Devon Escape to the Country


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Property series. Alistair Appleton is in Devon helping a couple of journalists to find a characterful country home with holiday-let potential.


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This farm is the fictional setting for a classic children's novel about a horse and its owner,

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which went on to be adapted with huge success for the stage and the big screen.

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And if you are chomping at the bit to find out where it is,

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then wait just a little longer.

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Today's house-hunters are hoping to say farewell to arduous commuting,

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to live and work under one roof in the countryside.

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We get off to a flying start.

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Tempted to say I'll get my chequebook out right now.

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And our properties come with enticing business plans.

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If I came here on a holiday I would be chuffed to pieces.

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Me too.

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Today I'm in Devon and this is Parsonage Farm,

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which local author Michael Morpurgo used as the inspiration for the

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beginning of his novel, War Horse, the story of a farm boy, Albert,

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who's befriended by a horse called Joey,

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and then they're both sent to the trenches in World War I.

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The novel really put the suffering of working animals in warfare on the

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map and it also put this farm on the map,

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although this is not the only cultural highlight you can canter to

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in this wonderful county. Set on England's south-west peninsula,

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Devon is bordered by Cornwall as well as Somerset and Dorset.

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North Devon, where we are focusing our search today,

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is home to its own Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

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Covering over 65 square miles,

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the region is framed by a rugged Atlantic coastline,

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a dramatic highlight being Hartland Point.

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These imposing jagged rocks rear up above sea level, but catch them on a

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clear day and there are far-reaching views out towards the Isle of Lundy,

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a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

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A mile inland, in the village of Stoke, is St Nectan's Church,

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often referred to as the Cathedral of North Devon.

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With most of the surviving remains dating back some 600 years,

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it was a coastal landmark for sailors

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before a lighthouse was built.

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Heading deeper into the county,

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Roadford Lake is the largest watersports reservoir in the south-west.

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On its shores sit a contemporary six-metre stainless steel sundial

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which was Devon's gift to the Queen to commemorate her Diamond Jubilee.

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With close access to the expanse of Dartmoor National Park,

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where granite hilltops meet undulating heathland,

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North Devon really does offer a desirable combination

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of coast and countryside.

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Buying property in Devon ain't particularly cheap.

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The average price for a detached house here is £310,000,

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which is about £27,000 above the national figure.

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And if you've ever driven to Devon, you'll know that the one and only

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motorway, the M5, that goes through the county,

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stops about halfway through in Exeter,

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which means that those good connections in the east drive up prices and

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things are a little bit more affordable in the west of the county.

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If you go inland, however, towards Dartmoor - to places like Okehampton

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or Tavistock, prices tumble even further.

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But our buyers are looking to be in the north of the county, so let's

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meet them and find out what drew them to that place.

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Medical correspondent Chris and communications director Mary, from Brighton

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met through work as health journalists.

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However, romance only blossomed after Chris spent a year sweet-talking

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Mary into writing for him.

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They have now been married for eight years.

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Chris is a great guy. I wouldn't have married him otherwise.

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He's not a great breakfast man.

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He tends to come alive at night.

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Mary's a natural optimist. She likes animals.

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We have two dogs.

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Two cats. Two snakes...

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..and a gecko at the last count.

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Mary has loved being based in Brighton since she was a student.

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However, she's had enough of her five-hour commute to and from London.

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Both feel it's time to change gear.

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It's a great, interesting, wacky, fun place to live.

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But it's loud, it's noisy,

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it's busy, and we just want to have some peace and quiet

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to be able to do other things.

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Another motivation for their move is that the eco-house they commissioned

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two years ago doesn't provide them with enough space to branch out in the future.

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It's not as rural as we'd like. We don't have land.

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There's no room to grow vegetables.

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There is no room for animals.

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What we'd be looking for is somewhere with the opportunity to provide us with

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an income, be it holiday lets, be it a converted barn,

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something like that or something that we could even build to,

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you know, create that.

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And besides running a holiday-let business,

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our couple have developed a personal connection to the dramatic

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windswept shores of the West Country.

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In North Devon, we just love that wild Atlantic coast.

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It's just so beautiful.

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The cliffs and the pristine beaches.

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The most fantastically rugged, jagged cliffs and amazing seas,

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and then you have the moors.

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Although it's kind of bleak, it's also very beautiful.

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But although Mary is more than ready to get out of town and head to the countryside,

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Chris admits that he's only recently come round to the idea.

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She's always wanted to live in the country.

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I think, secretly, she's a frustrated farmer's wife.

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I'm a bit anxious about living in the country,

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with tractors and birds and grass and stuff,

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but we want a different kind of life, so this is an adventure for us.

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There's so, so much that we'd like to do.

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Would love to learn how to dive in cold water.

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Fishing. Growing things.

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Walking the dogs. We'd like to get more active.

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Although Chris and Mary have been together for 15 years,

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they're looking forward to finally buying a home that's purely for the two of them,

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where the focus isn't their three offspring.

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We should mention the children.

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They're gone, or they're going, and we'll be free and clear of children!

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It will be so nice that Mary and I can be a couple and not a kind of

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life-support system.

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Is that fair?

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SHE LAUGHS

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So the chance that we could be together 24 hours a day,

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seven days a week, I think would be a fantastic treat.

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Although their sights are firmly set on North Devon,

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Mary and Chris are flexible about where in that area they live.

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I'm meeting up with them to find out exactly what's on the wish list for

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their dream country home.

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-Welcome to Devon, you two.

-Thank you.

-The north is a bit more remote.

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Is that what you're looking for?

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Well, we came up one weekend

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and we were just so blown away by the landscape.

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-And we just fell in love with it.

-We hadn't seen that part of the country before.

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And we thought, well, if we are ever going to retire, this might be the place.

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And what exactly are you looking for in terms of the spec of the house?

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We just wanted something with a bit more character that, you know,

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makes your spirits rise when you come home.

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So character, with beams and sort of olde worlde?

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-I'm afraid all the cliches, yes.

-Definitely.

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We will want perhaps a former farmhouse, inglenook fires, land,

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you can look out and see hills and trees.

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In terms of size, how many bedrooms?

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We were thinking about three, four.

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OK, so to have, you've got kids...

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We've got kids and relatives and also space to

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-spread out ourselves.

-You want a traditional kitchen.

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I'd love a big kitchen. We're both really keen cooks.

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The idea that the kitchen is the heart of the home, we'd like that.

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And outside, because you want to diversify into a business,

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-is that right?

-We would love to have some holiday lets in the grounds.

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Something small, something modest, that we can really,

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you know, make something of.

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It'll be an adventure. It will be a source of income.

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We just want to give it a go.

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So would you do any conversion work?

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Would you change things around?

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Yes, up to a point, as the saying has it.

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I mean, if everything's perfect and up and running

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and ready to go immediately, we would pay more for it.

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I don't mind a bit of physical labour as long as I don't have to

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build the walls and put the slates on the roof.

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So what's the very top end of your budget?

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I think, with all the work done, the very top would be about 700,000.

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Great! Well, we've got lovely properties lined up.

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All you have to do is love them, fall in love with them,

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and buy them and then we will be very happy.

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-We're really excited.

-We're looking forward to doing our bit.

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Well, you don't have to look forward. You can do it now. Come with me.

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With a sizeable £700,000 budget to spend,

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our couple would like a character property with four bedrooms.

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They'd both like a large kitchen to indulge their love of cooking,

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and a house that provides them with the potential to run holiday lets.

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We've lined up some top-notch Devon properties to show them both,

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but they won't be informed of the price tag

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until after each house tour is over.

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Our final offering is our Mystery House,

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where character overload will challenge our couple to rethink

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their business plans.

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We're kick-starting our property search inland and westwards, in the

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tiny hamlet of Virginstow.

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The nearest amenities are three miles away in the small village of Ashwater.

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Set back from the attractive village green is the 13th-century

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church of St Peter. The village was renowned for its cattle fairs in the early 1800s.

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And today the centre retains a strong sense of community

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and is home to a local store and pub.

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On a clear day, in the distance,

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both Dartmoor and Bodmin Moor are visible over the surrounding countryside.

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Back in Virginstow,

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and located just on the outskirts, is our first property.

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-It's so pretty!

-Isn't it?

-It's stunning.

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This is a fantastic property. I'm very excited to show this to you. It dates back to the 1800s.

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You've got the kind of old farm buildings which have been beautifully,

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beautifully renovated and then you've got a new wing here,

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the West Wing, yes,

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which has been added, including this beautiful sunroom.

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I think we'll have it! It's stunning.

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-Absolutely stunning.

-Looks good already. I can't wait to get inside.

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-I'm almost lost for words.

-I don't think that happens very often!

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-Hardly ever!

-LAUGHTER

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It's fantastic to see delighted reactions so early on.

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Hopefully that positive energy will continue when we see inside.

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Converted during the 1980s and extended in 2011,

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the property was refurbished in the style of a French farmhouse,

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especially in the heart of the home.

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-Wow!

-It's stunning!

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-And a range.

-A range cooker.

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And a very kind of French-style freestanding kitchen.

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I can really imagine us, can't you, cooking?

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It makes you want to get your knives and pots and pans.

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-It does.

-Already, doesn't it?

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And then out into the sunroom there. That's got underfloor heating, actually.

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All of this side of the house has underfloor heating.

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-Wow!

-I love the beams and the flagstones.

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-I think it's amazing.

-The space continues through here. There's a huge dining room.

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Oh, my! Oh, my word!

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-Huge, high ceilings.

-Oh, my goodness.

-Wow!

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-A great log burner with a great stone lintel.

-Oh, yes.

-Fantastic.

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Moving out of the barn,

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we're making our way into what previously would have been a cottage

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but is now used as a snug or winter sitting-room.

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Beautiful. I love the windows.

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And the configuration.

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It's just really, really interesting. There's a great feel about it.

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-Chris, what are your feelings?

-I think it's amazing.

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Tempted to say I'll get my chequebook out right now.

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We haven't even seen the half of it.

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-No, we haven't. It's true.

-Most attractive building.

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Full of character.

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-Could you imagine the two of you living here?

-Definitely.

-Very much.

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I can see us certainly sitting in here in the winter.

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It's perfect!

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First impressions don't really get much better than this,

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but there's still plenty more to explore.

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The sleeping quarters amount to five bedrooms and are scattered across

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all levels of the property. On the first floor above the snug,

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there's a cosy double and a single, which share a bathroom.

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At the opposite end of the house and within the new extension,

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there's a well-presented double as well as a good-sized twin.

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As both make use of a modern shower room,

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this self-contained sleeping accommodation could provide our

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buyers with a B&B guest suite.

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But we're making our way to the master, which is in the central barn,

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up on a mezzanine level above the kitchen.

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-Oh, wow!

-This is different.

-It is, very different.

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As you can see, it has a rather splendid freestanding egg bath.

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-Oh, wow.

-And lovely views down over the...

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-The garden.

-I think this would work very well.

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I just love the way they've done it.

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They've used the space so ingeniously.

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And yet, you know, retained this sort of sophistication with quite rough woodwork.

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-I think it's fabulous.

-Hmm.

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Outside the property there are three traditional barns which,

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subject to approval,

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have huge potential to be run as prospective holiday lets.

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Wrapping around the property, the grounds total almost 2.5 acres.

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Mostly laid to lawn, interspersed with mature borders,

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the garden features a variety of fruit trees and a vegetable patch.

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There's also a separate paddock and an open-fronted shelter which would

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be ideal for homing our house-hunters' proposed new animals.

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Backing on to open farmland,

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there is the further possibility of purchasing an additional five acres.

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With the faultless feedback so far,

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I wonder if what's on offer out here might just seal the deal.

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It's absolutely stunning.

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I'm actually lost for words, like you.

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What do you think it's on the market for?

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I think it's way beyond our budget.

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It just has to be. I'm going to go for 750.

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-Christopher?

-It hasn't got the barns done

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and that would cost us money.

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I think I'd go in at 700.

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OK, in this instance you're both wrong.

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This property is on the market for £645,000.

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Ooh, good gracious me!

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Gosh, that's a surprise.

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-That's splendid.

-Made my day.

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Where do we sign?!

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-LAUGHTER

-I don't know what else you've got to show us,

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but it's going to have to work hard to top this.

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I would like you to wander around,

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soak it all up and I'll meet you probably under the magnolia.

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-See you a bit later, then.

-See you shortly. Thanks.

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A healthy £55,000 under their top budget,

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this character property would leave our buyers with money

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in their pockets to plough into their future business plans.

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With five bedrooms, two more than they needed,

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there's more than enough space to accommodate their visiting children.

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With 2.5 acres of land and outbuildings

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ripe for conversion into holiday lets,

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it's situated in a delightful rural location.

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I thought this house was absolutely amazing.

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It actually blew me away.

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I could definitely see ourselves living here.

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-Ooh! This is sweet. I do like this.

-Look at the window seat.

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We could have this as our bedroom.

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-We could.

-We could.

-I thought it was a wonderful place.

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Beautifully done. I loved the gardens. I loved the little orchard.

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-Oh, wow, look at this.

-Always wanted an orchard.

-Yeah.

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-Oh, look.

-Ready-made chicken run.

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And they do have chickens.

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That's amazing. Oh, I love it.

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There's a huge possibility for income generation here.

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I think maybe one downside is that the barns aren't up and running already.

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In terms of Mary's reaction to this place,

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I think she's fallen in love.

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I think it was love at first sight.

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I think, left to her, she would buy this place immediately.

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-I get the feeling you like it. Is that true?

-We love it.

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-I love it.

-Don't get too carried away,

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-because we've got another one lined up for you straightaway.

-OK.

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With two stunning coastlines,

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it's no surprise that Devon attracts over 4.5 million visitors each year.

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The north is characterised by expansive beaches and steep cliffs,

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whereas the south is indented with coves and estuaries.

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But for sculptor Heather Jansch,

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there is a greater attraction to visiting Devon's shoreline.

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Using driftwood collected from the beach, she's well-known for creating

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impressive and often life-sized sculptures.

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We've sent Chris and Mary to Dawlish beach to lend a hand with some

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beachcombing and gain an insight into why wood washed up by the sea

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is such an inspiring art material.

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Why do you collect driftwood? It seems rather an unusual hobby.

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Well, it's something I started doing about 30 years ago.

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At that point, I lived on the west coast of Wales,

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where a lot was thrown up by the tide.

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I started to make sculpture with it.

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The curvilinear shapes of it and the way it fits together allow for there

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to be plenty of spaces.

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And it's those spaces in between the wood that enliven the sculpture.

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The ideal time of year to beachcomb for driftwood is during the winter months

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when high tides and rough waters ferry debris floating out at sea

0:17:290:17:32

to the shoreline.

0:17:320:17:34

The thing is to just enjoy the hunt, really.

0:17:350:17:37

And the joy of beachcombing is that you don't know what you're going to find.

0:17:370:17:42

It's legal to pick up items from the beach,

0:17:420:17:44

with the exception of large stones, which form natural sea defences.

0:17:440:17:48

Often the most interesting pieces are those that have been exposed to

0:17:480:17:52

the water and elements over a long period of time

0:17:520:17:55

and are therefore worn and distressed in appearance.

0:17:550:17:59

-Oh, this is beautiful, look.

-Oh, that's gorgeous.

0:17:590:18:03

Lovely. Can I swap?

0:18:030:18:05

You win the prize! I think that's too big.

0:18:050:18:08

-You think that's too big?

-You take back what do you think you'd like.

0:18:080:18:10

All right, I'll take that one.

0:18:100:18:12

Shall we head back now, then?

0:18:120:18:14

-If you've got a good haul.

-Sounds like a plan.

0:18:140:18:17

Heather originally painted portraits of horses before she expanded her

0:18:170:18:22

craft to make life-size creations of these animals from driftwood.

0:18:220:18:26

28 of her beautiful works live in her garden at home.

0:18:260:18:30

Your foals that you've done, they just have this spring to them.

0:18:300:18:34

What I look for in a sculpture of this nature is something that

0:18:340:18:38

provides us with a sense of imminent movement.

0:18:380:18:41

You are guided by the material.

0:18:410:18:43

You have to just let it take its form.

0:18:430:18:46

And so that's why they can take up to five years.

0:18:460:18:50

Driftwood only has a shelf life of six to seven years,

0:18:500:18:54

after which time it weakens due to the wood contracting and expanding.

0:18:540:18:59

Heather casts her sculptures in bronze so that they endure for longer.

0:18:590:19:04

Now that our couple have been given a taste of what you can achieve with driftwood,

0:19:040:19:07

it's time for them to attempt their own masterpiece and

0:19:070:19:11

create a three-dimensional relief

0:19:110:19:13

from the items they sourced from the beach.

0:19:130:19:15

-That's a horse's head.

-You can just lay it out.

0:19:170:19:20

And then reposition it until you're happy with it.

0:19:200:19:23

-Body.

-It looks awfully like a dinosaur, I'm afraid.

0:19:230:19:28

Chris frames the piece with rope whilst Mary uses netting to shape the

0:19:280:19:32

horse's body. However, Heather still feels the need to step in.

0:19:320:19:36

By switching the rope for small stones,

0:19:360:19:38

the silhouette has more definition.

0:19:380:19:40

-Do you think this needs to come...?

-It's not great, is it?

0:19:400:19:43

-Are you saying I don't know what a horse's front leg looks like?

-Oh, no, dear!

-Probably.

0:19:430:19:47

THEY LAUGH

0:19:470:19:48

As well as using her discoveries from the beach,

0:19:480:19:52

Heather often receives donations of unwanted household items such as

0:19:520:19:55

old nutcrackers from members of the public,

0:19:550:19:58

which add a strong look to her art.

0:19:580:20:00

-I tell you, I want to try something. Can I try something?

-Please.

0:20:000:20:03

I just want to try this.

0:20:030:20:05

-Oh, yes.

-Look at that.

0:20:080:20:10

You definitely have got a horse there.

0:20:100:20:13

-We've had a lovely day. Thank you so much.

-Lovely to see you.

0:20:130:20:15

After being inspired by the creative qualities of the local Devon landscape,

0:20:150:20:19

it's time to return to our mission of finding Chris and Mary a

0:20:190:20:24

country home that captivates them.

0:20:240:20:26

Our property search continues over the border into north Cornwall,

0:20:310:20:35

in the rural village of Week St Mary.

0:20:350:20:38

Constructed in 1643 on a site previously occupied by a Norman castle,

0:20:380:20:43

the church of St Mary benefits from its elevated position looking out

0:20:430:20:47

over rolling farmland.

0:20:470:20:50

The village is made up of a number of pretty stone cottages,

0:20:500:20:53

a pub and a post office.

0:20:530:20:56

Just outside of the village and located in a glorious, tranquil setting,

0:20:560:21:00

is house number two.

0:21:000:21:03

This is our second offering. Very different.

0:21:030:21:06

And we've brought you here because this property offers you an

0:21:060:21:09

up-and-running holiday let.

0:21:090:21:12

-Oh, yes.

-Excellent!

-What an amazing location.

0:21:120:21:15

-It's quite remote.

-Superb views.

0:21:150:21:17

I'm very OK with it being remote.

0:21:170:21:19

-What about you, Chris?

-I'll have to give that some thought.

0:21:190:21:22

-We are very much in the country here.

-Mm-hm.

0:21:220:21:25

Dating back to 1660, this former farmhouse, built of local stone,

0:21:250:21:30

has a rendered exterior.

0:21:300:21:31

The location seems to have impressed Mary,

0:21:310:21:34

but perhaps Chris needs a little more time to get his head round the

0:21:340:21:37

remoteness of the house.

0:21:370:21:39

Let's see if the interior can work its magic.

0:21:390:21:42

Come into the kitchen.

0:21:420:21:44

Oh, I say.

0:21:450:21:47

That's all you could ask for for a range, isn't it?

0:21:470:21:49

-It is.

-You could roast an ox in there if you wanted.

0:21:490:21:51

-You could, couldn't you?

-Which of course we do all the time!

0:21:510:21:54

So what's your vibe when you come into this one?

0:21:540:21:56

It's not as visually exciting.

0:21:560:21:59

It obviously is an older house.

0:21:590:22:02

I think we would want to spend a little money modernising it, perhaps.

0:22:020:22:05

Well, we like something that we can put our mark on.

0:22:050:22:08

You know, it's obviously been lived in and loved.

0:22:080:22:10

And I think that comes across.

0:22:100:22:13

Next stop is the sitting room.

0:22:130:22:16

That view is to absolutely to die for, isn't it?

0:22:160:22:21

I'm very taken with the fireplace.

0:22:210:22:22

-It's enormous!

-Huge.

0:22:220:22:25

And through there is a very nice little sunroom.

0:22:250:22:27

A conservatory that they added as well, which takes you out into the garden.

0:22:270:22:30

-Chris, is the remoteness growing on you?

-The views are lovely.

0:22:300:22:34

I'm beginning to think it might be a tad TOO remote.

0:22:340:22:37

But I would love to see the rest of the house.

0:22:370:22:40

Also on the ground floor, there is a separate dining room.

0:22:400:22:43

A bright, spruce shower room and a large study.

0:22:430:22:47

The sleeping accommodation is split over two floors and comprises

0:22:470:22:50

seven bedrooms in total. On the first floor, there is an extremely generous double

0:22:500:22:56

and two smaller doubles, one of which has an en-suite.

0:22:560:23:00

There's also a spacious four-piece family bathroom,

0:23:000:23:02

and a compact space used as a snug, which leads through to a cosy twin.

0:23:020:23:07

On the second floor, there are a further two twin bedrooms,

0:23:070:23:11

a WC and an additional space in the eaves which could be a double.

0:23:110:23:16

Outside, and with its very own entrance, is the detached holiday let.

0:23:160:23:21

Rented out for around six months of the year,

0:23:210:23:23

the current owners' annual income is around £12,000.

0:23:230:23:28

This property has clearly captured Mary's imagination.

0:23:280:23:30

However, fireplaces aside,

0:23:300:23:32

Chris still doesn't seem to be warming up to what's on offer.

0:23:320:23:36

Perhaps the business potential of this property

0:23:360:23:39

might just win him over.

0:23:390:23:42

-It's huge.

-I know.

-Good heavens.

0:23:420:23:43

You've actually got a huge kitchen.

0:23:430:23:46

Big kitchen. So this is really why it brings in so much money.

0:23:460:23:48

You've got three double bedrooms and space for a big family.

0:23:480:23:53

Good. If I came here on a holiday, I would be chuffed to pieces.

0:23:530:23:57

-Me too.

-I think it's gorgeous.

0:23:570:24:00

What do you think, Chris?

0:24:000:24:02

I've lived in worse HOUSES,

0:24:020:24:05

let alone a holiday let.

0:24:050:24:08

I do think it's extremely well done.

0:24:080:24:10

Let's go outside and talk about the land.

0:24:100:24:12

-OK.

-Thank you.

0:24:120:24:13

Outside, the land extends to around two acres,

0:24:150:24:18

which includes an outbuilding used for storage, as well as a

0:24:180:24:22

disused barn which, with the right planning consent,

0:24:220:24:25

could be converted into another holiday let.

0:24:250:24:28

The lawned gardens backing on to open countryside, provide the most

0:24:280:24:32

breathtaking views.

0:24:320:24:34

Not as much land with this property,

0:24:340:24:37

but what's nice is that you have this private garden and then your

0:24:370:24:40

holiday let-ers have their own garden too.

0:24:400:24:42

We like the fact that the holiday let is so independent and so separate.

0:24:420:24:47

I think it's nice for holiday-makers too.

0:24:470:24:49

You can also see that, just beyond the holiday-let garden,

0:24:490:24:51

there's another paddock that goes to that sort of link fence there.

0:24:510:24:55

-That's yours as well.

-Oh, right.

0:24:550:24:56

So you could use that either as a campsite or

0:24:560:24:59

you could have it as more garden or to keep some kind of animal creatures.

0:24:590:25:03

Livestock! That's good, isn't it?

0:25:030:25:07

Something to think about, definitely.

0:25:070:25:09

What do you think this is on the market for?

0:25:090:25:11

I think 650.

0:25:110:25:12

I would go for about 625.

0:25:120:25:16

Interesting, because this property is on at £695,000.

0:25:160:25:22

-Oh, we got it wrong, then.

-So it's right at the top of your budget.

0:25:220:25:25

-Ah!

-And that's largely to do with the fact that that's an

0:25:250:25:29

-up-and-running business.

-Yes.

-Interesting.

0:25:290:25:31

So, stroll around and I'll see you out front.

0:25:310:25:34

Right, goody.

0:25:340:25:35

Just £5,000 shy of their very top budget,

0:25:390:25:42

this former farmhouse with seven bedrooms and fully operational holiday let,

0:25:420:25:46

offers our couple the business income they wanted.

0:25:460:25:50

With two acres of land and set within a very private location,

0:25:500:25:53

it benefits from the most magnificent views.

0:25:530:25:57

I love the fact that there is something very traditional about this house,

0:25:570:26:01

and I would love to be able to really make it ours.

0:26:010:26:05

I think it would definitely need tender loving care,

0:26:050:26:09

but it's got an enormous amount of potential.

0:26:090:26:12

This is a good size, isn't it?

0:26:120:26:14

It's almost got a Georgian feel, somehow.

0:26:140:26:15

-Yeah. I love the fireplace, look.

-Very nice.

0:26:150:26:19

-Yeah.

-It's got the holiday let up and running.

0:26:190:26:22

We could let it out tomorrow, which is very attractive.

0:26:220:26:24

-Oh, this is nice.

-Three bedrooms.

0:26:240:26:27

They've even got their own little self-contained garden.

0:26:270:26:30

This is nice, isn't it?

0:26:300:26:32

That's all your houses seen for the day.

0:26:320:26:35

-Well, we've really enjoyed it.

-And a lot to think about.

0:26:350:26:37

Good. Let's find you somewhere where you can think about it in peace.

0:26:370:26:40

OK.

0:26:400:26:42

It's very interesting after our first day of property shopping here in North Devon,

0:26:470:26:51

because it seems like Mary is more business-minded than Chris.

0:26:510:26:55

Even though they both loved that first house in a very kind of passionate,

0:26:550:26:58

"Oh, we could really live here," sort of way, Mary was, like,

0:26:580:27:01

much more cold-headed and rational about the fact that the second house

0:27:010:27:04

would bring them more money.

0:27:040:27:06

So the Mystery House is going to be interesting because, in many ways,

0:27:060:27:09

the Mystery House doesn't give them so much business potential, but, oh,

0:27:090:27:12

it's going to tug on their heartstrings.

0:27:120:27:15

And maybe it might make them think about finding a house that's just good

0:27:150:27:18

for THEM, not for their bank balance.

0:27:180:27:21

For our final offering, we're heading back into Devon to

0:27:250:27:28

the rural hamlet of Thrushelton.

0:27:280:27:31

A mile away is the nearby village of Lewdown,

0:27:310:27:34

which is home to a store with a post office as well as a pub.

0:27:340:27:38

The local landscape is one of softly rolling hills and on the outskirts

0:27:380:27:42

is the architectural highlight of Lewtrenchard Manor.

0:27:420:27:46

Originally mentioned in the Domesday Book,

0:27:460:27:48

this impressive Jacobean mansion is currently a family-run hotel.

0:27:480:27:53

Back in Thrushelton and hidden away down its own private driveway is our

0:27:530:27:56

rather special mystery option.

0:27:560:27:59

Up until now, the focus for our couple has been on the future

0:27:590:28:03

business potential for their property.

0:28:030:28:05

However, with this move comes the opportunity for them to purchase

0:28:050:28:08

their first house together, so I wanted to show them something

0:28:080:28:11

which might appeal much more to

0:28:110:28:14

their hearts than their heads.

0:28:140:28:15

It's so pretty!

0:28:170:28:18

It's picture-perfect, isn't it?

0:28:180:28:21

-Gorgeous.

-It could be on a tin of Devon clotted cream almost.

-Amazing.

0:28:210:28:26

It's a classic Devon thatched cottage.

0:28:260:28:30

A really delightful find in many ways because, historically,

0:28:300:28:33

this is about the 1600s.

0:28:330:28:36

-It's really gorgeous. What can I say?

-Let's have a look inside.

0:28:360:28:40

A derelict shell until the 1970s,

0:28:400:28:43

this 17th-century chocolate-box thatch has been completely refurbished

0:28:430:28:47

and extended. Retaining much of its original stone and cob structure,

0:28:470:28:52

the interior has been completed to a stylish high-spec throughout

0:28:520:28:57

and still retains some of its original timbers.

0:28:570:29:00

This is a great country kitchen.

0:29:000:29:01

Beautiful slate floor.

0:29:010:29:03

It's amazing. What do you think?

0:29:030:29:05

It's got beams.

0:29:050:29:06

It's got big old oak beams.

0:29:060:29:09

-Beams!

-Range, dear.

0:29:090:29:11

-It's gorgeous.

-Everything you ever wanted in a country kitchen in one room!

0:29:110:29:15

LAUGHTER

0:29:150:29:17

-Dreamy, isn't it?

-Is it plucking on your heartstrings?

0:29:170:29:20

I'm having some slight stirrings, I must admit.

0:29:200:29:23

Stoke it up. Let's see if the rest of the house can stoke it into

0:29:230:29:27

-a coal fire.

-Show us it, then.

0:29:270:29:30

Leading off the kitchen is a modest conservatory,

0:29:300:29:33

a large utility room and a generous study.

0:29:330:29:37

There's also a dining area with an inglenook fireplace.

0:29:370:29:41

Next on our list, however, is the living room.

0:29:410:29:45

-Isn't it lovely?

-This probably would have been a later addition in the history of the house.

0:29:450:29:49

You can see it's got these much more manicured beams.

0:29:490:29:52

It's definitely surprising in terms of the amount of space that there

0:29:520:29:55

-appears to be.

-I wonder if you've just noticed, Mary,

0:29:550:29:58

-what's in the corner.

-I have.

0:29:580:30:00

-It's a piano. It's a piano!

-We were wondering where to put the piano.

0:30:000:30:03

And that's the dilemma solved.

0:30:030:30:06

You really have confused us, you know.

0:30:060:30:08

-Good, I'm glad.

-It is throwing a spanner in the works, isn't it?

0:30:080:30:11

-It has a bit.

-A big spanner. Mm-hm.

0:30:110:30:14

So, flummoxed but positive.

0:30:140:30:16

It's onwards and upstairs to explore the four bedrooms.

0:30:160:30:20

There are two well-decorated doubles with exposed beams,

0:30:200:30:23

which is also a feature in the single.

0:30:230:30:26

Not only is there a light, bright family bathroom,

0:30:260:30:29

but a separate shower room as well.

0:30:290:30:31

We're making our way to explore the master which has its own dressing area.

0:30:310:30:36

Blimey, this is fantastic, isn't it?

0:30:360:30:39

Very unusual in these sort of thatched cottages to have really high ceilings

0:30:390:30:42

like this. They've taken all the loft space out.

0:30:420:30:45

-I like the way they've exposed the beams.

-It's quite deceptive, isn't it,

0:30:450:30:48

because outside you imagine it to be very small and compact and actually it's big and airy.

0:30:480:30:53

-Let's go into the garden, because it's really magical.

-Thank you.

0:30:530:30:57

Well, for the moment at least,

0:30:570:30:59

our mystery cottage has put all thoughts of holiday lets out of their minds.

0:30:590:31:04

Outside, the large garden amounts to three quarters of an acre and is made up of

0:31:040:31:07

lawned areas framed by mature plants.

0:31:070:31:12

There's also a separate orchard and vegetable patch along with a workshop.

0:31:120:31:16

The size of this plot allows them to keep animals or set up a couple of

0:31:160:31:20

shepherd's huts, which could generate up to £600 a week each.

0:31:200:31:24

The shepherd's hut, like, a really self-contained one,

0:31:240:31:27

that has cooking facilities in it, it's about £20,000.

0:31:270:31:29

Something we hadn't really thought of.

0:31:290:31:32

But you've really opened our eyes.

0:31:320:31:34

My head and my heart are warring now.

0:31:340:31:36

I think if we were to live here on our own and didn't need a business,

0:31:360:31:41

I think I would buy this on the spot.

0:31:410:31:43

But you've given us a lot to think about again.

0:31:430:31:45

-The one thing I haven't given you is the price.

-Yes.

0:31:450:31:47

So what do you think the price of this little slice of Devonian heaven is?

0:31:470:31:52

Because it's so, so pretty and perfect,

0:31:520:31:55

I'm going to say it's 700,000.

0:31:550:31:58

-At least.

-Chris?

0:31:580:32:01

I think it's probably worth more than Mary suggested.

0:32:010:32:03

I'm going for 725.

0:32:030:32:05

Well, in this instance, you're both wrong.

0:32:050:32:07

And you're wrong in the wrong direction.

0:32:070:32:10

Because this is actually on the market for - hold your horses -

0:32:100:32:15

£539,500.

0:32:150:32:18

-You are joking.

-I am not joking.

-You're making that up.

-I'm not making that up. That is the truth.

0:32:180:32:24

Well, that's an amazing price.

0:32:240:32:25

That is, I think you've made our day again.

0:32:250:32:29

-Good stuff.

-Now you've given us a difficult dilemma.

0:32:290:32:32

But I must say it's a wonderful one to have to wrestle with.

0:32:320:32:35

Exactly. I'd like you to wrestle in the grounds.

0:32:350:32:37

Wrestle wherever you like and I'll see you out the front.

0:32:370:32:40

That's great. Thank you.

0:32:400:32:43

Aww. It's great when the Mystery House does that,

0:32:440:32:46

when it does exactly what it's meant to do,

0:32:460:32:48

it puts a cat amongst the pigeons and makes people think differently

0:32:480:32:51

about what this move could mean to them.

0:32:510:32:54

A staggering £160,000 under budget, our mystery thatch,

0:32:570:33:01

brimming with character features and four bedrooms, has completely

0:33:010:33:04

surprised our couple.

0:33:040:33:07

Located within a hamlet,

0:33:070:33:09

it has a large cottage garden

0:33:090:33:10

and the orchard could accommodate shepherds' huts,

0:33:100:33:13

but really this mystery proposition

0:33:130:33:15

is all about the two of them.

0:33:150:33:18

I loved the Mystery House.

0:33:180:33:20

I'm absolutely lost for words.

0:33:200:33:22

And it's been a house of absolute surprises.

0:33:220:33:26

Look at this. This is a proper functioning garden.

0:33:260:33:29

Really olde worlde, like the Secret Garden.

0:33:290:33:31

-It is, isn't it?

-I think we would enjoy this.

0:33:310:33:34

I think we would too. I thought we'd made a decision and now I'm not

0:33:340:33:39

quite sure that we have.

0:33:390:33:40

I think the Mystery House is amazing.

0:33:400:33:43

I don't think this property really allows us to have a business,

0:33:430:33:46

but that doesn't matter.

0:33:460:33:48

If we could keep that capital,

0:33:480:33:50

we could invest it somewhere else

0:33:500:33:51

and just use this as our own perfect house.

0:33:510:33:55

Whoo! Had to really tear you away from this one.

0:33:570:34:01

I'd like to find a spot where you can think about all three houses

0:34:010:34:05

without being swayed, so follow me...

0:34:050:34:08

I think the Mystery House has added an element of finance into this

0:34:110:34:15

house search that wasn't there before.

0:34:150:34:18

Because I think if Chris and Mary can save £160,000 on the price tag,

0:34:180:34:22

that's going to give them some breathing space where they can kick back

0:34:220:34:25

and really enjoy the property as a home rather than thinking of it as

0:34:250:34:28

an asset that needs to make money.

0:34:280:34:31

So I'll be very interested to see what that's done to their

0:34:310:34:34

thought processes. Let's find out.

0:34:340:34:36

Hello. How are you doing with all this?

0:34:390:34:42

It's interesting. Often when I sit down at this table,

0:34:420:34:44

I have a pretty good idea of which one people like, but with you

0:34:440:34:47

-I think you like them all.

-It's come down to between house number one

0:34:470:34:52

and the Mystery House.

0:34:520:34:54

We weren't expecting to fall in love with two beautiful houses.

0:34:540:34:58

It's going to be hard to decide between them.

0:34:580:35:01

-What do you think?

-I think it will be hard to decide.

0:35:010:35:04

You came with a big wish list and hopes for a business,

0:35:040:35:07

hopes for a lovely house.

0:35:070:35:09

What do you think's come into focus during this process?

0:35:090:35:12

We did come with a plan that the house should

0:35:120:35:14

generate an income, and increasingly, as we've gone on,

0:35:140:35:18

I've begun to think that perhaps we just want a house that we love,

0:35:180:35:21

that we want to live in for ourselves and we'll look for

0:35:210:35:25

business opportunities elsewhere. And especially the Mystery House,

0:35:250:35:28

the lovely thatched cottage, would allow us to do that,

0:35:280:35:31

because it was so much cheaper than we were anticipating.

0:35:310:35:34

I've heard you mention the Mystery House twice -

0:35:340:35:36

does that mean that's edging to the front of the pack?

0:35:360:35:38

I think it has to be, for me, the Mystery House.

0:35:380:35:43

I'd like to have one more cool, calm, collected look

0:35:430:35:47

at house number one,

0:35:470:35:49

simply because that potentially could bring us some income.

0:35:490:35:52

And what happens now? What is the next step?

0:35:520:35:54

We'd very much like to go and have a look at

0:35:540:35:57

both house number one and three again,

0:35:570:36:00

just to make sure that we're making the right decision.

0:36:000:36:03

I think we will go for one of them.

0:36:030:36:06

Yay! I'm waving a little flag of joy! LAUGHTER

0:36:060:36:09

That's great. I think you'll be happy here, so make it happen.

0:36:090:36:12

Thank you very much. We've really enjoyed ourselves.

0:36:120:36:14

It's been a pleasure. Thank you.

0:36:140:36:16

Those three houses in North Devon are almost proof that you can have

0:36:200:36:24

too much of a good thing, because poor Mary and Chris's minds were

0:36:240:36:28

slightly addled by just the richness of the properties that their budget could buy.

0:36:280:36:32

Perhaps they were used to kind of Brighton prices.

0:36:320:36:35

Because here their money goes a little bit further and, almost,

0:36:350:36:38

they can afford to kick back and enjoy the property, rather than have

0:36:380:36:41

to have a business to support their lifestyle.

0:36:410:36:44

Inspiring stuff and I hope that you'll be inspired enough to

0:36:440:36:47

join us next time for more Escape To The Country.

0:36:470:36:51

Following our search, Chris and Mary made an offer on the French-style

0:36:510:36:55

first property in Virginstow, which was accepted,

0:36:550:36:59

so they are due to exchange very soon.

0:36:590:37:03

If you would like to escape to the country in England, Scotland,

0:37:030:37:06

Wales or Northern Ireland, and need our help, please apply online at...

0:37:060:37:10

Alistair Appleton is in Devon helping a couple of journalists to find a characterful country home with holiday-let potential. They have a generous property budget of £700,000 with which to make the move. While in the county, Alistair meets a pioneering young sheep farmer and gets a masterclass in hand shearing the grey-faced Dartmoor sheep.