Property show. Jules Hudson goes on a £650,000 house hunt in Dorset with a couple who have lived their entire married lives in separate homes, 70 miles apart.
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On today's Escape To The Country, I'm in the county that was home to
one of the world's most famous female fossil hunters.
Her work here went on to define much of what we now know
about geology and palaeontology.
But where am I? And who was she?
Well, stick around and I'll show you.
In today's show I'll be helping a couple move in to their very first home together
and they clearly like what they see.
-This is a wow.
-That looks nice, wow.
But our mystery house throws them into turmoil.
We might have given you more to think about...
Another sleepless night, I think.
Well, now then.
Today I'm in Dorset, on part of its very famous Jurassic Coast.
This part of the country shot to fame back in 1811
when a young 12-year-old girl, and keen fossil hunter, called Mary Anning,
discovered the bones of a big fish.
It turned out to be an ichthyosaur, 180 million years old.
Her discovery provoked something of a revolution in thought.
It challenged many people's long-held biblical beliefs
that the world was in fact much younger than her fossil had proven.
Since that discovery, this place has been a real Mecca for fossil hunters
down through the decades.
It's become such an important place of study and understanding that in 2001
it became Britain's very first World Heritage Site.
Sandwiched between its coastal neighbours of Devon and Hampshire,
Dorset's position means that it benefits from
this glorious 95-mile stretch of stunning cliffs
that falls within its county border.
But venture inland from the towns of Lyme Regis and Charmouth
and you'll find a rich hinterland with lush pastures
providing perfect grazing territory
for traditional livestock and alpacas alike.
The region inspired much of Thomas Hardy's work
and, as we'll discover,
its villages remain a compelling option for aspiring escapees.
Meet Valerie and Barry.
This couple dated for 15 years before getting married.
Sadly, work commitments prevented them from moving in together.
They've been living in separate properties, 70 miles apart,
Barry in Sussex and Valerie in Kent.
But, now they're both retired, it's finally time to buy their first home together
and have a lifestyle overhaul.
We've both led quite busy lives.
We'd like to slow down and spend more time walking the dogs.
We want a bit more land, we want chickens.
I've already been out and bought the chicken coop.
I would like a couple of alpacas.
And hopefully by having these sort of things, the grandchildren will want to come to the country
and spend some reasonable time with us.
The style of house that we're looking for is cottagey, pretty,
maybe a bit quirky, a minimum of three bedrooms
and an ensuite, if possible, would be lovely.
And there's one room that really needs to measure up.
I like to bake cakes and make jams and chutneys.
This kitchen just isn't big enough for the two of us,
we get in each other's way.
We would like a garden up to one acre.
We realise that, with our budget, we'd rather have a nice house
and compromise on the garden.
And, as they already have their respective properties on the market,
they actually have a healthy amount to spend.
Our top budget for the move would be £650,000.
So, for a very healthy £650,000,
Barry and Valerie are hoping to get a nice three-bed cottage,
full of character, ideally close to, if not within, a village.
They have been looking here in Dorset for some time.
They did put an offer in, but sadly got pipped at the post at the very last minute.
So, the pressure is on to try and find them their dream home this week.
For Valerie and Barry's house hunt we will be casting our net wide,
right across the county of Dorset from Lyme Regis to Dorchester,
so they can experience the full flavour of what's available.
We've cherry-picked three fantastic properties to show them
but I won't reveal the price of each until they have had a guess first.
And finally, our mystery house will set out to challenge
what they think they want from their dream property.
Well, Valerie, Barry, welcome back to Dorset.
-This is your old stomping ground, isn't it?
-It is, yes.
With many couples who've been together as long as you have, I can honestly say to them,
are you going to agree on the sort of property that will be your new home?
They'll say, "We've moved once, twice, three times and we always agreed,"
but you've never done it.
This is your first home together. How easy is it going to be?
I think it's going to be quite easy
because we basically love the same sort of things.
-The garden and pottering around in the garden.
-If the garden is right for Barry
and I like the house, the house is probably more of a woman's domain,
so, I think I will have the last say on that.
-The last word.
-That's what we normally do.
Let's go and see what maybe sunny Dorset has to offer you.
-Yeah, very excited.
..but if there's space for alpacas, all the better.
Our property search gets underway a couple miles from Beaminster
in the village of Broadwindsor.
Earmarked a conservation area, it benefits from many historic buildings,
including a church, local pub and shop which serve its 1,200 residents.
Our first house comes with a unique architectural heritage of its own being Grade II Listed.
Well, there we are, our first one.
-Very pretty house.
It's a kind of classic village house, this.
-It's sort of 1700s, or thereabouts, so could be early Georgian.
-The windows would suggest that.
-I like Georgian.
-But it's finished to a really high standard.
And you won't need to do much, if anything.
Right, in you come. How about this then?
-This is pretty.
-Nice flagstone floor to greet you.
-Ideal for the dogs.
Let's start in here.
What's interesting about this house is that potentially you've got five...
-..reception rooms. And you can configure them however you like.
This one is currently set up as something of a dining area, but it's all movable.
You did say that one of the key ingredients was a nice big kitchen diner.
-Yes. Especially for when the family come.
See what you think of this.
-There we are.
-Wow. This is lovely.
-Would this work?
-This would, yes, definitely.
It's been finished to a high spec.
And to get something this big, in a village like this,
-I think is quite exceptional.
Next door is the site of the old kitchen, which still has its original exposed beams.
To the rear, there's an additional room currently used as a home office.
At the front, on the other side of the hallway, there's that second living room that they asked for
with its own signature fireplace.
Upstairs gives them four bedrooms, which is one more than they asked for, spread over two levels.
Let's start in here.
This would be, you know, another guestroom really.
-Three on this floor to choose from.
-It's a nice sized room.
There's also a huge family bathroom on this floor.
So, effectively, this is a guest floor. Because you two are on the very top.
-Look at this! Yeah.
The other two potential guestrooms on this floor are both large enough to be doubles
and one benefits from its own ensuite.
But where they would sleep, upstairs on the next floor, really does raise the roof.
-This is a wow.
-What do you think?
-This is lovely, isn't it?
-We're up in the eaves, aren't we?
-This is lovely.
This is your own little space here.
The other great thing about this, of course,
is that you have got your own ensuite.
-Which is through here. Which I think is really nice.
Again, pretty generous when you think about it. Come on in.
-This is a lovely size.
-This is lovely.
-Just again, light too. You've got these lovely skylights here.
If this impressive Georgian property were to be their first home together
there would be absolutely no work to do.
But, I know the garden is a big factor for Barry.
Along with a lovely decked area flanking the rear of the house,
the garden comes in at just under half an acre.
But, is it enough for all of Barry's plans?
Now, we spied the upper terrace from the kitchen and so forth.
Very much kind of formal lawn.
This kind of dell, if you will, is the lower part of the garden.
In fairness, Barry, we're probably not talking alpacas.
We did discuss compromises though, unfortunately this was one of them.
So, let's see how far your £650,000 is going to stretch.
-Valerie, go on, you go first.
-Well, I think it is at the top of our budget. I would guess 649.
-Hoping for a bit of change. Barry?
-I'll go slightly lower.
I would've gone at a similar price, but I'll go at 639.
OK, you're absolutely right, Valerie,
this is absolutely at the top of your budget, this is £650,000.
-Is it? Right.
-But, you know, the village location does come in at a premium.
So, go and have a look round. See what you get for £650,000.
Go and indulge yourself in that kitchen, Valerie.
I know you love it. We all love it. See if you can find a kettle.
-Catch up with you later, off you go.
Right on budget at £650,000,
this fabulous Georgian property is a great opening gambit.
And addresses many of the criteria on their wish list.
It gives them...
The house is absolutely lovely.
It's the sort of house that we could move into,
drop our belongings, our luggage and we'd be settled, nothing to do.
I do like this house, I really like the downstairs,
the way it flows from room to room.
Especially this kitchen that looks out on to the garden and the decking.
We're continuing our house search five miles inland from Charmouth,
whose evocative coastline is utterly breathtaking, come rain or shine.
Our second property takes them away from the coast
and into the heart of a rural setting.
But, as they'll discover, it gives them more land than they might imagine.
-Make what you will of that, our second property.
-That looks nice.
-That looks very nice.
-It's only 1960s or so.
-I was going to say it's a fairly new build.
Well, it is, and of course it benefits, therefore, from being laid out to accommodate,
you know, modern living. Let's have a look. Follow me down.
Come in. Come in.
There we are, Valerie. What do you think?
-I think it's a very nice hall.
-This is the joy of a modern build.
In that it's laid out with modern living in mind.
And everything kind of flows off of this central hallway.
Let's start in here, with the living room.
-This is nice. I like this.
-This is a nice size. Lovely and light, again.
-It's bigger than we had before for your main...
..living room shall we say in terms of a separate area from the kitchen.
Loads of light, that's one thing this house is not short of.
It gets even better through here because it continues into this sort of sunroom arrangement
which is also a dining room.
-It is quite a clever addition, I think, this.
-Oh, this is lovely.
-This is nice.
-So, there we are living room, dining room. Now, the kitchen.
-Come and tell me what you think of this.
-Now, this is clearly not the same as our first kitchen...
-..which was a real treat.
-That was special.
Could you live with this one?
Yes, I think I could because I can already see what I would do with it.
OK, go on, tell me.
-Take that wall out.
-And go into the dining room?
The great thing about these relatively modern builds is that
that sort of thing, structurally is...
-Wouldn't be a problem.
-Yeah, absolutely very, very easy to do.
There's plenty of additional space in the form of a utility room,
potentially a useful holding area for their dogs, with a WC and shower room next door.
Sandwiched between here and the garage at the front is a handy workshop.
With the downstairs covered,
we'll head upstairs where there are four bedrooms.
Now, as with the hallway,
obviously the landing benefits from light from that window.
-I think, again, sets the scene for what you're going to get up here, really.
-Yeah, this is nice.
Very generous family bathroom in here.
-There you go.
-This is a good size.
-His and hers sinks.
Right, out you go. Let's find you a master bedroom.
-This is your room.
-This is nice, I like the windows.
-The different shaped windows.
-Nice and bright.
Again, lovely big windows throwing a lot of light into the room.
-So, how are we doing on the property?
There's no issues.
Because it is a bit smaller than our earlier one and I had a few concerns about that, but you seem OK.
Yeah, we actually don't need a big house.
Next to the master is a single bedroom, currently used as a study,
with two further bedrooms, both doubles,
benefiting from large windows and garden views.
It's outside to the garden where we're heading next which, with two and a half acres of land,
gives Barry a plot over twice the size he wanted.
Perfect for growing his vegetables and keeping chickens.
There's even a paddock for those alpacas, who could enjoy stunning views over the Marshwood Vale.
There you go, Barry. I think they will be very happy alpacas in here.
-I think they certainly would.
-Enough room for them.
-Nice, isn't it?
Let's have a think about the money on this one
-because clearly this has whetted your appetite.
Barry, this is all about you really, isn't it?
-Land and so forth, let's have you go first on this one.
-I think a little less than that. 625.
-Would you be happy with 625?
-It would give us a little bit in the pot.
-To play with.
OK, there is a bit left over, you'll be delighted to know.
From your budget of £650,000 you would have to part
with £630,000 to get this.
-Wasn't far out. That would be good, yes.
-20 grand left over.
Good, right. Look, the sun has finally come out to join us today.
Make the best of it, go and explore that paddock.
-See if it really is enough and I'll catch up with you later.
-Off you go, enjoy.
Under budget at £630,000, this house has emerged as a strong contender...
I know Barry has fallen in love with the garden
and the area that would be probably my domain, I think I could cope with it.
The house, yes, there's a couple of things that we would like to do
in the sense of small alterations.
Other than that, the house is a good size for two of us.
As evening falls over the Dorset countryside,
it marks the end of our first day's property search.
Well, it is, of course, the start of our last day of house hunting down here in Dorset
with Barry and Valerie.
I can tell you, having just had breakfast with them,
they are more than excited about the prospect of our mystery house.
Overnight they've talked about our previous two properties
and they're really happy with the way it's gone so far.
So, can we continue to thrill them with our final property?
Let's hope so, providing, of course, the weather holds off.
For our mystery property we're heading to the village of Maiden Newton,
some nine miles from Dorchester.
Located on the river Frome,
it offers great walking terrain along the Frome Valley footpaths.
The amenities serve a community of around 1,000 people
and the village has its fair share of historic architecture.
Neighbouring the parish church, our mystery property certainly delivers big on house
but will it be too much?
What we've got is, I suppose, at its heart, is a barn
that's roughly, say, 200 years old.
-As you can see much converted.
But it does also benefit from having the addition of that structure over there.
-Oh, that's part of it?
-That's all part of it. It's made a huge addition to the floor space that is on offer.
-Space is one thing this place is not short of.
The courtyard also houses two large garages.
Valerie was wary about a barn conversion,
so is she ready to tackle those high ceilings?
-Now then, come on in.
-I thought you might!
-Yes, very nice.
I think they've done this really inventively.
So, if you like what you've seen so far
wait till we get to the details.
Come and have a look at this, this is great.
-Oh, this is nice.
What I think is quite striking about this is it's got a very Georgian feel.
-Because you've got these great big sash windows,
and if I didn't know I was in a barn...
-You'd think you're in a Georgian house.
-I would, actually.
-Impressed so far?
Good, let's continue back through the hallway.
I'll show you what else happens.
Now, the whole kind of floor plan is linked with this lovely light corridor
which runs the length of the building.
Leading off of it we've got a very generous utility room down there.
Now, Valerie, this, I've been dying to show you this.
It's absolutely everything that you could want.
Open plan, kitchen diner and living room, actually, all in one.
Yes, and it's open. This is beautiful.
So, have we really kind of put a spanner in the works?
You certainly have after yesterday.
After yesterday, after that second house yesterday.
So we might have given you more to think about?
-Another sleepless night, I think.
-Well, now then, OK.
Talking of sleep, let's go upstairs and see what you get in terms of bedrooms.
We have certainly spoilt them with the ground floor.
There are two further reception rooms,
one a potential den for Barry,
and the other a glazed reading room overlooking the courtyard.
Tucked away, on each side of the central entrance hall, are two cloakrooms
and upstairs the layout is just as extensive.
Up you come.
-Lovely great big sort of family wing over there.
But this is for you two.
-Oh, this is nice.
-I like the window.
It does also come with that very nice ensuite. Have a look at that.
-Oh, that's nice. I like the double doors.
-This is really nice.
-It's ideal, isn't it?
-We wanted an ensuite so, this is...
-You'd feel at home with this.
-This is lovely.
-So, we're pretty happy, aren't we?
-We certainly are.
Well, we seem to be spot-on with the master.
Upstairs gives them four bedrooms in total with the other three at the far end of the house.
There is a potential double, which follows the roofline,
with a convenient shower room right opposite.
Bedroom three also features a high sloping ceiling.
The fourth has a built-in wardrobe with a handy bathroom next door.
The compromise is that outside doesn't come with land for Barry's alpacas,
but there is the possibility to rent the neighbouring field.
In terms of garden, really, to be frank, kind of what you see is what you get.
-We haven't got acres of land for you, but we have got acres of house.
-That's the up side. Shall we talk about the money?
You've got 650, where are we on this one?
-I think this is way over the budget. So I would say 699.
-I'll go 679.
Yeah, comfortably over budget, both of you.
-The good news is this is under budget.
-I'm surprised at that.
-This could be yours for £645,000.
-My goodness. That's incredible.
That's incredible. You've certainly thrown a spanner in the works with this one.
I thought we might. There's plenty of it.
There are couple of bits that I'm going to leave you to explore on your own.
-Go and finish the job off.
-I'll catch up with you later.
So, under budget at £645,000,
this remarkable mystery house would make an amazing first home...
I do like this barn conversion.
It's very spacious, there are lots of bedrooms.
The kitchen diner is wonderful, just what we asked for.
So, I do believe it is a real contender.
The only downside, I feel, would be the size of the garden.
But the garden isn't everything and I am sure we can sit down
and discuss these sort of things
and decide what we want - a garden or a beautiful house.
Well, we have now arrived at one of my favourite parts of any Escape To The Country.
It is decision time for Barry and for Valerie.
Goodness knows, they have been looking for their new home for long enough.
Have we brought that quest to an end, I wonder?
Well, let's go and ask them.
So, Barry and Valerie, here we are at the end of our house search.
Let's just remind ourselves of where we went and what we saw.
We kicked off with that very pretty, 1700s,
Georgian fronted village house
with the fantastic kitchen diner.
Beautiful, it was gorgeous.
The slight downside of that property was the garden, in the two tiers.
We're getting older all the time and that would be a concern.
OK, then we took you to our second property, which in all sorts of ways was very, very different.
But it did come, Barry, with lots of land.
Yes, the paddock, the garden, was nicely laid out.
The views from that area were stunning,
and it was everything we wanted.
My concern was that, having shown you a much bigger first property,
that our second one was a little bit smaller.
It wasn't going to give you all the reception rooms you might want.
It gave us a larger lounge
and there's only the two of us
the majority of the time, except for when the family come.
We don't need a huge house.
Then we took you to our final property, the mystery house,
which you had spent all night guessing over.
-It was amazing inside.
-The amount of room.
-The kitchen diner.
-Let's just talk about the kitchen diner.
Is it the kind of kitchen diner that you had always had in mind?
Yes, because you could have a nice, big table in there.
But I'm dying to know where we are now.
You've been married for not a year, quite.
You've been together for 15 years.
This is a great moment when it's all coming together.
Have we managed to find you your combined dream home?
I think you've really opened our minds to looking at something completely different.
We've got to decide do we want a lovely house
with a relaxing sort of retirement,
or do we still want the real rural dream?
I'm delighted that we have helped you to clarify a bit more what you want to do.
-So, we wish you all the very best of luck.
-Thanks very much.
-As ever, let us know how you get on.
-We will, most definitely.
Well, as you probably gathered,
this hasn't exactly been the sunniest week we've ever had
down here in Dorset on Escape To The Country.
That's been more than made up for by the warmth and enthusiasm
that Barry and Valerie have brought to this house search.
A couple who, whilst they've been together, have had to live apart for the last 15 years.
So, with any luck, they are now several steps closer
to realising their dream of a life together.
And here in Dorset, well,
whatever the weather, they shouldn't go far wrong.
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Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
Jules Hudson goes on a £650,000 house hunt in Dorset with a couple who have lived their entire married lives in separate homes, 70 miles apart. While in the county, Jules heads to the beach to search for fossils on the world-famous Jurassic Coast.