Property series. Highlights from Jonnie Irwin and Jules Hudson's property hunts in Somerset with two sets of buyers who were looking for rural homes in the county.
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Hello and welcome to a special Escape To The country.
Today, Johnny and I are focusing on two couples
who were looking for different properties but in the same region.
The county we're featuring is home to the first English town
to permanently light its streets using electricity.
Find out where in just a moment.
Today, we are looking back on two country house searches.
One couple had their eye on a rural property with a generous slice of land.
But could they put their disagreements to one side?
-Could you live in a house like this?
-It's not doing much for me.
-What do you think, Ross?
-I actually like it.
Although my buyers may have been retiring,
they were looking to significantly upsize to a new home in the country.
And as the search progressed, things began to look up.
I think it's the biggest fireplace I have ever seen. Can we climb in?
It's enormous, isn't it?
Today, we are in Somerset, whose county town of Taunton was
the first to permanently light its streets using
the wonder of electricity, as I discovered not that long ago, mate.
Neither of our couples had strong preferences for where
in the county they would like to base their search,
which was great news for Jules and I because it gave us
free reign to discover the whole of Somerset.
And what a place to roam around.
From the Mendips to the Quantocks, the gorgeous north Somerset coast.
And it's all wrapped up with that lovely kind of Arthurian magic
that emanates from the Vale of Avalon and Glastonbury.
You can talk forever on this. You didn't even mention the pubs.
There are plenty to talk about, which we have enjoyed.
But it's a perennial favourite. We're often asked to go to Somerset to look for rural properties.
And when you explore it, as we do all the time, you can see why.
Somerset lies in the south-west of England and is
bordered by Wiltshire to the east and Devon and Dorset to the south.
The county was known by the Anglo-Saxons as "The land
"of the summer people" and, with its impressive agricultural vistas,
it's a name that still resonates today.
Varied countryside mixes rolling hills,
flat expanses and stunning gorges.
The Quantock Hills in the east stretch 15 miles
and contain some of the most picturesque vistas in Britain.
But there is a raw and rugged beauty here too, which is
perhaps most dramatically expressed at Cheddar Gorge, where craggy
limestone cliffs tower 500ft
and form yet another of this unique county's evocative landmarks.
I do love Somerset.
Although it's one of the biggest counties in southern England,
the lack of population I think makes it so appealing
and probably explains why it's forever popular on Escape.
I think buyers have started to cotton on to the fact that you can
get a genuine slice of rural life, yet still on a budget.
Take the current asking price of a detached house across the UK,
the national average, if you like.
-It currently stands at just under £280,000?
-Yes, just under.
Well, in Somerset, it's below that, even - £277,000.
And it's really good value when you consider the average
price in neighbouring counties like Devon and Dorset.
There you could spend another 60,000 for the same thing.
And the good news for buyers is that prices are climbing up higher elsewhere in the UK.
Somerset is moving nice and slow.
It means buyers can take a step back and wait for the right property to come on the market.
-And taking your time is a good thing.
So let's meet up with my buyers to see
if I was able to inspire them to make that West Country move.
Banker Ross and publisher Kate recently celebrated their wedding.
One life change is leading to another and Ross
and Kate have decided to swap their hectic lives in London's
Crouch End for Somerset's leafier surrounds.
I enjoyed my time at the banks I've worked in over the last 30 years,
but after a while the early mornings, every time the alarm goes off so early,
it was getting to be more of a chore so I decided this was the right
time to have a change in life and a change in where we live as well.
But a change of pace doesn't mean our buyers
only want to put their feet up.
They both have business ideas that they want to pursue in Somerset.
We still want to have something to do down in the country,
whether it's having some annexes to rent out or whatever.
We thought about maybe if we had some land to start up
a glamping business, because it's very popular.
Another member of the family making the move will be their dog Banksy.
Ross also has two daughters, Brooke and Lauren, so being able to
have all the family together in the country is important to them.
My two daughters still live with us, but they will be staying in London,
so we will be keeping a base up here for them.
With clear plans for their future, these later-life newlyweds
are optimistic about their life in Somerset.
I think we'll be much more relaxed, probably more fulfilled.
We can be our own people, do what we want.
We've only been married for a short time so it's kind of our time together as well.
So I think it will just be really great.
Ross and Kate don't have a specific area of Somerset that they prefer,
so that means we are free to entice them
with some of the most picturesque areas of the county.
Before we kick off the search for their ideal dual purpose business and home property,
I'm meeting them in Somerset to make sure we are all on the same page.
Good morning. Welcome to sunny... Well, not quite yet, sunny Somerset.
-Excited to be here?
-This is a huge move, isn't it?
-It is a big one, yes.
But not just in terms of the geography, but also your lifestyle.
-You are looking for a business as well.
What's the most important thing to you guys, house or business?
I think the house itself and the grounds, and I think then the business will stem from that.
What does this business entail?
Basically, we want something,
if we can find some sort of annexe or something like that to rent out.
So it's heads on beds in what, self-catering accommodation?
Self-catering or perhaps a bit of B&B as well.
What kind of property are you looking for?
In my mind, it's Georgian.
Beautifully proportioned rooms.
Or it could be an older cottage.
Good views. Quite light.
Don't mind something that needs a bit of work doing to it.
So let's talk about how you want this house, this home, to be inside, then.
Big kitchen dining room, open plan,
so we can sit in there in the winter.
-Sofa, cook, entertain.
We want three bedrooms minimum, I would guess.
Some land is obviously more important if we are going to start the businesses.
So finally, let's talk budget. What is the final figure?
The budget is 600 to 650.
We could go to 650 if it was the perfect thing that we wanted.
Obviously a little bit lower if we need to do a lot of work to it.
I have got a good idea of what you are after. Let's get started.
Kate and Ross have a healthy budget of up to £650,000.
They hope this will allow them
to buy some land with their property to develop a business.
Inside, they need at least three bedrooms
so Ross's daughters can have a home away from home.
And a large kitchen is important for Kate to develop her country cooking skills.
They like the idea of somewhere that needs renovation
as this will allow them to have a DIY project.
They both have plans to be an active part of the local community, so need
to be in close proximity to a village but far enough away to have land.
And though they are open to era, the property should be a period one.
For Ross and Kate the opportunity to build a hospitality business
on their property is a key consideration.
We have chosen three very different houses that offer
a variety of commercial potential.
When they view the houses they will have no idea of the price tag.
That key information will only be revealed
once they have completed their tour.
The final property will be the Mystery House,
which will offer a quirky twist on their original demands.
But will it be one that they will embrace?
We are beginning our tour of Somerset near the hamlet of Waterrow,
situated three miles from the town of Wiveliscombe, which is close to
Exmoor National Park and attracts many tourists.
A former market town, Wiveliscombe has a population of less than 3,000.
But its shops and services serve the needs
of a much wider rural community.
A ten-minute drive takes us to our first property.
So this is your first dipping of toes into Somerset property.
-What do we think of this?
-Very, very nice indeed.
-I like it.
I like the simplicity of it. I like the stone, the wood.
Was this what you had in mind when you thought you might move out of London to Somerset?
How does this house compare?
-I was expecting a bigger garden around the house.
-Around the house?
-I think I was expecting more land.
I tell you what, I don't want to give too much away, but through that gate...
-There's a massive field.
-Yes. We will finish off out there.
But I want you to know that you do have that land with this house.
-So that's opportunity for a separate business?
But at the moment I want you to focus on this house being a home.
-It's a good start.
-Let's go inside.
This barn dates back to the 1800s and was converted in 2008.
With a total of just over 2,000 square feet,
it combines an engaging mix of modern and period character features.
-In we come. Now, Kate, you did say you liked open plan?
-Yes, I do.
-Open plan you have.
-Lovely. Cosy. Very warm.
-Cooking is obviously a big part of your life.
-I love cooking.
-So you entertain?
-Yes, a lot. Good entertaining space.
We've got a very big table at home we could put in here.
Is this how you would have it, then?
-It's how I would have this room, yes. Yes. Definitely.
Just off the kitchen is a utility room and a downstairs cloakroom.
While the kitchen has clearly met with Kate's approval, I'm finding
it much harder to gauge Ross's thoughts on the barn conversion.
-I wasn't expecting that.
I don't know why, because you could see from the outside it was going to be L-shaped.
I like the beams. Nice double door.
You have been waxing lyrical, Kate, about this house and pointing out all its features.
Ross, are you more reserved or are you just taking it all in?
I don't know. I am just taking it all in, really, yes.
Perhaps it's a little smaller than I would have expected,
but perhaps that's just to do with the fact it's an L-shape.
The house has a distinctive layout.
The lounge occupies the right-hand side of the property, while on
the left we find a wing dedicated to the sleeping accommodation.
It is home to three of the four double bedrooms,
all light and airy and neutrally decorated.
There is also a generously sized family bathroom.
The more private upstairs area contains only the master bedroom and an en suite bathroom.
It's nice. A bit small.
I don't go with "nice", you see, Kate, because I worry about that word.
-It's quite a small room.
-Smaller than I would have expected.
I quite like the skylights. I feel slightly claustrophobic.
It's a nice room, it's just not kind of the size maybe we thought.
-Let's go outside and have a look at the land, shall we?
I think the small bedroom has cooled Kate's enthusiasm,
but I'm hoping that the very generous land on offer
will let them see the property from a fresh perspective.
-Now, you said you wanted some land.
-This field is 2.9 acres.
You've got the raw material, which is land,
which is the toughest thing to get hold of.
So now it's time to guess the price.
How much do you think this house is on the market for?
I will have a guess at 575.
-I think a bit lower. I think 525.
I have split the camp. This is on the market for offers of around £550,000.
So not that far away.
£100,000 under Ross and Kate's budget,
our first property is a four-bedroom barn conversion.
The house comes with 2.9 acres of land and there's also a large garden.
The potential cost saving could allow the couple
to invest in their new business, whatever that turns out to be.
I really like it. I like the layout.
I think it has been really nicely renovated.
It's not the house of my dreams,
but I have a very warm feeling towards it.
The rooms feel very light and obviously the three acres of land
is very helpful with the possibilities
we're going to have going forward with a business.
-It's a lovely house, isn't it?
-Really nice, yes.
-So have you seen enough?
-All I want to know is, is this a possible?
-Yes, it's possible.
-Excellent. Let's keep going.
Somerset lays claim to a rich and varied food heritage,
ranging from Exmoor lamb to cider manufacture
and of course dairy produce.
Indeed, the area around the village of Cheddar has been at the
centre of England's dairy industry since at least the 15th century.
I went to meet artisan cheese producer John Spencer,
who since 2003 has been pivotal in bringing Cheddar cheese production
back to the village where it all started.
The making of this Cheddar, I understand it's called cheddaring.
Part of the process is called cheddaring.
There are lots of different processes in it.
What cheesemaking is about, is about turning a liquid into a solid,
so what cheddaring does is squeeze even more moisture out of it.
As the biggest influence on the taste of the cheese comes from the milk,
John uses just one local farm as his main source.
After donning my protective overalls and hat,
I went to get involved in some hands-on unmechanised cheesemaking.
Cheddaring is a continual process of manipulating the curd.
Cutting it, turning it, piling it up and pressing it.
All this to ensure the maximum amount of whey is removed.
It's got an amazing texture.
-It's like when I overcook my scrambled eggs.
But you can see the difference in texture straightaway.
So you do your cheddaring, then...?
Then you mill the cheese,
which is ripping it up into small bits
so you can distribute salt in it.
It then gets shovelled into the moulds and then on to the press.
That stays there overnight and then we take it out
and we dip them in hot water.
Then the next day you take them out and you dress them in muslin.
And then you put them back on the press again.
And then the next day you take them out,
you cover them with butter or lard and then they go in the store.
Some of the Cheddar cheese here is matured in the caves of Cheddar Gorge,
just as local cheesemakers did centuries ago.
Why on earth are you storing it in a damp, dark cave?
Because what you really want is a constant temperature,
which the caves give us.
But you also want as high a humidity as you can get.
So the water dripping through the limestone
gives us virtually 100% humidity all year round.
If I try this one, you'll probably find you get different textures coming out. So...
Just break a bit off. That's it.
It had a tang straightaway before I got the mature taste as well.
You don't just get one flavour, you get another flavour and another flavour.
That is the unpasteurised milk.
It is a fascinating process and a rather tasty one as well.
-Thank you very much for your time.
-You are more than welcome.
-See you again.
For our next house we're heading nine miles west
to the village of Langford.
Less than four miles from the property
lies they attractive village of Kingston St Mary.
It's home to a thriving local community.
Our second house is just a short drive away,
set in an acre of secluded private gardens.
The official front door is at the side of the house,
but I wanted to get your first impressions from what I think
is the best vantage point of the house.
Very nice. Lovely little courtyard square.
Yep. That is included as well.
-That is a completely self-contained annexe.
I'll show you that later on. Could you live in a house like this?
-It's not doing much for me.
-What do you think, Ross?
-I actually like it.
-I actually like it. I like the colour. I think it's nice.
The house is Grade II listed.
It was built in 1650
and the second storey was added in the Victorian era.
It features stone walls and the now tiled roof used to be thatched.
Inside the sitting room, the timber clad walls
lend an authentically rustic feel to the property.
-So a very different living arrangement to the first house.
-I wasn't imagining it to be quite so big. A nice room.
-It was two rooms.
You can see the difference in the floor. You've got that lovely wooden flooring there.
-Look at the fireplace.
-That is almost inglenook, isn't it?
-This is a very nice room.
-So compare this with the living room in the first house.
-It is, isn't it?
It's kind of what we were looking for.
The ample living area and adjoining dining room
leads directly through to the kitchen.
I'm getting a mixed vibe from Ross and Kate so far,
so will the kitchen impress?
-I'm just thinking, obviously our kitchen table wouldn't go in.
-But does your kitchen table not go in the dining room?
-It can do, I suppose.
-It would do.
This was a farmhouse. It was built as a single-storey farmhouse.
-Kitchens would not have been big.
-So what would you rather,
that big lounge dining room and a smaller kitchen
or a big kitchen diner and a smaller living room?
-The room bigger in there, yes.
Also on the ground floor is a utility room which comes with a quirky
but invaluable addition of a dog bath for Banksy.
It also features a study, which could provide the perfect space
for Kate and Ross to run their business.
The main family bathroom lies just off the study.
Upstairs, three guest bedrooms, two double and one single,
share a shower room.
A study can also be converted to a bedroom.
And finally, there is the master bedroom with an en suite bathroom.
Mind your step coming in there. Look at this lovely bedroom.
It's like a ship's hull. It's good. Good size.
The en suite looks pretty nice.
-A decent size, isn't it?
-A huge en suite.
The actual structure is beautiful.
The beams are stunning, the floor is stunning.
-So the big things are really positive.
We'll have a quick look into the annexe
and then we'll go out to the garden.
I'm really hoping that Kate's growing appreciation
of this property continues.
I think what I'm about to show her might do exactly that.
-It's a whole other house.
-That's exactly what it is.
You've got a separate kitchen, bedroom, bathroom.
Obviously this living room. You've got a little conservatory off.
-It's a very good size annexe.
-It is, yes.
This is our idea for your extra income.
The thing I'm not so keen on is the fact it overlooks
your quite private garden, which makes it not private.
OK. So maybe you could do something with that.
Shield that off a little bit, have a little foregarden here, make that garden smaller,
because I'm about to show you an amazing garden over there.
The house comes with a secluded garden
featuring a pond and a vegetable patch.
All this could be an ideal location for the couple's glamping business.
This garden just keeps on going and going.
It goes right to the bottom of those trees there.
But because it's secluded, you could even have people glamping here, couldn't you?
-Yes, you could.
-How much is this house on the market for?
-495, OK. Ross?
You are in for a bit of a shock.
This place is on the market for offers in excess of £600,000.
With a guide price £50,000 below Ross and Kate's budget,
this detached Grade II listed house
offers many beautiful period features.
Its four bedrooms and three bathrooms
would allow the family to stay.
Kate could develop her cooking skills in the kitchen,
while the charming detached cottage and secluded gardens of an acre
could act as the launchpad for a hospitality business.
I'm quite confused by my reactions to house two.
Although I love the house and I love the garden,
they don't join up properly for me.
I am just not quite getting it.
I think I need to wave a magic wand to try and get Kate
to be a little bit more sympathetic towards the house.
It's quite some door, isn't it?
That was rescued from a local abbey when Cromwell came to destroy it.
-Quite a bit of history here, isn't there?
So overall, how does it compare with the first house?
-Something to think about?
-Something to think about, definitely.
-I think you like it more, don't you?
-Discuss it over dinner tonight. That's all we're going to look at today. Let's go back.
Ross seemed quite taken with that property, as was I,
but I'm surprised that it used to be thatched.
Fairly unique house that, wasn't it?
But it can be quite tricky in some circumstances changing the roof covering on a house like that,
say, from thatched to tile or slate.
You always need to get the right permission.
But when you consider there are 30,000 or so thatched properties in England,
some 24,000 of them are listed and that alone means
that if you're trying to make any kind of change to the roof covering,
you're going to have to go through the right channels.
It can be hard, for example, just changing from straw to reed.
Clearly a property with a fascinating past,
but let's get back to some house hunting in Somerset
and remind ourselves of my buyers and what they were looking for.
In stark contrast to Somerset's tranquil rural landscape, is
the Oval in South London, where David and Colin currently call home.
They moved in here four years ago after their relationship
was cemented by a rather ambitious road trip.
I had a car out in Kathmandu
and the time had come to bring it back to England.
So we spent three and a half months
driving from Kathmandu back to London.
It's one of those types of trips
where it will either make or break a relationship.
And fortunately, we survived the trip.
As well as being an intrepid traveller, David is quite a collector.
Wine and vintage maps and atlases are his main focus,
but recently he has rekindled a passion
for a slightly less conveniently sized collectable.
I first discovered player pianos when I was at school
and I found it fascinating that you could just make music
by pedalling away with the paper roll going around.
I've recently acquired a grand player piano
and I've just bought an organ.
I'm about to acquire another player piano
and there simply isn't room here for all these pianos.
Colin is going to find himself busy in the garden
because David has lined up some large-scale landscaping plans.
My garden at the moment is probably one of the smallest in London.
So there is extremely limited scope for doing anything.
I have learnt a lot about plants in my travels
and I want to put some of that into practice.
They may have some big plans envisaged with this rural move,
but it's the little things that are drawing them the most.
Just having birds around singing.
There is a smell in the countryside as well
that you just don't get in the city.
For me, I suppose not having to rush around all the time.
I don't know why you think you are going to be able to slow down!
David and Colin are happy to look at properties
anywhere within Somerset's borders.
But before we kick off our countywide search,
I am meeting up with them to hear more about their planned move.
Colin, David, welcome to Somerset.
You have a wonderful collection of interests
that you need to cram into this new home of yours.
Amongst them a collection of pianos.
-And I gather plans for a snooker table.
David's got an interest in having a full-size snooker table,
hence the need for quite large rooms.
And, I gather, a wine cellar too.
I have a large collection of wine
and if there isn't a cellar, then we will probably have to dig one!
Give us an idea of bedrooms, because certainly what we are
describing on the ground floor is going to have to be quite big.
We are looking at a minimum of five bedrooms.
Whilst there's only the two of us,
there is an extended family that needs to be accommodated.
I know that outside space is really going to define this new home,
because you are a passionate gardener, David.
Yes. We need a big garden. At least a couple of acres.
How much are you planning to spend?
For the right property,
we could probably push it up to just below a million.
Wow! Did you ever think you would be house hunting
with a million quid in your pocket?
So let's go and spend some money.
With a very generous maximum budget of £1 million,
David and Colin are hoping to find a large attached period house
with a minimum of five bedrooms.
At least three spacious reception rooms to house a snooker table
and the pianos and a cellar would be a bonus.
To fulfil David's gardening ambitions they would like a large garden,
ideally with an acre or two of land and some kind of water feature.
Our search begins in the hamlet of East Compton in the Mendips,
on the edge of the Somerset Levels.
There are handy amenities less than two miles away
in the village of Pilton.
For most of the year there is a gentle pace
and peaceful ambience here,
but for a few days in early summer as many as 180,000 revellers
are drawn to the village for the world famous Glastonbury music festival,
which has been held on a farm just outside Pilton since the early 1970s.
Our first offering is just a few minutes' drive away,
and if Colin and David choose to buy it,
they qualify for free festival tickets
for as long as they lived here.
Here we are, property number one. What do you think, Colin?
Very nice. It's quite a substantial-looking building.
You wanted a sense of Georgian and those Georgian proportions.
It's got this lovely symmetry about it. David, what do you reckon?
It's got lovely big windows.
-I think it's going to be really light inside.
-Let's see what do you think.
This sizeable Georgian home, which was originally a farmhouse,
is Grade II listed and has recently been fully renovated.
Let's start with this.
One of your reception rooms. What do you think?
It's a very pleasant, what I call a cosy room.
I think it could make a very nice study.
It could make a lovely study, although you have another room next
door which is currently the study, which is not short on space either.
-And the kitchen diner is through here.
Look at these gorgeous floors.
Yes. Wow! Those are flagstones and a half, aren't they?
I don't think I've ever seen such a big flagstone as that.
-Our table would certainly fit in here!
Come and have a look at the rest of it.
The kitchen. Nice contemporary feel, dominated obviously by the huge island there.
Lots and lots of storage.
Through there you've got an enormous utility room.
And then through that door there is the other further living room
which they have currently got as a media room.
But maybe that is your music room, I don't know.
Could be. Could be.
-So what do we think so far of property number one?
-So far so good.
We do need the snooker room, though. That is a bit of a crucial point.
Well, there is one other element that I know is as important
as the snooker room, and that is the wine cellar.
Look at this. A gorgeous cellar for you.
-That is definitely big enough.
It feels like the perfect temperature.
Also on the ground floor, coming off the main part of the house
that we've just seen, is a completely self-contained annexe.
It's linked to the house by an attractive garden room
and has its own kitchen, living room, bathroom and two bedrooms.
Upstairs there are six double bedrooms.
That's one more than they asked for.
One is currently being used as a study and two of them have en suites.
One with a shower and the other with a rolltop bath.
We have saved this one until last
because the owners currently use it as their master bedroom.
It doesn't have an en suite,
but what it does have is, over the landing there's a separate bathroom.
Is this a house that you feel comfortable in?
I definitely feel comfortable in it, yes.
I'm just a little worried at the moment it might be a bit small.
-A bit small?!
-A bit small.
Small is one word I wouldn't use to describe this property
and there is more space to it.
On the floor above there are two large attic rooms
that could be converted into living areas.
And I'm hoping there is enough to inspire chief gardener David outside,
where there's a large lawned area,
mature shrubs and trees and a beautiful apple orchard
that runs alongside the sweeping private driveway.
All in all, you've got three acres,
so hopefully a fair amount of scope for your gardening ambitions.
And in the meantime, there's lots of apples.
There's lots of apples, lots of cider to be had.
But what do we think property number one is on the market for?
-Who is going to go first?
-I'll go first. I'm going to go at 825.
-I'm going to go a bit of lower at 800,000.
Well, there is, I'm afraid, no easy way to say this.
It's on the market for one million.
Right at the top of the maximum budget, this grand
Grade II listed Georgian home may not have a full-size snooker table
room, but it does have plenty of space for a player piano
in one of the three generous reception rooms.
It has a large cellar for David's wine collection, and in the main
part of the house there are six bedrooms with two more in the annexe.
And outside, there are three acres of land,
which includes that wonderful orchard.
Along Somerset's superb coastline are a string of sandy beaches.
One of the most popular is at Weston-super-Mare, which,
by the Edwardian period, had evolved from a fishing village
into one of the West Country's most booming beach resorts.
It still offers the classic seaside attractions, but in the last
eight years, thanks to the special properties of the Weston-based
sand, it's added another reason for beach-goers to flock here.
An international sand sculpting festival.
And Nicola Wood is the festival's chief organiser.
What is it about the sand here at Weston that makes it
-usable for these beautiful creations?
-A few things, really.
It's got just the right consistency - there's just the right
amount of silt and mud and dirt in there to help bind it together.
The shape of the grain has still got straight edges, despite the fact
it's washed back and forth by the tide, so that makes it stronger.
Now, many people will think there must be something under the sand that is doing the work
of actually holding the whole thing together, but no.
Yes, that is a common misconception. We have people think there is
framework or even that we mix cement in with it, but it is not true.
It really is just sand and water.
Aside from having the right kind of sand, what makes these sculptures
so deceptively strong is the preparation.
The granules are so tightly packed that the sculptures can
withstand the elements to a certain extent.
But throughout the seasons,
sculptors are on hand every day to do any necessary repairs.
Each year a different theme is chosen,
and with this season being Once Upon A Time,
Nicola has recruited me to help make Cinderella's pumpkin.
-There we are, it is organic.
-It is very organic.
Now we need to take away any sand that is not pumpkin, really.
So following the lines that you've created,
we can just slice away.
We can rub out some of these lumps and bumps, make it nice and smooth.
We'll give it a little bit of a dust off, get rid of all those crumbs.
Oh, it is filthy, this pumpkin. Look at the state of it.
If we cut away a V down each groove like that...
-And then we can...
round it into itself.
Sand sculpting is not just about taking sand away, we can
also add sand to it, and that's how we will do the stalk.
'Details like the stalk for this pumpkin are created by adding
-'layers of very wet sand.'
'They form a structure that can then be moulded into the desired shape.'
Congratulations, Jules, your first sand sculpture.
Well, I am delighted that it has turned out, if I might say, so well.
-Thank you very much.
For the second stop on our search, we journey 28 miles west, to the
village of Enmore, which lies at the foot of the Quantock Hills.
The village has two decent pubs, its own well-regarded
championship golf course, and the school here, which was
founded in 1810, is believed to be the first free school in the country.
Just on the outskirts of the village,
at the end of a wonderfully private driveway, is our second property.
A converted farm building.
Well, lads, I think property number two really is all about setting.
I mean, look at that. You wanted a water feature, Colin.
Yes, we certainly got the water feature,
-and a stream leading down into it.
-You have indeed.
Now, let's focus on the property. There you are.
-It has got a stunning presence.
-Is it a "wow" in your book?
It is. From this side, it is definitely a "wow".
Come and have a look inside. Let's see what it offers you.
This converted pig barn, which is made of local Quantock stone,
is thought to be just over 100 years old
and was converted in the mid-1990s.
-Come on in.
-What do we think of all this, then?
-Double height. Very nice.
-Yeah. Let's start in here.
-What about this, then?
-This is nice.
-This is a big kitchen.
-And then you've got the doors to the patio outside, so...
..it's straight out into the garden,
-which is much more natural, to me.
-So far, so good.
So far, so good. Right, let's go through to the living room.
-Have a look at this.
There. THEY LAUGH
This is a really nice room with, I think,
the biggest fireplace I've ever seen! Can we climb in?
-It's enormous, isn't it?
-This is impressive.
Look at your face, Colin! It's brilliant.
I mean, the whole thing is designed to really make
the best of the main event, which is obviously the view and the lake
and the gardens.
Through those double doors, you've got round about half the size of this.
-Perhaps a little more informal, more of a snug.
It certainly works for me as a living room.
Well, a great reaction so far.
I think the layout of this place really seems to suit our buyers.
Upstairs doesn't have the five bedrooms they've requested,
but there is a way around that, which we'll investigate a little bit later.
At the top of the stairs,
the galleried landing opens out onto a wonderful little balcony.
Then off one side of the landing, there's a family shower room
and two of the four bedrooms, which are both of a decent size.
On the other side of the landing, there's another bedroom
that has an en suite bathroom.
And then this is the master and this is the master bedroom's en suite.
Tres elegant! THEY LAUGH
Very grand. Yes.
It's good fun, it's positively decadent.
And the bedroom itself is here.
-It's a nice size.
-And it's dual aspect, which is always good.
And I think, compared to what we showed you in our first property,
I think this, as a master suite, definitely works much more.
-This works better.
-Oh, absolutely, yes, yes.
I'm wondering if the appeal of this place has distracted them
from the fact that there isn't yet a snooker room in here.
However, outside, across the car parking area, is a second barn that
was converted in 2006 as a dedicated entertainment zone.
Now this answers the question of the snooker table!
-There is a games room!
-How about it?
And behind that screen is a kind of gym area, but, to be honest,
-you could have more pianos, I suppose.
Now, we haven't got you the wine cellar here.
But we have got you the bar.
-That's very welcome.
It is all a bit of give and take, isn't it?
-And above us is a dedicated media room.
-With a projector and screen and all the rest of it.
-Now, you have only got four bedrooms next door.
You could, in theory, convert that into a guest suite.
-Because there is also, in there, a loo.
-So all the plumbing is here, you can slot an en suite in up there.
Plenty of options here.
Well, there is just one more thing to tackle,
and that the sticky issue of price.
-Yes? Let's go down to the lake, come on.
The land that comes with this property, I think, is exceptional.
As well as the beautifully landscaped garden, there's a large orchard
which I'm told in early spring is ablaze with daffodils.
And behind the house, there's a meadow with some mature trees
and of course there's a stunning pond, which has
a wonderful summerhouse perched at its edge.
-Isn't this just beautiful?
-It is. It's a lovely, lovely view.
-Now, in terms of land, in all, it's about five acres.
-That's a nice chunk of land.
-It's a great chunk of land.
But what's it worth, David?
-I'm going to guess 850,000.
I think this is nearer the top end of our budget,
round about the 900 mark.
900? This is on the market now for £895,000.
-Certainly gives us something to think about.
-It certainly does.
£105,000 below David and Colin's maximum budget,
this beautifully converted farm building has a generous
kitchen-diner and an impressive living room,
large enough to take at least one of David's player pianos.
Upstairs, there are only four bedrooms,
but there is scope for a fifth in a large converted outbuilding,
where there's also that all-important snooker room.
There isn't an existing cellar, but there's plenty of scope to
create one in the gorgeous five-acre grounds.
Jules, that second property with the lake, absolutely stunning!
But your house-hunters underestimated
the value of the first house. Never a good sign.
Never a good sign.
The truth is, they hadn't really grasped the value of the area.
I mean, the Mendips is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
You've got Wells and Glastonbury on the doorstep...
It's a real property hot spot.
And the average house price down there is about £350,000,
-that's 20% higher than the rest of the county average.
I think it's justifiably expensive - the villages, the towns there,
they're absolutely stunning, aren't they?
-But moving back to my house-hunters, Ross and Kate...
..they had a budget - not quite as big as yours, £650,000 -
and they were moving from Crouch End in London over to Somerset.
Our third and final Mystery House lies 4.5 miles
south of Glastonbury, in the centre of the village of Butleigh.
Butleigh is a picturesque and highly sought-after community,
featuring thatched and stone homes and a host of amenities,
including a shop and post office, a village primary school
and a very popular pub.
Now, I'm not sure you'd use this as your everyday entrance,
but I wanted to show you the house from the best possible angle.
-Look at that.
-It's superb, isn't it?
-That is lovely.
It's nice and symmetrical, pretty stone...
Dating back to around 1865.
-Can you guess why this is the Mystery House at the moment?
-It's probably not got the land that the other ones have had, or...
-This is your garden.
-That's it, that's it.
-It's not the LAND you wanted.
-No, the house more important.
-So, you like the look of it?
-Shall we go inside?
So far, Kate and Ross are responding surprisingly positively
to the Mystery House.
But what they don't know yet is that it contains a special feature that I'm hoping
will convince them that Butleigh should be their new country home.
But I'm saving that till last.
-Let's start off with the main living room.
-Yeah, I like it.
-A nice room.
It's nice - nice windows, nice floor.
It's probably the most traditional style and shaped living room
-we've seen out of the three, isn't it?
But I like that. I like, again, the symmetry of it, windows,
-front and back...
All right, let's keep to the ground floor - kitchen next.
Let me just squeeze through here, Kate. Thanks.
So, this is the room where I think would become your
-main, everyday dining kitchen.
-Yeah, it's nice.
Very different style of fireplace.
-Now, here's your project, Kate!
-Yes. There's a project.
I'd make it into a big kitchen-dining room.
All the white goods can be out of the way, you've got a good,
full-sized pantry next door as well and you've got a ground-floor loo.
Of course, you said you'd be prepared to do some work,
and here, you're not fazed.
Upstairs, you've got four bedrooms upstairs.
-And again, I think they need a bit of TLC.
-That's more stuff you for you to do.
-Which sounds good.
I'd normally take you up there and talk you through it,
but I'm very excited to show you something else.
-And that is the enterprise element, if you like.
That is something for you to get your hands dirty with
-in your retirement, to keep you busy. And that's out the back.
-Take a look?
Well, that was the reaction I was hoping for.
And the Mystery House just keeps on giving.
Between the main house and the adjoining buildings, there is
a charming and secluded courtyard.
Now, you might get jealous of your clients
when you see this room.
-Cor. It's a lovely little room.
-That's one fireplace, isn't it?
-So this is a whole separate house?
-Holiday let, yeah.
-Do they let it as a holiday let at the moment?
It's up and running -
they've got clients coming...
Is it older than the house over there?
Yeah, this predates the house next door. This dates back some 500 years.
I don't know about you but, you know,
come away for the weekend...
This is gorgeous, isn't it?
-I've GOT to show you this bedroom.
-Now, I absolutely love this room.
Look at this, it's amazing!
Yeah, it is.
A really sort of good, romantic holiday cottage.
As well as this romantic weekend bolthole,
the Mystery House comes with two additional self-contained annexes.
The first is a Grade II listed, one-bedroom Victorian rental cottage
featuring a rustic lounge, complete with log-burning fireplace
a beyond-bijou kitchen, double bedroom and compact bathroom.
The other was a shop that's been converted into a one-bed studio apartment.
Let's go outside to the courtyard, and it's not going to be easy,
-but let's start thinking about price.
-So, you clearly both like it.
Time to get to the price. How much do you think the Mystery House is on the market for?
I would say...675.
I think it's more, I think there's so much potential here.
I think it's more like...685.
Well...I'll tell you.
You're both rubbish at this game, but in the best possible way.
-This place is on the market for offers around £545,000.
No! I can't believe that.
On the market for £100,000 under their top budget,
the change from the Mystery House could go towards renovations
in the four-bedroomed property, and sprucing up
the rental accommodation to make it even more desirable.
The entire property was well received and though it lacks land,
its location in the heart of a thriving village
means that Kate and Ross will be at the centre of their community.
-Now, then, all done inside?
-There's so much to look at, isn't there?
-Have you redesigned any of the bedrooms?
-All of them.
-The whole house.
-So, something to think about, finally.
Let me find you somewhere to have a bit of a confab
-and we'll meet up later on. How's that?
Well, after two good properties yesterday, I'm assuming
there's a firm favourite that you can both agree on.
-I'm thinking it's the Mystery House?
-So what is it about the Mystery House that you both like so much, then?
-Everything about it.
It looked great from the first image - nice village,
good position. The garden, as it was, was perfectly formed, not big,
but then there was all the potential of the holiday lets, and also
-the house needed a bit of work, which we actually want to do.
When we first came down here, we thought land was more important than the business side of things,
and clearly the Mystery House showed
that wasn't correct and we have changed our minds on that.
So, what's the next step for you both?
-Clearly, we'd like to go back and see it again.
And we've probably got a couple of things we have to clear up
in London, and then it would be nice to try make some kind of offer.
-That's amazing news!
-We're 100%, aren't we?
We can certainly see ourselves living there.
Well, all that's left for me to do, then, is wish you the very best of luck.
-Do please let me know how you get on, won't you?
-Thanks very much.
Well, that seemed to go pretty well! They loved that Mystery House.
But it can so often happen on Escape To The Country.
The mystery property can challenge
people's preconceptions of must-haves.
But I always think it's well worth throwing in a wild card.
What might not seem quite right on paper,
once people get there in the flesh of formal viewing, the charms
can materialise into something that will really win them over.
Well, I'm looking forward to seeing what happens with Kate and Ross later on in the show.
But in the meantime, let's go back to my house search with David and Colin.
They were moving from London to Somerset with a
very generous £1 million to spend.
For our final destination,
we're travelling to the picturesque village of Cossington,
which is situated on the northern slopes of the Polden Hills.
The village has a recently built hall, a popular pub and
a 13th-century church which houses commemorations
to two parishioners who, during the 16th century,
were Lord and Lady of a manor that stood right next door to the church.
And that manor house, which was rebuilt in later years,
just happens to be our Mystery House.
This is amazing.
I think that's a pretty nice Mystery House.
So why is it our Mystery House?
-Well, technically, it's a semi.
But you get the lion's share of this beautiful manor house.
-Everything from those first bay windows to our right here.
It's a stunning building. It's absolutely gorgeous.
And the roses and the wisteria
and the other plants really make it look even better.
OK, it's a semi.
But I think we can live with that.
It's a semi with six bedrooms.
The house dates from around 1840, so it's early Victorian.
But there's been a building here since the 11th century and the site
is thought to have been a meeting place for the Abbots of Glastonbury.
Well, how about this for making a statement in an entrance?
This is amazing.
-That is a very grand entrance hall.
Isn't it? They've got it as a dining area at the moment.
But would your mini grand fit in here?
It would fit in here, but it might be a better place for an upright.
So it'd house maybe one instrument?
-It'd definitely house one instrument.
Let's see if the mini grand will go in here.
-Ah! Just like that one?
-Like that one, yeah!
-But we have also measured this in terms of your snooker table.
This room is 25 by 18, so you could...
-That could work, yeah.
-..have your snooker table in here.
I'm pretty sure that will work.
And it leads us on nicely to the kitchen, which is through here.
-There we are, chaps.
-Another island, yeah.
Not the biggest one we've been able to show you in terms of,
it's not a kitchen-diner.
No, I think this kitchen would work fine for us, actually.
Let's continue across the hallway into the living room.
So this is the main, formal living room at the moment, I suppose.
-Could we fit an instrument in here?
-Yes, I'm quite sure we can.
The baby grand, actually, would go well against that wall.
That would release the space in the other living room for snooker.
Yes! Hey-hey! Excellent, it's all coming together.
Right, let's go through to the garden room.
A very hot garden room today.
Yes, it's quite a grand conservatory.
But I'm wondering if this would also act as your dining room, maybe.
That certainly would be an option.
-I would very much like eating in here.
There are two more floors to this property. We're going to take
a look at the first floor where there is a shower room and three bedrooms.
The smallest of the three has bespoke built-in storage
and there is a really generous double
that's currently being used as a study.
Unusually, we're coming into the master bedroom via its en suite.
Shower and bath in there, a whirlpool bath, as well,
and then this is the main bedroom.
-A nice size.
-Very nice. Yes, this is a lovely room.
On the floor above this one,
there are another three bedrooms, making a total of six.
There's also a family bathroom and yet another reception room
which could be the perfect spot to house David's map collection.
This is nice.
-There is the formal gardens.
Outside, the garden has been kept in immaculate condition
by the current owners who, over the years, have hosted
regular music and theatre events here,
using a charming outdoor stage.
Now, look at this.
You've got a pool! How about that?
It goes on giving! This is totally unexpected.
I thought this was going to be a vegetable garden.
But there IS one.
-It's alongside the tennis court which is just over there.
-Yeah, the tennis court is right there.
-The mind is boggling slightly.
What's our Mystery House on the market for then, Colin?
I'm thinking it's at least going to be £900,000,
-but it wouldn't surprise me if it's more.
Now, this time I'm going above Colin.
I reckon it's very close to our max.
I'm going to say 990.
This is on the market for 895,000.
This beautiful historic manor house is also £105,000
below David and Colin's top budget.
Despite being semidetached, it offers plenty of space,
including four large reception rooms, a grand entrance hall
and six bedrooms, so there's more than enough room
for their pianos, maps, snooker table and visiting family.
Outside, in the exquisite one-acre garden, there's a tennis court,
a swimming pool and a stage where one of David's pianos could be set
up for summertime musical soirees.
If you'd given me this specification on paper,
we probably would have said no.
But having seen it, it is definitely a contender.
It's not quite what we've been looking for,
in that it's semidetached
but, really, you would hardly notice that.
How are we doing, chaps?
-We're doing very well, thank you.
-Typical, finding you on the stage.
I couldn't resist it.
I've never acted in my life, would you believe, so it was worth a try.
But I suppose the burning question is,
is our Mystery House to be, or not to be?
-That is the question.
-That is a very good question.
We've spoilt you with three fabulous properties this week,
so let's go and give them their due consideration, shall we?
-How are we, then?
-We are very well, thank you.
This is a nice treat, isn't it? A cream tea, glorious sunshine...
-Where are we at the moment, then?
Well, the first house was a nice house
but somehow the layout didn't really work for me.
Then we took you to property two, that fabulous converted piggery.
The grounds and the lake, they were just right.
Given that it was a conversion, it really worked for me.
Then this morning we set out to our wonderful Mystery House,
our six-bedroomed semi.
Absolutely, and that was a big surprise.
The house really worked.
I think the benefit of having the second floor,
plus a room which is big enough for the snooker table,
really made it for us.
We have to give that house serious consideration.
The rooms were spacious, nice heights, nice features.
So the Mystery House is your favourite.
You're going to go back and have another look at it.
I'm pretty sure we're going to go and have another look.
-We'll let you know what happens.
-Well, here's to you.
In the meantime, look, you can enjoy our cream tea.
Why not? There we go.
Jules, that mystery property, it just went on and on.
The tennis courts, the swimming pool, it was something else.
To be honest, mate, I think they were a little overwhelmed by it.
It had so much and, to be fair,
they did go back for a second viewing. But, of course, technically,
technically, it was a semi and they had said that was a no-no.
Let's be honest, if we'd taken them at their word we wouldn't have shown
it to them and they wouldn't have had the chance to even consider it.
I mean, "semidetached" sometimes can just be a label, can't it?
You can also save so much money if you look at that option.
In Somerset it can save you up to 40%.
Yeah, certainly well worth thinking about.
But there is light at the end of the tunnel.
They decided to expand their search area to see
if they could get even more for their already generous budget
and they have found a property and bought it and are now living in...
wait for it...
Shropshire, where, let's be honest, a million quid goes a long way.
-At least the county begins with S, I suppose.
Well, Ross and Kate, just like your guys,
went back for a second viewing in the Mystery House.
They liked it so much they put in an offer which was accepted.
Brilliant, great news.
Unfortunately for them, their move to Somerset was dealt a cruel blow.
Their house failed to sell in London,
so they had to withdraw from the deal.
The house remains on the market, and until it's sold
I'm afraid their dream of moving to Somerset remains just that.
-So disappointing and frustrating for them.
-Hopefully it will happen at some time.
-I'm sure it will.
For David and for Colin, they are now getting on with their new rural life.
-Good for them.
-Well, I hope you've enjoyed our romp through Somerset
and a little trip down memory lane. We certainly have.
-Do join us again for yet more country escapes.
-See you then.
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Highlights from Jonnie Irwin and Jules Hudson's property hunts in Somerset with two sets of buyers who were looking for rural homes in the county. The episode showcases dream Somerset properties and offers hints and tips on buying in the area.
Aside from the houses, Jonnie learns the art of cheddaring and Jules visits Weston-super-Mare where some impressive sand sculptures are on display.