Property show. Jules Hudson visits Rutland, England's smallest county, as he helps search for a home for £400,000 for a couple from London.
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On today's Escape To The Country, we are venturing into uncharted waters
as we step into a county that we've never been to.
It's full of some amazing and pretty quirky features, not least this one,
Western Europe's largest manmade lake, covering 3,000 acres.
So, where are we? Stick around and I'll tell you.
On today's show, I'll be helping a couple
move from their London pad to England's smallest county,
and they've got very exacting expectations.
You would be able to fit my cooker, wouldn't you, into that space?
We'd have to measure it, but I think it would probably fit.
But there's always the Mystery House.
Well, today, we're in Rutland.
It's perhaps no surprise that we've never been here,
because this is England's smallest county.
But in the centre of it is this lot, Rutland Water,
an enormous reservoir built in 1970
to supply water to towns like Peterborough, Northampton and Milton Keynes.
It's so big, there are 160 billion litres of the stuff in here.
Now, when it was created, of course, various things got submerged,
but one of the things that survived is this Normanton Church, or at least half of it,
a fascinating reminder of the area's rich heritage.
Along its 25 miles of shoreline,
it's become a mecca of yacht clubs, hotels and fine restaurants.
This really is a place with something for everybody,
but there's a lot more to Rutland than just its liquid assets.
Surrounded by county giants, Rutland borders Lincolnshire,
Leicestershire, Northamptonshire and Cambridgeshire.
The smallest county in England, it's just 17 by 18 miles across
and it only has two major towns, Oakham, the county town, and Uppingham.
But this scenic slice of Middle England
is not to be outdone by its neighbouring counties.
Largely a rural region, the area features many attractive stone-built villages
and a landscape which has changed little in 200 years.
And, of course, at its heart is Rutland Water,
a wishbone-shaped lake that's a draw for wildlife and sports lovers alike.
The county has seen its fair share of upheaval.
In 1974, Rutland was merged with Leicestershire,
but after a long campaign, independence was finally restored in 1997
and it became England's smallest county once more.
There are also at least twice as many sheep as people here
and Rutland is also testimony to the old adage that small is beautiful.
With its charming market towns and villages,
this potted pocket of England attracts 1.6 million visitors a year.
It's hard to imagine why on earth we've never been to Rutland before.
But at long last, thanks to today's buyers, we've made it.
Meet Frank, an ex-policeman, and his wife Sue, a sales rep.
They've been living in their three-bed house in south London for the last 30 years.
With Sue's retirement looming they're keen to sell.
But there is another reason why they want to move.
About eight years ago, Frank had cancer,
quite a virulent form of cancer,
and in fact, was only given a five percent chance of pulling through.
So happily, of course, he did,
but that made us take stock of our life more
and we now feel that that probably was a wake-up call.
It's that time of life
when we would like to go back to what is my roots, in fact,
and live in the country.
Their current house has considerable living space and a garden with a summer house,
but they're not intending to compromise on the size of their new home.
At least two, possibly three bedrooms.
Minimum two, but the more the better.
And they don't want a new build.
We're looking for a barn conversion
or a period property, perhaps Georgian style,
but with a slick interior.
Sue also has a clear idea on what she wants from the kitchen.
I'd like it to be a very large kitchen, with granite tops.
And it has to accommodate one non-negotiable feature.
Our range, I absolutely love it.
It's restaurant commercial standard, so it makes cooking on it so easy and accurate.
I know this sounds weird,
but I wouldn't buy a house that I couldn't fit this range into, because I'm not leaving it.
But, of course, it's the price that will set the standard for what they can achieve.
Our maximum budget for this move is £400,000.
Gorgeous as this county may be, it is going to stretch their budget.
Their requirements are fairly simple,
characterful house with three bedrooms and a manageable garden,
but I do suspect here on Escape To The Country,
we're going to have to work a bit of good old-fashioned magic.
Frank and Sue have a budget of £400,000
to help them make their rural escape to a patch of paradise in Rutland.
We don't have a vast amount of ground to cover,
so we'll head to the heart of the county, focusing our search around the market town of Oakham.
We've selected three great properties to show our buyers,
but I won't let on how much they're on the market for
until they've had a shot at guessing the price first.
I'm hoping our Mystery House will help them think outside the box.
Let's have a think about exactly what you're after.
How well do you know the property market here?
I have researched it quite a lot on the internet,
so one thing that does strike me is that the prices are quite high.
Your budget of £400,000, as you've probably seen by looking online,
you know, it is going to be,
I wouldn't say challenged, but you'll spend most of it.
Any movement on that at all?
Everybody says that, yes!
-Up a little bit, perhaps?
For the right property, we'll be realistic and flexible.
We've got some really interesting properties for you to look at. Let's go.
-Thank you, Jules.
With a budget of £400,000,
Frank and Sue want a detached period property, a minimum of three bedrooms,
on the edge of a lively village.
And there's one key element they're after -
Sue is into her cooking, so she'd like a glossy fitted-kitchen
and it's an absolute must that there's enough space for her beloved range.
Sounds like an interesting recipe to me.
Surrounded by countryside that's scattered with woods,
our first property is in the conservation village of Braunston,
two miles west of Oakham and just three miles from Rutland Water.
Braunston is a lively place, which has several farmhouses dating back to the 1600s
and a number of cottages with either thatched or tiled roofs.
The house we're looking at is thought to date back to the 1800s.
Right, let's start with property number one.
-There you go, Sue, Frank. What do you think?
-Yes. The early bit is to the left with the porch and so forth.
-But you wanted a stone exterior.
-We've got stone.
-You've got stone.
-And then you've got this.
-That's part of it?
-It is, which is a much later arrangement,
-something of a converted barn with another extension on here.
-Let's cut to the chase, get inside, see what you make of it.
The interior also has a few surprises in store
and I'll be interested to see what they think.
-Here we are. You've got two doors to choose from. We'll pick this one.
Right, Sue, come on in.
What do you think, Frank?
I think I expected it to be a bigger room.
-It's not the only reception room.
-That's the good news.
If you painted it a different colour
and perhaps put coving in to lift the room,
-I think we could do a lot with it.
Let's continue through here!
Now, then... Dining room.
-It did say on the list that entertaining was of importance.
-BOTH: It is.
-Very much so.
Could you envisage the sort of things that you do in here?
Certainly, yes. We could.
'So the dining room gets the thumbs-up, but will the kitchen meet Sue's rather precise requirements?'
Now, then, Sue. Take it all in.
Is that the only form of cooking, on the range?
It is not. There is an electric cooker
through this corridor, which we'll explore later.
But let's talk about the range. On its own, this is lovely, but it's not yours.
-Unusually, you want to bring your cooker with you.
Would your cooker fit in there?
-I think it would.
-It looks similar in width.
-I think it would.
-OK. Right, then.
This is the alternative cooker that we mentioned.
This is quite useful. Downstairs, double shower,
power shower, loo and all the rest.
And in here, this other living room.
-Goodness me. I'm surprised.
-You wouldn't imagine it to be here.
-You wouldn't credit it.
-What would you do with it? It could be a bedroom, I suppose.
-A guest room.
-A guest room.
'Certainly food for thought.
'Leading off is yet another room, which the current owners use as a study
'but which does offer scope for a range of uses.'
'Upstairs, this house has two guest bedrooms and an appealing master.'
-Oh, this is a good size, isn't it?
-The lower window appeals to me.
But this is the master bedroom for the simple reason that it's the biggest.
None of them have got an ensuite, but you've got the family bathroom up here.
So lots of options. The point is, it offers you a lot of flexible accommodation.
I didn't think this bedroom would be so large.
'So it sounds like Frank and Sue are warming to this place
and I'm confident they'll like the outside, too.'
So cross the track...
..into your garden.
Have a look at this. I think it's really sweet.
-Bigger than you expect, isn't it?
-It is pretty generous, considering where we are.
The question is, how much do you think it's on the market for?
Er, well, Jules, given the locality of the property,
I think it's got to be £395,000.
I think Sue's probably underestimating.
I would think it would be up to our budget of 400.
-You, madam, are absolutely right.
-That's a pleasant surprise.
-That's about right.
Go and have a look round and I'll catch up with you later.
-Off you go.
-Thanks very much.
Priced at £395,000,
this pretty stone cottage is just within Frank and Sue's budget.
It's got three bedrooms, including an ample master.
It offers lovely rural views
and, of course, it has a kitchen which should be able to accommodate Sue's all-important range.
You would be able to fit my cooker, wouldn't you, into that space?
We'd have to measure it, but I think it would probably fit.
And the cooker hood?
The real surprise for me was the annexe,
the other wing that's been built on.
That really did open up a lot more possibilities.
Ah, here we are! Our intrepid house-hunters!
Come on, Sue and Frank. Have you figured it all out?
-I think so. Just minor details left.
-We've got ideas in here.
-Good. Keep them coming!
The second house
is in the midst of the honey- coloured cottages of Lyddington,
a rural conservation village, just a five-minute drive from Uppingham.
The village is brimming with historic buildings,
such as Lyddington Bede House, a former shelter for the poor
that was once part of a medieval bishop's palace.
There's also the 14th century St Andrew's Church,
which is just around the corner from our next offering.
-Our second property for you.
-Yes, it is different!
The nice thing about this is, you're in the village, but on the edge of it.
And a building which is not the oldest in the village, either.
-Six years old.
-Good, because I know you weren't entirely happy about new builds,
-but I think this is worth looking at and because of where it is.
-The setting is lovely.
-Come on, then.
'Initial reactions are positive, despite the fact that this is a new build.
'Will the interior have the space they want and room for Sue's range cooker?'
Right, come on in. Grab the door, Frank.
-Very much so.
-It does have the wow factor.
-Would this space work for you, Sue?
-As long as I could get my cooker in.
I think you can.
Have a look at this. The kitchen as it is,
the units are perfect serviceable but not particularly valuable,
-and this cooker is nowhere near as big as yours.
So I'm thinking you would start again with all of this lot.
-Blank canvas, isn't it?
In terms of storage and so forth, there's a generous utility room through that door there
-with a kind of boot room, as well.
So plenty room and a back door.
But, of course, it does all drift through here. Have a look at this.
This is the main living area, reception area.
-Oh, yes. Very bright and airy.
It's square. I like that.
The way that his house presents, I like.
'Excellent. Let's head upstairs.'
This, I think, is quite surprising, actually,
this great big light landing.
-It is spacious, isn't it?
-And off of here, we've got you four bedrooms.
Have a look at this to kick off.
One of four, as I say. Sue?
The thing that strikes me immediately
is there's no apparent place to put wardrobes.
-This is true.
-Because I have got lots of clothes.
-This isn't the only bedroom, of course, so this could be a generous guest room.
Although you are right. That's one of the things with these ceilings.
-Family bathroom is in there. You can explore that later.
Bedroom two is in there.
This is a much smaller box room.
Make a good study.
-And then, finally, we've got this one.
-Now, it's not the master bedroom...
-..but it is the only one with an ensuite, behind you in there.
Have a quick look. Just poke your heads in.
-Nice shower cubicle.
It's a shame, in a way,
-that the bigger bedroom doesn't have the ensuite.
And that's a big bit of furniture which is taking up a lot of space.
-But as a guest room, it's perfectly lovely.
I could live here, no trouble at all.
For me, there wouldn't be enough storage.
Let's not give up just yet. Let's finish off in the garden and talk about the money,
because I'm sure that'll have a bearing on it!
After you! Go on, Frank.
'Yes, the great money chat... Better done outside where there's more room to breathe.'
In terms of the garden,
we've seen it on the way in. What you see is what you get.
But I get the sense that from everything we've talked about,
-this is the sort of size...
-It's ample, yes!
-And, of course, you know, this very, very pretty house.
-It is pretty.
There are definitely things you could do.
But it all depends on how much you want it. Let's think money.
-Who went first last time?
-Sue. OK, so, Frank,
make me an offer.
Four bedrooms, location...
-415. Yes. Sue?
-Yes, beautiful village, lovely aspect, pretty house...
Five pounds short of 400.
OK. This could be yours for £425,000.
They don't come on the market in this village that often,
-so I think it's well worth thinking about.
-I think so.
-And given that you like it, twist her arm!
-Go on, Frank, you were a copper, you should be good at that!
-An arm lock!
-Off you go, I'll see you later on.
At £425,000, this house is over budget,
but that's largely down to its fantastic location.
It doesn't need much work and would give our buyers the opportunity to move in straight away.
It's got four good-size bedrooms and the kitchen is a great space,
which allows Sue to put her stamp on it and make it her own.
This house, being compared with newly built,
is one that would be easily maintained.
I felt that the house let down a little bit upstairs.
I think the bedrooms really,
on reflection, are a little too small.
So as the day draws to a close over the waters of Rutland,
our buyers get some time to reflect on today's properties.
As we said yesterday,
Frank and Sue's £400,000 was always going to have to work pretty hard in Rutland,
and although we've seen some beautiful properties, I think they've yet to be wowed.
Let's hope that our final one, the Mystery House, can do the trick
as we head out on our last day of house-hunting.
So Mystery House... What could it be?
I think it could be an apartment.
I tell you what, if you look at that sign there...
-It's in Leicestershire.
Now, as always, our Mystery House offers up a surprise or two.
And so, for our third offering, we're heading to Scalford,
a village just outside the county of Rutland in Leicestershire.
Scalford is Old English for "shallow ford"
and its church is named after St Eglewin,
the only one in the country to be named after this saint.
The village has a post office and a pub and the area is popular with horse riders.
-This is it, this is the Mystery House, at long last.
-The waiting's over.
-Do you like?
-I love it.
-Very nice, isn't it?
-What is it about that one?
-It's the symmetry of it.
It looks absolutely immaculate.
I love the windows. And that yellow stone is gorgeous.
-Let's go and have a look.
Now, although it's not in Rutland,
I'm pretty sure our buyers will like this house.
It's got everything they had on their wish list and more.
-In you come, Sue.
-Grab the door, Frank.
-Come on in. What do you think?
-This is lovely. Beautiful.
This is the original bit of the house.
There is an extension put on in the '70s, not that you'd know from the outside.
-I notice the cookers.
-Yes! Now, I've got a solution, though, for you.
-You could take the unit out that's behind you...
..and that cooker, which is lovely, it seems a shame to move it, but if you wanted to put yours in,
-you could fit it there and keep that there.
In terms of this mixture of contemporary and old and a bit of character,
-I think this works.
-This fits it.
-If you like this, you'll love the rest.
-Save the best till last.
Through here, we've got the dining room.
-Oh, this is absolutely wonderful.
-What do you think, Frank?
-I like it.
Come and have a look at this. You'll love this bit.
-Look at that.
-How about that?
-You wouldn't expect to find that, would you?
-But the best is yet to come.
Come and have a look in here.
Wow. Another "wow". I love the wardrobes.
'This could be used as a bedroom, because the windows are sunken
'and don't allow as much light in as upstairs.
'It also works well because it has an ensuite shower room.
'Let's see what they think of the first-floor space
'and the living room the current owners created.
'I have a feeling they'll be impressed.'
-Goodness me. What a surprise!
The question is, can you see yourselves genuinely using a house like this
and relaxing in space such as we see?
I could, definitely. Love it.
Oh, well, if the good lady says...
'Well, as expected, they love the living room and its design.
'And the bathroom is pretty special, too.'
What about that?
-You wanted funky.
You've done it. You've done it!
There's a further guest bedroom or study
and then the master, which I have no doubt will be a hit.
-Oh, my! What a room!
Has this got an ensuite, as well?
-No. It has a walk-in wardrobe.
Lovely decor. It's exactly the colours we would choose.
'Well, that's the way I like it. Our Mystery House has totally hit the jackpot.
'And outside, there are yet more surprises to come.
'The property has three outbuildings including a double garage,
'that can be used as storage or indeed a workshop.
'Above it, there's an artist's studio.
'The garden is just the right size for Frank and Sue
'and has the benefit of facing south.'
-I love this sort of busy, profuse garden.
-It's beautifully planted.
-Everything's spilling out.
-You've got this area of lawn.
-I know you said we've moved from Rutland, but you wouldn't know.
It begs the question, our final price guess, guys...
-How much is the Mystery House on for?
Well, given the beautiful location and the stunning house,
I think it's got to be 435.
435. So over budget there, Frank.
I would hope for it to be less.
I'm going to guess at...
Well, I'm going to give you some very good news.
You don't have to stretch that far at all. This is under budget.
-By 50 quid!
-This could be yours for £399,950.
-That is amazing. Absolutely amazing.
And I've made a decision.
I'm going to sell the cooker.
-You're selling the cooker?
-This £8,000 cooker?
-It's going to go?
-Because you want this house?
Brilliant. Look, go and have a look at those outbuildings. There are the keys.
-Go and find yourself a workshop, studio, an office, it's all out there.
-I'll catch up with you later.
-Off you go.
So at just £50 shy of their £400,000 budget,
this surprising stone cottage just over the border in Leicestershire
has brought about the impossible and made Sue consider getting rid of her range.
With three great-size bedrooms, one with an ensuite dressing room,
this house has the perfect mix of an old exterior and modern interior that really appeals to Sue.
And it's got a selection of outbuildings for Frank to play in.
-What do you think? Workshop or...
-That appeals to me.
-It appeals to me leaving my car in it.
So we'll have to come to a compromise on that.
As soon as we walked up to the front of this property, I was excited.
As we walked through into the entrance hall, it got better and better with each room.
Everything, for me, is perfect.
We've scoured Rutland and hopped over the border into Leicestershire.
We saw three fantastic properties, but which one, if any, are Frank and Sue going to go for?
I'm pretty sure I have a good idea. Is it the same as yours, I wonder?
For our first trip to Rutland, you've been a fantastic couple to have on board.
It's been a real treat, so thanks for wanting to move to this part of the country.
It's been the most enjoyable trip.
The key thing, though, is have we managed to find you your new dream home?
The first one that we went to...
There was a lot to like about it. It grew on me as I went through.
If we could knock that back wall out to make it just larger
and perhaps lose the corridor, that could've been an option.
Then we took you to our second property.
I liked the situation of the house and the appearance.
It didn't look like a new build.
The kitchen was a good space.
I have to confess that when we finished our first day I was a bit anxious,
because I think we'd yet to find this interesting mix of old and new that you'd been seeking.
-But then we took you to our Mystery House!
-Talk me through that one, Sue.
-It was just...
I had a feeling I would fall in love with it when we first saw the front.
I think it's a wonderful place, I really do,
and with a lot of potential.
-In terms of the obvious choice, it is the Mystery House.
-Without a doubt.
It was just a very clever, tasteful blend of old and high-spec.
How about the fact that the Mystery House wasn't in Rutland?
Rutland was our starting point. To move out a little bit...
-Is not an issue.
-We've found something we like.
There you go. Brilliant, guys.
It's a fantastic property. I do hope you're able to get it.
You won't regret it, I'm sure. So best of luck.
Let's cross everything! Well done.
-Thank you, Jules.
-Thank you for your time.
Well, as you can probably tell, we've had an awful lot of fun
house-hunting in Rutland and the surrounding area.
We've seen some fantastic houses and been greeted by some very warm and welcoming people,
reason enough for anybody to want to move to this part of the world.
Despite the fact that it's our first visit to England's smallest county,
I suspect that thanks to Frank and Sue's bold lead, it won't be our last.
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Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
Jules Hudson visits Rutland, England's smallest county, as he helps search for a home for £400,000 for a couple from London. While in Rutland, Jules gets to grips with a unique set of traditional steam trains being restored by local enthusiasts.