Another box ticked.

-Yeah.

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..and others that make them giddy.

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-You're lighting up in the eye.

-I like that!

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But will it all end in carnage?

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-Then you're going to make my life murder?

-No.

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Today, I'm in Shropshire

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and this county really has been formed by it's agriculture heritage.

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There are still 7,000 active farms here, and this one,

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home to these beautiful native breed, Aberdeen Angus cows,

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eating away.

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This one is a pioneer, because it was one of the first in the county

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to farm in an ecologically, environmentally and pleasing way.

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That means that chaps and chapesses like this

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are keeping the countryside fresh and beautiful for people like you.

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Lying shoulder to shoulder with the Welsh border,

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Shropshire may be one of England's quietest corners,

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because it's one of the most sparsely populated

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and rural counties in the country.

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The Shropshire Hills, to the south,

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are designated an area of outstanding natural beauty

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and cover 300 square miles of undulating ranges and river valleys.

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The county is dotted with attractive towns and villages.

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One shining example is Ludlow. Renowned for its culinary excellence

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and enchanting architecture, it has over 500 listed buildings

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and was described by the poet, John Betjeman,

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as "the perfect historic town".

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When it comes to property prices, Shropshire is definitely a county in two halves.

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The south, which is more picturesque and rural, is more expensive.

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An average detached house there costs £304,000.

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Because stock is limited and demand high,

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prices are already going back up to pre-credit crunch levels.

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The north was more badly affected by the economic slump

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and even though it's well connected to the big industrial centres in the Midlands, it has got

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lower house prices, about £50,000 less, than those in the south.

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So, although the south is more desirable, if you go north,

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you're going to get a lot more property for your money.

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For a premium price tag of £1.1m,

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this exquisite seven-bedroom country house

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sits far north into the county, near Oswestry.

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It is set in over seven acres of land

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and has generous accommodation inside, arranged over three floors.

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There are a whopping 16 acres surrounding this

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modern five-bedroom property in Shrewsbury.

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On the market for £695,000.

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The upside-down layout places the open plan kitchen and living areas on the first floor,

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to provide elevated far-reaching views across its own land and beyond.

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Lastly, in the rural outskirts of Church Streatham, this attractive

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stone and timber house started life as a school

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and has been converted to create a unique four-bedroom home.

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Costing £400,000, it features a stylish kitchen

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and a main reception that maximises its individual character features.

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You see, Shropshire has beautiful property and landscape,

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just the antidote for a high-stressed, fast-paced city life.

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Which is exactly what we need this week.

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Practice nurse Anna and husband, Richard, have lived in their

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comfortable four-bed family home in Berkhamsted for the past six years.

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Perfectly placed to commute into London for Richard's banking job,

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but after re-evaluating their priorities, Richard quit the City

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last year and they've been busy hatching a plan which they hope

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will bring business to the front door.

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I think, ideally, I would like a house that is three to four bedroom,

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where you could have a couple of bed and breakfast rooms.

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Then, I think, we need some outbuildings that have the potential for development

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into self-catering accommodation and then some land for further

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expansion beyond that, if we're going to be building sustainable eco lodges in a beautiful environment.

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An interesting project, but how much land do they need for their eco lodge business?

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I think the minimum amount of land we're looking for is

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at least five acres and, ideally, 20 or more,

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-but I don't know how we'll get on with that in our budget.

-No.

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I'm not sure how we'd manage that, either.

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They've decided to start up this new venture in Shropshire.

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Why do they think it will provide the perfect location for this project?

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The county itself is a beautiful county, with lots of access

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to other counties around it. So for us, I think it is ideal.

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I don't think any of our daughters wants us living at the end of the road.

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So, I think living in Shropshire is just about far enough from them.

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Now that their three daughters have flown the nest, they're hoping for more quality time together.

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So aside from guest accommodation, what kind of living quarters will provide their own sanctuary?

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I'd love a house that was detached, light and airy with character features -

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open fires, a range cooker, a big family area where all the children could come and congregate,

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because this is where we live the most.

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Major renovations have allowed them to double the footprint of their

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their current home. Will they be up for that challenge again?

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I'm prepared to go from a wreck to something that is immaculate,

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so long as it's got the potential for all the other bits,

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but Anna's probably going to be a bit more picky than I am.

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I am not very happy to completely rough it and live in a mobile home.

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Well, the jury's out on the extent of renovations

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and they're undecided about whether to rent or sell their home.

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Let's hope that a local estate agent will help them make up their mind.

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This is a beautiful four-bedroomed detached home in a very sought-after location in Berkhamsted.

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It's been extended and finished to the highest standard.

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With that in mind, you're looking in the region of £1,050,000.

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So, how much will have have to spend on the new enterprise in Shropshire?

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Our budget is £750,000.

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Richard and Anna's is a great story. Not only do they want a lifestyle change in a house in the country,

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but they've got a good business proposition. They've done their maths, as well,

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because £562m comes into Shropshire every year from the tourist trade.

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Half of that comes from the 1.3m people who stay overnight.

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So the eco lodges could really work.

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The difficulty for me is that I have to find enough land to build the lodges and some outbuildings

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to convert and, of course, a house for them to live in, too.

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A strong client base is essential for Richard and Anna's ambition,

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but location will be a key factor. So, we'll be focusing

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our property search in the beautiful countryside

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towards the south of the county, between the big tourist draws

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of Shrewsbury and Ludlow.

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We have some great properties lined up, each offering a variety

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of opportunities, but I'll keep them guessing as to the cost.

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Of course, there's the mystery house,

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though they may have to stretch their gaze further west

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to get the biggest business for their budget.

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Welcome to Shropshire, got you out in the countryside.

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Is this a dream you've been thinking about long?

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It feels like I've had a 25-year break from what I really wanted to be doing, working in the city.

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This is really a dream. It really is an opportunity to do

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something that we were hankering after and talked about for a long time.

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Let's talk briefly about the budget, you are selling your house now.

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750 is still the budget, but does that include the cost of building all of the eco lodges, or what?

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-What does it include?

-It's a phased kind of operation, really.

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Initially, I think we need some income to supplement Anna's nursing income, which is not huge.

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So if we have bed and breakfast, that will provide us the stability

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and the comfort that we've got some income coming in.

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If we then move to the next phase of having some outbuildings that we can convert to self-catering

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accommodation, that's the next stage. And if there's land for further expansion of the eco lodges,

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that gives us time to think about the designs, do more research

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-and go from there.

-You are laying it on my shoulders today.

-We are, yes.

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Three stages to cater for! Let's look at some properties.

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For a top budget of £750,000,

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Richard and Anna are looking for a project in South Shropshire

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that has the potential for three phases of their letting operation,

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including a three to four bedroom home to house themselves

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and a couple of letting rooms.

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Outbuildings to develop into self catering lets and Richard has his

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heart on at least five acres of land on which to site some eco lodges.

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Anna wants somewhere with period features

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and the location needs to have good road links,

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for paying guests and for when their three daughters visit.

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Armed with an extensive wish list for their enterprise, let's get started.

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The first stop takes us to Astley Abbots in South Shropshire,

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a small village, set in picturesque countryside,

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but only three miles from the market town of Bridgenorth.

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After seeing Bridgenorth from the top of the town,

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it's said that Charles I declared it "the finest view in all my kingdom".

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By braving a trip on the cliff railway, that Vista can still be enjoyed today.

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There's plenty going on here for potential clientele

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and the streets are lined with fine period houses, many of which date back to the 16th and 17th century.

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And when the many attractions have been exhausted,

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the luscious rural outskirts of Astley Abbots have a perfect retreat.

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That's where our first property can be found.

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Comprising of a gorgeous black and white farmhouse and two brick-timber barns,

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I think this place definitely delivers the period features Anna is looking for.

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Come along, you two.

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You gave us quite a tough brief. Without blowing our own trumpet,

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-I think we've done pretty well with this first property. What do you think?

-It's lovely.

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It has all of the outbuildings that we could make use of.

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I suppose if I had an image in my mind of what I was expecting from the outside, this is pretty close to it.

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It offers a lot of what you want, I think.

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But I'm quite keen, because we haven't really talked about

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-the "your house", part of it. So let's take a look at that.

-OK.

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'With a history that spans some 600 years, the buildings have been given grade two listing

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'and the antique charm that shines on the exterior continues to delight inside.'

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Come on in.

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-Look at this.

-Do you like the period property?

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I like this, but I'm surprised quite how high the ceilings are. It has a nice feel to it.

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Well, it continues through in here.

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You can see here the historical slopes and curves of the building.

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-It's very light.

-Yeah.

-Surprisingly light.

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I thought when we went into that room everything was going to be pokey,

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-but it's not.

-Yeah.

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I could sit here all day with a paper, it's lovely.

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-It's very cosy, isn't it?

-It is.

-It has a nice warm feel to it which is essential in a house.

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-Yeah.

-And the two rooms have been joined to make a duo of sitting rooms.

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It's again very light, very airy.

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Nice proportions.

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This one has French windows out into the garden and a real fire.

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-That's a working fire, then, yeah?

-Hmm.

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This is the living area, then we go into the kitchen quarters.

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Now, this is the slightly more unusual thing to show you.

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It sort of works like an old country kitchen,

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-where you had a scullery and then a kitchen.

-Oh!

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So this is one bit of the kitchen and this is the other bit.

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It is slightly unusual.

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This is where you cook, that's where you prepare. That's the traditional way.

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For us, if it were just the two of us, this would work well,

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but I do envisage this much more as a house to let out,

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depending on what we would do with the barn conversions.

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That is quite revolutionary.

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Usually when we show people property on Escape To The Country,

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they want a house to live in, but you're going to give up the best bits for the guests?

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-Yeah. And live in a shed?

-Yes. But is it the best bits?

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-because it depends on what we'd do with the barn conversion.

-True.

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But I think this house has bags of character.

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It has a lovely homely feel and ticks a lot of boxes for anybody coming on holiday.

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I'd love a place like this on holiday.

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So, immediately they're thinking with their heads, not their hearts.

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If they can bear to give up the chance of living here themselves, there's no doubt that this would

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make a luxurious rental proposition, but they don't have to make their minds up just yet

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as there's more to see up on the first floor, where there are three bedrooms.

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-Well, is it quaint?

-It's beautiful.

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I love the fireplace.

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It's the right response. All of the rooms are about this size.

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-This is the master bedroom, because of the view over the garden.

-It has. It's a beautiful view.

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Must be be lovely to wake up and see that view.

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There's not very much storage in this room and if the other room

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is a similar size, that confirms to me that this might be a better holiday let than a house to live in.

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I'm liking this line of thinking, it's unorthodox, but you know, let's go with it.

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There are two further cosy twin bedrooms on this floor,

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which both feature the original exposed timber work and there's also a decent sized family bathroom.

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The whole farmhouse is ready for them to move straight in, if they wanted to,

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but they're not convinced so we need to find somewhere they can call home

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and I've earmarked one of the barns.

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So this is the west barn.

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Interesting.

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Now, all of the space has planning permission.

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They've already converted the other end into a little self-contained annexe.

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-The cog wheels are whirring now.

-Yeah.

-I think you could live in here, let that one, do that one up.

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Then you've got two to let and one to live in.

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I could really see this with the range and a nice, cosy armchair.

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The more you talk about it, the more convincing your argument sounds.

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But this would be perfect...

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This would make a really good family area that you'd use a lot.

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That's both guest and living quarters sorted.

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The buildings have definitely ticked the boxes for phase one and two,

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which just leaves phase three, the land.

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In total, there are three acres here, so I think it's high time we talked eco lodges.

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As it stands in south Shropshire,

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in order to build the eco lodge that you want, you'd have to apply for perhaps a change of use of the land.

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I was thinking you could do one long lodge, with three things...

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I'm sure you've already thought of a thousand different options.

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It's great.

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It's great.

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He's got a lot to say!

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What more can you say? I mean, you know.

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-This is just the cherry on the cake.

-Another box ticked.

-Yeah.

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It's not 20 acres. That's all.

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It's not 20 acres. The thing that will make you think a lot is how much it costs.

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-It is the price.

-I would say, I think it's less than our budget.

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I would say 600 and something. 650.

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I think it's more than that.

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-Do you?

-I think it's more than that.

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I think it's a nice house already.

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It's got the planning permission, it's got three acres.

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It's a nice location.

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I'm going for 700.

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Yeah, but how much would you have to spend doing the...? Anyway.

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I'm not going to tell you. It's too exciting. A cliff hanger.

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The price is, split the difference...

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-675.

-675, that's not bad!

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-If we do it in phases, the cashflow you generate from those will start funding this.

-Absolutely.

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-It would, yeah.

-Have a little head scratch, although it sounds like you've decided already.

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I'll meet you out in the courtyard and we can press on.

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-Great.

-Thank you. I want to have a look at this barn.

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Amazing. They've completely topsy turvied all my ideas about what they were going to do with the house.

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Changed it all round, they're going to live here instead of the other place, but it works.

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I think they've got their heads screwed on completely the right way,

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because the way they see it would work just fine for them.

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What an incredible start.

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Richard and Anna gave us a tall order and I think our first property has come up trumps.

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For 675,000, this beautiful farmstead is brimming with character features.

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Comprising of a stunning three bedroomed farmhouse and two brick and timber barns,

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both of which have full planning permission for conversion, and all that sits in three acres of land.

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That's not the acres upon acres that Richard initially specified,

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so will there be enough space for his eco-lodge aspirations, or will he have to scale back his plans?

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I think this could work really well.

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It's not quite as big as we imagined, but a great start.

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It may not have the land that Richard asked for in the beginning,

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but I don't think that's a bad thing.

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It's manageable here and it's just a great location.

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I'm asking myself, what's the catch here?

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It is almost idyllic and too good to be true.

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The sweetest dog, unfortunately he doesn't come with the house, sadly.

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-Had lots of thoughts?

-Definitely.

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Let's press on. Bye.

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Richard and Anna's dream of creating a sustainable sanctuary in rural Shropshire means they'll want to be

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within easy reach of some attractions to engage their guests.

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So they met up with Helen Cromarty to tour the town of Much Wenlock

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whose heritage is showcased through the medieval monastic ruins of the Wenlock Priory

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and the Regency and Georgian buildings in the town centre.

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But it's best known for its sporting prowess, having inspired the modern Olympic Games.

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The Wenlock Olympian Games were begun here in 1850 by William Penny Brookes.

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He inspired Baron Pierre de Coubertin to begin the Olympic movement

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and the first Olympic Games, which were in 1896.

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As the local doctor, Brookes' vision was to exercise the minds and bodies

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of the poor townsfolk to keep them fit and well.

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More than 100 years later, the Wenlock Games are still an annual fixture

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that could provide a good source of income for our budding hoteliers.

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We get between 2,000 to 5,000 spectators and competitors,

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a good year is 5,000, you know,

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but that's the time when accommodation here, bed and breakfast, is at a prime.

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It's really a necessity.

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-That's worth knowing, isn't it?

-It is, yeah.

0:19:330:19:36

A demand for lodgings is a priceless insider tip but before they cash in,

0:19:380:19:43

Richard and Anna have come to the foot of the Shropshire hills near Ludlow

0:19:430:19:48

to meet Kate Grubb at her eco holiday let to give them an idea of what's involved.

0:19:480:19:53

I built this six years ago, this is a simple timber frame.

0:19:530:19:57

It's insulated with sheep's wool, lined with reeds

0:19:570:20:01

and then lime plaster on the inside and clad with larch on the outside.

0:20:010:20:07

Eco lets come in all shapes and sizes and can be constructed from a variety of materials

0:20:070:20:13

which should be environmentally friendly and sourced locally where possible.

0:20:130:20:17

The same goes for all the furnishings and utilities inside, but it's essential to understand

0:20:170:20:21

the target market before committing to build.

0:20:210:20:25

There's now enough scope and enough people interested in taking a holiday like this,

0:20:250:20:31

that you can have a budget holiday, a luxury holiday, you can have all the way in-between.

0:20:310:20:37

Brits spent an extra £7 million holidaying on home turf last year.

0:20:370:20:42

Tapping into the eco tourist trade in south Shropshire is a good choice of location

0:20:420:20:47

as the county currently has a policy to support environmentally conscious developments like eco lets.

0:20:470:20:53

But it's our challenge to find Richard and Anna the land to build them.

0:20:530:20:58

We may have shown an extremely tempting proposition in the form of our first property,

0:21:000:21:05

but there's plenty more to see.

0:21:050:21:07

So we're heading west into the countryside that surrounds the small town of Bishop's Castle,

0:21:070:21:14

just over a mile away from the Welsh border.

0:21:140:21:16

With a few shops and places to eat and drink, the pretty agricultural scenery of Bishops's Castle

0:21:160:21:21

may be just the ticket for visitors who value peace and quiet.

0:21:210:21:26

A short drive out of the town into glorious unspoiled territory takes us to our second home.

0:21:260:21:32

This place has definitely got the upper hand when it comes to terrain.

0:21:320:21:36

It's approached by a very long private drive across its own land,

0:21:360:21:40

which totals some nine acres of breathtaking landscape as far as the eye can see.

0:21:400:21:47

So, you can see the house from the outside, it's a Welsh longhouse.

0:21:470:21:51

It was built probably... Victorian, 1840s, I should think.

0:21:510:21:55

I quite like the look of it.

0:21:550:21:56

Have you given us a bed and breakfast?

0:21:560:21:59

It seems to have a lot of rooms.

0:21:590:22:01

Can Anna ever take her mind off work?

0:22:010:22:04

This house actually doesn't operate as a B&B, the business side comes later.

0:22:040:22:08

It started life as a farmer's cottage

0:22:080:22:11

which has been modernised over time to create an attractive family home.

0:22:110:22:14

Come on in.

0:22:190:22:22

We go straight into the kitchen.

0:22:220:22:24

Oh, this is nice.

0:22:270:22:29

This is good. I like this.

0:22:290:22:31

You have got a proper utility room and a very big pantry.

0:22:310:22:35

-A walk-in pantry?

-A walk-in pantry.

-Lovely.

0:22:350:22:39

-I like that.

-Very good.

0:22:390:22:42

What is also interesting is that there is planning permission, recently approved to extend...

0:22:420:22:48

This isn't listed?

0:22:480:22:50

-It's not.

-Great.

0:22:500:22:52

An extension could be useful to add extra living areas,

0:22:520:22:55

but as it stands, there's still plenty of reception space.

0:22:550:22:59

Here's the sitting room.

0:22:590:23:00

-Lovely, I like the French doors, looking out.

-It's a nice room.

0:23:000:23:05

I like the proportions.

0:23:050:23:07

It doesn't hit me...

0:23:070:23:09

in the same way, I don't know about you?

0:23:090:23:12

That first property we looked at, that was real external visual appeal.

0:23:120:23:18

The way it was laid out around the courtyard.

0:23:180:23:21

This is all in one dimension, it's one room deep.

0:23:210:23:26

It's just a different layout.

0:23:280:23:31

It continues through to the study.

0:23:310:23:34

-Purpose-built book shelves.

-I like this.

-I like this.

0:23:360:23:39

This is very good, actually. I like this space.

0:23:390:23:43

I think there's going to be some competition for this space.

0:23:430:23:45

-That's the only problem.

-You could take out this bookshelf

0:23:450:23:49

and put a desk there so one person has a view down that side of the valley and the other...

0:23:490:23:53

No, this is going to be my room.

0:23:530:23:54

Well, we could have a fight on our hands as to who gets the study!

0:23:540:23:58

What's more, we've had no mention of guests yet.

0:23:580:24:01

We'll continue to explore upstairs where there are four bedrooms.

0:24:010:24:06

To one end lie two double rooms, a single and a family bathroom.

0:24:060:24:10

At the other end is the largest bedroom,

0:24:100:24:13

but will they be resting their heads here, or will it be for rental?

0:24:130:24:18

We've got a very swanky master suite.

0:24:180:24:21

A big en suite bathroom...

0:24:210:24:25

-And the bedroom.

-I like this.

0:24:250:24:27

I like the way it's decorated. I like the way it was decorated downstairs and the way it's done up here.

0:24:270:24:34

I think we could give this to the guests.

0:24:340:24:36

Ah, you're already planning who you could give it away to.

0:24:360:24:39

If this was a B&B, this would be your guest room because you've got the en suite.

0:24:390:24:43

The guests have won again.

0:24:430:24:46

It seems this beautiful house hasn't persuaded them to doff their business hats

0:24:460:24:51

in favour of a more comfortable retirement, so we better get outside and size up those nine acres.

0:24:510:24:58

There aren't any outbuildings here, but I want to talk about

0:24:580:25:01

alternative opportunities the land could present.

0:25:010:25:04

This is a different option from the first house which offered you phase one, two, three.

0:25:040:25:10

-Here we have phase one - the house where you can live, with amazing views.

-Absolutely.

0:25:100:25:16

-You could just stop there, if you like.

-We could just stop there.

0:25:160:25:19

-Tempting to pull up the drawbridge and forget phase two and phase three.

-Not bother working at all!

0:25:190:25:25

That's interesting you say that because that's phase one

0:25:250:25:29

-and I'm suggesting you skip on to phase three - the eco lodges.

-OK.

0:25:290:25:34

-So you're missing out the bit that is hard work.

-But what happened to the holiday annexe?

0:25:340:25:39

-The reason you needed the holiday annexe was why?

-To fund stage three.

-To fund stage three.

0:25:390:25:46

-Yes, that's true.

-Bear that in mind and let's talk about the price of this.

-Oh, that is interesting.

0:25:460:25:52

Amazing house, what do you think it's on the market for?

0:25:520:25:55

-I'm guessing that this might be 675.

-Same as the first house.

0:25:550:26:00

-Yeah, because of its location.

-What do you think?

0:26:000:26:03

I think the location is going to count for a lot.

0:26:030:26:05

I think the land and the views will help.

0:26:050:26:09

I would come in under and say around 650.

0:26:090:26:15

Well, the reason why we've brought you to see this house is because this is on the market for £560,000.

0:26:150:26:22

-Wow! That's very good.

-Which means that you would walk away with 200,000 in your pocket...

0:26:220:26:28

-To do the eco lodges.

-To spring over the period between moving in, living here and having the eco lodges.

0:26:280:26:35

Yes, that's interesting.

0:26:350:26:37

That's given our buyers serious food for thought.

0:26:390:26:41

At £560,000, this property is so far under their budget,

0:26:410:26:46

it would leave them with almost £200,000 to put towards developing their long-term enterprise.

0:26:460:26:52

The house comes with four bedrooms - enough for a couple of B&B rooms,

0:26:520:26:57

but there's also planning permission to extend, which could give them

0:26:570:27:01

extra room alongside the large diner and study on the ground floor.

0:27:010:27:05

Although there are no outbuildings, the property is set in nine acres of incredible countryside.

0:27:050:27:10

That's plenty of room for eco lodges but will their ecological endeavour,

0:27:100:27:14

in principle, match their natural instincts in practice?

0:27:140:27:19

It's a fantastic site. It's absolutely stunning.

0:27:190:27:22

I can't think of a better place if you want to be in the middle of the country than here.

0:27:220:27:27

It's a beautiful location, but I think it would be a real shame to carve up the countryside

0:27:270:27:32

and put something which we regard as being kind to the environment into its place.

0:27:320:27:38

I'm very up for it.

0:27:380:27:40

I think you've got so much to gain in terms of this location.

0:27:400:27:44

I fear it may be a bridge too far for Anna.

0:27:440:27:47

My angst is, if it's an eco lodge, it's not just the way it's built

0:27:470:27:51

and how it's made, but where you site it.

0:27:510:27:55

I don't want to do anything that would harm the landscape.

0:27:550:27:58

I hope I have given you lots to think about and not made you too disheartened?

0:27:580:28:01

No, I'm not disheartened.

0:28:010:28:03

I didn't think so. Let's go on.

0:28:030:28:06

As the sun sets on what's been a very thought-provoking time in Shropshire,

0:28:110:28:16

the first day of our house hunt draws to a close.

0:28:160:28:20

With a budget of £750,000, Anna and Richard want to swap Berkhamsted's commuter belt,

0:28:210:28:27

for a more sustainable lifestyle in Shropshire.

0:28:270:28:31

Our tour so far has given them two fantastic properties with near clairvoyant precision.

0:28:310:28:37

If I had an image in my mind of what I was expecting outside, this is pretty close to it.

0:28:370:28:43

But coming up in the mystery house, who could have foreseen that Richard would be banished?

0:28:430:28:48

You'll be living with the geese, dear.

0:28:480:28:51

Things are hotting up in this property search. We love that.

0:28:540:28:57

Anna's a bit more keen to move into something that's ready made,

0:28:570:29:01

and ready to have some guests come and pay, and Richard,

0:29:010:29:05

he's going after the dream to break into unspoiled beautiful landscape

0:29:050:29:09

and build those eco lodges.

0:29:090:29:11

So, for us, the question is, how do we get the beautiful, unspoiled landscape,

0:29:110:29:16

but a bigger house for Anna for the same money?

0:29:160:29:20

Well, ta-da - we cross the border.

0:29:200:29:24

How do you feel about the location? We've been in south Shropshire,

0:29:280:29:32

through all of this lovely countryside,

0:29:320:29:34

are you wedded to that particular area or willing to look elsewhere?

0:29:340:29:37

I wouldn't want to go too far west, for example, because of

0:29:370:29:42

the accessibility for our daughters visiting, that kind of thing.

0:29:420:29:46

When you say too far west, what do you mean?

0:29:460:29:49

Wales!

0:29:490:29:51

Anna's fear is about to come true, as we are indeed, venturing

0:29:520:29:55

even further west out of Shropshire, out of England and into Wales.

0:29:550:30:00

The twist of our mystery house is the location,

0:30:000:30:03

for it's in the rural wilds of Powys, four miles from Meifod.

0:30:030:30:06

There are a few shops and amenities in the small village of Meifod, but the area is largely countrified,

0:30:060:30:13

with rolling hills and sheep grazing. Although Anna might need some convincing,

0:30:130:30:17

the location should satisfy Richard's craving for an escape to the great outdoors.

0:30:170:30:22

Our mystery property actually meets a lot of their criteria,

0:30:220:30:27

but it will certainly test their geographical boundaries

0:30:270:30:30

and their commitment to a grand, ecological enterprise.

0:30:300:30:33

So, bore da, as they say in these parts. We're in Wales!

0:30:330:30:39

I think it's spectacular.

0:30:410:30:42

It is beautiful, isn't it? Look at the sun again.

0:30:420:30:45

-It's just fabulous.

-You're going to make Richard really happy and give him lots of land.

0:30:450:30:49

We're hoping to make you both happy.

0:30:490:30:51

That's what you're going to do! Then you'll make my life murder.

0:30:510:30:54

No. No. This property, we believe, offers you a lot of what both of you want.

0:30:540:31:00

Clearly Anna's very apprehensive, but she should be pleased to know

0:31:000:31:03

that we've really upped the space stakes with this house.

0:31:030:31:07

Spread over an enormous 4,500 square feet, it's been developed around an original 200-year old stable block,

0:31:070:31:14

sandwiched between two large modern extensions.

0:31:140:31:17

Right, you get a vista of your empire,

0:31:170:31:22

the eco empire. Look at that, though!

0:31:220:31:24

That is what I call a garden pond.

0:31:240:31:27

It certainly is. The island has a pair of nesting Canada geese. Anna, you're silent.

0:31:270:31:34

I'm more drawn to the view of the hills behind than the pond itself.

0:31:340:31:39

All of this land, none of it is protected, this is your woodland.

0:31:390:31:44

This, I think, would be a perfect spot to build some of your eco lodges.

0:31:440:31:48

You've got nine acres to play, you could put it anywhere, to be honest.

0:31:480:31:52

-Shall we have a look inside?

-Yes please.

-Let's do that.

0:31:520:31:55

Come in. We talked so much about the outside, let's look at the inside.

0:31:590:32:03

I'll be honest, it's smaller than I expected. Is this the family room?

0:32:030:32:08

This is the main family room the biggest room in the house.

0:32:080:32:12

Great for our guests when we're living in a caravan further down the site!

0:32:120:32:15

You'll be living with the geese, dear!

0:32:150:32:18

I'd say that was a somewhat lukewarm response.

0:32:180:32:21

So, let's see if we can crank up the heat through the historic parts of the house.

0:32:210:32:25

The former stable block now houses a bedroom that the owners use as their master.

0:32:250:32:29

Another large bright double bedroom.

0:32:290:32:32

A family bathroom and a more intimate second sitting room.

0:32:320:32:36

Overall, an unconventional layout that could lend itself to a number of uses.

0:32:360:32:40

I'm hoping that the extended wing at the other end will finally fuel their imagination.

0:32:400:32:46

What do you think of this?

0:32:460:32:49

I like this. This is the kitchen, then.

0:32:490:32:51

It is the kitchen.

0:32:510:32:54

It's a good size.

0:32:540:32:55

-It's a lovely size, actually.

-I like it.

0:32:550:32:58

It is very similar in having a family room to what we have at the moment.

0:32:580:33:04

Unlike that wing, which is single storey, this wing goes down...

0:33:040:33:10

-Down?

-..into some more accommodation.

0:33:100:33:12

-Oh!

-Interesting.

0:33:120:33:15

At last, was that a flicker of interest?

0:33:160:33:19

It's clear they don't really care about the benefits of this place

0:33:190:33:23

as a restful family home, so let's talk work.

0:33:230:33:25

So, down here is an interesting business proposition.

0:33:290:33:32

You've got three bedrooms

0:33:320:33:35

and a bathroom. And they rent them out as B&Bs.

0:33:350:33:38

One of the interesting things you could do is

0:33:380:33:41

think about this complete end of the house as a letting unit

0:33:410:33:45

and then the far end of the property becomes our end.

0:33:450:33:49

-So put in another kitchen at that end?

-Yeah.

0:33:490:33:53

It looks like it's business as usual.

0:33:530:33:56

The guests have come first again.

0:33:560:33:58

But I'm glad to see they're finally opening their minds as to how they

0:33:580:34:01

could tailor this property to suit both of them and their business.

0:34:010:34:05

So, time to get thinking about figures.

0:34:050:34:07

Down by the pond you can get a better view of the whole house.

0:34:070:34:11

So, it's a big chunk of property,

0:34:110:34:13

but also, I think a big chunk of potential land for your eco lodges.

0:34:130:34:19

-What do you think it's worth?

-I would say this is just under £500,000.

0:34:190:34:24

What do you think?

0:34:240:34:27

I think 450.

0:34:270:34:30

450! Well, it is nine acres,

0:34:300:34:32

it is about three times the size of the property yesterday.

0:34:320:34:36

This is actually on at 625.

0:34:360:34:39

625...!

0:34:390:34:41

Wow, really?

0:34:410:34:43

Well, have a wander around and I'll meet you up front.

0:34:430:34:46

-Great.

-Thank you.

0:34:460:34:48

Under budget again at £625,000.

0:34:500:34:55

The mystery house is our biggest property and has a unique layout

0:34:550:34:59

that houses five bedrooms, a huge drawing room

0:34:590:35:02

and an impressive kitchen/family room.

0:35:020:35:04

There are nine acres of land, including its own lake and woodland.

0:35:040:35:09

In terms of their plan,

0:35:090:35:10

this place could help them reach their ultimate goal sooner,

0:35:100:35:14

but will they compromise on their preferred Shropshire location,

0:35:140:35:17

to get the space for their eco lodges in the Welsh countryside?

0:35:170:35:22

I think it lends itself more to the eco lodges here

0:35:220:35:26

than where we were yesterday afternoon, don't you think?

0:35:260:35:29

That view of the hillside, I can't get my eyes off it, it is absolutely beautiful.

0:35:290:35:35

You've given us the opportunity to look at somewhere with much more of a blank canvass,

0:35:350:35:40

where it's probably going to be easier to build the eco lodges and it's really good to see that.

0:35:400:35:44

I can imagine the setting being really delightful when guests arrive,

0:35:440:35:49

but the access to get here may be pretty poor.

0:35:490:35:52

In a rental market, you would be looking much more

0:35:520:35:55

at the fine weather rather than when the weather's bad.

0:35:550:35:58

It wasn't the most enthusiastic response to a mystery house we've had on the show

0:35:590:36:03

but it may have brought everything into focus, surely a good thing.

0:36:030:36:07

OK, guys,

0:36:070:36:09

time for some decision-making, but not here.

0:36:090:36:12

During the week, I couldn't miss the opportunity to visit a farm on the Weald Moors near Newport,

0:36:200:36:26

which is one of the first and one of the largest farms in Shropshire

0:36:260:36:31

to take up the Government funded higher level stewardship-scheme.

0:36:310:36:35

With biodiversity under threat, through the rise of modern and more intensive farming techniques,

0:36:350:36:42

this scheme was originally designed in 1991

0:36:420:36:44

and aims to support farmers financially, so they can operate

0:36:440:36:49

in a more environmentally and sustainable way. I'm meeting up with the farm's owner, Georgina Dobson,

0:36:490:36:54

to find out more.

0:36:540:36:55

What's the benefit of the scheme?

0:36:550:36:58

It means that the environmental resources we've got on the farm

0:36:580:37:01

aren't being depleted and hopefully they're getting enhanced.

0:37:010:37:05

Having things like hedgerows isn't really economically viable.

0:37:050:37:08

It's a lot cheaper to go in and just put a post and rail fence in. If we're being driven

0:37:080:37:13

solely by the economics of it, all of those things would have suffered and the wildlife would have suffered.

0:37:130:37:18

While the scheme promotes biodiversity

0:37:180:37:20

and aims to provide protection for native wildlife and their habitats, it hasn't meant that Georgina's farm

0:37:200:37:25

has been turned into a nature reserve.

0:37:250:37:28

This is a working farm set in over 400 acres of land

0:37:280:37:31

which has been in her family for some 40 years and now specialises

0:37:310:37:36

in hardy heritage breeds.

0:37:360:37:38

So, these are the red poll cows and calves, these calves are probably a couple of months old.

0:37:390:37:44

So they're a traditional breed.

0:37:440:37:46

What's distinctive about them? They're reddish.

0:37:460:37:49

Well, they're a dual purpose cattle, so you can either milk them or have them as beef.

0:37:490:37:54

So, even though there is a market for these heritage breeds,

0:37:540:37:58

that's not the reason why you introduced them, is it?

0:37:580:38:00

Continental breeds of cattle would require a more nutritious forage than the grass that we're growing here,

0:38:000:38:08

so these traditional breeds can actually thrive on the poorer quality grass that we're growing.

0:38:080:38:14

So, in many ways, the land determines what you do with it rather than the other way around?

0:38:140:38:18

Yes. Exactly! We've looked at the environmental assets

0:38:180:38:21

that we've got and tried to build on that.

0:38:210:38:26

It's not just about working the assets, it's also about enjoying them.

0:38:260:38:29

Through the development of a network of footpaths and bridleways,

0:38:290:38:33

there's public access to the varied natural environment.

0:38:330:38:36

It includes wild flower meadows and wetlands.

0:38:360:38:39

On a personal level I know that

0:38:390:38:41

your mum and dad had the farm and they went into the stewardship programme.

0:38:410:38:48

Would you have taken on the farm before then?

0:38:480:38:51

I think going into the scheme has definitely made me more interested in it.

0:38:510:38:55

It's certainly an area I would like to see, develop and carry on with.

0:38:550:39:00

I've got a young daughter, I want to make sure that she can enjoy it too.

0:39:000:39:04

It is something we can pass on to future generations, hopefully in a better state than we got it in.

0:39:040:39:10

Well, it looks like this part of Shropshire is in safe hands,

0:39:100:39:13

but what does the future hold for our other eco warriors?

0:39:130:39:17

Richard and Anna set us a real challenge with the eco lodge projects.

0:39:200:39:24

It's been interesting to see how the eco lodges have faded in and out of focus

0:39:240:39:28

with each house that we've shown them.

0:39:280:39:30

Now it's time to find out which of those houses you liked the best.

0:39:300:39:35

-Here you are, guys. So, a busy couple of days?

-Yep.

0:39:390:39:44

Talking about the first house, which was the lovely farmhouse.

0:39:440:39:49

-Tell me about that?

-That house which looks so good in that location, you know, scored a lot of points.

0:39:490:39:57

We've been away and thought about it.

0:39:570:39:59

There are lots of ways you could make that work both as a home and a business.

0:39:590:40:03

Despite the amount of land that it had, it would have been even nicer if it had more land

0:40:030:40:09

but sometimes that's the compromise you have to make when you're getting a lot of other things that you want.

0:40:090:40:15

Let's talk about the second house, what it offered in terms of the house and the land.

0:40:150:40:19

What do you think about it now?

0:40:190:40:21

I don't think that all nine acres of that land were usable.

0:40:210:40:24

You could put eco lodges on either side of the valley, but in many ways that's not what we wanted to do.

0:40:240:40:30

We set out with the idea that people who come in to eco lodges don't want to be on top of each other.

0:40:300:40:37

I think the location was almost too beautiful in the sense that

0:40:370:40:40

I felt really quite strongly you could have spoiled the landscape by having eco lodges there.

0:40:400:40:46

Now, the mystery house did not set you afire, but I was wondering if it made you think about certain things,

0:40:460:40:52

the issue of the eco lodges, the location, whether those things had crystalised in your mind.

0:40:520:40:58

The house itself was big, it was rambling.

0:40:580:41:03

You could have used it in different ways, but it didn't grab us enough to even want to try.

0:41:030:41:09

Overall, the eco lodges, how do you feel about them generally, in the long view?

0:41:090:41:13

We learned that it's not as simple coming down to a site and shoving something on the ground.

0:41:130:41:18

You have to work with the site that you are on.

0:41:180:41:21

I don't really need to ask, but which of the houses did you like

0:41:210:41:24

the best and what's going to happen next?

0:41:240:41:27

-Well, we received an offer on our house at home today.

-Really?

0:41:270:41:31

We haven't accepted it yet. It may be that this catalytic week is even more shattering than we expected.

0:41:310:41:38

So, that's a possibility.

0:41:380:41:40

I think it's safe to say... You explain what I'm going to do next.

0:41:400:41:44

We're going to go for a second viewing, funnily enough at the farmhouse.

0:41:440:41:48

-No way!

-I know.

0:41:480:41:49

If they accept the offer, or if YOU accept the offer,

0:41:490:41:53

-would you put in an offer on the farmhouse?

-We'd like to see the conversion plans.

0:41:530:41:57

We'd like to talk to the vendors about the history of the house.

0:41:570:42:01

Why they haven't done that sort of thing themselves, but I think if

0:42:010:42:05

we didn't unearth real problems, I feel very tempted to put an offer in.

0:42:050:42:10

-Yes.

-Wow, that's fantastic.

0:42:100:42:11

Well, you've been great fun and very inventive -

0:42:110:42:14

with the first house, you totally turned our ideas of what the use of that house was on its head,

0:42:140:42:20

and came up with a whole new set of uses for different rooms and different houses.

0:42:200:42:24

-So, good luck!

-Thank you.

-Good luck. I hope that they pay up and buy your house.

0:42:240:42:29

-Thank you very much.

-Thank you.

0:42:290:42:31

Well, that's a turn up for the books.

0:42:320:42:35

Richard and Anna gave us the brief that they wanted lots and lots of land

0:42:350:42:40

to build modern and innovative buildings and, in the end, they went for the property

0:42:400:42:45

that had the smallest parcel of the land and was full of old antique barns.

0:42:450:42:48

But that's part of the magic of Escape To The Country, so make sure you join us for more next time.

0:42:480:42:53

I'm delighted to report that, after a second viewing,

0:42:550:42:58

Richard and Anna made an offer on the farmhouse, which was accepted.

0:42:580:43:02

So we wish them all the best with their new life in Shropshire.

0:43:020:43:05

If you'd like to Escape To The Country in Scotland,

0:43:050:43:08

Wales, Northern Ireland or England and would like our help,

0:43:080:43:11

please apply online at:

0:43:110:43:13

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0:43:350:43:38

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