Property series. Highlights from Jonnie Irwin and Nicki Chapman's property hunts in England's west country with two couples who were searching for their dream rural homes.
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Hello and welcome to a special Escape To The Country.
Today, Jonnie and I will be looking back on two house buying
journeys through one region, throwing in some hints
and tips about buying there along the way.
We'll be focusing on a region made up of several counties,
famous for rich dairy produce, cider,
and, of course, my favourite, the pasty!
Find out where we're looking in just a moment.
'On today's programme,
'we're looking back on two different property searches.
'My house hunting couple were hoping we were the final stop
'in their ongoing search for their dream country home -
'and there were plenty of surprises along the way.'
-Ooh, I didn't expect this.
-The windows, er, are gorgeous.
'While my couple were turning their backs on a tough
'couple of years to search for a new family home
'and business in the country -
'and we couldn't forget Mum.'
I don't think we'd ever get Sarah out of that bath.
Where d'you put the wine glass?
Today, we'll be reflecting on our travels around
the beguiling West Country,
which includes the counties Cornwall, Devon, Dorset and Somerset,
and this seems to be the most popular region for people wanting
a new rural way of life. But why is that? D'you think it's via childhood?
-Happy memories of holidays there?
-I think that's exactly it.
Every time I speak to a couple, they always mention those halcyon
days of summer holidays in the South West.
And the sun always shone, it was always hot.
And there's a real rich landscape down there, isn't there?
You've got the beautiful beaches of
Whitsand Bay in Cornwall, Exmoor National Park,
which of course straddles both Devon and Somerset,
and then you've got fantastic little villages like Abbotsbury in Dorset.
They are gorgeous, absolutely gorgeous.
So, let's take a look at some more reasons which make this area
such a huge draw for our rural retreaters.
'My West Country search was based in Somerset and Devon,
'and it's home to some of Britain's most picturesque countryside.
'From the gentle hills of the Quantocks
'and traditional seaside villages such as Porlock and nearby
'Porlock Weir, to the spectacular beauty of Exmoor National Park.
'Today, tourism is a big part of the local economy, and perhaps
'no-one helps visitors enjoy the area more than
'the West Somerset Railway.
'And its beautifully kept stations, run by volunteers,
'make it the perfect starting point for an outing in this
'beautiful part of the countryside.'
'To the west of Devon sits Cornwall.
'Ever popular with tourists,
'Cornwall reveals over 300 miles of dramatic coastline,
'ranging from the popular sandy surfing beaches of Newquay
'to the rugged cliffs of the Lizard Peninsula,
'the most southerly point of the UK.
'Here, the sheltered bays offer the perfect protection for
'fishing villages like Cadgwith,
'from where local fishermen still head out to sea every day.
'With Cornwall offering such a rich variety of countryside,
'coastline and industrial heritage, it's not hard to see why this
'region is so appealing to those seeking a new rural life.'
The coastal landscape, for me,
is some of the most impressive in the UK.
But if you're thinking of relocating to the West Country,
then Cornwall represents the best value for money.
There, the average price of a detached home is £270,000.
But, then, if you want that coastal property with those amazing views,
you're going to be paying a hefty premium.
Yeah, prices can go up, can't they?
But where I was based, in Somerset,
that compares favourably with Cornwall.
Yes, it's slightly more expensive,
but still £2,000 below the national figure.
But go back over the border into Devon, and then prices jump.
You can expect to pay around £25,000 above the national average.
And the most expensive county in the West Country?
Well, you know, it's Dorset. That county is not cheap.
In fact, you can expect to pay up to £55,000 above the national average.
And prices there have gone up 5% in the last year alone.
So, let's see if we managed to convince our buyers to make
a West Country move.
Time to catch up with my couple once again.
Chas and Debs have been married for 26 years
and have two grown-up children.
They're currently living in a rented flat in Bristol
after selling their house in the Midlands.
It was just meant to be a temporary base
before they escaped to the country.
We lived in the Midlands for 25 years,
and we started living here a year ago,
and we've been desperate to move.
There's a siren going past at least once an hour.
It's noisy all through the night.
-Getting a bit frustrated.
City's lovely but the country's nicer.
Chas is a copywriter who can work from home.
And now their children have flown the nest,
they feel it's the perfect time to move somewhere new.
We can move anywhere and we feel that we're young enough to, sort of,
start over again in a different place
and get friends and just enjoy life, really.
Debs is not only a keen gardener but also a keen cook,
and she hopes a move to the countryside
will finally allow her to realise her dream of self-sufficiency...
and develop her seamstress skills.
I've made a lot of clothes for myself and my daughter.
And I'm hoping that when we move,
that maybe I might be able to turn that into a small business.
Chas and Debs can't wait
to leave the city behind them and start living out
their country idyll.
They're looking for rural tranquillity
around the Somerset-Devon border and are happy to settle
in West Somerset or East Devon.
They've already seen more than 30 houses over the past 12 months.
So before we start our search, I'm going to dig a bit deeper
to find out exactly what they're hoping to find.
What has brought this big move about?
You've lived in the countryside
before, in the Midlands, haven't you?
We just wanted to be nearer really nice countryside and...yeah.
The kids left home as well, so it's a chance to start afresh.
Being within striking distance of the coast would be nice.
What do you call striking distance?
Getting there within an hour would be fantastic.
Took us three hours from where we lived before.
Course it does. That's why I'm a bad swimmer, I'm from the Midlands too.
Do you want to be on the edge of a village or do you want to be
in the middle of...well, rural Devon or Somerset?
Oh, it'd be fantastic if it's on the edge of a village cos
we've come from a community and we really want to be part of one again.
Talk to me about the property itself, what does it look like?
-Well, I don't want to have a modern house.
Wouldn't want to be on an estate, be a bit unhappy about thatch.
If it's got some character and period features, that'd be lovely.
How big does it need to be?
Two bedrooms, a work room for Deb, two rooms downstairs
and an office somewhere for me, which could be a double garage
converted or an outbuilding, I think we'd be there.
-Deb's dead keen to have a garden, half an acre at least.
Let's talk through the budget.
All this, of course, comes at a price.
What are we looking up to?
Well we could possibly spend up to £475,000,
but we'd really rather spend about £450,000.
OK, that's fair enough.
And that's a good budget for what you're looking for.
Devon - not a cheap part of the world.
Somerset's slightly cheaper.
I think maybe for our search, these three properties,
we could have skirmishes either side of the border.
-How does that sound?
Yeah? Let's get started, shall we?
For their top budget of £475,000, Chas and Debs are looking for...
And they're not keen on modern houses, listed houses
or thatched roofs, but character is good.
We've found a trio of houses to tempt our buyers.
And at each one, I'll be asking them to guess the price
before I reveal it.
The final stop will be our mystery house.
And today I'm hoping Debs and Chas will award it full marks.
The first house we've found for Chas and Debs is in West Somerset,
in the heart of West Bagborough,
a small village just eight miles away from the county town of Taunton
and around a half an hour drive to the sea.
Just 350 people are lucky enough to call West Bagborough home.
This charming village lies in the Quantocks -
the first area in England to be accredited
An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1952 -
and it remains unspoilt today.
Our first house lies in the heart of the village.
So house number one is this.
Fantastic. Looks all right.
-Quite homely looking, I'd say.
Yeah, yeah...come on, give a bit more.
No, it does...it does look quite nice...yeah.
Of course, it's what's inside that counts. Let's go and take a peek.
This detached cottage was built in the 1960s
and its exterior is giving nothing away.
We begin our tour of the inside in a large sitting room
just off the entrance hallway on the right-hand side of the house.
Well, let's start off with this...very bright living room.
-Oh, yeah. Nice.
Yeah, dual aspect, which is good.
Yeah, and a lovely view of the garden. That's very tempting.
Just through that doorway, they've got a really nice sun room.
I don't know whether that would be suitable for your office,
maybe too bright and probably not enough storage especially for books.
-Mmm, don't know about that, OK.
-But it's an option, isn't it?
-Yeah, it's an option.
-So first impressions?
Actually, it's nicer inside than it is on the outside, I think.
Yeah, I was kind of getting your lukewarm...
I think it feels quite homely.
Yeah, I think, on the outside, it looked more modern
than maybe we like, but inside, it feels much more homely.
Across the hallway is the kitchen, also very bright and airy.
-I quite like that as well.
I like the space again.
Dining room's just through there.
Yeah, it's a nice family room, this, actually, isn't it?
No, I like this kitchen a lot, space works for me.
Yeah, it's lovely, actually. Yeah.
'Just off the other side of the kitchen from the dining room,
'there's a good size utility room, offering more storage
'for the kitchen overspill.'
Let's go upstairs,
maybe look at some bedrooms or even an office, Chas?
'As we go upstairs, the first room we come to is a study
'which could be a work room for Debs or Chas.'
Now, Chas, obviously a lot smaller than the conservatory...
-..but a dedicated office.
-I'd struggle to work in here, actually.
You've got three other bedrooms.
-Is this the smallest of the bedrooms?
-Oh, well, if that's the smallest, that's not too bad.
If this room doesn't measure up as Chas' study,
there's also another bedroom at the front of the house
as well as a good size double.
On the other side of the landing,
there's a contemporary family bathroom.
And next door is the master, with its own en-suite
running the width of the bedroom.
-Now, I think you might like the master.
Yeah, that's a nice, good size.
A lovely view.
I quite like this, nice big cupboards, not a huge room but...
No, it's big enough, though, I think, as a...
We don't want a monstrous bedroom but...
Two-to-three-bedroom houses don't have two or three big bedrooms.
And that... I think that's something we'd remind ourselves of.
Debs and Chas might feel the bedrooms
are a little on the small side,
but they do have one more to play with than they asked for.
Next stop is the garden, complete with mature trees and shrubs.
And on a clear day, there are stunning views of the Brendon Hills
and Exmoor in the distance.
No, too small for me...sorry. JONNIE SIGHS
-Bang down to earth.
-It's not overlooked.
South facing, views of the hills and the valley but...not enough of it.
No, it's not a gardener's garden.
So let's have a go at guessing the price, who's going first?
-Deb's going first.
-She's so keen.
I'm in the same ballpark. Maybe the village adds a bit,
so let's say, I don't know, a bit more 380, possibly.
This place is on the market...
for offers around £465,000.
This detached house is almost half a century old.
And although it's £10,000 under
our buyers' budget,
there's a possibility the vendor
might accept an offer even lower.
Exmoor National Park covers 267 square miles and straddles
both West Somerset and North Devon.
Its Uplands are home to around 5,000 hectares of bog land,
formed over 5,000 years and made up mainly of peat,
which is mostly water and partially decomposed plant remains.
In the early 19th century, thousands of drainage ditches were cut
into this naturally waterlogged land
by entrepreneurial landowner John Knight
in the hope the water would run out and the great expanse of moors
could be used as farmland.
His mission was successful and he got the grass he wanted,
but there were devastating consequences to wildlife.
The bogs dried out causing vegetation to die,
and with it, the birds and insects that relied on it.
Maddie Davy is part of a project to re-wet and restore
2,000 hectares of peat land by 2015.
So, Maddie, standing in this huge swathe of land,
I mean, first of all, it doesn't really feel much like a peat bog.
You're about to tell me otherwise, though.
Well, there is peat under our feet, but it's probably not what
you would call healthy peat, so the peat is dry and degrading.
I can see this big machinery going on here behind us.
What are they doing?
They are blocking the drainage ditches.
So what they are doing is they are putting in wooden planks
across the ditch, supported by upright posts,
and then covering the whole structure in peat.
So you're basically undoing the drainage work that was done before?
What makes peat bogs so important then in the world?
A healthy peat bog can naturally filter the water.
A team of volunteers come here once a month to help maintain
the peat blocks plugging the ditches.
Wendy and Ken have been offering their services here
for the past four years.
You two guys look like you're earning your lunch at least.
Certainly are, yes, we're busy today.
-There's two spades over there.
OK, well tell me what you're doing then.
We're creating what we call a ditch block.
-These are drains that were put in in the 19th century.
All the water runs off...runs off down the hill to Exeter
and floods Exeter.
The surrounding towns and villages in Somerset are particularly
prone to flooding, so anything that helps prevent such devastation
is hugely valuable to both the land and the locals.
I want to get my hands dirty. Where do I start?
You pick a bit along this side and you take off a piece
so that we can take it over there and put it onto the ditch block
and help to stop it up.
Feels like a building block, Wendy.
Yeah, exactly, that's exactly what it is.
Right, if you could pop it in there, that'd be perfect.
Just right in this hole here?
That's right, stop that bit up, stop it running through.
-Am I just...?
-And just stamp it down a bit, that's it.
-Then Maddie's can go in next to it.
That'll block that hole up nicely, won't it?
Well, I wish you a steady and regular flow of volunteers.
-And best of luck for the future.
I'm going to go before I fall in. I think I almost have.
For our second property, we're crossing over the border
to Devon and driving nearly 60 miles from house number one
to the village of Roborough.
It's about a 40-minute drive to the sea and just 13 miles away
from Barnstable, North Devon's capital.
Chas and Debs would find a welcoming community to join
in the village of Roborough.
At the heart is a 16th-century pub which hosts live music.
And there's a village hall that holds a number of events.
House number two is just a seven-minute walk
from the centre of Roborough.
Actually, this is quite nice.
Definitely much more positive than the last one.
Look at these reactions, these are so much better
than the first house, aren't they?
-This feels like the kind of place we'd live.
Whereas the other one didn't much.
-Say no more. Let's go inside.
This substantial house was originally a cottage built in 1952.
It was then extended and converted into a family home
around 40 years later.
It's set out over three floors. And the front door leads straight
into a large entrance hall.
Fantastic. This is a Christmas tree hall.
Isn't it just?
Off the back of the hallway down a few stairs
is an expansive square reception room.
So the owner calls this the party room.
I think it's fairly easy to see why.
-It's big, isn't it?
Yeah, it is, yeah, you'd get loads of people in here.
Underneath this flooring is under floor heating.
Got two French windows opening out onto this balcony that overlooks
beautiful southern landscape there.
Yeah, a lovely valley down there.
OK, so this is good, you've ticked a few boxes already.
Well, we've definitely kicked things off on the right foot,
so it's all smiles as we head to the kitchen-diner
back on the ground floor
with its impressive bi-fold doors opening onto a decked balcony
offering breathtaking views.
It's lovely, really nice, yeah. Another big tick.
I like that throw-open effect there.
Yeah, I've always wanted that.
And to open it out onto that lovely countryside...
It's a picture frame, isn't it?
It is, it is.
Through there, where the cottage was, you've got a utility -
-separate utility - and a downstairs loo and shower room.
It feels like it could be our home.
Also on the ground floor, there's an office and a dining room,
both of which could be put to different uses.
And on the first floor, in the beamed eaves,
there's a large landing leading to two of four bedrooms -
one with an en-suite and another next door to a bathroom.
Then down a few stairs, there's a third smaller bedroom
next to the bright and spacious triple aspect master,
which is en-suite.
-Views, views, views.
Whoa, OK, we've got three views and we've got a dressing room.
-And a balcony.
-And a small balcony.
-This is brilliant.
-We like this room.
-It's got masses of character.
There's so much room in this house that it offers lots of options,
plenty to think about as we head outside.
Now, I imagine this is probably more what you had in mind for a garden.
Definitely, definitely. It's fantastic. It's a blank canvas.
This all in all...plot size is around an acre,
but this garden's south facing. I mean it's beautiful...
Behind that hedgerow, you've got nearly two acres...
-Oh, that field is...as well?
-..of paddock. Yeah.
-Do you like that?
Yeah, we like that. Not sure what we'd do with that, but that's...
Lots of things we could do, I'm sure.
If you just come round here a bit more with me...
You've got, well, essentially, it's like an annexe, isn't it?
So how much do you think this is on the market for?
I think it's way over the budget. And I'm going to guess £500,000.
All right, Chas?
Well, I don't think you'd push us that far, so...
so I'm going to say it's right at the top - £475,000.
OK, well, I'll put you out of your misery.
It has previously been quoted on the market closer to your guess -
£500,000 - but having met the owner,
he's now quoting an asking price
-Not bad news?
-No, no, that's quite good, yeah.
I mean, it stretches us to the limit,
but we get everything we want here.
This substantial detached house
is right at the top
of Debs and Chas's budget,
but happily there is room
So, Chas really seemed to have a problem
with those two acres of land with that second property.
I know, it's some people's dream, isn't it?
But it's quite easy to get overwhelmed.
I say if a property comes with surplus land and you don't need it,
the easiest thing in the world to do is sell it off,
recoup some of the money.
But my first recommendation to people is just hold back
on that big decision, why not let the land out?
But just make sure you're drawing up the right kind of lease.
Yeah, cos there are so many different varieties, aren't there,
from grazing agreements to farm business tenancy agreements.
-Number one thing is get proper legal advice.
But surplus land wasn't a problem with my property search,
but I did have a fledgling business to consider.
Let's meet my buyers.
For the last 17 years,
Andrew and Sarah have lived in the town of Tring in Hertfordshire
in a four-bedroom, post-war semi.
The couple feel now is the right time
for the family to leave Hertfordshire,
They've decided on Cornwall
after spending some memorable holidays in the coastal county.
We've been going down to Cornwall for 20 years.
I went down as a kid a lot on holiday with my family.
I used to go down before I met Sarah almost every year.
We just love the county.
It's a place that we've really fallen in love with.
But their desire for a slower pace of life
has been partly motivated by Andrew's health.
Two years ago, he was signed off sick
from his job as a marketing manager.
We've had a tough couple of years
and it seems like the right time to do it now.
It's a good chance to make a clean break, really.
It was when I was off sick trying to recover,
I actually got into plastic modelling.
It was a great hobby to get into
because it involved a lot of detail work and concentration,
and that was really good for me.
And then, as I got on, I got more advanced into that,
I started to think to myself,
actually, there might actually be a business opportunity here.
So, their hope is to build
a plastic modelling retail business in Cornwall
while Sarah continues working freelance
in her civil service job.
And running a business from home
will allow our buyers to maintain a better work/life balance.
One of the key things for us is to spend time together as a family.
The kids are both into shows -
sort of, you know, am-dram type thing -
and that's a good way of obviously getting to know new people as well.
With their house in Tring now sold,
Andrew and Sarah are taking charge of their destiny.
Moving to the West Country, moving to Cornwall
will be a dramatic change for the family.
It will be a complete reboot.
And the idea of being able to sort of start afresh
down in that neck of the woods that we love
and build something for us is hugely exciting.
Our buyers would like us to focus our house search
within a reasonable distance of Truro and Falmouth.
I'm meeting up with them in the south of the county,
on the banks of the Helford River.
So, Andrew and Sarah, welcome to Cornwall.
BOTH: Thank you. A big move is on the cards.
Your house has been sold.
-You're ready to make a big change to your lives.
I've got to ask, why Cornwall? Why did you pick this county?
It's a lifestyle change.
It's a chance to start in a new part of the country
where we want to bring the kids up and have a good time.
What about the property itself?
We want at least three bedrooms
-cos we really don't want them to share.
-That would be a nightmare.
We'd like four if possible so that family can come and stay.
Our current house is sort of very open-plan,
so we'd like the ability to do that if it's not that way now,
cos that's how we work as a family.
-It's worked really well for us.
-How we're used to it.
We'd like a big garden if we could because we've got a big garden now.
Kids love having space.
We've got a dog. We'd love to get chickens.
The other aspect is we'll be starting a business down here,
so we want to have the space to be able to set up the business -
for an office, for a stockroom, a packing area, that sort of thing.
-So, for all this that we're looking for...
..remind me of your budget again.
It's £350,000 is the budget.
What would be the top, top mark, do you think?
I'd say probably another £20,000 or £30,000 we could probably go up to.
Well, we've got some smashing properties lined up to show you.
-Shall we get started?
-I think we should.
Our buyers have a budget of £350,000,
but there could be an extra £30,000 to play with.
They're easy on age and style of property,
but it must have a minimum of three bedrooms.
As for inside space, they're fans of open-plan living
and we must account for Andrew's business ambitions,
so an outbuilding or office.
Sarah wants a decent-size garden,
and they'd like to be located in a village environment
close to schools for their two children.
Our first property option is in the village of Carnkie,
situated in the heart of the county's former mining region.
The village is centred on the Methodist church
and a community hall.
One and a half miles away is Four Lanes,
a larger settlement and the location of the closest primary school.
Our first offering is one part of a complex of former farm buildings.
-So, here is our first property in Cornwall.
-Show me more.
-That's always a good start, isn't it?
I even walked into you, didn't I?
That's how excited I was to show you the house.
The good thing is this area is a proper little community.
-They're not holiday homes or holiday lets,
which is something you have to think of
if you're going to move to Cornwall.
The plus is - so popular with tourists.
The downside is - you might have six months without any neighbours,
which can be a little bit lonely.
You know, this place is all year round,
so you don't want it to be deserted or a sort of wasteland, yeah.
-All right, well, let's take a look inside.
'Converted in the 1990s,
'the former barn has retained many character features inside.
'The main living area is accessed by a glass reception hall.'
So, let's start off with the living room.
-Well, well, well.
You might notice at the end,
you've got doors opening up onto a patio.
What do you think of the actual room?
-It's a nice size, actually, yeah.
-It's not desperately wide, but long and...
But it's nicely proportioned.
All right, well, it's only a start. I've got more to show you.
-So, if you wouldn't mind leading the way.
'As well as the sitting room,
'the ground floor also offers a small study -
'an office for the business perhaps - and a double bedroom,
'which would make a good option for guests,
'located just beyond the kitchen.'
-So, our kitchen. So, it's very long.
-Quite a good width. Enough for a dining table.
-It's looking good, isn't it?
-Yeah. Nice units.
Worktops look pretty good nick.
-No, it's looking good.
'Andrew and Sarah are keeping their cards close to their chest,
'but the tour of our ground floor seems to have gone down well.
'Upstairs, there are three further bedrooms,
'including a double and single for the children,
'both with wooden floors
'and a recently renovated family bathroom.'
-Now, this is the master bedroom.
-Behind you is an en-suite shower room.
However, because the family bathroom is next door,
the current owners have converted the shower space
into another rail for their clothes.
-If you don't want an en-suite,
-you could make that a little walk-in wardrobe.
-But you do have an additional wardrobe there.
So far, how do you feel about the property?
-It's got a nice feel.
-It's got some potential.
'Not a ringing endorsement,
'but I think this property is growing on our buyers.
'Outside, the main garden extends to the rear from the patio sun terrace
'and includes a decked area with garden shed,
'a large grass lawn and timber workshop with electricity -
'another option for the business.'
How would you feel about the business
being slightly separated from the house?
-No, that's spot on.
So, what do you think it's on the market for?
-I would go with £335,000.
-I'd go for around £300,000,
because we're inland and a bit further up north.
The asking price is under your budget.
-Ooh, I was close.
Below budget by £11,000,
our first property is a converted barn
and gives Andrew and Sarah character features
and spacious reception rooms,
one more bedroom than they asked for,
as well as room for the business and it's close to a primary school.
It's a surprising house, actually, because the more I've looked at it,
I've thought, "Yeah, actually, I could see us living here."
-Hello. How are we feeling?
Yeah, you've challenged us.
You've done exactly what we wanted you to do
and challenged some of our thinking about whether things could work.
Ooh, I'm liking that, and that's only our first property.
-Got more to show you.
-Gosh! What else can you show?
-Well, come on, then. Let's see.
-Let's go and have a look.
While our buyers may be moving to Cornwall
for its stunning coastline and lovely countryside,
the county also has a proud industrial past
which has left an indelible mark on its landscape.
Although tin mining flourished here in the 18th and 19th centuries,
by the turn of the 20th century, due to competition from abroad,
it was in decline.
The abundance of tin in the area was a perfect material
for Cornwall's metal workers and jewellers,
firms like family-run business Wearnes Jewellers in Falmouth.
Founded in 1890 by William Wearne,
today, it's William's great-granddaughter Sarah Corbridge
who's keeping the family tradition alive,
and I've come to meet her.
So, a family-run jewellers business, but obviously the jewellery business
has changed dramatically, I should think,
from when your great-grandparents first opened the shop.
I mean, I'm looking here.
Would this be an example of what they would have sold in those days?
These are some hollowware items.
We manufactured these in the 1930s approximately.
And these were made out of pure Cornish tin,
as you can see from the marks on the bottom of these.
Now, I like this one.
Well, this is a replica of a tankard that was made by my grandfather.
It was presented to King George VI on his coronation tour to Cornwall.
'Fast-forward to the present day
'and Sarah is using Cornish tin in a very different way.
'She's created a unique alloy by mixing Cornish tin with gold
'to make a variety of jewellery items in her basement workshop.
'Because the Cornish tin mines have now closed,
'Sarah has found another way to source local tin.'
Now, I was not expecting this.
This has been under the sea since 1863.
A shipwreck called the SS Liverpool
collided off North Wales some years ago
and it was carrying ingots from Cornwall.
We have to clean all of this up
and make sure what we get down to is just the pure tin
before we start mixing it into the gold.
The two metals are mixed together off-site by a specialist company
and returned to Sarah as small grains of the gold and tin blend.
I'm going to try and help make one of Sarah's most popular pieces -
a Celtic cross.
What's the next step?
Well, what we have to do now to form a piece of jewellery
is to melt it down.
So, here, I've got some nine-carat Cornish tin and gold.
What we're going to do now is we're going to take this micro welder here
and I'm going to open the gas for you.
Looks like quite a vicious flame there.
-So, just put it straight in?
The gas flame heats up the solid metal to its melting point -
around 900 degrees for nine-carat gold.
Turn that off.
Now, that's extremely hot right now so we'll pop it into some water,
just to cool it down.
-So, that's a piece of gold.
The cooled molten metal is then taken over
to a milling machine and rolled into a flat sheet.
Grafting intricate jewellery like this is a meticulous process
and involves etching the design with a sharp tool
and cutting out shapes with a piercing saw,
all done by hand.
Sarah gives me a head start.
What I've left you to saw out is this straight line here.
-So, I'm going to get you to sit down...
..and I've got you some very funny head magnifiers here
-just so that you can see where you're sawing.
-Oh, yes, now...
-OK, so, pick it up.
-So, that's it. You hold that steady.
See if you can just follow that line.
'The jewellery piece is only half an inch long
'and since I only have one shot at getting it right,
'the magnifying goggles will help me guide the saw.'
-Don't think that's too bad, is it, Sarah?
All right. There we go. Hand that to you.
OK, what I'm going to do now is I'm just going to take it away
and give it a polish.
After a quick file of the edges and a polish,
the nine-carat gold and tin Celtic cross
is finished off with a customary ring and chain,
ready to be worn.
-Here you go, Nicki. Your necklace.
-That is quite fabulous.
Cornish tin and gold to take away.
-You're more than welcome.
For our next property offering,
we're making a short three-mile trip to the hamlet of Trevarth.
It's a stone throw away from Lanner, an old mining village,
which has a convenience store and a pub.
House number two is found in the middle of the hamlet of Trevarth.
-So, our second offering here in Cornwall.
Interesting. Look at that garden.
Well, you wanted a little bit of land.
Oh, it's fantastic. And the treehouse and the trees to climb.
I know a little daughter who might be rather keen on the tree...
It looks as though it might need a bit of therapy but...
She's fine, but what about the two of you?
What do you make of the house?
So far, so good. Yeah. Looks lovely and big.
It's intriguing, yeah. I want to see what's inside.
-Shall we take a look inside?
-I think we should.
'Our second offering dates back 300 years
'and has some quirky features inside.'
-So, do mind your head as you come in.
It's like a little hobbit door.
-A door for little people.
Because this cottage is sort of 300 years old.
-Yeah, it's lovely, isn't it?
-Well, luckily, we're not tall in our family, so...
OK, don't need to worry.
-So, you walk straight into your kitchen...
..which, as you can see, is sort of divided up.
It's open-plan, but very much clear that this is the kitchen
and then you've got the dining area and the second half.
Yeah, that works for us.
That's how we've sort of got ours at home, anyway.
I think it'll fail the table test, though.
I don't think our big table would fit there
so might have to treat ourselves to a new one.
Absolutely. We will have to change that.
Early days but a good start, do you think or...?
-Yes, it's giving us rather than...
It's giving us sort of a cottagey feel, which is what we wanted.
-OK, all right, well, let's see what else there is.
'As well as the kitchen/diner,
'the ground floor also offers a cosy snug -
'a den for the kids perhaps -
'as well as a walk-through study area.'
-I think this is your sitting room.
-Oh, yeah, definitely.
Oh, isn't it lovely?
Now, this room is dominated by a huge brick fireplace.
Which is sort of not intending to be original, I don't think.
-I would look at actually taking that out.
-Yeah, I agree.
-Yeah, cos it's quite a lot of space it would gain, isn't it?
I like the beam across the top of it.
-Yeah, the bressumer beam.
That could go against the wall.
You could keep that and use it for something else.
'Unlike our first property,
'all the bedrooms in this house are on the first floor.
'There are four in total, including two large singles -
'perfect for the children - and a further guest bedroom.
'There's also a large family bathroom.'
So, upstairs, the quirkiness continues.
And this is the master bedroom.
-I love the window seat.
I always wanted a house with a window seat. It does feel compact.
Obviously, this room here's got a lot of built-in furniture,
which gives you a lot of storage but takes up a lot of space.
I know for a fact that our six-foot bed would not fit in,
so it would be a question of losing some of these lovely cupboards.
'So, out go the wardrobes along with the downstairs fireplace,
'but the fact they're already remodelling the house
'in their heads is encouraging.
'I have one ace up my sleeve which I hope will convince them,
'and it's back outside.'
-So, what's all this about, then?
-This is your studio-cum-workshop.
Oh, wow. This is fantastic.
-This is the ultimate man cave.
-Sorry. Workroom. Workroom.
-I am thinking business.
-Yes, I was thinking business.
You're thinking hobbies and play area.
-No, no, business. No, this is great.
-This is exactly what we wanted.
Yeah, and for a fledgling business to have a building
that we can use from the get-go is a great advantage.
Absolutely solid, water-tight and just ready to go.
We don't have to do anything to it. Just move in.
-Put some racking in and a desk or two.
-Then we're done.
See, this is an added bonus to our cottage, isn't it?
Oh, it makes a huge difference. Absolutely. It really does.
Our buyers have already had a peek at the garden
which wraps itself around the house and is mainly laid to lawn.
These are grounds. This is not a garden.
It's huge and there's bags of scope.
We've obviously got the fantastic existing building.
There's scope for more garden buildings
if we need them as we grow.
It feels like a real family garden but also a party garden.
You know, a real sort of social garden.
-It's a marquee-sized garden.
-It's sounding really positive, guys.
So, on that theme, got to put a price on it.
I think this is probably £370,000, £380,000.
Which one do you want to go for - £370,000 or £380,000?
-Split the difference - £375,000.
I'm hoping it's a little bit less. Um, I'm going to say £365,000.
The asking price is...
-Andrew, you're spot on.
Over their ideal budget by £25,000 but just within their maximum,
our second property is a 300-year-old detached family home
set in large grounds.
The hub of the home is the open-plan kitchen/diner
and the property offers Andrew and Sarah four bedrooms -
one more than they asked for.
A separate studio gives Andrew his business premises
and the house is located on the edge of a village
with a strong community spirit and a primary school.
Seduced by the grounds. Absolutely amazing grounds.
I'm worried particularly about the upstairs of the house.
The bedrooms are small.
And trying to divvy the bedrooms up between the kids,
us, spare room - that's tricky.
-Have you seen enough?
-Ooh, I think so.
-Had a good explore?
-I think you've given us a lot to think about.
-And guess what?
-I've got another house to show you tomorrow.
Let's hit the road.
It's really important that we showed Sarah
and Andrew properties in year-round communities.
You know, Cornwall is so popular with those holiday homes, but in some
parts of the region, up to 40% of the houses are second homes.
It can get very quiet there out of season, can't it?
In order to balance this out, Cornwall was the first local
authority to scrap the council tax discount on second homes.
-You can see why they've done it, can't you?
-Yeah, makes sense.
Now, that wasn't an issue for my buyers.
Chas and Deb had a budget of £475,000 to look for their home.
For our final property, the mystery house, we're travelling back
to Somerset, 45 miles from the second property,
to the hamlet of Yarde, which lies on the edge of Exmoor National Park.
It's under a 15-minute drive to the coast and just a five-minute
drive from the nearby town of Williton.
There's a farm shop selling local produce, a number of cosy pubs
and a great fish and chips shop.
The mystery house is just three miles away, in the small
but perfectly formed hamlet of Yarde.
This is our mystery house. What's your thoughts?
A converted school, built around 1819,
it was then the village hall and is now a very impressive house,
I think...right up your street.
But at the moment, what are you thinking?
It looks nice from the outside. I quite like it.
I like the look of it.
It's intriguing, that's lovely. That one appeals to me immediately.
-Good. All right, let's go inside.
This extremely unusual 19th-century building is Grade II listed
and a conversion - not what our buyers wanted -
but this is our mystery house.
It was converted into a residential property in 1972.
And at the back, there's a smaller house attached at one wall,
which isn't part of this sale.
We're heading straight to the kitchen-diner to begin our tour.
Now then, prepare to be amazed.
-Look at the size of this.
-Yeah, this is the kitchen I've been looking for, actually.
-Let's keep walking through.
-OK, lead on.
Next stop is an equally spacious sitting room.
I wasn't expecting this cos I thought having a big room next door, the...
-Might be compromised here?
-Yeah, yeah, no this is...
Even bigger. You can do anything you like with this room.
And having the doors that go onto the garden is brilliant.
Just off the sitting room is a single storey room
which could work well as a study.
And as we go upstairs, we're heading straight for another big space,
which could be...well, whatever they want it to be.
Is this an office? Is this a hobby room?
Who gets first dibs?
Oh, I didn't expect this.
Or is it a bedroom? The windows, er, are gorgeous.
It'll make a fantastic bedroom.
On this floor there's also a family bathroom and three double bedrooms.
Two are good size doubles, both with fabulous arched windows.
And at the other end of the landing, there's the master.
You got an en-suite, lovely en-suite as well, actually.
-Yeah, no, this is good.
It's a really nice master bedroom.
It's a very nice, cosy room, actually.
And you probably need the odd cosy room in this house,
cos everything else is so big.
Yeah, exactly, yeah.
Let's find out if the outside space gives Debs the garden paradise
she's dreaming of.
So garden's... Well, not conventional for you.
You're going to have to create one, I think, with this house.
You can see, you've got quite a bit of space here.
Yeah, yeah, definitely.
The house has got loads, the garden...not so much, I think.
So let me explain what else you get here that you haven't yet seen.
-Big double garage, with power, most importantly.
Just there you get a good deal of that shed there, if you like.
-It's an old skittle alley.
Now, price wise, how much do you think this mystery house
is on the market for?
I wouldn't be surprised to see this on the market for half a million.
But I don't think you're going to push us that far. I trust you.
So let's say £470,000 this time.
I'm going to hope... you've gone under budget,
so I'm going to go £430,000.
All right, well this place is on the market for
offers around £450,000.
That's a lot of house for 450 grand.
This striking old school is
a generous £25,000 under
Debs and Chas's budget
giving them a healthy kitty
to spend as they wish.
There's the potential to have
four bedrooms here plus a couple
of options for Chas's office and workshop.
The kitchen-diner is the perfect
entertaining space for Debs.
And the garden is just waiting
for her to make it her own.
Wow, another big space in here.
You'd get the table tennis table in here.
This house has given us a lot to think about.
It's almost... Inside is almost our dream house.
Outside, it's not so big. So there's kind of a dilemma.
So has the mystery property at least challenged house number two?
Difficult to choose between them at the moment.
And that's exactly what you need to do now.
I'm going to find you somewhere to have a bit of a confab
and we'll catch up later on, how's that?
-OK, that sounds good.
Now then, I'm all ears,
cos I think there's a big decision here, isn't there?
I've set my stall out and I reckon it's between house number two
and the mystery property.
It's not a big guess, is it really?
-No, definitely house number one was ruled out straight away.
So what's it to be?
I think we're going to go and see both.
-Yeah, we're going to see both of them again.
-Both of them have got things in their favour.
-Neck and neck.
So does either of you favour one or the other?
I don't favour one or the other at the moment.
-Neck and neck for you?
-For me, yeah.
I would go for the mystery house more than house number two,
only because the house itself didn't need any work doing to it.
The garden was smaller, so I've compromised quite a lot on that.
It's great that you've got two favourite houses.
What's going to help you make your minds up then?
What's the next step?
Look round both areas fully and check it out.
Yeah, see what goes on in the community.
-You're not in a bad position are you?
No, there's a nice choice, good position to be in, yeah.
Look, whatever you decide, do please let us know, won't you?
-We will do.
-Good luck with your viewings.
-Thank you very much.
So, the converted school was a big hit,
and I'll let you know later on what happened next.
What did I tell you, Nicki? I'm a big fan of the converted school.
-Are you? Why?
-Well, for a family,
-they're usually right slap bang in the heart of a community.
So, what I say to people,
if they're thinking about embarking on such a brave conversion,
obviously do your homework, but use all that space that's there wisely.
Work with the existing features, not against them.
And, of course, any work, make sure you've got your planning
-application in and it has been approved.
-That's the first rule, isn't it?
-The only rule.
Let's get back to my search with Andrew and Sarah in Cornwall.
They had a budget of £350,000,
and were looking for a family home in the countryside.
For our final offering,
we're heading towards the north Atlantic coast
and to the seaside village of Porthtowan.
Along the beachfront are a variety of cafes,
restaurants and surfing shops.
House number three is located just outside the village
in a rural valley a mile away from the beach.
Andrew and Sarah are sea-lovers and whilst our mystery property
is the closest to the coast we've seen so far,
it will challenge them to rethink some of their other aspirations.
-..our mystery house.
It's a little bit of a feast on the eye, isn't it?
-It's just amazing, isn't it?
-There's a lot to take in.
It's like a dream home, really, isn't it?
-Look at those fantastic windows.
-This is wacky.
And that is why it's our mystery house.
You want a change of lifestyle.
I think what this mystery house does is it embraces all of that.
-It's a different way of living.
-Shall we start the tour?
-Oh, I think so.
Our architect-designed mystery house is only four years old
and is very much the product of the current owner's vision.
Andrew and Sarah would have to use some imagination
to see how it could be made to work for them.
So, this really is an unusual house.
This is very much the core of the house. You can just tell.
There's everything going on here.
There's food, there's eating, there's craft, by the look of it.
-There's enough space.
But behind me, you've actually got a utility room as well.
-Right, that's clever.
But being open-plan, it's all in the one room.
I'd say this is the model we like. This is taking quirk to a new level.
A new mystery level.
There's a bit of design in it, though,
and I'm a bit of a sucker for interesting design.
'Our buyers appear to like it.
'Whether they want to live in our mystery house remains to be seen.'
Perhaps, not surprisingly,
all the bedrooms in this unusual property are on the ground floor -
three in total, including two decent-sized rooms for the children,
as well as an impressive family bathroom.
We do have a continuing theme with this property,
-and that's the word unusual.
I don't think we'd ever get Sarah out of that bath.
Where do you put the wine glass?
Let's take a look at the master bedroom,
which literally is next door.
So, all the bedrooms are on the ground floor.
That's a fairly big bed.
And there's some quite big furniture in here.
There is. Time has come, though -
and this is the bit that excites me - taking you upstairs.
'With the bedrooms and kitchen taken care of,
'that leaves one last room upstairs
'and I think I'll let Andrew and Sarah decide
'how they'd use this one.'
-Have you ever seen an upstairs like this before?
-What's going on here, then?
Wow! My goodness. It's incredible, the way it's done.
-Somewhat... What's that? Is that a...?
-It's like a mezzanine sort of...
That's my study area up there.
You've actually got another bathroom through there.
-Oh, really? OK.
Because if you have anyone to stay on your mezzanine level...
That could be your fourth bedroom.
Wow. It's quirk with a capital Q. It's just amazing.
If that wasn't enough, you've got your own balcony.
Ah, no, that terrace looks fantastic, doesn't it?
-Do you like it?
-I like the design.
The question is whether we want to live in that design.
It feels like it would make a fantastic holiday home,
but you've got my mind racing now
as to how we could do things and make it work.
-Well, it's an interesting property, isn't it?
-It's stretching you.
-It is definitely.
It's stretching you.
So, we've seen the living accommodation,
but we've also got to discuss the business,
-cos that's equally important.
-Let's go back outside and see what our options are.
'This being the mystery house,
'business options are more limited here.
'In terms of outside space,'
there's a parking area we saw as we came in
and the garden slopes up to the side of the property
to form a thin strip of levelled-off land.
But as it stands, there are no outbuildings for an office
or storage space for the modelling business.
The garden is a bit of a climb, but it's worth it.
-It's certainly worth it because look at your property.
So, although we don't have
the business premises here at the moment,
could you visualise putting something on this spot?
I think it's less practical than some we've looked at.
This house offers a different lifestyle,
so it's, as always, another compromise
or a blend of issues.
So, it gets us thinking.
So, let's talk money now, because we are closer to the sea.
-How much do you think the mystery house is on the market for?
I'm going to make a really, really wild guess and say £345,000.
I'd say £350,000.
You are both remarkably close.
In fact, one of you is spot on - Sarah.
-£345,000 is the asking price.
Under budget by £5,000,
our mystery property is a quirky, contemporary home
a mile from the sea.
It offers Andrew and Sarah a modern, open-plan living space,
the three bedrooms they asked for in a coastal village location.
However, it lacks a large garden
and will mean Andrew would have to construct something
for the business.
Mystery house is spectacular. It's completely bonkers.
It's wonderful, quirky.
Beautiful - absolutely beautiful -
with quite a lot of scope to do things perhaps slightly differently.
I really like the kitchen. I love the terrace upstairs.
I'm concerned about the size of the bedrooms
and potentially storage space for things.
Whether we could live here sort of 365 days a year,
I'm not sure.
Right, mystery tour finished.
-Have you seen enough?
-I think so, yeah.
Yeah? And that is all of our three houses.
So, let's go and have a chat
-and find out what your next move might be.
Well, Andrew and Sarah, you've sold your house in Tring,
the car is practically packed with dog, cats, children, luggage.
Have we found you a new home in Cornwall?
I'm not sure. You found me two possibilities.
You found me a head house and a heart house.
Ooh, that's interesting. OK, let's start with the head house.
My head house is the barn conversion - house number one.
It gives us the flexibility of space that we were after.
We can change uses of rooms quite easily.
It's got a lovely big garden. It's got space for the business.
And it's at a good price, which is the head bit.
But my heart's in the other house with the garden and the studio.
-Yeah, number two.
Yeah, I absolutely love that house.
I love the garden and I love the studio.
The house itself isn't necessarily ideal.
I suppose my concern is, it's top-end of budget
so we wouldn't have much left to do anything else.
So, could we live in it for however long
before we could do something else?
So, that's the dilemma I'm facing.
Ooh, that's interesting. Andrew, what are your thoughts?
Not too dissimilar, to be honest.
House number three, the mystery house, was fascinating -
we loved it - but it wasn't practical for us.
It wasn't practical for us as a family or the business.
The barn - house number one - I felt very comfortable with
pretty much as soon as I walked in the front door.
My one concern, though, is the location -
where it is in the county,
where it is in relation to the village.
I think our initial thoughts are
that we might try a bit of a sneaky, cheeky offer on the second place
-and see what happens.
-And then take it from there, really.
-But number one, again, could be an offer as well.
That's fantastic news... Cos I don't want to worry you,
-but you have sold your house.
-I know. I know.
-And we would like to go home with an offer in the bag.
We would love you to return home with an offer in the bag.
That sounds so promising. My goodness!
Well, all the best. Thank you both so much.
So, Nicki, put me out of my misery. What's the latest?
Well, good news, Sarah and Andrew have moved to Cornwall,
they bought a property between St Austell and Truro,
and the whole family have adapted well
-to a new life in the West Country.
-Good for them.
So much so that the children had wetsuits on, out in the sea,
-on New Years Day.
-Oh, that makes me cold just thinking about it.
-No, that's keen!
-Too keen in my book.
Well, as for my couple, Chas and Deb,
unfortunately that garden at the mystery property was
too much of a compromise,
but I'm pleased to report that they too have made their country move
and are now settling in rather nicely to their new
-home on the Somerset-Devon border.
-Fantastic, it's a win-win!
-Perfect, isn't it?
and we wish both our couples all the very best with their new lives.
We hope that you've enjoyed our journey through the West Country
and can join us again for more country escapes.
'If you'd like to Escape to the Country in Northern Ireland,
Scotland, Wales, England,
or perhaps even further afield to the continent,
and would like our help, please apply online at...
Jonnie Irwin and Nicki Chapman showcase the west country, looking back on two couple's property searches and offering hints and tips on buying in the area.
Nicki also strikes gold with a historic export, and Jonnie gets bogged down on Exmoor as he inspects a moorland conservation project.