Buyers are helped to find their dream homes. Jonnie Irwin travels to Northumberland with a couple who want to escape their cramped London lifestyle and move back to the north east.
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In the 1880s, the house behind me was known as the Palace of the Modern Magician.
I'll be revealing who that person was
and where they lived in just a moment.
On today's show I'm helping two university sweethearts
move back to the county where they first met.
One of our properties hits the right notes...
I really like this kitchen.
-That's music to my ear.
..and there are a few surprises along the way.
Yeah, I wasn't expecting that.
I'm in Northumberland,
and all this water is flowing towards Cragside House,
home of Victorian inventor and industrialist
Lord William Armstrong.
Now, back in 1880,
it was the first house in the world to be lit by hydroelectricity,
harnessing the power generated by the lakes on his estate.
Now, today, Armstrong is remembered as being
a leading light in renewable energy,
who also claimed that the use of coal
was both wasteful and extravagant.
Well, he was also a forward thinker when it came to picking
the perfect spot to enjoy the county's natural splendour.
England's most northerly county, Northumberland,
borders Cumbria to the west and County Durham to the south.
Beyond its northern boundary lies Scotland.
Centuries of border conflict have left behind a rich legacy
of ancient and medieval fortifications,
from the 73-mile long Hadrian's Wall
to imposing fortresses such as Alnwick Castle.
Away from the former battleground,
the county boasts two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
One of which is the entire stretch of Northumberland coastline,
with its 39 miles of wide, sandy beaches.
A quarter of the county has protected status
as the Northumberland National Park.
It's fair to say this tranquil county
Northumberland is close to the hearts
of both of today's buyers, so let's meet them and find out why.
For the past few years, Terry and Joanne, both 31,
have lived in this three-bedroom flat in southwest London.
But they now yearn for more space and a less urban lifestyle.
We've been in London for over eight years now.
In Earlsfield for five years
and we've absolutely loved living around here.
It's been fantastic, but it is very built-up.
We live on a terraced street and there's people above us
and to the left and to the right,
and it is just getting a little bit claustrophobic.
The solution - a return to the county
where they first laid eyes on each other.
Terry and I met in Newcastle, at university about ten years ago.
We got married three years ago up in Northumberland.
We've always wanted to go back out to the country
to be back nearer to family and nearer to friends,
but also just back in the countryside.
Back up to the North East where we originally met.
Jo works as a tax advisor and Terry is a freelance project manager.
But while Jo will continue in the same line of work
and has found a job in Newcastle, Terry has a business plan.
We have a plan to start with a few holiday lets.
Maybe a few cottages or yurts or log cabins,
depending on what the land is like.
As far as the new house is concerned, the kitchen will be key.
Well, we have an agreement that I do all the cooking
and Jo does the washing.
That's been in place for quite a few years now, hasn't it?
-We did swap it once, but it really didn't work.
-It didn't work out.
We got very bad food and not many clean clothes.
The Northumberland countryside will also give Terry and Jo
more time to indulge their interests outside of work.
Over the last couple of years we've both got quite active, haven't we?
Jo managed to persuade me to do a triathlon with her last year,
so we do quite a lot of training together.
We take our bikes over to Richmond Park to train there,
It can take you longer to get there
-than it can to actually do the training.
So it'll be really nice when we're up in the countryside.
We have a garage to store our bikes in
so we can just get them straight out and get straight on the road.
All that's left is to find out how much money they've got to spend
on the new home and the new venture.
The budget for the new house is £500,000.
We also have up to £150,000 to develop the business.
Since Jo will be commuting to Newcastle for her new job,
we're concentrating our property search
in the bottom half of the county,
along the southern edge of the Northumberland National Park.
I've come to meet Terry and Jo to find out more
about what they want from their new home.
So, welcome to beautiful Northumberland.
A huge move for you, geographically, of course.
You're also looking for a new lifestyle.
Tell me a bit about that.
We want to move out into the country somewhere we can set up our new home
and also develop this holiday let business as well.
All right, let's focus on the house first.
Need to find you somewhere to live, don't we?
The house itself, we're quite prepared to do some work to it.
So it doesn't need to be all completely finished.
What does it look like? How big is it?
I think we've got something that's got four bedrooms,
so it's a family house. Something that we can stay in for a long time.
We want to have the family over a lot,
so it needs to have a lot of downstairs space, room for us
to host people and host events like Christmas.
And all our friends from London.
-The style of the house, we are really open to it.
We're not fans of anything really cottagey,
low ceilings and that kind of thing,
but other than that we are open
-to all kinds of architecture and stuff.
Now, let's talk about this business, then.
How much land are you after?
I think the minimum would have to be five acres.
-Minimum five acres?
What exactly are you hoping to do?
We'd like to maybe start off with three or four letting units
of something maybe like wooden lodges or yurts
-or something like that.
Possibly expand it up to maybe even 15-20 separate little units
on the plot of land, eventually.
Let's remind ourselves of this budget.
-How much are you looking to spend?
-In total it comes to 650,000.
About 500,000 on the property to leave us with 150,000
for development and then to put into the business.
It's a house, it's a business, it's a future lifestyle, isn't it?
-There's a lot of think about.
-Well, let's get started.
For a maximum budget of £650,000,
which includes the financial capital for the business,
Terry and Jo want a detached family home.
It has to include four bedrooms, a large farmhouse kitchen for Terry
and space downstairs to entertain when their relatives come to stay.
As for their rural enterprise, they need a minimum
of five acres of land on which to build holiday accommodation.
We've found three fantastic properties to tempt them with,
and before I reveal the price of each one, I'll be asking them
to guess how much they think it's worth.
The last is our mystery house,
and they'll need to harness their energy to look around that one.
Our first house is located in a rural community a few miles
from the border with County Durham and the village of Shotley Bridge,
which is around 16 miles from Newcastle.
Shotley Bridge is a thriving village with a range of local shops,
restaurants and pubs.
It is perhaps best known as the centre
of Britain's sword-making industry,
which dates back to the 17th century,
when German sword makers arrived in the country.
It's believed they were attracted here
because of the River Derwent, which flows through the village.
Its soft water was good for tempering steel.
Five minutes' drive away, back over the border in Northumberland,
is our first property.
So here we are, the first house.
-Yeah, very nice.
Now, this was the original farmhouse.
-So you've got the farmhouse and then five other neighbours.
Each of them face out in different directions,
so you're not overlooked. What's going through your minds?
-I think the house is really pretty.
-I'm not sure it's quite rural enough, looking out over...
It's quite built-up, the view,
-but the house from the outside looks absolutely beautiful.
-Let's go inside.
This Grade 2 listed traditional stone farmhouse dates back to 1750.
It's been renovated and extended over the years
but you still get a real sense of its history inside.
Let's start in the kitchen.
As every good house does.
And a farmhouse should have a farmhouse kitchen.
-This has exactly that, doesn't it?
Really, really nice kitchen.
So it sounds like you're going to be cooking a lot.
-I think we'd spend a lot of time in here.
-Let's just go through here.
Right, then. The first reception room.
The lounge area. It's a big room.
-Yeah. I mean, everything's big in this house.
But this is one of two, OK?
-Let's look in the other one just through here.
-So, reception room number two.
-A dining room?
For our personal tastes we would redecorate completely, wouldn't we?
The actual structure and fabric of the building is...
-Really, it's got loads of integrity, doesn't it?
They've stayed true to what it originally was.
I think you're right.
Let's go and have a look at the bedroom.
As well as the kitchen and two reception rooms,
the ground floor also includes a generous study
and a utility room off the kitchen.
Upstairs there are four bedrooms, all of them doubles
and each overlooking the front of the property.
The two smallest doubles have built-in wardrobes
and they're all serviced by a fully-tiled family bathroom,
which just leaves the largest bedroom for Terry and Jo.
This is your master because it has an en-suite just there.
-That's a big room, isn't it?
-It is, yeah.
-Really nice size for a master.
-It's got quite a nice, big window in here as well.
-With views out over the valley.
Let's go outside and have a look at some of the business options, maybe.
Terry and Jo seem to be able to look beyond the decor
and can appreciate the heritage of this house.
As far as the business goes, the property comes
with half of this outbuilding, which could be converted
into a holiday let.
But let's talk land.
-You get quite a bit of it.
How much do you think this place is on the market for, then?
Erm, I think 535?
-I'm going to a bit lower than that. I'll say 500.
Well, it's on the market for offers around £550,000.
-So not bad guesses.
Our first house still leaves our buyers 100,000 for the business.
It's a traditional, 18th-century farmhouse built of local stone
with four double bedrooms.
Downstairs has separate reception rooms
and a large country kitchen for Terry.
Outside includes an outbuilding and three-and-a-half acres of land,
which, subject to planning, could be ripe for development.
-Now, you've had a good look around.
-Have you seen enough?
-I think so, yeah.
-OK, time for the next one. Let's go.
One Northumberland home that sadly isn't for sale is this one,
The Dukes of Northumberland have lived here for 700 years.
Known as the Windsor of the North,
it is the second-largest inhabited castle in Europe.
It's both an impressive fortress and a stately home.
Like many across the country, Alnwick Castle comes with
a formal garden attached, but this garden is like no other.
The vision of the current Duchess of Northumberland,
Jane Percy, the Alnwick Garden combines cutting-edge design
with traditional landscaping.
I've come to get my fingers green with head gardener Trevor Jones.
-Trevor, how are you?
-Very well, thank you.
-Good to meet you.
-Well, Trevor, very impressive gardens.
How long have they been in this form, if you like?
They've only been in this form for about ten years.
Prior to that, this area was completely derelict.
What are the influences here, then?
The influences here are all from the designers, Jacques and Peter Wirtz.
They're from Belgium, so very much a European style of gardening,
so unlike other gardens in the UK,
much of the planting here is in straight lines, like behind us.
I imagine you must have full-time people like yourself here.
-Do you have volunteers?
-Yes, we do.
We have a hardy band of volunteers that work with us in the garden.
It's very much a people's garden. It needs people in it to come alive.
The centrepiece of the garden is this cascading fountain,
one of the largest water features in the country.
Beyond that is a walled ornamental area
and a series of water sculptures
made from mirrors of stainless steel.
But despite the modern twists,
the Alnwick gardeners are keen to practise traditional techniques.
One of them is Alistair Dodds.
So this is pea-sticking?
Yeah, this is the old-fashioned method
of supporting herbaceous perennials.
So it's an old method using birch twigs,
weaving them in and out of each other and creating a frame.
Not being much of a gardener myself, I'm keen to have a go.
-I find the best way is to get three bits together like that.
And then just cut it off then just wind those in like plaiting hair.
-Take a bit here?
Oh. Got them? Right, so I'm going to... This is like plaiting?
So the big branch...
..in the middle like this?
Yeah, you just weave it in and out, middle to middle.
I think it's safe to say that when it comes to pea-sticking,
I'm just clutching at straws.
Well, it's not the best, is it? So this just goes over that?
You stick the bottom in the ground.
But within about three weeks you won't see any birch twigs at all.
The garden here at Alnwick is still work in progress
with five new areas planned in the future,
adding even more to this unique horticultural masterpiece.
We're venturing 50 miles further west for our second property
to the hamlet of Roweltown, which is just over the border into Cumbria.
We're now an hour and 20 minutes away from Newcastle
and that could be a struggle for Jo's commute.
This is as rural as it gets.
Aside from a couple of local watering holes,
the closest amenities are a 15-minute drive away.
If Terry and Jo felt that house number one wasn't rural enough,
then our second property should deliver on that front.
It's an isolated smallholding, the heart of which
is this detached farmhouse which dates back to the 17th century.
Now, you might be thinking, "Oh, look at all these buildings."
-A little bit!
-Well, we will be looking at all of these building.
-That's quite something.
There's still lots to do.
-Well, so far I love it.
Let's look inside.
Come right in,
cos I want you to see this farmhouse kitchen in all of its splendour.
-Deceptively modern in here, actually.
-It's got this real earthy feel to it still.
I don't think I'd change that much in this kitchen.
I really like this kitchen.
-That's music to my ear.
Let's keep looking around.
The old-style appearance of the kitchen,
which also includes this utility room,
has gone down well with our buyers and that cottagey feel continues
in the adjacent room, which is currently being used as a snug.
But there's a very different look to the next room we're heading to.
Yeah, I wasn't expecting that.
-Much lighter, isn't it?
-Really lovely room.
-It has so much light coming in. So many windows.
-I don't think I'd do anything to this room either!
-So, we're pretty happy so far.
-Yeah, it's lovely.
Let's take a look at the bedrooms.
Upstairs there are four bedrooms in total, all good-sized doubles
and a family bath and shower room.
One of the bedrooms, ideal for guests,
has a vaulted ceiling with exposed beams.
Another has a built-in wardrobe and there's wooden flooring throughout.
That just leaves the master,
which is accessed via this en suite with roll top bath.
Mind your head.
Oh, very nice.
Worth ducking for?
-We've got so much to see outside, so let me at least make a start.
Mind your heads again.
And it's only when you get outside that you start to appreciate
the scope of our second property.
There's a variety of outbuildings,
all at various stages of development.
They include two barns, which could be renovated in the future.
And with Terry's holiday business in mind,
there's also a more immediate potential for income.
So, into this cottage.
First room, the living room, needs nothing but decorating, really.
-Yeah. That's great, isn't it?
You've got three bedrooms and a bathroom behind us
that need refurbing, and then there's the kitchen.
Now, there's more work to be done in the kitchen
-but more work has been done, if that makes sense to you.
It's clean, it's dry. It all just needs a little bit of sorting out.
-25 grand should get this up and running.
What, with planning you're 90% there.
It's the home straight for this.
-Exactly. This is more than I expected.
-Oh, yeah. A lot more.
In addition to this cottage,
there's a further one-bedroom cottage that,
with a bit of work, could also be let
as a holiday getaway for couples.
But if that's not enough to satisfy Terry's entrepreneurial appetite,
there's even more on offer.
You've got land here as well. 14 acres.
From what you've seen so far,
how much do you think this farm is on the market for?
I think it's the very top end of our budget, so...
I'm going to hope that you've left us
a little bit of money in the budget
for some renovations, so I'll say 625.
..this place is on the market for
-offers around £595,000.
This remote, rural smallholding
is still under Terry and Jo's maximum budget.
The price includes the detached 17th-century farmhouse
with four double bedrooms and a large, traditional kitchen.
The 14-acre plot includes numerous outbuildings
and two almost-ready holiday cottages,
as well as land on which to build log cabins and yurts in the future.
Just think, of an evening, if you bought this place,
-sunsets with that view.
-Something good to finish on, isn't it?
Let's go back to the hotel.
For the mystery house we're back into Northumberland
and heading to the northern side of the National Park
to the hamlet of Catcleugh,
which is just under an hour's drive from Newcastle.
Although the mystery house cuts Jo's commute time,
there are a few practical issues to tackle with this property.
So, the mystery house.
-Look at this.
-Look at the setting.
-Commute to Newcastle...
-..both the owners commute daily.
But, also, there's reason to come here, isn't there?
You're surrounded by beautiful countryside.
But I do want to tell you one thing.
We're off the grid.
You wanted rural! You're thinking, "Why is this the mystery house?"
Well, it's because...
Look. Look around. No power cables. Beautiful!
-This isn't your traditional way of life.
Does that worry you?
-We can still have lights and stuff?
-Yeah, yeah! Of course you can.
-This runs as a normal home. It runs automatically.
-Then it's fine.
Good! All right. Let's go inside.
The nervous laughter suggests Jo in particular
might be slightly worried by our mystery property's
unconventional power supply.
We're heading to the main farmhouse,
which was built just over 100 years ago.
Let's have a quick peek in the living room.
-Probably the smallest we've seen so far.
It is a small room, but...
It depends on what the rest of the house is.
If this would just be the main living area then maybe not big enough,
But this house is...
Well, it's actually probably the smallest
-of all the houses we're seeing.
-But it grows elsewhere.
-Let me just squeeze past you and we'll go to the kitchen.
-So we're back to our farmhouse dimensions and proportions.
Oh, yeah. That's big.
Really nice kitchen.
I think everything we see probably needs a bit of updating.
It's perfectly liveable, of course, but for your own taste,
over the coming years you'll want to do something with it, won't you?
-Let's squeeze past and we'll go up to the bedrooms.
The kitchen also has a handy walk-in larder,
and there are four further rooms on the ground floor.
A study currently being used as a music room, a utility room
with a spiral staircase leading up to one of the bedrooms,
a wet room off the utility
and, finally, the ground floor is also home to this,
the only bathroom in the house.
Upstairs, there are four bedrooms in total,
three doubles and one single.
Two of the doubles are currently being used as children's bedrooms,
and the single for storage, which just leaves the remaining double.
So three double bedrooms up here on the first floor.
-This is clearly a master.
-Cracking, isn't it?
-Amazing view out there.
I've got to hold my hands up here.
There is something that could be an issue for some people.
-Bathroom is downstairs.
Yeah, it's not ideal.
For some people it's a definite no-no.
But that's relieving.
-No, it that's the worst thing about the house then...
-Yeah, I'm fine!
Good. I think whilst the house might be the smallest we've seen,
outside I think you've got maybe the most amount of potential
-for you specifically.
Let me just squeeze past you there, Jo, and we'll go have a look.
Terry and Jo seem to be up for making sacrifices.
This move is also about the business and any limitations inside the house
are more than made up for by the business opportunities outside.
So, little bit like the property yesterday,
-we have barns to convert.
-Yeah. Really good, isn't it?
Unlike anything we've seen before, which is, again,
another reason why it's the mystery house,
-there's work to be done outside as well as in your home.
-Don't forget we're looking for a home for you to live in.
You're going to be working hard in Newcastle.
-You want to come back to something comfortable.
But you also want to be thinking, "What's Terry doing.
"Is he busy?"
And I tell you what - yes, he will be. Follow me.
As well as the outbuildings, the grounds also include lawned areas
to the front and rear of the farmhouse.
But more importantly for the business,
a perfect spot for Terry's plans.
Right, then. Outside.
-You get over ten acres of land.
-Everything that doesn't look like it's being farmed, basically.
-And needs something doing to it.
So more than enough room for a number of yurts,
-and what better place to have a yurt here?
-Yeah, beautiful, isn't it?
-It would really work here as well.
-Now, in order to have these yurts, obviously you need facilities.
The owners did look into that.
You need to upgrade the entire power supply system here, the generators.
-And that could cost up to £60,000.
So how much do you think this place is on the market for, then?
I'm going to say...
-I'm going to hope it's a bit cheaper. 500.
-Well it's actually for sale for offers around £450,000.
That leaves us a big pot of cash.
At face value,
the mystery house is our cheapest property of all.
The smallholding includes a detached farmhouse with four bedrooms,
various outbuildings, which could be converted into holiday lets
and around ten acres of land on which to build yurts or log cabins.
But if the business is to develop,
it will require some money to upgrade the power supply.
-Could really work, then?
Well, hopefully it's something to compare with the second property yesterday.
So, something to think about on the journey back to where we're going to have a chat.
-All right, let's go back.
Which one of the three properties is your favourite?
-Property number three was clearly the favourite.
-The mystery house?
It seems to have everything that we were looking for
in terms of what can be a long-term home for us
but also really work from a business perspective
Right from when we first had this idea,
the single most important thing was that the setting
was a real beauty spot, so it gave people a reason to come to it,
and the mystery house just delivered on that
far more than the other two properties.
We're looking for a home as well, and there was some work
to be done to make it what you wanted from a home.
What would be your first job?
That downstairs bathroom, yeah.
We'd look to get maybe some outline plans
for an extension to the house as well.
So, you've got a favourite property
but it's a big, huge leap for you guys.
What's the next step?
We're moving up here anyway into rented accommodation
-in just a few weeks.
That will give us the breathing space we need
to develop more detailed plans.
I think we'll definitely go back and see property number three,
the mystery house.
Does that mean you're seriously interested in this place then?
-Oh, yeah. Definitely.
-We are quite interested.
Well, this is one huge step I think you've taken,
but with many more to go.
So I wish you both the very best of luck.
-Thank you. Thanks for all your help.
And let me know when you're up and running,
cos I would love to come and stay opposite that reservoir.
Well, Jo and Terry said to me that they thought
this particular trip up here to Northumberland
could be maybe a bit of a fact-finding mission.
But I'm confident it's turned into more than that.
These past couple of days seem to have
cemented their thoughts, if you like.
And the way they both reacted so well to the mystery property,
I think we could have found them
not only their first new home in the countryside together,
their big escape, if you like, to Northumberland,
but also a location from which to base their exciting new enterprise from.
Let's hope so. See you next time.
Jo and Terry have now moved into their rented accommodation
in the North East, and intend to revisit our mystery house very soon.
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Jonnie Irwin travels to Northumberland with a young couple who want to escape their cramped London lifestyle and move back to the north east, where they first met. And with a top budget of £650,000, it is not just a home they want, they also have serious business ambitions. While in the county, Jonnie visits the impressive gardens at Alnwick Castle.