Alistair Appleton goes house hunting in Cornwall with a couple who have £875,000 to spend on a new country home, and he visits Cornwall's only underground slate mine.
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These gigantic caverns are big enough to house
more than a thousand double-decker buses.
Spacious? Yes. Light and airy? Not so much.
Find out where I am and what this space was used for in just a moment.
In today's show, I'll be helping a couple of sports fanatics
hotfoot it out of the capital
to find a holiday let business in the country.
And they certainly have exacting standards.
Sorry. I'm coming over as Mrs Perfection, aren't I?
But with a bit of arm-twisting, they're soon up for the challenge. Well, almost.
-Needs some work.
That's fine. I'm not scared of work.
You don't do any DIY!
I'm not scared of getting the builders in to do the work!
Fighting talk! We love it!
Today we're in Cornwall and this is the 500-year-old
Carnglaze slate mine which, for centuries,
supplied roofing materials for buildings from Penzance all the way to Southampton.
During the Second World War, it was commandeered by the Navy
as a storage facility, not for weapons but for rum.
That's quite a lot of rum.
I'm going to be coming back later in the show to find out
just how much rum and what it's being used for today.
Much of Cornwall's colourful history stems from its expansive coastline
which stretches more than 300 miles.
Over the centuries, the county's seafaring links
led to many tales involving smugglers
who used it as a renowned haven.
This maritime tradition also benefited historic ports such as Fowey which,
during the 19th century, became increasingly popular
for shipping products such as china clay.
Away from the coast, the economy was historically dependent
on copper and tin mining, leaving a legacy of character buildings
which are dotted across the Cornish landscape.
Today, Cornwall is a popular destination for tourists
attracted by the dual charms of its coast and countryside.
It's no surprise that many housebuyers
are equally inspired to put down roots here.
Top end properties here in Cornwall,
particularly those that can be used a second homes,
are very sought-after.
Second homes is a double-edged sword.
Of course, they do bring money into the local economy
and who wouldn't want to have a second home here?
But it drives up the prices of all the other properties
which means locals find it difficult to buy.
That in turn can decimate a local community.
But if you're planning to move here lock, stock and barrel,
the average price for a detached house in Cornwall is £267,000,
that's just £12,000 above the national average.
Take a look at what you can buy.
At just under £300,000,
this barn conversion close to Ruan High Lanes has a beautiful
main sitting room with a wood burner and vaulted beamed ceiling.
Outside there's a lawned garden that backs onto open fields.
Or for £550,000, you could buy this barn conversion in Trevarth.
It has a huge kitchen with a range and stone fireplace at the far end.
Upstairs, exposed roof trusses are a running theme
throughout the three bedrooms.
Or how about your own estate for £680,000 in Mithian Woods?
Made up of a four-bedroomed cottage,
it's set in lovely gardens with plenty of character inside,
but also boasts a two-bedroomed annexe above a triple garage.
There's even a one-bedroom converted stone barn for good measure.
Three Cornish crackers, there.
We've got a hat trick of lovely properties lined up
for the couple thinking of moving to this beautiful part of the world. Let's meet them.
Michael, a recruitment consultant and Ruth, an HR manager,
have been married for seven years and live in their four-bedroom
semidetached home in Arnos Grove, north London.
Although it has the space they need to entertain
and room for Michael's children to visit,
it doesn't allow them to enjoy their passion for outdoor pursuits,
hence their desire to move to the country.
We want to take our life down a few steps.
We're really busy, both of us, at work, aren't we?
And we've got these hobbies we like to do such as cycling,
running, we do swimming, we dive.
We think a move now would get us a bit more relaxed
and able to enjoy what we like doing and balance that with work.
Our buyers are certainly an active pair.
Ruth is keen to learn the saxophone
while Michael wants to find time for his triathlon training.
Work is a priority too and although Michael plans to work from home,
he'll still need to make a weekly trip to London,
so good transport links are a must.
But these aren't the only demands on their wishlist.
If we think about what we want,
it's, erm, plenty of reception room down at the bottom,
at least four bedrooms.
Detached, pretty large family home
with some form of grounds to it,
which either currently has outbuildings that can be converted
into holiday lets or an area where holiday lets could be built
and planning permission would be granted to do that.
Yeah, and I think there are a couple of little things
like I'd like a formal dining room as well as a kitchen/diner
and an en suite bathroom for our master bedroom.
And also nothing that needs structural renovation.
We're not strong DIY people and we don't have the time
and knowledge to take on a big project.
Despite such an extensive wishlist, they plan to
hold on to their current property as an investment and rent it out.
However, they still have sizable funds for the move.
So our budget is £800,000.
There can be some flexibility,
give or take £50,000 to £70,000
for the actual ideal property.
Cycling, scuba-diving, learning the saxophone,
Ruth and Michael are a high-powered,
high-energy couple who are coming to Cornwall to take it down a notch.
Or so they say.
Though when you look at what they're planning to do here -
Michael's commuting to London, training for a triathlon,
they're going to be running holiday lets -
sounds as though they're going to take up a notch.
So we need to find a house that's going to contain all of that energy.
Good road and rail links are firmly on Michael and Ruth's radar,
so we plan to keep their house search to the south-east
and fringes of Cornwall's county border.
The three properties I'll show them
offer up a diverse mix of home and business possibilities
but I won't reveal the price of each until they've had a guess first.
The last of these is our mystery house,
a proposition which I believe could make them think the unthinkable.
-Hello and welcome to Cornwall.
You talked about stepping down and calming it down a bit
but I don't quite see how that's going to work.
You're going to be commuting back and forth to London
and running triathlons, you're going to be running holiday lets.
-It's a transitional phase!
-A very busy transitional phase.
I think it's a long-term plan that we're starting to put together.
But we've always talked about moving away from London
and out to the south-west.
So we've done a lot of talking and we'd better start looking.
So the budget's up to £875,000.
-Does the top end of that include holiday lets up-and-running?
Presumably you want lots of,
holiday lets need to have beautiful landscape.
-This is why we've brought you to Cornwall.
They don't find themselves so let's get in the car and find some.
Michael and Ruth have confirmed that they are prepared to pay
up to £875,000 for the ideal property.
For that it needs to be a supersize period home
with lots of reception rooms and have a large kitchen
and separate dining room.
It must also have five bedrooms.
Existing holiday lets, or the potential to create them,
and it all needs to be within easy reach of good transport links.
Now, in the 1,001 things that you're going to do here,
you didn't mention any particularly country things like growing vegetables or...
Are you interested in those sorts of things?
-We're not really big gardeners, are we?
Walking - that's what we want to do. Get outdoors.
And admire, is that right, admire gardens.
Someone else's garden.
We'd like a nice garden but I don't think we want to -
at this stage - spend all our time looking after it.
Our house search gets underway eight miles away from Launceston
near the village of North Hill.
Situated on the eastern edge of Bodmin Moor,
it's a peaceful setting with an array of pretty stone cottages
as well as parish church and a local pub.
A couple of miles away in a rural spot is our first offering.
It comes in the form of this Victorian farmhouse
and gives them ample scope to develop their holiday let business.
Come down here. Turn around have a look.
-Wow! Good-sized house.
It used to be pat of the Duchy Of Cornwall estate.
It's from the 1860s, extended a bit in the 1880s.
It's a beautiful, very well built Cornish farmhouse.
Yeah, solid walls, I would imagine.
Indeed. With a nice chunk of land so it goes...
-You see the stables there?
-All the way down there.
Down to the telegraph pole and back up here.
-And including these outbuildings.
-These three here?
-All these? A tool shed.
Those are going to be your holiday lets.
-OK, I thought you might say that.
-I smell a project.
-Well, very interesting. Let's look inside.
They'll be glad to know that the main farmhouse won't need any significant work
and hopefully comes with the character
and proportions they're after.
-Oh, straight into the kitchen.
-It's a country house.
Through the back door, straight into the kitchen.
That's how it works in the countryside.
-Very big kitchen. Lots of space.
-And, look, a range. A typical country kitchen.
-It's a very simple kind of space.
You've got these huge beautiful Cornish slate flagstones.
I like the floor. What's behind there?
Yeah, what's behind the red wall?
It is slightly unusual because they've knocked through here.
-This would've been a separate dining room.
-It is quite unusual.
-Oh, yes, I see.
-This would be the dining area.
So it's kind of a day-dining-sitting little family eating area.
Which breaks it off. Which actually is quite nice.
Yeah, I can see it working. I think we'd need to completely change the decor and...
-Yeah, I think... Really...
-..modernise the furniture.
-I think we have to visualise how we'd have it, at the moment.
-I think it would look quite different.
Redecorating aside, they seem impressed by the space.
Let's go through the inner hallway and see what they make of the sitting room.
Here at the back of the house with the views.
And a nice fireside as well.
A multi-fuel burner here.
Again, it's quite simply, spartanly furnished.
I think this is a warmer, lighter room, though.
I quite like this room actually.
-I like that it's got windows on two walls.
-Looks out on the garden.
You can see actually with the right things in it, it would be quite snug.
There's a raft of other rooms tucked away downstairs
including one they could use as an extra reception room or gym.
There's also a guest bedroom, one of five in total,
which is currently set up as a twin.
The property also has a good-sized shower room
and a separate utility room.
With the ground floor covered,
we'll head upstairs to explore the other four bedrooms.
Our first stop being the master.
This is being used as the main room because it has an en suite.
-Nice, light airy room.
-Probably a bit smaller than what we were hoping for.
-Than what we're used to.
But it's got built-in wardrobes and storage.
I'm trying to imagine it with more furniture
-but you can always use other rooms as dressing rooms.
Ruth can take her pick from the other three bedrooms.
Our first property gives our buyers a grand home
with ample space for friends and family to visit.
All they need to do is add their personal touch.
And outside, there's no doubt that the 4.4-acre plot
makes the most of the stunning scenery.
Let's settle ourselves here. We get a view of the house and the land.
Fantastic vistas. You can't fault that.
You can't fault where it is. It's a glorious setting,
beautiful views. It's beautiful, absolutely beautiful.
How much do you think it costs?
Hopefully below our budget, so I would think 775.
Yeah, I thought it would be a bit lower than that.
So...we're not that cruel.
We realise you'd have to spend quite a lot to do other things.
This is actually on the market for just a shade over 660.
-I nearly went to six-something. I really thought...
That gives you almost 200,000 to spend on it,
to do the holiday lets and to do the house.
So do go around and look at the inside of the house
and explore the outbuildings and I'll meet you at the back there
-and we'll head on to the next property.
Priced at just 660,000,
our period farmhouse is a great opening gambit
and addresses many of the criteria on their wish list,
including a huge kitchen/diner,
two reception rooms with an open fireplace,
five bedrooms with a master en suite
and, critically, there are two outbuildings with holiday let potential,
subject to planning consent.
It's all wrapped up on a 4.4 acre plot in a perfect rural location.
Certainly on the house, we'd have to spend money on it.
The holiday lets -
there's only going to be two in terms of rental income.
But the price did give us the opportunity to spend money on it.
I think when I walked down the drive and saw the house,
I was a little disappointed, I have to be honest.
It does give you the potential but, if I can't get that feel about it,
then I'm left with question marks
about whether it's worth spending the money.
It is in a lovely setting, the views are absolutely superb
and it's a substantial house.
Unfortunately, probably because it had a lot of heavy flagstones on the ground floor,
it didn't leave me with a warm and homely feel to the house.
I wonder if that extra £200,000 in their pocket made a difference as they were walking round.
-Good. Let's go and see another one.
Cornwall's landscape is one of contrasts,
from the brooding moorlands of Bodmin
to the spectacular coastline in and around Fowey.
Sitting on the western bank of an estuary,
the town has a rich maritime history.
Defended against Spanish raids by Henry VIII
and later prospering from the shipping of China clay.
These days it's a haven for sailing enthusiasts
and holiday-makers who come to enjoy its beaches,
the closest to Fowey being Readymoney Cove.
The Cornwall Wildlife Trust use it as a base
for a snorkel safari held as part of National Marine Week.
As our buyers are keen divers,
we sent them to take part in one of the excursions,
being led by Abi Crosby, part of the Wildlife Marine Trust Team.
-Hi, guys, nice to meet you. I'm Abi.
-Hi, Abi. Michael.
Good to see you're all kitted up, ready to go. You are taking part in a snorkel safari.
Snorkel safari's all about getting out there and exploring the underwater environment.
This area itself is part of a volunteer conservation area.
And that's an area of great coastline, fantastic wildlife.
These areas have to teach people about the environment,
try and get out there, appreciated what's out there and want to protect it.
-So, if you're ready, we can head off.
Home to species ranging from basking sharks to rare coral,
Cornwall's 300-mile stretch of coastline
is reaping the conservation benefits of the 2009 Marine Act
which was put in place to protect our fragile underwater habitats.
Under the surface at Readymoney Cove,
you can expect to see a variety of juvenile fish
including mullet, bass and mackerel.
And there's a way that Michael and Ruth could put there diving skills to good use, as Abi explains.
The Cornwall Wildlife Trust run a project called Sea Search which is for volunteer divers,
-especially people like yourself because you're a dive-master, aren't you, Mike?
We train you up so you're able to out on your recreational dives
off a boat or a beach like this
-and record what you are seeing underwater.
We've trained up hundreds of divers over the years,
and they're bringing back data to us
which is basically mapping the underwater environment around Cornwall.
The project runs around the UK with all the other wildlife trusts and that's fantastic really.
It's a brilliant source of data,
it's a great project engaging people and monitoring the environment.
Having given them a taste of what their Cornish lifestyle could be,
let's hope they take the plunge into one of our three properties.
Our house hunt continues close to the market town of Liskeard
which has good road and rail connections for work
and people coming to stay.
Many of the Victorian buildings on its main streets
house an appealing range of independent shops.
A short drive from the town,
our second property sits in the midst of beautiful countryside
and comes with its own ready-made business.
-And now you can turn around.
What's really exciting about this particular property
is that is has two up and running holiday lets.
This one here. And that one right in front of us, joined to the house.
Those two holiday lets bring in about 21,000 - a bit more - in turnover a year.
The first of the holiday lets is all laid out on one level
with a spacious well-equipped kitchen-diner
and a large sitting room with a feature fireplace.
It could easily accommodate four guests in its two double rooms.
But we're heading to the main house,
a former barn converted in the 1980s.
In you come.
That's a nice hall.
You come through a clutter of utility rooms
into what is, at the moment, the kitchen.
Just because, historically, this would have been the boot room
and the scullery
and you've got a shower room and a downstairs loo.
This is the kitchen as it stands but you could either knock through here
and have this as a huge kitchen-dining room
and then have your living room over there or the other way round.
OK. Yeah. Excellent.
-But it's some work.
-Not scared of work.
-You don't do any DIY!
I'm not scared of getting the builders in to do the work.
That's the fighting talk. We love it. Let's have a look in here.
I see. So the stairs come down.
Lovely fireplace. That is a really great focal point.
I think the lounge here is big enough. It's nice.
I can't see us needing, necessarily, a bigger lounge than this.
Leading off the sitting room is a double guest bedroom,
one of four in total.
The other three are upstairs, including a double and a single.
These both have access to a Jack and Jill en suite.
But time to check out where they would sleep
and I'm guessing they might want to knock down some of the partition walls.
I think you'd find this is a little petite for a master bedroom.
-Oh, it is.
-Bit snug. OK.
That's a big sigh.
Yeah, sorry, I'm coming over as Mrs Perfection, aren't I?
I'm looking. I'm trying to look through it all see what I can do.
The could add to the footprint of their home
if they decided to knock through into the second holiday cottage
which also caters for four people and is equally well kitted out.
What do you think?
Yeah, actually for a holiday let, it's not bad.
We've seen lots that are much worse than this.
There's another potential sweetener for our diving duo
in the separate barn where there's a very well maintained swimming pool.
But we'll head outside to survey the rest of the land.
We've got about one and a third acres of land including a big paddock up there
which goes quite a way beyond the garage.
So lots of elements but that's going to cost money
so how much does this cost on the market at the moment.
I think about 740.
I don't think you're far off. I would say 750.
-You two are getting better.
-Oh, at last!
You're on the money. It's 750.
Yeah, I said 750 up there, didn't I?
You can have that one.
Which still leaves a bit of money in the pot to do something,
-which is encouraging.
-Lots to think about so have a wander round.
You know the form. I'll see you later on.
With a guide price of £750,000, this property is under budget
leaving them money to reconfigure all the elements it offers.
As it stands,
they get a four-bedroom home along with two established holiday lets
which currently bring in an annual income of £21,000.
There's also a pool house
and let's not forget that it sits on 1.3 acres of land
in a desirable location.
I really like the property actually. I think it's got a lot of potential.
I think, ultimately, it could all fall down to the fact
whether we could use that top paddock
and develop the holiday let business.
If we can get another two up there
then I think it makes it all very doable.
It wasn't the kind of living room space that I certainly envisage.
So, nothing I felt homely or comfy in
and some of the features weren't to my taste.
But, then again, the lovely fireplace was gorgeous
so you try to think could you work round that?
If we extend the house.
-Keep the pool cos we wouldn't want to lose.
Guys? Sorry to interrupt. Looked like you were deep in visualising.
-I think this has got a lot of scope up here
to get a couple more up here with a bit of landscape gardening
-I can visualise it.
Visualising it - that's the first step before buying. We like that.
-I'm going to have to drag you away from your reveries.
As evening falls over the Cornish countryside,
the first day of our search draws to a close.
Armed with their £875,000 budget,
sporty Michael and Ruth want to make the leap from the work-focused lifestyle they have in London
to an outdoors existence in Cornwall's countryside,
part-funded by running holiday lets.
The two properties we've shown them so far
have highlighted the challenge of find a huge home
with the right business potential.
But, in a bid to give them more,
we played the get-out-of-London-forever card
with our mystery house.
Your kingdom, King and Queen.
One of the hardest decisions I'm probably going to have to face.
And I explore Cornwall's great underground landscape.
Day two and I think we need to change or tack.
I think we have been barking up the wrong tree
by putting holiday lets so centre stage.
I think Michael's quite keen on getting a business going
and earning some income but Ruth? I think Ruth just wants a big house.
So for the mystery property we are going to force them
to leave London out of the picture and really MOVE to Cornwall.
What do you think the mystery property might be?
NOT a stone cottage.
I'm used to nice sized rooms. I do want a lot of space a comfort.
-You want Buckingham Palace with a street of holiday lets?
Well, if that's what you want...
But it may come at a price.
Our mystery house takes us seven miles away from Launceston
which has a skyline dominated by its Norman motte and bailey castle.
The elegant array of Georgian buildings is also a defining feature of its town centre.
In the outline parish of Boyton and set in complete rural seclusion,
our mystery proposition is on a super-size scale
and challenges our buyers to make a huge sacrifice
by selling their current house
which they had wanted to hold on to as an investment.
Here we are.
-The mystery house.
-That's more like it.
-It's big, huh?
-It's got instant character to it.
-That's more what I envisaged.
We were thinking, just to think outside of the box,
-what would happen if you completely severed your ties with London.
-Sold your house in London
and really committed to getting the big house that you want
with an income stream.
-This is five fully functioning up and running business holiday lets.
And, ahem, 43 acres of land.
SHE LAUGHS: Oh, no! I don't know what to do with 43 acres.
-I can't imagine what it looks like.
-Can you rent it out to the farmer?
You can rent it out to a farmer. Indeed.
-In fact, they do rent it out to a farmer.
The main house dates back to 1588 in its oldest part
and is Grade II listed.
Predominantly Georgian, it has grand proportions in the inside.
Come on in, using the front door,
though we never would, living in the country.
-Oh, a proper dining room.
Oh, yeah, this is grand.
-It's more of a baronial hall.
-It is, isn't it?
But it's really in keeping with the house.
It's got early Georgian panelling all around.
This extraordinary granite hearth.
Beautiful floors. Lovely flooring.
It runs on into the sitting room here.
Again, another lovely fireplace. Log-burner in there.
With the right decoration and furniture in here, it could be a lovely warm room, I think.
And back across the hallway, the kitchen is just as large.
-Mind the steps.
-Oh. Oh! I see.
Yeah, this is a room and a half.
-I think you could do something with this.
-It's great, isn't it?
Look at the huge range.
This is the oldest part. These beams are mentioned in the listing.
This definitely goes back to the Elizabethan period.
-And you've got these AMAZING flagstones.
-Yeah, I see it.
-They fit in a kitchen.
I'm happy with things like that in a kitchen. It makes sense.
Probably we'll need more units and a bit of modernisation.
Well, you actually have a second kitchen. A working kitchen.
Is this the show kitchen?
I'm sure you're familiar, in country homes, you'd have a kitchen,
that we'd probably call a living room, where everybody lived
and all the farm-workers came and ate and then there's a scullery
which is where you did all the food preparation.
Tuck away off one side of the main kitchen is a useful study
with a large utility room next door.
This gives them plenty of space for their white goods
and to store outdoor equipment.
But now it's time to head upstairs
which provides them with five bedrooms
with sizes I think they'll like.
Ta-da! Is this big enough for you?
-Just. I think this must be the master then.
-Nice little fireplace as well.
-Yeah, it's lovely. Nice room.
-Plenty of space to do things to.
The master comes with a small en suite shower room.
The other four rooms are all large enough to be doubles
and would give them plenty of accommodation for all their guests.
One has the added feature of an exposed timber A-frame roof.
Opposite this is the spacious family bathroom.
Our mystery property gives them acres of house
but we'll head outside to take closer look
at the five cottages that make up Holiday Let Avenue.
-It's a nice little setup.
It is quite cosy, isn't it?
So you can imagine guests staying even when the weather's bad.
-It is actually quite comfortable.
-They each have a log-burner which is really lovely
and, as I mentioned, all of this comes with the purchase,
so all the equipment, furniture, TVs, everything.
-It's an up-and-running concern.
-Yeah, that's great.
This cottage sleeps four with two double rooms downstairs.
The other four cottages are also furnished to a high standard
and sleep from two to six people
giving them an income of around £40,000 a year.
There's also scope to expand their business empire
in the form of a stone barn
that already has planning consent for three further holiday lets.
On top of that,
the immediate grounds house a whole host of farm buildings
if they wanted to keep animals in the future.
There's also an established veggie plot and fruit trees.
And, I almost forgot, they get their own lake.
Your kingdom, King and Queen.
-Basically, your land goes THAT way.
-Oh, I see.
43 acres that way. What do you think it costs though?
I would say then 975.
I'm hoping it'll be a bit under that but I think you're right.
I think 950.
-Well, I'm sorry to disabuse you both.
-Actually, this is on the market for 1.195.
-So it's a lot over the budget.
-That IS a lot.
Do explore cos there's lots and lots to see so take your time.
-OK, lovely, thanks.
The big question is
are they prepared to sell up their London home as well
so they can afford to go above their initial £875,000 budget?
Priced at just under £1.2 million,
this gigantic farmhouse comes with an extraordinary list of features
including three huge reception rooms, two kitchens, five bedrooms,
five holiday lets that bring in £40,000 a year
with existing planning in place to develop another three.
And it's all wrapped up in a jaw-dropping 43 acres.
An exciting ride - I think that's what his house could be.
It would be absolutely everything turned around, a complete change.
Getting out of London, selling up.
A real lot of thinking. One of the, kind of...
One of the hardest decisions I'm probably going to have to face.
I'm amazing myself by saying, "Yeah, yeah, I can see it happening."
I've got no doubt in my mind that this property can actually give us
a lovely home to live in, which was our first priority.
The second thing it has in its favour is a business
which is already up and running and generating money.
And it also has that third element
which is the potential to grow, develop.
Is too much for us to bite off in one go?
That's what we need to go away and think about.
-What a exhausting mystery house.
-I'm hoping it's energised you mentally.
It has, I think, definitely. You're going boom-boom-bomm!
I know! It's...
It just generates so many ideas in what you could do with it,
how you could generate revenue with it.
Hold them in your minds because we're going to get away
-and then think about them.
Mining in Cornwall began 4,000 years ago in the early Bronze Age
with tin and then copper the most prevalent metals to be extracted.
Since medieval times, slate was also mined here in vast quantities
and I've come to the Carnglaze slate mine near St Neots
to meet Caroline Richards, who owns these caverns.
-Argh! Looks like you're going to skewer me.
-Are they from the slate mine?
-They are. Some of the old tools that were left behind here.
Before we talk about the slate mine which is fascinating
-tell me about your move here because you're a proper escapee to the country.
-We certainly are.
About 11 years ago we were living in Basingstoke
and looking to move from the house we had there.
We were looking in glossy magazines
for somewhere nice to go and have a look at
and we saw a lovely photograph of the cottage here
set in six and a half acres of wooded valley and it just looked heavenly.
But the funny thing is that you moved here
-and you didn't know that you also had gigantic caves.
-We didn't understand from what was written
what was here at all.
So when we came here we were shown round the house
-and shown round the woods and taken underground...
-By the way, I forgot to tell you,
-gigantic cavern with lake.
-That's right. That's about the sum of it.
I'm excited to look round that. Tell me about the actual mining of slate.
There are mines all over Cornwall but this one's special.
This is the only mine. The others were open cask quarries.
This one actually started as an open cask quarry back in medieval times.
They went underground in the 1700s, looking for the better quality slate.
When you're working slate you need a drill bar.
This is only a short one but it's easier for me to hold.
You whack it into the wall with a sledgehammer
and that's for when you've made the holes for putting the black powder into.
-That's when you blow it up.
-That's when you blow out a nice bog block.
When you've got your nice big block down
you need to work it down with a bettle and chisel,
the bettle being a wooden mallet.
-It's so primitive that you get rock out with that.
You've done amazing things with the caverns -
the space that's been caverned out.
-Can we have a look inside?
Back in the 1840s, the miners here would be paid on a piecework basis
so families often worked together to pool their meagre wages.
Three caverns remain today
and we've descended into the largest one.
-These are amazing. These are manmade caves?
Lots of people using all those tiny instruments you had made all this?
They did. A little bit of black powder to help along the way.
It's a bit deceptive because they actually came underground
from down by the river at the bottom of the valley.
-That's where the quarry floor was.
-They've mined up.
And they've mined just above river-level and then upwards,
back-filling the floor with the waste material as they went.
Slate mining ceased here in 1903
but Caroline and her husband Graeme
have given the site a new lease of life
and converted it into a venue for concerts and even weddings.
However, during the Second World War,
it was requisitioned by the Royal Navy for storing rum
to supply the sailors at Plymouth stocks.
As Graeme explains.
It seems like rather an elaborate store.
Yes, but the Navy liked their rum and wanted somewhere secure
and tucked away so people couldn't get at it
-or it could be damaged by the war at all.
So, it doesn't matter about the boats and things
-but the rum had to be kept safe.
There was a very heavy armed guard on the front of the cavern
where Caroline first met you, to make sure that nobody could get beyond that point.
So they took it really seriously.
Yes, and one entry, one exit, same place, so fairly easy to secure.
-The English Navy like their rum.
With my subterranean tour at an end, let's see if, above ground,
our house-hunters are punch-drunk by any of our properties.
I wonder which one Michael and Ruth will go for.
I have to say I think they were underwhelmed by the first two
and maybe a little overwhelmed by the mystery house
so I shall be interested to hear their thoughts.
So, time to regroup and have a think.
All these things we've thrown at you.
It would be good if we could go through them one by one.
The first house was a very attractive house
but didn't seem to set you on fire.
For me, there wasn't the wow factor.
And the rooms were small.
So I think that then was out of the question for me.
I think also the holiday-let potential was quite small.
What about the second property
because this did have up-and-running holiday lets.
It just didn't...work well enough.
You'd have to do an awful lot of work inside
and we were thinking we'd have to knock the other holiday let
into the main house.
So then we've lost a holiday let.
Didn't want to convert that pool, lose that swimming pool.
That would just be sacrilege.
And the mystery house?
Gorgeous looking house, plenty of space,
lovely period features inside,
had great business attached to it already with the holiday lets.
The whole proposition there was really quite compelling
but I think the original idea we had
was that we would keep one London income coming in
whilst we were building up the business.
And I think the mystery house bypasses that stage altogether.
We'd have to be sure we could see growth in the future
and we could see where the business plan was going.
So lots of question marks. What happens next?
I personally am very excited about the opportunity that it presents to us
and I can certainly see it's got a great future
for us to develop it and make it a real life change for us,
which was the idea in the first place.
-So the mystery house is a contender?
-Yeah, at this stage.
All the best.
-Thank you very much. We've enjoyed it.
-Yes, we have. Thank you.
It's been a tricky week on Escape this time
because I think it took us three properties to really work out
what Michael and Ruth were looking for.
And, for them, I think the mystery house really focused them
on a choice they have to make.
Do they want a comfortable home for themselves,
close enough to London that they can commute
or do they want a completely new start, new business,
deep in the heart of Cornwall?
It's a big challenge but an exciting one and we love that on this show.
If you've enjoyed our adventures in rural Britain,
then do tune in next time for more Escape To The Country.
After much deliberation and number-crunching,
Ruth and Michael decided the scale of our mystery house proposition was too much to take on.
They've since refocused their house-hunting efforts closer to home in Dorset.
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Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
Alistair Appleton goes house hunting in Cornwall with a couple who have a budget of £875,000 to spend on a new country home with holiday lets. Plus Alistair visits Cornwall's only underground slate mine.