Alistair Appleton is in Somerset helping a couple of retirees with a budget of £350,000 to downsize. A stone-built cottage in Cheddar seems to hit the spot.
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Today's county is for many people all about this -
autumnal apple orchards full of fruit-laden trees,
including rare varieties like this one. I'll see if I can pluck one.
Now, here on Escape To The Country,
we've also got people putting down their roots.
Find out where we are in just a moment.
Today's couple are saying au revoir to life in France
and hello to the English countryside.
A cosy country cottage is definitely on the agenda.
Wow. Fantastic. This is surprise, surprise
and then followed by another surprise.
And there are no surprises when we show them something very close to their ideal property.
We actually like it a lot. Yeah. You're ready to move in.
Today, we're in Somerset,
which has always been synonymous with apples.
The mystical heart of the county, Avalon, means Isle of Apples.
There are more than 150 varieties of Somerset apples,
35 of which are grown in this family-owned orchard here,
typical of a lot of the smallholdings across the county.
Hoary Morning, Tom Putt, Golden Knob -
those are just three of the names of the varieties
and colourful apple names are not the only thing
that's good about this county.
A mostly rural county,
Somerset's location between Devon and Dorset in the West Country
is famed for its agricultural produce.
But there's much more to the county than cider and cheese.
Cheddar Gorge is a spectacular limestone formation
and a site of specific scientific interest
lying in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
known as the Mendip Hills.
But it's not without a rich history.
Granted city status by Elizabeth I in 1590,
Bath was named after the Roman baths that were built here in 43AD.
The local golden-yellow stone
used in the magnificent crescents and cathedral
are reflected in the charming villages
tucked into the folds of lush green countryside.
Somerset has some very beguiling properties,
just the thing to lure you back to England if you've been living abroad,
and that is what we're trying to do with our buyers today.
Philip and his wife Chantal have been married for 30 years.
After living in Oxfordshire, they retired to France seven years ago
but have decided to return to England to downsize
because their French home is becoming unmanageable.
We have three bedrooms. We have a magnificent bathroom
which would fit in most hotels.
We have a mezzanine with a library for 1,500 books.
You can imagine that since we're retired,
that's going to be a bit too much for us.
They will be selling their French house in Cognac to fund the move
and handing this two-bedroom terrace in Sussex over
to their two children.
But Philip and Swiss-born Chantal have rural backgrounds,
which has prompted their decision to make the move.
And they're both keen on an active country life.
Something that we both enjoy doing is cycling
and it's something we can do outside in this countryside.
They've decided on Somerset as a location
because access to the motorway will mean they're within easy reach of their children in London.
So let's find out what they want from the house itself.
I think in our new property we would have, perhaps, two bedrooms.
Minimum. Or more than that, wouldn't we? Yeah.
And a kitchen, dining room.
Sitting room. One garage.
Of course, it has to be detached.
They're also after a property with period features
and a decent-sized garden
in which Chantal can practise her painting.
So when they've sold their French home and topped up the budget with savings,
what will they have to spend?
The budget for the new property is ?350,000.
It's going to be pretty difficult for Philip and Chantal
to leave that beautiful home in France
they've built up over the last seven years
but it seems like a sensible move
and they're looking for that certain English je ne sais quoi
that we call cosiness.
And Somerset is going to be a great place to find it
because they want a smaller property, cottagy,
smaller garden, stone built,
and that is something that Somerset has in abundance
and it's going to be in their budget.
We'll searching for properties between the M5 in the west
and Glastonbury, in the heart of Somerset,
striking a balance between attractive countryside
and ease of motorway access.
We'll be showing Philip and Chantal three properties
without telling them the price until the end of the tour.
And then there is La Maison Mysterieuse,
a property that will give our French re-pats a fresh perspective
on their dream home in the country.
Bonjour! Ah! Welcome to Somerset. Bonjour, Alistair.
Now, you're moving from France to Somerset
but you're not cutting links entirely with France, are you?
No, we're lucky enough to have a pied a terre in France,
which was belonging to Chantal's parents.
That will still be there.
We still love France. There are still nice things about France
but you feel for England, don't you? I love England.
I always feel happy here. Great. Yeah. That's good.
So you're going to keep a foothold in France but live here? Yeah.
It's like a swap, really. Yeah.
We're excited about this move and looking forward to it.
And your budget is what? 350.
So 350 in England... Yeah, it's going to be quite a...
Is it a shock to see what you can get for your money here?
It's terrifying, frankly.
We thought we were never going to do this move
but we don't want a large house. Good.
We would like the same house that we have in France,
only half the size. Right. But we still want the cosy feeling.
A stone house, and I love English cottage.
Cosy, we can do. Cosy - you're on, then.
Cottage we can do. We're on a winning streak. Oh, good.
We can't wait. We can't wait.
We don't have to wait. We can go right now. Brilliant. Super.
For a top budget of ?350,000,
Philip and Chantal want a character property
close to road links.
They'd like a minimum of two bedrooms
and ideally, they'd prefer a separate kitchen and dining room.
Finally, the garden should be a decent size
but still manageable.
Our first property is in a village
two miles from the town of Wellington.
Named after the first Duke of Wellington,
the obelisk on Wellington Hill that overlooks the town
commemorates his victory at the Battle of Waterloo.
Receiving its town charter in 1215,
Wellington grew up as a centre for trade between Exeter and Bristol
and today has a lively high street with plenty of period buildings
and a beautiful grade-I listed church.
Just a few minutes away by car, our first property is in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Here it is. Our first Somerset property.
Wow. It's pretty, isn't it?
What do you think from the outside? We're happy with it. Very nice.
We like the size and we like the way it looks. Just right.
It looks as if we could live there. Yeah.
Extended over the years, the cottage was built in the 1800s.
There's a handy double garage for storage
and inside, the period features give this cottage an inviting atmosphere.
In you come. This is the sitting room.
Wow. It's got beams but they're not too low.
And I'm not that tall, so it doesn't really matter.
Painted white. Yeah. It makes it very light, doesn't it?
A nice burner, there. It's a cosy country cottage. It is. It is.
And it's cosy as we see cosy. Yeah.
So there is a nice bright study room, there,
but let's take a look at the kitchen now.
Wow. So, Chantal, is this going to be enough for you?
Yeah, it's plenty big enough.
A lovely view to the garden. It's brilliant.
Yeah, that's actually very pretty. I'm pleasantly surprised.
And the second reception room could be the separate dining room Chantal is looking for.
This is the other big space.
There's a connecting door through to the kitchen.
They call this the family room. That's fine.
There's a lot of light through. It's brilliant.
This is the modern part of the house,
so it doesn't have the character features.
So that's your lot downstairs. OK.
Upstairs is a little bit more complicated. Oh, right. Right.
The downstairs seems to have appealed to them
and moving upstairs, there are a total of four bedrooms.
So this is where the upstairs gets interesting.
Wow. Goodness gracious.
It's all about the views. It is from here.
That's a fantastic view. Incredible.
So this is the extension at the back,
so there's quite a lot of space, here.
You've got this lovely balcony. A private balcony.
It's absolutely fantastic.
So if we go through here, there's a sort of glorified landing
but it's almost like a sitting room upstairs.
That leads you through to your bedroom.
And this is your master bedroom.
Wow, this is big, isn't it? That's quite amazing.
It's surprisingly big, isn't it? Yeah. I like the shape of it.
The style and dimensions seem to be working for Philip and Chantal.
There are another two cosy bedrooms on this floor,
a family bathroom and a shower room.
Outside to the rear, I'm hoping the garden will continue to impress.
Is this garden going to be big enough for you?
Absolutely. Absolutely, yes. It's manageable. It's fantastic.
You can see the extent of the house
and how it's bigger at the back than it seems at the front.
And yet for two people, it would work.
Plenty big enough for us. It would.
What do you think this is on the Somerset market for?
I don't know. I would say 380.
380. Over budget. OK. Yeah.
Under budget. Very good. An optimist and a pessimist.
Well, it is slightly over your budget as it stands.
It's on the market for 365. Right.
But it's been on the market for six months
and I know that the vendors are happy to negotiate.
Although it's over budget at ?365,000,
the vendors are open to offers and it does deliver four bedrooms,
two more than they asked for.
There's a good-sized kitchen and a separate room that could be used for dining.
Both seem pleased with the size of the garden,
so, all told, a very positive start to the day.
We've got one more to see today. Brilliant. Let's follow.
The British love affair with the apple
dates back to when the Romans brought them to our shores
nearly 2,000 years ago.
By the 18th century, Somerset grew 156 varieties,
making it an agricultural mainstay for the county.
Deep in the heartlands of the county,
81-year-old Patricia Thompson is rather proud
of her 19th-century orchard.
For 25 years, she's owned four and a half acres containing 60 trees
with 30 varieties of apples.
For the last five years she's been pressing and bottling apple juice
that she sells at local farmers' markets.
It takes four pounds of apples to make a bottle of juice.
We did about 1,000 or 1,200 bottles of juice last year.
That's just from your orchard? Yeah.
She's developed a community apple-pressing programme,
creating quite a buzz locally.
So what's the idea? That people in the community bring their apples?
They bring their apples and their recycled wine bottles
and they spend a good, fun morning here making juice
and they bring their lunch, so it's very good, yes.
It's now so popular that people come from over 30 miles away
to make use of the apple press.
This is Sarah and William.
Hello, guys. Hi. Is this your apples that you're doing there?
This is, yes. From your garden? From our own trees, yes, it is.
And what happened to it before? It went on the manure heap. Really?
It was a terrible waste.
The press highlights the importance of locally sourced produce
but at the end of the day, it's all about the finished product.
Is it drinkable here? There's a glass down there.
Fresh from the press. How exciting.
Mm. There's nothing added and nothing taken away.
How long does it keep?
Once it's been pasteurised, it will keep for a year.
Oh, that is delicious!
It's a real pleasure to taste apple juice the way nature intended
and more importantly, to know that Somerset's remaining apple trees
are still being put to good use.
Now it's time to get off the beaten track
and back onto the property path as we continue with our house hunt.
Our second property is in the village of Cheddar.
Situated next to Cheddar Gorge,
the home of the Palaeolithic skeleton known as Cheddar Man,
the village has also given its name to the UK's most popular cheese.
Nearly 6,000 people live in and around the village
and the homes are predominantly made from locally sourced stone.
On the outskirts of the village,
our next property is typical of local architecture.
Welcome, my friends, to the spiritual home of cheese.
This is Cheddar.
Wow! Yeah. And this is the property I want to show you.
Wow. It's really pretty, isn't it?
And when Cheddar was just a few houses,
this was one of the original houses. It was barn buildings then.
It's like a long house. Yeah. Nice. Absolutely fantastic.
It's very pretty.
And the little thatched porch is so pretty. The little thatched porch.
So English. Ah. It's lovely. That is English, really.
All you need to do now is fall in love with the inside.
I'm sure that won't be difficult.
Philip and Chantal are after character
and this stone build has plenty to offer on the outside
but inside it's been modernised,
so it'll be interesting to see their reactions.
Let's go into the kitchen first,
get an idea of what's going on in this property. Wow.
This is fantastic. That's a nice kitchen. I like that.
It's got some lovely original features, like these beams
that date from the original building.
So it's not quite as country cottage cosy as the last property.
No, but we're happy with this. That's fantastic.
Let's continue the tour. Right.
This house really does have a clearly defined dining area.
Yeah, that we need. It's lovely. Yeah.
A lot of light and also this amazing lintel piece,
which comes from an Elizabethan galleon.
Well, let's look at the last room, which is the most impressive.
This, then, is the biggest of the rooms downstairs.
It's not easy to find a house where the vibes are your own vibes
but here you feel that the vibes of this house are ours.
So we've found a perfect match. You have. I think you are pretty close.
I can think quite seriously about this house.
We're glad that you're thinking seriously.
Downstairs there's also a cloakroom
and we'll see if the three bedrooms upstairs
offer the right vibes for Philip.
Wow, look at this with the sun. Another sunny room.
It has a lovely aspect, hasn't it? Gosh.
And the sun goes down there every day.
I'm not a negative person but you have to see the downside as well as the upside.
So what are the downsides? I don't see one yet.
Not yet. I don't see one yet but... Fantastic.
It sounds like this house is to your liking.
It's something we'll follow up.
Let's check you like the master bedroom. Wow.
I'm not sure you'll be able to control yourself. This is your room.
Wow. I think we could fit in here very well indeed.
And it has its own little bathroom suite.
Which is something we didn't even ask for. Lovely. Double shower.
We like it a lot. Yeah. You're pretty much ready to move in.
The third bedroom is cosy and light and there's also a family bathroom.
Outside, there's a petite south-facing garden,
possibly a little more petite than our buyers were expecting.
It's a compact and bijou garden. It isn't what we expected.
No. But I think
with all the other things we've seen,
I think we would compromise. We could find a way to live with it.
Yeah. Yeah. We really could. Couldn't we? Yeah.
I love pots and plants in pots. We could fill this with greenery.
You have to be serious about a property and we could be serious about this. Good.
Are you serious about the price? Ah! Frighteningly serious.
What is it?
I... I would be surprised if we could rise to it
but I would straddle on 360,000. Mm-hm.
I would say it is perhaps even more.
I would go for 400.
Well, I'm afraid you're way out. Yeah. Are we?
This is on the market for 335,000.
I'm stunned. You're joking?
And what a price.
?335,000 buys Philip and Chantal a stone-built character property.
There's a large kitchen and a separate dining room,
Upstairs, there are three spacious bedrooms,
so it seems like we're going from strength to strength today.
Hello. Hello. Hello.
Did we work magic on you? It's fantastic. Very close.
Only close? Closer than we expected. That you expected? What more do you expect?
It was fantastic. Absolutely fantastic.
As the sun melts into the horizon,
Philip and Chantal will have plenty to consider
after their first day house-hunting in Somerset.
It's another glorious autumn day here in Somerset
and it's going to be difficult to top the delirious devotion
that Phil and Chantal showed to that house yesterday afternoon
but I was struck by the fact that even though they're moving back to England,
they referred to their home in France a lot.
So I thought with the mystery house we could combine England
with a taste of the Continent,
although being the mystery house, there is a catch.
Yesterday was all about Cheddar, today we're heading to North Curry
for our mystery house.
North Curry boasts 68 listed buildings,
including this 14th-century grade-I listed church
known as the Cathedral of the Moors.
It's a veritable buffet for connoisseurs of architecture.
With a wealth of local stone on hand,
it's no surprise our mystery house makes the best
of the materials available.
OK, so, first things first, it's not all of this.
Ah! Wow, that's a start.
It is this chunk in the middle with the pitched roof. Yeah.
This was built in the 1800s, 1760,
and then it was engulfed by this Victorian addition.
Yeah. Yeah. It's an attached property.
How do you feel about it?
We said that we'd prefer to have a detached property.
Hesitant is about as negative as you will let yourself be,
so that's not good. Normally, yeah.
We brought you here because it's a beautiful village
and because this property strikes us a very European,
Wow. Even Swiss! Wow. How did you do that?
Let's have a look.
This property certainly has quirks on the outside
and inside, it's an upside down house,
so two of the three bedrooms are on the ground floor.
Come on in... into the downstairs rooms.
Oh, right. This is different. Yes! It's unusual, isn't it?
The pine flooring, the vaulted ceiling -
it feels like a Swiss chalet. Yeah. Yeah.
What do you think, Chantal? Erm, so far it's good.
You know, I have to see the whole house and...
The whole ensemble. Yes. OK.
This twin bedroom is mirrored on the other side of the entrance hall
with another large bedroom.
And up one level is the main living area.
Now we come into the more light airy... Wow, it's lovely. Yeah.
This is more impressive, isn't it? Yes.
I think you feel less enclosed. Yes.
The dark wood works very well against this lovely white wall.
Next door to the living area there's a snug
that could be used as a small dining room
and next to that there's a family bathroom.
But we're heading to the heart of the home.
And then we go down these steps into the new extension, which is the kitchen.
Wow. It's lovely. It's super. Absolutely superb.
Not so keen on this idea.
You mean of having the dining room in the...? It's not our style.
That room is very big, so you could have the dining room up there,
partition it. Yeah.
I can tell that the property is growing on Chantal.
Philip I'm not so sure about,
so I'm hoping that the bedroom on the second floor will win him over.
So you come up this big box staircase
into a huge master bedroom.
Yeah. Fantastic. This is surprise, surprise
and then followed by another surprise.
So as you can see, the whole attic space has been converted
into a master suite.
You've got a dressing room and an en suite at the end.
I think it's really lovely.
There's a warm feeling with these beams showing through.
It is the mystery house. It is.
Great. Let's look into the garden.
Today we have another walled garden
but this time there's a lot more space to play with.
So much more of a garden than yesterday. Yes.
It's walled in by this new stone wall on these three sides
and this brick wall that goes quite high above the lane.
And you can see now the Victorian building surrounding yours.
What do you think this property, that's in a very attractive village, is on the market for?
Maybe well above our budget.
I would go for 410.
So quite a bit over. Well...
Let's... I think probably over.
I think probably 360,000.
360. OK, you're both being a little pessimistic.
It's on the market for 345. Really? Oh, well...
So a bit under your budget. Yeah.
Not a bad result considering Philip and Chantal don't want an attached property.
Below budget at ?345,000, this house offers three bedrooms,
plenty of period features, two reception rooms
and a good-sized walled garden.
But Philip and Chantal seem at odds over whether an attached property
could be their dream home.
Smiling. Smiling, yes. Smiling.
Ish. No, it's a pretty house. It's...
Hold your thoughts, we'll discuss them later. OK. OK.
I'm pretty pleased with our campaign
to seduce Phil and Chantal over to Somerset
but has Phil managed to dampen Chantal's enthusiasm for the mystery house?
I got the impression that he didn't like it.
Let's go and find out.
Have we won you back to England? I think you might have, yes.
We think you've done a fantastic job. Yeah.
Well, let's analyse that fantastic job into pieces.
At the beginning, the first one was a very charming period property with a lot of character.
What are your thoughts about that now?
It was perhaps too many bedrooms upstairs
and perhaps not enough space downstairs for us.
But the house had a lovely garden and it was a lovely house.
Yeah. We were actually pleasantly surprised.
The second house didn't deliver on the garden at all
but on every other count it seemed to completely wow you.
Yeah. I think the second house, for me, was absolutely fantastic.
That was the gem because the quality of it, first of all, is fantastic
and the space, as well, just right for us,
with a separate dining room.
And the garden was something quite different...
Different is the word, yes.
..but I think with the help of a good friend of mine,
with his lovely pots and lovely flowers,
he'll give me a good hand there. Yeah.
What about the mystery house? Let me ask Chantal.
Yes. You butt out of it. What did you think, Chantal?
Well, the mystery house was quite different.
I loved it. For me the only down point was the bedrooms downstairs
I could not handle.
It was the wrong way round? Yeah.
I think if I'm honest,
if you could have taken away the huge Victorian extension,
the house on its own, you'd have had a different vision of it.
There's always something that you'd want to change. That's a big change.
So overall, is there anything you'd like to proceed on?
If the property in France is sold when we get back there,
we will buy the second house.
Well, it's been a real joy because you have such enthusiasm
and it's such a lovely story, that you're coming back to England
and I really do, do seriously hope
that it does work out with your house
and that you come and join us. Brilliant.
Come back! We will. Yeah. Merci mille fois. Merci, merci.
Tres bien. I think it's tres bien that we managed to find in Somerset
a house that equals Philip and Chantal's beautiful French home
and is going to lure them back to England.
If you'd like to see more beautiful country properties wowing buyers,
then join us next time on Escape To The Country.
In a welcome twist to our story, the vendors for the second property
were very interested in moving to France.
In the end both parties decided on a house swap
and the exchange is proceeding,
so Philip and Chantal are trading Cognac for Cheddar
and we wish them well or as they say in France, bonne chance.
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It is an honour, I shan't let you down. Easily said, Constable.
Harder to prove. This sideshow is now shut down.
Alistair Appleton is in Somerset, property hunting with a couple of retirees wanting to downsize. And with a budget of £350,000, a stone-built cottage in Cheddar seems to hit the spot.