Property series. Nicki Chapman and Alistair Appleton showcase the East Midlands in a special episode of Escape to the Country.
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Hello and welcome to a special Escape To The Country.
Alistair and I will be reflecting on our time showing two couples
property gems from one region.
And throughout the show we'll be scattering our own hints and tips
about rural house-hunting in this area.
Today, we're focusing on a region that's home to England's
smallest traditional county. Find out where in just a moment.
Today, we're revisiting two house searches.
I was helping a couple of first-time buyers who were looking to swap
the bright lights of the city for a quieter life in the countryside.
We were on the hunt for the perfect period property and while some
showed potential, others offered our buyers more than they bargained for.
I love the idea of having two staircases.
I'm not sure why. Maybe it will make me fitter.
While my husband and wife team were planning to escape city life
to enjoy an active retirement.
And it turned out size does matter.
So this could be the sticking point.
Yeah, a little bit small.
On today's show we're concentrating on the East Midlands
where you'll find England's smallest county - Rutland.
Now, the East Midlands is made up of various counties including
Lincolnshire, Leicestershire, Derbyshire and Northamptonshire.
And my search was focused on Derbyshire,
which I've always thought as a jewel of a county.
There's something quite intimate about the scale of its landscape.
And plenty of the big families of the UK agree with me
since it's thick with stately homes.
I was house-hunting along the Northamptonshire/Leicestershire
border, and when I think of that part of the country,
I always think of value for money.
Without doubt this is an attractive slice of rural England,
but we're here to explore why these counties
so appeal to people looking for a country life.
The region of East Midlands is located in the centre of England
and takes in six different counties.
I was searching across the Leicestershire/Northamptonshire border.
Popular with commuters due to their convenient road
and rail links to Birmingham and London,
the counties also provide a varied rural landscape
from rolling farmland and woodland to winding rivers.
Further south into Northamptonshire,
the Pitsford reservoir near Brixworth is the third largest in the UK.
Its seven miles of waterside track and woodland trails
are perfect for walking, cycling and wildlife spotting.
In spring and summer, over 60 species of bird are known to breed here,
making it the perfect spot for bird watchers as well as those
just looking to soak up the scenery.
Derbyshire is landlocked by seven other regions, including
South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, Greater Manchester and Cheshire.
It's home to the UK's first national park - the Peak District -
which contains a magnificent undulating landscape
rippling under lush green grass with beautiful far-stretching views.
And the county is also home to the furthest point from the sea
in the UK, at around 70 miles from the edge of the Wash in Lincolnshire.
So, with its stunning countryside, Derbyshire is definitely
one of the unsung heroes in Britain's rich landscape.
I'm always delighted to go to Derbyshire.
I feel if it's good enough for Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy,
it's good enough for me.
And I particularly like the north of the county,
the Peak District National Park.
And that's where my couple were looking to buy.
That's a beautiful part. Let's talk house prices, shall we?
Now, the average cost of a detached home at the moment
is just over £279,000.
So, if you're looking at best value county in the East Midlands,
Lincolnshire comes top. You'd pay around £100,000 less.
Nottinghamshire after that. About £80,000 less.
So, quite considerable.
And there's a sort of league table of affordability cos
prices go up towards the national average,
so the next one up is Derbyshire, my county, £70,000 under.
And then you have Leicestershire, £35,000.
And the most expensive is Northamptonshire.
But that's still £32,000 under the national figure.
Yeah, it does really change, does it? Really varies.
Well, my county is more expensive on paper than yours,
and my couple had a smaller budget, so I had my work cut out.
Today's house hunters, James and Sarah, are first-time buyers.
They're renting this one-bedroom flat
in the trendy North London borough of Islington.
Both moved to the capital in their early 20s.
James is a digital marketing manager and Sarah is a lawyer.
But after ten years,
the buzz of life in the capital is starting to wear off.
We don't enjoy London like we used to any more.
It used to be the case that we'd meet after work
with friends and stuff,
but now since we got married we just want to come home from work
and spend time with each other,
so we're not making the most of London any more.
And it's not just the city itself that no longer suits their needs.
One of the things that we're definitely missing is space.
Storage is one issue, but also it's a one-bedroom flat,
so if we have people to come and stay,
not really able to accommodate anybody in that regard.
Unfortunately, outside space is something that's also
in short supply.
I'm looking forward to having a sizable garden
so that I can perhaps start a vegetable patch.
We really enjoy cooking, so having some fruit and vegetables from
the garden that we can play around with will be a really great start.
And James' home county of Leicestershire
is number one on the list.
Having grown up in Leicestershire, I know it's a great place
to raise a family, but then also I think it will be a bonus for me
to be closer to my family,
and we're not too far from Sarah's family, so...
Ready to return to their roots
and with the flexibility of being in rented accommodation,
there's nothing stopping them from pursuing their countryside dream.
This is our first house, the first time either of us have bought,
so it's kind of nice that we're doing it together,
it makes it feel even more special.
Yeah, it's a big change,
and with any big change comes a bit of nerves,
but overall we're really excited.
James and Sarah have chosen the East Midlands for its excellent
train links to London, as Sarah will need to commute
for work at least a couple of days a week.
They'd like a village location in good proximity to James' family
in Market Harborough, but they're otherwise open-minded.
So, we're searching for properties across the villages
and towns of Leicestershire and neighbouring Northamptonshire.
I'm meeting up with them to pin down the details.
Well, Sarah and James, I have to say, welcome to the East Midlands.
And why's the time right for you both to make this very important move?
We're looking for a little bit more space.
We'd like to start a family soon.
We'd also like to get a dog, if that's possible.
And I think that our London flat would be a bit of a squeeze.
So, what are you both looking for with this new property
that you're after?
Three bedrooms, minimum. Four, if possible.
A big kitchen, possibly with a family dining area.
A little work space for me, if possible.
I'm going to be working from home a little bit,
so either an office area or perhaps if there's a fourth bedroom
I can convert into an office area.
And then a big garden, if possible.
And what about the architectural style of this perfect property?
Well, we both definitely agree that a period property,
or an older property is what we're after,
but with modern features inside that's maybe been renovated,
so I don't think we'll be able to do too much work.
So, you're going to be still commuting into London?
I'm going to be commuting into London,
so we'd like to be near enough a train station
that comes into the area of London that I work in,
but at the same time a good position for James.
I'm looking to move up here job-wise as well.
-Double move for me.
And you're renting at the moment, so I take it you can move pretty quickly
if we find you that perfect property.
And let's remind ourselves of your budget
for this area in East Midlands.
Sure. We're looking at a maximum of £400,000.
Let's hope we can achieve that for you over the next few days.
We've got three wonderful properties lined up to show you.
-So, shall we get started?
James and Sarah are hoping their budget of £400,000
will not only get them on the first run of the property ladder,
but will afford them a dream period home to start a family in.
They'd like a minimum of three bedrooms.
A large kitchen with dining space and an office where Sarah can work from.
As they're also looking to get a dog in the future, they want a garden
with enough space to fulfil Sarah's dreams of growing vegetables.
Last but not least, the property needs to be within
a reasonable distance of a train station with good links to London.
We've sourced three great houses for James and Sarah to view.
All have plenty of period character
and the potential to make great family homes.
At the end of each house tour, I'll ask them
to price each property before I reveal it.
And with the last one, the Mystery House, I'll be testing how far
I can push them both with location and character.
To start our search, I'm taking our buyers 20 minutes
south of James' hometown of Market Harborough
to the Northamptonshire village of Brixworth.
The village offers a mixture of new houses and older properties
constructed from Northamptonshire ironstone
sourced from the local quarries worked until the late 19th century.
The property I'm showing them
is in the heart of the village overlooking the village green.
And here is your first home.
It's a lovely setting.
I love the contrast between this front
-and the old stone at that back.
-There's Northamptonshire ironstone.
So, what do you think of the cottage because it is semidetached?
It is. Well, we're hoping for a detached property,
but we're not close to anything at this stage,
so we'll happily embrace the semidetached and have a look.
-I like that.
Well, you said you like traditional homes.
Let's see how we get on with this one.
-Let's have a look.
This cottage has heaps of character,
which I think will appeal to James and Sarah,
but has the advantage of having been modernised throughout
so they wouldn't need to take on any major work.
As you walk in...
it leads straight into your sitting room.
-This is a lovely sitting room.
-It's got a beautiful country feel.
It feels very modern as well.
But you do walk straight into it.
Yes, that's probably not our favourite in terms of layout.
-But not a definite no-no.
Let's keep looking through.
The sitting room leads through a substantial dining room
on to the kitchen
where these two keen cooks should feel right at home.
It's lovely and light.
You love cooking together. Are you going to get under each other's feet?
It's got a lot of work service space, which is always handy.
It's got a little room for a dining table as well.
-A kitchen/diner, like that.
You've now got three different rooms, haven't you?
You've got that sitting room, a large dining room
and then obviously this kitchen.
You've also got some storage
and a downstairs bathroom with a separate toilet.
-Oh, OK, that's good.
So, shall we head upstairs, look at the bedrooms?
-Let's have a look.
An interesting feature of this house
is that it has two different staircases.
One at the back of the house leading straight up into the third bedroom
and one at the front
which takes us from the sitting room to the main bedroom.
-Lovely and light and a really high ceiling, which is great.
Yeah, love the high ceiling.
-And you have your own en suite.
Just across that very small hallway is another bedroom.
A really good size which leads to your third bedroom.
OK, so you go through one to get to the other.
When you get to the third bedroom, you go down those other stairs
and that will bring you out by the dining area
and the downstairs bathroom and toilet.
I love the idea of having two staircases.
I'm not sure why. Maybe it will make me fitter.
-I like it as well. It's quirky.
-I think it's a nice feature.
Yeah. So, let's go outside, take a little look at the garden.
And then I'm going to ask you how much do you think it's all worth?
The layout may not be ideal,
but I'm hoping this property might be scoring extra points for its quirk.
The kitchen opens onto a patio outside
with steps up to an lawned area.
-So, not half an acre.
-..as you probably guessed.
Probably couldn't quite fit your vegetable patch into this.
It's a nice shape. It's an interesting garden to look at.
I think in terms of having dogs and children and things,
it could be a bit tricky, not quite enough lawn space.
Yeah, but we've got the rockery section there.
Down there, sort of more barbecue, dining area.
And this part overlooks the green.
And the final piece of information I want to give to you is this commute.
You've got Market Harborough, you've got Kettering,
you've also got Wellingborough,
which is slightly further away, but closer to London.
All within 20-26 minutes drive.
Probably a little bit further than the ideal for me, but not too far.
OK, then, how much do you think the asking price is?
I would guess £365,000.
I think I'd go slightly less. I'd go 355.
Now, your top budget was £400,000.
-Asking price on our first property...
-We're both out.
This house would give our buyers the period style they wanted
in a top village location for an impressive £65,000 under budget.
The quirky layout means they'd need to think carefully about how best
to use the space, but with three bedrooms and a separate dining room,
there are options for Sarah's work area,
plus the kitchen has the family dining space they're looking for.
The garden may not be extensive, but is low-maintenance and attractive.
I genuinely really like the house.
I think it's got some really nice quirky features,
nice period bits to it, feels like a nice home.
But I think there are also some negatives for us,
the garden, I think, is not really big enough.
The journey to the train station is a little bit further
than I would like. For the right house we might do it,
but I'm not sure this is the right house for us.
You see, I'm calling time on this house tour.
-Have you seen enough?
-I think so.
-How are you feeling?
-Good. Very positive, I think.
-A good start.
And it is only our first property.
-So, let's keep going.
There is a food revolution happening in the UK
and its epicentre can be found in the heart of Lincolnshire.
Despite being cultivated for over 2,000 years
and being the most widely eaten green vegetable
until the Middle Ages,
kale, a brassica and distant descendant of the wild cabbage,
is now the new king of the superfoods.
I've come to meet Alex Boughton from the Discover Kale campaign
to find out a little more about this apparently versatile vegetable
and why it's now so popular.
As a child growing up, I don't remember ever eating kale.
No, well, I think it was...
people would have viewed it as being cattle food
cos it would have been fed to cattle in the past.
But I think now, people are really getting behind it
and realising its versatility and how good it is for you
and so people are actually starting to eat it much more.
Over the last two years, sales have gone up by more than 100%.
Andy Blair has been working on the farm for just over ten years.
-Good to meet you.
-Pleased to meet you.
So you're the farm manager here.
How many acres are you responsible for?
Well, we're currently in about a 20-acre field.
We're growing about 850 acres of kale.
And am I right in thinking that nearly all the kale that we can buy,
or the vast majority in supermarkets,
is actually produced here in Lincolnshire?
Most of it is grown in this county, yeah.
And this new demand for kale has changed the way it's grown.
Traditionally, it always was considered
to be a winter vegetable for people to eat.
Now, the way that food trends are going,
it's becoming a year-round vegetable.
And then the harvesting process, we're all hand harvested
and as long as we leave the centre of the plant still growing,
then it will regrow again and form another harvest.
So, basically, you'll get two crops out of every single plant?
Yeah, well, this early crop, through the summer,
-we'll get about three crops.
Three harvests a year is a fantastic return from just one crop.
That's great business for the growers.
Alex wants to show me how versatile kale can be.
It doesn't just have to be boiled. It can be added to stir-fries,
soups, casseroles, salads or even drinks.
We're going to make a kale juice/smoothie.
I'll get this blendified up.
Alex is making his smoothie with pineapple, apple...
..kale, a little bit of ginger...
-And then the last ingredient?
-A little bit of yogurt.
-So, I'll just pour a bit in here.
-Tell me when.
A bit more. Perfect.
The kale will add taste to the drink and colour.
I'm dying to try it.
-Cheers. Moment of truth.
-Cheers. Let's see if I like it.
What do you think?
-It is tasty, isn't it?
-Well done, you.
-Cheers. Thank you.
Back on the road, we're crossing the county border into Leicestershire
and heading to the village of Bruntingthorpe,
just under three miles to the larger village of Gilmorton
and half an hour to Leicester.
Residents of this small village head to the neighbouring village of
Gilmorton for the nearest post office and primary school.
Five minutes in the car through the surrounding South Leicestershire
countryside takes us back to Bruntingthorpe.
Alongside the village church
and just yards from its popular pub is our second property.
So, if you're wondering why I've brought you into the back garden,
there's a good reason because this is the front of your second property.
-Oh, wow. Look at that.
-That's pretty amazing.
-Any idea what is used to be?
-A barn of some sort.
I'd say coach house or...
That's exactly right. It is a coach house.
Converted about 30 years ago,
but this, believe it or not, dates back to about 1774.
-Shall we get started?
-Yes, let's have a look.
I love the historical features of this property.
Built of brick with a graduated local slate roof,
its magnificent height meant that the horse could be ridden into
the coach house without the need to dismount.
Its conversion has turned it into a great family home.
So, with this house you enter into the kitchen,
-not a sitting room.
-I like it.
Yeah, it's a good size for us.
I like the beams running across the ceiling and it's nice and light.
It needs a bit of modernising maybe,
but probably just more cosmetic than anything else.
I think it's ready for your own personal touch.
And it's not listed even though it's a very old coach house.
That's even better.
I really think all this place needs is a little vision.
A long corridor leads through a dining area
and past a downstairs cloakroom towards the living room.
Yeah, it's a really interesting layout.
-And again, a really nice light room.
-And a good size.
The beams here, I love the beams.
And the patio doors lead out onto your garden.
-That's south facing.
-Oh, that's nice.
You've got friends, family, years to come, little ones,
nice easy access to your garden and it's walled, so it's pretty safe too.
And good for a dog.
Making our way upstairs, there are three bedrooms.
The two guest doubles are served by a family bathroom.
On this side of the house you've got the master bedroom.
It's a little on the small side, I think.
-I think it might be the ceiling that makes it feel...
You could be right. It feels a lot smaller.
-You've got an en suite there.
I don't know if I'm right or wrong with this,
but I get the feeling that you want everything bigger.
I think I would find it hard to move from a one-bed flat to a
three-bedroom house where the bedroom was smaller
than our current bedroom. I think that's what it is.
Yeah. So let's go back outside and we can discuss what it's all worth.
After a strong start,
it's a slightly disappointing reaction to the first floor.
Outside to the front of the property there's a double garage
offering great storage space or the potential to be
converted into a study for Sarah,
as well as a timber summerhouse and a pond in the well-kept garden.
I really like the fact that this garden is self-contained.
And just to the side of us, you can see there's a bit of a rockery there.
-That would be fantastic for a vegetable patch.
But the commute back to London is going to be about 23 minutes
to Market Harborough.
That would be the closest station for you from here.
That's not too bad.
Well, let's see how you feel about the actual price.
How much do you think this converted coach house is on the market for?
I would say this one, maybe 325.
I'd go slightly higher. Probably similar to my previous 355.
I think you're both going to be quite shocked.
-In a good way?
£399,000 is the asking price.
Coming in just within budget, this historic property would give
James and Sarah three bedrooms and the family kitchen they asked for.
Although it doesn't have a study in the main house,
there's plenty of space in the garage
if they were up for taking on a project.
Its south-facing walled garden would be suitable for a dog
and could provide the vegetable patch Sarah's been dreaming of for so long.
The train connections from nearby Market Harborough
mean a commute to London of just over an hour.
There were loads of things I liked about this house.
The ground floor had pretty much everything we needed.
It's a good-sized kitchen, a nice living room.
Unfortunately it was just the top floor of the house was not quite
what we were expecting in terms of the size of the bedrooms.
How we feeling this time?
-Yeah, I think two brilliant properties.
Guess what's tomorrow?
Mystery House time.
-That's it for today. You can now relax.
-Look forward to it.
I think the commute was quite a big issue for them, wasn't it?
It was a big issue.
And the market reflects now that more 30-somethings than ever are
looking to buy in commutable areas, which of course is putting prices up.
My tip would be, take a really long hard look at your journey
and try and work out where you can improve it.
Perhaps you can cycle or drive to a different station
or perhaps go to a station that could be further from the house,
but the link is speedier.
And my tip would be to always look at the Network Rail website
because they have a development page and you can see where the new lines
are going and that of course is going to drive prices up.
Back to my buyers. They didn't give a hoot about commuting, so I had
the full gamut of Derbyshire's beautiful countryside to explore.
Retired teachers Cheryl and Rick from Leicester
have lived in their four-bed detached for 16 years.
With a grown-up daughter of 24 and work ties to Leicester no longer,
Cheryl and Rick have decided to put the wheels in motion
for a big life change.
We feel now it is the time where we want that little more peace
have that rural aspect, go out and enjoy ourselves
and get away from the city, big city, really.
I think if we don't do it now, then we're never going to do it.
And they've decided that it's Derbyshire
to the northwest of Leicester where they want to settle.
We've visited Derbyshire several times and the countryside is
just stunning, and it's what we really want now, isn't it?
Just to have that on your doorstep
and not having to drive out to meet it, so to speak.
And as long as they're not too far from civilisation,
Cheryl will be happy.
The thought of Cheryl not being able to go shopping
will be horrendous, really.
We don't want to be isolated, let's put it that way.
Wherever it is they choose to lay down roots, both Cheryl
and Rick are ready to up sticks and begin their new country life.
They've asked us to concentrate our search for their new home in
the southern half of the county to allow easy access to friends
and family still in Leicester and Cheryl's father in London.
And before we commence our house-hunt, I'm meeting Cheryl and
Rick in the county to discover the finer details
of their property wish list.
Welcome to Derbyshire.
So, what are planning for your retirement home?
What's the spec of it?
We want a detached property.
We don't want to be isolated, but we don't want to be overlooked either.
-We would like some rural aspects.
-Yes, some views.
-Four bedrooms, or three bedrooms and a study.
At present we've got quite a large dining room, which we don't use
very often, so it would make sense to have perhaps a diner kitchen.
Maybe a conservatory attached to the end would be lovely.
I love conservatories.
I want the wish list. I want everything that you're dreaming of.
And an en suite because I've never had an en suite.
We've got my daughter to consider as well,
cos she's actually going to be part of the move,
so I think if we can try and accommodate her a little bit.
Erm, other than that...
A garden that's got some colour in it will be absolutely fine.
And the style of the property, what sort of style would you like?
Barn conversions are nice.
Right, sort of open contemporary feel.
I don't mind the outside being old
-as long as the inside's a bit more...
-More open plan than what we've got at present.
-What about price?
Remind me how much money we've got to play with.
-Well, we're looking, I would say... £450,000.
Well, we've found three lovely properties.
-Shall we go and see them?
-Oh, please, thank you.
Cheryl and Rick have a good budget to spend in Derbyshire,
but they do have quite a list of requirements.
They'd love a barn conversion with four bedrooms,
or at least three, plus a study,
so they've got room for not only visitors,
but their daughter, Victoria, who's making the move with them.
They're after a large kitchen diner,
as this will become the heart of their home.
And Cheryl's pinning her hopes on a conservatory as well.
And although they'd like a pretty garden,
they don't want something so big it's unmanageable.
Plus, they'd rather not cover
too many miles to get to the shops,
so that Cheryl can keep her passion
for shopping alive.
We begin our journey round Derbyshire
towards the centre of the county in the tiny village of Wheatcroft,
around three and a half miles from the larger village of Crich.
Crich, with its distinctive stone houses, is a friendly community
overlooked by the memorial tower.
And the village pubs, shops, and eateries
mean Cheryl and Rick are within arm's reach of retail therapy.
Around a ten-minute drive
and we're on the outskirts of Wheatcroft at our first property,
one of four in this attractive complex of conversions.
-Wow. That is impressive.
-Look at the view.
You wanted aspects.
-We did want aspects.
-We have got aspects, haven't we?
-As you can see, it's not a detached property...
..but it is a barn conversion.
It's only ten minutes to two big towns where you can do shopping.
Yes. Thank you.
What are you first impressions of the location and the property?
Beautiful. Lovely. I love the stone work.
I'm not sure about the not being detached but, you know,
that's something we can, maybe when we go inside, see how it works.
-Let's walk inside.
-Thank you. Can't wait.
This handsome stone barn began life as a cow shed
and was converted in 2003.
It successfully marries its old-style charm
with a top-notch high-spec interior,
with little clue to its former use.
-Mind the step.
And this is the main living space.
Lovely beams. It's got real character to the room.
Completely new engineered oak floor.
-And the big log burner.
-That's fantastic, is the log burner.
We need a reasonably sized lounge where we can relax
-and I think this...
-And bring friends in.
-This is ideal.
But, yeah, this will do for what we need, definitely, size-wise.
We may just be at the beginning of our voyage around Derbyshire,
but Cheryl and Rick are making all the right noises.
And I hope they continue,
as we head to the most important room in the house to them,
the kitchen diner.
That was a... What's that about?
-..smaller than I'd hoped for.
I was wondering what your chuckles were about.
But it's very tasteful.
I think it's got real warmth about the house. Real warmth.
Also on the ground floor is a study and a cloakroom.
But does upstairs provide the all-important en suite
Cheryl and Rick have never had?
Well, there's a family bathroom and two single bedrooms...
..but also a double room with an en suite.
Plus the main bedroom, which is full of character
and where we're headed next. This is the master bedroom.
Hmm...is that big enough?
Well, there is only two of us, after all, but it is smaller.
Well, hold your horses, because you've got a...
Through there you've got an en suite shower room.
The en suite, definitely, that is definitely a plus.
That looks nice.
-And through here, you've got a walk-in wardrobe.
-I have got a lot to accommodate.
-Yes, you have.
But let's poke our heads outside in the courtyard.
The property has a pretty private garden to the front,
with a raised decked area offering a spectacular view.
And to the back is a designated area in the U-shaped courtyard.
And your boundary is this sort of diagonal line,
-so it's a sort of rectangular garden.
-Oh, I see.
So it's only half of this sort of upper terrace
and half of that lower one.
You do lose a little bit of privacy there, don't you?
You do, don't you, really?
Yeah, so basically your garden is out the front.
But again, the property looks beautiful from this side,
as from the front.
So what do you think it's on the market for?
I think, because of its presentation, cos it's beautiful,
but the fact it's not detached, I'm going to go for 425.
Because it's a barn conversion, because of its location,
I think it's going to be the top end of our budget,
-so I think it's going to be 440.
-Well, you are right.
It is actually right at the top end of your budget.
It's on at 449,950.
Of course, the benefits of that is because it's so well decorated,
you'd have actually nothing to do to it.
You could just walk straight in there really.
Which is what we want, isn't it?
This converted barn is on the market
just a whisker
under Cheryl and Rick's budget.
But as Rick says, they could move in
and not lift a finger.
It may not be detached,
but it is the barn they asked for
and it's beautiful inside.
The kitchen diner might not be
quite as spacious as they'd like,
but there are the four bedrooms
they wanted, meaning plenty of room
for daughter Victoria.
And there's also a study.
Plus, the outlook from
the front garden offers views
that money just can't buy.
When I first walked into this house
I thought, "Wow, this is, this is impressive."
And it's got a lovely aspect, both front and back.
But as you get to the nitty-gritty, and you look at the rooms
and look at the space,
then perhaps there are too many compromises
that we're going to have to make to live here.
When I first approached the house,
I was actually quite taken aback by the surroundings.
I felt, I felt very happy.
Having walked through the front door,
those feelings changed slightly.
I felt a little bit more sort of enclosed.
I think this is too small.
I was wondering whether this, actually, front garden
was about the right size for you, Richard?
I think it's big enough, Alistair, really.
I don't want a massive garden,
but as long as we've got somewhere we can have a sit
and have a drink and just relax.
-And enjoy the sunshine.
-Good to bear in mind.
-Yeah, thank you.
-OK, let's press on.
Not only home to spectacular countryside,
Castleton, in the Peak District in Derbyshire
is also proud to have a rare and unique stone in its very core.
Blue John stone was first discovered in 1750
and today, only two local sites continue to mine it.
One is owned by Vicky Turner,
who is the third generation of her family to work here
in Treak Cliff Cavern.
Vicky, it's been a long time since my geology lessons at school,
so I've no idea what Blue John is. Can you enlighten me?
Blue John is a very rare form of a very common mineral
which is fluorite, or fluorspar.
Formed about 240 million years ago, um, and in Treak Cliff,
the banding and the different colours that it has,
it makes it totally unlike any other fluorite
anywhere else in the world.
-So, is it only available in Derbyshire?
It's Gary Ridley's job to find the Blue John vein
amongst the layers in the limestone rocks
that have taken millions of years to crystallise.
-I'll give you that.
-We'll go this way.
-Oh, that's quite a hole you've got there.
Is this what you've been working on already?
Yeah, we came in here last year, last winter and dug this out.
As you can see, we've just been going round
and getting wider and wider.
So, that bit there looks like quite a big crystal.
Is that what you're looking for?
Yeah, a good slab. We can get a good slab out.
I can see the Blue John there,
but how do you actually free that out of its surroundings?
What we do, we drill holes, both below the vein,
and then we put wooden pegs into the holes
and then we hammer chisels into the wooden pegs
and that hopefully cracks the limestone
so that we get a nice good-size piece.
It was in Victorian times that this stone was a la mode
and began to be crafted into trinkets and accessories.
But it takes some hard work to turn what looks like
a rather dull lump here in the mine
into something worth adorning yourself with.
Pete Sharp has been a craftsmen in the workshop here for 11 years.
Is that a piece of Blue John?
Yes, this is a nice big chunk of Blue John stone
that's just come out of the cave.
And we're just getting a nice shade going on there
and eventually should end up with a nice bowl
that we can present and sell in the shop.
Normally, it comes out with a load of clay wrapped around it.
And we've got a nice big chunk over on the side here,
and we'll just give that a good old wash
then we'll put it into our storage racks
down near the winch house there.
-Probably for about say a month or two.
About a month or two, yeah.
-So, that's washed and dry?
-That's all washed and dried.
It's all nice and clean ready to go.
When the stone's been allowed to dry naturally,
it's then warmed up in a drying oven at 80 degrees centigrade for a week
to get the last drops of moisture out
before it's covered in clear resin to seal it
ready to be turned into objects, like these striking bowls.
These are the ones you're holding now in your hands,
the left-hand side is Cliff Blue Vein.
That's where you've been with Gary doing the mining,
that's pretty much where that came from. This is the Miller's Vein.
You've got some really nice colours going on there, the iron oxide.
That gives it more the yellowy colours.
Pete, it amazes me that these things come just from this one hill.
That's the thing that kind of boggles my brain a bit.
That's it, yeah. I mean, we've got the 14 veins,
and we've only got the two,
just found in this one part of the hillside
in the entire world, if you like.
-And that's a special reason to come to Derbyshire.
For our second property, we're travelling 40 minutes southwest,
nudging just into Staffordshire
and the village of Stanton.
Five and a half miles away, back in Derbyshire,
is the charming market town of Ashbourne.
Ashbourne boasts over 200 listed buildings,
plus plenty of quaint shops, places to eat and welcoming pubs,
including The Green Man where Queen Victoria once stayed.
Just over a ten-minute drive and we're on the edge of Stanton,
on the doorstep of the Peak District National Park
where we find our second property, this beautiful converted barn.
So, don't bite my head off, but this is another attached property.
-But take a deep breath, because...
-Cos I think you're going to like this.
It's a much simpler layout, so there's only two properties.
-This one, yours.
-And this one here.
So, this is the communal space, at the front.
And you have a private garden at the back.
Oh, right. It's really tidy.
-Exciting to see what it looks like inside.
-It is, actually.
Yeah, I've got a good feel on this one.
-A better feel?
-Yes, I think so.
This barn, built from limestone,
with a smart roof of Staffordshire blue tiles,
was originally an outbuilding belonging to a farm
dating back to the 1870s.
It was part of the Earl of Shrewsbury's estate.
Converted 16 years ago, it's now a spacious family home.
Step in...to your farmhouse kitchen.
-Oh, that's lovely.
Now that's what I call a dining kitchen.
So, you've got a big smile on your face?
Well, it's more, it's more of what I had in mind, yes.
I'm quite excited now to see the rest of it.
Well, let's continue the tour of the living room. Come with me.
Oh, my God.
-Oh, wow, I wanted space, didn't I?
-You did want space.
It's more in keeping with what I had in mind, yeah.
And then at the back there,
-you've got another sort of separate dining space...
..which has double doors looking out into the garden.
Gosh, I wouldn't have guessed this from the outside.
Next to the L-shaped living room dining area
is a large family bathroom,
and next to that is a bright bedroom.
Then across a hallway, currently in use as a study,
is the master bedroom.
Again, we've got quite a lot of space.
-Plenty of fitted wardrobes.
-Which is what we wanted, really.
Well, you wanted for your clothes.
-You've got an en suite here.
-Nice, with a bathtub.
-Yeah, this is nice, very nice. It's a good size.
-It is a good size.
And I do like the little features there, and definitely the en suite.
Above this section of the ground floor
are two further bedrooms in the eaves,
bringing the total number of bedrooms to four.
And moving outside, I want to show our buyers
the rather substantial grounds and their wonderful views.
This is a bit more of a garden.
Just a little bit.
-This is a garden and a half, Alistair.
-It's great, isn't it?
-It is huge.
So, you've got the lovely dry-stone wall
which takes you all the way around here, the formal garden.
Around that pine tree
-you've got a lovely veg patch with a chicken run.
Well, this is not all of it, because through this gate,
-you've got an acre paddock.
-Never in this world.
Wow. I love it. I absolutely love it.
I think it's got a lot going for it, let's put it that way.
So, what do you think it's on the market for, this...
this very splendid barn conversion?
Well, I think this is...well over our budget,
I'm going to go for...470.
I think it's going to be over our budget,
but not quite as much as that. I think it's going to be 455.
Well, it is over your budget, it's actually on at £475,000.
-But it has been on since last year
-and the vendor is willing to negotiate.
-That's something for us to...
This converted barn is £25,000 over Cheryl and Rick's budget,
but with a vendor happy to consider offers,
there's every chance they could snap it up for the sum they've got.
It may not be detached,
but inside it's got all the room they were hoping for.
The fabulous kitchen diner is spot-on for Cheryl,
and there are enough bedrooms to accommodate daughter Victoria,
plus visiting guests.
The garden may be rather bigger than they were imagining,
but as retirees, they'll have plenty of time to potter in the grounds
and enjoy the space.
They seem to prefer the second house to the first.
They certainly did.
Although it was over budget,
the owners were open to negotiation,
and I think it's really important,
don't rule out a property just because it's over budget.
Yeah, find out how long it's been on the market for.
If it's been on for quite a while,
there could be some flexibility with the price.
And also, it's worth doing some of your own research, isn't it?
There are websites that can tell you what the going rate is.
Properties that have been sold recently in that area.
And you can go to the Land Registry direct as well.
Now, back to James and Sarah who wanted to escape from London's
busy Islington with a budget of £400,000.
For our final offering I'm taking James and Sarah back into
Northamptonshire, 30 miles further south to the village of Denton,
just six miles from Northampton.
The picturesque village centres on a village green
with a variety of properties, many built of local stone.
The mystery property is in the heart of the village
in a distinctive building it's hard to miss.
So, it is time for our third and final property -
the Mystery House,
Or in this case I'm going to show you the Mystery Chapel.
-Oh, my goodness. Look at that.
-That is a surprise.
-Yeah. It's beautiful.
I wasn't sure how you were both going to react,
-so that's pretty favourable.
-I love it.
On top of the hill as well.
It is built around 1870, converted in the 1990s.
Now, the reason it's our mystery is because it's an unusual building,
but also, this time we've brought you
much further into the south of Northamptonshire.
In actual fact, we're very close to Bedfordshire
and also Buckinghamshire
-but still within a village environment.
Right, well, I think it's time for us to step inside
-our mystery, don't you?
-Definitely, let's have a look.
Set back in an elevated plot, the grand steps of this striking
chapel lead us to the commanding entrance.
-Two huge wooden doors there.
-That's a pretty grand entrance.
I think it's the first property...
-We've got a hallway!
-We've a hallway! This is good news!
You have your own hallway. Parquet flooring, high ceilings.
-This is a good start.
-So let's see what you make through this door.
-So here is your main living area.
Look at the fireplace, that's beautiful.
-That is an amazing fireplace.
-A bit of a surprise?
-Yes, I really like it.
-A big surprise, yeah.
And you even have a mezzanine floor.
I love that they've still got the stone floor as well.
-It's working for, is it?
-Yes, I really like it.
-On that note we're going to keep going.
The kitchen is the largest we've seen on our search
-and I've got a hunch it'll go down well.
-Yes. Yeah, lovely.
I don't think you could ask for a better country-style kitchen.
It's been really nicely done.
You might have noticed no dining table because just behind us...
-Oh, there it is.
-..is your own dining room.
Another big reception room.
We'd be able to move straight in and just get living.
Don't get me too excited, all these positive comments.
-Shall we head upstairs?
'Passing back through the living room,
'the staircase is at the front of the house.
'Along the mezzanine corridor are two double bedrooms of equal
'size as well as a family bathroom leading to the master suite.'
-I love it.
-Yeah, really nice.
I love the old features as well, they're still there, the beams.
-You also have an en suite bathroom.
-Good to hear.
Could you see yourself potentially living in a property like this?
-I really could, yeah.
-Well, that's very positive.
We've got to go outside and have further discussions, haven't we?
Oh, yeah, we haven't seen the garden yet.
-Yeah, James, you lead the way.
'Although there's no separate space for Sarah's study,
'it doesn't seem to have put them off.
'She could easily create an area in one of the ample reception rooms.
'Let's hope we can keep up the momentum as we head outside.'
So our outside space.
Now, I'm going to start off by saying that chapels often don't
have very much outside space around them
and think it would be fair on this one.
However, we do have quite a pretty courtyard.
-I really like the shape, the U-shape of it.
You could have different sections for different things.
You could leave some of it paved
-and maybe lay grass on another section.
And we're enjoying our day out in the country
-but I've got to bring it back to work matters, haven't I?
-That all-important commute back to the city.
Wellingborough would be the closest station. It's about 20 minutes.
-Oh, that's not bad.
-That's OK, yeah.
So how much do you think it's currently on the market for?
I would say 389.
I think a bit higher, I think this one is 399.
I think top of the budget.
Asking price on the converted chapel...
-Are you ready for this?
-That is a very pleasant surprise.
-That is, yeah.
For £50,000 under their maximum budget,
this magnificent converted chapel
is bursting with character but also has the contemporary living space
that appeals to James and Sarah.
It's got a large practical kitchen and dining space
and three roomy bedrooms.
Although the walled garden isn't ideal in its current form,
with a little bit of work, Sarah could easily turn it
into an attractive green space that works for them.
Being further south, Sarah would be that much closer to London
and just 20 minutes to the station at Wellingborough.
I absolutely love the Mystery House.
The entrance, the hallway, I really like the mezzanine level
that goes through into the living room.
The main thing that we need to think about a little bit more
is the garden area.
We'd like a bit of grass so if we were to buy the house, we'd have
to be committed to changing the garden.
This is the first property we've seen that I could definitely see us
making this a home.
Ah, smiling faces. Now, you two have enjoyed this house tour, haven't you?
-Yes, we have.
Yes, I think the Mystery House has served us well.
-A lot to talk about.
-We really do.
Well, let's go and have a chat somewhere quiet, shall we?
Sarah and James, let's talk about these properties because,
in my mind, there was one that I think we might have
got close to for you.
The first property came close for us
but the Mystery House really stood out, really had that wow factor.
So, James, what was it about our Mystery House, the third property?
It had the really nice entrance hall,
it had the big living room that really had a wow factor to it
and then the big country kitchen as well,
leading through to the separate dining room.
I think the way it was decorated definitely helped as well.
It was all really nicely done.
There's a couple of things for us to think about, we need to
-learn a bit more about the area because it's a new one to us.
So a bit of the research for us, I think, and to learn
a little more about refurbishing a garden.
So does that mean you might be going for a second viewing?
-I'd like to, yeah.
-Yeah, we will.
-We wish you all the best.
And if you do put an offer in, let us know, won't you?
-BOTH: We will.
-That was a really lovely Mystery House.
Although, I think they probably would have wanted to do some work on that courtyard
-to make it suit their needs.
-Yeah, Sarah said she'd turn it into a lawn
which surprisingly, isn't super-expensive.
Turf costs between £5-15 a square metre.
Obviously, you have labour on top of that
and if your garden's overgrown or perhaps it's an uneven level,
it might cost you just that little bit more.
So with my amazing mathematical brain,
with a courtyard that size it's probably about £1,000.
-That's not bad, is it?
So back to our lovely couple Cheryl and Richard who were in Derbyshire
looking for a house at £450,000.
For our final visit, we're travelling just over 22 miles
northeast to the village of Ashover.
The pretty village, in the valley of the River Amber,
is home to good pubs, meaning it wouldn't take long to get to know
the locals and become part of the community.
On the edge of the village is our third and final property,
a cottage built from local sandstone with a slate roof,
dating back to 1830.
And, as you can see, it is detached.
I know, I'm so pleased, thank you.
I just think it's beautiful and the setting is ideal.
I mean, you've got all this, the brook.
I think the outlook is terrific, really.
It's a beautiful looking property.
-Do you notice what's at the side there?
-A conservatory, yes.
Our Mystery House may not be the barn conversion Cheryl
and Rick have asked for but it is the first detached home we've been
'able to show them for their budget and it's full of period charm.
'So if they can wipe the slate clean of their expectations, I think
'they could be pleasantly surprised.'
'The front porch leads straight into the hallway-cum-dining room'
and off that is a living area
which retains plenty of original character.
Well, it's cosy, isn't it?
It's probably smaller than I initially thought about having but
-actually it's got quite a nice feel in it.
It's got a warm feeling, hasn't it?
Well, this is the Mystery House, this is the challenge
because it's not what you asked for, it's not big and contemporary
and spacious, it's small and character and cosy.
It's definitely food for thought. Good start.
A good start, indeed.
And I have a feeling that things are only going to get better as
we move next door into the beautiful light-filled conservatory.
-A conservatory, just what I wanted.
Wow, this is just a bonus, this.
Cheryl also wanted a big kitchen/diner but this is
the Mystery House, so our duo expect to be a little challenged.
So this could be the sticking point.
Yeah, a little bit small.
But although this is your kitchen/work area,
if you put your head through there, there's quite an extensive
-Oh, wow! It's big, isn't it?
That's a large area.
And there's a downstairs bathroom at the other side.
-Actually that is quite big.
I mean, they've done some nice touches to it and I love the floor.
-Bear it in mind.
-Put it into the pot and stir it around.
I'm going to have to.
There's no doubt this period cottage is bursting with
personality, which continues upstairs
where there are four bright bedrooms, a double to the front
and the two at the back of the house, built into the sloping land outside.
Back at the front is an attractive family bathroom
with a master next door.
-I can't get over the size of this.
-They're big, aren't they?
-They are big.
-It's a strange house because upstairs almost feels
bigger than downstairs and it's brighter
because of the geography of the house with the hill behind it.
If you open that window there, I'm sure you'd hear the sound of the brook, wouldn't you?
You certainly would. We've got only an upstairs bathroom, so no en suite, sadly.
Although I'm disappointed because it's something I really wanted,
I'd prepared myself for the fact it wouldn't be here, for some reason.
That's just turning even more things round in my mind now.
-I'm quite curious to see what lies beyond now.
-You mean the garden?
-Then let your curiosity lead the way.
Outside, the garden follows the lie of the land
and there's plenty of it.
As you can see, it's a, sort of, quite interesting terraced garden.
You've got one, two, three, four terraces
and over there you've got a rather nice eating area
and some beds as you go down for vegetables and then a herb garden
and a little area there to sit and enjoy the sun.
I just think it's very tranquil.
So how much do you think it's on the market for?
Well, I think it's going to be round about top end of our budget.
I think it's going to be 455.
-I'm going to go over that.
I just think the location, with the brook, the space.
Oh, I'm going to say it anyway, 480.
Well, we wouldn't be that unkind
but it is actually on the market for £460,000.
Again, there's room for manoeuvring there as well.
This beautiful 19th-century detached
stone cottage might be £10,000
over budget but with a
I'd like to think that Cheryl
and Rick could get it for a price
more in keeping with their cash.
Although it's not
a converted barn,
in our Mystery House every room
has something to offer.
The kitchen may be on the small side
but with the utility room next door,
it could definitely work for them
and the bedrooms are all
a good size.
The unusual garden could give both
Rick and Cheryl their own project
to work on.
I wanted a lot of space. I don't get the same space in here
but actually it's got so much warmth and character.
We need to sit down and say, look, could this be a possibility now?
So the Mystery House all done.
Yes, we've seen it, I think, several times through now, haven't we?
-More food for thought.
-That's all the houses so let's go and find somewhere to discuss them.
-Perfect, thank you.
How's it left you, what are you feeling at the end of the week?
Muddled. Really confused.
I think it's just given us an insight into what
we could have that we haven't actually thought about.
I get the impression that house one and two are out of the running, is that true?
There were lovely features in both but probably not quite for us.
So it's the Mystery House, that's the contender, is it?
That's the favourite at present.
I think when I stood outside that house with all those views
and everything I just think the country, oh yeah.
-You wanted a conservatory, which you've got in the Mystery House, haven't you?
You wanted an en suite which we didn't have but I think it's
got a lot going for it but we just need to have another look at.
I think we need to convince ourselves that this would work
because it is so different from what we'd planned
and I think a second viewing with our daughter because another pair
of eyes as well, to look at things differently, to give us an honest opinion.
Well, it's a big financial commitment
but it's a massive move for us as well, anyway,
so if we are going to put an offer in then we want to make sure
it's the right house for us, really.
Well, I hope it all happens. It's been lovely showing you around.
-It's been a marvellous experience, thank you very much.
So did your couple go back to the Mystery House with their
daughter for another viewing?
In the end Richard and Cheryl didn't go back for a second viewing
because I think that downstairs kitchen was just too much
of a compromise size-wise.
In fact, they decided they couldn't leave all their friends
in Leicestershire, so they are still looking in their home county.
Oh, it's difficult, isn't it, to leave friends and family behind?
I mean, that's a really good point and I think
if you do decide to move away,
if you can, it's perhaps worth staying in a B&B for a week
and really get a flavour for the area before you commit.
Yeah, yeah. And what about your couple?
James and Sarah loved our Mystery House
but James was offered a fantastic job in London,
so they've decided to stay and they've continued to rent.
In both cases we didn't lure them from their home circle.
We didn't, no.
Nonetheless, we wish both our couples all the best
and I hope that you've enjoyed our little sally
through our house-hunting in East Midlands as much as we have
and that you'll join us next time
for more flights of fancy in rural Britain on Escape to the Country.
See you again.
If you'd like to Escape to the Country
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Nicki Chapman and Alistair Appleton showcase the East Midlands in a special episode of Escape to the Country reflecting on the house hunts of two couples in one region. While highlighting the property gems, they also offer hints and tips on buying in the area.
Nicki gets a taste of a local superfood, and Alistair goes underground to unearth a unique county gem.