Buyers are helped to find their dream homes. Alistair Appleton goes rural property shopping in Bedfordshire with a couple buying their first house together.
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180 years ago in this stately home, one of the greatest English traditions, afternoon tea, was born.
Who was its creator, and where are we? Find out in just a moment.
'On today's show, we're helping a married couple hoping to quit suburbia
'to buy their first home together in the country.
'And hold on, cos it's going to be a rough ride.'
It makes you feel a bit seasick as you're walking around, I find.
'Though we do find our feet on solid and rather splendid ground.'
I can see the potential.
'But will the numbers stack up?'
I've come with a formula.
I'm going to think of a price, take off 200 and add 25.
We're in Bedfordshire,
and I'm in the reputed birthplace of afternoon tea,
the Blue Drawing Room at Woburn Abbey.
In the 1840s, the lady of the house, Anna Maria, Duchess of Bedford,
complained to her butler about "the terrible sinking feeling"
that she had in her stomach - i.e. she was hungry around four o'clock.
So she instigated a ceremony of light refreshments with the tea.
Being Lady-in-Waiting to Queen Victoria, the ceremony caught on.
I'll be learning the etiquette of taking tea later in the show.
First, let's look at some of the tasty delights
-this county has on offer.
'Neighboured by four other counties,
'Bedfordshire is the gateway to the Midlands and East Anglia,
'and lies within easy reach of London.
'Despite its proximity to major rail, road and runway links,
'it boasts many areas of outstanding countryside
'dotted with picturesque towns and villages.
'The Chiltern Hills dominate the county's southern edge,
'within which are the Dunstable Downs.
'The chalk escarpment is the highest point in east England
'looking out over woods, grassland and arable fields.
'One of Bedfordshire's principal rivers is the Great Ouse,
'idling past many historic market towns
'that have flourished on its banks.
'Crossing over on the arched bridge
'is probably the best introduction to the county town of Bedford.
'It was here in the 17th century
'Christian preacher and writer John Bunyon began writing
'his most celebrated work, The Pilgrim's Progress,
'whilst incarcerated in Bedford jail.
'There's an array of quieter corners such as the village of Sutton,
'with its 13th-century packhorse bridge
'and picture-postcard properties.
'It's clear to see why Bedfordshire is an appealing slice of the country
'in which to set up home.'
With beautiful countryside like this, and good transport links into London,
as you might expect, property prices in Bedfordshire are pretty pricey.
The average for a detached house is £298,000,
which is £40,000 above the national average.
If you want to be on a direct train link, stations like Harlington,
you're going to pay 10% above the odds.
Further north and east, little villages up there,
you're going to get a lot more bricks for your money.
Those bricks are beautifully laid out in a wide variety of styles.
Let's take a look.
'Sandstone from Bedfordshire's Greensand Ridge
'has been quarried for hundreds of years
'and used to build many homes across the county.
'There's a mix of other traditional building materials including thatch
'and limestone from the northern Ouse Valley.
'The unspoiled village of Pavenham has an abundance of stone cottages,
'such as this two-bedroom terrace,
'that comes with an asking price of £242,000.
'In the same pleasant village,
'this 18th-century three-bedroom limestone cottage
'is ripe for the picking for offers in excess of £300,000.'
A beautiful collection of architectural styles.
Will any be suitable for our couple today? Let's meet them.
'Carolyn runs her own events company and her husband, Carl,
'is chief operating officer for a dental supplies company.
'They tied the knot in Sri Lanka two years ago, after crossing paths in cyberspace.'
We met on the internet. The face-to-face meeting was here.
We met up again a few weeks later. Met up in India.
Then been together ever since, really.
'They're living in a four-bedroom chalet bungalow on a main road
'in a busy suburban Middlesex town.'
I've been living in this house in Northwood for nearly 27 years now.
My daughter, who's going to be 15 this year, was born here.
Over the years, we've extended it upstairs, downstairs, sideways.
There's really nothing else we can add to it.
'As well as Carl, Carolyn and her daughter, Tamsin,
'the new property must potentially cater for Carolyn's mother as well.'
My mum's on her own and although she likes where she is,
all her friends are there, it would be nice to have somewhere
that she could come and live with us, eventually,
if she felt that was something she wanted to do.
'All parties involved in the move have particular needs
'when it comes to the location.'
I have to be within a reasonable commute of Kings Langley.
My daughter goes to school there and I don't really want to change her school.
And my mother is in Pinner, so...
And I need to get to St Albans area.
We'd like to live somewhere close to a village,
because it would be really nice to get involved in the local community.
'So strong community ties are a must.
'It seems Carl and Carolyn are willing to do what it takes to create their dream property.'
We both like doing DIY type stuff.
Carolyn's quite handy. She's got a full set of tools in the workshop.
A bit of a project would be great.
'There are, however, a few fundamental elements that can't be shaped with a toolkit.'
It would be really nice to wake up and look out over woodland
or fields or something like that.
Enough rooms that we can have our separate offices.
Not beamy. Not too low ceilings.
No. Something with a bit of character, a bit quirky, even.
I trained as a garden designer,
so I'd LOVE to have a big space to get my hands on,
divide up and make it look interesting.
'With grand ambitions for the garden,
'it's clear that Carolyn has a horticultural vision,
'but Carl may need a little more convincing.'
Carl's a bit more fussy than I am.
-Clearing up after yourself would be useful.
We'd like somewhere that's our house, that we've bought together,
-we can decorate and refurbish and make our own.
-Together, make it ours.
'Good transport links are essential for our buyers,
'looking for a maximum commute of one hour to Hertfordshire
'for work and also the school run.
'Our search will take us to some wonderful rural villages
'surrounding Bedford, which are well connected to the M1.
'Time for us to meet up to finalise the details of their move.'
Welcome to Bedfordshire.
-What a beautiful day!
The sun shines on your property search!
Bedfordshire's not an area that you've looked at.
We've been looking the other side of the M1, so it'll be interesting.
A ballpark figure of how many you've seen?
-Probably around about 50.
-50 you've actually visited?
CHUCKLING: A fair few!
So, what's the spec? How many bedrooms?
A minimum of four. Five would be perfect.
-We need a kitchen-breakfast room.
-Large kitchen-breakfast room.
-Couple of studies.
-Cos you work from home?
-I work from home.
-Carolyn works from home.
And I tend to bring work home,
so I like my own space for work as well.
-He just likes to get away from me, actually(!)
-Have his own peace and quiet.
-The secret of a good relationship.
-A good shed would do!
In terms of doing work to the property - you've done a lot of work to the bungalow.
We don't mind knocking a place about a bit, doing a fairly major renovation.
-If we could live in it while we're doing it.
-And your budget? How much are we going up to?
If it's a big project, around about 800.
-We could push up to a million for something perfect.
-Something really fantastic.
-It is expensive, being so close to London.
But we have three beautiful properties lined up. We're excited to show them to you.
-Hoping you've not seen them online!
-Don't think we will.
'Carolyn and Carl have a starting budget of £800,000
'to spend on a character home with project potential,
'although they could go higher if a house was absolutely perfect.
'..We'll be serving up three superb properties
'all with different opportunities.
'I won't be revealing the prices until the end of each tour.
'Our special offer is the mystery house.
'It's safe to say our buyers could get much more than they bargained for.
'For our first stop, we're heading to the village of Harrold,
'an hour's drive from Carolyn's daughter's school
'and Carl's office in Hertfordshire.
'Harrold typifies an idyllic English setting
'and wraps itself around a pretty green,
'complete with an octagonal butter market
'and an old circular lock-up that was last used to detain drunks
'and suspected criminals in the 19th century.
'We're stopping off in this arresting village to look around.'
This is one of the hidden jewels of Bedfordshire, Harrold.
This beautiful village green. Have you been here before?
-No, not at all.
-No. It's a beautiful village.
-It's a charming village!
-It's like going back in time.
-Is it what you were thinking, in terms of a home?
If it's got a nice community, if there's a community hall or...
-Yeah, there's a good hall. They do amateur dramatics.
I used to be a bit of a thesp, actually.
It's got two pubs, supermarket, butcher's, in terms of amenities.
-Everything you need on the doorstep.
-And, possibly, your new home.
'A short stroll away in the heart of the village is our first house,
'which is an outstanding Grade II listed former manor house.'
-Property number one!
It dates back to the Elizabethan period.
It was a gift of Elizabeth I to a wealthy London grocer.
-What are your first impressions, Carl?
-It's beautiful. Nice property.
Very handsome. Exactly the sort of thing we're looking for. Full of character.
It's a handsome property and you get this thrown in.
-That comes with it?
-Your coach house.
-Another separate house.
-Indeed it is.
-You can guess what I might suggest that's going to be.
-Do you want to look inside?
'A very positive first impression, and that's no surprise.
'This three-storey Elizabethan home certainly delivers on the character our buyers were after.
'And it boasts terrific period features throughout.'
Step on in through the hallway,
into the main sitting room.
Wow! I like the window seat as well.
Is this a property you can imagine living in?
-Could you imagine sprawling out in this room?
This is a lovely cosy room.
I can imagine a roaring fire in that amazing fireplace.
Let's take a look in the dining room/kitchen.
-Another very impressive room.
-Wow! This is incredible!
-This screen separates the dining room from the kitchen.
-I like that.
That's interesting, that feature doorway.
The staircase, too, is all wibbly wobbly.
Yeah. It's quite a lot of wibbly wobbly upstairs!
Oh, dear. Carl won't like that.
-Let's have a peek in the kitchen.
-Here we are. This is the kitchen.
-A bit small.
-A bit disappointing.
The proportions are historically compact,
cos you can't move this wooden screen.
It's got a range cooker. I'm not sure about a range cooker.
I've never used one.
I know everyone that has one swears by them but I wouldn't know where to start.
-I'm sure you'd soon learn.
-YOU'd soon learn!
I'd have to do all the cooking!
That's downstairs. Let's have a peek upstairs.
'It was all going so well, but it seems we've hit a stumbling block with the proportions of the kitchen.
'There is a separate utility room
'where you could hide away the white goods.
'There's also a large conservatory offering additional dining space
'that opens out onto a paved patio.
'But I've a feeling Carl and Carolyn won't find the space lacking
'when it comes to the bedrooms upstairs,
'spread out over two floors.'
-You've got four bedrooms and this is...
-..as you can guess, the master.
-Very grand. Gosh.
-That's a solid bed, isn't it?
-It is a solid bed. Lovely carvings.
-Look at all the detail there.
-That's amazing, isn't it?
You have two big, big bedrooms on this floor,
one of which could be a study.
In the attic, you've got two more good sized bedrooms.
Not squishy small, but they do have very bowed floors.
So if you like a flat floor...
It makes you feel a little bit seasick, I find.
-There is only one bathroom. There's not en suites in a building this old.
You were lucky if you had a bathroom!
-It's actually a lovely bathroom, a nice big bathroom.
-Plenty of space.
-Let's pop outside and talk price.
'They do seem won over by the huge master bedroom.
'There's also some excellent proportions in the outbuilding.
'The former coach house has been converted
'into a self-contained annexe and has an upside down layout.
'With kitchen and living areas on the first floor and a shower room
'alongside two double bedrooms on the ground floor.
'So the coach house could be used as offices
'or for Carolyn's mother in the future.
'It just remains to be seen if the private walled garden
'will come up smelling of roses.'
-What about the garden?
-Yeah, a little bit on the small side
for what I would like, ideally, really.
It's a very pretty garden and it frames the house nicely,
but I'd be looking for something a little bit more substantial.
-Well, it's a good first house...
-Yes. It's a beautiful house.
Focusing our mind on what you're looking for.
-What do you think a property like this is on the market for?
-I would say, about...860.
I would hazard a guess around 925.
925. OK, so this is on the market for...
a shade under 800.
-Just a smidgen under £800,000.
For a very substantial characterful property.
-Yeah. That's surprising, actually.
-With a ready-made annexe for Mum.
-So, food for thought.
-Definitely food for thought.
Check out the annexe first, then explore around the rest.
-I'll meet you on the drive and we can head to the next one.
'On the market for a shade under £800,000,
'this fine 16th-century property
'is a great house to get our search under way...'
If it was open plan downstairs and two rooms upstairs,
-I think it would work a bit better.
When we came through the garden and first saw the house, I thought,
"Wow! It's really beautiful, full of character."
I was a little disappointed in the kitchen.
It's got a beautiful big window, but not enough storage.
This house has a lot of period features, most of them I like.
But there's a few I don't like. This would be a nice house to visit.
I'd soon get tired of ducking down every day of the week.
It's a beautifully secluded garden, even though it is right in the middle of the village.
I wonder if the next property should be further afield.
-Which it is. Hello!
-Yes, thank you.
So, closing the door on a very characterful property.
-Let's move on to something new.
'With Carolyn's vision to create her own dream country garden,
'a trip to Bedfordshire provides the ideal opportunity
'to visit the village of Stevington,
'where four and a half acres at the manor house have been transformed
'into an atmospheric and artistic horticultural highlight.
'Developed by the owner, Kathy Brown, over the past 25 years,
'the gardens have been divided into 18 themed areas,
'each with a distinctive character.
'Open to the public, it's not only a dream for those with green fingers,
'but a tonic for those who wish to peruse the glorious surroundings.
'So, earlier in the week, we sent both our buyers to get inspiration.
'Influenced by trips abroad,
'there are formal box parterres in a French style,
'a colourful empty fishpond that's strongly Mediterranean,
'as well as the traditional English cottage garden.
'There's also a few art-inspired beds,
'in particular one themed on Claude Monet's Water Lily paintings.'
We've come over to one of the art gardens that we have,
-which was based on a painting I saw in the National Gallery.
I looked at it and was drawn in and I thought, "I can plant this up."
Instead of the golden water, the reflection of water, I saw grasses.
You know how they go golden in the autumn and through the winter?
So I planted up an ornamental grass garden
with these dots of colour for the water lilies.
For me, it's hugely emotional. It's not about individual plants.
It's about the overall feeling.
'Not only are the grounds evocative and entertaining,
'but medicinal and culinary, too.'
We have an edible flower border here, which is unusual, isn't it?
But in the 17th and 16th century,
households were so used to using lavender and cowslips down here
and roses, in all sorts of different ways.
I make rose petal cakes out of the roses.
-This is a David Austin rose.
-Oh, that's beautiful!
It's full of scent.
Simply get the scissors and cut off the coloured parts
and mix it with unsalted butter and icing sugar
and put it in a Victoria sponge cake.
'It's important to note that only certain flowers are edible
'and it can be dangerous to eat flowers
'unless you're absolutely sure the variety is safe to consume.
'Always check with a reputable horticultural expert.
'Also, be aware that flowers treated with pesticides, fungicides
'or other chemicals are not safe to eat.'
-I don't know whether you'd like to eat something.
-Do you like aniseed?
We have sweet cicely.
-See if you like it.
-You eat the whole thing?
-I love to make roast peppers with these inside.
The flowers are the same flavour.
You can put them on salads or omelettes.
People have forgotten how to use them.
'Fuelled with fresh ideas for her own garden,
'no doubt Carolyn's itching to get planting.
'I'm hoping we may have found her an ideal option.
'Time to step away from the cake and get to the second property.
'Our next stop is the village of Thurleigh,
'a 20-minute drive east of our first house,
'and just over our buyers' preferred one-hour commute time.
'Thurleigh has a close-knit community
'and an inviting part-thatched pub.
'On the edge of the village,
'with a very impressive approach down a long driveway,
'we arrive at our second property.'
-A different offering.
Because you're on the edge, you've got a lot more space to play with.
-It sits on a three-acre plot.
-Wow! That should keep me busy!
-And this is the property. It's a barn conversion.
-Any strong feelings about barn conversions?
-Like the space.
-Usually have a good amount of space.
-It was done in the mid '90s.
Then there's this annexe, which was an old smithy and an outbuilding,
which was made part of the parcel of land.
-Shall we have a look inside?
'It's a thumbs up for this beautiful peaceful setting.
'Let's see if this barn conversion
'is a style suited to our buyers' tastes.'
Come on in.
-Straight into the hallway.
I love the floor, these lovely flagstones are beautiful.
Yellow York stone throughout. What are your first impressions inside?
-Big smiles from Carl!
-It's nice, bright and airy.
This is a very impressive space, you can really see the barn...
Oh, wow! Beautiful. I love the double height space.
-That's quite a chimney stack!
-Yeah, it certainly is!
This is how a barn conversion should be,
so you get the full height of the original structure.
-Look at the windows!
-They've done some imaginative things.
This herringbone wouldn't have been in the original,
but they've used the bricks in that way.
It's nice cos you can separate it off
and either have it as one big room or make this a separate dining room.
-In the winter, it would be nice and snug.
-It's a lovely room.
It's quite nice to have a slightly lower ceiling.
-Makes it a bit more intimate.
-Let's go through downstairs.
# Ta-da! #
That's a bit more like it! That's what I call a kitchen!
-It's good, isn't it?
This is a lovely space to hang out.
-It's like an old-fashioned farmhouse kitchen.
-It is. Yeah.
-Very nice modern range.
-Yes. That's more my style.
-Also a log burner, so you can keep nice and warm in the winter.
-With your coffee...
-Yeah. That's really nice.
And a huge utility room, which links through seamlessly into the annexe.
-The annexe is all on one level.
So if your mum is going to move here, she can close the door or potter in here and join you.
'The three rooms in the annexe sit in the far wing of the property,
'to one end of the kitchen-breakfast room.
'It includes a large kitchen-diner, cosy lounge with a log-burning stove
'and a double bedroom.
'In the middle of the property sits a family room,
'right next to the smallest of five bedrooms within the main house.
'As this bedroom is on the ground floor, it could be ideal
'as one of their two requested studies.
'But there's another large ground floor bedroom across the hallway
'which is already being used as an office.
'We'll leave Carl and Carolyn to battle out who gets the bigger.
'The remaining three bedrooms are all on the first floor,
'alongside the family bathroom.
'They include a double, set in the eaves,
'and another roomy double with exposed timbers.
'That leaves the room that could be theirs.'
This is the master bedroom.
-That's the room with the...
-Oh, yes. The lounge with the glass.
That's the other side of the window. You've got an en suite here. So...?
It's not reduced height at all.
Not what I expected. They've done a really good job.
'It's safe to say that Carl is getting on board with the idea of this generous barn conversion.
'It's definitely got the upper hand when it comes to land.
'I hope three and a half acres is what Carolyn was looking for.'
I need to get pole position so I can show you everything in one fell sweep.
You've got the back of the house. This is a formal garden.
Lovely sun-kissed patio and this pergola that goes all the way round.
I could definitely do something with this. It's a wonderful space.
To have the hedging round it, it's totally secluded.
-I'm not a gardener and I see the potential.
What do you think this parcel of property is worth?
Ooh! I would say, probably about...925.
It is, I think, worth more than the last house. I would say 950.
Well, actually, it's on the market for...
-LAUGHING: I don't believe that.
I don't believe that at all.
-That's... That's incredible.
-Have a look round and I'll meet you out the front.
'Well under budget at £740,000, our second property has, yet again,
'given our buyers something to think about...'
Another big room!
This is just the annexe. This is amazing.
This works well as an annexe.
I think this is much more practical for us than the last one.
The house looked really nice from the outside.
I had high expectations. It didn't disappoint when I came inside.
The garden is amazing. It needs quite a lot of work.
It's pretty much a blank canvas.
When you went into the living space and the ceiling opened up,
it was, "Wow!"
It's nice that they've kept the full height of the original structure.
It's a bargain compared to stuff we've been looking at.
We don't know if it's a bargain for the area. I guess we'll find out.
I wonder whether that extra £200,000 in their pocket is burning a hole.
-Did you have a good look round?
-Liked what you found?
-Yes. Very nice.
-Big smiles! I'm happy!
So, time to rest and regroup. Let's head off.
'As the sun sets on what's been an enlightening time in Bedfordshire,
'the first day of our house hunt draws to a close.
'With a starting budget of £800,000,
'Middlesex based couple Carl and Carolyn have set their sights
'on a Bedfordshire home with bags of room both inside and out.
'They've seen two fantastic properties,
'the second of which really seemed to hit the mark.
'But it's not a done deal yet.
'Coming right up, we're going back to basics with the mystery house.'
There is something nice about being in a house that is 400 years old.
'And I'll be minding my Ps and Qs with an alternative vintage blend.'
It's the second day of our property hunt in Bedfordshire.
The sun's hiding behind the clouds, but I'm very pleased with the impact
this county is having on Carolyn and Carl.
They were floored by the prices yesterday. That's very gratifying.
For the mystery house, we're combining the period charm of the first property
and the land of the second, and seeing how that flies.
Although Carl is going to have to mind his head.
Slightly less nice weather on our second day.
What do you think we're going to show you with the mystery house?
Probably something a bit more ultra-modern,
which has all the land we're looking for, all the space,
and the compromise will be on the period property.
'Well, Carl, you couldn't be more wrong.
'We're not going forward in time, we're going back, way back.
'The location of the mystery house
'is on the edge of an unspoiled riverside village called Felmersham.
'Essential amenities are just a couple of miles away
'in the village of Sharnbrook.
'They include a convenience store and a pub.
'The mystery property we're showing our buyers
'is a substantial thatched stone farmhouse
'which dates right back to the 17th century.'
So, I brought you in the back of this property.
-So you'll see that we have lots to talk about here.
-A swimming pool. Tamsin will be pleased.
-Tamsin will be pleased.
And then, a 400-year-old...
I can see all the beams...
CARL LAUGHS ..going through Carl's head.
There are many reasons we brought you here.
One of the reasons is you talked about having a project,
-something where you could put your stamp on it, and this has it, but not here.
'The real twist of this house comes around the corner.
'We're about to find out if our self-confessed DIYers
'can handle starting a project from scratch.'
-That IS a project!
-That is definitely a project.
It's a stone barn in the same pocket of land as the listed building.
So this is Grade II listed, but the great thing is that this has planning already.
-Approved to be converted into,
actually, a separate property that you could sell or have as an annexe.
-This is a nice building.
-It's an inspiring building.
It really is great potential.
'This old rustic stone barn comes with planning permission
'for conversion into a two-bedroomed dwelling with separate access,
'which could really give our buyers something to get their teeth into.
'The farmhouse is also ripe for some development,
'so let's have a look inside.'
-Carl's not going to like that.
-Not low ceilings, but low doors.
-This would have been the heart of the home.
You've got this fantastically huge inglenook which you can sit in,
which is the definition of an inglenook.
-But quite high ceilings.
-This room itself, it's a nice cosy room.
-It's not a bad size.
-For a snug, it would be nice.
-Yeah. For a snug.
-But for a living room...
-For the main living room, no.
I'm shaking my head in a worried way because it is the main living room.
Is it? OK.
Let's go look through the rest. Another low door.
Here we have the kitchen.
-Being very diplomatic.
-It's a small kitchen compared to the last one.
-So the wind slightly went out of our sails when we got inside the old house.
-I think, yeah.
'Off the kitchen, there's a decent sized dining room
'and another reception room, currently laid out as a study.
'The rest of the accommodation is set out on a further two floors.
'On the top floor, the family bathroom serves a double bedroom
'with chunks of exposed timbers,
'as well as a single bedroom with a brick chimney breast.
'The middle floor has two large double rooms on offer,
'each with its own en suite,
'one of which we've earmarked for them.'
This is the master bedroom. It goes through there into a big en suite.
-Lots of storage. Wardrobes.
The bones of the building have a lot of history in it.
There is something nice about being in a house that is 400 years old.
If we could make it work, that would be great.
When you've got something this old,
you are limited to what you can change and alter
to make it work for modern living.
'Sadly, it seems that the mystery property
'is a step too far for our buyers.
'Which is a great shame, for it stands in over two acres of land,
'including a fenced paddock, an orchard with a variety of trees,
'and a beautifully manicured and landscaped garden.
'More than enough to keep Carolyn busy,
'but I think it will be to no avail.'
-It is a beautiful looking property.
-It is, yes.
-Ideal location, the grounds, the gardens, the orchard.
The outbuildings, everything, is fantastic.
How much do you think this lovely property's worth?
-What about you, Carl?
-I've been thinking similar.
I've come up with a formula.
I'm going to think of a price, take off 200 and add 25.
So I'm going to go for 725 on this one.
Often the guess is a barometer of how much you like the property. This is on the market for 775.
-That's because it's got planning permission, I suppose.
-And because it's period.
-And a good bit of land with it, too.
-So have a wander round.
-Lovely. Thank you.
'With an asking price of £775,000,
'the mystery property is a three-storey farmhouse
'that has a history spanning some 400 years...'
Oh, wow! This is an interesting place. It's got great potential.
-Just a shame it's not nearer to the house.
-Cos you could then join it on.
-Yes. This would be a totally separate building to the main house.
We hadn't really considered a thatched cottage before
because we had a preconceived idea that the rooms would be small
and the ceilings would be low.
It's the cottagey thing that is what we're NOT looking for.
I think the mystery house has challenged us to think a bit more
about exactly what it is that we do want from a property.
Anything more than 200 years old is not really that suitable for us
and our type of modern living.
Beautiful walnut tree here, and very old.
This was the centre of the village, and at one point this was the pub.
That's a lot of history. Hello.
-Very beautiful walnut tree.
-It's lovely. It's really old.
Now, our time here is done.
-Time to get you somewhere warm and dry so you can have a think.
'Covering less than 500 square miles,
'Bedfordshire is one of England's smaller counties,
'but it still has its fair share of exclusive palatial mansions.
'It was here at the grand stately home of Woburn Abbey
'that the custom of afternoon tea was created
'by the seventh Duchess of Bedford, Anna Maria, in the mid-19th century.
'Earlier in the week, I went behind the scenes to meet tea party hostess
'and baker extraordinaire Joe Christie,
'who showed me how to prepare the perfect tea plate.
'Starting, of course, with cucumber sandwiches.'
Slightly thick. There needs to be a crunch to it.
I'd say a little bit thinner.
-Yeah. I'd say there.
-When you say thick you mean thin!
-They had cucumber sandwiches to show off
in the wealthier quarters.
It was a very rare ingredient. So, crusts off.
And then finger sandwiches.
So they can be eaten in two or three bites. They're delicate.
'As well as sandwiches, afternoon tea is typically composed of scones
'with clotted cream and jam, sweet pastries and the best bit, cake!'
-More over here!
-The giggle cake, which is not so well known.
It's a boiled fruitcake, best served warm with a good cup of tea.
-Oh, my God! That is fruit-tastic!
-It's nice and colourful inside.
-You can see cherries and pineapple and dried fruit.
'Afternoon tea was initially developed as a social event
'for ladies in genteel society.
'Traditionally, the upper classes would indulge around four o'clock,
'just before a fashionable promenade.
'The middle and working classes would have a more substantial high tea a couple of hours later.
'Beryl Peters is an expert on afternoon tea etiquette.
'She joined me in Woburn Abbey's Blue Drawing Room,
'where this quintessentially English ritual was born.'
Hello. I come bearing sandwiches, giggle cake and Victoria sponge.
I need you to guide me through the ceremony of tea.
Anna, the Duchess, used to have the finest toast,
as thin as poppy leaves,
just as little tasters to begin with.
Then the percolated tea would be brought to the table.
It was brewed away from the table
and it was left for three minutes to draw,
then decanted into a warm teapot.
In the early days, we would have a bowl instead of a cup.
It would be of bone china.
So the balance had to be taken at six o'clock on the thumb,
12 o'clock with the first two fingers.
-And then the little finger would be the balance...
-I shouldn't laugh.
It does sound extraordinarily complicated!
The milk was poured in first, so it was a coolant.
And it would be given a gentle stir
before drinking, from the front to the back, like this,
and not in the vulgar fashion!
It is an amazing thing, afternoon tea. Who knew?
'And so, within a generation, as tea became more affordable
'and women were freer to socialise outside the home,
'tea rooms became a popular sight on the nation's high streets,
'leading to afternoon tea becoming a widespread cultural phenomenon.'
I'm rather regretting not having snaffled a piece of giggle cake, but I have duties to perform.
Namely, to find out whether Carolyn and Carl like any of the three houses we've shown them.
Let's talk about the houses, one by one, in retrospect.
The first house was a very beautiful Elizabethan period manor house.
-What are your thoughts about that?
-It's a stunning house in a really pretty village.
The rooms had nice high ceilings, which we like,
but we just felt that it didn't have enough land.
We did want a bit more garden.
Also, in terms of the room space we wanted,
there weren't enough rooms for us to do what we wanted.
We did manage to give you that for the second property,
a very nice large plot - three and a half acres on the edge of a village.
Attached annexe. What else do you think about that property now?
That was a great property, that barn.
Loved the garden. Lots of potential to develop and do something with.
Room layout worked well. More than enough space.
The annexe, we could utilise as part of the living space
before having to use it as an annexe.
What about the price? You were both quite surprised when I said it.
I really couldn't believe that you got so much space for that money,
and all the garden as well.
You do get so much more for your money here in Bedfordshire.
The mystery house combines the two, really.
We had lots of land and also the period aspect.
What are your thoughts?
The mystery house looked a really nice, picturesque property.
Lots of land. Nice gardens.
A lot of potential with the barn conversion project.
But the main house itself,
whilst it was beautiful and quaint, just wasn't right for us.
The kitchen was a bit on the small side, and being Grade II listed,
it would be a long drawn-out process to get planning permission,
if you could even get planning permission to extend it and make it work.
-Not such a hit, the mystery house.
-No, unfortunately not.
Were any of them a hit? What happens next?
-Would you revisit any of them?
-I think the barn offers a lot of what we wanted.
We would like to explore the area a bit more.
Also, we need to check out the daily commute to and from work and to school.
-And we'll take it from there.
-I do hope that you find something.
We may not have found you the perfect property,
but maybe we've opened your eyes to Bedfordshire, which would be nice.
-I wish you all the best.
-Thank you very much.
What an enormously satisfying week here in Bedfordshire.
Satisfying for me with the cream tea and Victoria sponge,
but more importantly, satisfying for Carl and Carolyn.
We've opened their eyes to a whole new potential pool of homes.
If you've enjoyed exploring these rural retreats,
join us next time for more Escape To The Country.
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With a budget of £900,000, Alistair Appleton goes rural property shopping in Bedfordshire with a couple buying their first house together - but there is also a teenager and a menagerie of pets to factor in. While in the county, Alistair visits Woburn Abbey, where that great British mealtime tradition, the afternoon tea, was born.