Property series. Nicki Chapman is in Kent, property-shopping with a young family who are desperate to break free from the capital to find their perfect rural home.
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This magnificent house was the childhood home of one young lady
who had the misfortune of marrying King Henry VIII.
Find out which of his six wives grew up here in a few moments.
'Today, we help a London couple escape the noise and pollution of the Big Smoke
'for the fresh air and quiet of the countryside, and it's not all plain sailing.'
-This doesn't feel like a home.
-It feels like a house.
-It feels like a show home.
'But finally, we come up trumps.'
That is really pretty. Super-gorgeous.
Today, I'm in Kent and this is Hever Castle
where Anne Boleyn was lucky enough to spend her early years
before losing her head as the second wife of Henry VIII.
Four centuries on, the American entrepreneur William Waldorf Astor bought this house
and upsized it in every way.
Later on in the show, I'll be taking a closer look at this lavish restoration,
just one of the great treasures this county is home to.
In the south-east corner of Britain, tucked between London and the English Channel,
Kent is thought to be the oldest county in England.
Celebrated for its rich farmland and fruit orchards, it's also known for its brewing industry
where hops were once dried in distinctive, conical-shaped oast houses that still dot the landscape.
Gentle, rolling hills, downland and wooded valleys sit alongside the county's architectural heritage
with historic towns like Royal Tunbridge Wells.
Sitting on the nation's front line, Kent boasts more than 18 spectacular castles.
So let's meet today's buyers and find out why they're drawn to Kent.
Married for five years, Dan and Celia currently live
in a rented, three-bedroom house in Greenwich, south-east London,
but now, disenchanted with city living, they want a country home in which to raise their young family.
It is extremely built-up. We're overlooked by a massive tower block.
We've got a bit of a walk to get to any green space at all.
It would be nice to leave behind the concrete jungle
and move somewhere where there's a bit more fresh air and a bit more space.
Having enjoyed a rural childhood themselves, Celia and Dan are keen
that their three-year-old son, Ned, and six-month-old daughter, Clem, have the same opportunities.
In the countryside, kids have more freedom. I spent my summers building dams in streams and climbing trees.
I have this vision that they can get on their bikes and cycle round to people's houses.
With doctor Celia working in central London and dentist Dan on the south-east edge of the capital,
they want to keep commuting time to a minimum, but still enjoy all the elements of a country life.
I'd like to move into a village and be part of a smaller community.
Greenwich is a nice community, but it's a very big community.
It would be nice to live somewhere a bit smaller. I'd like the children to go to a local school.
As a keen cyclist, Dan is looking forward to having a choice of scenic routes right on his doorstep.
I spend a good hour, hour and a half to get to the countryside when we go riding or running,
so it would be nice to already be there.
But as well as the space of the open countryside, Dan and Celia are looking for a house big enough
for their two small children and Dan's 11-year-old daughter, Megan.
It would be nice to have a five-bedroom house because when Megan stays with us at the weekends,
she ends up staying on a blow-up bed in Clem's room, so it would be nice for her to have her own room.
We're bursting out at the seams. We haven't got room to store Dan's bike stuff and our ski stuff and whatever.
I'm really looking forward to moving somewhere where we have a garage,
where these umpteen bikes can be stored and not cluttering up my hallway and my kitchen.
This will be the first property Dan and Celia are buying together and they have to make the right choice.
We do plan on just moving once and then staying there, hopefully, for a long time,
so it will change our life in a massive way.
It's a major decision, so what have they set aside for their dream home?
Top end of the budget to spend probably would be between £850,000 to £900,000.
'Dan and Celia are interested in the area close to the market town of Tonbridge,
'four miles north of Tunbridge Wells and around 30 miles south-east of London.
'I'm meeting them in situ to find out just what kind of property they have in mind.'
Dan and Celia, welcome to Kent.
Tell us a little bit about the home you're looking for in your eyes.
Ideally, detached, olde worlde, a little bit quirky.
We'd like five bedrooms because we've got three children
and it would be nice to have some space for people to visit and so on, and, if possible, a play room.
Remind us how much we've got to spend.
-We are lucky enough to have a budget of £850,000.
Is there any flexibility on that or is that the limit?
I suppose for the perfect house we would be able to go up to about £900,000.
-We've got three properties lined up to show you in this beautiful county. Shall we get started?
With a generous budget of up to £900,000, our buyers are looking for a detached character property.
We've found three contrasting properties to tempt them with.
At each one, I'll ask them to guess the price before I reveal it.
The last is the mystery house
which, whilst straying from the wish list, might just bowl them over.
'We're testing Dan and Celia with our first property which is on the edge of Tonbidge.
'It offers the convenience they're after, though will it give them enough of that country feel?
'Built around the River Medway with over 150 listed buildings, including its very own castle,
'Tonbridge offers excellent primary schools.
'With great train and road connections into London, they could be at work in less than an hour.'
-So, here is...
-..our first property.
-It looks stunning, doesn't it?
Is this what you had in mind when you thought of moving?
It's perhaps a little more urban than we'd expected, but there are benefits to being on the edge of a town.
When the children get older, they can walk places. We won't have to drive them everywhere.
-There's pros and cons to it.
-Something to weigh up.
-Shall we start the tour?
'Built in 1957, this house has been extended and the space provides a substantial family home.'
Gosh, it's lovely and light!
-Plenty of windows, which is great.
-Wow, I love the fireplace!
Different from where you are at the moment?
You could fit our whole house in this...
-Every room is going to be spacious for you two.
-Shall we continue to the kitchen?
-So, you've got the kitchen here.
-So, long and thin.
But it leads into a separate area with informal dining at the end.
Yeah, that's really nice, to have space for a family kitchen table.
This is where the original house ended, so you could look at opening that out a little bit more.
Wow, that would be a big space if this was all opened out!
And there's another room through here which I've got an idea for.
It makes a great office.
But what about if you took away that wall
-and opened it all out?
-That would be lovely.
-Amazing for the children.
You can keep an eye on them. They've got access to the garden.
-But what a great area.
-That would be lovely.
I have this vision of a great, big kitchen table everyone can sit around. That would be really nice.
And just behind us, you've actually got a dining area, a separate room.
People of our generation are less likely to use a formal dining room and are more likely
to entertain friends on the side of the kitchen, so you could put the kids' stuff in there.
That could be the children's play room. We've got it sorted! Now we'll go upstairs and see the bedrooms.
'Upstairs are three good-sized rooms, all with built-in cupboards,
'a light, spacious double and a family bathroom,
'plus there's an impressive master suite.'
So, lots of bedrooms with this property.
-How do you fancy having your own en-suite?
-Yeah. Are we allowed to have a little look?
Oh, right. It goes on.
Wow! Dressing room and bathroom.
'Dan and Celia seem happy with the room inside the house.
'There's also a basement with a games room and a large wine cellar.
'I hope the garden won't disappoint. There's a large patio and lawn with mature trees and shrubs,
'plus two garages to accommodate Dan's bikes.'
You've got a beautifully presented, mature garden.
It's not overlooked at all, which, considering there are other houses around, is really nice.
-It's a decent-sized plot.
-And you've got the front garden.
It's plenty big enough for the kids to have a game of football, so that's fine.
So, who wants to go first with "guess the price"?
I've had a look at some of the houses that you can walk into Tonbridge from round here.
You've done a lot more research. That's unfair.
I think it would be quite a lot more than that with this amount of garden and in such good condition.
I'd say we're looking at more like 875.
I'm sorry to tell you that one of you is wrong and one of you is bang on the money.
This house is under their maximum budget.
-Are you happy? Have you seen enough?
-Yeah, very much so.
-That's our first house done. Shall we get moving now?
'One of Kent's most famous historic houses
'is the stunning, 13th-century Hever Castle near Edenbridge.
'Best known as the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, second wife of Henry VIII,
'it's now one of the county's most popular tourist attractions.
'I'm meeting Chief Executive Duncan Leslie to delve into the castle's extraordinary history.'
Duncan, great to meet you.
I have a real passion for anything to do with the Tudor period.
-Anne Boleyn's family had connections to Hever Castle.
This was their main home. They needed a home close to London
and we're only 21 miles, as the crow flies, to London.
She spent a lot of her formative years here before going to France.
Then she came back and spent a lot of time here when Henry VIII was courting her.
So, what happened to the castle after she left?
Henry VIII actually gave Hever Castle to another of his ex-wives, to Anne of Cleves.
-As part of the divorce settlement. Anne of Cleves lived here for 16 years.
-Two out of the six wives lived here?
'Over the years, the castle was owned by a number of prominent families,
'but had fallen into disrepair when it was bought by wealthy American William Waldorf Astor in 1903.
'He set about lovingly restoring it at enormous expense.'
This just gives you an idea of the sort of workmanship.
We're talking hundreds... thousands of hours of work.
-It's not just this room. It's the whole castle.
-The gardens as well?
There were 600 or 700 people working in here,
-and another 150 in the gardens, so come and have a look.
'It's hard to believe the elaborate gardens around the castle were just marshland
'before Astor embarked on his massive restoration project.'
Now, that is what I call a view!
This was just fields. He wanted a lake, so 800 men were employed for two and a half years,
digging this lake by hand.
I wonder if he had any idea that we would be appreciating this huge investment 100 years later?
I think he wanted to leave something behind that he would be remembered by
and I suspect he's probably succeeded.
'It's 110 years since Astor bought the castle
'and to mark the anniversary, the Japanese Tea House on the lake is being rebuilt.
'I'm meeting landscape designer Simon Scott who is overseeing the project.'
So, these dragons, were they on the original building?
They are hopefully something similar to what was on the original building.
'The Tea House was taken down in the 1930s to make space for a pillbox,
'the dug-in guard post, built as part of British anti-invasion preparations
'during the Second World War.
'Simon's job is to try and re-create it as accurately as possible.'
A lot of the records and photos were lost during a flood in 1968.
The only bit we have got is the existing roof, the original roof which is here on top of the pillbox.
The only other bits we know about the Tea House...
A pensioner who lives in the village remembers taking down the original Tea House to make way...
And the only bits he actually remembers are the roof and the gold dragons.
I'm looking forward to seeing it complete in all its grandeur.
I'll be wondering which of those dragons did I help paint?
'If everything goes to plan, they should be finished here in a couple of weeks.
'And I can't think of a more relaxing place to come
and enjoy a cup of tea.'
Our second house is located in the village of Chart Sutton,
around 13 miles east of Tonbridge.
Staplehurst, three miles south of the property,
offers a good selection of local shops, some traditional pubs and a library,
plus the all-important main-line rail service into London.
Let me show you our second property.
The house itself is about 100 years old. It was extended about 30, 35 years ago.
-Are you eager to step inside?
'This may look like a classic character property,
'but the interior is quite a surprise.'
So, it's not quite the cottage it looks from the outside, is it?
-It's a bit mind-boggling.
It looks really small from the outside and in here it's like a TARDIS.
If you look, there's a door.
Through there is a media room. That's how they use it when the grandchildren come to stay.
-But that could be the children's play area.
-Do you want to see the next bit, the kitchen?
And if you like a lot of space in your kitchen...
-It's taken your breath away, hasn't it?
-This all looks brand-new.
-It is, actually.
It's been here a year and a half, so you've got granite work surfaces all the way round,
a huge island in the middle,
two ovens at the end, so much storage space.
-Is it too much for you?
-I think it is too much. I'll be honest with you.
Is it too sort of smart, do you think? Is it too smart for your...?
It's not to my taste, but if it's only a year old, I wouldn't dream of changing it. Do you know what I mean?
I think my problem is that this doesn't feel like a home.
-It feels like a house.
-It feels like a show home.
We'll continue upstairs now.
'Leading off the generous living room is a conservatory overlooking the garden and the open countryside,
'but despite all the space, it seems Dan and Celia can't imagine themselves in this property.
'Maybe they'll be more taken with the upstairs.'
Now, before we look at bedrooms,
I have to show you this.
It is the most amazing shower, power shower, jets everywhere.
-It's a double shower.
-It's got room for two.
-We'll not go into that!
-You have a bath, a Jacuzzi.
-You could have the whole family in there.
I'll bring you back to reality and show you the bedrooms now.
So, we have a very light and spacious master bedroom with en-suite.
-Plenty of space.
-Loads of light.
-This has got a lot of light and beautiful views.
Yeah, really nice to have a kind of...two-aspect views.
And high ceilings. It doesn't feel cottagey inside. It feels big.
So, you've got five bedrooms in total - one single,
-four doubles, two of those are en suite.
-When your guests come to stay...
-They'll be very happy.
Then you've got your family bathroom as well.
Let's head outside. I've got some out-buildings to point out to you
and also we are going to have to discuss money.
So, the total outside space, it is pretty impressive.
You've got an out-building there. A bit of work has been done on it. Piping and everything's in there.
Next door to that you've got a sauna and a hot-tub.
A huge garage, a carport. Then we start on the land.
In total, there's four acres, including the footprint of the property.
-It's a big chunk of England.
-Shall we walk round to the front of the property and talk about money?
'Having guessed the exact price of the last house, can Celia do it again?'
Celia, I think it's your turn to go first, isn't it?
Well, it's a big house. It's been newly done up and it's got masses of land.
I can't imagine all that will come very cheap.
I'll have another stab at 875.
Right. How about you, Dan? Guess the price.
I would say slightly cheaper,
-The asking price is £850,000.
-Oh, right, OK.
This modernised period property is well under Dan and Celia's maximum budget.
-Happy, you two?
-What a glorious end to our day!
Sun shining, in the countryside...
It's gorgeous. It certainly feels a million miles from London.
-Yeah. We've given you some thinking to do with these properties.
-You have, yeah.
'It's the second day of our house-hunt in Kent with London couple, Dan and Celia.
'They have a generous budget of up to £900,000 to spend on a rural family home.
'We're taking a risk with our mystery house, travelling around 30 miles south-east of Tonbridge.'
'Our third and final property is just outside the small village of Mersham.
'There's a church, a couple of pubs and village shops here,
'but although the road connections are good, it would mean a longer drive to work for Dan
'and Celia would have to travel three miles to Ashford to catch the train to London.'
'This timber-framed manor house is Grade II listed
'and is thought to date back to the 16th century.'
Dan and Celia, this is your mystery house. Take a look.
That is really pretty.
Oh, wow, that is beautiful!
-Shall we start the grand tour?
-Very much so.
So, I have to say "welcome".
-That's absolutely beautiful.
-It's hard to believe this is a home.
-Shall we start with the kitchen?
-You might have a period house, but you've got a fantastic modern kitchen.
-But done in such a nice style. It really fits with the feel of the house.
It's lovely. I love the big, open range at the end.
-Would you change anything here?
-No, not at all.
It's absolutely beautiful.
-We've surprised you, haven't we?
-I'm a bit blown away, yeah. It's really nice.
It's not often you get to see the inside of a house like this, let alone being told you could own it.
It could be your future home.
-Dan, if you want to lead through, we'll keep going.
-Mind your head.
Look at the fire!
-I want to see your faces.
-Oh, my goodness!
This is exactly what you expect from a country cottage or house.
-So, if you think the house is old,
those beams are ships' beams, so they're going to be even older.
They could be 150 years older than this house even.
If I was to imagine any house, this would be it.
Just from the walk up the drive, everything.
The beams, the fire...
-It's absolutely amazing.
'The ground floor also offers an elegant dining room with another original fireplace,
'a small office and wine cellar.
'Upstairs, there are two floors.
'At the top of the house is a bedroom and bathroom, ideal for visiting guests.
'The first floor consists of a family bathroom and three more spacious bedrooms,
'including a show-stopping en-suite master.'
Oh, my God, it's enormous!
I was expecting poky little bedrooms.
Even enough room for a sofa in it, but there is more.
It used to be a dressing room. It's now an en-suite.
An en-suite in a medieval house? I don't believe it!
-Shall we head outside?
'Dan and Celia clearly love what they've seen so far
'and I wonder what they'll make of the grounds.'
So, you've got all this. I just want you to take another look.
That is what you call a period property.
Absolutely. It's idyllic. It really is.
A couple of other things to mention - you've got a cottage here. It used to be the hayloft.
It's got a massive bedroom with three beds in it, a kitchen, sitting area, self-contained.
You've also got a double garage there and a studio flat.
-And if that wasn't enough, you have three acres of land in total.
-But how much is it on the market for? We've now got to get serious, haven't we?
-You can go first.
I would have thought this would be double our budget. Really!
I'm puzzled as to why you've brought us here. I couldn't imagine that this would be less than £1 million.
-What do you want to say? What's your figure? A million?
I'd almost agree with her. Just slightly under. I don't think we can afford it.
I think it's still just under a million.
Are you ready...?
The asking price for this amazing property...
-I think it would be an honour to live somewhere like this. It's just beautiful.
I'm absolutely gobsmacked that it's even within our grasp.
This house is just inside Dan and Celia's maximum budget.
But it would make a longer journey into work.
Dare I drag you both away?
-I'd rather stay inside.
-That's a really good sign.
-But don't give too much away. Shall we go and have that chat?
Out of the three houses we've shown you here in Kent, there is one that I want to talk about
and it is our mystery house.
-And my goodness, did we get fantastic reactions!
If you'd told us a couple of weeks ago that we'd be going to see a place like that within our budget...
I didn't expect you to be able to find somewhere like that for us.
What happens next?
Definitely want to go back to see the mystery house again, have a look round,
then have a total chat about it.
I'm pretty much sold, but you need a bit more convincing.
I need to shift my mindset a bit further east in Kent, but I couldn't ask for more from the house.
You do have to think about work, locations and commutes. I totally agree.
But from a family point of view, if it is the house for you, I wouldn't sit on your hands.
-Thank you so much. It's been great.
Well, that's it.
For a couple desperate to leave the capital behind and bring up their family in the Kent countryside,
I think we may have found them their dream, first-owned home together.
I think Dan and Celia's reaction to our mystery house... Well, it said it all, didn't it?
Great house, great garden.
I just hope Celia's nerves about the location and commute to work can be settled.
For me, that house is a journey worth making.
From the Kent countryside, goodbye. See you next time.
Dan and Celia fell in love with our mystery house,
but have reluctantly concluded that the extra commute would prove too far for them.
They're continuing their search in the Tonbridge area.
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Nicki Chapman is in Kent, property shopping with a young family who are desperate to break free from the capital to find their perfect rural home with a £900,000 budget. While in the county, Nicki visits historic Hever Castle, where Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII did their courting.