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Today, I'm between fact and fiction in an ancient kingdom far from the madding crowd.
So where exactly am I?
Find out in just a couple of moments.
Today, we're helping a young family bid farewell to city life,
as they start their search for their first country home together.
-That's just what I'd pictured in my mind.
Absolutely glorious, isn't it?
But the path to the dream home doesn't always run smoothly.
-Is it big enough?
-It's not big enough but...
Has anything been big enough today?
You find me in the historic realm of Wessex,
and this beautiful thatched cottage you see here is the birthplace
of Thomas Hardy, one of our nation's most celebrated authors and poets,
whose most famous works were based down here in the South West
of England, in a semi-fictional land he called Wessex.
The historical kingdom of Wessex is generally defined as the collection
of the counties of Dorset, Hampshire, Somerset and Wiltshire.
Today, we'll be homing in on the triangle where the
borders of North Dorset, South Somerset and South West Wiltshire
collide and combine to illustrate a beautiful English landscape.
Dorset is the archetypal green and pleasant land.
There are far-reaching views over a fluid grid of fields to the sea,
with livestock grazing, rolling hills
and wild flowers providing flashes of colour amongst the meadows.
Towns and villages like Shaftesbury and Cerne Abbas are desirable
addresses with their stone cottages and brick chimneys standing tall,
providing spectacular vantage points across the countryside.
Neighbouring Somerset is known for its honey-coloured stone buildings,
whereas Wiltshire villages like Tisbury are built
from more of a sandy hued stone, topped with old tiled roofs,
with roses framing thresholds and thatched cottages aplenty.
So whichever of Wessex's striking counties you might choose,
you can be sure to be greeted with classic English, rural vistas.
Let's meet today's buyers and find out what's drawing them
to this beautiful part of the world.
Alice and her husband Rashid have lived in this Victorian maisonette
in Tooting, south-west London, for four years.
Their daughter Isla is 14 months old.
Five years ago, Alice and Rashid had no idea where a night out would lead.
We met in 2009 in a bar,
and yeah, the rest was history, really.
Rashid was born and brought up in Morocco
and moved to England as a carpenter 22 years ago.
Officer's daughter Alice had a very different upbringing.
I grew up pretty much in Dorset.
My father is in the army, so we moved every two years.
When we weren't abroad, we lived in Dorset, which is
why I love the countryside, I think.
Moving to the country is very important for raising a family.
Both Rashid and I grew up in the countryside, so it's what we know.
And with plans to expand the family,
a move back to the country makes sense.
It's the right time because we're trying to have another baby.
We are looking to move within a five or ten mile radius from my parents,
who live in North Dorset.
They live on the border of Wiltshire, Somerset and Dorset,
so any of those three counties will do.
As long as they are within a 20-minute drive
for emergency baby-sitting, we will be happy.
It's not just the baby-sitting facilities
that are attracting them to the country.
This young family make regular trips to the North Dorset area,
and they're looking forward to calling it home.
Dorset has wonderful countryside, wonderful walks.
I need to wake up in the morning with the birds singing.
Not a car.
The move will also save Rashid a daily four-hour round-trip to his
North London workshop,
as he's hoping to find a new home with a workshop on site.
And full-time mum Alice is planning on being busy at home too.
I'm a very keen cook.
I'd love to maybe explore taking that a bit further.
So with their property on the market,
and plenty of plans up their sleeves, Alice and Rashid are excited
about beginning their search for their dream country home.
I think maybe because of my army background,
I'm used to moving on, you know, you get a bit of itchy feet maybe.
On the other hand, it would be nice to settle somewhere as well.
But I can see myself settling in the country much more than in London.
Alice and Rashid don't mind which Wessex county they move to,
but they'd like to be around 20 minutes from Alice's parents
in the North Dorset village of Bourton.
But if the house is right, they're happy to be a little further away.
And before we start our search for their new family home,
I'm meeting Alice and Rashid in Dorset to get a better idea
of what they're looking for.
So, here we are, beautiful countryside.
I've got to say, it feels a long way from Tooting, doesn't it?
-Yes, it does.
-Is that what it's all about, this move?
We want to get some more space, more green space for our daughter.
-Reasonable garden for her to run, basically.
I haven't got very green fingers,
so that's something I'm going to have to work on.
-Rashid, are you being dragged here kicking and screaming?
-Yes, I think.
No, not really.
Basically, what I'm looking for is a big house for my little family,
-and with a workshop.
-This workshop is integral to this move,
because you've got to be able to earn when you come out here, haven't you?
-So, the workshop is a must, I take it?
I will make my furniture in the country
and basically deliver it to the client.
You have this dream house in your mind. What does it look like?
In my mind's eye, it would be quite a traditional cottage,
-preferably away from the big roads.
-Big open-plan kitchen would be my dream.
But the living area is more important to us than the bedrooms.
-That sounds pretty easy!
Are you good with your hands when it comes to doing a property up?
-Yes, I am.
-I'm not afraid of a big job.
So, budget wise?
-Our budget is 400,000.
-£400,000. It's a good amount of money.
If you're in a position to buy, we shouldn't stand here any longer.
Alice and Rashid may have a good budget,
but they're expecting a lot for their money.
They'd like a detached character property with three bedrooms,
a large kitchen for Alice to expand her home baking,
and a garden for young daughter Isla to enjoy.
Carpenter Rashid is hoping to work from home, so he's
looking for a workshop on site big enough to accommodate his needs.
The family has spent a lot of time in this area of Wessex,
but are yet to begin the search for a new home.
We'll be taking them to three contrasting properties,
but only after they've toured each one will they find out its cost.
The last visit will be to the Mystery House.
It won't be exactly what they're expecting,
but hopefully it'll be a welcome surprise.
We're kicking off our tour of Wessex in North Dorset,
in the village of Motcombe, 18 minutes from Alice's parents
in Bourton, and just over three miles north of Shaftesbury.
Motcombe conveniently has all the necessary amenities in its centre,
and has a real sense of community, which Alice and Rashid will love.
OK, just mind this step on the way up.
Just get your first impressions.
-Lovely. Very pretty.
-Grand looking, villa style, isn't it?
Now, I've brought us here for a reason.
I wanted to talk about the fact that you've got a bit of a road there.
But I don't think you'd ever use this as the main entrance.
The off-street car parking and the garage is round to the other side.
I just wanted to deal with the fact that you could see it was
semidetached from this side, you can't from the other side.
No, no, basically, let's see what is inside.
-Let's go inside.
This property may be semidetached, but it does offer
Alice and Rashid quite a lot of house for their money.
More space than they might get in a detached home.
We're going straight to the side door, which leads into the most
important room in the house for home baker Alice.
Right, first room in the first house.
Fit a kitchen table in here. Yes.
-Would you change this kitchen?
Make it... Push it that way a bit.
-We could knock through if there's an eating room next-door.
Let me show you. I think you're spot-on. Follow me.
As you can see, you've got a good-sized dining room here.
Yeah, I love it. I think it feels like a real family space.
'Next to the dining room is another good-sized family room,
'and behind it is a more formal sitting room.'
-And this is beautiful.
The first "wow" we've heard from Rashid so far, which is good.
That makes me not worried about the kitchen at all, you know,
-I could deal with it.
-Because you've got other rooms to pour into?
-Yeah. Let me take you upstairs to the bedrooms.
'On the first floor, there's a family bathroom, a single bedroom,
'a double, and at the back, above the sitting room,
'is the master bedroom.'
-This is the biggest bedroom of the three on this floor.
-OK. Decent size.
It's lovely. Nice big window, so it's lovely and light.
Just looking at it, and looking at our room, the bedroom,
it's quite small.
-Is it a warehouse you're living in, in Tooting?
Is this a house you could see yourself maybe living in?
'Rashid says yes, but I'm not convinced.
'However, I've got something up my sleeve that should help him
'feel a lot more at home. A garage-cum-workshop.'
So, Rashid, this is your domain. Is it big enough?
-It is not big enough, but...
-Has anything been big enough today?
Well, if it's not big enough, we've got a problem here, haven't we?
I could compromise with the workshop,
not having it in the house.
'Rashid would love to work from home, but even a workshop
'nearby would be an improvement on his current four-hour daily commute.
'We're moving on to the outside space, which is
'also important to both him and Alice,
'and their young daughter, Isla.'
-This is manageable.
-Good. So, this house.
It's the first time you've ever looked at a house in person.
-You've only ever looked on the internet before, haven't you?
How much do you think this place is on the market for?
I think it's on at about 385.
-I would say 360.
This place, on the market, for offers around £400,000.
So, are you bitterly disappointed at this price?
No, no, not at all.
Yeah, it's a really good space
and it's got pretty much everything we want.
This semidetached house is bang on Alice and Rashid's budget.
And it's just under 20 minutes from Alice's parents,
plus it gives them one more bedroom than they've asked for.
There's potential to extend the kitchen into the dining room,
giving Alice plenty of room to bake,
and the garage could possibly be used as an on-site
workshop for Rashid.
The garden's just the right size for them to look after
and for little Isla to enjoy.
Sounds like it could be a balance between home versus work,
but maybe we can sort that out at another house
-we're going to have a look at.
Dorset's streets are steeped in history
and the market town of Bridport
is home to a rather historic family business -
a butcher's shop that has been a familiar face on the high street
for a surprising number of years.
I've come to meet Richard Balson, who's currently at the helm.
And this is, I've heard,
one of the oldest businesses in the country. Or is it the oldest?
It's the oldest. We're 499 years old.
So we're looking towards our quincentennial party next year,
when we'll be 500, which is pretty amazing, really.
What's changed over the past 100 years?
-I mean, we eat differently now.
I mean, just 40 years since I've been in the trade.
You know, we had beef and pork sausages and that was it.
-And now we have 20 different sorts of sausages.
You know, some real wacky ones, like kangaroo and cranberry,
wild boar, venison...
You know, all sorts of different meats now turned into sausages.
Would I be able to learn how to make a sausage?
Well, we're going to show you today.
You're going to put the hat on and put the coat on
and I'm going to turn you into a butcher for the day.
Richard has worked in the family business for over 40 years,
since he was 15 years old.
He produces up to 6,000 sausages a week
and gets orders from as far away as Scotland.
-Is this my uniform?
-This is your uniform.
One straw boater and these are only given to top professional people.
You'd better get another hat for me, then.
-These professionals, are they about eight years old?
You should've known. Right.
So I've got my extra small boater hat on.
That's it. You're looking the part already. Marvellous.
-This thing here looks very modern.
-This is an automated sausage filler.
Inside there, we've got 60lbs of 80% good-quality pork sausage meat.
Same recipe since 1515.
So it's an old-fashioned recipe, which is top secret.
-Is it really top secret?
-Yeah. Tried and trusted.
This is the hog intestine of the pig.
This has to be put onto the nozzle,
so that the sausage can go into the skin.
You're just threading it on like that.
'The sausage meat comes from local pigs from a farm five miles away.'
-It's good to put a knot on the end.
-Switch it on.
You see that? You're just sort of guiding it, really.
You're not squeezing that hard.
Your forefinger and your thumb is stopping it creasing over, is it?
Yeah. You just let a little bit come out at a time, like that.
Well, that looked worryingly easy.
You made it look worryingly easy.
-Yeah, you did.
Whoa, whoa! Slow down. Slow down!
-Have I lost you?
Right, you can have a four-inch sausage,
which is the normal sort of six, eight to a pound.
So there's four inches,
round the top, up through
and then you're pulling it up to about four inches.
We just hang them up there.
'It looks simple. Now it's my turn.'
-I'm looking for the end now.
-That's it. Keep it going. That's it.
-There we go, found it.
-That's it. I think you've got it on there.
'Some sausage casings are synthetic, but Richard's are all natural.'
Yeah, you're nearly there.
Just tie a knot in it. That's right.
'With the end of the casing secure, it's time to make my sausages.'
It's going to shoot out quite quick, so don't worry about that.
-Just try and hold it gently.
-Oh, my God!
Just take your knee off and it will stop.
Along with the 80% pork in the mixture,
there's also a blend of 20% rusk, water and seasoning.
-OK, so we've run out of meat.
-That's the end of it, yeah.
For a first attempt, that's very good.
OK, so you're doing four inches.
That goes round there like that.
OK, then you're holding that one there.
-Then you do your four inches again.
-There's my sausages.
Yeah, there's yours. And there's mine.
-That's how the experts do it.
-That's 40 years' difference, Jonnie.
'Well, I wouldn't say my sausages are going to win any prizes,
'but Richard's have.
'And I'm looking forward to having a taste.'
This is how mine would never have looked.
-Have a go.
Well, I'm an easy sell. I absolutely love sausages, so...
They are lovely, aren't they?
The thing is now, I mean, it hasn't changed a great deal.
Can you see it changing much in the future?
Oh, who knows what's going to happen in 50 to 100 years' time?
If I'd have said to my father 40 years ago
that we'd be selling kangaroo, ostrich and crocodile,
he'd have said, "You're off your rocker, son."
-Can I have a couple more of these?
-Thank you very much.
Travelling eight miles west takes us to our second property
in the village of Cucklington, officially in Somerset,
but just a few steps from Dorset's border
and less than ten minutes from Alice's parents' home.
Cucklington sits in the Blackmore Vale,
a wide valley in a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
If you get to this corner of the garden,
I think this is the best aspect of it.
And this is where the estate agent took their photos.
-Beautiful, isn't it?
That's just what I pictured in my mind.
Absolutely glorious, isn't it?
The original part is this part to the left-hand side.
And that dates back to the 18th century.
Then, later on, the extension through that gable end.
But most importantly, because it would have been a tiny cottage,
they extended to the back.
And that's what gets us into
your sort of family-sized cottage territory.
-Let's look inside.
'This delightful stone cottage's picture-perfect exterior
'has already drawn Alice and Rashid in.
'And I'm hoping its tasteful interior continues to impress.
'We're starting off in the dining room,
'just off the hallway at the front of the house,
'which is the original part of the property.'
This is the heart of the house. This is the central room.
-It's very nice. Very good size.
-Let me show you the kitchen.
Very nice. I like it.
It's really lovely and light.
-Yes. Just big enough. Yeah.
This charming cottage seems to be charming both Alice and Rashid.
Let's see what they make of the large sitting room,
an extension to the side of the house.
Now, I think this is a lovely room. Hopefully, you both agree.
Yes. Look at all the windows.
Oh, it's lovely. I have a good feeling.
That's encouraging for me to hear.
All right, let's see if those good feelings continue upstairs.
'The footprint of the first floor is a blueprint of the ground floor.
'There's a family bathroom and two bedrooms
'in the original body of the house,
'with a master bedroom in the most recent extension.'
-This is lovely.
-Would you keep this here?
The sink, it would go straightaway.
Go, go, go.
And the wardrobe, all the way.
Wow, OK. He's moving in, look.
Compare Rashid in the first house to here - different guy.
Yeah, but it's a good feeling you feel,
-like, when you want to buy a house, actually. You know?
Let's see what's outside. Come on. Follow me.
'This character cottage has certainly seen Rashid come out of his shell.
'The outside space is important, too,
'especially for their little daughter Isla.
'And that's where we're headed next -
'to the landscaped grounds of around half an acre
'with beautiful countryside views.
'But we're stopping off en route to see a workshop
'with Rashid's name written all over it.'
So let me tell you what we've got here.
Complete wood construction on a hard standing.
It's got all the power in there.
-And it's about five metres by just over five metres.
-That is fantastic.
Happy days. The sun's coming out.
-Let's go and have a look at the garden.
Come right to the top, actually. I'll show you what we've got.
It's almost two levels.
This part was later purchased from the farmer.
-And you've got views beyond, haven't you?
So how much do you think this house is on the market for? Alice?
I'd say 375.
I think it's 350.
This place is on the market for £435,000.
What do you think? It's over budget.
It would all depend on how much we sold our flat for.
We wouldn't need to do any work, so...
Yeah, it is lovely.
'This three-bedroom stone cottage
'is on the market for £35,000 over our buyers' budget.
'But with their flat for sale in a buoyant market,
'there's room to manoeuvre, if they sell at a good price.
'It's very close to Alice's parents
'and the kitchen is a good size for Alice to get baking.
'The workshop on site
'would mean Rashid could say goodbye to a lengthy commute.
'And the extensive gardens are perfect for a growing young family.'
Could this be the kind of house
that you'd consider going over budget for, do you think?
-I think so.
-I think so. It ticks all our boxes, so...
It does, doesn't it?
But we've still got one more property to look at tomorrow.
-Let's take you back.
Well, I think yesterday's property number two went down so well
because, as Rashid and Alice said,
it gave them everything they said they were after.
Albeit slightly over budget.
So for today's mystery property,
I think it's going to give them a bit of a challenge.
Now, for Rashid, well, let's face it,
his workshop at this house doesn't yet exist.
But as it also gives them half an acre of gardens,
there's more than enough space for him to build one there.
Now, Alice says she wants this open-plan kitchen-diner.
Again, this house doesn't have one yet.
But I'm hoping, with a bit of lateral thinking amongst all three of us,
we might just be able to create one. Let's see how we go...
Heading 17 miles south-west and we're back in Dorset
and the village of Holwell,
six miles south-east of the market town of Sherborne
and just over 20 miles from Alice's parents in Bourton.
Sherborne is an attractive town with eclectic architecture,
independent retailers and a stunning abbey.
As far as the Mystery House goes,
-at the moment it's not revealing why it is the Mystery House.
-And I like that. But what do you think of it?
-Very pretty. Lovely.
I love that chimney. It's beautiful.
Let's go inside.
'This 19th-century property was once the gatehouse to a very grand home.
'And as we go inside, our first visit is to the kitchen.'
It needs a little bit of updating, maybe.
Yes. Pragmatically put.
It does. Especially for you, I think. Yeah.
We know you want this big kitchen-diner.
-You don't get it yet, do you?
-Not here, necessarily.
But there's options here, aren't there? Follow me.
So looking at this...
You can see that there's something standing in the way
of your dream here.
And that is that.
-Can we move that?
-Yeah, we can.
And then you've got this massive country kitchen
that leads on to that lovely dining room there. Look at that.
Let's just walk through this dining room and we go to the living room.
'I'm glad that Alice and Rashid are open to a bit of remodelling.
'But with a carpenter in the family, the odds were in my favour.'
Lots of natural light pouring into this side of the house.
-Well, at this time of day.
It's lovely. Nice family room.
All right. You haven't said, "Wow!" yet. I've noted that.
Let's go upstairs.
'Off a square landing is a family bathroom.
'There are also two bedrooms and the master is at the front of the house.'
-Right, this is the biggest of the bedrooms.
-Oh, this is nice.
Yeah, it's nice. Good size. Good storage.
-Yeah. I'd say so.
How does this house measure up to the second house?
Well, the second house is basically smaller. But this one...
I don't have that feeling.
'Maybe that will change as we step outside,
'where we have around half an acre of land to play with.'
Now, don't worry, Rashid.
We've found you the perfect work environment.
Here it is.
No, Rashid, I'm only pulling your leg.
They've previously held planning consent
-for a double garage over there.
That has since lapsed.
But you stand a good chance of getting it again,
-as it's previously been granted.
So the mystery element is you've got to build your own workshop.
-And you've got plenty of space to build it in, haven't you?
Shall we enjoy this garden?
-This is a lovely, flat garden.
So, how much do you think this place is on the market for?
I think 410.
OK, well, this place is on the market at the moment
for offers around £399,950.
-But it's been on the market 18 months at the same price.
The estate agent says,
"Look, you know, it's ready for a price reduction."
And any bit you take off that asking price,
you spend on the kitchen, don't you?
-Making it that lovely family home.
This detached house built from local stone
is just a whisker under Alice and Rashid's top budget.
It might not give them everything they want straightaway,
but it does have the potential to be transformed into their dream home.
And they're up for taking on a project.
It's a little further from Alice's parents than they'd like,
but there's the bonus of the possibility
of a lovely, large kitchen for Alice
and Rashid isn't fazed at the prospect of building
his own custom-made workshop in the extensive grounds.
-Right, then. All done inside?
And out? You managed to get him out of that garden, did you?
Well, hopefully, this has given you something to think about,
compared against the other properties we've seen.
I think we should find you somewhere to have a bit of a chinwag
-and we'll catch up later on.
So after a bit of time to think things through,
-do you have a favourite house?
-Yes. For me, it would be number two.
For me, it would be number two, as well.
It was a real wow factor for us when we first saw it.
Basically, it has everything that we need.
-Would you agree with that, Rashid?
Just the garden, basically.
It's quite a steep garden.
So the only thing, basically, would be that issue.
The trouble is, I suppose, if I'm playing devil's advocate,
you wouldn't get those wonderful views without, you know,
some undulation with your garden, as well.
If number two's your favourite house, what do you want to do about it?
What we thought we might do
is have a look at a few more properties at that 435 level
and then maybe put in a cheeky offer.
A cheeky offer? No harm in that at all.
If that house hadn't been £435,000,
-would you be looking for other houses?
If you want to do a couple more viewings, do them quick.
-That house has been on the market for four weeks, or so.
-I'm tempted to say I don't think it'll hang around.
Are you surprised with this sort of position you're in a moment?
I almost can't believe how easy it's been
to find our potentially dream house.
You have to let me know what you decide,
-because that was pretty close to your shopping list.
-Pretty much spot-on.
Let's hope your mum and dad like the look of it, as well.
-Thank you very much.
-Yeah, thank you.
Well, Rashid and Alice have had quite a couple of days, haven't they?
From contemplating a move, living in their South London suburb,
to two days later,
not only looking at properties down here for the first time,
but actually finding a house they really, really like.
Now, let's face it, house number two is over budget.
But it's only an asking price.
That property could still be bought by them, maybe, within their budget.
I can't wait to find out what happens next. See you next time.
Alice's mother went to visit our second house
and, although everyone loved it,
they concluded it was a little too small for their family's needs.
So their search for their perfect country home continues
and we wish them the very best of luck.
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