Property series. Jules Hudson is house hunting in Cheshire with a couple who want their £400,000 budget to provide them with a rural life.
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Welcome to Escape To The Country. Now, this remarkable structure was built in 1875.
It is a marvel of Victorian engineering,
the first of its kind to be built anywhere in the world.
But what was it for and where was it built?
Well, join me in just a moment and I'll tell you.
Today's house-hunting couple are itching to embark
on a new phase of their life
and make the move to the countryside they've always dreamed of.
And at first, there's a repeatedly positive reaction to our houses.
This is stunning.
But later, they change their tune
and it's time for some straight-talking.
-I'm afraid it doesn't do it for me.
I just don't like the set-out.
Well, today, we are in Cheshire,
and this astonishing structure is the Anderton Boat Lift.
It was built to allow canal boats
using the trench at the Mersey Canal over there
to drop some 50 feet below me down to the River Weaver.
Now, it was designed by Victorian engineer Edwin Clark.
Back in 1875, it cost some £48,000 -
in today's money, about 4 million.
Now, later on in the show, I'll be back here,
learning more about its history
and, importantly, finding out exactly how it works.
But in the meantime, here's a little taster
of what the rest of this fascinating county has to offer.
Located in the North West of England,
Cheshire has a population of just over a million.
It stretches from its border with Wales in the West
to the windswept moors of the Peak District in the East.
The county may have a reputation
as the playground of the rich and famous,
as many high-profile footballers live in the region,
but agriculture still plays a central role in the economy.
More than two thirds of its land is farmed today, mainly for dairy,
and a fifth of the North West's breeding herds are found here.
This largely rural landscape
makes the county an ever-popular choice with commuters
wanting to live beyond the urban centres of Manchester and Liverpool.
The expansive Cheshire Plain is home to market towns,
such as Nantwich, which has the largest number of historic buildings
in the county, outside of Chester.
With beautifully-preserved villages and towns
giving way to undulating countryside,
Cheshire provides fertile ground for property-shoppers
in search of a rural bolthole.
Now, Cheshire is famous for many things,
but when it comes to property, it is now perhaps notorious
as the home of more than a handful of footballers' wives,
living in multi-million pound properties
within the county's Golden Triangle,
centred around Wilmslow, Knutsford and Alderley Edge.
They, of course, have inflated local house prices.
Within the hotspot, the average price of a detached property
is currently double the national figure.
But there is, of course, some good news.
Around the rest of the county as a whole,
things are much more sensible.
The average price of a detached property elsewhere
is currently £268,000,
15 grand below the national average,
which means, of course, in simple terms,
you don't need to be a millionaire to live here.
So, let's now meet today's buyers
and find out what has attracted them to this glorious county.
Neil met Denise as teenagers
on a blind date at the school dance in the 1970s.
He's fun-loving, he's adventurous, I think,
good sense of humour.
I'd describe Denise all those
but very organised.
She organises my life.
But I call Denise a corned-beef inspector,
because, no matter what I do in the house, she inspects it.
Married now for 40 years,
they currently live in Milnrow
on the outskirts of Rochdale in Lancashire.
The reason we moved to Milnrow is
-we got a job at the Milnrow Working Men's Club.
-I work in the men's club.
Yeah, steward and stewardess of a working men's club.
Yeah, when we moved out of Milner for a few years,
we only lasted five years and came back.
People that we knew 20, 30 years ago,
we still see them, you know, say hi to them.
So, it seems to capture people's hearts.
Our first house cost us £700.
-Makes me feel ancient, that.
-Back-to-back house, no toilet.
Because they've lived here for as long as they've been married,
Neil and Denise have extremely fond memories
of where they began their lives together.
However, over the decades,
the area has increasingly become part
of the busy Greater Manchester suburbs.
Years ago, when we first moved here, it was a little village.
It was a few estates, but it wasn't a big community as such.
And it's just a massive place now.
Former telecoms-engineer Neil and marketing consultant Denise
bought their current home six years ago
with the intention that it was to be their last.
But since then,
they've decided that the house no longer suits their needs.
We bought this off-plan.
We knew the motorway was there, but I think...
It's not until it was built and we moved in.
-You can hear the motorway all the time.
I think we want peaceful
is an important part of living in the country,
the noises of the country, not the noises of the towns,
-so that's why we want to go.
-Yes, yeah, exactly.
Mindful that they don't want to be too far
from their two daughters and four grandchildren, who live locally,
Denise and Neil have decided that rural Cheshire is the right place
for them to put down roots for the long term.
We want that nice fresh air,
that nice fresh smell of the countryside, you know.
What I quite like about the Cheshire countryside is - the countryside -
just getting up, getting out and walking.
I love open spaces.
Neil's been lobbying for this move for the past three years,
but it's only since buying a caravan that Denise has been fully convinced
that a move to the country could be just what she's been looking for.
On the caravan sites, you get the friendliness.
It's completely different to what...
You know, everybody helps each other.
It's the best thing we've ever invested in...
Well, we invested in each other.
Now that Denise and Neil have both signed up to a rural move,
they're excited that it marks a new chapter in their lives together.
I think we're kind of ready for going back to
where we were right at the beginning when it's just the two of you.
We've been from childhood sweethearts...
-Is it a case of putting up with each other now?
Denise and Neil are looking forward to the open space
that the Cheshire countryside can offer them.
As long as they're within a quiet, semi-rural location,
they're up for settling pretty much anywhere within the county.
I'm catching up with them
to see just what it is they're after from their new home.
Rights, guys, well, welcome to Escape To The Country,
Denise and Neil, and welcome to Cheshire on a glorious day.
-Yeah, it's fantastic, isn't it?
-This is quite a move, then.
-It is, yes.
-It's going to be our final...
-Well, hopefully, it's going to be our last.
Now, give us an idea of the kind of key components
that this new house has in your own mind, Denise.
I want it to have a lovely, big kitchen,
preferably with an island in it.
We've got a caravan, so, I want to put...
It would be a preference to have a drive, but it's not essential.
-And then, I kind of like the thought of a bungalow.
But it doesn't have to be a bungalow.
And maybe detached rather than semidetached.
OK. Anything from you, Neil, to add to that list?
I think she's filled everything, apart from I'd like a rather large workshop.
-To escape away from everybody.
-So, this is you pottering away in your retirement.
He has a shed which we call his studio.
HE LAUGHS But it's a shed?
But it's a shed.
So, I think, when we move, he wants it to become the studio.
-Now, in terms of style, you've mentioned bungalow.
Do you have any kind of real view
on what it should kind of feel and look like?
I tend to go for more modern. Neil tends to go more for...
Now, I think congratulations are in order,
-because you've just celebrated your 40th wedding anniversary.
How many times have you moved over that 40-year period?
-Four times we've moved, yeah.
Yeah, our very first house, back in the 1970s, was £700.
-OK, 700 quid, 40 years ago.
How much are we going to spend 40 years later?
I know, 3-400,000.
Well, it's 300,000, with a contingency to go to 400,000.
Yeah. Yeah, for the right property.
Now, is all this dependent on you selling your current home?
Are you ready to go?
-No, we're ready to go.
-We don't need a mortgage or anything.
-We've got the money in the bank
and we're ready to buy.
-Hot to trot.
-Hot to trot is the word.
Is it burning a hole, Neil?
It always burns a hole in Denise's pocket, not mine.
Well, I think we've got some really interesting properties
lined up for you this week.
We've got some wonderful weather, all of Cheshire to explore
and, of course, in the mix is our Mystery House.
-Looking forward to that.
-Might cost you a bit more than 700 quid, though.
-But that's how times have changed. Come on, let's have a look...
-..and see what we can show you.
With a budget of £400,000,
our buyers have drawn up a well thought-through wish-list.
They're after a three-bedroom property
with both traditional and modern features.
Ideally, they'd also like a large kitchen with an island,
and a shed or studio for Neil potter about in.
We found a selection of handsome properties
which embrace the mix of old and new features
that Neil and Denise have requested.
After each house tour,
I'll be asking them to put a price on each one.
Our final proposition will be our Mystery House,
designed to challenge them to think beyond their original brief
and open their minds to other surprising possibilities.
We're starting our property search
in the hamlet of Wettenhall in the heart of the county.
Nearby Tarporley is one of the larger villages of central Cheshire,
which flourished during the mid-18th-century
as a result of its position
on the main route between London and Chester.
It was used by traders dealing in salt mined in nearby Nantwich.
The high street offers a Post Office, a pub, a butcher's
and many independent shops and restaurants.
And just six miles away back in Wettenhall is our first option.
Right, chaps, here we are.
Property number one,
set within this newly-renovated complex of farm buildings and barns.
-But which one is it?
Tucked away in the corner. You've got two floors, which is rather nice,
-although it has a sort of sense of kind of single-storey living...
-..if you like.
-Mmm, very nice.
-I quite like it, yeah.
I've always quite fancied the idea of a barn conversion
and it does look like a big barn conversion in this corner.
A bit of communal living to whet your appetite as far as property number one is concerned.
-I quite like that idea, actually. That's fine.
Get to know the neighbours, close-knit. Yeah. I quite like that.
-Shall we go in?
Yes. Let's go.
Renovated seven years ago,
the five individual properties set within this complex
are thought to date back to 1850.
It's a solid start so far,
so let's hope the interior also gets a positive reaction.
-Come on in.
What do you think? All done, isn't it?
-Very nice. Very nice, indeed.
Done to a very high spec.
This, I guess, is your sort of dining room,
-dining-hallway, as it were.
So, it has a nice, sort of simple kind of flow to it.
This works for me. This is nice.
It's just right. I don't know what you think.
-I like this...
-..as the dining room,
but it does kind of depend on the kitchen a little bit as well.
-Well, yeah, the kitchen is through here. It's not the biggest...
-It'll be interesting to see, yeah.
..to be honest, but it does all kind of flow through.
-Granite tops, all done.
Oh, no, it's nice.
Yeah, again, high spec.
But what I like about this is,
what we want to do is, if we're entertaining,
you can still speak to people while you're in the kitchen
and this, therefore, works.
-Yeah, with it being open-plan, it flows.
-Yeah, it flows.
Even though it may appear narrow, it's actually not,
it's quite a wide kitchen.
Back through the entrance hall, lies the living room.
There you go.
Oh, now, this is cosy.
-That's a good word, that, cosy.
And I like the width of it.
I also like the simplicity of it all.
-I like that. That's nice.
It's very uncluttered.
-And we're that kind of people.
Well, it always helps in selling your property when it's presented like this,
to be perfectly honest, cos you can see the wood from the trees.
-You know exactly what you've got to play with.
I think this is more Neil than me, because of the barn effect,
but I do like... It feels nice.
The flow of it feels really nice.
-Well, there is more of a sense of the barn upstairs.
Particularly, in the master bedroom. Let's have a look up there.
-Yeah, that would be interesting.
-Yeah, OK, fine.
Just off the dining hall, there's also a cloakroom.
On the first floor, the historic features of the property
have been retained throughout the three double bedrooms,
all of which include exposed beams.
There's also a bathroom, tiled in neutral tones.
And then this is the master.
Oh, yeah, this is nice.
This is obviously the biggest of the three.
-This is lovely.
-Yeah. And again, it's...
Even though it's only got that one window, it's still very light.
-Isn't it? I quite like the fact we've got the modern
with this effect, so it fits both of us, and I like the beams.
-It's cosy again.
-I keep bringing that word out, cosy.
-And it's warm feeling in here.
Interesting. Well, let's go out the garden
and we'll talk about the price, because I think that's going to be
another interesting thing for you to kind of take on board
as to how far your budget may or may not go.
The outside space is mostly lawn with a Yorkstone sitting area
overlooking open fields.
It's pretty much a blank canvas for Neil and Denise to make their own.
-Here we are.
-Oh, very nice.
-Lots of kinds of alfresco opportunities here.
Your garden extends really up to this post and rail fence,
-and that gate. That little paddock in there is communal.
And you access it from over there.
-That's your garage in the middle of that lot.
-Oh, right, yeah.
-Nice double-door garage.
-So, you can bring it in, your shed, as it were.
-Well, studio, come on.
-It's going to be pukka, isn't it?
-I'm glad you said that.
-You'd put it, like, in this corner here, wouldn't you?
-Well, let's think about the price, then.
-Well, I would say 35, 355.
355? Yeah, OK. Neil?
Well, I'm going higher, because it's a project that's finished,
and, with that in mind, I'm going to go 375.
If it were 299,950...
-That's an eye-opener.
I don't think it is going to be 299.
-Very surprised. Very surprised.
-Yeah, so am I.
I think we'd have to look into the definite studio thing, as well,
to make sure that it is feasible, cos that is important,
cos I don't want Neil in the house all day.
She's trying to say I'm under her feet.
-Well, look, I think we've given you an interesting proposition here...
-..at a very interesting price point
-to start with.
-It is. It is, yeah.
So, go and have a wander around, get the feel of it, why not?
Check it out, explore it.
-And I will come and find you a little bit later.
-OK, thank you.
Below budget, at just under £300,000,
this generous three-bedroom barn conversion
has been renovated to an excellent standard.
Outside, the garden gives way to views of open countryside.
Altogether, an impressive package.
The style of these barns, it appeals to me.
This is what I've been looking for for quite a long time.
So, yeah, as soon as we approached it,
I thought, "Oh, this'll do for me."
When I saw the kitchen, initially, I thought,
"This isn't the kitchen that I was dreaming about."
But because of the openness of the dining room
and then into the living room,
it actually felt like a nice-sized kitchen.
Quite liked outside.
I quite like the fact that it wasn't overlooked.
You've got all these fields behind you.
Nicely set out garden, lovely.
For this property, I feel that, if I could move it
into more of a semi or a detached, it would be a definite contender.
Property number one.
-Almost on target for you.
Little bit wide of the mark for you.
-So, we need a direct hit, don't we, really?
-Right, then. Let's have some lunch
and then we'll see if we can achieve that with property number two.
Cheshire's historic canals stand testament
to water being the lifeblood of the county's industrial activity.
But as well as providing a transport network,
it also fuelled the growth of Cheshire's biggest industry,
water-powered textile mills thrived throughout the county.
And it was silk mills that really put Cheshire on the map.
From the 1800s, Macclesfield was strategically-placed
on the textile trade route between Manchester and London.
Over the next century,
it became one of the leading silk-producing centres in Europe.
And today, its legacy is kept alive
through museums and heritage centres.
Denise and Neil are keen to know more about the area's history,
so we arranged for them to visit Paradise Mill,
one of the last remaining silk mills in Cheshire
to meet tour guide Mike Scott.
Welcome to Paradise.
Thank you, mate, thank you.
So, Mike, how old is the mill?
It's approximately 140, 150 years old.
The last company to actually use this mill as a working silk mill,
didn't close until 1981.
So, why was silk produced in Macclesfield?
They say that some of that silk came into Macclesfield
for the purpose of covering buttons.
Silk buttons were a status symbol.
The more silk buttons you had, the more wealthy you were.
-Shall we go and have a look, and have a look at the looms?
-Yeah, that'd be lovely, Mike. Thank you.
-Come this way.
Silk had to be twisted through the water-powered machines
before it could be used to cover buttons.
It was this process that formed the beginnings of the silk trade
in the UK, with mills in Macclesfield, Congleton, Stockport
and Bollington becoming silk powerhouses.
What type of looms are they?
They are Jacquard looms,
which means that they can produce patterns.
It was the first programme board machine in the world.
It was given to us by a Frenchman, Joseph Marie Jacquard.
He was born in Lyon.
And he produced this system
whereby you could produce a set of punch cards.
The machine will read the holes in those cards
and select the warp threads to lift or to stay down.
-Right, very interesting.
How much was made on one loom?
It is a very slow process.
Two yards a day.
Between 1743 and 1940,
over 100 mill sites were built in Macclesfield,
and, by the 1830s, nearly half of the town's population
were working in the textile industry.
Would it be possible to have a demonstration?
and perhaps you could have a treadle or two yourself.
-Oh, that'd be lovely.
-Right, come this way.
I wonder if Denise will rise to the challenge.
From there...to there.
About that big.
-She's got a good right hand.
-That's it. Yeah.
I'm awaiting for the shuttle to fly out.
-So am I!
I wouldn't like to do that for eight hours a day.
Silk has always been more desirable than cotton for many reasons.
Often, it's down to its texture, lustre and draping ability,
which made it a luxurious, almost exotic, textile.
It was also easier to dye into practically any colour.
We're in the little part of the factory now
where design was paramount.
So, how old, just as a matter of fact, would these samples be?
These would probably be up to the end of the '50s,
-something like that.
So, why did the factory close, then, in '81?
Well, there was a number of things, really.
The tide was certainly against it.
They had their good times.
Silk was no longer the preserve of the very rich
and, also, there was a lot of import penetration coming in.
There was also polyesters and viscose coming in as well,
which made the whole thing cheaper.
So, cost went against them, so they had to go and close.
-It's a shame, really.
Having stepped back into Cheshire's productive textile past,
it's time we spooled forward to the present day
to continue our property search.
Our second property lies in Beeston, known for its series of locks
located along the Shropshire Union Canal.
Nearby is the larger village of Bunbury,
whose corn mill is thought to date back to 1290.
With a mill pool and stream running by,
its thriving centre has a number of useful amenities to hand,
including a store with Post Office, family butchers and two pubs.
Just a five-minute drive from the heart of the village
and with great views of Beeston Castle from its doorstep
is our second property.
Next on our list, on our little tour of Cheshire's rural hotspots...
-..is this one.
-What do you think of that, then, Denise?
-Oh, that's lovely.
-That is nice.
Why does this one appeal?
-Well, it's a semi, for a start. It's got a conservatory.
It's got a beautiful garden and it's more private.
And I like the character.
It's got loads of character, this place, looking at it from here.
-This is not the kind of slick modern finish that we saw earlier.
But, that said, I think there's lots of scope for you to sort of...
-You put your own stamp on it, then, don't you?
-And you're a handy bloke.
-Oh, he is. Definitely.
-So she keeps saying.
THEY LAUGH Well, it's worked for 40-odd years, hasn't it? Let's face it.
-Yeah, that's right.
-Come on, then. Let's have a look.
-Yeah, let's go.
This handsome Victorian redbrick semidetached property
dates back 120 years.
Laid out over two storeys,
there's more than enough space both inside and out
for Neil and Denise to make this a forever home.
-Grab the door, Neil.
-So, your conservatory, obviously.
And then straight into one of the two reception rooms, really,
-that this place offers you.
Oh, this is nice. This is lovely.
-This is more you.
-Yeah, this is definitely you.
-This is me, yeah.
How is it you?
It's the cottagey feel for me.
-Yeah, don't mind it. I don't mind it.
You don't mind it but you don't love it?
I don't love it at the moment,
and the only reason why, if I'm absolutely truthful,
is I would do something with the stairs.
Yeah. It's a bit '70s, isn't it?
Yeah. I wasn't expecting that.
But it can be changed.
I would keep these.
-These are really nice character.
-I think you would have to. They're holding the house up.
Good point. Well made. You can tell he was an engineer.
-Right, come and have a look at the kitchen.
-Let's see it.
..is this a bit more like it?
A bit more of the size.
-This is a country feel for me.
-This is definitely a country kitchen.
But I would... I mean, I'd change it slightly, obviously.
Well, I'd have this just purely as the kitchen.
It's a nice size and it's very roomy.
You've also got a really big and quite extensive
utility area through there.
-Yeah, it's the right size what we're looking for.
-Let's crack on with the tour.
-Let's get upstairs.
Follow me, this way.
Heading back through the sitting room,
it's time we explored upstairs.
Here, there are three bedrooms -
two doubles with high ceilings and large windows,
along with a small single.
And they all share a family bathroom.
And then, finally, we're thinking this is for you.
It is the biggest of the three.
Although, in many ways, I quite like the guest room actually.
-I like it, because that room next door overlooks the castle,
-which is nice. It's away from the road, which is quite nice.
-It doesn't quite flow the same, this upstairs.
-Mmm. I think you can do something quite interesting
-with the end boxroom...
-..and the family bathroom,
-knocking those together...
..to give you a nice, big family bathroom...
-Yeah, and two bedrooms.
-..and just settle for two bedrooms.
-Which is fine, cos there's only you and I and occasional guests.
-That's right, occasional guests.
For me, it doesn't flow quite the same up here.
But I think, if I came back and had a few more visits,
I could get back into that kind of flow of visually seeing it.
So, upstairs has taken a little bit of a dip.
-Just a little bit of a dip.
Well, I'm going to see if we can pick ourselves back up again
by heading outside.
My hair's standing on end.
Essential to Neil's retirement is the need for man-space
he can call his own,
and I think this one could do quite nicely.
There we are, Neil. Just for you, mate.
-This is definitely for me.
-This is the workshop I want, yes.
I think we might put a hammock in here for you, as well.
-HE LAUGHS And it would get him out of your way.
-Let's get out there and conclude
with a talk about the price, then.
Outside, the large lawn is surrounded by established borders
and has amazing views of Beeston Castle,
with uninterrupted countryside all around.
So, time now to think about the price.
OK, so, the final bit.
I think I'd put a price on this of about 340.
Now, I'm going to go slightly higher and do 370.
It's actually on the market - on the market -
-Top of the batch.
Top of the clock, isn't it, really?
-However, it is, of course, open to sensible offers,
which is where I think your 370...
-..ish would probably be something worth talking about.
-Right, then, off you go.
-Go and explore, the pair of you.
-And I will catch up with you a little bit later on.
£50 under their top budget,
this three-bedroom semidetached
has the character and proportions
that Denise and Neil asked for,
while offering scope for them to put
their own personal mark on it.
Crucially, it also gives Neil
a ready-made workshop
and those countryside views.
it's an attractive proposition.
When we arrived at this Victorian property
and I walked up the drive,
I just thought, "This is absolutely beautiful."
I was quite surprised how big this property is
and the land at the side, as well. It was really surprising.
The gardens were superb for me.
Yeah, they'll do for me.
I just weighed up at the side of the workshop,
I could put the caravan, not a problem,
and then, going inside the workshop, that did it for me.
It was... Yeah.
Just my size.
Now, what would you do with this room?
I'd just turn this into a dining room
and move that table out the kitchen
and put our own table in here.
It's nice and quiet.
Lovely meal and away you go.
Yeah, well, I have to say I'm coming round to your way of thinking.
When I went upstairs, I was expecting a lot bigger bedrooms,
so I was disappointed.
This Victorian house, for me, is in the right location.
Lovely house, but it does need a bit of tender loving care,
just to bring it up to stamp.
-Gosh, what has happened to the day?
-It's freezing now.
-Look at the cloud. I think it's going to start raining.
-Oh, don't say that.
-OK, so, a busy day.
Are we getting closer to figuring out what it is we're after?
-I think so, yes.
-Yes, you are.
I think you've got a better idea now
and we're tightening the brief a little bit more.
-It's a work in progress.
-It certainly is.
Right, come on, beer time. Let's go.
Sounds good to me.
Retired childhood sweethearts Denise and Neil
have up to £400,000 to spend on making a move
from suburban life in Rochdale to the Cheshire countryside.
They've been on the same page
with the two properties they've seen so far,
but coming up, our Mystery House causes conflict...
I'm not with you on that one, I can't see that one.
-I can't see that at all.
..and I found out how one impressive Victorian structure
revolutionised the way goods were transported
on Cheshire's famous waterways.
So, we're now kind of isolated in our own kind of watery bath...
-..50 feet above the river below us.
Well, when we started out with Neil and Denise, they gave us such a broad brief,
I thought our task might be somewhat easier,
but of course, it is throwing up its own challenges.
When you are on the hunt, you do need to have some idea
of what it is you're looking for.
Initially, they weren't that bothered about style
or, indeed, location.
But Neil, it seems, does quite like a barn conversion
and certainly responds to that cottagey feel.
But Denise, on the other hand,
well, she is proving to be a much tougher nut to crack.
So, it's another day, our final day,
with plenty more to see, including, of course, our Mystery House,
which I hope, in its own rather distinctive, crafty way,
may provide everything they're looking for.
Before the Mystery House, we're heading to our penultimate property,
which lies in the village of Warmingham.
Here, the River Wheelock runs around the outskirts of the centre,
which is home to a pub.
Nearby is the busy town of Sandbach,
where there are frequent food and craft markets
held in the attractive cobbled square.
There's also a Post Office and other handy amenities.
Our next offering is just a five-mile drive away
in rural seclusion.
-How about this? Was that a "wow"?
-That was a "wow".
We've got the wow factor.
So it should be. This is lovely.
Bathed in sunlight.
-Look at that.
-Yeah, well, that's definitely got the wow factor.
Well, wait till you get inside,
because I'm going to put my head on the block
and say I think this is you all over.
-I'm not going to disagree with that.
-Well, let's see if I'm right. Come on, let's have a look inside.
Constructed in 1875 and formerly a dairy,
this L-shaped barn was converted eight years ago
into three properties.
As they'll see, the renovations have been completed sympathetically
and to a really high standard.
-Come in, mate.
-Oh. Oh, look at this.
-What do you think?
Blown away. It's beautiful.
Nothing to do here at all.
And I guess this gives us a natural kind of choice as to where we go first.
To the right there is the living room.
-But to the left is the kitchen.
So, where are we going to start, Denise?
-I think to the left.
-I thought you'd say that, yeah.
-Let's see the kitchen.
Come and have a look.
Good choice, Denise.
-I thought this was where you'd want to start.
This is stunning.
-Is that not the kitchen you're looking for?
-Oh! The island in the middle.
I think it's absolutely perfect.
The beauty about this kitchen, Jules, is
when we're in our kitchen at home, we're under each other's feet.
-Not in here.
-You can stand there.
-I'll stand here.
But what I like is actually the extra room for sitting and dining.
-It's big, it's spacious.
-But it's done to our taste. This is something that I would choose.
-You've found the right one here.
-Yeah, the handles, everything.
-So far, anyway. It's beautiful.
-It's just lovely.
-Even the handles! No-one's ever said that before. I love the detail.
Good, we're getting there. We are finding our way, aren't we?
-I think you've got there at the moment.
-Well, let's nip across the hallway and look at the living room.
So, all good so far,
but I wonder if Neil and Denise would've been just as thrilled
if they'd taken a right turn at the entrance hall.
Time to find out.
There you go.
This is - I'm going to use the word again, Jules - it's stunning.
I need to think of some more words that relate to stunning.
Stunning's good. I'd leave it at stunning.
Again, wouldn't change anything.
So, do you want to buy the whole lot with everything in it?
We don't need to look upstairs.
Oh, yes, you do. Believe you me.
-It's well worth seeing. I tell you what's interesting
about this one, cos it's not massive, let's be honest,
but it does feel big enough to give you both your own space.
Oh, of course.
-Without a doubt, yeah.
-Yeah, I've already put Neil down there
-on the settee there and I'm there.
-Managed him in the kitchen, so...
-She's put me near the remote.
-Yeah, yeah, yeah, I can see what's coming.
It's the bee's knees.
Yeah, it's beautiful.
-Well, let's have a look upstairs. It will not let you down, I can assure you.
Well, the character downstairs has really delivered
and that continues at the top of the oak staircase.
How about that?
-That's stunning as well.
There are four bedrooms in total -
three generous doubles with one currently laid out as a study,
benefiting from a fitted wardrobe, and one single, used for storage.
There's also a family bathroom with a Jacuzzi bath.
This is your master bedroom.
Yeah, original beans.
And you've got the bonus of your shower en suite.
-I love the shower.
Look at the shower.
-Massive walk-in shower.
-Told you it wouldn't disappoint you.
-It certainly hasn't.
-No, definitely not.
No, I can't find any...anything.
-You can't fault it.
You've done your homework today.
But it's not over yet.
Come and have a look.
Outside, there is a large and immaculate lawn
and a flagstone patio.
It also has a greenhouse
and a shed, so Neil and Denise can potter to their hearts' content.
Plus, it also benefits from a double garage.
There we are. That's it. The whole package is now complete.
-Couldn't wish for anything better.
-Now, let's think about your studio.
-Can you see what the neighbours have done?
-I can, yeah.
-That's the type of thing I'd like.
-That's it, isn't it?
-That is, yeah.
And I think you'd find some space down here to do that.
-In fact, I was talking to the neighbours earlier,
-they built their own.
-I'd have ask to him, then, would he build mine.
There's a project, yeah. THEY LAUGH
So, let's think about the price of this property, then,
because I think it appeals, Denise, doesn't it?
It appeals, yes.
So, Madame, make me an offer.
Yes, well, cos I really love it, I'm going to guess at 385,
but I think it's more than that, but I want it to be 385.
-HE LAUGHS You want it to be?
-I want it to be 385.
I'm going to go way over budget here and say 425.
Well, here's the thing, you're both wrong.
-But in a good way.
This is on the market for 389,950.
-So, that should put a smile on your face.
-Oh, it went bang.
-THEY LAUGH Good.
-Well, you've surprised me with that...
-..with that price.
-I really thought it was well over budget.
Well, look, I think you should have a better look around upstairs
-because it really is sumptuous up there.
-And I will come and find you a little bit later on.
-Lovely, thank you.
Off you go.
Making plans to move in, I think.
So, still within
their maximum budget,
this converted dairy
with its four bedrooms
is beautifully presented throughout.
The huge kitchen with its island
was an obvious hit with Denise
and the studio options open to Neil
seem to have made this property
a genuine contender.
This is nice again. Good size.
-Nice guest bedroom, this.
You just can't fault it, can you?
When we went into the kitchen,
I just couldn't see anything wrong with it
in any way, shape or form.
Sometimes, you want to put your own stamp on something.
That had my name on it.
The style of the house, for me, is everything.
It's got that rustic farm feel about it.
Oh, right, yeah, this is another full-sized room again, look.
Might even be an extra dressing room.
-Oh, well, I thought as much.
The sitting room's another one.
It was just nice and cosy,
the right size what we're looking for.
I could see me and Denise sat in there, without a problem.
The downstairs, the size of it, the feel of it, everything was perfect.
The bedrooms, four bedrooms, and all big.
The original beams, and it just complemented everything.
How I would sum up this particular property
is stunning, stunning, stunning.
-How we doing, then?
-Really good, Jules, really good.
I think things are hotting up in more ways than one.
They certainly are. They certainly are.
I'm all of a flush.
Do you want to see the Mystery House?
-Let's go for it.
-Erm...oh, do I now, Jules, really?
-It might put a spanner in the works.
-I know. That's the fear factor.
-Come on, toughen up.
-Let's go for it.
Now, what do you think we've got in mind for our Mystery House, then, Neil?
For some reason, I'm looking towards thinking
it's going to be like a project, an old church or something like that.
I'm looking forward to seeing it.
Is this mystery property going to be a huge studio
with a little flat on the top of it, Jules?
THEY LAUGH It could be anything, Denise.
It could be anything.
One thing that has become clear from property one
is the idea that a bit of community living might appeal.
Yes. Yes, it does appeal to me.
I don't mind neighbours around.
I think, for me, it was just
I would've preferred the house to be
slightly more detached away or a semi.
OK, so, if we found you something that had a similar feel,
but gave you a sense of a bit more space, that might...
That would, yes, that would tick the box, yes.
I thought she was going to say tick the box.
THEY LAUGH Everybody's ticking boxes on this show, Neil.
For our final offering, we're heading 20 miles north
to Frodsham where the River Weaver and the Mersey meet.
With good access to the coast,
Frodsham today is a lively market town.
The high street with its two pubs and handful of independent stores
is interspersed with pretty houses.
And just three miles outside of the town
is our rather imposing Mystery House.
at last, I can reveal our Mystery House.
-What do you reckon?
Yes. It used to be the Crossley Sanatorium or Crossley Hospital.
But what we've got for you isn't an apartment,
-you'll be pleased to hear.
-Well, let's go for a wander and find your Mystery House.
Built in the early 1920s, this Grade II listed building
was initially a hospital for TB patients.
Having also spent its former years as a nursing home and a school,
it was completely and sympathetically developed
25 years ago.
See, you get away from the main building out here
and it's like walking through a kind of very quiet, leafy suburb.
-Well, that's the Mystery House.
-I like the way it's laid out.
-I like all this architecture on the roof.
-I'm not as keen.
-I'm not keen on the pebble-dash...
-..I have to say.
and I'm not overly enamoured about living near what was a sanatorium.
HE LAUGHS There's no more TB, that's all long gone.
-I know. I know.
It did. But I'm keen to look inside.
Good. Right. Come on, then.
Our Mystery House is located in a private, gated development
with a community of its own,
which may offer Neil and Denise an alternative
to living near a village.
Through the entrance hall, our first stop is the dining room.
Let's start in here, then, guys.
-Oh, this is nice.
-Nice dining room.
Yeah, it's a good size, this.
It would make a very nice living room actually, but you've got one next-door.
I think we need to look at the other rooms as well,
cos, to me, this could also be the living room.
-I'm delighted you're giving it its due.
-This is all good.
-Let's have a look at the living room. This is lovely.
-This is a really good family space.
-Oh, right. This is lovely.
-But it's contemporary as well.
-Nice size. It's very contemporary.
It's a lot bigger than I thought.
And these lovely windows that go out onto the little patio there
-and the garden beyond as well.
Pleasantly surprised, to be honest with you.
-You see, but I would make this maybe the dining room.
-Well, you could, couldn't you?
You've got a lot of room here and it would work quite nicely, because,
-with a dining table there, the kitchen is through that door.
Well, if that was the case, if you wanted, then you could have... You could knock through
-and have a huge lounge.
-Look at you with the creative poking about.
-There you go.
I thought I'd better put ten penneth in.
Yeah, well, you've done more than that. Let's call it ten quid.
That is very good. Very good.
-Right, come and have look at the kitchen. That's through here.
Well, Denise does seem to have warmed a little since coming inside,
although I suspect a lot will hinge on the all-important kitchen.
There you go.
Oh, that's nice.
-Very simple, really, actually.
-And I'm afraid it doesn't do it for me.
-It's just the set-out, really.
I just don't like the set-out.
I suspect if you could, for example, if we're going to get creative...
-..somehow create a kind of garden room
that occupied that space out there
-that links the kitchen with the main living room.
-I don't mind the kitchen, actually. I really don't.
-That's interesting, actually.
-That's cos she's seen a wine rack in the corner.
-It's kind of almost full.
But upstairs is also pretty expansive.
-Let's try the upstairs.
-Let's have a look.
You've got an extra floor with this one.
Back through the entrance hall, we're heading upstairs,
where there are three bedrooms laid out over two levels.
On the first floor, there's a large single bedroom
with its own modern ensuite shower room,
as well as a simple family bathroom.
In the eaves, there is a further newly-decorated double bedroom.
But we're stopping off at the bedroom I've earmarked for them.
So, this is yours...
-Right. The master, yeah.
The only thing that I would say is that I would've preferred
the bed up there and the wardrobes here,
because it feels strange having the bed to the back of the door.
I'm not with you on that one, I can't see that one.
-I can't see that at all.
It's great being a fly on the wall with you two. It really is.
I love it. Carry on. Go on.
Yeah, well, I just think that, if you walked in,
it's nicer to see the bed,
so you put the wardrobes on this and then put the bed up there.
-Well, then, wouldn't the wardrobes be stuck out so far, so you'd go...?
You're blocking it in, this room.
OK. It's, erm...
-Yeah, it's... Again, you've had the problem with the kitchen.
-You've got the problem with the bedroom.
-I've got the problem with this bedroom.
-So long as everybody's got a problem...
..that's a problem.
-Right, come on, let's come out and get some fresh air.
-After you, Jules.
-Maybe that's what we need.
The garden here is deceptively large,
extending through a small area of woodland
and backing onto open fields.
Now, when we were discussing things in the living room,
-it was all much bigger than you'd expected.
-What about the garden?
-It is, isn't it?
-So, really surprising, this one, isn't it?
It is a surprising one.
Yes, and I also actually don't mind the pebble-dash
on the back of the house.
For some reason, it fits with the back.
-Got a result, there, Jules.
-SHE LAUGHS Well, have we, though?
Have we, though? Because there is one more bit to come, which is...
One more bit to come?
I thought you were going to show me a swimming pool, then, Jules.
-You got me all excited.
And it was all going to open up.
Yes, the price.
Neil, make us an offer on our Mystery House.
I thought about it and I've put a price on at 360.
Actually, I think I'm going to match you.
This is on the market for £385,000.
Yeah, I can understand why it's kind of at that price.
Well, that's it. House tours are over.
-Go and have a wander around
and I will catch up with you a little bit later on.
-OK, thank you.
-Off you go.
£15,000 under their top budget,
our Mystery House delivers
generously with three bedrooms
and smart decor throughout.
It has a large, secluded garden,
but will the origins and setting
of this private development
sit easily with our buyers?
Initially, I wasn't overly keen on the outside.
But I like the feel of the house.
So, that kind of overcame the outside.
The lounge was superb.
Lovely wood fire, nice view into the garden.
I quite like that and the neutral taste as well.
I was pleasantly surprised at the size,
and it's contemporary, which I love.
But at the end of the day,
I think the hospital bit has really put me off.
I didn't like the impression of the kitchen at all. It threw me.
The very large handles on all the units,
it just threw in my face and I just didn't like that look at all.
Some of the things I didn't like, but it's not bad,
you can overcome that, but all in all, it wasn't the best of them.
Ah. Well, you took a bit longer then I thought you might.
Is it a grower, I wonder?
Erm...well, pleasantly surprised, to be honest with you.
-You've definitely given us plenty to think about, Jules.
-I think we've given you bags to think about.
-You have that.
Some very tempting options.
Right, then, let's go and sit you down somewhere nice and quiet
and you can mull it all over.
Built in 1875 and designed by Edwin Clark,
Cheshire's Anderton Boat Lift was one of the most ambitious feats
of Victorian engineering on Britain's waterways.
It was designed to use two enormous tanks of water as counterweights,
each weighing over 200 tonnes when full,
to lift cargo boats 50 feet
between the River Weaver and the Trent and Mersey Canal.
This hydraulic method was a far quicker way of transporting goods,
avoiding the time-consuming and difficult job
of unloading cargo by hand between the two waterways.
As a huge fan of the Industrial Revolution,
I want to learn more about this architectural icon
of our canal network,
so I've come to meet Graham Wood from the Canal and River Trust.
Wonderful. What a great way to get a glimpse of this fantastic structure.
-It is remarkable, isn't it?
-It is. It's amazing.
But why was it built here?
This is the closest point that the Trent and Mersey Canal comes to the River Weaver,
so it was an obvious place to put it.
Northwich and surrounding areas were massive salt producers
in their day, and Stoke-on-Trent, of course, famous for its pottery.
So, to get things from one level to the other,
so that they could move them onto Manchester Ship Canal
and move them all over the country and all over the world, this was the obvious place to do it.
So, what were they doing before the lift was built?
They'd have chutes for the salt.
So, you'd have a massive chute on the hill behind us,
and the salt would be brought to the chute in barrows
and then tipped down onto the chute and onto the boats below.
And pottery was having to be moved by hand.
Now, I would love to take a closer look.
Is it possible to get on top of it?
-Yeah, no problem. We can get right up onto the top deck.
-Come on, then.
The lift remained in service for over 100 years
before structural faults were found and it closed in 1983.
20 years later, a seven-year renovation project was undertaken
to bring the lift back to life,
and today, it's used by both commercial and leisure boats alike.
I mean, I got a glimpse of these from down below,
but I had no idea just how big these cogs were.
That's an amazing shot, isn't it?
-What a wonderful view, it's like an enormous clock.
-It is, it's marvellous.
-How many are there?
-There's 72 altogether.
-And when do these date from?
These date from 1908, when it became an electronically-driven lift.
It's because the salt content in the water was corroding
the hydraulic mechanism.
So, it begins life as a hydraulic lift,
it then has its electric phase.
Now, during your subsequent renovations,
you've decided to take it back to a hydraulic lift. Why?
It's more economic doing it hydraulically
and it returns it back to its original roots.
Well, it's been a real treat to get a sense of it,
-but any chance of a ride?
-No problem at all.
If you'd like to go on the boat, we'll go now.
Boats come off the canal and into the aqueduct
through a series of gates.
The lift works by a counterbalance method,
whereby one boat travels up to the canal
as the other travels down to the river.
Fascinating, there, the gates above us. Brilliant. Look at that.
MACHINERY DROWNS THEM OUT
I'm amazed they managed to stay on.
The next stage involves the operator opening another set of gates,
which allows us to sail into the giant bathtub-like tank,
known as a caisson.
So, here we are coming actually into the lift itself.
-Is that the gate?
-Yes, that's the gate.
That's the gate.
-Once we're in, they'll drop the gates behind us.
Are we going to see another boat coming up alongside us now?
Yes, there will be boats coming up alongside us.
The lift operates in balance the majority of the day.
We can do 32 boats a day.
Now that sounds like somebody's just pulled a plug out.
That's right, that's the last of the water disappearing
-down the drain.
-Between the gate and the...?
-Between the two sets of gates.
So, we're now, kind of, isolated in our own kind of watery bath...
-..50 feet above the river.
Today, the hydraulic system may be computerised,
but the speed at which the lift moves evokes the pace
of a bygone era - a gentle nine feet per minute.
-So, at last, we're dropping.
I say dropping. Thankfully, it's very controlled.
Yeah, it's a lovely smooth movement.
I can certainly see how it's got that name,
the Cathedral of the Canals.
It's absolutely brilliant, absolutely brilliant.
Do you think Edwin Clark thought of it as the Cathedral of Canals
when he designed it?
Maybe he did, maybe he had a soft side.
I'd like to think he had a sense of the romantic about him.
-Revolutionary in its time.
-Yeah. And yet, here we are,
it's still working in all of its glory.
Well, I'm delighted to see this working,
I'm delighted that it has survived all of those years
and, with any luck, Graham,
it should continue well into the future.
Now, the conversation that we have to conclude any house tour
is always a chat that I look forward to.
Now, some weeks, it's pretty hard to tell which way
it's going to go, but this week, well, I've got no worries.
Ready to go? Look at that. Is that for me?
-Fabulous, guys, thank you very much indeed.
Well, it all seems like quite a long time since we started this,
When you started this process, how optimistic were you
about finding a home that would work?
I was more pessimistic than optimistic,
but you've turned it around for me.
Um, I think, because of the brief we gave you,
a little like Neil, I didn't know whether you'd get
the right property for us.
OK, let's cut to the chase.
We've given you plenty of options, all of them interesting,
all of them worthwhile in their own way.
But I suspect there is one that's really out in front.
Yes, well out in front, I think, yes.
-Lovely barn conversion.
What was it about that property that really sold it to you, Neil?
When we walked round the corner and you showed us the expanse
of this barn conversion...
-That whole kind of wing?
-The wing, yeah.
It blew me away and I didn't know what to expect.
I was getting excited, thinking, "I can't wait to get inside here
"and have a look." Beautiful.
When you opened that front door and let us in
and I saw this entrance hall...
-That did it for me.
And I gave you a choice of whether we went left or right.
-You correctly picked the kitchen.
That I knew would sell it to you.
It certainly did, the minute I walked into the kitchen.
It had everything and the island in the middle,
it just was everything we'd asked for.
What happens next?
Well, I'd like to look at the amenities.
So, at the weekend, I want to come back and have a good look around
the area and then, once we've done that, I think we'll ask
for a second viewing.
I think there'll be no stopping her.
Do you need a second viewing?
It's one of those times where my hand will go in the wallet.
Well, guys, it's been a real treat. I've really enjoyed your company,
I've thoroughly enjoyed being back in Cheshire.
So, well, let us know what happens.
-Here's to you.
-And your new life.
Well, our work here is pretty much done.
The sun is beginning to set over Cheshire's glorious countryside
and the whole landscape is now bathed in this wonderful,
rich, warm glow.
Our house search is over, but with any luck,
Neil and Denise's new life is just about to begin.
I'll see you next time.
Well, the hot news is - Denise and Neil
have had a major change of heart.
In an enormous U-turn, they've decided to stay put
in Rochdale and buy a holiday home in Portugal instead.
But they do intend to revisit their country move
in a few years' time.
If you'd like to escape to the country in England,
Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland and would like our help,
then please apply online at...
Jules Hudson is house hunting in Cheshire with a couple who want their £400,000 budget to provide them with a rural life. Along the way, Jules visits one of the finest feats of Victorian engineering on the UK's waterways, the Anderton Boat Lift.