Property series. Jules Hudson is on a house-hunting mission in south Wales with a couple who have £350,000 to find a family home in the country.
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Welcome to what promises to be a fairly military Escape To The Country.
Covering some 30 acres, this beautiful castle behind me really is
a masterpiece of medieval architecture.
But where is it? Well, join me in just a moment and I will tell you.
Today's property hunters have decided to say goodbye to a nomadic
army lifestyle and have set their sights on buying a forever home
in the countryside - so we've pulled out all the stops to impress them.
-I like it.
-Do you want to buy it?
What's more, the size of our properties gets them eagerly planning for the future.
-We have to have more babies.
Well, today we are in South Wales
and these are the truly fabulous remains of Caerphilly Castle.
It was built over a 22-year period during the late 13th century
by Gilbert de Clare.
But, astonishingly enough, that enormous keep behind me
was put up in just three years.
Now, not only is it second in size to Windsor Castle,
it was the first castle of its kind
to be built with two sets of defensive walls
making it virtually impregnable and technically concentric.
And it's that concentric design that, at the time, was hailed as
a turning point in the construction of castles like this one
and went on to revolutionise the design of fortifications
right across Britain in the years ever since.
It is remarkable. I love the fact that it's so complete.
But, as you might expect, there's more to this part of the world
than just the medieval history.
South Wales is famous for the valleys that carve their way through
counties such as Monmouthshire to the east and Glamorgan to the south.
This area played a key role during the Industrial Revolution
and was synonymous with coal mining.
To the north of the region lie the dramatic Brecon Beacons, which cover
520 square miles of mountainous national park.
Around four million visitors a year flock to this stunning natural landscape.
Some may have spotted wild Welsh ponies grazing the lush moorland,
which have roamed these slopes since Roman times.
To the south and looking out to sea is the Vale of Glamorgan,
where you'll find the Glamorgan Heritage Coastline, with views over
Cardiff Bay and the Bristol Channel.
Standing proud on its cliffs is the Nash Point Lighthouse,
which was built in 1831.
It was the last manned lighthouse in Wales until 1998,
when it switched to automatic operation.
The history and varied geography of this part of the British Isles
offers a genuine wow-factor and provides a real escape for those
looking to turn their back on an urban existence.
Now, across South Wales, house prices can vary hugely.
In the ever-popular Vale of Glamorgan and next door in neighbouring Monmouthshire,
here the average price of a detached property is currently £265,000.
It's only £17,000 below the national average.
So, if you want more value for money, well, here is the top tip -
head into the former industrialised heartland
of the Welsh valleys themselves here.
For the same sort of property,
well, you could knock £100,000 off the bill.
So, what about today's buyers?
What has attracted them to jump onto the Welsh property ladder?
Well, let's meet them and find out.
Andy and Kelly have been married for nine years
and recently had their daughter, Evelyn.
They are both officers in the British Army.
Andy helps rehabilitate injured soldiers and Kelly ensures
doctors and nurses in the medical corps are ready for deployment.
Andy is very meticulous, very funny.
He is a great dad and he's just a really nice person.
Kelly is warm, friendly, a really good mother,
very thoughtful and very, very helpful.
Military life means they have been moving home every couple
of years and the pair have also spent periods of time living apart.
But now with their daughter and two Springer Spaniels - Dave and Milly -
priorities have changed.
I think, because we have moved around so often, we're used to not
having roots and anywhere to stay
and it would be really nice if we gave Evelyn the opportunity to have
those roots and have friends that she's going to grow up with
and not be moved every two years and disturbed.
These evocative valleys and mountains have special memories
for Kelly in particular.
We want to move to Wales - South Wales, in particular -
and the main reason being is that I went to university there
and have lived here the majority of my childhood.
And we find that when we come back here,
-we always feel quite at home.
After 28 years of service in the army,
Andy is due to retire in a matter of months.
It means he could be a stay-at-home dad
while Kelly starts a new placement in Cardiff.
So, this is the first property we have ever bought.
Yes, we're really excited about that.
-We are both first-time buyers. Mature first-time buyers.
So, that's really exciting and I know that's going to be
a challenge because we do have different criteria that we want.
-Give and take a little bit.
-A little bit.
-A little bit, yeah.
Although buying houses is completely new terrain for them, they do agree
on their love of the great outdoors.
It just seems a natural place for us to move to
and we're more a countryside family than we are a beach family.
We're outdoor people.
You can get up in the morning, open your window, got beautiful views
or you can just go put your walking boots on and away you go,
go up into the hills for a wee wander. It's great, isn't it?
To establish a home in the country will be a big lifestyle change
for both of them, but one they are more than ready to make.
I think every time we say we're coming back to Wales, we get really excited about coming.
Yes, get butterflies.
Andy and Kelly are looking for a location that would be within
a 30-mile radius of Cardiff, but also close to the Brecon Beacons,
where they both have fond memories of training exercises
they've completed there over the years.
But before we start our search, I'm meeting up with them in the region
to get a clearer idea of what they're after in their new home.
Well, Kelly, Andy, welcome to South Wales.
Now, you're both in the army and, unusually,
you've only lived together for, what, 1½ years,
-even though you've been married for how long?
-Er, nine years.
You see, you fell at the first hurdle.
So that's an extraordinary thing and I think, for many people who aren't
familiar with service life, that's kind of not an unfamiliar pattern,
-is it, really?
-No, not really. It's part and parcel of the jobs.
We accepted that when we both joined.
But we've just had a baby eight months ago and she's changed our priorities.
Times have changed.
It's time to find our roots, settle down and get ourselves
sorted out for Evelyn when she's growing up.
You've had plenty of time to imagine what this new house
is going to look like. What does it need to have, then?
We've been quite spoilt with military quarters,
because they've been generally quite large, but they've been
quite boxy with lots of different rooms.
So, separate dining room, separate kitchen, separate lounge.
And what we would like is an open-plan living space.
So, kitchen-diner with potentially an open-plan lounge attached
-or at least one or two reception rooms that are quite large.
-We've got two Springer Spaniels, so we need a big garden.
We've got some gym equipment, so if there was room in the garage
for our gym equipment, that would be wonderful. Four bedrooms and...
-Decent sized garden.
-Yeah. And that's pretty much it.
We're very low-maintenance, I think.
Now, talking about the garden, I read in your notes somewhere
that you said, "Life is too short for gardening," Andy.
I say I want a large garden, but easy to look after.
I don't want a lot of plants. I'm not a plant man.
-Just really something for the dogs, isn't it?
-That's all, yeah.
And how much are you going to spend?
You've had plenty of time to save. What's the budget?
We've got up to £350,000 to spend on a nice house.
-That's going to go quite a long way here.
-Oh, we hope so, yeah.
I think many people will be quite surprised at the sort of value
for money that one can achieve in this very unique part of the world.
Well, I think we've got some really interesting properties to show you.
I'm hoping the weather will improve slightly.
Let's go and see if we can spend £350,000.
So, armed with that decent budget,
Kelly and Andy are looking for a house with four bedrooms.
Ideally, the reception areas would be open plan and the property should
have a generous garden and enough space to house their gym equipment.
They're also looking for a location that offers them an outdoor lifestyle
whilst being commutable to Cardiff.
With a great mix of homes up our sleeves,
we're hoping to impress Andy and Kelly.
I'll be holding back on the respective price tags
until they've fully explored each property.
Lastly, of course, we'll be marching our way towards the Mystery House
that will take them to uncharted territory,
but could provide a magnificent payoff.
Now, one thing we haven't really talked about is style of property.
Well, I like a new-build, really, Jules.
Clean, that looks nice and clean and tidy and uniformal from the outside.
But Kelly likes the old...
I don't mind what it looks like from the outside
cos it's all about the living space for me.
And it's really quite nice
if something surprises you once you go into it.
So, it could look like a shed and if you go in
and it's got the living space that we need, I'd be more than happy.
That's just as well, because we've got lots of surprises
for you this week. I hope good ones!
We're kicking off our house-hunt in Ystrad, which is a 40-minute drive
to Cardiff for Kelly's work.
It's a former coal mining community set in the Rhondda Valley
with great access to a variety of bracing walks for our buyers.
There's a good selection of amenities nearby and a choice of two
primary schools that could work for daughter Evelyn when she's older.
Finally, the railway station offers a direct service
to Cardiff in just under an hour,
so I think this area could be a good option for our young family.
Our first property is set halfway up a hillside, surrounded by meadows
and woodland, in a peaceful spot.
-Look at this, a classic view of the valleys.
-Especially splashed with sunlight.
-And that's the property I want you to look at.
It looks quite big.
I just hope it's as nice on the inside as it is on the out.
-That looks really nice.
-I'm really looking forward to it.
-Come and have a look.
This modern brick-built house was constructed in 1994.
We're bypassing the main entrance and stepping inside via the doors
at the end of the property, leading into the kitchen area.
-Now, I think this is a real treat.
Straight into the kitchen-diner...lounge.
-It's really slick, isn't it?
-This is lovely, yeah.
-I like it.
-And look at that.
-I like that.
-They can't take that with them, can they?
-No, that's going to stay.
First impressions are I like this.
-As a family living space for you and Evelyn...
-I love it.
Yeah, I really like it.
I can see Evelyn crawling, walking around. The dogs would love it.
-For the dogs, this is a brilliant solution...
-This is ideal.
-..this kind of travertine floor.
-I love it.
You did say in the car that actually it was all about the inside
-and I think this is a property that does that.
-Yeah. I like.
The finishes are just terrific.
-I mean, look at this. It's huge!
-I've always said I've wanted this in my kitchen.
-You have done, yeah.
But I said on the floor, but it's on the worktop.
-This is lovely.
-I think it's lovely.
I just feel like the whole family gather in here.
This has got a really nice feel to it, to be honest with you.
-I like it.
-Do you want to buy it?
Good. Right, let's go through to the living room. Come on.
-It's got so much space. That's what I love about this place.
Now, this little room on the right was designed as a study,
-but they filled it with some other furniture.
-But this is your living room.
-Yes. Light, airy.
Smaller than I thought, but it's fine.
And I love the fireplace. That's a lovely feature, really lovely.
I like the whole sort of separation, which is nice.
You can just come and chill out here.
And I think a slightly warmer feel with the oak floor as well,
which is nice for those evenings.
It's still got that great view. The windows offer so much light.
-Effectively, it's two rooms down here.
-But I like that.
I mean, that's what we wanted. The living space is important to us
and we would live in these two rooms.
-Now, upstairs, five bedrooms.
Two bathrooms and, as you would expect,
-the finish up there is just as good.
Well, if it's like anything down here, yeah, my God.
-Just you wait.
-Come and have a look.
'Well, so far, so good.
'We're continuing past a handy cloakroom at the bottom of the stairs
'and making our way up to the first floor.'
On one side are three bedrooms and a family bathroom.
And, on the other, two bedrooms, including the master and a wet room.
There's the clever inclusion of a door halfway down the hallway
that would allow them to split the living accommodation in two,
so our couple could shut themselves away if they had guests.
These five bedrooms consist of a bright and compact single,
a spacious double with dual aspect
and another double with an imposing view of the adjacent valley ridge.
They're all serviced by the stylish monochrome family bathroom.
At the other end of the hallway is a bright double bedroom
currently home to a running machine.
It's a space Kelly and Andy could also use for their gym equipment.
There is also a well-appointed and tastefully decorated wet room
opposite the master bedroom.
-There we go.
-Oh, OK. This is nice.
-Nice, nice. Spacious.
-Our German bed would fit in, which is good.
-German? So, large?
It's lovely. The views are amazing, aren't they?
Let's remind ourselves that you haven't ever property-hunted before,
so this is all really exciting.
It's really exciting and we've just got to remember
to rein ourselves in a little bit and maybe think with our heads
-rather than our heart at the moment.
-No. Go with your hearts.
-I love it.
Jump on the ride and see it to its end, that's the point of it.
For the first property we've ever viewed, this is stunning.
And it's exactly what we wanted. It's our style of property.
-This is lovely.
-I think this is a really, really good start.
-It's an amazing start.
-How much is it worth, then?
-Oh, I don't know.
Start thinking, cos I'm going to ask you in a minute.
This high-spec family home has really delivered so far,
but we do need to explore the outside space.
The garden is tiered and the top section is grassed with a brick-paved
patio area for unwinding and taking in the brilliant views.
The lower section, made up of sloping lawn, could be landscaped further.
It does need a bit more work and I'm happy to share some ideas.
-Personally, I'd look to kind of join them together...
..with some nice sweeping steps
that took you down with a new sort of fencing or hedge arrangement
round the front that would be Evelyn-proof, dog-proof and so on.
But that's the only thing, because the property itself
has got more than probably you were imagining.
-No, more than we expected.
-It's slightly overwhelmed us a little bit, I think.
-It has, yeah.
But the garden isn't too much of an onerous task.
I think we wouldn't be too scared to do that.
No, not at all. I can live with the garden.
-So, got your hands in your pockets.
-Yeah, jingling my change.
I was going to say, "Let's fish around for that 350,000 that's
"tucked away in there somewhere."
What do you think this is on the market for, then, Kelly?
It definitely has to be the top end of our budget,
so I'm optimistically going for £350,000.
I'm going to go more, just for the five bedroom, location, views.
I'm going to go 365.
-Well, here's the thing, it WAS on the market for £375,000.
But it's been reduced to 350.
-On the nose?
-On the nose.
-Yeah. My God! JULES LAUGHS
-Yes, very happy.
Why don't you spend a bit more time and have a wander round and just
cement in your minds what this offers you?
-I'll catch up with you a little bit later on.
-Off you go.
-Thanks, Jules. Thank you.
Bang on budget, this house gives our couple pretty much everything
they asked for and more.
They wanted four bedrooms,
but this home has five.
It offers the impressive open-plan
living space they wanted
and it's located in the heart
of the Valleys with plenty of countryside to explore.
It's also a 40-minute drive to Kelly's work.
So, I think this would be Evelyn's room. Big enough for her furniture.
-Absolutely - play area.
-Play area... And it's really cosy.
I was quite overwhelmed by the feeling of space,
but it is exactly what we're looking for
and I think all of our boxes have been ticked.
And this bathroom is the guest bathroom. Huge two-person bath.
I can just imagine lying in that bath.
Well, you can't cos that's the guest bath.
-But what about when we haven't got any guests?
-We can just lie there, glass of wine and look out there.
-Oh, I love it.
I thought property one, it has beautiful views,
very, very spacious house.
It had that warm, homely feeling to it, as well.
Walking away from house one, very content.
Now, then, ah! In the kitchen. This is the place, isn't it?
This is going to be the heart of this home, if you buy it.
Yeah, yeah, absolutely.
Let's go and show you something else. Come on, follow me.
On the outskirts of the Brecon Beacons National Park is
Merthyr Tydfil, which is home to the Brecon Mountain Railway.
Andy and Kelly clearly have a particular passion for this part
of the world, so we have arranged for them to take in the landscape
from a completely different point of view.
Our buyers are meeting up with Michael Hills -
son of the company's founder and a lover of all things locomotive.
-Hello, I'm Michael.
-Andrew. Nice to meet you.
-Nice to meet you.
-Kelly. Nice to meet you.
-Nice to meet you, too.
Are you glad you're moving to the area?
Yes, we are. Really looking forward to it.
By the 1960s, the Brecon and Merthyr Railway had become redundant because
people were using cars and there was less freight to be transported.
But, thankfully, Michael's father acquired the land in 1979 and,
with the help of his family, breathed new life into the line.
By 1980, the doors opened to the general public
and today there are four steam trains that ferry passengers
up and down the five-mile track.
-Is it busy throughout the year?
-It is, yes.
We get an awful lot of passengers in the summer,
all across the world to see the Brecon Beacons and the views.
-So, it's a busy track, then?
-Yes. We carry 85,000 passengers a year.
So, how is the railway funded?
We're funded by actual tourism. We purely rely on passengers.
We're not a charity or a trust or anything like that.
And every person which buys a ticket on the Brecon and Merthyr Railway
helps with restoring these steam engines and maintaining them.
Over the years, the Hill family have extended their fleet by purchasing
neglected or wrecked locomotives from around the world.
It's a long-term mission that has seen them buy locos from as
far afield as South America.
This is our old steam engine, which we brought back from Brazil.
It's 1897, it was in a terrible state when we had it,
but we're hoping that it should be running on steam next year.
TRAIN WHISTLE BLOWS
It's time for Andy and Kelly to jump on board.
They're travelling on Locomotive Number Two -
a Baldwin Pacific that was built in Philadelphia in 1930.
It was bought by the South African Eastern Province Cement Company,
but it was derailed and wrecked in 1973.
Anthony and the team purchased it in 1993 and spent four years
rebuilding it, making it fit-for-purpose once again.
What's the top speed?
Well, on this locomotive,
-it's probably around 65, 70mph.
-But we do 50.
-A nice, comfortable way to view...
-Nice and comfortable to see the views and relax.
-It is beautiful.
The journey takes over an hour to get to Torpantau.
It's the highest point on the route, where passengers can enjoy
wonderful views from the all-weather observation carriages.
Well, at the moment we're going past Pontsticill Village.
You can just, at the moment, see the outline of the reservoir.
Originally, that village there used to be in the reservoir
before it was built. The old church, when the water's very, very low,
you can still see the top.
It's still there, the structure.
and you can see the Brecon Beacons just off into the distance.
The impressive Taf Fechan Reservoir was completed in 1927
and holds over 3,000 million gallons of water,
which supply cities such as Cardiff and Swansea.
TRAIN WHISTLE BLOWS
What's the purpose of the whistle?
-The purpose of the whistle is for warning.
And he's whistling there for anybody on the station or anything
-to know that there's a train coming through.
Maintenance crew, so they know that a steam engine
just entered their section, and for the railway enthusiasts...
-I love that.
-..because they love the whistle.
-Is it powered by coal?
Powered by coal, which is mined three miles away at Ffos-y-fran.
-It's proper Welsh steam coal.
-How much coal does it use?
Well, this loco, in comparison to most,
actually uses very, very little.
It uses half a tonne a day and that's on four trains a day.
So, it's very economical and very environmentally friendly.
It's taken over 30 years and a lot of hard work to get all the trains
and track operational, but they still have big plans for the future.
Just around there, where you'll see those trees have been felled,
that's where we hope to lay the next two miles of track,
taking you right to the foot of the Brecon Beacon hills.
Well, it's the end of the line for Kelly and Andy.
-Thank you so much, Michael.
-That's all right.
-It's been a pleasure to have you.
And there's no doubt this heritage railway experience
has given them a unique perspective on this part of South Wales.
But now, it's back to the house-hunting.
TRAIN WHISTLE BLOWS
Our next destination is Ynysybwl,
a former mining community and the closest we've lined up to Cardiff.
Kelly's commute would take just half an hour.
In the 1841 census, it was noted that the village only had 200 inhabitants.
But it transformed and thrived after 1884
when the Lady Windsor Colliery opened.
The last census recorded that just under 5,000 people
were living here, and despite the closure of the pit in 1988,
the resilient community remains in this part of South Wales.
The property I'm showing Kelly and Andy
is a five-minute drive away in a situation surrounded by farmland.
Right. Come over here, then.
-There we go.
-There is a prize if you can tell me when it was built.
-There you go. Well done.
A very different proposition to number one.
Much more rural here,
which I think is worth testing the water with, as it were.
Yeah, it suits me down to the ground.
-And look at that view across there, lovely.
-Oh, it's beautiful.
-It's really lovely.
-It's ideal, actually.
-It feels quite secure.
Um, because our dogs seek out trouble,
the front garden is secure and if I let them out,
I know they're penned in and they can't go anywhere, which is great.
The whole thing is very dog and child-proof, I will say that. Happy?
-Yeah, very happy.
-Let's have a look.
This distinctive detached family home
has an impressive approach and five bedrooms.
It might just provide our first property with some stiff competition.
-There we are. Not a bad entrance hallway, really, is it?
-It's not bad.
It's amazing. Really impressive, isn't it?
I'm speechless, to be honest with you.
I like the light fitting, actually. It's quite funky.
Yeah, no, I love it. I hope they keep that.
-It's really nice.
-It's really nice, really light, open.
I just want to look at all the other rooms.
Well, everything kind of emanates from this hallway.
But have a look at this living space. This is huge.
I mean, if you're into big sofas,
-this is the room in which to put them.
Yeah, they're quite impressive, these sofas,
and a lot bigger than ours, I think.
-This is a really good family property, I think.
And for a potentially growing family,
you've got bags of room to grow into,
because this is a property you want to be in for a long time.
Well, we're looking for, hopefully, our forever home to settle in
-and get squared away.
-It's so exciting, isn't it...
..getting rid of the whole temporary life that's dogged you
-for so many years?
-Now you can really put down some roots.
Come and have a look at the kitchen-diner through here.
There we go.
This is nice.
I wasn't expecting this at all.
I like it, yeah.
It's nice, isn't it? Clean...
-Yeah, I like it.
Well, we've got you five...bedrooms! ALL LAUGH
Not that you need five,
but you've got them whether you like it or not, so, come and have a look.
Also on the ground floor is a sitting room
that could make a snug or TV room,
and a study with useful fitted shelves.
But we're heading upstairs...
I liked that kitchen, nice.
..to the five bedrooms, two of which are good-sized child-friendly rooms
with built-in wardrobes and drawers.
There are two further double bedrooms,
one of which has fitted wardrobes and a desk area built in
and another that could make a cosy guest bedroom.
All these share a family bathroom,
which is tiled and has a range of fitted cabinets.
And then there's the sizeable en-suite master bedroom.
And then, this is yours, we think.
-Oh, yeah. I love it.
-This is, yeah, yeah...
-That's big, that's... That's nice and big.
-Really good size.
-We'll fit our German bed in.
-This German bed!
-Obviously, quite large.
-And more space.
-I really like it.
-There was almost a "but" then.
-No, there is no "but"!
I just can't find a but.
I do, I like it.
This is the en-suite arrangement.
Shower room, wet room kind of thing.
It's kind of interesting - no door.
But, again, nicely finished, that's the key thing to take away,
I suppose. But I think, as a room, as a proposition,
this is a really interesting way of packaging up our final bit
of the tour, because I think this is a property
that you really can grow into. I mean, we talked about it before,
but hopefully that's the kind of picture, it's...
I agree. I think, in time, we could make our own stamp on it.
-Yeah, lots of things to think about.
-Yeah, it's a good one, isn't it?
-Very good, very good.
-All right, then.
-A really good choice.
Let's pop out to the garden and talk about the money, shall we?
I'm hoping we've cracked it with this house's garden,
because it's a good size for the dogs and for Evelyn to play in,
but it's all on one level
and wouldn't need a lot of care and attention.
There we are. Very simple arrangement here for you, Andy.
-Yeah, easy to look after.
-Really, really simple.
That's the garage, which is now given over to the sort of gym space,
which you can look at a bit later on.
There's quite a lot of stuff in there, but you'll get the idea.
There is plenty of space for us and a low-maintenance back garden
-is really good.
-It's great for me.
-And really secure here.
-I've got a good feeling about it.
-So, you've got £350,000, sir,
make us an offer.
Well, I'm going to go with the top end of the budget
and I'm going to say 350.
I have my fingers crossed that it is under budget at 340.
-Bit cheeky, isn't it, really? 340,000.
It's on at £339,950.
-So, apart from 50 quid, or whatever it is...
-I love it.
-Definitely food for thought, isn't it?
-Off you go.
-Have another look around.
Get the bug for house-hunting.
Under budget, this detached modern home, built in 1999,
fulfils many of the elements on their wish list.
Our couple like the fact that it's got five bedrooms,
a huge living area to spend quality family time in
and an easy-to-maintain garden.
It's also the closest property to Cardiff.
I've got a feeling they're also going to take a shine
to the double-fronted garage, as well.
Oh, yeah, this is...
Plenty of room for our gym...
-Yeah, a good size.
-..and other storage.
-I like it.
-Good, yeah. Happy with that. Yeah, I like it.
We know the area a little bit,
we have friends that live relatively close to here
and we're close to the A470,
which is one of the main routes into Cardiff,
so it's really handy for the commute, I think.
There are no bad points about it, just a bit of work inside,
the interior decoration. But, apart from that,
more than content to move in tomorrow morning.
Yeah. Really, really good property.
-After you, sir.
-Thank you, Jules.
-He's a real sir, isn't he...
-Not for long.
-..with a rank to go with it?
Yeah, retirement beckons, of course.
But, I think this house-hunting lark is rather appealing to you two.
-It's not bad, is it?
-I think we're enjoying it.
-Yeah, I really am.
-Is it easier than you thought it would be?
-Yeah, it's just like shopping!
-Just like shopping(!)
Well, the key thing is, you've got to buy something at the end of it.
But, a good first day, I think.
So, let's get you away,
catch up with your daughter, and tomorrow is another day.
-More to come.
It's the second day of our property search in South Wales
and, with a maximum budget of £350,000,
Andy and Kelly have decided to put an end to their roving lifestyle
as officers in the British Army
and put down some roots in the Welsh countryside.
Coming up, we've still got the Mystery House to show them,
which promises to transform their outlook.
That's just amazing.
People pay millions for that view.
And I get privileged access to one of the nation's most treasured institutions.
What would that have bought you back in 1643?
I think you'd had to have been a pretty wealthy guy
to have one of those.
Well, as you can probably tell, we're having an awful lot of fun here
in South Wales with Andy and with Kelly,
a couple who are clearly so excited at the process of house-hunting,
and the prospect of buying their very first property together...
Well, it is palpable.
So, what can we possibly come up with on our final day?
Well, two more properties to come, including our Mystery House.
If they fall in love with everything by the end of play,
they're going to have a very difficult decision to make.
But, before we reveal our Mystery House, the next home
we've lined up is on the outskirts of a town called Abersychan.
This location would mean that Kelly has a 45-minute drive
to get to Cardiff for work.
However, it does provide them
with easy access to the beautiful terrain of the Brecon Beacons.
Abersychan also has a rich industrial past
with a history of iron production and mining.
However, in the late 1980s, the town fell into decline
as a result of pit closures.
But in 1999, two successful funding bids were secured
and, since then, around £17 million has been invested in the community,
which benefits from being in the middle of these valleys
and superb countryside.
The house we're visiting has been built on the hillside
and definitely benefits from its elevated position.
So, what have we got for you this morning? Look at that.
-Now, those hills you can see surround Bristol.
So, between us and there, somewhere in the gloom, is the Bristol Channel.
It's an astonishing view right down the centre of that valley,
over Pontypool looking kind of south-eastward.
And this property makes the best of those views.
That is huge.
You can see it's arranged over what appear to be three floors.
It's actually over four floors.
-It goes right up into the loft space at the top.
It's a four-storey, six-bedroom family home.
-Oh, my God.
-And it's got a gym.
-We have to have more babies.
I thought we were going down the furniture route but no,
you are going into the family route, OK.
-I hope you like stairs.
The current owners built this four-storey modern family home
with sensational Valley views.
At ground level is a double garage with electric up-and-over doors
and a separate space that is currently being used as a gym.
-Very good for the legs, this house, I think.
-This is beautiful.
But we're heading straight for the first floor that consists
of a reception room, which at the moment is being used as a study,
and also a tastefully decorated downstairs cloakroom.
Open-plan living is really important to Kelly and Andy.
I'm confident this property has a space they'll love.
But, before I take them there,
we're popping into a room that's perfect for unwinding.
Now, there is so much to see with this one.
We're going to whizz through it
-and then I'll let you have the house to yourselves.
-But let's start with the living room.
It's big enough for our furniture.
Not too big, not too small. It's just right.
Again, lovely views out there, a little Juliette balcony.
The fire's interesting, actually. It's a sort of lookie-likie number.
More of a convector heater, I would suggest.
-Very modern kind of feel to it, actually.
-Clean. You'd like that.
I like that. I really like the flooring. Nice, yeah.
-Right, kitchen. You're going to love this.
Here we go, look. This is fantastic.
-Ha-ha! You jumped. Oh, caught you by surprise.
Really light, airy, open.
I like the sort of kitchen into the conservatory.
I like the little play area.
I mean, you could have this more as a sort of family area but the
conservatory, the current owners use that really as a good dining space.
They get all the family round.
-I mean, it is just enormous. There you go, and the view.
This is brilliant.
-This is fantastic. This is stunning.
Perfect for a dining space.
Right then, we've got another two floors to explore.
It goes on, doesn't it?
The second floor is home to a well-equipped spacious family bathroom,
a bedroom that's currently used as a walk-in wardrobe,
two generously sized children's bedrooms and a large,
light and airy double bedroom, which is a good option
for the master, given that it benefits from an en-suite.
-Oh, that's lovely.
-The view is amazing.
All I can see is trees and the quarry.
Very nice, very nice.
-And it's got very nice en-suite shower room in there.
So, this is the current master.
However, when they built this house, they designed it
-so that the master should really be upstairs.
-OK, so there's two masters?
There are two masters, yes, indeed. Come and have a look at this.
'I'm keen to get them into the loft conversion to see what they could
'earmark as theirs if they want a bit of seclusion.'
This could give you your very own master suite.
There is another bedroom through there,
more as a kind of storage room at the moment.
But this is what they designed as the master.
-This is amazing!
-I thought the first one was nice, this is impressive.
-This is a living bedroom, isn't it?
-This is... Yeah.
Sofa in the corner over there. Really nice en-suite through there.
These skylights work a treat, actually.
-Smiles all round.
-Yeah. Like it a lot.
OK, let's see if you can afford it.
-Come with me.
-That's the big question.
Well, their reactions to this house have been overwhelmingly positive,
so let's see what they make of the easy-to-maintain terrace garden.
And although the outside space is on different levels, the decking,
landscaping and fencing is all finished.
Now, there is lots more garden for you to explore, but I thought
-we might as well finish up where we started, with that lovely view.
-Hands are in the pockets.
-Well, you might have to dig a bit deeper on this one.
-I think we might.
Let's play a little game then. Who's going to go first?
I think it's over budget.
It deserves to be over budget because it's a beautiful property.
So I'm going to optimistically go for £375,000.
Me, I'm going to go slightly more. The house is fantastic.
It's beautiful, well presented...
I'm going to go for 395.
It's on the market for 300...
That's good. Good start.
-Is that a deal then, Andy?
-That house... Shake...
Go on, then. There we are, done. Brilliant.
It just goes to show what you can achieve here
in the Valleys of South Wales.
I'm speechless, I am. The house is beautiful. The price is even better.
Oh, my God.
-That doesn't happen often.
-Not at all.
-But it's lovely.
-Good. Go and have a look at that garden area.
I think it's important to see if that will work practically, you know,
-for your daughter and for the dogs, of course.
And we will give you a little more time here perhaps...
-..to soak it all up.
-Off you go.
-Thanks, Jules. Thank you.
Brilliant. Well, there we are.
It's quite nice when buyers are left speechless.
It doesn't happen very often,
but this is a property that's certainly done it -
it's in the right place and, my goodness me, is at the right price.
I think we've well and truly shocked Andy and Kelly
by finding this incredible home
that is £25,000 under budget.
Its four storeys wowed our couple,
as did the bright and airy
conservatory with splendid views
and the six bedrooms.
It's got a completed garden
and it would take Kelly just
45 minutes to drive to work.
First impression was wow. Took my breath away.
I can see 90% of our time sitting in this conservatory with a nice
glass of wine looking at them views.
If I had my chequebook on me right now,
I'd quite happily make an offer right now.
-I think we've got some view from up here.
Oh, yeah. That's amazing.
Really see Evelyn, the dogs running around here. You know, good fun.
I don't really foresee any negatives
other than things that I would have to do is to check the schools
and I just would like to know that there were the amenities
that we would need in the area.
But, other than that, I think it is a lovely home.
I really, really like it.
-Hi, guys, how are you?
-You're very happy, aren't you?
We've really spoiled you this week. I love it! And look at that view.
That's going to spoil you forever more, if this is the one you buy.
Our search could be over, let's be honest.
We've got plenty of options for you thus far.
But we have one more to see.
It's our Mystery House. Are you ready for something different?
-Ready but nervous.
-Ready but nervous, good.
Well, it's certainly different. Come on.
So, it's our final day, then.
I think it very much is a case of so far, so good,
but what might our Mystery House look like, do you think, Kelly?
Maybe perhaps a bungalow or something a little bit different.
As long as it has open-plan living, I am open to anything.
-Now, this is an exciting time.
-Oh, yeah, it's great.
-It is exciting.
You're house-hunting for the first time,
-you're buying for the first time.
-I'm really excited about
finding our own home, settling down and...
-I really want it to work for you. I really do.
I think you deserve it after all these years serving the nation.
-Running round the world, risking your life.
The least we can do is find you a nice house, Andy.
However, to force them to reconsider their wish list,
our mystery proposition takes us away from Cardiff
and towards the remote village of Bwlch,
which would mean just over an hour's drive for Kelly's work.
It's located in the heart of the Brecon Beacons - an area dear
to Andy and Kelly's hearts
and somewhere they want to explore further.
Bwlch is a popular base with outdoor enthusiasts in pursuit
of activities such as mountain biking and hiking,
with some lovely circular walks for them to enjoy.
Our mystery property is to the south of the village in lovely
countryside with majestic views of the national park.
In many ways, it's classic Escape To The Country
and it's got far more of a period feel than our previous options.
-So...our Mystery House.
So we've decided to give you a slice
of something which is much more rural.
So, for our Mystery House, we're going for a classic cottage.
So this is arguably the smallest property that we're able to show you,
-but it's still got four bedrooms.
It is the lion's share of this building,
so it's technically a semi, but you wouldn't really know
because the neighbours have only got the smaller end.
-So you get the bulk of it.
-Yeah, I'm interested.
Come on, then.
Cat knows where it's going, look. There we are, leading us in.
'The outside of our mystery cottage is a sympathetic mix
'of old brick and modern render.
'And the current owners have renovated the interior throughout,
'including a rather chic downstairs bathroom
'with Victorian style roll-top bath.'
-If you can grab the door, Andy.
-There we are.
You know, cosy and bijou, is what I'm selling it as.
I like a country cottagey feel. Yeah, it's definitely a cottage.
It's had a lot of work done to it relatively recently,
so the kitchen is all new.
And I think they've done it really nicely. It's very crisp, very clean.
-The floor is great again, for the dogs and so on.
I think it's an interesting proposition. It's a very different
-from anything we've been able to show you.
Um, because we wanted the open, airy, light feel.
We get that on the outside here as opposed to on the inside, I think.
-Could you envisage this sort of environment, Andy?
I'm still a bit unsure.
To me, it's a bit too...closed in.
I like a bit more open space for me.
But it does get a bit bigger though here.
You might be surprised, actually.
-There you go.
-Oh, it's bigger than what I thought.
Yeah, deceptive, isn't it?
It's open, it's light, but I do have a feeling of being enclosed.
The ceiling isn't, you know, low-low, but I can feel it.
-The log burner is just stunning.
-I think it paints a picture.
Again, a much more rural picture than what we've perhaps seen.
-More classically cottagey, I suppose, one would say.
-It is lovely.
-Now, on the outside, I did tell you it had four bedrooms.
Come and have a look.
Upstairs, all the bedrooms share a walk-in shower room
equipped with a modern suite.
The sleeping accommodation comprises two currently unfurnished rooms.
One large enough to be a double
and a potential single with exposed floorboards.
There is also a single with garden views on two sides
but I am saving the largest bedroom until last.
-And then finally, bedroom four. This is you.
-Oh, that's a good size.
-It is a good size, actually.
Bigger than I thought it would be from the outside.
Compared to the other rooms, yeah. It's a lot bigger.
I think it's rather sweet.
And, of course, the view from there, I mean out.
-I mean, these open rather nicely, too.
-Oh, wow. Yeah.
I can imagine waking up in the morning and just...
-God, you can't...
-That's just amazing.
People pay millions for that view.
They would pay millions for it.
I mean, you won't have to, but it will cost you something.
Shall we go down to the garden and talk about the price?
The garden runs along the side and back of the property
and provides a tranquil space.
Right, ooh, there we are. Watch the bush. Come over here.
There are raised beds for growing fruit and veg, a greenhouse,
chicken coop and a pretty sun terrace for lazy afternoons gazing out
across the countryside.
Look, the cat has got the right idea, enjoying the sunshine.
-Yeah, basking in the sun.
-Come on then, have a pew. Take a seat.
Take the weight off and enjoy that view
because it is gorgeous, isn't it?
-Yes, it's beautiful.
So, it's a nice spot.
It's a different proposition to what we've shown you before,
and in terms of pricing it, you've been pretty good so far.
But I don't know, with this one, how close you're going to get
because we've got the Brecon Beacons, that's a draw,
although it's a smaller property.
-Where does your 350 come on this one?
-I'm going to say 300,000.
I think I wouldn't want to pay more than 310 for this.
That's honest. Yeah, you wouldn't want to pay more than 310.
Well, you won't have to.
Er, it's 295.
You were right!
-Oh, wow, OK.
Now, in terms of its price, and your future plan, it's an interesting one
because, yes, it would be a property
-in which you could all comfortably fit.
It may not be forever,
but at 295, it takes the pressure off to the tune of £55,000, potentially.
And maybe it's a five-year plan, maybe it's a ten-year plan.
Yeah, a stepping stone perhaps.
Exactly. Go and have a wander round. Take in these views.
I'm going to take in the sunshine.
-And I will catch you a little bit later on.
Our Mystery House is yet another
option that comes in under budget.
It was always going to be a gamble taking Kelly and Andy
to a rural cottage, albeit with four bedrooms,
but which gave Kelly a longer commute to Cardiff.
However, I think showing them something at the heart
of this incredible setting was well worth it.
The location is amazing
and this is always somewhere that I would really love to settle,
purely because you would never get tired of the views
and the countryside is on your doorstep.
And I am really pleased it is such a contrast to the other properties.
Well, it's something to think about.
I mean, the location, the area, the views,
you've got to take all these into consideration.
Is it going to be our forever home?
Evelyn, where is she going to grow up here?
And most importantly is Kelly's work.
Kelly commuting every day to work.
-Ah, how are we doing then?
-Not too bad.
Wow, you know, what a week!
I have absolutely loved it and we have given you so many options.
-You have got a lot to think about.
-Yes, we do.
We have a lot. Yes, we have.
I've got just the place for you to think.
One of the most stunning views in the Valley. Come and have a look.
Set amongst the rolling countryside of the Rhondda Valley
is the site of the Royal Mint, where all British coins are made
and where access is strictly controlled.
I'm afraid none of those things are allowed on site.
No coins, no cameras, no camera phones. Right, there you go.
-Can you put them in there for me, please, Jules?
-No cash, that's interesting, isn't it?
-Well, it is the Royal Mint.
-Yeah, you make it, you don't give it away.
Minting began in Britain around the end of the 2nd century BC
but by 1279, the Mint had secure quarters within the Tower of London.
London was the Mint's home up until the 20th century,
when it then moved to this part of Wales.
I am meeting the Royal Mint Museum
director Kevin Clancy to find out why.
What brought it to South Wales, because it's not an obvious location
for something as important as the Royal Mint?
The key thing was that James Callaghan was
-Chancellor of the Exchequer at the time.
That job, and still does, carries the other title,
Master of the Mint.
But he also happened to be a Cardiff MP.
So he put it on his own back yard.
There's a line that he didn't matter what valley the Mint moved to,
provided it was a Welsh valley.
We have been here for 40 years and it has been a success.
So it was a good decision.
But it's hard for many of us to imagine a world without money.
-We take it all for granted, don't we?
It's part of the air we breathe, in a sense, you know,
our economic life has been defined by money
for the last 2,500 years - by coins, particularly.
There are around 80,000 items in the Royal Mint's historic collection.
Since the 10th century,
coinage has displayed an image of the monarch with the crown.
This tray features rare pieces from the reign of Charles I.
This is a gold coin,
-a Triple Unite.
-Can I hold it?
-If you hold it by the edges.
-Is that solid gold?
-That would be 22 carat gold.
-There he is. Charles I.
Of course, who infamously lost his head following the Civil War.
Look at that, 1643.
I mean, what would that have bought you back in 1643?
I think you would've had to have been
a pretty wealthy guy to have one of those.
300 years later, and in January 1936,
Edward VIII succeeded George V as king.
By the end of the same year, Edward had abdicated,
leaving the Royal Mint in a bit of a quandary.
As we would do with the beginning of any new reign,
the Royal Mint would make designs for a new portrait,
it would prepare new designs for the tail side, for the reverse
of the coin, because we thought this reign was going to go on and on.
And this, in the end, is essentially all that was made.
He abdicates, and literally, these were put in a safe.
And I think there was a note on the box in which they were kept
to say, "Not to be opened until after his death"
-or something like that.
The reign of our current queen, which has gone on
for many decades, must have provided the mint
with a great deal of reassurance, albeit her image changing over time.
There's a sense of euphoria,
no question, about this post-war Britain.
And that it's been a long reign, that stability that comes with that,
we all draw comfort from that, I think.
Next, I'm meeting Gordon Summers, the Mint's chief engraver to learn
more about the creative process of coin making.
This is pretty much where we do most of the work
developing the designs into coins.
-And this is the latest one we're going to see later on this year?
It's designed and modelled by Jody Clark,
one of our newest engravers.
Looking around your studio, Gordon,
you've got, yes, very modern hi-tech digital imagery there,
but also some very traditional looking tools over here.
Yeah, we're still using traditional skills that go back
thousands of years, still using the same sort of tools -
basically, pointy bits of metal that we use for engraving
and removing other metal.
Skilled processes that take years to learn, very simple tools.
But how do you go about getting an image like that
onto a coin that most of us would recognise?
It's a long process. We'd start with a design.
We have to have a design that is suitable for coinage.
But once the design is selected, we have to make some sort of model.
We'd either do that digitally or we would make a plaster model.
So this is a super-size version of a pound coin?
Yes. We're working bigger because we can get the detail in,
we can get the quality of the finish on it.
And then we would digitally reduce it down to the size
of whichever coin we're going to produce.
Many people will be surprised that this isn't a more mechanised process,
given the kind of acceleration of technology these days.
It's a combination of all these sorts of technologies
but it's about getting the artistry,
what is in somebody's mind, into the coins.
And part of that has advantages for security, as well.
If we reproduce an artist's individual stroke, everything is
It's very difficult for somebody else to reproduce it.
If we went entirely digital, if we've got the technology,
somebody else could probably do it, as well.
Do you think there will always be a role for skilled craftsmen,
skilled artisans and artists, like yourself, in our coins,
or will it all become mechanised?
It may well be, in the future, more mechanised, but it's all about
getting the thought out of the people's heads and into reality.
The technology ultimately doesn't matter, it's about creativity.
So, as long as we have coinage, we will have coin designers.
Next time I put my hand in my pocket and pull out some coins,
I shall think of you. It's been absolutely fascinating.
-It's been my pleasure.
-Thanks very much, mate.
Until the reign of Charles II in the 17th century,
coins were struck by hand,
but these days it is a much speedier process.
Well, to finish off my visit,
the team here at the Royal Mint have let me into the holy of holies -
the CPR, the Coin Pressing Room.
It contains some 30 presses producing, wait for it,
four billion coins, not just for the UK
but also for some 60 countries around the world every year.
And here's how it works.
Basically, blank coins go in the hopper at the top. There we go.
They then come through the machine.
This one over here is hard at work and this read-out
tells us that it is producing some 750 a minute,
the sort of machine you might expect to find at the end
of a pier on a day out.
But today, it is producing these.
The good old-fashioned 1p piece.
And these actually do have the very latest image of the Queen on
and they are, quite literally, hot off the press.
Now, I am told that when this bin is full,
it will contain some 250,000 pennies. That's about 25 grand to you and me.
It's no wonder they made me empty my pockets when I came in here.
The Royal Mint has a rich history and, thanks to James Callaghan,
it's playing an important role in the economy of South Wales, too.
One of the great joys for me of house-hunting is in this part
of the world is that occasionally I get to drop in on some old friends.
This farm has one of the best views in the area -
the perfect place to sit down with Andy and Kelly
and find out what their future holds.
They also make a great cup of coffee.
Well, guys, I've had a terrific week, I really have.
And I think you have, as well.
Well, we've given you some fantastic options.
I really don't know how to call this one,
if I'm honest, because you have fallen in love with pretty much
everything we've been able to show you.
Sticking my neck out, I think it's probably safe to say
that you haven't chosen our Mystery House -
-lovely as it was.
The Mystery House made us think about the location
of where we want to be and how close
we want to be to amenities for Evelyn and the community.
And I think this time in our lives and Evelyn's life, that's not
the right time for her to be out on her own in such a small community.
I think we need to be a bit closer to activities
and various other amenities.
So, the hunch about the Valleys was right.
We have, as we've said, given you some fantastic properties to look at.
Which one is it going to be?
We have both agreed on the property for £325,000.
Me personally, I think it's a bargain.
That for us, offered us the space
and the living style that we really want.
The house to me...I just...fell in love with the house.
As soon as I looked at it, I went, "Wow."
And I walked into the door, I was just taken away.
-So, what happens next?
-I think we may go for a second viewing...
-..on the house.
-I am delighted you have picked that one.
It certainly gives you all the space you could ever need to grow into
over the next few years.
Thank you very much for coming on the show
-and I wish you all the very, very best of luck.
Thank you for having us. We've had a really good time.
Well, we started off this week in the Welsh Valleys
and we finish up here in the mountains of the Brecon Beacons -
an area of the world that, frankly, Andy and Kelly know pretty well
thanks to their time in the army.
In many respects, this whole region has felt to them
like a home-from-home.
And that has been just as well for a couple that, let's not forget,
had never been house-hunting before.
But now, hopefully, with any luck,
they will have a home that finally they can call their own.
And when eventually they do, all of this will be on their doorstep.
Take it from me, it's well worth having. I will see you next time.
Andy and Kelly returned to the four-storey home in Abersychan
for a second viewing and, although they loved it, they felt the hillside
location made walking access to town too tricky with young Evelyn.
What's more, they realised having local amenities on their doorstep
was an important factor they hadn't initially considered.
So, armed with that new priority, their search continues.
If you would like to escape to the country in Wales, England, Scotland
or Northern Ireland and would like our help, you can apply at...
Jules Hudson is on a house-hunting mission in south Wales with a couple from the forces who have £350,000 to find a family home in the country. While in the region, Jules is granted access to the Royal Mint and gets up close to some of the 90 million coins produced there each week.