Property series. Jules Hudson leads a spiritual couple from London's Stamford Hill on a fact-finding property search in rural Essex.
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Here on Escape To The Country, we get to visit some remarkable houses all over the UK,
but none of them are quite as unique as this one because, up until
20 years ago, this was one of the most secret properties in Britain.
But why and where?
Well, join me in a moment and I'll tell you.
On today's show, we're helping a young couple
move from the Big Smoke to a country retreat.
Sometimes you can't put your finger on why you like a place.
-Sometimes it is nice, and sometimes it isn't. This feels good.
And, after a shaky start, a secret shower room sends them
head over heels.
Oh, my God. It's perfect.
-And it's for sale.
Well, today we are in Essex, just outside the small village of
Kelvedon Hatch, and this pretty average-looking post-war bungalow
is in fact the secret entrance to a Cold War nuclear bunker.
It was built in 1952 to house some 600 key government
and military personnel in the event of a nuclear war.
Now, of course, thankfully, it was never put to use,
but later on in the show I'll be back here, finding out what
life would have been like 100 feet underground.
Stretching from Harwich in the north to the
Thames Estuary in the south, the home county of Essex
has over 350 miles
of coastline, the second longest in England after Cornwall.
One of the gems of the Essex coast is Frinton-on-Sea.
With its colourful array of Victorian style beach huts,
it retains an atmosphere from the 1920s,
when it was a favourite retreat for the aristocracy.
As the sea breeze comes inland, it's harnessed by the vast
numbers of windmills that are found throughout the countryside.
Indeed, despite its proximity to London, three quarters
of Essex is rural, with rolling wheat fields and ancient woodland.
The northeast border is Constable country, immortalised
by the landscape painter who fell in love with the area.
Northwest Essex is home to Audley End House,
one of the finest Jacobean houses in England.
During the 18th century, the extensive formal gardens
and parkland surrounding the house were
remodelled by the landscape architect Capability Brown.
Its palatial rooms are now open to the public, providing
an insight into the upper echelons of the Essex property market.
Although, with its wealth of charming thatches
and medieval timber frame homes,
there's no shortage of stunning period properties in this county.
Well, if you are thinking about escaping to one of the Home Counties,
then Essex is well worth a look, because it is by far the cheapest.
The average cost of a detached property here is currently
Now, to be fair, it is a lot of money,
but when you compare it to the other Home Counties, such as Surrey,
Kent, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire,
it does represent pretty good value for money.
All worth knowing, because today's buyers are determined that this
part of the world should be their new home.
Michelle and Jamie live in north London
and have been together for four years.
-We had quite a fun first date, didn't we?
-Yes, it was brilliant.
Seven hours...it lasted for.
And I think at that point I knew that Michelle was going to be
the one for a long time.
We went to the Southbank, which was really nice,
and I was putting my spoon in your food, wasn't I?
Yeah. Oh, yes, she put her spoon in my...
soup, and I thought that was quite cute.
-And I think we knew pretty soon that we were on the same wavelength.
Michelle owns a property in west London, and Jamie owns the one
they share in Stamford Hill, in the north of the capital.
I've been in this particular property for just under eight years,
but time ticks on and you get tied to the city because your job is here.
I'm keen to kind of break out of that and go somewhere,
otherwise I'll be here for ever.
So, they are hoping to move east to Essex,
where Jamie is originally from.
We want to move to the countryside
because we want a better quality of life.
I would describe us as quite spiritual people,
and I think that kind of ties in with nature.
And we both love walking and nature,
so being in the great outdoors and beautiful scenery
and waking up and seeing green fields and things like that,
that's something I really look forward to.
Michelle is a psychologist and works with young people,
and Jamie is a psychotherapist who works with adults.
They are hoping their new house will be more than just a home.
In the new property, I would quite like to have a study where I
could also see clients for a one-to-one basis for therapy sessions.
And it would be, if possible, it would be a real luxury
to have some kind of room
where people could come for group therapy.
And coming on the move with them will be Taia.
She's currently a house cat.
Also, one of the reasons we wanted to move was so that
she could go outside and enjoy the great outdoors as well, so...
Yeah, we feel somewhat guilty about her being cramped up in the house.
So, we're going to...remedy that with a garden, hopefully.
As they plan to continue working part-time in London,
moving out might be challenging.
I've not ever lived in the countryside before now.
I think the worries and concerns about moving to Essex is possibly the commute,
because we haven't had to do that for some time.
But I think it could be overcome if we lived in the right property
and we were coming home to beautiful countryside and a beautiful home.
It would all be worthwhile.
So with high hopes and with Jamie's house already on the market,
there's a lot riding on this relocation.
This is a highly important move for us because I think the property we
move to next is going to be the one where it really all happens.
And we'll start thinking about the next chapter of our lives,
which may involve children.
I had a huge friendship group in London, but, gradually,
as the years have passed on, everyone's been getting married
and moving away, so I think it's our turn now just to leave.
Michelle and Jamie would like us to focus our house hunt
in the north of Essex which can offer them both a rural aspect
and a realistic commute into London via Liverpool Street station.
But to discuss the detail of their proposed big move,
I'm off to meet them.
-Nice to see you.
-And you, a pleasure.
Now, normally at this point in the show,
I like to share with our buyers a beautiful view of the region
and the county that they've chosen to live in.
You have to take my word for it but out there in the gloom is Essex.
And the reason I know that is because I was born about
-two miles from where we're sitting.
So take it from me, it's out there somewhere. It's very lovely.
But why do you want to move here?
Well, Jamie's family's from here, so that's one of the main reasons.
And also, it's quite close to London.
-Now, you're both self-employed...
You've got some quite interesting jobs. What are you trying to do?
Well, I've sort of put together my profession in a strange way.
I sort of qualified in three different types of psychotherapy
and I run workshops in London and one-to-one therapy,
so I'm trying to hopefully take that out to the country
so we can do rural retreats perhaps.
Wow. But you're hoping to create a whole new business in a place you've never operated before.
-That's quite daunting, isn't it?
-A little bit.
There is somewhat of an experiment involved.
But we have faith.
You're quite young, are you looking for something modern and groovy, or old and characterful?
We would love to have a Victorian, Edwardian or Georgian character property, but modern inside.
So kind of newish.
-Yes. That would be the dream.
And how much are you planning to spend on all of this, then?
I think as a maximum budget, we'd be looking to spend £495,000.
-Oh, that's very specific! Or less?
-Oh, well, that'd be great.
Well, hopefully the weather will clear, there's a hint of blue sky up there.
It's a long time since I've lived in this part of the world, although
it is where I grew up, so, for me, it's a bit of a trip down memory lane.
-We can show Essex off to you, these two Essex boys here.
Hopefully find you a property, we've got some great ones to choose from.
Including, of course, our mystery house, so who knows what that's going to be?
-Shall we go?
If we can find the car! Out there somewhere.
With their budget of £495,000,
Michelle and Jamie are looking for a period property
with lots of rural charm, but they want it fully refurbished inside.
It must have at least three bedrooms,
plus a therapy room where Jamie could see clients.
A garden with rural views is also on the list,
and, as they'll sometimes commute, they'd like a maximum journey time
of an hour-and-a-half into central London.
We've been scouring Essex for the right properties,
one of which could become not only Michelle and Jamie's first joint home,
but also a beautiful psychotherapy practice.
Only after they've viewed each house will we reveal its price,
and we'll also throw in the mystery house.
This property will hopefully give them something they didn't even know they wanted.
-Well, I'm sorry it's a gloomy day to start your house-hunting.
-Now, in terms of locations, Michelle...
-You don't drive, do you?
-Have you not learnt to drive?
-I've tried so many times and I keep failing.
-What's gone wrong?
Well, I did it when I was like, 17 and 18, and I think I was just too nervous.
It would really help, Jamie, wouldn't it, if Michelle could drive?
He keeps going on at me about it.
Well, you know, the countryside is not awash with public transport,
-which you're used to, of course.
So, that's certainly something to think about.
Yeah, I'm going to have to learn again, yeah.
Don't look at my driving. It's not that good.
Our house-hunt kicks off in the village of Radwinter,
close to the northwest border of the county
and only 15 miles from Cambridge.
There's a village primary school,
but for essential amenities, our buyers would need to head
to the historic and popular market town of Saffron Walden,
five miles away.
Here, the oldest inhabited building
is believed to be the 15th-century former maltings
at 1 Myddylton Place.
And the town square is home to the county library,
housed in the Victorian corn exchange.
Saffron Walden back to Radwinter would be a 15-minute drive.
Right, then, Jamie and Michelle, have a look at that.
-What do you think?
-So, what we're offering you is, effectively, a semi.
But it's quite a big one. It's got some nice age to it, it's Victorian.
-It's not your classic urban Victorian.
-But, you know, what do you think?
-I like it.
-Yeah, it's nice.
And I like the red brick.
-It does, Jamie, have the addition of this long feature here.
-Now, that, we're thinking, could make a really good therapy room.
-That's where we're going with it.
-I thought we'd start in there.
And then we'll have a wander round the rest of the property.
The exterior of this Grade II listed home features pargeting,
traditional in the area.
Inside, you're greeted by a tiled entrance hall
and to the right is a potential therapy room.
-Oh, yeah, nice space.
Is this big enough?
Certainly for the one-to-one work.
-And you could do maybe small groups in here.
-Yeah, I think so.
-It is separate from the rest of the property, which is nice.
-If people are visiting you, they don't have to traipse through the property...
-..to get to your business. Right.
Come and follow me through here.
-This is currently the main sort of living room.
Working fireplace, classic sort of country features,
the built-in storage and all the rest of it.
-And Victorian proportions.
-The picture rail and so on.
-I like that.
-Yeah, so you have got quite high ceilings.
-Yeah, it's quite light.
Walking through the living room
takes us to the kitchen and dining room.
There's a log-burner, oak-top surfaces and a range cooker.
Come and have a look at the kitchen,
-cos it does open up a little bit down here.
-Nicely fitted, as you can see.
-I really like this room.
This is a perfect size, I think, that we were looking for.
I love the way it opens up through there.
I know you're interested in having an island of sorts.
-I mean, that's...
-It works in the same way.
Yeah, definitely. Breakfast bar.
If you've got your friends round and so forth,
it's a nice communal space,
cos you can still be in here getting on with cooking,
everybody can be here chatting.
You could squeeze a sofa in there, to be honest,
make it much more of a kind of family room, too,
as opposed to just a dining room.
No, I really like this.
In addition, it's got a downstairs cloakroom through there,
which is quite useful.
-Plus, the bath. The main bath in the property is down there, too.
A bit of extra storage as well and, of course,
well, several doors out to the garden space.
So, in the summer, all this is open, everything's flowing, hopefully,
a bit of outside entertaining space,
which you don't really have at the moment.
We'll explore the garden shortly,
-but we need to finish off our tour, and that is upstairs.
On the first floor, this property has three double bedrooms.
The master has a feature fireplace and a recently refitted en-suite.
It's the lightest, it's the biggest,
and these nice high ceilings in these Victorian properties
that mean we can fit in all the modern accoutrements that you need.
-Yeah, ceiling height is fine.
-How does it compare with what you've got?
We're very lucky with the place we've got at the moment
in terms of square footage.
Though we don't have the garden and it's in the city, so...!
-Everything has its pros and cons, doesn't it?
-It's a nicer view, I suppose, so that's good.
It's quieter, it's a nicer view and it does have the garden space.
-That's the key difference.
But it's interesting, the issue of space. I see what you mean.
It's very easy when you come out to the countryside
from the heart of a city to expect that you're going to get something
that's three or four times as big for the same amount of money.
In a way, those days are probably gone a bit.
Prices in the countryside have, you know, shot up
and they've sort of stayed there.
And, of course, this is a really popular part of the Home Counties.
It's a nice family home, if you've got a baby,
-and I can see a family living here.
If it's just the two of you for now, you've got bags of room.
Let's go out into the garden. You don't have one of those now.
-This will be bigger than what you've already got.
-By virtue of the fact that it's got one!
-And we'll talk about the money.
It seems this property may not be meeting our buyers' expectations,
but I'm hoping the outside space will impress,
with off-street parking and a mix of lawn and patio in the garden.
This is nice.
-Nice and manageable space.
Yeah, this is lovely.
And I know you're not massive gardeners,
-but I think you could have some fun with this.
Lots of hardstanding
-for a bit of alfresco straight out of the kitchen doors there.
There's the back of what might be your therapy room.
No, it's nice, and it will be perfect for the cat.
-Great for the cat. Nice, quiet village, too.
The cat's got some adjustment to do as well from central London...
-..to the sticks.
-So, 495 is what your budget is.
-Who's going to go first?
-I'll go first.
-Go on, then.
This is the first property, so I need to get my bearings on pricings,
-but I'm saying about 420.
I think maybe cos the location being near Saffron Walden,
I think we're probably looking about 430, maybe 440.
This is on the market for...
-A little bit happier, yeah.
-A little bit happier.
You're going to be a tough nut to crack, I can see that.
Right, then, off you go, have a look around
and see what you get for £410,000.
I'm concerned that they thought this place wasn't big enough.
We haven't, of course, spent all of their budget of 495,
so maybe we need to up the ante a bit and spend a bit more.
A substantial £85,000 under budget,
this Grade II listed three-bedroom property
certainly has the character our couple are after.
The master bedroom is en-suite,
although the family bathroom is on the ground floor.
There's a large garage, enclosed garden
and a side extension that would be perfect for working from home.
And the commute would be about 1 hour 20
to London's Liverpool Street station.
-This is a great space, this kitchen.
-Yeah, I like the kitchen.
I think the bathroom's too small and the upstairs is too small.
Then again, it's on the market for much lower than we thought,
-which is quite reassuring.
The price of the property was very encouraging, but for us,
it's just not quite right.
-It definitely works as an office.
-I can see that.
And you could definitely have one-to-one clients here,
but I don't know if it's quite big enough as a group thing.
I think this property is not the property for us,
because it's just that little bit too small.
It's very pretty, lovely village, garden, nice kitchen.
But I think it's just... Yeah, we need something a bit bigger.
Ah, here we are, then.
-Well done, Jamie. Let's shut the door.
Keep it all safe and sound.
-Well, that's our starting point.
-That's where we're coming from. I think it was a good starter.
I wouldn't dismiss it straightaway.
I know size is a thing, but we've got plenty more to show you.
-And maybe we need to blow the budget.
Throughout British history, Essex has been an affluent area
due to its prime location close to the Continent and the River Thames.
In the 16th century,
one of the ways that prosperous residents showed off their wealth
was by decorating the exterior of their homes with pargeting.
This is the traditional practice of creating raised designs
using ornate plasterwork.
Over the centuries, it's gone in and out of fashion
but has remained popular in Essex and East Anglia.
So, we've arranged for Jamie and Michelle to meet Bill Sargent,
a third-generation pargeter.
-Hi, I'm Michelle.
Hi, I'm Jamie. Nice to meet you.
-So, is this a typical design?
-It's typical to a building of this age.
We always try and work the design in to the age of the building.
This house was built in the 17th century, late 1600s,
so the design is of that period as well.
So, where does the name come from?
The name comes from the French.
You know, to parge, is to throw,
because years ago, they used to throw the plaster on.
Historically, this is an area that the Huguenots came to
during the persecutions,
and they brought the craft with them from Holland, Belgium, France.
And what kind of people had the pargeting on their houses?
In the past, it was people with money.
-The first person recorded having pargeting done was Henry VIII.
Nonsuch Palace in Surrey. Long gone, long gone.
And how many pargeters are there?
20 years ago, I suppose there was four or five of us.
But now, it's well in excess of 40, I'd say.
It's quite an art form, then.
Yes, it is, but it's not that hard to pick up, really.
I'm doing a small wall plaque round the corner,
so maybe I can let you have a go on that,
or rub it out and do something simpler for you?
-And you can have a go, eh?
-Come on, then.
Although today Bill is working on a private home,
he's also worked on the cathedral at Bury St Edmunds
and even Westminster Abbey.
This is going to be a permanent feature here. It is a plaque.
We are going to put the name of the farmhouse in it maybe tomorrow
but today, the owners have asked if I could do them a running hare
in an old style. This whole area is full of hares -
they are always getting in his garden. So we could draw one out.
-So, it's not ordinary plaster, then?
-No, no, no.
Just a mixture of lime and sand together.
It's exactly the same mix as they would have used
500 or 600 years ago. What you have to remember with this kind of work
is its flowing lines, so everything arched around...
Up, bring him down, slight raise there, bring him up.
So, you can see how it flows. And the leg goes obviously like that.
Today, Bill is using a pretty basic mixture on this farmhouse
but in the past, other ingredients were often added to create
a better texture, including hair, horse urine, tallow, blood and salt.
Just get a handful of the material.
Hold the trowel at an angle and just start to build him up.
Then we can work from that.
So it is just a matter of...
..building him up.
Jamie, I'll pass the small trowel
and the glove over to you and let you have a go at building it up, eh?
-All right. Here's the goggles first.
It's not actually as hard as I thought it was going to be.
So, have you got any favourite designs, Bill?
I'll tell you the truth, I like doing stuff like this.
Pheasants, hares - boxing hares particularly - you know,
rabbits, stuff like that.
Yes, that's looking a bit too good now.
I don't need any more competition around these ways!
Once Jamie's design is dry, it can be painted.
I think that's me done.
That's the base to start from now.
We'll leave that for an hour, let it dry and then do some more.
But that was really good, well done.
-Done better than most on their first attempt.
Thank you so much for that, Bill, that's been really interesting.
It's been a pleasure. It's been nice to meet you both.
-I hope you find what you're looking for.
Our next property is in the village of Gestingthorpe,
halfway between the towns of Halsted in Essex and Sudbury in Suffolk.
There is a great pub and restaurant, although no primary school,
so learning to drive would be essential for Michelle here.
There's also a village hall that Jamie could hire out for group
therapy sessions. Our next house is in the heart of the village.
-Here we are. What do you think of this one, then?
-Nice, isn't it?
It's an old farmhouse. It's detached, all right?
-So we've ticked that box.
-That's a big thing for me. Yeah, brilliant.
Since it was first built back in 1780, it has been extended.
In particular, upstairs.
It has had this sort of wraparound extension put on it
which gives you loads and loads of space,
so I'm hoping this will give you a bit more square footage, all right?
But as you can tell,
this is somewhere where you're going to have to learn to drive, really.
-Are you convinced?
-Very much so. First impressions are fantastic.
Yeah, can't wait to get inside.
With its doll's house frontage set inside a wraparound garden,
I'm not surprised this place has made a good first impression.
And once inside, you walk straight into a very welcoming living room.
-What do you reckon?
-I love it.
-I love the beams.
-See, I was worried you were going to say,
"Oh, the ceilings are too low," but...
He is more about the ceilings.
-This doesn't feel wrong. There's a nice feel about it.
And that little archway just goes through to one of the extensions
which gives you a dining room
and access out to the side of the garden.
-Your face is really beaming, isn't it? OK. What's going on?
What's going on? I don't know. It's got a good feel about it.
Sometimes you can't put your finger on why you like a place.
Yeah, sometimes it's nice and sometimes it isn't. This feels good.
-Look at this! Right, come on.
-Yeah, your smile.
So, this is your kitchen.
-Yeah, this is fine. It's nice.
-Fine, no, as in, like...
-It is certainly workable.
You've got loads of preparation space.
Nice finish, you've got the wooden floor...
That little archway leads through to a utility area,
back door out to the garden as well.
The whole thing sort of wraps itself around
to the hallway, which is behind that chimney breast.
Imagine the chimney breast in the middle of the building
and the rest of the house sort of revolves around it,
-so it all sort of flows back on itself.
-I really like it.
There is also a shelf-lined study on the ground floor and a cloakroom.
And one of the features I love about this property is the landing.
You've got your four bedrooms that kind of emanate off of it.
It's dominated by this lovely thing, which is the chimney breast
coming up from that lovely fireplace down below.
There's a nice guest room over there - double -
another double through there, really big family bathroom in there,
which I know is important, and then another double through there,
which could be your study.
And then, last but not least, this is yours.
-Wow, that's lovely.
-This is nice.
They really have made this deliberately the master.
Obviously they've knocked through, essentially, to create this space.
Yeah, loads of room,
really light, and a little dressing area with a walk-in wardrobe, etc.
At the moment, you've got that rather fabulous family bathroom
with the bath across the hallway.
This has all the plumbing, all the electrics, all is done.
But as you can see, it is lacking the furniture
-to make it an en-suite.
All you've got to do is buy the suite to go in it and you're done.
-Very impressed. Lovely.
-Yeah? Smiles are continuing.
-It's a good sign.
-It's a very good sign.
All that's left now is to take a look outside.
There's a pleasant garden with a raised decking area,
plus there is room for four parked cars. Didn't you want some decking?
-Come down here, then.
So, Jamie, how do you feel about this one?
I mean, you and the therapy. Is it going to work here?
Certainly for the one-to-one stuff, probably not for the group.
-But I think maybe that has always been a tall order.
-All right, then.
How much is it on the market for, Michelle?
The all-important question.
I'm going to hazard a guess at 480.
-I'm thinking 450.
-Are you? Why are you thinking that?
Just because I know that we're getting closer to Sudbury
and as you move away from London, you think the prices go down.
-That logic doesn't always match up with reality.
-It really doesn't.
But on this occasion, it does. You're absolutely right, sir.
-It's on the market at £450,000.
It's only been on for two months or so, just over.
I think there's a fair bit of interest, not surprisingly -
people have reacted to it in the way that you have.
But it is good. I mean, it is comfortably under budget.
-Yes, and that means we can do up the bathrooms.
Not forgetting the cars that we're going to have to buy.
Well, yeah, there is quite an accessory list
-coming with this move, isn't there?
Good. Well, I'm glad you like it.
I'm pleased we were able to show it to you. It is a cracking property.
Have another look around and I will catch you later.
-Off you go.
A generous £45,000 under budget,
this four-bedroom property
has been lovingly extended,
retaining heaps of period charm.
There are four bedrooms, a study,
a separate kitchen, dining room
and lounge and it's all set within a
wraparound garden with a large deck.
What's more, the commute to London
would be about an hour and a half.
When I first saw the property, I thought, "Wow, it's like a
"little chocolate box house," and I really couldn't wait to get inside.
It's got a really warm feel to the house, it's got really good flow...
You could really see the family coming over here, couldn't you?
-Entertaining, Christmas... Christmas tree there.
I do feel a little bit remote here, to be honest, because I don't drive.
But my first thought was,
"I'm going to have to get my driving lessons
"and my driving test done soon if I want to move here,
-"because it's a must."
-Very nicely finished, isn't it?
Yeah, it is a really nice room. I think keep this as a guest room
and then the other two or three bedrooms...
-One can be a study because now we've got four bedrooms here.
There's loads of options, that's what's good.
Yeah, I could see Michelle and I
living in this house, as long as a few other factors fell into place
in terms of transport and schools, and so forth.
We'd have to explore that concept and get to know the area.
But the house itself is stunning.
-That was a nice property.
-Yeah, I enjoyed that.
Ah, well, I thought you would. It's certainly one you should consider.
-But we haven't exhausted all the possibilities,
nor have we quite spent all of your budget, have we?
It is the second day of our house-hunt
and with a budget of just under £500,000,
psychologist Michelle and psychotherapist Jamie
are hoping to trade in their London maisonette
for a serene and spacious rural retreat in northwest Essex.
Still to come are two more houses, including the mystery house,
which leaves our buyers speechless, but not in the way I'd like.
What do you reckon?
-It's quite cold in here.
And I'm also having shivers as I explore a secret nuclear bunker.
Now, this is quite chilling, isn't it?
That was the whole raison d'etre of this bunker.
Well, so far the Essex countryside does seem to be wooing
Jamie and Michelle, but I'm not entirely convinced
we have found them a property just yet,
so today it is all to play for.
We are heading next to the village of Great Horkesley,
three miles north of Colchester.
All essential facilities can be found in the village,
including a shop and post office, as well as some luxuries too,
by way of a great pub and even a wine boutique.
There are also a good variety of primary schools
to choose from within a five-mile radius.
Down a lane just off the main road is our next property,
a picture-perfect cottage.
-Now, what about this, then?
-That is something, isn't it?
-Like in a fairy tale.
-It is the real McCoy.
-It really is the real McCoy.
This was built, we think, about 1620.
Classic thatch. Not surprisingly, it's listed - Grade II -
but that shouldn't concern you because the whole thing has been
beautifully, and I mean beautifully, renovated. It is fabulous.
That's what we were looking for -
old on the outside, new on the inside.
And in terms of the future, schools...
Colchester is awash with them.
The thatch is something you have to keep an eye on.
You know, that is just part of the fun of having a listed building.
-OK, I can't wait to have a look.
-Look at you two! Come on.
Something else to be excited about is that this location has
the shortest commute into London of all the properties we are
showing our buyers. And when they get inside,
I don't think they will ever want to leave.
-Come on in.
Oh, my gosh, it's lovely.
I mean, as period cottages go...
to use the local lingo, it's pukka.
Wood burner over there, the oak floors run throughout.
The bones of the building have been exposed during the renovation,
as you can see - these lovely beams.
-Is this you?
And we were so open. We just wanted the wow factor, didn't we?
-This has got it. Definitely.
It's got this lovely crisp, new feel,
but it is surrounded and packed with character features.
That is exactly what we like.
There is a little music room through there, cum-study.
That will become apparent a little bit later on.
But suffice to say, it is all like this. It is lovely throughout.
The only concern I might have as far as you're concerned,
from what you've said before, is the head height.
Oh, it's outdone by charm, though, isn't it?
It is outdone by charm. Right answer. Come on, let's continue.
-This is the dining room.
-Oh, it's lovely.
Perfect. I love it.
It's gorgeous, isn't it?
-You've got an open fire there, which is rather nice too.
-Where do I sign?
I know Michelle and Jamie are also going to be smitten
by the bedrooms here.
There's an en-suite on this floor and the two bedrooms upstairs
are both spacious double-aspect, and each have their own staircase
and share a bathroom on the ground floor,
which is next to the heart of the home.
-Here we are, guys.
-Oh, my God!
-Oh, this is amazing.
-This is so good.
-Yeah, classic oil-fired range there.
On at the moment, which is rather nice.
But in the heat of the summer, you can turn that off and use
the hob that's in the counter over there with the oven underneath.
This is so cool. This is my favourite by far.
What would your friends think of this?
Well, as long as they're under six-foot, they can come.
I think they will be quite jealous.
It's just lovely. Come and have a look down here.
The whole thing opens up into this conservatory area,
which they've got as another dining area.
Of course, you've got the dining room next door as well,
so you could just fill it full of sofas and use it to relax in.
-I quite like it like that, the way they've got it.
-Yeah, it's perfect.
-You've got two options.
No, you can see the finish is lovely.
Yeah, they haven't skimped on anything, have they?
Everything has been done.
-We wouldn't want to change anything at all.
-No, I don't think you would.
-This is just perfect for us.
-Still want to buy it?
So far, so good.
Now, here you have got a family bathroom with his and hers sinks,
bath and shower...
But this -
bedroom three - is what I think would make a brilliant master
for you, because although the current owners use one of
the bedrooms upstairs as their room,
-this is the only one with an en-suite.
-So there's a hidden door?
-No, that bathroom there.
-No, this one.
-Oh, my God!
-This is the most perfect bathroom ever!
-You wanted a wet room, didn't you?
Well, we definitely wanted a really nice shower,
and that is amazing.
And remember that music room and study
I talked about on the way in?
There it is, so the whole thing sort of flows round on itself.
But if you didn't want it as a study,
-you could have it as a separate dressing room.
-It really has got an X factor to it.
They've got taste, the owners.
-And it's for sale.
-But how much is it for sale for?
-Oh, well, go on.
The large garden can be accessed through the kitchen,
but we're heading back through the front entrance.
Oh, and it's sunny. Look at this!
And there is also a terrace, garage and drive for off-street parking.
It's quite tempting, isn't it?
But the only other thing to point out really is that garage,
which you might want to think about turning into
something more useful for you. Maybe office, garden office,
-What's it worth, mate?
I don't think you would be too evil to give us something way over
our asking price, but I think it's going to have to be slightly.
So, our maximum was 495, I'm going to go for 499,950.
-Or bang on the nose, 500.
I'm going to go for 495.
-Top end of the budget.
If it were 499,950, could you find the best part of five grand?
Yeah, there are ways and means.
It's on at 499,995.
Now, saying that, it has only been on the market for six weeks.
The owners have got their eye on something else down the road,
so I suspect, given your 495, there is a conversation to be had.
Yeah, OK. My only reservation at this point...
There's nothing wrong with the house, it is just the...
What are the implications of the thatched roof?
I would suggest you got a local thatcher round before you bought it
just to give you an idea of anything that needed addressing.
But you know what? I think it is a compromise worth making.
-It's beautiful, it's just the practicalities of it.
Well, go back, have another look around.
In particular, check out those two bedrooms upstairs.
-I will catch up with you a little bit later.
Off you go.
Creeping over budget by just under £5,000,
this three-bedroom property has won our couple over
with its 17th-century charm and stunning modern restoration.
There is a standout kitchen-conservatory
and a potential home office.
Just four miles from Colchester, its location is perfect, too,
providing our shortest commute to London
of just an hour and ten minutes.
Since I came in, I was like, "This is where I want to live," so, yeah,
I guess, in a way, it was love at first sight.
This is exactly how we would have
our kitchen if we could choose, right?
-You wouldn't change anything?
-No, I wouldn't.
-I love it so much.
I really want to move in. Seriously. Come on.
I think it is 100% bang on what we want.
Oh, my gosh!
-That is so beautiful.
-Which one would you use as the master bedroom, then?
-That's the thing.
Because you've got the en-suite advantage downstairs,
-then this is the bigger room.
-This is so beautiful.
Or, this could be...
-This could be a therapy room.
-No, never. Bedroom.
You can see that they have already got a small family living here,
so that is where we are at at our life stage,
so you could see at least for the next ten years,
this could be perfect.
I think we are both very keen, so fingers crossed we can get the house.
-How are we doing, then? Could this be the one?
-Very much so, yeah.
-I think so.
-It's certainly your favourite of the lot so far.
-Definitely our favourite.
-Hold that thought. Come on.
I think sometimes you don't always know what you want until you see it.
I think that is a really big thing.
You can write a wish list,
but then sometimes you might see a house that is completely
different from what you thought you were going to go for
and that makes you feel good, and you know straight away.
We were kind of comparing it to when you meet
your partner that you're with for the rest of your life
and you just know that that is the person that you're going to be with.
It's the same as when you find the house that you love. You just know.
-It's like when I met Jamie.
-Oh, you see, Jamie?
-Was Jamie the mystery boyfriend?
Well, our mystery house certainly has a lot to live up to now.
So I am taking a gamble. My plan is to offer them a bit of a project.
Our final property has an incredibly historic shell.
If they were to get the planning permission needed,
they could give it a fabulous interior precisely to their tastes.
To find out if they will embrace this challenge, we are heading
to the village of Ridgewell, 14 miles north of Braintree.
In the centre of Ridgewell is a village green
surrounded by listed buildings,
and a large proportion of the village is in the conservation area.
There are also some pubs and a beautiful 14th-century church.
The mystery property is in the heart of the village.
-Well, here is our Mystery House.
It is the yellow bit.
You can probably just make out that little carving that says 1585.
-It's the oldest one of the lot we've been able to show you.
Similar style as well -
timber frame, classic for this part of the world.
It is technically a semi, as you can see.
But it has got loads and loads of features in it,
which is really nice.
So if you like the old, which you did with our last property,
this, again, is more of the same
but even older.
-What do you think?
Not so sure about the road, but let's go and have a look inside.
The road is the thing, but I'm also beginning to think
-we probably spoilt you with the last one. Maybe?
-It was nice.
Keep an open mind. Come on, let's have a look.
The house is also Grade II listed.
The front entrance is through an original timber door, although
today we are using the back entrance into the recently renovated kitchen.
I know what you're going to say and your face has already said it,
Michelle. "It is a bit small, Jules."
-Yes, it is, but this doesn't have to be the kitchen.
This might become a utility or a boot room,
or maybe even a study, if you wanted it to be.
Bear with me, all right? Think about it - 1585.
It is oozing with history, and a reasonable amount of space.
This is currently the living room.
-Lots of lovely beams...
That door there takes you through to the corridor,
which is the front door. Again, all original.
The layout is beautifully original, actually.
You've got that lovely fireplace over there with the wood burner
and all the rest of it - classic look.
In terms of space and feel, what do you reckon?
-It's quite cold in here.
It is currently unused, unlived in at the moment,
so it has got a slightly damp air
because it's not being used regularly.
But it has been a very, you know, good family home in the past,
of course. The size of this room, I really like, myself.
-I love all the beams.
-The history of the property is very apparent.
-And you do have the higher ceilings and the wood burner.
Think of this as living room, but think of this room as kitchen.
Have a look at this.
They've got it as a dining area at the moment.
There is another lovely fireplace in there with the wood burner.
-Again, awash with beams.
How about this as a kitchen, with doors out to the garden?
-Yeah, I could see that working.
-So, where would things be, do you think?
That is the point. Where would you want them to be?
How would you envisage your perfect,
contemporary country kitchen in here?
In the middle.
Yeah, and we've got the fireplace over there, so you'd have to...
Maybe... Well, it would have to be here, wouldn't it?
It would be a bit of a project.
Not massive. Kitchens are easy-peasy.
I mean, they are disposable.
Ludicrous when you think about how much they cost, but they are.
Everybody wants to change a kitchen, usually.
-Apart from you two in our last property, probably.
But this would give you an opportunity to do something
quite exciting because the kitchen that's here,
-it's not big enough, it's not going to work for you two.
But bearing in mind we all like the kitchen to be
the heart of our homes these days,
-I think you could have some fun in here.
Michelle is so not convinced!
-There is a twist to this one, which is why it is our Mystery House.
That will become apparent.
This property has four bedrooms accessed from two
different stairways. But we're heading straight to the master.
Up you come. Look at these floors! I love it. Elm boards.
Now, this is what we are thinking about for you.
It is certainly the biggest of the lot.
It does feel a little unloved
because it is effectively really unfurnished, it's hardly used.
-Not a bad size.
-No, it's got the square footage.
-And we are on somewhat of a slope.
-It's often the way.
These timber framed buildings do move over time.
They were built using what was called green oak,
so freshly-cut oak, and of course, once it is put together,
it then shrinks a bit and contracts and twists and it moves
and that is why you get these lovely, odd shapes.
When you're looking at what is essentially an empty shell,
it is hard to make that work, I think. At least in my mind.
-Shall we just get it over and done with and talk about the price?
Come on, then.
I do think it is a shame that Michelle
and Jamie haven't warmed to this home, because it is unique.
In this part of the house is a shower room as well as stairs
up to the second bedroom on the floor above.
Bedrooms three and four on the other side of the house are both
unfurnished and share a bathroom.
Looking at the outside of this building, it is
absolutely all there - it is in really, really good condition,
-so it is just a cosmetic fix.
-Yes, it is.
But that in itself could be quite costly.
I know you're going to redo the kitchen,
that is going to cost some money, and I'd say if you allowed 15,000
for that, you would be comfortably off.
-For the kitchen?
-Yeah, with a very, very nice kitchen.
But of course, it is all very well, but it does depend on the price.
-Yeah. Start with me.
You have got £495,000 to spend.
What's our Grade II village home worth, then?
I don't want to, like, offend the owners, but I think about 395.
I would probably say about...
-I'll go with 400.
-That would be quite cheap.
-That would save an awful lot of your 495, wouldn't it?
-You said you didn't really want to offend them.
You have probably put a smile on their faces,
-because this is on the market at £350,000...
..which is the twist. This is why it is our Mystery House.
That makes sense.
We thought we would save you the best part of £150,000,
which means you could do what you like in there -
-you could cover the whole thing in gold leaf if you wanted to.
-That changes things completely.
-I'll bet it does!
Yes. I think you should have a good look around before you say
anything else and I will come and find you later on.
Well, Michelle and Jamie may seem a bit daunted,
but at £145,000 under budget,
this is one well worth
The Grade II listed property
has four bedrooms
with a generously-sized sitting room
and dining room as well as potential
to create a large kitchen-diner,
and to get back to the capital
would take about an hour and a half.
So, what do you think?
It kind of scares me a bit, if I'm honest.
-I don't think it's really the project for us, is it?
I think you have definitely found us a house here in Essex,
but unfortunately it is not this house.
-It just feels a bit pokey.
But I think also, because there's nothing in it,
you can't imagine what it might be like if it did have furniture in it.
If this property had been done up to the style of the thatched property,
it may have made the decision a bit more difficult.
However, having said that,
I actually preferred the location of the earlier property.
You know, I do like occasionally to show particularly our younger
buyers a property that could save them quite a lot of money
but on this occasion, I'm not entirely sure my plan has worked.
Here we go. Still smiling?
Oh, come on, it's not been that bad!
We have shown you some really good properties, I think, this week.
You have, yeah.
Time now to go and think about everything
we have had the chance to tempt you with, see what the future holds.
-Come on, then.
Mainly rural, Essex has its historic capital in Colchester.
Back in the 1st century AD, Camulodunum, as it was then called,
was the capital of the whole of Roman Britain.
But in the 1950s,
Essex could once again have become a centre of government.
With tensions between the United States
and the Soviet Union high post-World War II, the Cold War raged
and the government wanted to be prepared for anything.
They decided to build a vast secret bunker that could become
an underground command centre in the event of a nuclear war.
They chose this farm near the village of Kelvedon Hatch
because of its proximity to London and bought 25 acres of land
from farmer Mike Parrish's grandfather.
-Jules, how do you do?
-Very nice to see you, sir.
Nice to meet you, too.
Now, this is going to be a house with a difference.
Well, it is certainly the biggest unsecret secret in the world.
-Come on, then.
-It is different.
-Show me around.
I like that, the biggest unsecret secret.
The entrance to the secret bunker is through the guardhouse,
which was designed to look like a post-war bungalow.
In the 1990s, once tensions between East and West had subsided
and the Cold War was over, the bunker was no longer needed.
Mike's family bought it back and turned it into a fascinating museum.
Guards would have been here.
You wouldn't be able to get past these gates unless you had a pass
and a very good reason to obviously be down here.
But I am astonished, Mike, that this could have remained a secret,
given how many people were involved in its construction.
Well, in those days, the village of Kelvedon Hatch was only a mere
150-odd souls, not the metropolis that it is now.
We didn't have radios, Facebook, instant communication,
so it was much easier to keep something quiet than nowadays.
The old Second World War motto, "Be like Dad, keep Mum,"
was still very much in vogue in the '50s, of course.
-But you lived above it, so you knew.
-We knew it was here, yes.
We watched it being built.
So they basically dug an enormous hole,
-built a huge concrete bunker and then covered it up again?
Thick walls, nice square.
Because thickness is what keeps radiation out.
People associate it with lead because it is dense,
but of course you get the same thing
if you put wodges of concrete and dirt.
So the object of a bunker is obviously to keep radiation out,
-which of course these...
-Are these Geiger meters?
These are Geiger counters, yes, so they would have detected radiation.
You can't see that, smell it, feel it, hear it,
and so you definitely needed something that would tell you
that it was there and would get you if you went outside.
These are the blast doors.
Once they are shut, the 600-odd people would be in here
for three months or until they ran out of food.
The doors are made of steel, each one weighing about a tonne.
The bunker is 100 feet deep
and set out over three levels, covering 35,000 square feet.
On the middle floor, there was
a space for a representative from every department of government.
In the event of a nuclear attack,
they would have been present to assign food, shelter,
clothing and medical aid to members of the public.
Now, this is quite chilling, isn't it?
"Availability and allocation of surviving resources."
You don't tend to think of it like that,
but actually, that's, I suppose, the nub of it.
That was the whole raison d'etre of this bunker, was to be
allocating surviving resources to those of us that had survived.
Down we go to the bottom level,
where we are now 100 feet underground.
It just goes on and on.
Well, this is the plotting floor.
That is where all the information would have been fed
so that they would know where a bomb had gone off
and where the radiation was spreading.
The red ones are the ground bursts.
They are the worst because they pick up the dust.
That is what goes in the atmosphere
and that is what carries the radiation.
The green ones are air bursts.
You don't get so much radiation because it produces a triangle,
but you get far more collateral damage.
And then the people down here,
they would have plotted this on here,
got the direction of the wind and they would then be trying to
move us, the population, out of the way of that radiation.
We are heading back up to the top level
of this rather amazing construction.
Up here is where the living accommodation would have been,
including the sickbay.
This is when you realise how deep 100 feet is.
Yeah, and you have walked up it more than most.
The Cold War has now become something of a footnote
in the history books, but standing in here...
In a way, the clock has stopped.
It does really bring home the potential horror
that it offered, not just to us as a country, but the entire world.
It's a very brutal business to try
-and manage the effects of a nuclear attack.
-I think that's right.
The commissioner here would have been a cabinet minister,
would have had a horrible job.
You've got to somehow maintain law and order in a limited way,
because you are in here "safe",
without any problems, in inverted commas,
and they are out there that you have got to try and protect.
Thankfully we never needed it.
But do you think it would still work today if it were needed?
Yes, it would work. The filters are still downstairs,
we are under positive pressure
which keeps the stuff outside rather than it coming in.
So I think yes, it has got a pretty good chance of surviving.
So, actually, if it does all go wrong, you're the man
-to come and see.
-Absolutely. I've got the keys.
Well, don't lose those, for goodness' sake!
Well, for our final chat with Jamie and Michelle, I thought
I would give them a little bit of a treat.
I have brought them
to one of my favourite spots along the border with Essex and Suffolk.
These are the gorgeous grounds of Castle Hedingham.
They are over there. I think we have given them plenty of time.
-Hello to you, sir, hello, madam.
-How are we doing?
-You have been thinking?
Have you come up with a solution to the conundrum
we have given you with all of those wonderful houses
we were able to show you?
-I think so.
-Some you've clearly loved,
some you have not loved quite as much,
but let's talk about the one that you absolutely seemed to adore.
I don't think it's going to be any surprise to anyone watching
this show that that thatch property has rather taken your hearts away.
-It has, yes.
-I think it was a bit of a no-brainer with this one.
I've always said to Michelle that wherever we move to,
I'm not going to spend that amount of money unless I'm excited to go
there, and we did feel that, that it would be...
A move there would feel...
-We would be excited about moving to this house.
-It gave you that contemporary feel in the older building.
-It's just to our taste. We wouldn't change a thing.
It is a gorgeous property and in terms of location,
it is on the northern side of Colchester.
It's ten minutes to the mainline station into Colchester.
-It is the best part of town to be in.
And of course, you've got access northward to Suffolk
-and all the fun that that offers you as well.
That's why it is so good for us, because it's in between both -
you get the best of both worlds.
Did you think you would find something
when you started this process?
-Yeah, we'd hoped. We kept an open mind
and I did have faith that we would find something,
but not quite as amazing as what we did find.
I'm delighted that that thatch property has stolen your hearts.
So, what happens next?
Because I suspect it's not going to be on the market that long.
Yes, well, the other thing is,
we've got to sell our property first,
so I think a tentative offer might be the next move
and then I'll just have to keep ringing my estate agent,
get him to pull his finger out!
-Well, guys, it's been an absolute pleasure.
Jamie, thank you very much indeed. Michelle, all the best to you.
-I'm glad you like Essex. It's all right, isn't it?
Not a bad gaffe.
Well, I have had a lot of fun this week revisiting
the villages and the countryside that I once grew up in.
As we finish up here overlooked by the lovely keep at Hedingham,
I am reminded of that old phrase that every Englishman's home
is his castle.
This was Aubrey de Vere II's version of it,
which he began back in 1140.
He certainly knew what he wanted and now hopefully Michelle
and Jamie have got what they wanted.
It may not be a castle, but it is a gorgeous home.
I will see you next time.
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Jules Hudson leads a spiritual couple from London's Stamford Hill on a fact-finding property search in rural Essex. With £495,000 to spend, they are looking to escape city life and embrace active living in the countryside. Along the way, Jules steps back in time to discover how Essex prepared for the Cold War.