Property series. Jules Hudson and Sonali Shah showcase Herefordshire as they look back at two couples searching for dream rural homes in the county.
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Hello and welcome to a special Escape to the Country where Jules
and I will be reflecting on our time spent
in one of our favourite counties.
Along the way will be giving you plenty of advice and tips
on moving to and buying in our chosen part of the UK.
Today, we are focusing on a county which is home to
the world's biggest cider mill.
Find out where in just a moment.
Today we are looking back on two property searches.
My buyer was looking for a rural home for himself and his fiancee.
He brought his cousin along to help him.
Exactly how helpful he actually was, is another matter.
I'm thinking sauna, gym.
-I could see of bar going in there.
You're supposed to be the voice of reason.
While there was a continental feel to my property hunt.
As my multilingual couple sought a translation to a more rural setting.
And our delightful selection of properties seemed to
work in any language.
Well, today we are homing in on Herefordshire
where, just outside Hereford itself,
you can find the world's largest cider mill.
But I should, Sonali, declare an interest here.
I liked the county so much I made it my new home.
Well, there's a ringing endorsement.
It's an area I love too,
particularly around the stunning River Wye.
It's absolutely gorgeous and it's often been described to me
as a county that always has a view,
a picture of the English countryside at its best.
But what does it offer those seeking a rural life?
Situated in the West Midlands,
Herefordshire borders Worcestershire to the east and Wales to the west.
As one of England's most remote counties,
Herefordshire's patchwork landscape
has been shaped by centuries of agriculture.
On its banks lie many wonderful historical settlements
including picturesque Ross-on-Wye with its striking 17th-century
market house and towering 700-year-old church.
Venture away from the towns and you'll find peaceful hamlets
and villages like Eardisley,
with its famous 800-year-old oak tree.
With the River Wye meandering through a county with one of the lowest
population densities in the country, Herefordshire is as rural as it gets.
One of the things I love about Herefordshire is the quiet.
It fits that idyllic image I have in my head of the countryside.
It feels almost as if not that many people have discovered it yet.
You know, it's really interesting you say that.
When you look at population densities,
residents per square mile in Herefordshire, 220.
In Greater London, 13,500.
So you do get the idea it is a pity tranquil part of the world.
And that low population density is
reflected in the county's property prices.
The average cost of a detached home is £14,000 lower than
the national average at just over £265,000.
But, of course, as with anywhere there are hot spots,
particularly the south-east of the county
with its really good transport links out to the rest of the UK.
So my advice has always been, if you want a bit more for your money
head north or west over to the border with Wales.
We weren't able to utilise your advice though, where we?
-Absolutely, I know.
-Both of our couples asked us to base
their searches in the south-east. That's not to say we didn't find
-some excellent properties though.
Time to meet my buyers once again.
Gareth, who's an airline pilot, has been living in Bridgend,
west of Cardiff, in Wales.
Home has been six bedroom property since it was built 11 years ago.
But next year he's getting married
and he and fiancee, Sophia, are both ready for a quieter pace of life
and are keen to find their first home together in the country.
Sophia, who also has a career in the airline industry,
is often out of the country for work.
So Gareth has enlisted his cousin and
close friend Stephen to help him with the search.
He's a voice of reason.
So I've brought him along to, kind of, help me out is with this project.
He's a bit of a mentor really. He's somebody I look up to and admire.
He's very impulsive, very driven, funny.
He's very generous and will always help you out.
He's a million miles an hour basically.
Gareth and Sophia have chosen Herefordshire as the county
they'd like to begin their new life in.
And Gareth has strategically pinpointed a
specific area within it.
I've decided to move to the area Ross-on-Wye.
You've got the Forest of Dean and some beautiful countryside there.
And what it means for us is, she's just an hour from her family,
I'm an hour from my family
and we also get the option of just having a peaceful lifestyle there.
When it comes to homeowning, Gareth is quite the handyman
and isn't afraid of a project.
Over the years I've built several extensions.
I converted the attic
and then my garage, I turned into a gym, put a sauna in there.
Jack of all trades, master of none.
-You're a master of your flying.
-Yeah, just the flying.
I'm OK with the flying.
Flying is most definitely Gareth's big passion.
He's been at it since he was 18 years old and as well as being
a commercial pilot, he runs his own flying school.
Having always lived quite a high-speed, jet set lifestyle,
even Gareth is a little surprised by
his new-found desire for a quiet country existence.
It would be nice to just walk out the front door in the morning
and then just go for a walk in the peace and listen to the birds.
-Sounds a bit boring really, doesn't it?
-It's not like you.
Well, midlife crisis.
To ensure they're not too far from both of their families,
we're sticking to Gareth and Sophia's
chosen area around Ross-on-Wye,
staying within half an hour's drive of the town.
I'm meeting up with Gareth and cousin Stephen
to learn some more about the move.
Welcome to Herefordshire, gentlemen.
Gareth, Stephen, lovely to meet you.
But we are, of course, missing a fiance.
We are. Unfortunately, Sophia is a little bit busy at the moment.
So I'm, sort of, going on ahead and scouting the area.
Gareth, what's on your property wish list?
A nice, spacious property with a nice sized kitchen
and possibly a dining area that's adjacent to the kitchen.
It may be even be open-plan.
Something with a nice garden.
The ideal situation would be a little bit of land
associated with the property.
If I really got lucky, something big enough to land a light aircraft in.
How much space which you need to land a plane?
Ideally, say 300-400 metres.
That's the first time I've had that request,
-but I'll put it on my list.
What about the look and feel of a property?
I like houses with a bit of character, a nice shape to them
and not just a square box.
What are your deal breakers, your absolute no-nos.
A house that's overlooked. Or very, very close neighbours.
That's a big thing.
-And Soph said to remind you no beams.
-No beams, yeah.
Stephen, as the outsider to the relationship,
where do you think the compromises will be made?
From Sophia's point of view I think the compromises will be more outside than inside.
-There wouldn't be a compromise on...
-She doesn't need somewhere to land a plane?
-She doesn't need to land the plane.
-She's all right about that?
I think Sophia would want the inside, the kitchen,
dining and entertaining area as the fundamental part of the house.
So remind us of your budget.
My budget I've set for this is £450,000.
Because I like to negotiate maybe properties slightly above that.
-So there is a little bit of wiggle room?
-There is, yeah.
Well, we've got three fantastic properties for you to choose from.
-Let's get going.
With a generous budget of £450,000
Gareth and Sofia are hoping to find...
We've lined up three properties for the guys to have a look at
and with each of them I'll get them
to have a guess at the price before I reveal it.
One will be the mystery house which definitely has character but will
it be the kind of character that Gareth and Sophia are envisaging?
We begin our house-hunt seven miles south of Ross-on-Wye,
in the wonderfully unique village of Symonds Yat.
The community is actually divided in two by the River Wye.
There's Symonds Yat West on the Herefordshire side of the river
and Symonds Yat East on the opposite bank in Gloucestershire.
Our first property is on the Herefordshire side of the river
in Symonds Yat West.
-So what you think of house number one?
-It's very pretty.
Yeah, it is pretty.
Ideal location, good access to the roads.
And the property itself, it's been modernised couple of times
and had couple of extensions.
So there is a lot more than you can just see here.
Yes, it does look a little bit small from this angle.
-Let's get inside.
The recent extensions were added by the current owners in 2010
but the original cottage is thought to date back as far as 300 years.
So you walk right into the kitchen.
This is actually one of the extensions.
So the original cottage ended here.
-So this has all been put in the last few years.
What you think of the size of it?
-It's a little bit small...
-..to what I'm used to.
The kitchen itself, the shape and style is lovely.
I just think for your entertaining this would be too small for Sophia.
The kitchen, I know you said you wanted something quite open,
does lead straight into the dining room.
-So let me show you that.
So the family that live here, obviously are in the middle
-of a move, hence the boxes.
My first thoughts are you could possibly, with a bit of development,
make this a bit more open-plan and
create this exact space that I was thinking of.
So the kitchen could extend into here, yeah.
I love the fire. I love the cottage feel but
I don't think the floor goes with it whatsoever.
I don't agree because all of my furniture is modern.
My dining table is marble and it's a light marble
so it would work beautifully in here.
He's already moving his furniture in.
Moving through into the second new extension,
we pass through a utility area and a handy boot room.
So the family use this as their lounge.
This is their second extension.
-You've seen the downstairs now, what are your thoughts?
That open space feel, I'm not getting it at the moment in this house.
Even though it's beautiful and I like
the character inside with all the shapes.
It just seems a bit more compact to what I'm used to.
Well, this property has the four bedrooms that you asked for.
Shall we go and have a look at them because maybe that might change your mind about this property?
Yeah, that would be great.
Upstairs the family bathroom with its floor-to-ceiling
limestone tiles should, I think,
match Gareth's taste for simple, modern interiors.
Of the four bedrooms, the three that are in the old, original part
of the house have fairly modest dimensions
but directly above the living room, we've just seen
in the rear extension, is the fourth bedroom.
It's larger so we've earmarked I as Gareth and Sophia's.
Before you look at the master itself, look at the views.
-Now, that is nice.
-Look at that.
-Imagine waking up to that every day.
It's like a painting, not a window.
And here you got an en-suite.
-And a walk-in wardrobe.
My feelings at this stage are that it's an absolutely beautiful property...
-It's just too small.
-..it's got a lot of character.
It's just a bit small, isn't it, Steve?
For you and Soph and your lifestyle, yeah.
OK, so not enough space inside for you
but actually there is a lot of outside space.
-So let's go and see that and then start thinking about the price.
A bit of an underwhelming response to the house
and it's clear that size is the issue.
Outside though, as well as a gravelled patio area
and a generous terraced garden, there's a decent sized paddock.
With its sloping hillside setting,
Gareth won't be able to fulfil his home landing strip fantasy
but there's definitely scope to keep a few animals.
So this is the main part of the garden.
But this property actually comes with one and a quarter acres of land.
I was thinking more of a square field,
sitting on a driving lawn mower.
It would be difficult to manage on such a steep hill.
-The overwhelming observation is the view.
-Stunning, isn't it?
It's time to guess the price of the property.
-I'm going to ask you first, Gareth.
-Well, my guess would be £350,000.
OK, what about you Stephen? £429,950.
-Well, the property is actually on the market for £415,000.
£35,000 below Gareth and Sophia's maximum budget,
this characterful hillside
There's nice character inside
but overall there's just not as much space as I've been used to.
In the heart of Herefordshire lies the county town of Hereford,
which in the seventh century was the capital
of the Saxon kingdom of Mercia.
The stunning centrepiece to the town is its spectacular cathedral.
It bears many extraordinary treasures
but perhaps the most celebrated and precious of all
is its Mappa Mundi.
An intriguing medieval map painted on a single sheet of vellum
or calf skin, which is recognised by UNESCO
as an exceptionally important artefact.
Today, I'm having the privilege of being shown this unique relic
by the cathedral's Chancellor, Canon Chris Pullin.
-Wow, so this is the Mappa Mundi.
-It certainly is.
It's the largest medieval world map in existence.
It was made around 1300 and seems to have been at Hereford Cathedral
since it was made.
And what exactly does it show?
It shows the habitable part of the northern hemisphere.
It's centred upon Jerusalem because it's a map of spiritual
significance rather than geographical information.
Although there is some geographical information in it.
And show us where Britain is. So that's Europe.
-Yes, Britain's there.
This labyrinth of intricate drawings depicts 420 cities and towns,
15 Biblical events as well as
plants, animals and mythical creatures.
And provides a fascinating insight into how 13th century
scholars interpreted the world in spiritual and geographical terms.
And so all these dark areas...?
That's the sea and originally it was a beautiful emerald green colour.
But it's oxidised over the years and it's got dirty as well
so it looks very unattractive to us.
But the original Mappa absolutely glowed with colour.
The map is housed in a temperature controlled building that was
purpose-built in the 1990s to preserve the priceless artefact.
But the building also houses another of the cathedral's
remarkable treasures, a chained library.
From the Middle Ages until around is the 18th century,
chaining reference books was quite a common practice.
But today very few of these libraries
remain even partially intact.
Overseeing the cathedrals exceptional collection is
librarian, Dr Rosemary Firman. Hello, Rosemary.
Hello, nice to meet you.
Lovely to meet you and what an unusual library.
It is, it's only one that survives
that still has all of the books chained.
It's a way of letting lots of people sit down and read the books
at the same time without the books being in danger of being taken away.
Can we take one of the books off the shelf?
Here's the key. Would you like to try?
Of course I would.
These books were made well before the era of printing presses,
so each one was painstakingly transcribed and bound by hand,
making them highly prized and extremely valuable items.
The one that Rosemary has unleashed from it's chains is
a law book, which is written in Latin.
-This one dates from the early 14th century.
-Can I touch it?
-You can open it.
The pages are made of animal skin, either sheep, goat or deer.
So the book's divided into sections and at the start
of each major section there is one of these beautiful
medieval, miniature paintings.
Have you ever thought about digitising the collection?
Well we already have digitised the Mappa Mundi and we hope to go on
to digitise some of our other unique manuscripts.
Hopefully it's a way of preserving them for another thousand years.
Oh, that would be wonderful. Thank you so much.
It's been a fascinating day.
Continuing our search we journey seven miles east just over
the border into Gloucestershire, to the village of Ruardean
which is a quarter of an hour's drive from Ross-on-Wye.
Nestled on a hillside with exceptional views, there's
plenty of scope for those secluded walks Gareth is hankering for.
And the house we are about to look at is just a
few minutes drive away.
I want your thoughts on house number two.
It's very impressive. A lot bigger than house number one.
Fantastic location. Yeah, it looks nice.
-I'm glad this is sounding more positive already.
-Yes, it's beautiful.
-Well, let's get inside.
The house, which is made of stone from the local quarry,
is thought to date back to 1790.
14 years ago the previous owners
added a sizeable two-storey extension.
We're starting off in the original part of the house.
This would be your lounge. Is this to your style and taste?
It's quite rustic, isn't it? The walls, the inside, yeah.
-You wanted character.
-Yeah, it's got character and it's a bit more spacious.
I think because of the ceilings are a bit higher than the last one we looked at.
Obviously the decor isn't your style but there's loads of potential
for you to put your stamp, your and Sophia's stamp on this room.
I love these sash windows,
traditional sash windows, they're beautiful.
-So, so far so good?
-Yeah, very much so.
I'd like to see some more of the house, if possible.
Into the kitchen we go.
Heading back via the very spacious entrance hall
we move through to the more recently built extension.
How's this for an entertaining space?
Yeah, it's beautiful. It's more like it, more like what I was after.
-This hits the nail on the head.
-And off the living room area, there's a cloakroom, a utility room...
..and lovely doors out into your garden.
Yes, inside, outside.
You are going to have to make a compromise though
-because upstairs you asked for four bedrooms.
-There are five.
-Five? Ah, right.
-I wasn't expecting that
-That's the compromise you like, isn't it?
-Shall we go?
Upstairs there's a family bathroom with a wonderful
original exposed stone wall.
The five bedrooms also have some beautiful original features
which are all of a fairly good size.
The smallest of them has a built in mezzanine bed.
And the largest, which occupies the new extension,
we've saved for Gareth and Sophia.
Welcome to the master bedroom.
I think it's more like a master suite, actually.
-That is stunning.
Oh, I love it and I'm starting to
-like beams all of a sudden.
-Oh, you won't hit your head on those ones.
-No. It looks almost church like.
You're both looking up but you haven't looked out there.
-There's also a balcony...
-..that looks out into your garden.
-Yeah, I did miss that.
-And what would Sophia think about this.
-Oh, she'd love this.
-Is that an en-suite?
-This is an en-suite.
-It's like the size of a bedroom in there.
-That's huge. There's a roll-top bath.
-And a shower.
So you've got all of your bases covered there.
This is bigger than most family bathrooms.
A roll-top bath was another thing on the list.
I'm really thrilled by their reaction to this house which
has been quite a contrast to the way they received the first property.
It does, however, come with less land.
There's about a third of an acre here.
What it does have though is really beautiful.
The garden is wonderfully established with
plenty of mature shrubs and trees.
And there's a bonus feature that I think Gareth might approve of.
-This is your south facing garden.
-And this is a summer house.
-Oh, wow. I'm thinking sauna, gym.
-You took the words right out of my mouth.
-I could see the bar going in there.
You're supposed to be the voice of reason.
-So have you already moved in?
-Almost. It all depends on the price.
I got a funny feeling you might have been a bit cruel and found me
-house I can't afford.
-Let's start with you this time, Stephen.
-What you think it's on the market for?
Gareth, what do you think?
I'd say probably nearer my budget. Maybe £445,000.
The property is on the market for just under £400,000
-It ticks a lot of boxes.
£50,000 below Gareth and Sophia's maximum budget,
this attractive period house has the space they're after and more.
With someone like Gareth, who's renovated properties before,
it's great to be able to show him buildings with potential and
I think the summerhouse in property number two had that.
But wasn't he going to try and convert it into a sauna?
I mean, I suppose you could do under current planning laws.
As long as the outbuilding's footprint isn't changing
and it's only going to be used for incidental purposes, so you're
not going to work in it or live in it,
you don't need planning permission. But it's always wise to double-check
because planning restrictions can change.
Absolutely, always look very closely at the small print.
Well, for my Herefordshire movers, it was less about saunas
and more about boomerang children.
So let's meet them again and remind ourselves of
what they were looking for.
Today's buyers are French tutor Victoria and
her Dutch husband Lucas, a retired computer software engineer.
They currently live in the town of Thatcham, in Berkshire,
and met 32 years ago at work.
We worked for the same company and we started on the same day in Holland.
On the 1st of October 1982.
And then we took a Christmas party
outing in Amsterdam and...
It got us really together.
We came to the UK just after we got married.
It was the very end of 1985.
And home in the UK is now on a classic suburban housing estate.
We've been living here for 14 years.
It seems to be getting busier and busier.
We've gone past the stage of living on an estate now.
I'd really, really like to have rural views, the more of them
the better as far as I'm concerned.
But the draw of rural life, however,
is not a desire for a rural isolation.
It would be nice to join in more in the local community
and do things on a voluntary basis.
It's a good way of meeting new people that way as well.
The decision to move to Herefordshire is also driven by
a wish to be near Victoria's
ageing parents in the neighbouring county of Gloucestershire.
But they also have to think about a 23-year-old son, Robert,
who is studying for a masters degree and 21-year-old Laura,
who is away at university.
Initially, it will be our son who is definitely moving with us.
Our daughter will be doing one more year at university
but then, who knows, she might come back to live at home with us.
But for the time being it will just be our son.
In the move a good kitchen is a priority as Lucas comes
from a family of bakers.
My grandfather was a professional patissier in Holland.
My father and his brother were also in the bakery.
I worked in the bakery as a small person.
I was sort of seven, eight, nine.
It is in the genes.
And Victoria has a passion for the piano, which must also be
accommodated in their new home.
Garage space will also be important as Lucas has a small
collection of cars.
But just getting away from the commuter rat run
of the current area is the most important part of the move.
Herefordshire offers us a more of a place to live, less people
So I think it will be a more relaxing way of life for us.
We're keeping our house hunt in the southern part of the county
to stay near to Victoria's parents in English Bicknor, Gloucestershire.
I'm meeting up with Lucas and Victoria in Herefordshire
to go over the details.
Well, Lucas and Victoria welcome to Herefordshire on a glorious day,
it has to be said.
Now, give us an idea of the specifics of what
you're looking for, Victoria, in your new home.
OK, we'd like four bedrooms, if possible en suite,
and ideally three reception rooms.
I'd like a separate room for my piano and it would be lovely to have a
big kitchen where you can eat in and maybe have a sitting area at one end.
We need a garage definitely.
Garage for me, yes, because there are a few cars to accommodate.
And outside space?
Yeah, garden but not too big.
I'm not a green fingered person.
And I would love open views.
I really want my country views.
We should just mention your children Rob and Laura.
Yes, definitely. They're coming and going.
Robert will be living with us for the next couple of years probably.
And can you picture a style of property that would fit the bill?
I think we just want something with character.
It doesn't really matter if it's modern.
I think are going to know it when we see it.
Let's just remind ourselves of how much you want to spend
on this enterprise, Lucas.
Maximum of £500,000.
-Ready to go?
-Let's go and spend some money.
With £500,000 to spend,
Victoria and Lucas are looking for...
We're starting our house-hunt in the village of Hoarwithy,
which is located in the heart of the Wye Valley.
Hoarwithy itself has a pub with a community shop attached to it
and it's all overlooked by the splendid church of St Catherine's.
And this is property number one.
It's a really interesting proposition this one.
It's quite a sprawling complex. But I thought we'd start here
-because this really is the pretty face of it.
But it all will make sense as we go around the back.
-Come and have a look at this.
This substantial, red sandstone property is
currently used as a B&B.
It offers six bedrooms in the main house as well as some other
interesting accommodation options.
It's good for housing family and all their hobbies.
Now this, I think, is where this complex begins to make
some sort of sense.
Lots of parking, as you can see, but no garaging at the moment.
And it also comes with this building here which I'm thinking might
be of interest to one or either of the children.
Let's see what you think.
The separate cottage is a large studio and would suit
a family member or visiting guests
but it's just one of many options this house has to offer.
Well, let's start with the kitchen which, for most people really,
is the heart of it.
I gather you're bit of baker too?
Yes, I can do some baking.
There's an oven there, a hob. Reasonable work space.
Very farm-housey I think.
Yes, lots of storage. I like it.
There's a lot more down here to explore as well.
We've already tempted you with the annexe that's out in the yard there
but there is another two-bedroom annexe through there.
-So potentially your children could have one each.
-See what they'd make of this.
This self-contained annexe is extremely spacious,
Comprising of a kitchen, two bedrooms, a bathroom
and a living room.
So you've got the kitchen area here
and this is the living room to the annexe.
-Wow, it's huge.
What you think the kids would make of it,
if they were following us around now?
I think they'd be amazed.
All this space, I think they would really, really appreciate.
Well, we've only just scratched the surface.
There's plenty more space to explore.
Just off the main kitchen in the other direction is a dining room,
currently used for the B&B guests
and there are two further living rooms.
This is what the owners currently use as their
space away from the B&B.
-Arguably it's perhaps the smallest reception room.
Yes, lovely wood burner.
Next door there's an enormous reception room,
currently used as bedrooms and maybe that's one for the piano.
-I think this has rather surprised you, Victoria.
-It has. Yes, the size of it.
-Yes, the size.
It's just amazing.
Well, there's plenty more to see upstairs. Come and have a look at this.
On the first floor of this property are four rooms,
of which three are en suite bedrooms,
and another room, currently used as the guest's sitting room,
with a balcony overlooking the Wye Valley.
But there's even more accommodation on the second floor.
So we've saved this one until last because it's right on the very top.
-The owners at the moment use this as their floor.
So this is the master, if you like.
It has an en-suite shower through there.
Across the landing there is another room which similarly sized
which they are using as an office-study.
But it does have lovely views.
Yes, there's so much scope in this house.
-It goes on and on and on, doesn't it?
But what do we think of the price, I wonder?
-We'll have to have a think about that one.
-I think you will.
Let's go and get some fresh air, you might need it.
Outside there's a modest amount of land, around one third of an acre
but it's been imaginatively landscaped.
-This is lovely.
The garden has got some lovely little features,
a little sunroom back up there.
-And, of course, you've got the annexe down there in the courtyard.
So have you been able to consider how much property one might
be on the market for?
OK, I think it's fairly close to the top of the budget.
I'm going to got for £475,000.
£475,000. Yeah, Lucas?
That is what I would hope for but I think it is a bit higher.
£485,000 is my guess.
Your hunch is right but it is under budget but only just.
It's on at £499,500.
With £500 change from their top budget,
this substantial three-storey house offers...
Oh, this is a good room.
I like the character of the beam.
-I think I can see Robert in here, can't you?
-I think so, yeah.
Well, the children would be delighted.
Whether or not that might be too much space
when they do finally fly the nest, I'm not sure.
Well, I think we've had a brilliant start with this one.
So it's lunchtime, let's go and check out the pub.
Croft Castle, near Leominster, home to the Croft family for
nearly 1,000 years is now a lavish country mansion.
But it started life as a Norman stronghold
to guard the border with Wales.
Today, its National Trust custodians are fighting
a different sort of battle, how to find an environmentally friendly
way of heating the vast property.
But can a building with hundreds of years of history have an
I've come to meet operations manager Ian Grafton to find out more.
-Wow, this is the life, isn't it?
-It is. Welcome to the saloon, Jules.
-This is gorgeous.
-It's beautiful, isn't it?
I am astonished that any building, frankly, can
remain in the hands of the same family for nearly 1,000 years.
-How have they managed it here?
-It is astonishing. I think they've
just been very good with their money.
They've also been a very honourable family. But eventually, as happened
to many of the big country houses, they just couldn't afford to run it.
So they gave it to the National Trust in 1957.
The future of the castle is very much in your hands now.
You've had to do an awful lot of restoration and renovation here, haven't you?
Yes, we've reroofed it, we've put new services in. We're about to put in
new heating systems.
We've probably spent around £2.5-£3 million in the last 10 years.
Now, you talk about heating systems.
I live in a lovely, old house, not as big as this, I hasten to add,
but my heating bill is horrendous.
Yours must be astronomic.
We spent last year about £19,000 on heating oil which, as you can tell is a massive amount.
And not sustainable going forward because heating oil prices are due to rise, as we know.
-So what do about it, looking ahead?
-Well, we're surrounded by woodland here.
1,500 acres of woodland and, of course, if you go back 300 years
the house would have been heated by burning wood.
So we're going to put in a biomass boiler that burns wood chip
and go back, if you like, 300 years but with 21st-century technology.
As well as being more cost effective than other heating systems,
wood fuelled heating is a low carbon option.
After allowing the wood to dry for 12 months, it's chipped
and will be stored in purpose-built huts before it's ready to be
used in the biomass boiler.
The process is sustainable as long as new trees are planted.
I'm meeting the project manager Joe Dimitri.
Now let's be clear, you're not going to fell all of Croft's woodland.
-This is an managed process.
It's a very carefully managed process.
But how long can you keep the new boilers going for
with what's available here at Croft?
By thinning out the woodland and widening the rides
we think we've got about 19 to 20 years worth of wood
that we can fuel the biomass.
Well, I think I can hear a chainsaw over there.
-Shall we see what's going on?
-Let's see, yeah.
This is one of five sustainable energy pilots being
undertaken by the National Trust at properties across the UK.
Each scheme is being monitored with a view to being rolled out across the Trust,
cutting its total annual heating bill of £6 million in half.
Wow, well done, mate.
That was quite a thud, wasn't it?
-So now all you've got to do is chip it.
-And then we've got our fuel.
So with the new biomass boiler set to be installed in the coming
weeks, this project will soon go live.
And it aims to provide 75% of the heating at Croft Castle,
saving 50 tonnes of carbon dioxide is every year.
Not only helping the environment but freeing up money to be
spent on vital conservation work.
For our next property we're border hopping into Gloucestershire
to the village of Longhope, close to Victoria's parents.
The village is small but has plenty of amenities, including
the Post Office and shop, allotments,
a school and several pubs.
And in the heart of it is our second offering.
Right, just settle down here because that is what
-I want you to feast your eyes on.
-You wanted character.
Well, this has it in spades.
It's a little bit older than our first property.
This one's about 1670.
Is this the sort of thing you would have considered, Lucas?
Certainly on the, sort of, age and how it looks and...
It is definitely special.
I love it. Let's see what you think. Come on.
This is a grade II listed, five bedroom property
and without a doubt delivers on their desire
for a house with character.
There we go.
-Loads of character.
-It's not huge but it just feels nice.
Through there you've got a huge utility room with pantry.
-Wow, just up my street, a pantry.
-Your pantry, yes.
-Let's go through here to the living room.
I love these little latches.
Come on in. What do you think?
I'm not saying anything.
Nice stove fire.
It's light, you know, it's got plenty of light coming in. I like it.
It's too big for a snug but snug enough to sit in.
Yeah, I take your point, yeah. OK, it's snug enough.
There's a lot to like about this room.
I adore it. You can probably tell I'm a bit biased but there you go.
There, a little bit of fine dining for you.
-What a room!
-There is your piano space.
-My piano could go there.
-Is that another fireplace?
-Yes, you've got a lovely burner in here.
And some lovely details.
I mean, look at these hinges, handwrought hinges.
-Is it working its historic charm.
On the one to ten scale, where are we?
-I was going to say nine as well.
-I'll take nine.
-Let's see if we can find that extra point upstairs.
There are two upstairs floors, accessed via
a stone and oak staircase.
On the first floor is a small landing-cum-study room,
the properties only bathroom as well as three of the five bedrooms.
Two are good sized doubles, not including the master.
And we're thinking this would be your bit.
Look at that bed!
It's a beautiful room.
-Views both sides.
-Yeah, over the garden here.
Yes, that's amazing.
-I love it.
-I think you do love it.
I can see that you might have a few reservations somewhere though.
-I don't know if we've got to ten yet?
-The staircase will be the main issue for me.
Now it is OK but in ten years...
It's a good consideration, you know.
It has to work long term, doesn't it?
Upstairs there are two further bedrooms.
So you've got five bedroom in all.
-But I think now we should retire to the garden...
-..and talk about the money.
-Come on then.
The top floor has not only two good sized bedrooms
but also an adjoining lounge-study area.
It could make an almost independent suite for their son Robert.
Outside the gardens are spectacular
and in the past have been open to the public.
I mean, what a time of year to see this garden. It is just beautiful.
A really mature garden this is
with all these different rooms.
-Have a seat.
-Let's relax a while.
At the end of our house tour.
It is a splendid property.
But what do we think it's on the market for?
Hmm, I'd go higher this time.
So 50 quid short of your budget, yeah? Victoria?
I think it's got to be above budget.
I would say £525,000.
I would have thought so myself, I have to say,
if I'd walked in here without knowing how much it is.
But here's the thing, this could be yours for
That is a surprise.
-A big surprise.
..the Dutchman's smiling again. This is all good.
Priced at a surprising £25,000 under budget...
Again, property two was a stronger contender than the first house.
It was but they did have concerns over that rather steep staircase.
Now, they could have put in a stairlift of course,
but it is a listed building
and to do that you would require listed building consent.
But you shouldn't be afraid of listed buildings
and certainly from my experience of living in Herefordshire,
the conservation officers are pretty understanding,
-particularly with regards to those additions.
-Always worth checking.
-Always worth checking.
Now, back to my couple and Gareth was looking for a family home in Herefordshire with
a budget of £450,000 and the help of his cousin Steven.
Now, I think we got pretty close with the second house
but let's see how they got on with the mystery house.
Travelling 25 miles across the border back into Herefordshire,
we reach the tiny hamlet of Kerry's Gate which is half an hours
drive from Ross-on-Wye,
and the final stop on our search.
A handy place to pick up provisions five
and a half miles away is the attractive village of Peterchurch,
which has a beautiful setting in the stunning Golden Valley.
About a ten minute drive away is our final offering.
Boys, may I present to you your mystery house.
-Can you tell why it's a mystery?
-It's got a lot of timber framing...
..which means a lot of beams.
-Some low ceilings.
-Are there? Right.
One of your other big no-nos was
you didn't want to be overlooked and, of course,
-you've got neighbours that do overlook onto your property...
-..and your garden.
I know I've thrown a lot of information at you
-and your minds are ticking, so let's get inside.
This beautiful, oak-timbered house is grade II listed
and dates back to the 1700's.
Since then, two extensions have been added to it.
Into the hallway we go.
When I said low ceilings, I really did mean low ceilings.
I feel like I've walked into a fairytale home.
-Let me take you into the kitchen.
-I know it's small...
..but actually there's a, sort of, second
kitchen-utility room through there.
And I did speak to the owner earlier who said that she did enquire
-about knocking down that wall...
..but never ended up really doing it.
-That is an option.
-There's a different feel to it slightly.
I think it doesn't feel that small.
There's just so much character in this house.
-I think that's the key, the character.
-Let's go into your dining room.
-Stunned into silence.
You're saying spacious but low ceilings, exposed beams everywhere.
How are you feeling about those?
It is low ceilings but the room's quite wide and quite long.
There's plenty of light coming in.
-Shall I show you a new element of the house?
Wow, that fireplace is magnificent.
This is my favourite room downstairs.
-I've just noticed out the window...
The owner said to be that on a sunny day you can see right to the Black Mountains.
Wow. It reminds me I'm still close to Wales.
You're messing with my head. I thought I knew what I wanted but...
-I never even thought...
-That's what I'm here for.
I never even thought of a place like this, you know,
-like a quaint cottage and...
-You said you wanted character.
I know, it's... Well, it's got more character then you could ever wish for, hasn't it, this place?
I'm very pleasantly surprised that Gareth seems to
actually like the fairly low beams here.
I think he is too, which is a good thing
because they're a real feature upstairs in the family bathroom
and in some of the four bedrooms,
all of which are good size doubles
and have windows offering plenty of light.
I think this would be the master bedroom that
-you would use, Gareth...
..because it has an en-suite attached.
Now I know it's not as big as the master in house two
but the advantage you have with this property is that the other
-three bedrooms are also double bedrooms.
You know, this is big enough.
If you were to move into this place, Gareth,
would you be prepared to buy another vehicle.
Definitely, there's never enough vehicles for a man.
Because you did mention a sit on lawnmower.
Ah, right, yeah.
I think this garden could accommodate that. OK.
-Shall we go and have a look?
-Yeah, let's have a look.
But it's not just the garden he'll be attending to,
this place also has three paddocks, a veggie plot,
a recently built stable block
and even a wildlife pond.
-You would have almost two acres of land with this property.
Is there enough room to land a plane here?
Maybe a microlight but you could definitely land a few helicopters.
You did say though that being overlooked,
especially into your garden, was the deal-breaker.
It might be a very small compromise to make to live
in such a fantastic location. It's beautiful.
Shall we find out how much you might need to spend?
I'm guessing it's going to be over budget this one.
So I'm guessing about £480-490,000.
What about you, Stephen?
I think £469,950.
Well, it is actually on for just under £500,000
-But we have spoken to the owner and she is willing to negotiate.
-You did say you had some wiggle room.
-I did, yeah.
-I think you'll need it.
-It's time to wiggle.
Although this wonderful,
grade II listed home is almost
£50,000 above Gareth and Sophia's budget,
it does have plenty to justify to using that wiggle room.
The best thing about this house for me is the fact that there is so
much to the property other than just the house.
It would be the type of house where you could invite your family
and friends and just have a sense of pride in knowing that
when they come, they're going to love it.
-Are you happy?
I think it's been a life-changing couple of days for you.
-Yeah, it has, yeah. Amazing.
-We need to go and sit down and have a good old chat.
Well, lads, it's been quite a day.
This morning I was under the impression that you were
pretty ready to put an offer into house two,
-especially if the decision had only been yours.
Was that the right impression?
If this was just a two house adventure then definitely
I would have put an offer in on the second house.
-But it's a three horse race.
-It's a three horse race
and today you completely swung me.
I fell in love with it almost straight away.
One of the things that really struck me about the mystery house, Sophia loves animals.
You could have all sorts of small animals within that property
and I think that which really appeal to Sophia.
What happens now? Will you go to see both houses?
The first thing I'll do is maybe take Sophia and go
and see the house, the mystery house.
And if she likes that as much as I did then we'll see
whether or not we can negotiate something small within my budget.
It was a lovely property. Yeah, it just makes you smile looking at it.
Well, I cannot wait to hear what happens. So you must let us know.
-We'll let you know straight away.
-I want to know as well.
Wow, your mystery house seems to have blown them out of the water.
Yes, often a preconceived no-no can prevent you from going to see
a property that is actually perfect for you,
such as Gareth's aversion to beams.
Yeah, overcoming those preconceptions is so important
and I think these days, in this online world of property shopping,
it's easy to see something on the screen or indeed on paper,
that you think doesn't have what you're looking for.
But there's no substitute for going through the door and taking it in
and giving each property its due.
It's so important to see as many properties as you can in person.
Now, I can tell you what happened next in Gareth's house search
but you're going to have to wait until the end of the programme.
Well, we are all looking forward to that.
But in the meantime, let's get back to Lucas and Victoria.
Just to remind you they were trying to move
from Thatcham to Herefordshire
with a cool half a million pounds.
For our final property we're heading to the western side
of Herefordshire, on the Welsh border,
where the nearest village is Ewyas Harold.
It's an area of gently rolling countryside and the village has
some foodie appeal with two pubs, a chippie, butchers and tearooms.
The mystery house is a much more rural option than the previous two,
being not in the village
but a ten minute drive up the valley to a glorious elevated position.
Climb up and enjoy the view.
-Look at that!
Oh, that view.
And you get this. And we are a bit more rural here.
We're not on the edge of a village.
You've got three or four local shops
and post offices within about a three or four mile radius of year.
So let's see what you think of it. Come and have a look inside.
It's not right in the heart of a community, which is what Lucas
and Victoria wanted, but this house
gives spectacular, uninterrupted views.
It's a three-bedroom, 19th-century stone cottage which comes
with its own separate one-bedroom unit.
Inside, the main house has a very traditional layout.
Let's start with this one.
-Oh, this is sweet.
-Very cosy with that wood burner.
Well, next door used to be a dining room but they've gone for the reception room option.
But having said that, they have done quite a lot for remodelling
the kitchen, at the back of the house, to give you quite a big
open-plan kitchen diner. So...
-..maybe that's all you need.
Let's have a look.
And then this is the kitchen and diner.
Oh, I like this.
I like this.
Yes, our island.
-A range cooker!
And doors out to the garden there.
I love it.
-I really love it.
Well, we have got three bedrooms upstairs for you. OK.
Come and have a look at this.
So the kitchen is definitely a winner in this house
and off the kitchen there is also a utility room and a WC.
Upstairs, there is a shared family bathroom and three bedrooms.
There are two good doubles, either of which could be used
by their daughter.
And finally, this one.
-Oh, this is pretty.
-Your pretty room.
Very pretty. I love the wallpaper.
Normally I wouldn't go for something like this but I do like it.
-I like the beams up here.
-They give a bit of character to the room.
And you've got the views, of course, from here.
Well, I think the pair of you would be very happy over here,
so let's take a walk across the garden now
and have a look at the annexe-cottage
and think about the children because I think they'd like it.
-OK, let's go.
Across the back of the courtyard garden is a separate store house
and then the two-storey, self-contained cottage
which I think will be the ideal for this family's set-up.
Now, what would the kids make of this?
Oh, he would love this, Robert would.
Oh, an L sofa. L shaped...
He's been talking about having an L shaped sofa for ages now.
This used to be a garage so it was just a great, big empty box, really.
But they've managed to incorporate a kitchen area there
and then upstairs there's this really nice
bathroom and a huge bedroom that overlooks the views again.
He would be over the moon with this place.
This is absolutely super.
As the cottage used to be garage, there is now no garage
for Lucas's cars.
But there is no shortage of land upon which to build one.
Well, here we are then, the final bit of our mystery house tour.
And part of the reason it's our mystery house is
-because it comes with five acres...
Along with that stable block over there.
So what do we think our mystery house is on the market for?
I think it's got to be top of the budget. I would say £500,000.
I'm hoping for £450,000.
-Well, so you're hoping for £50,000 change?
-That's a bit optimistic.
-I'm always optimistic.
This is how much change you would get from your half a million.
It's on at £499,995.
-OK. There you are, treat yourself.
So for just under their top budget, this stone cottage offers...
I think you do get a feeling as you walk into a house that you know it
could be for you
and I do actually feel, you know, that it could be the one.
-After you, madam.
Well, I think that was all rather useful, actually.
-What a great house tour.
And we managed to get you some change of a fiver.
But I think, all in all, we have given you plenty to consider this week, haven't we?
Oh, definitely, most definitely.
-Right then, let's go and find that coffee. Come on.
-OK, thank you.
So, we came here looking for a home.
-Have we found you one?
-The mystery house is top.
Two nice rooms, snugs.
When you take out the big furniture then it will work.
And that fabulous kitchen.
And, of course, that annexe for Robert. He'd be really, really pleased with that.
And it came with some fabulous views.
Yes, the views were just outstanding.
So what happens next, Victoria?
Well, I think we go home, discuss things with our son.
And I think we also need to look into how far the house
is from amenities, exactly where it is, where the nearest
community would be and take it from there.
Well, it is a really gorgeous bit of Herefordshire. So just let us know.
-I can't wait to hear.
-Yes, and thank you so much for your help.
It's been a fabulous experience.
Yes, thank you very much.
Well, I thought the mystery house was the one.
But they went back with their children for a second viewing
and decided, ultimately, that it wasn't going to be for them.
How frustrating. But there is some good news.
They have found a house in Bullinghope,
just down the road from Hereford itself.
So there is a happy ending.
-I do have some new neighbours.
-It worked out in the end.
It did indeed. But what about Gareth?
Well, Gareth took Sophia to see the mystery house.
She loved it too.
They put in an offer, it was accepted.
However, they soon discovered there was a public footpath that
went through the property's land, so they withdrew their offer.
Well, in a county like Herefordshire, you're going to have to expect that.
There are some 4,000 that run around the county,
one of which goes through my land.
So it's not a deal breaker.
Absolutely, but it's easy to check.
There's a document which shows the position
and the status of every public right of way
and councils have a legal duty to keep it updated.
So it's very easy to check.
And ultimately it is good news from Gareth and Sophia.
They found another property and are now fully embracing country
life in Monmouth, so just beyond the Herefordshire border.
-Brilliant. So actually, all in all, pretty good result I would say.
So we wish both of our couples all the very best for their new, rural lives.
And do join us again for yet more country escapes.
If you'd like to escape to the country in either
England, Wales, Northern Ireland or Scotland
and would like our help, then please apply online at...
Jules Hudson and Sonali Shah showcase Herefordshire in a special episode of Escape to the Country looking back on the property hunt of two couples searching for dream rural homes in one county.
Jules visits the eco-friendly energy project that's hotting up in the county's woodland, and Sonali is shown an extraordinary ancient manuscript at Hereford Cathedral.