Somerset Escape to the Country


Somerset

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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Transcript


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Today's county is for many people all about this -

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autumnal apple orchards full of fruit-laden trees,

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including rare varieties like this one. I'll see if I can pluck one.

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Newton's Wonder.

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Mm.

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Now, here on Escape To The Country,

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we've also got people putting down their roots.

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Find out where we are in just a moment.

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Today's couple are saying au revoir to life in France

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and hello to the English countryside.

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So English!

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A cosy country cottage is definitely on the agenda.

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Wow!

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Wow. Fantastic. This is surprise, surprise

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and then followed by another surprise.

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And there are no surprises when we show them something very close to their ideal property.

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We actually like it a lot. Yeah. You're ready to move in.

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Today, we're in Somerset,

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which has always been synonymous with apples.

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The mystical heart of the county, Avalon, means Isle of Apples.

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There are more than 150 varieties of Somerset apples,

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35 of which are grown in this family-owned orchard here,

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typical of a lot of the smallholdings across the county.

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Hoary Morning, Tom Putt, Golden Knob -

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those are just three of the names of the varieties

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and colourful apple names are not the only thing

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that's good about this county.

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A mostly rural county,

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Somerset's location between Devon and Dorset in the West Country

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is famed for its agricultural produce.

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But there's much more to the county than cider and cheese.

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Cheddar Gorge is a spectacular limestone formation

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and a site of specific scientific interest

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lying in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

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known as the Mendip Hills.

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But it's not without a rich history.

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Granted city status by Elizabeth I in 1590,

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Bath was named after the Roman baths that were built here in 43AD.

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The local golden-yellow stone

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used in the magnificent crescents and cathedral

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are reflected in the charming villages

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tucked into the folds of lush green countryside.

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Somerset has some very beguiling properties,

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just the thing to lure you back to England if you've been living abroad,

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and that is what we're trying to do with our buyers today.

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Philip and his wife Chantal have been married for 30 years.

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After living in Oxfordshire, they retired to France seven years ago

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but have decided to return to England to downsize

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because their French home is becoming unmanageable.

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We have three bedrooms. We have a magnificent bathroom

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which would fit in most hotels.

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We have a mezzanine with a library for 1,500 books.

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You can imagine that since we're retired,

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that's going to be a bit too much for us.

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They will be selling their French house in Cognac to fund the move

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and handing this two-bedroom terrace in Sussex over

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to their two children.

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But Philip and Swiss-born Chantal have rural backgrounds,

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which has prompted their decision to make the move.

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And they're both keen on an active country life.

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Something that we both enjoy doing is cycling

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and it's something we can do outside in this countryside.

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They've decided on Somerset as a location

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because access to the motorway will mean they're within easy reach of their children in London.

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So let's find out what they want from the house itself.

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I think in our new property we would have, perhaps, two bedrooms.

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Minimum. Or more than that, wouldn't we? Yeah.

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And a kitchen, dining room.

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Sitting room. One garage.

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Of course, it has to be detached.

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They're also after a property with period features

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and a decent-sized garden

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in which Chantal can practise her painting.

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So when they've sold their French home and topped up the budget with savings,

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what will they have to spend?

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The budget for the new property is ?350,000.

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It's going to be pretty difficult for Philip and Chantal

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to leave that beautiful home in France

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they've built up over the last seven years

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but it seems like a sensible move

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and they're looking for that certain English je ne sais quoi

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that we call cosiness.

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And Somerset is going to be a great place to find it

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because they want a smaller property, cottagy,

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smaller garden, stone built,

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and that is something that Somerset has in abundance

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and it's going to be in their budget.

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We'll searching for properties between the M5 in the west

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and Glastonbury, in the heart of Somerset,

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striking a balance between attractive countryside

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and ease of motorway access.

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We'll be showing Philip and Chantal three properties

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without telling them the price until the end of the tour.

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And then there is La Maison Mysterieuse,

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a property that will give our French re-pats a fresh perspective

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on their dream home in the country.

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Bonjour! Ah! Welcome to Somerset. Bonjour, Alistair.

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Now, you're moving from France to Somerset

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but you're not cutting links entirely with France, are you?

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No, we're lucky enough to have a pied a terre in France,

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which was belonging to Chantal's parents.

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That will still be there.

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We still love France. There are still nice things about France

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but you feel for England, don't you? I love England.

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I always feel happy here. Great. Yeah. That's good.

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So you're going to keep a foothold in France but live here? Yeah.

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It's like a swap, really. Yeah.

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We're excited about this move and looking forward to it.

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And your budget is what? 350.

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So 350 in England... Yeah, it's going to be quite a...

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Is it a shock to see what you can get for your money here?

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It's terrifying, frankly.

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We thought we were never going to do this move

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but we don't want a large house. Good.

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We would like the same house that we have in France,

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only half the size. Right. But we still want the cosy feeling.

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A stone house, and I love English cottage.

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Cosy, we can do. Cosy - you're on, then.

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Cottage we can do. We're on a winning streak. Oh, good.

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We can't wait. We can't wait.

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We don't have to wait. We can go right now. Brilliant. Super.

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For a top budget of ?350,000,

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Philip and Chantal want a character property

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close to road links.

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They'd like a minimum of two bedrooms

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and ideally, they'd prefer a separate kitchen and dining room.

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Finally, the garden should be a decent size

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but still manageable.

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Our first property is in a village

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two miles from the town of Wellington.

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Named after the first Duke of Wellington,

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the obelisk on Wellington Hill that overlooks the town

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commemorates his victory at the Battle of Waterloo.

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Receiving its town charter in 1215,

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Wellington grew up as a centre for trade between Exeter and Bristol

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and today has a lively high street with plenty of period buildings

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and a beautiful grade-I listed church.

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Just a few minutes away by car, our first property is in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

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Here it is. Our first Somerset property.

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Wow. It's pretty, isn't it?

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What do you think from the outside? We're happy with it. Very nice.

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We like the size and we like the way it looks. Just right.

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It looks as if we could live there. Yeah.

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Extended over the years, the cottage was built in the 1800s.

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There's a handy double garage for storage

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and inside, the period features give this cottage an inviting atmosphere.

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In you come. This is the sitting room.

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Wow. It's got beams but they're not too low.

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And I'm not that tall, so it doesn't really matter.

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Painted white. Yeah. It makes it very light, doesn't it?

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A nice burner, there. It's a cosy country cottage. It is. It is.

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And it's cosy as we see cosy. Yeah.

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So there is a nice bright study room, there,

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but let's take a look at the kitchen now.

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Wow. So, Chantal, is this going to be enough for you?

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Yeah, it's plenty big enough.

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A lovely view to the garden. It's brilliant.

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Yeah, that's actually very pretty. I'm pleasantly surprised.

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And the second reception room could be the separate dining room Chantal is looking for.

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This is the other big space.

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There's a connecting door through to the kitchen.

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They call this the family room. That's fine.

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There's a lot of light through. It's brilliant.

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This is the modern part of the house,

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so it doesn't have the character features.

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So that's your lot downstairs. OK.

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Upstairs is a little bit more complicated. Oh, right. Right.

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The downstairs seems to have appealed to them

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and moving upstairs, there are a total of four bedrooms.

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So this is where the upstairs gets interesting.

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Wow. Goodness gracious.

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It's all about the views. It is from here.

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That's a fantastic view. Incredible.

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So this is the extension at the back,

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so there's quite a lot of space, here.

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You've got this lovely balcony. A private balcony.

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It's absolutely fantastic.

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So if we go through here, there's a sort of glorified landing

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but it's almost like a sitting room upstairs.

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That leads you through to your bedroom.

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And this is your master bedroom.

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Wow, this is big, isn't it? That's quite amazing.

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It's surprisingly big, isn't it? Yeah. I like the shape of it.

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The style and dimensions seem to be working for Philip and Chantal.

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There are another two cosy bedrooms on this floor,

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a family bathroom and a shower room.

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Outside to the rear, I'm hoping the garden will continue to impress.

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Is this garden going to be big enough for you?

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Absolutely. Absolutely, yes. It's manageable. It's fantastic.

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You can see the extent of the house

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and how it's bigger at the back than it seems at the front.

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And yet for two people, it would work.

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Plenty big enough for us. It would.

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What do you think this is on the Somerset market for?

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I don't know. I would say 380.

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380. Over budget. OK. Yeah.

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Mm. 320.

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Under budget. Very good. An optimist and a pessimist.

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Well, it is slightly over your budget as it stands.

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It's on the market for 365. Right.

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But it's been on the market for six months

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and I know that the vendors are happy to negotiate.

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Although it's over budget at ?365,000,

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the vendors are open to offers and it does deliver four bedrooms,

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two more than they asked for.

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There's a good-sized kitchen and a separate room that could be used for dining.

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Both seem pleased with the size of the garden,

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so, all told, a very positive start to the day.

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We've got one more to see today. Brilliant. Let's follow.

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The British love affair with the apple

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dates back to when the Romans brought them to our shores

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nearly 2,000 years ago.

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By the 18th century, Somerset grew 156 varieties,

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making it an agricultural mainstay for the county.

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Deep in the heartlands of the county,

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81-year-old Patricia Thompson is rather proud

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of her 19th-century orchard.

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For 25 years, she's owned four and a half acres containing 60 trees

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with 30 varieties of apples.

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For the last five years she's been pressing and bottling apple juice

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that she sells at local farmers' markets.

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It takes four pounds of apples to make a bottle of juice.

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We did about 1,000 or 1,200 bottles of juice last year.

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That's just from your orchard? Yeah.

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She's developed a community apple-pressing programme,

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creating quite a buzz locally.

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So what's the idea? That people in the community bring their apples?

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They bring their apples and their recycled wine bottles

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and they spend a good, fun morning here making juice

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and they bring their lunch, so it's very good, yes.

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It's now so popular that people come from over 30 miles away

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to make use of the apple press.

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This is Sarah and William.

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Hello, guys. Hi. Is this your apples that you're doing there?

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This is, yes. From your garden? From our own trees, yes, it is.

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And what happened to it before? It went on the manure heap. Really?

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It was a terrible waste.

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The press highlights the importance of locally sourced produce

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but at the end of the day, it's all about the finished product.

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Is it drinkable here? There's a glass down there.

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Fresh from the press. How exciting.

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Mm. There's nothing added and nothing taken away.

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How long does it keep?

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Once it's been pasteurised, it will keep for a year.

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Oh, that is delicious!

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It's a real pleasure to taste apple juice the way nature intended

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and more importantly, to know that Somerset's remaining apple trees

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are still being put to good use.

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Now it's time to get off the beaten track

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and back onto the property path as we continue with our house hunt.

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Our second property is in the village of Cheddar.

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Situated next to Cheddar Gorge,

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the home of the Palaeolithic skeleton known as Cheddar Man,

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the village has also given its name to the UK's most popular cheese.

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Nearly 6,000 people live in and around the village

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and the homes are predominantly made from locally sourced stone.

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On the outskirts of the village,

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our next property is typical of local architecture.

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Welcome, my friends, to the spiritual home of cheese.

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This is Cheddar.

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Wow! Yeah. And this is the property I want to show you.

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Wow. It's really pretty, isn't it?

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And when Cheddar was just a few houses,

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this was one of the original houses. It was barn buildings then.

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It's like a long house. Yeah. Nice. Absolutely fantastic.

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It's very pretty.

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And the little thatched porch is so pretty. The little thatched porch.

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So English. Ah. It's lovely. That is English, really.

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All you need to do now is fall in love with the inside.

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I'm sure that won't be difficult.

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Philip and Chantal are after character

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and this stone build has plenty to offer on the outside

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but inside it's been modernised,

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so it'll be interesting to see their reactions.

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Let's go into the kitchen first,

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get an idea of what's going on in this property. Wow.

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This is fantastic. That's a nice kitchen. I like that.

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It's got some lovely original features, like these beams

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that date from the original building.

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So it's not quite as country cottage cosy as the last property.

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No, but we're happy with this. That's fantastic.

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Let's continue the tour. Right.

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This house really does have a clearly defined dining area.

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Yeah, that we need. It's lovely. Yeah.

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A lot of light and also this amazing lintel piece,

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which comes from an Elizabethan galleon.

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It's beautiful.

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Well, let's look at the last room, which is the most impressive.

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This, then, is the biggest of the rooms downstairs.

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Wow. Yeah.

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It's not easy to find a house where the vibes are your own vibes

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but here you feel that the vibes of this house are ours.

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So we've found a perfect match. You have. I think you are pretty close.

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I can think quite seriously about this house.

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We're glad that you're thinking seriously.

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Downstairs there's also a cloakroom

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and we'll see if the three bedrooms upstairs

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offer the right vibes for Philip.

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Wow, look at this with the sun. Another sunny room.

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It has a lovely aspect, hasn't it? Gosh.

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And the sun goes down there every day.

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I'm not a negative person but you have to see the downside as well as the upside.

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So what are the downsides? I don't see one yet.

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Not yet. I don't see one yet but... Fantastic.

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It sounds like this house is to your liking.

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It's something we'll follow up.

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Let's check you like the master bedroom. Wow.

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I'm not sure you'll be able to control yourself. This is your room.

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Wow. I think we could fit in here very well indeed.

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And it has its own little bathroom suite.

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Which is something we didn't even ask for. Lovely. Double shower.

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We like it a lot. Yeah. You're pretty much ready to move in.

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The third bedroom is cosy and light and there's also a family bathroom.

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Outside, there's a petite south-facing garden,

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possibly a little more petite than our buyers were expecting.

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It's a compact and bijou garden. It isn't what we expected.

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No. But I think

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with all the other things we've seen,

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I think we would compromise. We could find a way to live with it.

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Yeah. Yeah. We really could. Couldn't we? Yeah.

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I love pots and plants in pots. We could fill this with greenery.

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You have to be serious about a property and we could be serious about this. Good.

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Are you serious about the price? Ah! Frighteningly serious.

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What is it?

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I... I would be surprised if we could rise to it

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but I would straddle on 360,000. Mm-hm.

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I would say it is perhaps even more.

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I would go for 400.

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Well, I'm afraid you're way out. Yeah. Are we?

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This is on the market for 335,000.

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I'm stunned. You're joking?

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And what a price.

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?335,000 buys Philip and Chantal a stone-built character property.

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There's a large kitchen and a separate dining room,

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as requested.

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Upstairs, there are three spacious bedrooms,

0:18:470:18:49

so it seems like we're going from strength to strength today.

0:18:490:18:52

Hello. Hello. Hello.

0:18:520:18:54

Did we work magic on you? It's fantastic. Very close.

0:18:540:18:58

Only close? Closer than we expected. That you expected? What more do you expect?

0:18:580:19:04

It was fantastic. Absolutely fantastic.

0:19:040:19:06

As the sun melts into the horizon,

0:19:160:19:18

Philip and Chantal will have plenty to consider

0:19:180:19:20

after their first day house-hunting in Somerset.

0:19:200:19:23

It's another glorious autumn day here in Somerset

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and it's going to be difficult to top the delirious devotion

0:19:290:19:32

that Phil and Chantal showed to that house yesterday afternoon

0:19:320:19:36

but I was struck by the fact that even though they're moving back to England,

0:19:360:19:40

they referred to their home in France a lot.

0:19:400:19:42

So I thought with the mystery house we could combine England

0:19:420:19:46

with a taste of the Continent,

0:19:460:19:48

although being the mystery house, there is a catch.

0:19:480:19:51

Yesterday was all about Cheddar, today we're heading to North Curry

0:19:550:19:59

for our mystery house.

0:19:590:20:01

North Curry boasts 68 listed buildings,

0:20:010:20:04

including this 14th-century grade-I listed church

0:20:040:20:07

known as the Cathedral of the Moors.

0:20:070:20:09

It's a veritable buffet for connoisseurs of architecture.

0:20:090:20:13

With a wealth of local stone on hand,

0:20:140:20:16

it's no surprise our mystery house makes the best

0:20:160:20:18

of the materials available.

0:20:180:20:21

OK, so, first things first, it's not all of this.

0:20:210:20:25

Ah! Wow, that's a start.

0:20:250:20:28

It is this chunk in the middle with the pitched roof. Yeah.

0:20:280:20:32

This was built in the 1800s, 1760,

0:20:320:20:36

and then it was engulfed by this Victorian addition.

0:20:360:20:40

Yeah. Yeah. It's an attached property.

0:20:400:20:42

How do you feel about it?

0:20:420:20:44

We said that we'd prefer to have a detached property.

0:20:440:20:47

I'm hesitant.

0:20:470:20:49

Hesitant is about as negative as you will let yourself be,

0:20:490:20:53

so that's not good. Normally, yeah.

0:20:530:20:55

We brought you here because it's a beautiful village

0:20:550:20:58

and because this property strikes us a very European,

0:20:580:21:02

nay, Swiss.

0:21:020:21:03

Wow. Even Swiss! Wow. How did you do that?

0:21:030:21:07

Let's have a look.

0:21:070:21:08

This property certainly has quirks on the outside

0:21:080:21:11

and inside, it's an upside down house,

0:21:110:21:13

so two of the three bedrooms are on the ground floor.

0:21:130:21:17

Come on in... into the downstairs rooms.

0:21:170:21:23

Oh, right. This is different. Yes! It's unusual, isn't it?

0:21:230:21:29

Quite unusual.

0:21:290:21:31

The pine flooring, the vaulted ceiling -

0:21:310:21:34

it feels like a Swiss chalet. Yeah. Yeah.

0:21:340:21:36

What do you think, Chantal? Erm, so far it's good.

0:21:360:21:42

You know, I have to see the whole house and...

0:21:420:21:48

The whole ensemble. Yes. OK.

0:21:480:21:50

This twin bedroom is mirrored on the other side of the entrance hall

0:21:500:21:55

with another large bedroom.

0:21:550:21:56

And up one level is the main living area.

0:21:560:21:59

Now we come into the more light airy... Wow, it's lovely. Yeah.

0:22:000:22:05

This is more impressive, isn't it? Yes.

0:22:050:22:07

I think you feel less enclosed. Yes.

0:22:070:22:09

The dark wood works very well against this lovely white wall.

0:22:090:22:14

Next door to the living area there's a snug

0:22:140:22:17

that could be used as a small dining room

0:22:170:22:21

and next to that there's a family bathroom.

0:22:210:22:24

But we're heading to the heart of the home.

0:22:240:22:27

And then we go down these steps into the new extension, which is the kitchen.

0:22:270:22:32

Wow. It's lovely. It's super. Absolutely superb.

0:22:320:22:37

Not so keen on this idea.

0:22:370:22:39

You mean of having the dining room in the...? It's not our style.

0:22:390:22:43

That room is very big, so you could have the dining room up there,

0:22:430:22:48

partition it. Yeah.

0:22:480:22:49

I can tell that the property is growing on Chantal.

0:22:490:22:52

Philip I'm not so sure about,

0:22:520:22:55

so I'm hoping that the bedroom on the second floor will win him over.

0:22:550:22:59

So you come up this big box staircase

0:22:590:23:03

into a huge master bedroom.

0:23:030:23:07

Wow. Wow.

0:23:070:23:09

Yeah. Fantastic. This is surprise, surprise

0:23:090:23:13

and then followed by another surprise.

0:23:130:23:15

So as you can see, the whole attic space has been converted

0:23:150:23:18

into a master suite.

0:23:180:23:21

You've got a dressing room and an en suite at the end.

0:23:210:23:23

I think it's really lovely.

0:23:230:23:25

There's a warm feeling with these beams showing through.

0:23:250:23:29

It's different.

0:23:290:23:30

It is the mystery house. It is.

0:23:300:23:32

Great. Let's look into the garden.

0:23:320:23:36

Today we have another walled garden

0:23:360:23:38

but this time there's a lot more space to play with.

0:23:380:23:41

So much more of a garden than yesterday. Yes.

0:23:430:23:46

It's walled in by this new stone wall on these three sides

0:23:460:23:50

and this brick wall that goes quite high above the lane.

0:23:500:23:54

And you can see now the Victorian building surrounding yours.

0:23:540:23:59

Quite amazing.

0:23:590:24:00

What do you think this property, that's in a very attractive village, is on the market for?

0:24:000:24:05

Maybe well above our budget.

0:24:050:24:10

I would go for 410.

0:24:100:24:12

So quite a bit over. Well...

0:24:120:24:15

Let's... I think probably over.

0:24:150:24:17

I think probably 360,000.

0:24:170:24:20

360. OK, you're both being a little pessimistic.

0:24:200:24:24

It's on the market for 345. Really? Oh, well...

0:24:240:24:27

So a bit under your budget. Yeah.

0:24:270:24:30

Not a bad result considering Philip and Chantal don't want an attached property.

0:24:320:24:37

Below budget at ?345,000, this house offers three bedrooms,

0:24:370:24:42

plenty of period features, two reception rooms

0:24:420:24:45

and a good-sized walled garden.

0:24:450:24:48

But Philip and Chantal seem at odds over whether an attached property

0:24:480:24:52

could be their dream home.

0:24:520:24:53

Smiling. Smiling, yes. Smiling.

0:24:550:24:57

Ish. No, it's a pretty house. It's...

0:24:570:25:00

Hold your thoughts, we'll discuss them later. OK. OK.

0:25:000:25:03

I'm pretty pleased with our campaign

0:25:110:25:12

to seduce Phil and Chantal over to Somerset

0:25:120:25:15

but has Phil managed to dampen Chantal's enthusiasm for the mystery house?

0:25:150:25:20

I got the impression that he didn't like it.

0:25:200:25:23

Let's go and find out.

0:25:230:25:24

Have we won you back to England? I think you might have, yes.

0:25:280:25:33

We think you've done a fantastic job. Yeah.

0:25:330:25:36

Well, let's analyse that fantastic job into pieces.

0:25:360:25:38

At the beginning, the first one was a very charming period property with a lot of character.

0:25:380:25:45

What are your thoughts about that now?

0:25:450:25:47

It was perhaps too many bedrooms upstairs

0:25:470:25:50

and perhaps not enough space downstairs for us.

0:25:500:25:53

But the house had a lovely garden and it was a lovely house.

0:25:530:25:58

Yeah. We were actually pleasantly surprised.

0:25:580:26:01

The second house didn't deliver on the garden at all

0:26:010:26:03

but on every other count it seemed to completely wow you.

0:26:030:26:08

Yeah. I think the second house, for me, was absolutely fantastic.

0:26:080:26:12

That was the gem because the quality of it, first of all, is fantastic

0:26:120:26:16

and the space, as well, just right for us,

0:26:160:26:19

with a separate dining room.

0:26:190:26:21

And the garden was something quite different...

0:26:210:26:24

Different is the word, yes.

0:26:240:26:26

..but I think with the help of a good friend of mine,

0:26:260:26:30

with his lovely pots and lovely flowers,

0:26:300:26:32

he'll give me a good hand there. Yeah.

0:26:320:26:34

What about the mystery house? Let me ask Chantal.

0:26:340:26:36

Yes. You butt out of it. What did you think, Chantal?

0:26:360:26:40

Well, the mystery house was quite different.

0:26:400:26:42

I loved it. For me the only down point was the bedrooms downstairs

0:26:420:26:47

I could not handle.

0:26:470:26:49

It was the wrong way round? Yeah.

0:26:490:26:50

I think if I'm honest,

0:26:500:26:53

if you could have taken away the huge Victorian extension,

0:26:530:26:57

the house on its own, you'd have had a different vision of it.

0:26:570:27:02

There's always something that you'd want to change. That's a big change.

0:27:020:27:06

So overall, is there anything you'd like to proceed on?

0:27:060:27:09

If the property in France is sold when we get back there,

0:27:090:27:13

we will buy the second house.

0:27:130:27:15

Well, it's been a real joy because you have such enthusiasm

0:27:150:27:18

and it's such a lovely story, that you're coming back to England

0:27:180:27:22

and I really do, do seriously hope

0:27:220:27:26

that it does work out with your house

0:27:260:27:28

and that you come and join us. Brilliant.

0:27:280:27:31

Come back! We will. Yeah. Merci mille fois. Merci, merci.

0:27:310:27:35

Tres bien. I think it's tres bien that we managed to find in Somerset

0:27:380:27:42

a house that equals Philip and Chantal's beautiful French home

0:27:420:27:45

and is going to lure them back to England.

0:27:450:27:48

If you'd like to see more beautiful country properties wowing buyers,

0:27:480:27:52

then join us next time on Escape To The Country.

0:27:520:27:55

Au revoir.

0:27:550:27:56

In a welcome twist to our story, the vendors for the second property

0:27:580:28:02

were very interested in moving to France.

0:28:020:28:04

In the end both parties decided on a house swap

0:28:040:28:08

and the exchange is proceeding,

0:28:080:28:10

so Philip and Chantal are trading Cognac for Cheddar

0:28:100:28:14

and we wish them well or as they say in France, bonne chance.

0:28:140:28:18

If you'd like to escape to the country in Northern Ireland, Wales,

0:28:180:28:22

Scotland, England or to the continent, and need our help,

0:28:220:28:25

please apply online at:

0:28:250:28:27

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:28:490:28:53

It is an honour, I shan't let you down. Easily said, Constable.

0:28:590:29:02

Harder to prove. This sideshow is now shut down.

0:29:020:29:05

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.


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