Property series. Highlights from Jonnie Irwin and Sonali Shah's property hunts in Wales with two couples who were searching for their dream rural homes.
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Welcome to a special Escape To The Country. Today, we'll be looking back
at our time showing two couples around one region.
And, throughout the programme, we'll be throwing in our own thoughts
and hints about moving to this part of the UK.
Today's destination is home to the longest village name
in Great Britain. Find out where in just a moment.
Today, we're looking back on two separate house-hunts
I was helping a couple who decided
to ditch their busy lives beside the seaside,
and embark on a search for a quieter life in the countryside.
And, in one house, it looked like we might have found it
before we even got through the front door.
Ian, she's got tears already!
-Oh, it's beautiful!
-It is. Isn't it?
While I was helping a couple escape urban encroachment
for countryside freedom.
But our buyers were quite particular
about what they liked and didn't like.
My only criticism, if I'm allowed, I'm really worried about
granite tops because I know that you have to polish than constantly.
-Buy this place, I'll buy you some dusters.
On today's show, we're focusing on Wales,
where you'll find Britain's longest named village.
-Do you want to have a go?
-I have been practising. Here goes.
Brilliant! Now my property search took me
to Denbighshire in North Wales,
and this county offers a rich variety of landscapes,
from the stunning beaches in the North, like Prestatyn,
attractive market towns such as Ruthin,
to the unspoiled heather moorlands and thick forest of Hiraethog.
Now my search took me to the south-west of Wales,
to the equally beautiful Carmarthenshire.
Now, Wales has often been a popular escape destination for those
seeking a really authentic slice of rural life.
My property search was based in Denbighshire, which is bordered
by five counties, including Conwy to the West
and Flintshire and Wrexham to the east.
The hilly moorland that makes up most of the county is dotted
with medieval ruins, including 13th century Vale Crucis Abbey.
On a site specially chosen for its isolation by the solitude-loving
order of Cistercian monks.
Denbighshire's proximity to the border means the county
is home to a large English population,
but it's still managed to retain its status as a bastion
of the Welsh language, with over a quarter of the population
able to speak the native tongue.
Whilst my property search was based in Carmarthenshire
in South West Wales.
Bordered by Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion in the North,
Carmarthenshire's landscape is as varied as it is epic.
To the east, a rugged black mountain range rises majestically,
forming the westernmost edge of the Brecon Beacons National Park.
From breathtaking mountains to wide sandy beaches,
Carmarthenshire boasts some of the best views in South West Wales.
I discovered real variety in the Denbighshire countryside.
Hills, moorlands. You've got outstanding panoramic views.
Yeah, the average price of a detached house there is only £149,000.
That's a whopping 130 grand below the national figure.
You are going to get hot spots, though.
You're going to pay a premium for those desired areas,
like those picturesque villages in the Vale of Clwyd
in the centre of the county. How does your area compare, Jonnie?
Well, not quite as good as Denbighshire,
but Carmarthenshire does still offer good value for money.
Buyers can expect to pay around £162,000 for a detached house,
which, admittedly, is 13 grand more than your county,
but still a massive saving of 40% off the national average.
That's brilliant when you consider what a beautiful part
of the country we're talking about.
-Shall we kick off with our Denbighshire house search?
Let's remind ourselves of my buyers.
Childhood sweethearts Ian and Jill live in their five-bed home
in Sandwich, Kent, where they run a B&B.
They've been married for 37 years,
but were on each other's radar long before that.
We were at primary school together,
and then we went to secondary school.
-Do you reckon when we met was at that bus stop?
Both going to the same place,
-at the same time, and I took...
-No, he didn't...
..the opportunity of walking...
-..to my bus stop, so that he could meet me...
..and we've never been apart since I was 16.
And he asked me to marry him and the year after.
Ian's job as a chemical engineer meant they spent most
of their marriage on the move, before settling in Sandwich,
where beauty therapist and entrepreneur Jill set up the B&B.
But with Ian away from home,
she soon decided two businesses weren't enough to keep her busy.
I suddenly woke up one morning and decided I'd like to sell shoes.
I could never buy the sort of shoes that I liked around here,
so I decided to do it myself,
and sourced them from all over the place -
Italy, Austria, France -
when I found a niche market.
Despite a successful business empire in the medieval town,
they've decided to up sticks
in search of a very different life in Wales.
We've been very happy in Sandwich for eight years,
and it is time for us to move on. We live on quite a busy road.
I think the time is to move on to somewhere more peaceful and quiet.
And we've done a lot of walking in Wales,
and we just love the peace and the tranquillity
and the beautiful open scenery.
As well as hoping the move will mean more time with each other,
Jill wants to see more of daughter Claire, who lives in Chester.
We've always lived a long way from each other.
I would love to live near enough
just to pick the phone up and just say,
"Come over for dinner tonight", or "Shall we go shopping together?",
and just do mum-and-daughter things together would be so nice.
Moving nearly 300 miles away with a lifetime of possessions
and a dog in tow will certainly be a challenge,
but when it comes to finding the perfect property,
Jill's hoping that will be the easy part.
I get quite emotional about houses.
When you walk into a property, and you know it's right,
you get that really lovely feeling, that, "Oh, this could be home."
I think I will know when we find it.
I think it will sort of say, "Here I am.
"Come and buy me!" Hopefully!
Ian and Jill love walking in the Welsh countryside,
so have set their sights on Denbighshire
and the surrounding areas,
for its stunning scenery and proximity to family.
Before we start the search, I'm meeting them to find out
-the finer details. Good morning, Jill and Ian.
Well, as we're in Wales, I should say "Bore da".
Remind me how much you've got to spend on this dream home.
Well, our top, top budget is £550,000.
That's a really good healthy-sized budget for this area,
so what do you both want in your property?
An old house with a large lounge,
because I play the piano,
so I'd love to put a grand piano, a baby grand piano, in the lounge.
I'm sort of envisaging this big family kitchen with everybody
sitting round and just having some family time, really.
And how many bedrooms would you like?
Four. Four or five.
-Mainly for family.
I would quite like some outbuildings.
I have got a shop in Kent, at the moment,
and I'd quite like to start that business up here as well
with my daughter.
-So space for an office on site?
-Space - yes,
space for an office and a showroom.
For me, I want to be reasonably close for commuting purposes.
So rural but not too rural?
Yes. That's right, yes.
-So, I think we've got three fantastic properties that we can show you.
-I'm so excited!
-I love this excitement.
For their budget of £550,000,
Jill and Ian would like a period property with four or five bedrooms.
Jill is looking for the large family kitchen of her dreams,
as well as space to set up a new business.
Ian travels for work so would prefer not to be too rural.
We've got three wonderful Welsh properties lined up.
As always, they won't know the price tag of each house
until after they've viewed it.
And our third and final stop will be at our mystery house,
offering them something a little bit special but with a compromise.
We're starting our search just outside Denbighshire in Bradley,
a small village four miles north of Wrexham,
the largest town in North Wales.
Alongside the order of England's Cheshire, it's also
just 11 miles to Chester,
where Ian and Jill's daughter, Claire, lives.
The village itself has a village hall, a number of shops
and sports clubs for locals.
Plus, it sits on the doorstep of Alyn Waters Country Park.
Our first property sits in a wooded valley along the River Alyn.
Oh, my goodness. Oh, wow.
I love that reaction to house number one!
-Oh, it's beautiful.
-It used to be an old farmhouse.
And I know that the bits on the end, the rendered parts,
look like the newer parts but actually those are the older parts,
dating back to the 16th century.
And they think the middle section is the newer part.
It's lovely. I said "old". I didn't expect 18th-century.
And the other good news is, you're about 15 minutes from Chester.
-Really? Only 15 minutes?
-You wouldn't know that, would you?
It's so beautiful. It's just so peaceful.
-First impressions look really good.
-Can't wait to get inside.
Let's go, then.
Quite an entrance hall.
-Oh, wow, and I can see a grand piano.
-Your very own piano room.
-And I want to take you to the drawing room.
-You wanted large living spaces.
-Oh, it's beautiful.
-This is a nice large room.
-It's really, really beautiful.
A study just over there.
-A lot of character in this room, isn't there?
-Yeah, it's lovely.
So far, this house seems to have the character
and living space Jill and Ian are after.
With that sort of reaction, I'm confident the open-plan kitchen
and breakfast room won't disappoint either.
-Is this big enough for you?
-Yes. Yes, it's lovely.
-OK, nice size.
Yes, I can see a table in there for the family get-togethers. Yes.
Oh, there's so many bits to it. It's just, oh, it's gorgeous.
-And just through there...
-..is a utility room,
and then on the other side of that is a boot room.
-Put the muddy dog.
-Do all the doggy stuff.
-And just through there...
-..is a little business annexe area,
-that I'm dying to show you.
-I'm going to be busy!
Conveniently accessed from the kitchen but separate
from the rest of the house is an area currently used as a games room.
Oh, my goodness. Look at this.
Well, this whole area has a separate entrance, so I did do think it would
-work great as a showroom...
-..office, business area, storage areas.
So you've got the mezzanine floor, I think, for all your storage.
I'm already planning your business, by the way!
-So it really is like a separate...
-That is food for thought,
-that really is.
-A separate store, like a shop.
This used to be a dairy, just back here, so that's why it's got
-the sloping floor...
-Look at this!
..so that all the slurry could be washed out.
It's a remarkable room...pair of rooms, isn't it?
It's amazing, isn't it?
-There's more downstairs than you would imagine from the outside.
The house has two staircases.
The principal staircase leads to the first floor corridor,
serving the family bathroom and four bedrooms.
Two currently used as singles,
useful for any future grandchildren, and two large doubles.
We're heading up the second staircase from the breakfast room
to the main bedroom at the front of house.
So, this staircase is almost a private staircase
for a whole master suite area.
So over there is what the family currently use as a lounge.
This isn't quite an en-suite, but it's a nice sized bathroom
-that would be a totally private bathroom, I think.
-And then you have the master bedroom.
-Yes, it's nice.
You've got the dual-aspect windows so it's very light and airy in here.
-And the outlook is exactly what we wanted, isn't it?
-Let's go and see your outside space...
..while you start to think about how much all of this...
-land is worth.
Do you want to lead the way?
On the second floor, there are two additional attic rooms,
meaning the house could offer up to eight bedrooms if needed.
Heading downstairs via the main staircase brings us
to the large light conservatory.
French doors to either side lead straight
onto the landscaped gardens.
-This property comes with a lovely cottage garden...
-..including a pond and a beautiful blue bridge.
-Just back there.
-Your own vegetable garden over there.
And just down there, there's a car port for three cars.
Three cellars which have an outside entrance,
-so lots and lots more storage space.
It's time to tell us what you think this property is on the market for.
Who'd like to go first?
I would say...
I think it will be slightly less.
This is currently on the market for £550,000.
-So we have used up all your budget.
It's worth it. It's a beautiful house.
This period property may be at the top end
of Jill and Ian's maximum budget,
but I think it gives them everything
they're after in a great location.
It offers more than enough bedrooms for guests,
and Jill would get at the large kitchen she wanted,
as well as the potential to start up a business on site.
It's also just 15 minutes
to their daughter, Claire, in Chester.
From the broad beaches of the North Coast to the dramatic
Vale of Clwyd, Denbighshire has a diverse
and largely unspoilt landscape.
But one species of plant is threatening to destroy
large parts of the native habitat.
Impatiens glandulifera, or Himalayan Balsam,
as it's more commonly known,
was first introduced to the UK in 1839
as an ornamental plant at Kew Gardens.
But, by 1855, it had escaped into the wild.
With a significant and detrimental effect on native species,
countryside groups and agencies have got together to try
and eradicate it from the landscape.
I've come to the Dee Valley to meet countryside warden, Rhian Jones,
to find out more about the effort.
-So this is it?
This is Himalayan Balsam.
-It's a gorgeous plant.
-It is very pretty.
Am I allowed to say that? Because I know you think it's a problem.
The problem is that each plant can have about 800 seeds,
and, in no time at all,
it can take over entire stretches
of areas like where we are today.
And why is that a problem?
Eventually, it gets so dense that no native wild flowers
have the opportunity to grow underneath it,
not even grasses, and when it does die off,
you're just left with totally bare, exposed banks - river banks.
Then, during winter, the river floods
and there's nothing to bind the soil together,
and we're seeing a real increased rate in erosion of land, as well.
So what can you do to control the balsam?
It's an incredibly shallow-rooted plant,
and so it uplifts really easy.
-So, you just pull it out?
For the second year running, Rhian and the volunteers from
Clwydian Range And Dee Valley
have come to clear the whole area of the plant.
-You've got a good group here.
We're running a barbecue today, you know,
so apart from the social side, you can see the real difference
and what an improvement it's making
to the habitat of the area.
Today, around 25 volunteers, young and old, from the local community,
have turned up to help tackle the problem here on the river banks.
Between them, they're pulling up more than 2,000 plants a day.
What happens to all these piles afterwards?
Well, they will just compost down.
-And that barbecue?
-It's really coming up nicely. I can smell it.
-It smells good.
-I think we've earned it. Shall we go and indulge?
For our next house, we're heading west into the heart
of the Denbighshire countryside, to the village of Derwen,
six miles from the historic market town of Ruthin.
Situated in the Vale of Clwyd,
renowned for its beautiful scenery,
Derwen is a rural village with a local pub and a community shop.
Our second property occupies a commanding position
on a south-east facing hillside,
surrounded by fields and farmland.
-So house number two...
-..is in the Vale of Clwyd.
And the house itself is a Grade II listed 19th-century farmhouse.
Mm-hmm. A nice traditional house.
I hadn't thought of an old farmhouse like this.
Well, this is actually the side of the house.
-The front door is just round there.
-The owners use this entrance.
-Let's do as the owners do.
Sitting on a plot of around half an acre,
this red brick farmhouse may look modest from the side,
but has a striking facade and offers three floors of accommodation.
So the side entrance
leads us straight into the kitchen diner.
-A muted reaction...
-..which I'm not used to!
-A bit small.
There is a utility room which we passed on our way in.
So there is space for storage elsewhere.
No, it hasn't grabbed me yet. No.
Ian, are you as underwhelmed by the kitchen?
I don't think that much underwhelmed. It has potential.
Let's see what the rest of the house has to offer.
Living room it is!
Sadly, the all-important kitchen has failed to wow Jill,
but I'm not giving up just yet.
-That's what I was looking for.
I was hoping the sitting room would impress you a little bit more.
Oh, yes. It's beautiful in here.
-Lots of light from the windows.
Could you put up with a smaller kitchen
-with this kind of living room?
It's a lovely living room.
The downstairs rooms are linked by a central hallway.
There are also a formal dining room and cloakroom.
We're heading through the second sitting room.
-So another fireplace here in this snug.
It is. And through here...
-..is this lovely conservatory.
-Oh, this is nice, isn't it?
-And what views again.
-Yeah, what a fabulous view.
-I think that's one of the main...
-That's the attraction of this house.
..attractions of the house. Exactly.
If you want views,
-this is it, really.
-This is it, yeah.
-Is that kitchen still bugging you?
-OK, well, let's show you the bedrooms.
-And then we'll revisit what's going on up there.
OK, let's go upstairs.
The bedrooms are arranged over two floors.
This house has got five bedrooms and two of them are here.
They're really good sized.
And both of them have en suites,
and neither of them is the master bedroom.
-So three en suites in this house.
-That looks lovely.
-This is beautiful.
-It's quite a master bedroom.
-It is, isn't it?
-And lots of space for a huge bed and a really lovely en suite.
-Just through here. Do you want to have a quick look?
Also got some wardrobe space as well as being a bathroom.
-What do you think so far?
-I think the upstairs is beautiful.
-Well, let's see the outside.
-And then you will have to guess the price.
The two final bedrooms are on the top floor.
Outside, a number of different entertaining areas
make the most of the property's stunning views.
There's also an outbuilding with a double car port, garage,
a greenhouse and a large workshop,
which could work as a ready-made showroom
for Jill's accessories business.
So, the garden goes more or less
-all the way around the property.
-This is your sun patio area.
-This is a very nice patio.
This is lovely, here.
So, how much do you think this house is on the market for?
Because of the size of the house,
I would estimate
I would think it would be around
-You're a fair bit under what they're asking for.
It's on the market for 550,000,
-so we've gone up to the top of your budget.
It's a very sought-after location.
For Ian and Jill's maximum budget, this house has the five bedrooms
they wanted, and despite a smaller kitchen than our first offering,
there's plenty of living space inside and out.
Plus there's a separate outbuilding with workshop,
where Jill could start up her business.
Because it's a Grade II listed building,
I had a perception of it being
an older style of internal decoration.
The internal decoration is really modern, and it just, for me,
it just didn't quite feel to fit.
The view is certainly magnificent.
Can't fault the view. That's just what I wanted, really.
The upstairs is amazing. I just absolutely love the upstairs.
I've just mixed feelings about the kitchen,
but I know that can be changed.
I don't suppose it's growing on you, by any chance?
-It might be just a little bit.
-And would a glass of wine help?
-That's what I'm going to go and get you, then.
Well, as a betting man, my money is on property number one,
-at the moment.
-Yes, that smaller kitchen in the second house
just wasn't working for Jill, and changing it wouldn't be easy
because the property was Grade II listed.
Yeah, and any changes like that to a listed property
require listed building consent,
and, of course, they need to get that from the local authority.
My advice would be, go and find out
who the local authority conservation officer is,
and have an honest conversation with them about what you want to achieve,
and they can give you an indication about how to adapt your plans
-to make sure they're successful.
-They've seen so many of these
properties before, haven't they? They can really help you.
So, let's reacquaint ourselves with my buyers,
who were after a slice of rural Carmarthenshire life.
Today's buyers share the same first name,
as well as a love of the countryside.
Les and Lesley currently live in a three-bedroom bungalow
in the town of Eastbourne, East Sussex.
The only time our names become confusing is if you go to, say,
your doctor or your dentist and you realise you've got
your husband's notes because he's got more fillings than I have.
They've lived in Eastbourne for 20 years,
and have two grown-up sons with families of their own.
But Lesley, who rides horses, has seen the town expand
in recent years with a new housing estate in the pipeline.
The planning permission that's been granted around us
does allow 638 new homes,
but that's the latest tranche.
I like the countryside. I walk, I ride,
so to go to Wales, where it's so much quieter,
that's quite attractive to me.
Until recently, animal-lover Lesley used to run her own cattery business
from the back of their house.
Both Lesleys are now ready for a slower pace of life.
I want to continue to run my own business,
because I think I'd be bored if I had nothing to do.
But the cattery business was very, very demanding,
and I feel that the holiday let business
would be slightly less hands-on.
In terms of property age and style,
modern is definitely out.
It's got to be old. I don't like modern.
I don't like glass and chrome. I like quirky.
I like old staircases. I like wooden beams.
And they're ready to embark on their next journey.
I think we'll have a better quality of life,
we'll have more quality time doing the things that we want to do.
We won't always be catching up with things that we have to do.
We'll get more time to spend together.
Our buyers would like us to focus our Carmarthenshire property search
around the western edge of the Brecon Beacons National Park.
I'm meeting up with them in their chosen county
to go over the details of their proposed move.
So, here we are in Wales. Now, you want to do something...
You're not just looking for a house, are you?
You want something with a business element to it. Talk me through that.
We need to keep busy, even though we'd like to take life a bit
more easily, we don't want a business that's 24/7.
We want one that may be seasonal, so we can have some time off
and enjoy the later years without having to work every single day.
-So, this is holiday lets, then, isn't it?
-So, let's talk through what this home looks it.
-How many bedrooms?
Minimum of two.
I would ideally like a large farmhouse-style kitchen that we
can eat in and entertain in. And we would love an en-suite, just once.
-We would, we would.
-We know you like old character properties...
-..to live in.
Holiday letting accommodation - have you got a picture in your mind's eye what that looks like?
From my point of view, I'd like it to be higher end of the market.
I want it to be appealing to people who are prepared to pay
-a little bit more for luxury.
-What about creating a business?
That's not out of the question, but it has to be within the budget.
And the effort budget, you know.
I don't want to have to spend five years building it.
-Now, outside space. I suppose you want loads of that, do you?
Because I have got a riding horse and two ponies
and I need at least three acres for them.
-Better talk about budget, then.
Let's just confirm what we're looking at?
We're looking at a max of £600,000.
Well, that's a good budget here in West Wales. It's a very good budget.
-Have you looked around much?
-Yes, we have.
-We've seen several.
Some have been pretty much what we want,
but either not available or too high budget...
Well, look, you tried before. It hasn't quite worked out your way.
-Let's try my way.
For a healthy budget of £600,000,
Les and Lesley would like an older property with character.
They want at least two bedrooms
and their master should have an en-suite bathroom.
Lesley would like a large farmhouse kitchen
and the separate holiday let should be high-end.
Although, they are willing to consider building one.
Finally, they'd like three acres of land for Lesley's horse and ponies.
Our first house is in the hamlet of Trapp,
just within the border of the Brecon Beacons National Park.
The closest town for amenities is nearby Llandeilo.
Situated on a hill overlooking the Towy Valley
and famous for its pastel-painted Georgian houses,
which rise up from the stone bridge river crossing.
Property number one is overlooked by the ruins of Carreg Cennen Castle
and situated in a peaceful, rural location not far from the town.
So, let's just pause here for a moment,
because I think this is the best place to get your first impression.
-What a first impression!
-It's fantastic. What a view!
-A castle on the hill.
Valley there. Fantastic.
-Holiday let there.
-Which, is beautiful.
-But let's focus on the house.
400 years ago it would have been a Welsh longhouse,
-but it's been extended over the past few decades.
-Good first impressions, then, aren't they?
-Very good, yes.
-Let's go inside.
Righty ho. Come on in.
Let me know what you think.
It certainly looks like a farmhouse kitchen.
-Yeah, it is a farmhouse kitchen. It's got beams.
-And a Belfast sink.
My only criticism, if I'm allowed,
is to say that I really worry about granite tops,
because I know that you have to polish them constantly.
-Buy this place, I'll buy you some dusters.
-All right, then.
-We'll keep you to that.
-Just around the corner, you see where that Belfast sink is?
That's sort of like the utility area.
It all feels part of one big kitchen, dining area, doesn't it?
-Yes, it does. this is ideal.
-Yeah, you can eat here.
-The family can eat here.
-So, you know what's here.
-This is the hub of the home.
Let's go through to a newer part of the home just through here. Follow me.
-Now, I think this is a cracking living space.
It is more modern, but it's done in exactly the same style.
So, it doesn't look like you're going into "the modern bit".
-This was built on in the 1960s.
And one thing they did in the '60s,
they looked after the fenestration of the building.
-So, you've got loads of windows. Take in these fantastic views.
-You've got a sundeck out there and you've got a conservatory.
The garden is coming right up to the house, which is lovely.
And even on a grey day, you've still got your garden around you.
-Well, before we go outside, I'm keen to show you your master bedroom.
The ground floor also features the main family bathroom in the house.
Back through the kitchen and up a couple of steps is the master.
So, I'm hoping whilst size is important in the bedroom,
-It's huge. It's enormous!
-We could get ours in this twice.
And at long last, you get an en-suite.
Ah, now that really is a bonus.
Yeah, what a luxury!
Upstairs, there's another bedroom.
A decent sized double guest room with exposed A-frame timbers.
But we're venturing outside to take a closer look at the holiday let.
It was converted from a barn nearly ten years ago into luxurious
five-star guest accommodation for couples.
Now, put yourself in holiday mode.
-Would you be happy spending your week here?
What's not to like? It's fabulous.
It really is five-star holiday place. It's wonderful.
This place is already up and running.
Peak season, you'll get £650 a week for this.
The holiday let bedroom is on the first floor with a vaulted ceiling
and spills out onto a wonderful Swiss-style sheltered balcony.
As far as land goes, this property comes with nine acres in total.
As well as the formal lawn gardens surrounding the house,
there's a sloping paddock, which runs down to meadows and the River Cennen.
Plenty of room for a horse or two.
How much do you think this place is on the market for?
-I'll stick my finger in the water first and say 575.
-I think possibly a bit lower. 540.
This place, with it's up-and-running letting accommodation,
is on the market for...
Under budget by £115,000,
our first house is an extended Welsh longhouse.
It gives Les and Lesley the large farmhouse kitchen they wanted,
the two bedrooms, as well as a five-star up-and-running holiday let.
It comes with nine acres of land
and the property enjoys far-reaching views across open countryside.
As a nation, Wales has a strong connection with music.
The national instrument is considered to be the harp.
In the 1960s, traditional handcrafted harp making had almost died out,
because the skills were not passed down generation to generation.
Helping keep the craftsmanship alive today is a community-run business
in the town of Llandysul. Just over the border in Ceredigion.
I've come to meet harp maker, Allan Shiers.
-So, Allan, how long have you been making harps here?
-About 40 years.
How do you make a harp? And what do you start with, really?
It starts off with the wood. This is the soundbox, here.
And then the sound board, which is here.
This is actually made of a specialist timber
that the grain goes across.
If you don't get this right, the harp won't sing.
This is the heart of the matter.
The rest of the harp consists of a wooden column and a neck known as
the harmonic curve, from which the strings run down to the soundbox,
forming, essentially, a triangular-shaped instrument.
Allan's workshop produces two kinds of harp.
The concert harp as well as the folk harp, such as this model.
How long would it take to make this?
We try and make about eight in a month.
-A year to make a concert harp.
-That's how long it should take.
Although Allen has spent 40 years making harps, he doesn't play.
So, I'm meeting Eleri Turner to find out what the instrument
sounds like in the right hands.
SHE PLAYS HARP MUSIC
Wow! Eleri, that's fantastic. Is that traditional?
Well, I started off traditionally.
Just playing the sweet way and then I thought I'd just wake people up by
playing a more percussive, more South American style to it, really.
So, as we're in Wales, I think we should, if possible,
hear something traditionally Welsh.
-Could you do that for us?
-Take it away.
SHE PLAYS TRADITIONAL WELSH FOLK SONG
The piece Eleri's playing is one of the most well-loved Welsh folk songs
called, Ar Hyd y Nos. Which means, All Through The Night.
But back to our house search and for our second property,
we're heading 20 miles north to the village of Ffarmers.
It's six miles from the university town of Lampeter.
House two is located on a quiet country lane just outside
the village of Ffarmers, with views over the Cambrian Mountain range.
So, you've seen we're pretty rural,
but look at these views.
-Isn't it something else?
-Stunning. Absolutely wonderful.
-I'm almost showing you two houses. Here we go.
-Yes. Oh, yes.
-Oh, yes. Beautifully done. Absolutely magnificent.
-Very nice indeed.
-Lots of character.
-Bags of character, isn't there?
-Let's see if you want to make it your permanent home. Come with me.
Dating back around 100 years, our second property has been completely
remodelled and was once two separate cottages.
The smaller stone cottage is a self-contained holiday let.
Whereas, the whitewash cottage could be occupied as the main residence, which is where we're starting.
-So, let's start in the living room, which is a pretty big room.
-A very nice room.
-Yes, it's nice. I like it.
-Yes. Log burner.
-What's with the strange shapes on the ceiling?
-RSJs or I-beams.
-Oh, I see.
Now, the current owner put them in because the upstairs,
they were getting springy floorboards. So, they put these in.
It seems slightly strange, but OK.
You don't have to necessarily have to use this room as your room.
There are options with this place.
-And I want you to tell me what you'd use it as.
-So, let me walk you through the house.
So, you've got a galley-style kitchen just at the back of this dining area
-as you come into the house.
And then, you've got another kitchen or a living room or what have you.
-Which is amazing, isn't it?
This is in the second part of the house.
-Look at the views from the conservatory!
So, this is this completely self-contained unit?
-Well, what is it? You tell me. You've got two entrances...
You've got that far living room, that kitchen area there...
That serves that part of the house.
And then, you can have this as the holiday let with the conservatory, or this as your own.
-You could indeed. You could do either.
-Or, the whole lot, yours.
-I-I don't know.
-I don't like the idea of living in one room. It's like a bedsit.
-And on the other hand, I think that kitchen is far too small.
So, I can't see how this would fit what I had in mind.
The views...yeah. But the rest of it? I don't know.
What would help you make your mind up, is having a look at the bedrooms.
-So let's go up there.
In the self-contained stone annexe, there are two decent sized
double bedrooms along with a three-piece guest bathroom.
In the whitewashed end of the house, there are four more bedrooms,
including two doubles and then a single,
currently being used as a study.
There's also another family bathroom,
as well as the potential master.
So, right at the far end of the house, over that big living room
that we saw earlier, is - well, potentially, the master bedroom.
-It's en suite...
-Right. This is a bit smaller than I would've liked.
There's not masses of space. It's big enough.
-In my mind, this bedroom would be big enough.
Provided there was another room for a dressing room -
storage of clothes et cetera.
-That there is.
-Which there is.
-There's also something else you haven't yet seen.
Which might put a completely different complexion on things.
Our second property gives Les and Lesley so many different options.
But my feeling is, they're not really buying into it.
What I hope will persuade them, though, tucked away to the side of the house
is a newly converted two-bedroom barn, which could make another holiday let.
The only proviso is that it's half finished.
Just mind your step there.
-We arrive at this.
-This is a surprise!
-You didn't tell us about this.
I kept it back on purpose.
-You could do anything with this, couldn't you?
-Absolutely phenomenal, yeah.
Obviously, this is the kitchen area.
Living area, far end - bedroom, bathroom.
This end - more luxury bathroom and a master bedroom.
You can play around with it.
You could halve it in two for holiday lets.
-Well, that's what's going through my mind.
-One bed and one bed.
-You could have as your own house.
-I was just thinking that.
-It wouldn't be a bad idea.
-You've got then, two holiday lets...
-This is true.
..in fantastic accommodation. Different kinds of holiday lets.
You're talking about, maybe families there, but two holiday lets there.
And then the views that you'd struggle to find anywhere.
This is true.
Both barn and house are surrounded by well-maintained gardens.
And the grounds include a range of outbuildings and a garage.
There's also a further ten acres of farmland,
much of it pasture for sheep, but easily room for a few horses.
So, how much do you think this is on the market for?
I think you're looking at the top end. 585.
All right. Lesley?
-I think 650.
This house is on the market for, offers around £595,000.
-So, not far off there, Les.
Just under budget, our second house, a 100-year-old cottage, could be
separated into a four-bedroom home for Les and Lesley
and a two-bed holiday let.
But the property also comes with another letting option.
A converted barn in need of a few finishing touches,
plus there's plenty of land to keep horses.
It's not impossible that we can make it as we want.
But the immediate reaction is, it's not quite what I'm after.
It has to have quite a bit of money spent on it to make it how we would like it.
Although, it's all very nice as it is, I don't feel like I could just move in here.
So, plenty to see - I thought we'd be here until it was dark.
-But, well done, you got around the place.
-Take in that view.
-Remember it. Let's take you back.
-Well, that went down rather well, didn't it, Sonali?
Now, I do love a longhouse and I understand it goes back to a time
when the people would live under one long roof along with their animals.
-Probably save on heating bills, wouldn't it?
Now, you see lots of longhouses scattered around the UK,
but they seem to have lasted longer in Wales, don't they?
And they're different architecturally.
So, in Welsh longhouses, the entrances tend to be larger
because of that shared access with cattle.
Whereas, in English examples, by the 17th century,
you're starting to see smaller, separate doorways.
Now, I might not have shown my couple a longhouse,
but that's not to say I didn't hit the jackpot.
Let's return to my house search with Ian and Jill,
who are looking for a Welsh rural home with a budget of £550,000.
For our mystery house, we're taking a risk
and delving deeper into the Welsh countryside.
Our final property lies equidistant from our first two offerings
in the historic village of Llandegla.
Situated on the banks of the River Alyn,
with the Clwydian range to the north-west
and Llandegla Forest to the south-east, it's a peaceful spot
favoured by walkers and mountain bikers.
Just over a mile from the village in a rural location,
is our mystery property.
Ian, she's got tears already!
-Oh, it's beautiful.
-It is, isn't it?
We've actually brought you somewhere more rural
than the other two houses.
Just look at all that, it's just what I wanted.
Look at it, it's just gorgeous. Just look at the view from here.
It's a barn conversion.
About 12 years ago, actually, this whole building was full of animals.
So, it's only recently been converted into a lovely, lovely family home.
And I am dying to show you it. So, let's get inside.
-Oh, yes, please.
-We're dying to look.
I was worried this property would be too rural for Ian and Jill,
but I'm delighted at their positive reaction.
Constructed of stone under a slate roof,
this building was originally attached to the neighbouring farm.
Parts of this property are thought to date back to the 17th century.
And through a sympathetic conversion,
it's retained much of its original character.
Come in, come in.
Straight into this gorgeous reception room -
the centre of the house.
I'm speechless. It's...
-It's really cosy.
-It's a really good atmosphere, isn't it?
-It's got a lovely feel.
I've called this the centre of the house and the reason I didn't call this the heart of the house
because I know your one big request has been
-a big kitchen-diner.
-Let's go to the heart of the house.
-Oh, no. Not more tears!
The ground floor of the property centres on the main lounge.
To one side, there's a hallway leading to a utility room,
a snug area and the most important room of all.
How's this for a big family kitchen?
It's perfect. It's perfect.
And you've got the dining room area just here.
So, lots of space for everyone to gather round.
You're already... Have you already moved in in your head?
-I've placed the furniture!
I think you were right with your description about the heart.
It feels like that, doesn't it?
-There's the other side to Jill, of course, though.
-My business side.
-And we haven't forgotten about that.
And one side of this house actually has space for that.
-So, let's go and see.
-Lead the way.
To the other side of the main lounge, there are two further reception rooms,
which with a bit of reconfiguration, could work for Jill's business.
The current owners use this as their formal dining room.
-Some office space for you both.
-Oh, right. Yes.
Fantastic. Oh, what a lovely room. My goodness, there's so much to this house.
-This office has also got a separate entrance here.
-That would be perfect, yes.
And there are two stables just out there, as well.
Which could either be storage or a little showroom.
Yes, this would be the hub of the business.
The upstairs of the house is accessed by a large galleried landing above the lounge.
This is actually one of my favourite parts of this house.
Oh, it's gorgeous.
They've made such a great feature out of the A-frames that were
-part of the original barn.
-Oh, it's amazing!
-Now, there are five bedrooms.
So, lots of space for the family.
-But the master suite, and I say suite, is what you want to see.
Directly off the mezzanine landing are two double bedrooms
as well as a smaller single bedroom.
Down the corridor, there's a further double
with a modern family bathroom, leading to the master suite.
-I think this would make a lovely area for you and Ian.
-Oh, my word!
-So, you've already spotted the dressing room.
A lovely en suite and then your master bedroom.
-What more can you want?
-It's a superb room! This is marvellous.
I'm thrilled to bits. It's a lovely, lovely family home.
-It can be our future.
-It could be.
-Well, shall we go and see the outside?
And then you can start to think about...
how much you might have to pay for your dream home.
I couldn't have hoped for a better reaction to the inside of this house.
Outside, as well as a well-kept garden, there's an area
that wasn't on the wish list.
Two separate enclosures of land, suitable for grazing.
So, this property comes with two and a half acres of garden and land.
-Two and a half acres?
All of that up to the fence, right up there.
-I know that's not what you asked for...
-I didn't expect that!
-..and I know you didn't want too much land,
perhaps the farmer next door could...help you look after it?
I'm just blown away by this property.
What do you think it's worth? What is this property on the market for?
I think it's going to be too perfect.
-And it's going to be above our budget. 575.
-What do you think?
Well, I've been in danger of underpricing in the past.
And I have a sneaky idea I could be in danger of underpricing this one.
-I'm going to take a punt at 520,000.
-Ian's gut was right.
-We have gone under.
-Oh, you're joking!
We have gone under your budget, but, but...
..we've gone more under your budget than you thought.
This is currently on the market
Coming in at £55,000 under their maximum budget,
this property delivers everything on Ian and Jill's list.
Including five bedrooms, a kitchen to Jill's taste,
plus office space to house the business.
The location may be more rural than they wanted,
but if they can make it work,
it's still only just over half an hour
from daughter Claire in Chester.
-I bet you don't want to leave.
-No, I feel like celebrating.
I was going to suggest a cup of tea, but may be champagne, then?
-Let's get out of this rain.
that mystery house shook everything up, didn't it?
It blew me away. Totally.
-The absolute perfect dream house, that one.
-So, what happens now?
We'll certainly be putting in an offer on the mystery house.
We have ours to sell,
-but hopefully we can get things moving quickly.
And with the mystery house,
did we bring you something that you may not have gone to see yourselves?
-Probably a little bit more remote than perhaps
we might have had in our search.
Well, good luck selling your property,
because that's the next big step, and let us know how you get on.
-We certainly will, thank you.
-And I hope you move in here soon.
-I hope so.
-Yes, we do, too.
-Yes. Thank you so much.
So, you saved the best till last, then?
Yes, Jill did get quite emotional there.
But she suspected that would be the case if she found the right house.
I'm afraid, you're going to have to wait till the end of the show to find out what happened next.
-Teasing me again?
-I just love a cliffhanger!
Well, in that case, let's get back to my house-hunt.
Les and Lesley had a handsome budget of £600,000
and were dreaming of not only a house, but holiday lets, too.
For our final offering, we're heading south back towards the Brecon Beacons National Park
to the hamlet of Taliaris in the heart of the Towy Valley.
Our third house is more remote than our previous properties,
a 10-minute drive from the nearest village shop,
it's located at the end of a quiet country track.
With far-reaching views across the Towy Valley
and the Black Mountain range.
The sun's out, and I'm glad it's out,
-because you get to take in the splendour of that vista.
-Stunning, I love it.
-The view is... is bigger, isn't it?
-Oh, much bigger.
-I think you've excelled yourself, this time, Jonnie!
-Fantastic. What a spot.
-Nothing in the way of it.
Well, we're looking around a barn conversion.
Now, it was converted in 2004.
Very much a contemporary style.
Inside is where you're either going to love it or want to leave.
I think you'll love it, but I've been wrong before. Let's find out.
Les and Lesley wanted an older, traditional property -
definitely no glass and chrome.
And although our mystery option has been created
from a 19th-century stone and slate barn,
the inside is definitely a more modern, shiny affair.
Now, open plan is very much the order of the day here.
-Let's start with the kitchen area.
-It is a very modern kitchen.
-Magnificent, I have to say.
-I like it.
-It's a sort of marriage between the two.
-What a magnificent and yeah?
No, no, no. A marriage between contemporary and sort of old.
-Yeah, I like it. I really do like it.
-You think it's magnificent, Les.
-I do, actually. I like it.
Lesley is saying, "Mm...yes. Right."
-Which suggests alarm bells are going off.
-No, not alarm bells, no.
I'm a bit reserved about it at the moment.
I think it's lovely, but the question is, do I want to live in it?
Well, let's see what you think of the rest of the property, because it is all open plan,
so you get a bit of flavour once you've taken it in a lot more.
-Now, it really opens up here, doesn't it?
-Yes, it does.
-It is very modern, but it's stunning.
-It's totally unusual.
My question mark, really, I think is having the kitchen in the living all in one room.
That's what's...bothering me slightly.
-You do have a mezzanine area above, that's like an office area at the moment.
-So, that could be another living room.
It's the sort of property where you could think, I'll change my view to accommodate the property,
-rather than the other way around.
-Let me take you to the master bedroom. We'll go up the stairs.
Our buyers wanted two bedrooms and the barn conversion gives them that.
The guest room is on the ground floor and has its own en suite.
Upstairs, just along from the mezzanine gallery,
is a shower room, followed by the master.
Which, at the moment, is the smallest we've seen so far.
-It's a lot bigger than our present bedroom.
an improvement on what we've got. It's not bad.
-Yeah, I think it's all right.
-I was thinking, you've just walked past an upstairs bathroom.
But this behind me is an en-suite.
-Now, downstairs you've got a double bedroom...
..with its own en suite. And a separate downstairs loo.
-You've got an extra bathroom, in other words.
So, this goes out - take the bathroom out -
you've got a dressing area and you've got the loo next door.
-With the bathroom.
-Excellent. Yeah, good solution.
-Makes it bigger.
-I mean, that makes perfect sense.
And they'll need to keep their project hat on as we continue our tour of the property.
Les and Lesley wanted to run a holiday-let business,
but at the moment, there is no guest accommodation to speak of.
However, I do have a plan and it's just beyond the utility room.
So, you open up into this.
An enormous barn!
-It's got planning consent.
For a three-bedroom holiday let apartment or cottage.
Well, it looks big enough.
You've got loads of space here.
What's going through my mind is whether you could change
the planning consent to two one-bedrooms.
-A one and a two.
-That would be a conversation you'd need to have
with the planning authorities.
-Yeah. But that would make more business sense.
Both our buyers seem to be warming to our mystery property
and the options it gives them.
Outside, there's a formal landscaped garden at the front of the property
and a Dutch barn useful for storage.
And for Lesley's horses, there's an enclosed paddock.
Six acres of land in total.
How much is this place on the market for?
-I'm going to go for £500,000.
-I think 485.
This place is on the market for offers around
£495,000. Well done.
Oh, there we go.
-Not a bad team, are we?
Under budget by £105,000, our mystery barn conversion has a more
contemporary, open-plan feel than our previous properties.
It gives Lesley the large kitchen space she was after, the two bedrooms
they both asked for, enough land for horses and an additional barn
with planning permission to build a three-bedroom holiday let.
-So, all done inside?
-Did you enjoy it?
-Yes. Very much.
-It was an experience. Very much so.
-It grew and grew and grew.
-It did, actually. Yes, it did.
Hopefully, it's given you something to compare to the other two properties.
-Let's find you somewhere to have a bit of a chinwag and then we'll catch up later on.
-So, do you have a favourite property?
-It's the one that I wanted to hate.
-That must be the mystery house, is it?
So, the mystery property is your favourite?
What about that business element to it, then? Because at the start of this you said,
"Well we don't want to do too much work."
-But now I've shown you something that needs all the work.
-This is true.
-The business element needs to be developed and that will take quite a lot of effort.
-And quite a lot of money.
-You're a couple of years away from operating now.
Probably a year, 18 months away, yeah.
But the house is so desirable and the area is so desirable,
that might outweigh the problems, to be honest.
What's the next step, then?
Definitely a second viewing and then hopefully an offer.
Well, look, I wish you both the very best of luck.
Get yourself back up here. Hopefully the weather will be just as good.
-We bring it up from the south.
-Yeah, we import it.
-Does that mean it's raining in Sussex?
-It is, actually.
-Let us know what you decide and good luck.
Did they go back to the mystery house for a second viewing?
Well, they did and they loved it just as much, but that all-important view
was over land owned by a farmhouse, which had just been put up for sale.
-So, they decided not to put an offer in.
-And that's an important point,
if your view is dependent on someone else's land,
check for planning applications.
Because anyone can apply for planning permission,
they don't need to own the land.
-So, it's a really good way to see if developers have been interested.
-What's the latest with Les and Lesley?
-Well, I'm pleased to say, they're just waiting to exchange
contracts on a farmhouse they found in mid Wales in Ceredigion.
-And your guys?
Ian and Jill also went back to the mystery house for a second viewing.
They still loved it. Now, it's a waiting game
because they really need to sell their property.
-Fingers crossed it doesn't get snapped up in the meantime, then, eh?
-Well, that's it from us.
I hope you enjoyed our trip back to the Welsh countryside.
Join us again on Escape To The Country.
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Highlights from Jonnie Irwin and Sonali Shah's property hunts in Wales with two couples who were searching for their dream rural homes in one area. In this special programme, they showcase Welsh property gems and offering hints and tips on buying in the country.
Away from the property hunt, Jonnie visits a community-run business making the country's national musical instrument, and Sonali learns how a pretty-looking plant is threatening the local landscape.