Property series. Jules Hudson is house hunting on the Welsh borders with a dynamic couple who want a country home with B&B business potential.
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Welcome to a misty start to today's Escape To The Country.
Now, behind me
is a small glimpse of what is widely regarded as one of the most
important English landscape gardens, not just in the UK,
but also renowned the world over. So, where have we come to?
Well, join me in just a moment and I'll tell you.
Today, we're helping a couple of newlyweds who hope to kick off
their married life in a new home, with dreams of running a B&B.
What about this for your guests, then?
I don't know, I would quite like it for myself!
But one of our properties leaves them lost for words.
-I don't know what to say.
Well, today we are on the Welsh Borders, and these are the
beautiful surroundings of Hawkstone Park Follies in Shropshire.
They are widely regarded as perhaps one of the best examples
of the English landscape garden, dating back to the 18th century.
They contain a fantastic mix of caves, cliffs, follies and woodland.
What sets this place apart is that it bucked the trend of the day
for more classical, symmetrical gardens and instead embraced
an imitated nature.
It was restored 20 years ago,
and now visitors revel in its surroundings.
From up here, you can
see right across the border to the mountains of Wales.
On a clear day.
The land straddling the length of the border between England
and Wales is traditionally known as the Welsh Marches, and includes
parts of Powys on the Welsh side and Shropshire in England.
This northern section of the Marches is a region of enduring beauty,
characterised by classic unspoiled hilly countryside,
and striking field patterns.
The borderlands were fiercely contested for hundreds of years,
and contain the highest concentration
of motte-and-bailey castles in the country.
Chirk Castle, a magnificent medieval fortress
completed in the 14th century, is a particularly fine example.
On the English side,
the historic town of Ludlow in Shropshire is a renowned
gastro hot spot, home to a whole host of eateries and cafes.
So, with its mix of scenery and historic architecture,
the Welsh Borders is an escapee's paradise,
and somewhere it really is possible to get away from it all.
As well as stunning countryside,
property prices here are also very attractive.
In Shropshire, the average cost of an detached property is currently
£245,000 - that's £32,000 below the national figure.
And it gets even better
if you head further west over the border into Wales and Powys.
There, the same sort of thing could cost you £80,000 less.
So, time now to meet today's buyers, and find out
which side of the border they want to be on.
Steve and Allie, who live near the town of Devizes in Wiltshire,
met each other through an online dating site just 18 months ago.
A whirlwind romance led to a speedy proposal,
and they have been married for just a month.
So, now they want to kick start this next exciting chapter
in a new country home.
Steve proposed to me when we went to Sri Lanka last year.
It was towards the end of the holiday.
Walked out onto the beach with her in the evening,
held her in my arms and said, "Would you marry me?"
We both lost our partners some years ago.
We are now looking to create a life together,
rather than staying in the jobs that we've currently got.
Steve works in IT and Allie in sales,
but the highly pressured corporate world has
taken its toll on Steve.
I commute almost three hours, three-and-a-half hours a day, so our
escape is more than just escaping into a more rural environment,
it's escaping from that whole work environment.
Steve and Allie both have two grown-up children
from their previous relationships, but they've left home,
and the couple currently live in a four bedroom property
that Steve bought before meeting Allie.
I chose this house when I was single,
that the children can come home to.
Since we met, it's obvious that the house doesn't meet our requirements.
We'd like to choose somewhere which is ours.
And they've chosen the Welsh Border country
for their first shared home together.
We have experience of Wales and the Welsh Borders, and...
-It's a lovely area, isn't it?
-It's a beautiful area,
and fortunately, it's still within the price bracket that we have.
But Steve and Allie don't just want a new home,
a joint business venture is in the pipeline.
When we were courting,
I said to you I'd like to own a bed and breakfast,
-and you said, "That's what I'd like to do," didn't you?
We want to get to a point where we can retire
and just look after the B&B and some letting units
and have a life.
And when they're not busy with the B&B,
they should have more time for their passions,
which include baking and cake-making for Allie,
whereas Steve hopes his modelling will take off.
I took up flying model aircraft about eight years ago,
just as something to really de-stress with.
It's become a bit of an obsession.
I've got something like 25 aircraft.
Gives me great pleasure picking one of those up, taking that up
onto the hill and throwing it off and actually flying it.
It's great fun.
But their rural dream isn't just a flight of fancy.
They are under no illusions that this is a big move, though it is
a chance for the newlyweds to spend some quality time with each other.
I'm well aware that running a B&B isn't going to be
without its stresses and without its early mornings.
-But it's doing something that we both enjoy.
Steve and Allie want to find a property in the northern
section of the English/Welsh border, but don't mind which country
they live in, so we will be looking both in Shropshire
and Wales for their new home.
I'm meeting up with them in Shropshire
to learn more about their planned move.
-Well, good morning.
Steve and Allison, welcome to Escape To The Country.
This is all quite exciting!
Am I right in saying that you only got married six weeks ago?
-So, is this your honeymoon?
Well, we had a honeymoon in New England,
but this is pretty close, yes.
Allison, what are you hoping to achieve with this move?
We are hoping to open a bed and breakfast with some letting units.
We want about three bedrooms and three letting units,
both of us giving up our full-time jobs.
-Have you ever done anything like it before?
-I've run pubs and restaurants, but you haven't.
-No, I haven't.
I've been in the IT industry for 30-plus years,
so it's going to be a major change for me,
but I'm a practical person, so I'll be doing the hands-on stuff.
Why have you settled on the northern end of the Welsh Borders?
We like this area, the countryside, the hills.
There's some lovely country houses.
We feel that there is a lot to draw people to this area.
What would your ideal home look like?
Perhaps an old farmhouse,
a rectory, five, six bedrooms... Um...
Perhaps a barn that needs converting, or some outbuildings that we
could turn into letting units.
How much of a project would you take on?
If we started off with three rooms that we could let, that would
give us enough income to start with, and then if there were a barn
conversion, stable conversion or something like that,
we would do over time.
-England or Wales, quite happy to border hop?
-Quite happy, yes.
-And also, perhaps a little bit of land as well.
Oh! What's going to happen on that?
I've always had a love of the countryside, and to have
some land, I'd ideally like some pasture and also woodland.
You really are painting a picture of the ideal country life.
I mean, you know, this is all very good.
-It is going to be hard work as well, though.
-It really is.
B&Bs are not an easy wicket.
How are you going to make your business that little bit different
-to all of the others to get that trade?
-I think we're going to go
-for luxury B&B.
-We are. We are aiming at the luxury end.
So, Allison, how much are you planning to spend on all of this?
-That's right, yes.
-That's a lot of money!
-Scary, isn't it?
But this is an area where I think you can get very good
value for money. We've got some really interesting properties
to show you. I hope they will inspire you to create a vision
of what this business could look like.
-Shall we go?
-Absolutely. Let's do it.
With a budget of £750,000, Steve and Allie are after a traditional
older property with character.
In an ideal world,
they'd like a five bedroom house that would allow them
to let out three rooms as bed and breakfast units,
but with the potential to develop up to three self-catering holiday
lets around it. Steve would like some land to fulfil his smallholding
ambitions, and a bonus would be some private woodland in their grounds.
We've lined up a selection of classic Border Country
contenders for our house-hunting newlyweds to consider,
but the honeymoon might be over when I reveal
the price at the end of the property tours. And of course, we've got
a Mystery House that might well challenge Steve and Allie on age,
but it does give them more than they bargained for elsewhere.
Our first property is located outside the village of Gobowen
in Shropshire - just four miles from the border with Wales.
The village grew up around the railway
when the mainline between Chester and Shrewsbury was diverted through
Gobowen, after permission was refused to route the track
through the nearby historic town of Oswestry.
Today, the village has three churches,
with both Anglican and Methodist places of worship,
as well as a range of shops and services.
Our first house is located a good two miles outside of the village
and sits in Border countryside, with just livestock for neighbours.
-Look at that for a view.
And this, needless to say, is property number one.
-Yeah, I do.
-You did hint towards a barn conversion,
and that's what we've got for you.
It was converted about nine years ago from a pretty grotty
cattle shed into what is now a really beautiful family home,
and it also comes with that - a ready-to-go holiday let.
Wow. That's great.
-Let's have a look inside.
Renovated to a high standard, this characterful barn conversion
has a rustic feel with a lovely, open-plan layout.
-There you go, Allison.
I'm looking at the kitchen down there.
Well, we're going to look at that
in just a little while but, needless to say,
-this is their kind of dining area at the moment.
-Yeah. Very nice.
The oak is gorgeous. This was a really mucky barn.
So it's got a nice mix of old timbers and the necessary new ones.
There's another really gorgeous living room through there,
complete with wood burner, which I think sort of sets the cosy scene.
Well, you glimpsed at the kitchen earlier.
-Do you want to take a closer look?
-We'd love to.
I think you've got plenty of space in here...
Ooh, it's nice, isn't it?
-..for cooking and preparing.
-Yes, I think so.
It's great. I mean, the island, needless to say, is terrific,
and you can engage with your guests through the...
-..through the wall, as it were.
-Through the wall.
They've got some of the utility goods in here,
but there is a utility room behind me through this door,
which you could move all that into if you wanted to.
Let's have a look upstairs and see what you think of the bedrooms then.
As well as the rooms we've seen, the downstairs also has a study,
which houses the property's oil-fired boiler.
Upstairs, there are four bedrooms.
At one end of the barn are two bedrooms - a double
and a large single, both with exposed beams, as well as the
family bathroom, offering immediate bed and breakfast potential.
At the opposite end is another single bedroom as well
as what could be Steve and Allie's spacious master suite.
There you go.
-Massive, isn't it?
-This is yours.
You also get the en suite shower room in there too.
Bags of room for a huge double bed in here,
and I think a nice bit of, sort of, dressing area space
-and what have you.
-So that's the main house...
..with your four bedrooms up here.
The only bit left, of course, is the holiday let.
-Looking forward to seeing that.
-You see, that...
-That's the thing, isn't it? That's the business end of it.
-It is, yeah.
-And that's your future.
Let's have a look at that, and you might want to start thinking about
-what this one is worth.
As well as the potential bed and breakfast accommodation inside
the main barn, across the gravelled courtyard, a separate cottage offers
similar quality furnishings as an up-and-running one-bedroom holiday let.
Look at this.
That's good, yes.
-Lots more oak.
Really nice modern kitchen, and then this is the living room for the let.
Oh, that's nice.
-The bedroom above is basically this size.
Very generous shower and bathroom as well,
so again they haven't skimped on the space here.
This is really good. It's up to a high standard, so...
The finishes are brilliant. I love the use of the oak. Oak windows.
There's nothing to paint. It just weathers nicely.
And if you were in the market for entertaining dogs with your guests,
there is a huge market for that.
I talk to holiday let guys all the time,
and they reckon 60% of their business comes from just having
"dogs welcome" on the door.
-My goodness. That's good.
-It's really worth thinking about.
I think we've given Steve
and Allie lots of possibilities with the barn and separate cottage,
but Steve also wanted some land for animals,
and here he's got five acres to play with.
This includes ample parking space for guests,
a large paddock suitable for keeping livestock,
or even land for a luxury camping business.
And finally, a steel and timber stock shed for shelter or storage.
All this land makes for doggie heaven too,
as Meg will no doubt testify.
This is Meg.
Hello, Meg. Hello, Meg. She doesn't come with it.
What a shame.
And look, there's your five acres,
and in the distance is the Shropshire Union Canal.
So there we are. That's what's on offer.
So let's think about your three-quarters-of-a-million pounds, then.
that you might want to spend on this endeavour.
What's this one worth, do you think, Allison?
I think 630.
630? OK. Interesting.
I'm going to go a little higher than that. Er,
I would have probably estimated this at 650,
to be perfectly frank with you.
However, it's not 650. I'm afraid this is on the market for
-That's a pleasant surprise.
-That gives a different view.
Doesn't it, just? That's £180,000 that you don't have to spend.
And I think it gives you three really interesting options.
One - you just have a home
and what would be quite a profitable holiday let,
given that you're only servicing £570,000 rather than
Option two - you can do that
and develop this into more of a glamping business,
or three - you take the £180,000 that's left over
and you buy a separate holiday cottage somewhere else.
So if you finally decide that you've had enough of holiday lets,
-you don't have to sell your home to change your life.
Off you go.
Go and have a closer look at that holiday let, particularly
upstairs, and I will come and find you a little bit later on.
-OK. Thank you very much.
-Off you go.
Come here! Come here. Now, then.
She's been listening in to all of this.
I think that was a pretty good sell. It's a great property.
I know you don't want to move,
but they could be the right people to take it on.
Freeing up a tiny £180,000 from
their budget gives Steve
and Allie lots of options with this
handsome barn conversion,
and a chance to plough the extra
cash into the business.
As well as their own high-spec
living space, the barn has two
bedrooms for B&B guests,
and a separate one-bedroom
cottage for self-catering couples.
The five acres of land could be
glamped up with a luxury
campsite to boost their income.
Oh, this is lovely! What a neat little cottage.
-Easy to maintain.
-Which is what we need.
-Yeah, not too much work for you to do.
I think this is a beautiful house.
It's been really well converted.
The holiday let is nice, the land is nice,
but unfortunately the house isn't large enough for what we want.
Allie is very much a home bird.
She wouldn't want people intruding in her space, as such.
I think the home shared with B&Bs directly may not suit her.
Well, you were expecting a fairly straightforward house tour,
but maybe we've redesigned
-your plan for the future with this one.
-I think so.
It's certainly added some options.
-I think some really interesting options.
It really is, but it's not the only one we're going to show you.
Come on. Let's go.
Steve and Allie have asked that their new property includes
some private woodland.
They're keen on using wood from their land for fuel.
But more than half of the UK's small woodlands are in decline.
Over the last 20 years, one third have disappeared due to poor
management and countryside development.
Smallwoods is an organisation designed to maintain
and protect the 400,000 hectares of small woods in the UK.
To find out more about sustainable woodland management,
they're meeting chief executive Mike Bentley.
What size of woodland should we be looking at to have
something which is sustainable and would help us with the heating?
-For self-supply of wood fuel?
Erm, you don't actually need that large an area
quite surprisingly. About one hectare of mixed broadleaf woodland.
You would be able to produce a sustainable yield of say four
cubic metres or four tonnes of firewood per year, which would
normally be enough to heat a wood fuel stove in a medium-size cottage.
Assuming that we do get some woodland,
what type of trees should we be looking for?
I would probably advise you to go for a woodland with
There are a couple of nasty pests
and diseases going around at the moment,
particularly affecting ash. You've obviously heard of ash dieback.
Yes, we've seen it in the area.
And also there's a fungus that's affecting
larch trees. So a woodland that was
purely larch or purely ash may be one to avoid.
The most traditional method of woodland management is
coppicing, the ancient practise of cutting
a tree off at its stump to encourage rapid regrowth of buds and shoots.
By opening up the tree canopy to let in light,
you're also promoting greater biodiversity.
The extra light reaching the ground encourages wild flowers
and plants, attracting butterflies and other insects.
The whole eco-system benefits.
To learn a little more about maintenance of woodland
through coppicing, Steve
and Allie are meeting Richard Thomason in the woods.
-Nice to meet you.
-Steve. This is Allie.
Mike sent us up and said you'd be able to tell us
a little bit about coppicing.
Well, coppicing is a traditional form of management, as Mike may have
already said, going back thousands of years and it's the first,
really, the first form of woodland management
we've done in this country.
Mainly because it's small diameter material that we're working
with, so if you've got a stone axe,
it's far easier to use a stone axe and cut a small branch down
and turn it into something - a house or some implement you need -
-than a great big sort of oak tree.
So we've been coppicing a long time in this country.
A lot of our coppice woodlands have become derelict.
That's a really shame because hazel, especially,
has got about a 70 to 80-year life expectancy
-if you stop coppicing. You know, it just grows up, matures and dies.
If you keep coppicing, if you keep cutting it back,
it will last for centuries after centuries after centuries.
As well as benefiting the eco-system,
coppicing has an added advantage.
You're left with freshly-cut wood,
from which you can create useful everyday objects.
The practice known as green woodworking also employs
traditional, handmade tools.
Steve is going to try his hand at making a spatula,
and Allie, a rolling pin, using freshly-felled ash.
The first step is to split the log of ash into a workable piece.
Again through the middle there.
Now stick it in the grains.
Meanwhile, Allie is shaping her rolling pin using an age-old
shave horse and a draw knife to create a rounded,
cylindrical shape by continually turning the object.
It looks really dangerous, I know, but in fact it's not really.
I mean, it's really hard to actually bring the knife far enough
-back to cause you any damage, so just keep going.
-Keep turning it, and I'll come back and see how you're getting on.
Steve has now drawn the outline of a spatula onto his piece of wood
and begins shaping the utensil with a side axe.
-OK, you still got your fingers, then?
-Absolutely. All five.
Good, good, good. Hey, actually, that's looking good.
He then joins Allie on the shave horse to smooth off the edges.
-So what we're going to try and do is reduce it down even more now.
OK, using the draw knife.
If you want to know what to do, just ask her. She's an expert now.
But here you go, have a go. So nice, strong...
There we go.
-It's quite satisfying, isn't it?
Allie's rolling pin is also gradually taking shape.
The final step for Steve is to round off the spatula with a knife.
Hey, first attempt, I think you should be proud of that. Very good.
How about you? How's the rolling pin coming along?
-I think a few more hours yet.
-A few more hours needed.
It's more round than when we started.
Well, guys, you've done really well. It's your first attempt.
-They look fantastic.
-You should be really proud of it.
-It's been really enjoyable.
-Good, that's the main thing.
-Thank you very much.
Well, Steve and Allie now have some handy tips on managing woodland
and working with green wood, but we still need to find them a home.
So it's back to the house-hunt.
For our next offering, we're crossing over the border
into Wales, and heading to the popular market town of Llangollen.
An ancient Welsh settlement situated on the banks of the River Dee,
it takes its name from its founding seventh-century saint.
Today, it's a thriving tourist centre,
and probably best known for hosting the international musical
Eisteddfod every summer, which attracts over 100,000 people.
Located within walking distance of Llangollen, our next house is
set at a quiet, elevated position overlooking the town.
-Well, we've crossed the border into Wales. There we are, guys.
This is different.
I don't know what to say! It's lovely.
It's certainly going to be big enough,
or it looks like it is from here.
The garden looks nice.
That lot there
is a six-bedroom property,
-five of which are en suite.
The current owners have lived here 30-odd years
and they have run it as a B&B in the past, hence the en-suite bedrooms.
That might look like a double garage.
When the door is open, you can get six cars in there,
and it's also plumbed and wired.
You could potentially turn that into another letting opportunity.
And to the left, that building there is also with it,
and that is a two-bedroom cottage.
-Let's see what you think. There's plenty to see.
There's a lot to take in at this handsome,
Tudor-style Victorian residence,
with its separate two-bedroom holiday let set in a separate
coach house, which earns around £8,000 a year.
Unfortunately, the let has guests staying in it at the moment,
so I can't show it to Steve and Allie, but the main house,
which has its entrance around the corner, should keep us busy.
What do you think of this, then, Allison?
-Oh-ho, that's lovely!
-Beautiful, isn't it?
What a nicely-proportioned room.
Love the windows looking out on the garden.
We're thinking this should be quite a useful guest dining space,
and then the whole room itself could act as a guest
wing, if you like, because it opens up in to this.
Have a look at this end.
-So you've got, sort of, guest sitting room...
Come on over, come on over! This is the best view, I think, from here.
Oh, it's lovely.
Because you can see all of that and all of this.
-What a beautiful house.
-I love the archway.
I mean, bearing in mind it was built in 1900, it's not quite arts
and crafts but you can see what they were getting at,
an allusion to some of these kind of Victorian details
that you might expect.
What about this for your guests, then?
I don't know. I'd quite like it for myself.
Ha-ha, thought so!
Allie needn't worry.
Her and Steve's accommodation is pretty good as well.
A door from the guest dining room leads onto another
equally-impressive reception room.
-There. This is what we think would be your bit.
-Open-mouthed and open-eyed, Allison.
-It's nice, yeah.
-That's plenty big enough for us as a living room.
Right, come and have a look at the kitchen. You'll like this.
Dying to see the kitchen.
Oh, that's a nice kitchen! That's lovely.
-I think you could spoil your guests...
-..in a kitchen like this.
-I do. I think I'd have every gadget, as well.
There's loads of cupboards and drawers.
-Yeah, it's not short on storage.
You've got the range over there within the fireplace, which is
quite nice. Through that door is a huge utility room-cum-laundry room,
I would suggest.
And another little storage area too.
And also you've got a cellar here as well.
If you're into your wine...
-You've got a wine cellar too.
There's currently a quarter-size snooker
table in there at the minute.
Like a pool table. So actually that's how big it is.
It's lovely. Absolutely lovely.
Now, I did say to you on the outside that we had six bedrooms to explore.
Upstairs might take a little bit of time. Come and have a look.
our buyers like the space they get with this substantial property
and the ground floor room arrangement gives them
privacy from their guests.
Of the six bedrooms in the property, five are on the first floor.
They're all generous,
and four of those have en suite bath or shower rooms.
There's also a family bathroom you could easily get lost in.
And up on the second floor, there's an attic games room,
but I'm showing Steve and Allie the largest bedroom on the first
floor, which I've earmarked as their master.
-This is yours.
Although, to be perfectly honest, any one of those en suite
bedrooms would pass as a very comfortable master bedroom.
I love the ceiling.
This is lovely. Absolutely amazing.
-Now you're going to like this.
-His and hers storage.
No, it's his-hers and his.
-Or hers, probably.
-Well, you can take your pick.
Bags of built-in storage with this one, and a really
nicely proportioned... En suite.
..en suite through there, as you would expect.
I think it's... Yeah, it's still raining,
-shall we brave it?
-I think so.
-Let's have a quick look at the garden.
The sixth bedroom is back downstairs as part of a small,
separate annexe arrangement.
It comes with an en-suite bathroom as well as lounge and kitchenette,
and provides excellent self-catering letting opportunities,
currently bringing in around £4,000 a year.
Outside, extensive landscape gardens fan out from the back of the
property, with a lovely backdrop of the Berwyn hills,
and Dinas Bran Castell, which today is shrouded in misty rain.
It's raining a bit more than I thought.
Can you admire the garden from here?
-I think so, yes.
-It is about two acres, all in.
The only thing you haven't seen is the two-bed cottage,
which has got residents in,
but I'm sure if you were keen enough to want to come
back for a second viewing,
you would get to have a good look around if that was of interest.
-How much is it going to cost you,
because this could be the slightly tricky bit?
You go first.
Er, I think it's right at the top end of our budget of 750.
£750,000. Three-quarter-of-a-million, says your brand-new husband.
-I knew he was going to say that.
-You can agree!
-It works well.
That's a good omen for the future, isn't it?
I'm going to go £775,000.
This could be yours for
A hundred thousand left over to make any little tweaks that you
would want to.
Can we buy it?
I'd love you to buy it.
It's such a lovely property.
Well, look, go and explore. Rediscover this property,
try and work out the grand plan, try and cement it into your minds,
because there's a lot to take on with this one,
and I will catch you later on, somewhere.
-Off you go.
£100,000 below budget,
the price of our Tudor-style mansion
comes as a pleasant surprise, as it
leaves Steve and Allie some of their
budget to put their stamp on it.
Offering separate accommodation
from their guests, there are six
bedrooms in the main house.
One of those six is part of an
annexe joining the main property,
and there's also a separate
two-bedroom coach house across
the driveway, unlocking bags
of business potential.
-What a bathroom.
So much space. I don't think I've seen one as large as this.
The land, seen from where we saw it, looks stunning,
so very, very impressed with this property.
I really, really like it.
It's got everything that we wanted -
lovely large kitchen with a range, there's six bedrooms,
five with en suite, so we would be able to let them.
All of them if we wanted to.
-Hey! How are we doing?
-Am I standing outside your new home?
-I hope so!
Well, you can certainly afford it, and wow,
what an exciting proposition.
-Absolutely stunning property.
Now let's not celebrate just yet,
but I do think a glass of wine might be in the offing.
-That's a good idea.
It's the second day of our B&B property search along the
English-Welsh border with newly-weds Steve and Allie from Wiltshire.
With their £750,000 budget, we're hoping to find them
a property that separates their home from their guests.
Coming up - our Mystery House pulls out all the stops for the business.
I think people would be stunned when they came in here.
And I meet the men of steel whose artwork could save
lives on our streets.
Well, short autumn days mean it's a pretty early start
here on Escape To The Country,
and we've got plenty to fit in on our final day of house-hunting.
Now, yesterday I thought went really well.
That house in Llangollen, I think, offered Steven
and Allison a brilliant opportunity,
and if we showed them nothing else, well,
maybe our work would be done, but of course,
we have got more to see,
but building on the theme of yesterday,
we're going to head back into Wales to try and find them
yet more value for money, and of course it's Mystery House day.
For our next offering,
we're venturing deeper into mid-Wales, to the hamlet of Penrhos.
This is classic border country.
Rolling fields criss-crossed by lines of hedgerows,
with hillside vistas stretching far into the distance.
The nearest neighbour to our next house is a pretty church,
and these spiritual connections are a clue to the property's
former life, but will it enlighten our buyers?
-Oh, you're joking! Look at this!
-Come this way, Allison.
-Nice bit of planting, lovely views of mid-Wales.
What is it?
-It's a rectory.
-It's a rectory, yeah, exactly.
It's the sort of thing that I think is the archetypal country home.
Set within its own plot, as this one is, lovely mature gardens,
-about a couple of acres here.
-Oh, that's gorgeous.
It's been renovated extensively over the last 11 years or
so by the current owners.
Young family, and they've given it a really fun, contemporary twist.
Inside, but as you would expect, it's pretty cavernous,
with an interesting range of outbuildings too,
which could be developed further into more holiday let potential.
That's what we're thinking.
Built in the late 19th century,
the former vicarage has been remodelled by the current owners,
-who've given an old building a stylishly-modern twist.
Isn't this fun?
-Someone's had some great fun decorating this.
-You see what I mean? It's quite contemporary.
-It is, isn't it?
The red floor is pretty bold,
but you've got the traditional fireplace, which is lovely.
These gorgeous windows, they're original,
as are the shutters. Rather cleverly, they've removed
the walls either side of this fireplace to let the whole
thing flow around it.
So it's dining room or sitting room or whatever you want it to be.
But it all flows rather nicely. Have a look at this.
So removing this wall was a really good idea, I think,
-and again, it gets you into this.
-Oh, this is nice. It's lovely.
-It's a lovely room.
It's quite an original re-thinking of a very traditional building.
As a guest
suite of rooms, if you like, for dining and relaxing,
-works a treat.
-Plenty of room.
And it gives you that division between the dining end
and something else.
-Come and have a look at the kitchen.
The striking decor of the old rectory has
made its mark on Steve and Allie.
To the rear of the house, there's also a spacious office, somewhere
to run the business from, but next, we're appraising the kitchen.
-That's great, isn't it?
That's a lovely catering kitchen.
It certainly has that industrial, utilitarian feel to it,
-all the stainless steel...
-I think it's really good.
I actually like the stainless steel kitchen.
-I like the range.
I like the taps.
-I like the window looking out onto that beautiful view.
There's plenty of room for food preparation in here,
and easy to keep clean as well, you know. It's ideal.
And it opens up round here to give you your own dining end,
I suppose, or kind of living room if you wanted it.
Oh, gosh, what a huge room!
-Well, quite a lot of walls have been removed to create this effect.
There's another door to the right, which leads back into the
hallway, and next to that a door to a very, very extensive cellar,
which is pretty much original.
-I could imagine having a sofa in that part of the room there.
We could actually have that as ours, couldn't we?
-You could have this whole bit.
So now we've cleverly divided up the ground floor,
we need to turn our attention to the sleeping arrangements.
Upstairs, there are five bedrooms, including a venerable master
suite with high ceiling and a stylish en suite wet room.
There are three other bedrooms on the first floor, including
two big guest doubles, a smaller single, and a large family bathroom.
There's a further bedroom on the top floor of the roof space,
serviced by its own bathroom.
Ideal for B&B guests.
But I want to show Steve
and Allie my plan for their self-catering holiday visitors.
An outbuilding at the back,
which could be converted into at least one letting unit.
Currently used as a studio,
-formerly a chicken shed.
-A large area, though.
It's really good.
Those double doors go out to a pretty elaborate
greenhouse-cum-garden room-cum- conservatory,
which would make a great addition to a holiday let if you were able
and minded to do something with this.
There's a little wood burner there.
There's also a loo through there, so the plumbing's all there.
When we first discussed your plans, we did talk about the idea of you
starting with a B&B
and then looking to develop up to a couple of holiday lets.
This gives you the possibility of doing that,
but of course it's all going to come down to price.
-Because you are going to have to spend some money on this one.
Right. Come on. Let's go out to the garden.
The house and outbuildings sit in two acres of private grounds,
with a mainly lawned, well-established garden.
-Lovely view, isn't it?
-Beautiful. Absolutely beautiful.
Looking south there,
over towards the rest of
as we get to the difficult bit,
which of course is the price.
What's it on the market for, madam?
Oh! No hesitation there, 640. OK.
I'd go 620.
A bit of optimism is creeping into your price guesses,
and I don't blame you for being optimistic,
this was on the market for £750,000.
-But the exciting thing is that it has been reduced to £650,000.
-So you weren't far off.
-It's got real potential at that price.
Well, look, guys, go and have a look around.
In particular, have a look upstairs,
think about those B&B bedrooms for now,
-and I will come and find you a little bit later on.
Under budget by £100,000,
this former rectory has been
beautifully converted to create
a contemporary family home.
The open-plan reception room
gives our buyers a space to
accommodate bed and breakfast guests,
and there are at least three letting
bedrooms in the main house.
There's also potential and money
left over to develop a letting unit
in a separate outbuilding.
Right, so this is the master bedroom.
Yeah. It's a great size, isn't it?
Lovely windows. There are a lot of high ceilings here.
Might be an en-suite in there.
-Ooh, it's a shower room.
-It's great, isn't it?
Yeah. Perfect, perfect.
I was really excited to see that it was an old rectory.
The five bedrooms...
I'm not sure whether we would be able to use it as a bed
and breakfast, but perhaps we would be able to use
some of the outbuildings for the letting purpose.
As far as the location of this house,
Great views, fantastic grounds, couldn't ask for more.
Looking at it from a business point of view,
it doesn't instantly match our requirements for bed
and breakfast and for the letting units without some development work.
Are you tempted?
I think I could be.
It's certainly an option, yes, yes.
I think you should be, but we have one more to come.
Mystery House is coming up soon. Come on.
For our final choice, we're heading deeper into Wales to the
small town of Llanfair Caereinion.
Perched on the banks of the river Banwy,
the charming town has a peaceful feel, with a distinctive
architectural style, hosting a range of shops and pubs.
Nestled into the south-facing hills around a mile from the town
is our Mystery House.
Now, Steve and Allie wanted some land.
Our Mystery House has it in spades,
but our buyers also wanted a traditional home, and although this
one has a classic Welsh pedigree, inside it's much more contemporary.
You may well chuckle, because this is our Mystery House.
Come over here and take it all in.
It's really unusual, isn't it?
Effectively, in the middle was a small, traditional cottage.
It's then been extended either side.
Initially, in the 1990s, over here,
to create something which is a bit more traditional.
Then in 2005, this entire wing was added,
which, as you can probably tell, has a much more contemporary feel.
It has 5/6 bedrooms on offer.
It has two staircases.
That's very good.
So, what we're thinking is owners' wing over here,
-and B&B wing over there.
You also get that huge barn up there.
We thought that was another house!
No. That's all yours.
Belonging to somebody else.
The whole lot sits within, wait for it,
And those acres go behind the property up onto the hill.
Lovely amount of woodland, which I know is of interest to you.
Then it extends below us here.
Where do we start with this enormous property?
We have one front door, of course.
We can either go left and look at the owners' accommodation,
or we could go right and look at the B&B.
What do you want to do?
-The business side.
-The B&B, yeah.
Let's do the business end first
and then we will spoil you with your bit. Come on!
The original stone long house dates to the 18th century
but the addition of the two extensions has more than doubled
the property's size, giving Steve and Allie lots of options
for paying guests.
And the 19 acres of land gives them
bags of room for a luxury camping business.
Imagine a door there, separating you from this.
-This would be guest accommodation.
-A beautiful room.
-Original fireplace there.
-Loads and loads of character.
Loads but come in this way.
Very funky staircase.
Oh, that's lovely.
Now this, anywhere else, would be a fabulous family living room,
but this, because of the two wings, could be your guest sitting room.
And a luxury one at that. Absolutely.
I don't know what to say, it's just so nice.
Come and have a look next-door because this is really,
-Now they've got this set up as a hobby/craft room.,
-I love the red.
Have in your minds that this could be given over to a guest kitchen,
which would mean the main kitchen would be just for you.
Right, which is what we wanted really.
We just need to put in a slightly larger kitchen.
-Let's have a look at a guest master, if you like.
Our mystery package is drawing our buyers in,
and they've yet to see their own wing of this place.
Upstairs in the contemporary guest quarters, there are two decent
sized bedrooms which are both served by a sizeable shower room.
Now, I'm thinking you could market this
as a premium suite for your guests.
-What a beautiful room?
-Huge, isn't it?
I think people would be stunned when they came here.
The only thing is, the bedrooms here don't really have an en suite
at this side of the property.
However, they do share that rather nice shower room across the hallway.
I think you could nobody get away with that actually.
-Because it's so nice?
-Because of the quality of the rest of it.
Let's have a look at your bit, let's start with the kitchen.
Come and look at this.
The main house can be accessed either from the upstairs landing
or through a small boot room on the ground floor
and gives our buyers the separation they wanted from the business.
Now this sort of boot room come service corridor connects
the guest wing and the guest kitchen, as it might be,
with your kitchen.
-Oh, wow! Look at the range!
-Look at the range, yes?
That is beautiful.
-It's absolutely amazing.
-You've also got this dining area too.
-Easily more than we need.
-We haven't quite finished. Have a look at this.
So it's a circular route this.
This is the hallway, there's the front door,
imagine a door there, separating you from the guests.
-This is your living room.
-This is nice.
-You also get this garden room.
Oh, that's nice.
You pointed us towards the better end but this is as good.
This has a very different feel.
That is contemporary, this is more traditional.
Although it is effectively a new build, let's face it.
There's the staircase that gets you up to your accommodation up there.
And that is comprised of three good-sized bedrooms
in this wing of the house alone,
including a spacious master with a washing area
and a single room in the eaves which leads on to a cosy twin room.
They all share a family bath and shower room.
Unlike our other properties,
there are no outbuildings as such for letting units.
You would be hard pushed to do much with a timber clad barn.
But they do have that 19 acres to play with
if they wanted to develop a luxury campsite
and that includes two large paddocks and some private woodland.
-Just wondering if we can afford it.
-Well, let's deal with that.
You went first last time, so let's have your guess.
-£750,000, you have.
-Is it going to be enough?
-I'm not sure that it is for this.
So I'd value it at something like £780,000.
Hopefully coming in just under budget.
I have to confess, I think it should be that sort figure,
but today is your lucky day.
This is on the market at 675.
Oh gosh! What do we do?
What do you do? That's a very good question.
I think the first thing you should do
is go and explore it at your leisure.
We whizzed around on the tour but go and spend a bit more time,
-soak it up, and I will find you later on.
Go on, then.
Under budget by £75,000,
our Mystery House is an extended Welsh long house
with contemporary additions and finished to a very high standard.
It features a separate modern guest wing with two bedrooms
as well as three in the main house and the 19 acres of land
gives Steve and Allie the option of developing a glamping business.
Oh, wow! The master suite. This is lovely. What's behind here?
Cupboard space. Wow!
You could just about get all your clothes in there!
The Mystery House has taken us both by surprise.
We never expected to find a property of this quality
and of this size at this price.
I really like the Mystery House.
I like it particularly because we would be able to run the
business from here and also Steve and I would be able to have our own home.
There's quite a lot of land with it
and also some woodland which is what Steve was asking for.
Out you come! There we are, that's it, our house tours are over.
Now, I've just made a little bet with myself as to which one
of our fabulous properties might be your favourite. Go on, then.
You can tell me if I'm right a little bit later on.
Come on, let's go.
The borderland between Wales and England is an area
of unforgettable beauty, blessed with plentiful natural resources.
Thanks to the abundance of coal, towns like Ironbridge in Shropshire
became important centres of industry.
It was here in the 18th century that cast iron was first
produced on a large scale by using coal to smelt iron.
The world's first cast iron bridge is an enduring legacy.
Today, the region's iron working heritage is being kept alive
and well at the family run British Ironwork Centre
just outside Oswestry.
It showcases and champions metalwork as an art form.
I've come to meet one of its founders, Clive Knowles,
in the centre's sculpture garden.
It seems only fitting that the Iron Works Centre should be here.
How did it come about?
It came about approximately 12 years ago now.
We came across this wonderful 90 acre farm and the idea was that we would
eventually make it the Mecca of metalworking
here on the outskirts of Oswestry.
And that we would celebrate all the different metalworking talents,
coppersmithing, tinsmithing, blacksmithing, silversmithing,
and we've got all these artists here for the public to come and see.
We're surrounded by some wonderful examples of recent work.
I do feel as if I am standing in a farmyard actually!
We've got some classic examples of more functional ironwork
in the ploughs and what have you.
We want to genuinely put the glamour back into metalworking,
to make it fashionable again, to realise how creative it can be
and how enjoyable it can be.
The centre's eclectic collection of animal sculptures include
the familiar from the farmyard, as well as the more exotic.
Clive is taking me to see a recent commission,
a giant silverback gorilla made from thousands of spoons.
It's bigger than I was expecting.
This is the Great British Spoon Gorilla.
It's made from 40,000 spoons from primary schools all over
the country and all over the world.
It took six months of welding and about a year or 18 months
of collecting spoons.
What was the idea behind it then?
Well, it originated with a challenge from Uri Geller to do something spectacular.
We decided upon a gorilla and then we were on the road to creating it.
Well, can we take a closer look at it?
The cage is quite a symbolic feature, isn't it, in a way?
Well, the cage was deliberate.
It was for transportation, more than anything.
It's going to be doing a tour of UK children's hospitals and hospices
and it will be residing in each of those
destinations for a number of months and it's there to inspire
poorly children, because it was created from children that were well.
The gorilla sculpture was crafted by one of the centres resident sculptors -
Alfie Bradley - whose current project
is in the early stages of development.
An aim of the centre is to create artistic pieces that raise
awareness of issues affecting the country.
Alfie is building a statue of an angel made of knives,
many of them collected by the police, which he hopes will
highlight the tragedy of knife crime.
This is the knife angel.
It'll stand probably 24, 25 feet in the ear.
This is just the spine and the wings of the angel.
What, this huge chunk of steel here is the framework, is it, Alfie?
Well, what I'm going to do is I'm going to create a frame around
the spine that I'm going to weld all these knives sideways, like this.
-Wow, so they'll almost look like feathers.
And all of these have come from where?
Well, these particular knives have all come from Lancashire police forces.
We've got 900 from a knife amnesty that they've recently undertaken.
This is a very different idea to the gorilla.
This is tackling a very challenging
and pernicious issue for us all, isn't it?
This is addressing street violence, the carrying of weapons.
Every knife taken off the streets of the UK is potentially a life saved
and we are inviting any of the youths that are involved in gang violence
or street violence or want to just come here
and donate their own knife, symbolically,
and weld it on themselves, they're being invited here to do that.
And since I'm here at the workshop, Clive and Alfie have given me
the honour of being the first member of the public to
contribute to the sculpture.
I know that you're a big fan of military history,
so I've managed to find this in all the pile.
You're joking. That...
-I think it's... It looks military, anyway.
-It absolutely is.
That is a Second World War bayonet.
I think it's a great choice. Thanks, mate, I appreciate it.
-If you put yours right in the middle.
Then eventually this sheet presumably will be
-taken off of this frame and then bent around the body?
-So all the knives will sort of flare out.
-Here's a pair of gloves that you will be needing.
-Thank you very much.
Now, it's a while since I've done any welding, you're going
to have to judge my work at the end of it.
We will and we'll be very critical.
-Everybody got their helmets ready to go?
-Here we go.
-What do you think, start at the top?
With over 100,000 knives needed to complete the sculpture,
the centre is hoping to reenergise knife amnesties, and that more
weapons will be handed in to the police over the next few months.
-Well, lads, how did we do?
It's not going anywhere, is it?
No, it isn't. That's rock solid.
Well, I must confess, I am really, really flattered to have had,
as I say, a small part to play in creating what will be
a beautiful sculpture. And I think it's rather telling
that welding this weapon of war that is now being attached to
a symbol of peace, I think it's quite profound. It's a brilliant idea.
It is profound, yeah.
Alfie's aiming to complete the knife angel by the end of 2015,
when it will go on public show at the Ironwork Centre and,
hopefully, will tour the rest of the country,
helping to continue the metal working tradition which
originates from this historic region.
Well, with the budget we've had this week,
trying to decide which is the best property we've been able to
show our buyers has been a pretty difficult task.
I have my favourite and I'm fairly sure that by now
Stephen and Allison have theirs.
But are we all thinking the same thing?
Well, let's go and find out.
I said to you as we left our Mystery House that I thought
I had a favourite in mind.
But, is my favourite the same as you favourite, I wonder.
We've given you some brilliant options, I think.
All of them viable, all very different,
different prices to boot as well.
So which one is it?
Which one is your favourite?
Our favourite is the Mystery House.
-Why the Mystery House then?
The Mystery House allows us to take that wonderful property,
let it as a B&B for a number of years and then potentially
divide it in two and let half of it
as a high quality holiday let.
My money was on the house in Llangollen.
The six-bedder with the separate two-bedroom holiday let.
A beautiful house.
Not just because of the size it offered you, but because it was in
Llangollen, which markets itself, let's face it, as a tourist destination.
-And you were very keen on buying that.
-Yes, very much.
So what changed?
I think it's a beautiful house but, with the Mystery House,
Steve and I would be able to have our own separate home
which is very important to both of us.
And, of course, the Mystery House comes with 19 acres,
-which you've got all sorts of opportunities with.
What about the area?
Well, we'd still need to do some research on that
because it's not an area we know that well.
So, our intention is to do some research on that, go back
and have a second viewing and, if all goes well, then put in an offer.
-Wow. What a few weeks you've had.
You've got married, you've gone on honeymoon,
you've come on Escape To The Country and now, maybe,
you're heading off to a whole new life in the rural Wales.
You need to catch your breath at some point, I would suggest.
Good. Well, guys, it's been a lot of fun.
I'm delighted at what we've been able to show you.
I am even more pleased that one of them, at least, has captured
your hearts and your imagination and given you a vision for the future.
And thank you very much for your help.
It's been really great, thank you.
Well, let's be honest,
if you are a buyer that's lucky enough to have three quarters of a million pounds
in your back pocket, you are in a very enviable position.
When we started this house search with Stephen and Allison,
they did approach it with some pretty lofty ambitions, but I'm
pleased to say that the property market here has not let them down.
If anything, it's left them spoiled for choice
and, at long last, I think they do now have a vision as to what their
life here and their future may indeed look like.
And, as for me, well, I have loved seeing property, frankly,
that is amongst the best that the Borders has to offer.
I'll see you next time.
If you'd like to Escape To The Country in either
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Jules Hudson is house hunting on the Welsh borders with a dynamic couple who want their £750,000 budget to provide them a country home with B&B business potential. Along the way, Jules finds out how the region's iron works heritage is being recast into unique supersized sculptures.