Nicki Chapman is challenged to find a couple of history lovers a home and business premises in North Yorkshire that will also accommodate their nine children.
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This stunning stone relic behind me
brought some 12th century French elegance
to the wild and windswept landscape of medieval England.
But where in the country am I?
We'll find out in just a moment.
Today's house-hunting couple are history lovers
who want to put down roots for the future.
And our properties have quite a story to tell...
-It looks incredibly original.
..giving them lots of ideas!
That was like pressing a switch!
Did you see her face?
In which direction - up or down?!
Today I'm in North Yorkshire
and these are the ruins of Rievaulx Abbey
in the stunning North York Moors.
Built by Cistercian monks,
construction of the abbey started in the early 1100s
and it went on to become one of the wealthiest monasteries
in all of medieval England.
This setting is timeless,
for the moors have always been a highly desirable place
to set down roots,
as they were over 1,000 years ago.
The largest county in England,
North Yorkshire covers over 3,000 square miles
and is one of the most rural in the country.
The region boasts two national parks,
the Yorkshire Dales in the west,
and the rugged, windswept North York Moors -
both have inspired authors and artists throughout the ages.
On the edge of the Moors National Park,
the vista from Sutton Bank overlooking the Vale of Mowbray
has been described by author and vet James Herriot
as "England's finest view".
North Yorkshire has its fair share of historic towns and villages.
The market town of Helmsley received its charter in the 12th century
and today the streets retain much of that medieval feel.
This idyllic county is perhaps more affordable than you may think,
as prices here reflect the national average
and come in around £267,000 for a detached home.
But if you want to get your hands on a slice of the dales
or the North York Moors,
then expect to pay a premium of up to 20%
for a house within the boundaries of the national park.
Although with views like this, you could argue
that they're worth every penny.
And that's why today's buyers have set their sights
on finding a home here.
University lecturer Hugh and carer Ruth
met through an internet dating site almost two years ago.
At the moment they both live separately -
Hugh in the town of Kirkby Lonsdale in Cumbria,
and Ruth in a semidetached property
on the outskirts of the city of York.
But tiring of the 75-mile journey that separates them,
they're ready to take the plunge
and buy their first shared house together.
But it isn't just Hugh and Ruth to consider.
Between us... Well, I have six children
and Hugh has three children.
We're not sure how many of our children
will actually be living with us,
but it could be at least three or four.
Before they met, Hugh had been widowed for eight years,
and Ruth was bringing up her children on her own.
The two single parents quickly realised they had a lot in common,
not least a love of the countryside.
I really like being out in the open.
I love, particularly, hills.
And I love climbing and walking.
You love keeping animals, don't you?
And so, open space, green space, trees...
And their decision to move to North Yorkshire
is the perfect compromise.
To me, as a Yorkshire lass...
there's no finer county than Yorkshire.
We've decided we need to live within an hour of York,
and so the only viable option is the North York Moors.
As well as an affection for all things rural,
Hugh and Ruth share a love of the past
and between them have amassed a sizeable collection
of historical artefacts, and now they have ambitions
to turn their passion into an income generator.
We want to have a business based
on those artefacts,
where people come in to the museum
and they take part in activities which are related to history.
But, just what form this heritage business might take
will depend on the kind of property we're able to find them.
It could be that we run history weekends.
It could be that it suits more sort of, erm, tearoom...
With plans to marry soon and a new home and business on the horizon,
our quirky couple are excited about their next chapter.
This is the beginning of a new life for us, isn't it?
-For both of us.
-It's very exciting.
Hugh and Ruth would like to be in or close to
the North York Moors National Park,
but within an hour's drive of York for Ruth's work
and for visiting her elderly mother.
So we're concentrating our search with that travel time in mind.
I met up with our couple in God's own country
to discuss the detail of their proposed move.
Hugh and Ruth, welcome to the North York Moors.
Tell me, why do you want to buy a house in this part of the county?
I can't think of anywhere I'd rather live, really.
But it's not just the two of you, with this move.
How many people are in this family?
Nine children between us.
So we're looking after... We've got to think of 11 people.
-Because you've got all these wonderful business ideas
going round, I'm taking there's going to be a degree of flexibility.
You're going to be looking at perhaps finished houses,
but also houses with potential to adapt it for what you're after?
-The word potential is a very good word for us.
We'd like to excavate, uncover, develop,
-So, we don't want a new-build?
Probably wanting a house with lots of character and charm.
-Potential is the big word. The P-word.
-That would do nicely!
OK, then. Remind me again of your budget, please, you two...?!
-A bit of flexibility.
We're a bit flexible either way.
Am I going to find you a castle within the national park
-for that amount of money?
-We can live in hope.
You're meant to say "no"!
Follow me, and we'll get started.
Hugh and Ruth have a maximum budget of £580,000
but, ideally, they'd like to spend much less,
leaving room to make improvements
and to fund the business.
They'd like at least three bedrooms,
preferably with the potential to extend to give them space
for their older children to stay during the holidays.
For Ruth, outside space is important to accommodate chickens
and her smallholding ambitions.
And, finally, the two history fans
would like an older property with character.
We've selected three distinctive
vintage properties for them to view
which will indulge Hugh and Ruth's love of history.
Each offers plenty of options
to develop the home and business.
The final property,
the Mystery House,
could provide the ticket to a brighter future.
Our first house is in the village of Appleton Le Moors,
just within the North York Moors National Park.
The village has a thriving community and social scene,
centred on a well-regarded pub and village hall.
So we're starting off actually IN the national park -
we've just crossed the boundary,
this will be the first village as you go across -
to bring you house number one.
Gosh, it's unusual.
It's like a coaching building.
Well, I think you're very close.
Because the original building
dates back to around 1750 and it was a stable block.
That's why you have those wonderful
sandstone and limestone arches there.
This is the land.
There aren't acres behind us,
because you've actually got a farm behind and to the side of us.
And I think on that note, we should start looking at the house.
-I'd love to.
This stone-built, arch-windowed stable block
has been extended to the left-hand side.
The property has an unusual layout,
but scope to provide accommodation for a themed holiday business.
It's quite an unusual start with our first property.
I've brought you through the kitchen-dining area,
because this side of the property
is holiday-let potential.
There's also, next-door, a sitting room, if you wanted that.
Or you could make that another bedroom.
-So you've got potential.
And the remainder of the house, where Hugh and Ruth would live,
is back through the small kitchen
and the sitting room looking out to the front.
So I'm going to call this part "your house",
because we know that could be the business.
This is lovely, light and spacious.
I like the fireplace.
-You've got to have a burner, haven't you?
Still more to show you.
A slightly larger kitchen than the other one.
-You can sit in here.
-Not too bad.
I'm not sure that we'd get our big table in here.
If Ruth is worried about the lack of kitchen space,
there is a generous utility room
which could be knocked through to,
along with a family bathroom on the ground floor.
But we're heading upstairs to find,
once again, an unusual layout of rooms.
There's a mezzanine bedroom above the kitchen and, beyond that,
a loft bedroom with restricted headroom.
The master is accessed via the mezzanine bedroom.
So, in a way, this is the modern part of the property.
It is. Now, they did have permission to take it
to the boundary edge.
I would extend out.
I'd reapply for that permission.
You could do quite a lot with that end of the house, I think.
So, Hugh and Ruth could create a double-storey extension
up to the fence, offering, subject to planning permission,
a larger master and further bedroom accommodation below.
The house sits in a quarter of an acre of land.
There's a substantial garden
at the front of the property, offering space to keep chickens,
along with a large garage workshop.
But Hugh and Ruth are keeping their cards close to their chest,
and I'm keen to see what they really think
of this converted stable block.
Very interesting. There's a lot of features in there.
There's a lot more work that could be done on it.
-I do like it.
-Yeah, I like it.
I'm not sure it's big enough.
Well, shall we see if you've any money left over in the pot
to perhaps make it perfect for you?
Shall we see? Who wants to go first?
-I'm going to ask you.
-I hate this part.
Got to put a price on this property.
I think around about...
I think, because of where it is...
In the national park.
..in the national park and in a village...five.
The asking price is...
A lot less than what I thought.
-Well, we could build a separate museum.
-Yeah. There you go.
I want you to start thinking about this, cos you haven't decided
-exactly what the business is going to be.
Our first property comes in under budget,
giving Hugh and Ruth over £200,000
left over to develop the house
and historical holiday business.
It's a former 18th century stable block,
offering a separate holiday let,
four potential bedrooms,
but it lacks the land for Ruth's smallholding plans.
Oh, you've finished. You've seen enough.
Have we got close? That's my question.
It's nice. I'm not sure about the lack of land.
No. You're being polite now, aren't you?
Well, let's see how I get on with the next house with you two.
The county's two national parks
offer up some of our most treasured scenery,
and every year over six million visitors
are attracted to the North York Moors National Park.
But the vital skills and rural crafts required
to maintain these cherished landscapes are under threat,
as there's a shortage of new blood ready to take up the reins.
In 2002, the Moors Park Authority
began a unique apprenticeship scheme
to train the park rangers and farmers of the future.
I've come to Sutton Bank to meet some of them.
The supervisor is Steve Young.
Steve, good to meet you.
You've brought me to the most spectacular part of the world.
Beautiful, isn't it? Yeah.
So what sort of apprentices do you have?
We were running out of people with the traditional skills we needed.
We need dry stone walls, we need fences,
we need people who can look after habitats,
and we were struggling to find them.
So what we decided was, in 2002,
let's train our own.
The course is open to 16 to 24-year-olds
and runs for 15 months.
There are currently between 5 and 14 apprentices on the scheme
who make up a seventh of the authority's total workforce.
This group of apprentices is working on building a bike trail
on the top of Sutton Bank,
using a limestone aggregate
in keeping with the natural environment.
Here's some of our current apprentices - we've got Harry,
Calum, Annabel and Laura.
So what are your dreams, your aspirations
when you finish this course?
Staying in this sort of work is something I want to do.
Erm... Whether it will be working for the parks or with someone else,
I'm not sure yet.
And, Laura, what about you?
-I want to farm.
What's the best part of being an apprentice?
The best part of the job?
-Working as part of a team's quite good.
We get to have a laugh and stuff, whilst we're at work.
Well, listen, thank you so much.
I know you haven't got long to qualify, so I hope it all goes well,
and whatever you choose to do afterwards,
that this has been a really good experience. Thanks very much.
For our second offering, it's a short hop to the village of Cropton
which lies on the border of the national park.
Cropton is a quiet settlement dotted with attractive stone cottages.
Although the national park boundary divides the village,
our second property is just outside the park
and therefore not subject to its stringent building regulations.
House two is situated on the high street in the heart of the village
and is another property with a rich heritage.
Ruth, you're looking puzzled.
I'm trying to figure out which it is. Whether it's...
the chapel or the house.
-Which would you like it to be?
-The first looked very interesting.
Yeah, I'm not sure whether I like the church or the house.
-What if I told you they actually come together?
-This is the old schoolhouse.
-So, that is a school?
-Not a chapel.
-It does look like a church or a chapel.
Both of them built around the mid-19th century.
That's why they're so close together.
Right, let's start with the school, then.
Cropton's former village school dates back to 1874
and retains many original features, including an arched mullion window.
It's in need of restoration but this building could make
an excellent venue for Hugh and Ruth's planned business.
So, I can see you're itching to get in here.
So, you've got a little ante-room in there.
You've got this enormous space to work with.
There's an additional room at the front. You access it to the left.
-Good gracious me. It looks incredibly original.
-Look at those doors.
-I know. Look at the fireplace.
Beautiful renovation project.
Furthermore, planning permission has already been granted to
convert the former classrooms into a residential dwelling
with three bedrooms.
So, Hugh and Ruth could simply begin the renovation project
or apply to change the use of the building to a business.
The schoolhouse is a detached stone and pantile roof building
which has been tastefully modernised in recent years.
So, just off this hallway leads to a sitting room.
Now, you're going to gather straightaway
that this house isn't enormous.
-But what you DO get is wonderful high ceilings. Do you like it?
-I do, actually.
-It's pretty perfect.
I'll take "pretty perfect".
The downstairs layout also features a dining room with another
Victorian-style fireplace and a utility room.
So, down this corridor...
..you have your kitchen.
A country kitchen, I think I'm going to call it.
This is...this is fantastic.
Smaller and darker than perhaps I'd like.
What I haven't mentioned is that neither property
-You could just...
-..extend the kitchen.
-Yes, you could push out.
Although planning permission would be needed, there is scope to
extend the schoolhouse as there are no national park restrictions.
Upstairs, the schoolhouse offers up three bedrooms,
two doubles and a good-sized single,
as well as a large family bathroom with freestanding bath.
We're heading to the master, which is at the front of the house.
-Oh, this is nice.
-This is the master bedroom.
-I like this.
-It looks like a very fine bedroom.
-Now, the view is of your school...
..or museum. I'm going to keep calling it the museum now,
-that business idea.
I think the character of the school
and schoolhouse has really captured the hearts of Hugh and Ruth.
Outside, there's a gorgeous walled garden which they could
extend into, and a gated paddock, ideal for grazing livestock.
Come and take a look at your paddock.
A nice, square paddock, with some beautiful old trees.
How much for this second property?
That's good. I like that.
Under budget, our second property is a unique find.
A 19th-century former school and schoolhouse.
The school itself requires renovation
but, with over £80,000 left in their pocket,
it could make an excellent space to develop their business,
or serve as more bedroom accommodation
for the older children when they visit.
The house has three bedrooms and the land includes a large paddock.
Quite exciting. Given us lots of food for thought.
Good, that's what we were hoping for. Happy, Hugh?
I'm very happy, yes.
There is so much here for me to get excited about.
Well, that's brilliant. What a way to end our day. Guess what?
We've got the Mystery House lined up for tomorrow.
This morning, we're going to be showing them our mystery property.
And our two, with their love of the unusual,
are quite difficult to surprise.
But, with this house, I really think we're on the right track.
For our third property, we're heading back into the national park
and to the village of Glaisdale,
which is a journey time of an hour and a quarter back to York.
The hillside village lies on the banks of the River Esk,
and is famous for Beggar's Bridge,
a packhorse river crossing built by Thomas Ferris in 1619.
The village also has a station,
which is on the Middlesbrough to Whitby line with four trains a day.
So, I've brought us to the village of Glaisdale.
Your Mystery House is around here.
-So, how would you both feel living near a train station?
-I like trains.
-What about you, Hugh?
I had a student house next to the railway line,
-as close as that house behind us.
-That is the property we've lined up for you to see.
-That is the Mystery House.
-Oh, my goodness.
So, our Mystery House, built in 1867,
was at one time the ticket office
and, upstairs, the stationmaster's quarters.
So, you've seen the Mystery House from one side of the platform.
Let me show it to you from the other.
It is quite a handsome building.
-It looks robust, doesn't it?
Well, I think we should start inside,
and then we'll talk about the land afterwards.
I thought our railway themed mystery property would appeal
to our two history buffs, but this property doesn't just offer
Hugh and Ruth an idyllic, if unusual, place to live,
but also the opportunity to take on an up-and-running business.
But, first, let's deal with the living space.
So, let's bring you into the stationmaster's house.
This is where they would have sold the tickets.
But it's been adapted into the family home.
And here's your kitchen, but also a very large dining area.
I like this.
It's a very nice kitchen.
I just want to mention - you can see the conservatory, the owners
have a licence, and they've been serving afternoon tea, lunches.
It's been extremely popular with the walkers, the hikers,
-I can imagine, yes.
As well as the kitchen-diner,
there are two further reception rooms on the ground floor.
-Absolutely beautiful room.
Next door, you've got a large study/office.
Now, that originally was a bedroom
but, for business reasons, they've changed it.
You could convert that back into a bedroom if you wanted to.
I think we'd probably have to.
Upstairs has two bedrooms, both doubles,
and converting the downstairs study back to a bedroom
gives Hugh and Ruth the three they requested.
Now, this is where I do have my work cut out for me.
This is the master bedroom.
It's a good size, double aspect, but there's only two bedrooms.
It's not the biggest room I've ever seen.
No, I'm not sure... I might just fit my clothes in here.
I don't think there'd be room for yours.
I'll tell you what you would get here -
if you fancied a lie-in in the morning,
you could see your train going past.
As well as having excellent transport links,
the property could be extended as, despite being in the national park,
there are nearby dwellings with recent additions.
At the rear of the house,
the land extends to around a third of an acre,
offering development potential,
and includes a large vegetable patch and lawn.
I've really picked up that you love this property.
You love the Mystery House, but it's the size, isn't it?
-It's getting the whole family here.
-It is a problem.
-We can't... We can't get around it.
-Or can you?
How about getting permission
and putting in a railway carriage somewhere in the garden?
All those train enthusiasts,
not only could they come for meals,
but you could actually offer a B&B facility as well.
And when the family came to stay,
they could stay in the railway carriage.
That was like pressing a switch. Did you see her face?
In which direction? Up or down?
Oh, just, like, "Whoa! I like that idea!"
I like that idea, a lot.
I want you to guess the price of the Mystery House, please.
I think around about 500,000 mark.
-Asking price is...
-Ruth, speak to me. I've got a grin, but speak to me. Come on.
I'm thinking railway carriages.
Our final property comes in under budget,
giving Hugh and Ruth £200,000 to extend and develop the business.
The former ticket office and stationmaster's house is
the character property with a sense of history they were after.
It offers them the chance to take on an existing tearoom,
three possible bedrooms and plenty of potential outside.
Well, that's it.
-You've seen all our properties.
-Three mystery properties, I think.
They're all unusual, aren't they? But, then, I think
-you're quite an unusual couple.
-So we're told.
-You wouldn't be the first person to say that.
-We love you for it.
So, we're going to go somewhere quiet, let's have a chat
cos I can't wait to find out what your next move is going to be.
One lovely couple, nine children between them,
and we've shown them three properties.
But have any of them come close? Let's find out.
So, Hugh and Ruth, we started off with an idea that we were
going to find you the perfect property.
-Have we got close?
-You've done something very good.
You've come in below budget on every single one, which surprised me.
And you've given us two properties which are very interesting to us.
I think I know which two houses you're referring to
-but, go on, remind me, just in case.
-Property two and property three.
So, what is it about those properties
that really appeal to you both?
They've got business potential.
They're both intensely historical.
So, out of the two properties... which do you prefer, Ruth?
Probably second, at the moment, despite my love of trains.
The school is pulling me in more.
I do feel that the family, you keep telling me, are the priority.
So, for me, I would look at that second property
because you can convert the school into additional rooms,
but you're also in a wonderful position, perhaps,
two or three years down the line when they're not coming home quite
so frequently, that you could rent it out or have it to hold events.
And I think that's what's going through our minds,
is this balance of what's going to work out best overall.
Please let us know how you get on, if you put an offer in on either
-of those properties, cos we'd love to hear from you.
-I've so enjoyed it, thank you both very much.
For Hugh and Ruth, this move isn't just about a house.
It's not just about a business. It's a balance between the two.
And I really think our school and schoolhouse
will give them just that.
I hope that next viewing goes really well, and the two families
will finally be together under one roof here in North Yorkshire.
We do wish them all the best for the future. I'll see you next time.
Hugh and Ruth eventually ruled out the Mystery House
because of its distance from York,
but they did go back to see house number two and are just waiting
for a sale on Hugh's house before they can proceed with an offer.
So, fingers crossed.
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Nicki Chapman has a challenge on her hands to find a couple of history lovers a home and business premises in North Yorkshire that will also accommodate their nine children.
Away from the property hunt, Nicki meets a new generation of national park rangers.