Sonali Shah is on the hunt for a home in rural Norfolk for a retired couple. Sonali also finds out just what it takes to keep England's historic houses running.
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This magnificent estate is believed to be the birthplace
of one of the most famous women in English history,
and it was once voted the most haunted house in Britain.
So, where am I? Find out in just a moment.
On today's programme, a couple of recent retirees who are set
to turn their rural dream into reality.
One of our properties turns into a kitchen nightmare...
-But is it for you?
..but another cooks up a storm.
-This is Wendy's kitchen.
Today, I'm in Norfolk, and this is Blickling Hall,
which sits on the estate where it's believed
Anne Boleyn was born in the early 16th century.
Anne Boleyn had the misfortune of becoming Henry VIII's second wife,
a marriage which was short-lived when he ordered her execution
on May the 19th, 1536.
More than 400 years later, on the anniversary of her death,
it's said her headless ghost arrives here in a carriage
driven by headless horses and a headless coachman.
Later on in the show, I'll be back here to find out what really goes on
behind the closed doors of this beautiful and historic Norfolk home.
Situated in the east of England, Norfolk is the country's
fifth-largest county, jutting out into the North Sea
and bordered by Lincolnshire, Cambridgeshire and Suffolk.
Famous for its big skies and flat, fertile landscapes,
Norfolk's charm is remoteness.
It's one of the few counties with no motorway.
Largely undeveloped, the entire Norfolk coastline was
designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1968,
characterised by wide sandy beaches and rugged
red and white chalky cliffs.
The northern coastline, stretching from Old Hunstanton in the west
to Weybourne in the east, is an area of extraordinary beauty
with a diverse range of habitats.
It makes up the North Norfolk Heritage Coast,
a classification that affords it special protection.
Along this coastline,
a mile inland is the pretty village of Cley-Next-The-Sea.
It used to be much closer to the sea in the medieval period before
land reclamation turned the busy harbour port into silty marshland.
Today, though, the village, its windmill
and magnificent marshes are a haven for tourists and birdlife.
With all this unspoiled beauty on offer, it's easy to see
why Norfolk is such a desirable county.
If you're thinking of your very own escape to the country,
you might consider house-hunting in Norfolk.
At the moment, the average price of a detached property in England
and Wales is just over £278,000.
But here in Norfolk, that figure drops to 228,000, making homes in
this lovely county incredible value for those seeking a rural retreat.
Which is great news for today's buyers.
Let's meet them and find out exactly what they're looking for.
Retirees Wendy and Nigel recently sold their home in Radlett, Hertfordshire
and moved to this rented detached property in Swinton
near Manchester to be closer to their daughter and grandchildren
while they look for a house in the Norfolk countryside.
We're currently renting in Manchester,
but it's not suitable for the long-term.
We find it really noisy,
This is a nice house, but, unfortunately, it's not for us.
Before he retired, Nigel was an art director in the advertising
industry and Wendy worked as a school welfare officer.
They've been married for 42 years and met at the local disco.
We saw each other across a crowded room... Boom-boom!
-Do you remember your suit?
-Oh, the safari suit.
-That was good.
I liked the safari suit.
Nice bright blue safari suit and cravat - perfect!
It was beautiful.
Wendy and Nigel now have two grown-up children -
a son in Hertfordshire and a daughter in Manchester,
as well as four grandchildren with whom they have close ties.
Our grandkids are the world.
Three boys and a granddaughter,
what more can you ask for?
It'll be a wrench leaving the family behind, but Wendy
and Nigel have their hearts set on rural North Norfolk.
The long-term aim has always been to move to Norfolk.
We like the coast up there,
all along, basically, from Hunstanton to Cromer.
All along there.
We know it quite well cos we've gone several times now over the years.
Wendy has family in Sheringham.
For us, possibly THE move.
The time is now because we're getting older.
We don't want to be old and crotchety and not be able to get out
and all this kind of thing. We've got to do it now.
When they're not entertaining their visiting family,
Wendy and Nigel hope to have more time for their hobbies.
In my spare time, I enjoy walking.
And now I'm retired, I'll go back to doing a little bit of painting.
In Norfolk, it's big skies
and you could really get your teeth into something up there.
That would be nice, do a bit of painting. And my garden.
-That's your big thing, your garden.
And while Nigel is tending to the plants, Wendy will be busy inside.
I like cooking.
I like to cook for the kids when they come round, so I would be
looking forward to them coming up to Norfolk so I can do loads of baking.
I'm into, at the moment, as well, ancestry.
I've actually got an ancestor who came from the Norfolk area.
I've yet to find out exactly where, and hopefully when I get there,
I can find out even more.
With their property already sold and their rented Manchester house
a temporary arrangement, Wendy and Nigel are looking forward
to finally settling down in the Norfolk countryside.
I think this move is very important for us now
and I think it will give us a new lease of life.
It's a big adventure and this is one moment, so bring it on.
Wendy and Nigel would like a property within driving distance
of the thin strip of coast that makes up the North Norfolk Heritage Coastline.
'I'm meeting up with our buyers in Norfolk
'to go over the details of their planned move.'
-Wendy and Nigel, hello, welcome to Norfolk.
Tell us why you both want to move to this beautiful county.
Exactly that, really - it's beautiful.
It's lovely, it's...peaceful.
And we want to leave the hustle and bustle of where we lived before.
We've been coming back here year upon year now, and it just
seems a natural thing to do, for us to come here permanently.
But, of course, this means you are moving away from family and friends.
That is the sad part of it.
But we're hoping very much that the children will come and visit us
here as much as possible.
As you say, we have the seaside, the countryside, we'll have everything.
So we're going to have to make sure we find you somewhere that will fit the family in?
-Yes, please. Yes, please.
-You surely are.
You are in a hurry to move cos you're living out of boxes at the moment, aren't you?
Big time. As soon as possible!
Now, you're both retired.
Does that mean in the day you want enough space
so that you're not on top of each other?
I need a good garden. A decent garden.
That's my escape, that's my therapy. And if it's not...
the garden isn't created, I'll create one. It's not a problem.
I'll design one.
But a man shed, we need a man shed. Every man should have a shed.
So Nigel's not even in the house, he's in the garden!
He's in the garden. He loves the garden.
I'm not allowed anywhere near the garden.
I should ask you about the house, Wendy, shouldn't I?
What are you looking for in terms of style?
One thing we don't want is somewhere that's got very low ceilings,
because, as you can see...
-I can see why.
-You're both lovely and tall.
Other than that, probably three bedrooms, four would be fab.
I would love a big kitchen.
A great kitchen.
OK, my kitchen at home was quite small
and I want space to have the grandchildren in, help doing cooking,
and guys in as well, just to have a nice time in that kitchen area.
So you're definitely not going to be on top of each other, if you're retired.
If he's in the garden, you're in your kitchen, it'll all be fine!
-This is the secret to a long marriage!
-Yeah, it is.
-That's why it's worked.
Remind me of your budget. How much have we got to spend on this house?
-400,000 is the maximum budget.
-That's the max.
He's looked at me very sternly, with the word "maximum"!
-Yes, but, it is 400.
-OK, got the message.
-£400,000 maximum budget.
-Well, you're in luck.
We have some lovely properties lined up for you. Are you ready to go?
-We surely are!
-Oh, big time, big time!
£400,000 is a decent budget for Norfolk,
although the North Norfolk coast does attract premium prices
due to its wealth of sandy beaches and strong second homes market.
But we're hoping to find Wendy and Nigel a practical family home
with three to four bedrooms
for when their children and grandchildren come to stay.
Wendy would like a large kitchen
and green-fingered Nigel wants a decent-sized garden and a man shed.
We've lined up a fine selection of available properties for Wendy
and Nigel to view here in Norfolk, but I won't be revealing
the price of our choices until the end of the tour.
Our mystery house signals the end of our house search
and will challenge our buyers' priorities.
You didn't need to come to Norfolk, though, to escape a main road.
Initially, we were looking somewhere not too far away
-from our place in Radlett in Hertfordshire.
Possibly about an hour away from there
so we could easily access our son and the grandkids.
But we always come back to Norfolk,
and so we can buy a nice house,
possibly a better house than we had before.
And enjoy a better quality of life.
For our first offering,
we're heading to the village of Aylmerton, just over seven miles
from the start of the North Norfolk Heritage Coastline.
The pretty village is characterised by country lanes
and traditional brick and flint cottages.
Buildings of note include the parish church,
with its distinctive round tower,
and a rare circular pillbox built during the First World War, a time
when Britain was perceived to be under threat from coastal invasion.
Our first house is situated in the centre of this sought-after village.
-That's quite a substantial house, that is.
-That looks so lovely.
-Yeah, that's quite impressive. And traditional.
You say traditional... It was actually built ten years ago.
So, behind here, there are some converted barns, and the same person
that converted those built this house in the same style.
-So it's got that Norfolk flint style.
Outside, I like. So far, so good.
It's bigger than I thought it would be, that's for certain.
It's certainly a big house.
But to fully appreciate how much house, we need to go inside.
'Good initial reactions
'to our detached brick and flint family home.
'Although the frontage has classic Norfolk pedigree, the interior
'has a contemporary spacious feel which I think will appeal to our buyers.'
It's a rather grand entrance, isn't it?
It's very unusual.
Staircase is wow. Look at that.
It's over three floors, this house, and more than 3,000 square foot.
-That's a lot of square foot.
-Oh, that's big!
-That is big.
-OK. That's great.
What do you think of this hallway/dining room?
Yes, it's not what I expected.
It's a bit unusual to have the dining room as soon as you
-enter the front door.
-You don't need to use this as a dining room.
No, no, no. No, no, no. No, no, you can use it how you want to use it.
-Shall we go and see one of the rooms?
-Into the living room first.
Oh! Is this a wood-burner? Great.
Lovely. Like the fireplace.
A nice centrepiece to the room, and it's triple aspect,
-so lots of light.
-Lots of light, I like that.
-That is great.
-How do you feel about the style of the house inside?
It's very modern-looking, it does reflect the time it was built, really.
Yeah, no, I don't mind that at all. I quite like the modern...
-So is this the right size for the family? This is the main living room in the house.
-Oh, gosh, yes.
-Oh, this is fine.
-This is lovely. Yes, should be plenty big enough.
Absolutely gorgeous. Keep going!
-Let's see if the kitchen is to your liking.
'The rest of the ground floor rooms are arranged off that'
central hallway and include a good-sized study overlooking
the front of the house and, at the back, the kitchen.
Is this big enough for you?
Mm, that was going to be my question, because you don't
seem as enthusiastic about this room as the other room.
I like it. Work surfaces, that's what I really want.
-It's quite a small island, actually, isn't it?
-There's enough work surface there, isn't there?
-So you've got a utility here with all the appliances...
-..and the conservatory.
I know it's got the washing machines in there, but that's
-because the owner runs a bit of a laundry business.
-What, from here? Based here?
-So, actually, a dining room table could go in there...
-Yeah, it could.
So, size-wise, OK?
Size-wise, good. Enough room for you?
-It's enough room for me.
-Enough room for you?
-Shall we see if the upstairs is?
-Yeah! Let's go.
'Wendy and Nigel asked for three to four bedrooms, but they actually
'get five in this spacious property, arranged over two floors.'
On the second floor, off a mezzanine landing,
are two bedrooms set in the eaves and with skylight windows.
Both have en-suite shower rooms
and would make excellent guest accommodation for their family.
Back down on the first floor, there's a family bathroom and
three further bedrooms, including a single and a good-sized double.
And finally, the master.
-Come into the master suite.
-That's nice. That's nice.
There's an en-suite just there and a separate dressing room.
-That's why there's no cupboards in here and it's spacious.
-You don't need to worry about any of that in here.
And one of five bedrooms. So I know you only wanted three...
-Three to four.
-Yes, five... Five is a bonus.
-Five is amazing!
So is the house too big?
In some ways, it could be, yeah.
In some ways, possibly, yes.
Both Wendy and Nigel seem to like the house and it gives them more
than they asked for, but I'm mindful that Nigel spends a lot of time
in the garden, and here, he may have some work to do to make it his own.
At the front, there's a small lawn area bordered by a fence,
and at the back, a gravelled courtyard
and a double garage which has obvious man shed potential.
Now, I must confess,
I have been nervous about showing you this space.
Because it's not really a garden. It's a courtyard.
Yes, it's fairly obviously not a garden. It is a courtyard.
You could landscape this and turn it into a garden.
You could landscape it.
It's possibly a little bit small for what I really want.
I want a bit more space around the house, to tell you the truth.
-So you've seen a lot of what is on offer.
Who'd like to guess how much this house is on the market for?
I think it's right at the top of our budget
and maybe it's even a little bit more.
OK, I think it's above. I'll go...
Because Nigel was so stern about the budget, I have stuck to it.
-It's actually on the market for £395,000.
-Oh, right. So...
-Dig this up!
Yes, 15,000 under. That's good.
-I know you love the house.
-I like the house. Like the house a lot.
-We have to think about this now.
-We have to think about the outside space.
-Go and have a look at the rest of the house.
Now you know the price, you can really assess it
-and have a think about the garden.
-And I'll meet you out front.
Thank you very much. Thank you.
Under budget by £5,000,
our first property is a substantial brick and flint family home.
Located in a pretty village not far from the coast,
it gives Wendy and Nigel more than the number of bedrooms
they wanted, a large enough kitchen
and a courtyard garden Nigel could put his stamp on.
What would you do with this room?
It's not a bad space, is it? I mean...
To be honest, I wish that the kitchen had been extended.
You could create a kitchen-diner.
This could be the dining table, in here.
I like the house very much.
It's great for the family.
I don't have to worry about... you know, guys want to
come down for the weekend for how long, they've got a room.
This is fabulous.
-It would be great, wouldn't it, as a guest floor.
Two bedrooms, en-suite.
Yeah, no worries, they've got their own bathroom and toilet.
I mean, that'd be fab.
I think the house is a very substantial house.
It's a handsome house, possibly a bit too big for us.
For me, the only one downside is the outside, which is the garden.
I'm a very enthusiastic amateur gardener
and I really would like to get my teeth into some space outside,
and this really doesn't fulfil that brief.
-It's a lovely house, isn't it?
-It's a beautiful house.
-We'll just have to work on Nigel.
Nigel spends plenty of time in the garden
and knows a lot about horticulture, but he's probably
never considered building a house from the mud under his feet.
Comprising clay, sand and straw, cob is an age-old building material
first used in the British Isles in the 13th century.
Partners Kate and Charlotte are cob enthusiasts and run workshops
in how to build your own home using raw materials from the garden.
They're going to show our buyers that building with cob
needn't be mud, sweat and tears.
Wendy, Nigel, hello!
Nice to meet you, nice to meet you.
-You too. Welcome to our cob building workshop.
-Thanks very much.
-How long have you been doing this for, then?
-Well, we've been here about eight years
but we've been doing it around ten.
What made you get into cob building?
I was a sculptor originally, and when I discovered about ten years ago
that you could actually sculpt the house with mud, with your bare hands,
I was like, "That's my whole life sorted. I'm doing it."
I met Charlotte a couple of years later...
Yeah, I'd never heard of cob building till I met Kate, and
it really is all she ever talks about, so now I know a lot about it.
This is where we live. Come and have a look, we'll show you a bit more.
-Oh, how lovely.
-Originally, when we came here, it was just this section.
That's 400 years old.
It's made of wattle and daub and mud bricks - clay lumps.
-A traditional Norfolk building method.
And then we more than doubled the house with this cob extension over here.
Built entirely with mud from the garden.
We sculpted it with our bare hands.
Amazing! What about the roof?
- Did you do that? - Well, I thatched it, yeah.
Yeah. I did a short course and we got the reed from a local reed-cutter, two miles away,
and then thatched it. It was hard work, but I did it.
Cob is easily the most eco-friendly of building materials
as it can be dug up on site.
It's also incredibly cheap.
Kate and Charlotte's extension only cost £10,000.
Modern cob houses have a couple of key features to ensure
they last for generations.
They've all got their mud walls, and then to protect that mud,
you have an overhanging roof, you build your mud wall
on a stem wall made of brick or stone - it keeps it off the ground -
and then you finish the walls with a lime render.
And if you do all those things,
it really will last a lot longer than most conventional houses.
So is this actually the only thing you do, building houses with cob?
We do a lot of other things.
We mainly teach people on this site to build houses.
So we do four-day courses where people can come and learn
the skills, all the skills they need to build a house.
But we also do one-day courses in pizza ovens,
which is what we are going to hopefully do with you today.
While Charlotte goes off to prepare the dough for the pizzas,
Wendy and Nigel are going to help Kate mix up the components that make the cob.
First step, rolling up their sleeves to gather some mushy clay
from Kate's garden pit.
That's my bit. I got that bit!
Taking the edges off, look, look. Take the edges off.
One bucket of finest Norfolk clay is then mixed with
three buckets of sandy gravel from the garden.
Some people use a digger to combine the ingredients,
but Kate has an earthier, more traditional method.
And how are we going to make this all together?
In days gone by, they would have used a horse or a cow to actually
stamp on the material, partly as the heaviness of the animals,
they'd have crushed the materials down, but we're going to stamp on it with our feet.
And I'm going to have a little dance and mix this stuff up.
As far as mixing goes, there's no specific technique.
Cob dancing is strictly freestyle.
OK, so the third ingredient is straw,
-and it helps it...regulates the rate it dries out at.
So we're going to add some straw and we're going to do the twist.
OK, that'll do. Twist it up, twist it up!
I'm not sure Chubby Checker had this in mind back in the 1950s!
It's a shame Charlotte is missing out on all this fun,
but the building team have already worked up a hunger.
Back outside, the cob pizza oven is ready to be built.
Kate starts off by making a mould from sand around which the
cob will be arranged, then it's time to start adding the cob layers.
The first layer is formed of cob bricks shaped by hand.
A hole for the oven door is cut,
and then a second layer of slightly wetter cob is added.
This outer skin gives the oven its strength
and is smoothed over for a perfect finish.
And just press and make it beautiful.
The final step is to remove the door
and scrape out the sand from the inside.
Good, yeah, keep going.
-Is that the lot?
-Yeah, what do you reckon?
-How does it look? It looks really nice from the inside.
-Have a look.
Oh, yes! Well done, guys. Amazing. Well done.
Ohhh, thank you! Kate, I am so hungry.
Well, the oven is up to temperature, it's a good 700 degrees.
Our pizza dough's ready - let's eat pizza!
Wendy and Nigel's oven still needs to dry, so the pizzas
are being cooked in Kate and Charlotte's larger cob oven.
The thick, earthy walls absorb the heat well, and at 700 degrees,
the wood-fired pizzas are ready in less than a minute.
-KATE: Yay, look at that!
-That looks amazing.
-WENDY: Well done. Well done.
Oh, this is beautiful. Oh, well done, Chef.
-Well done with your oven.
It's just been fantastic, so thank you very much.
- It's been lovely to meet you both. - Thank you very much.
For our next house, we're travelling to Fakenham,
a 20-minute drive to the North Norfolk Heritage Coastline.
Often referred to as the gateway to the North Norfolk coast,
the historic town is blessed with a variety of shops and services.
There's been a weekly market here since the 13th century.
The next property is situated just outside of the town on a quiet
lane within an exclusive gated cul-de-sac.
-Oh, that's different.
-Golly gosh, it's all new, isn't it?
-So it's a fairly new build?
So the family that live here bought the plot of land
a couple of years ago and then had it designed by an architect
to their specification, and then had it built.
And the restriction that they had
-was that they needed to keep it that chalet style.
And they are rather nice, aren't they? It's a nice area.
Lovely little area. And it's gated.
-Can't wait to get inside.
Before we go inside... Nigel, let's mention the garden.
-We can see a bit of it here.
-Yes, there's definitely more here.
Mm-hm. Whether it's enough or not...
-..we'll talk about later.
-But let's go and see inside first.
-Yes, please. Okey-doke.
Part of a community of properties,
this architect-designed chalet house maximises the natural light
with full-height windows and there's underfloor heating throughout,
freeing up valuable wall space where there'd normally be radiators.
Oh, yes, this is nice.
It's nice and big, it's big enough for us, it's lovely.
I like the fact you can... You've got light there, light here.
-Light three sides.
And that's the theme about the house, they've really,
-really thought about making it as light as possible.
-I like light.
-And French doors to both sides.
-Yeah, that's unusual...
-You could open it out either way.
I think you'll be even more pleased when you see the kitchen.
-Oh, this is nice.
-Oh, this is...
-How's this for a kitchen?
-This is Wendy's kitchen.
-This is smashing. It's really, really good.
-Oh, I think we've found it!
-Isn't this everything you wanted?
-This is a kitchen, isn't it?
-This is a proper kitchen.
-This is a proper kitchen.
Bifold doors that lead you straight out in the garden...
-Ahh, bifold doors!
-I know it's not a huge garden,
but this is a usable garden cos it's right on the same...
That's usable space out there.
-Isn't this gorgeous? Haven't they done it beautifully?
As a family, this is where you'd be a lot of the time.
And you look straight out into the garden. For me, that's a bonus.
-Not it's just the upstairs to show you - the bedrooms.
The kitchen has struck a chord with Wendy.
In addition, there's a spacious utility room to hide the white goods
and access to a large double garage at the front of the house.
Across the hallway, there's a decent-sized study and a cloakroom.
Upstairs, there are four bedrooms all set into the roof space,
with large windows
and built-in cupboards along with a family bath and shower room.
So this is the master, which has got an en-suite
and lots of built-in cupboard space.
-And this is the main part of it.
-Oh, my word! I love it.
-Oh, my God!
-This is enormous. Got a lot of ceiling height.
-Oh, I like this!
We're not used to that, are we?
-Oh, isn't it nice?
-You'll like this.
-I like it!
-What about you?
-Do you like it?
-Yeah, I like the whole package.
Because we said when we were looking for a house,
-we didn't know what kind of style of house.
So it could be old, it could be new, and this kind of new really
appeals to me and it appeals to Wendy as well.
-That modern design?
-Oh, I don't like it at all(!)
Yeah, clean and crisp and...
-That's why you're crying - you hate it!
-I hate this place(!)
But it's a big enough house for us
and it's a big enough house for when the family come.
Shall we go outside and discuss how much you think this might cost?
-Oh, strewth! Yeah, yeah.
-Let's do it.
Before we talk money, Nigel needs to see more of that garden,
which wraps itself around the entire house and is largely laid to lawn,
with a selection of mature trees and bordered by a wall and fencing.
-Now I want your opinion on the garden, Nigel.
The garden's pleasantly bigger than I thought was going to be
when we first arrived, because we came down that side there,
which is fairly narrow.
And I thought this back position was going to be the same again.
But it's... No, it's good.
It's a wraparound garden, but a wraparound garden,
we could do lots of things with.
And we've got trees. We love trees. Trees are good.
-Beautiful trees. Lovely chestnut at the front.
Let's just have a pleasant think about how much this house is on the market for.
-Yeah, exactly, yeah.
-Are you going first?
-You can go first this time.
I love it. I think it's a gorgeous place, and I'm going to go for...
-I'm going to be very optimistic...
..and say 395.
-He DOES wish.
It is actually currently on the market for 415,000.
-So I have gone a little over budget.
It was on the market for £450,000, so it's been reduced already,
and I had a word with the owner and she said that she is willing
to have a chat about maybe taking it nearer your budget.
This is a nice house. I like it very much.
Why don't you go and have a look at the rest of the house,
think about it now that you know the price and I'll meet you out front.
Nothing negative! Nothing negative!
It's brilliant. This could be it.
This could be it!
Over budget by £15,000,
the owner of this stylish modern chalet house is open to offers.
The light and spacious accommodation includes an open-plan
kitchen-diner for Wendy, four good-sized bedrooms for when
the family come to stay, and a wraparound garden for Nigel.
-Oh, wow, this is big.
-Got the ceiling again.
This is like a second master.
I LOVE this house.
Everything about it, so far, is ticking the boxes.
I was concerned when Nigel saw the garden from the side view
and I thought, "Uh-oh! This is going to be no deal."
But having come through this gorgeous kitchen,
out into the back of the garden, I think...it's sold.
You have to have an emotional contact with a place
as soon as you go into somewhere, and we both had that connection.
I got emotional, basically, because the kitchen I would love...
I see our family here, great times together,
and it's a kitchen I can work in. It's fabulous.
Well, now you've seen everything, do you both still love it?
-Yes, we do.
-Yeah, lovely house.
-Could it be the one?
-Could well be!
-Being very cautious.
Well, lots to discuss and we've got more properties to see tomorrow.
-It's been a good day, hasn't it?
-Very good. Very productive.
It's the second day of our property search,
and with a budget of £400,000, we're helping recent retirees Wendy
and Nigel, originally from Radlett in Hertfordshire,
find a rural haven in Norfolk.
Coming up, two more properties, including the mystery house,
which involves making tracks to get there.
-I love steam trains.
-We like trains.
Big or small, I love them.
And I meet the team dusting down our national treasures to look their best.
-Some very intricate dusting going on there.
-Yes, very intricate.
We're heading south with our next property to the
village of Stanfield, half an hour's drive from the Heritage Coastline.
The nearby village of Litcham has a wide range of amenities,
including a 17th-century coaching inn and a convenience store.
As well as venturing away from the coast,
we're going back in time a little with our third house, which is
located on the edge of the smaller village of Stanfield,
surrounded by agricultural land and set back from the quiet road.
So, at the end of this lane is the cottage I want to show you.
-It's a big cottage.
-It's been extended.
Now, the front door is actually there
but I'm going to take you in the back entrance.
Okey-doke. Fine, lovely.
Now, from the back, I think you can just see the house better.
You get a better idea of the style of the house.
It looks more substantial from this side.
And Nigel, it also means I can give you a little
-teasy look at the garden.
-A little tease of the garden.
-It obviously goes on a little bit more.
-Which is good.
-I like the look of that house.
-Let's go inside.
Originally built around 200 years ago,
this is a house of two halves, with a more modern extension
added in the 1980s which has effectively doubled its size.
-So they use the back door to come straight into the kitchen-diner.
Which was part of one of the extensions that was done, really.
-Because the original cottage comes up to there.
But the current owners have actually put the kitchen in,
so that's newer than the extension itself.
Size-wise, how is this kitchen for you?
-That's what I was a bit...
-It's a bit on the small side.
-It's lovely for what it is, it's lovely.
-But is it for you?
-Not the size of the kitchen.
-I see there's a range...
-Exactly. How do you feel about range cookers?
-I've never seen that face. Most people love them!
-No, I know.
-I'm weird. You know, I like the normal, conventional cooker.
And...that would fox me.
-Let's try the rest of the house.
-Two reception rooms, the biggest one's here.
Wow! This is a big room.
That's striking. That's definitely striking.
-Yeah, those red walls hit you as you come in.
They surely do.
And the ceiling's a nice height.
Although it's got beams, beamed ceiling, it feels -
cos we're quite tall - it doesn't feel oppressive. It's a nice room.
-There's also a utility room just across the way there.
And something they use as a bedroom, but actually,
you could use as a study...
a dining room... They've got another spare room.
-And then...there's another reception room.
-Mind your head here.
-I don't need to duck, but you will have to.
Yeah, that's different. Yeah, that's low.
So you can see this is the original cottage.
-Yeah, my head's nearly on the ceiling.
The front door actually comes in to a little hallway just outside.
-And there's also a downstairs shower room.
So what are you thinking so far? You've seen a lot of the downstairs already.
-I'm not feeling it.
-You're not feeling it?
-No, I'm not.
-So the staircase is just there.
-Let's go up and see what's on offer up there.
'Oh, dear. It started off quite well,
'but I fear we'd been levelled by the low beams.'
In addition to the downstairs bedroom, upstairs,
there are four further bedrooms, all doubles, so plenty of space
for the visiting family, and a recently renovated main bathroom.
I think Wendy and Nigel will be impressed with the size of the master.
Oh, my goodness!
-Well, that's a surprise.
Yes, that's much bigger than I thought.
The master bedroom is over that extended living room,
so that's why it's a bit of a surprise.
-That's a bonus.
I was just going to say, fitted wardrobes, but...da-da!
They're behind you!
-I wasn't expecting that, that's for certain.
How are you feeling about the house overall,
now that you've seen the main bedroom?
If I was to do it in numbers...
60 for, 40 against.
Now, the main thing about this house, aside, obviously,
-from the property itself, is the garden.
So, let's go and see that and see if that changes your mind.
Okey-dokes. Let's go.
Although Nigel's had a sneak peak already,
there's actually more garden than he realises.
At the rear, the gravel driveway leads onto a large formal lawn
with a variety of trees and shrubs offering seclusion,
peace and just the sound of birdsong.
-Nigel, it's a big garden.
-Yes, this is a man-sized garden, this is.
-This is what I've been looking for.
-More than you've been looking for.
-More than I've been looking for.
-No, it's good, because I did ask for a quarter of an acre, didn't I?
-Yes, you did.
This is good, and it's not straightforward, either.
-It's a bit higgledy-piggledy, which I like.
And a man shed. Oh, yes, every garden should have a man shed.
Wouldn't be complete without one!
-And the double garage at the end of that drive.
-Double garage. Yeah, it's good.
Who would like to guess the price of the property first?
-I'm going to say...
-Oh, I was going to say that. OK, then.
-Not your usual 420?
No, I'm not going to do 420, no, no! No!
Er, we're a bit further away from the coast now, say, half an hour?
-Half an hour, that's right.
-So I'm going to say...
-OK. You've changed your mind...
-I did, yes.
-..after Wendy's guess.
-Have I done it?
-You are closer, Wendy.
-It's on for 400.
-Your budget, on the nose.
-Right on the nose. OK.
Well, it's a substantial house. I mean, there's no doubt about that.
A substantial garden as well. It's the biggest plot we've seen so far.
But the lovely substantial garden, is that enough to sway you?
No. We need to... We'd to agree on the house.
-Doesn't override on the kitchen.
-No, lovely garden.
We can't play that garden versus kitchen game?
-It's going to be both of them!
The garden is beautiful.
So, I think, have a proper look around, enjoy it while you're here.
Yeah, it's lovely. Thanks.
-And I'll meet you at the house.
-OK, see you later.
Bang on budget,
this extended period cottage is a substantial family home,
offering Wendy and Nigel a variety of entertaining rooms
downstairs and up to five bedrooms, one more than they asked for.
The garden is secluded, spacious and south-facing.
-I've noticed down here, look at this...squash.
-That'd be great, wouldn't it, having some of those.
-Plenty of fruit trees.
-Yeah, look at these apples.
-Aren't they gorgeous?
-Amazing, aren't they?
What do you reckon, are they cookers?
It's good to go and see a traditional property like this.
This is what you expect to see in Norfolk.
So, it's good, it's just that when you get on the inside,
the reality comes home to you.
The more I went round that bottom section,
especially that very low main beam, that would be a step too far for me.
I'd be for ever hitting my head on that.
The overall package, I think, was a realisation for us
that maybe a traditional house isn't exactly what we're looking for.
I think the cottage is absolutely gorgeous, for the right person.
And that right person is not me.
Nigel would love this garden. I know he loves this garden.
It's quirky, it's got all kinds of different areas,
but you don't live in a garden.
He may, but I'm not!
-It was worth seeing, this place, right?
-Very much so.
-Oh, yeah, yeah. Lovely garden.
-But not the house for you?
-Not the house, no. Garden and the cottage...
-No, it's not enough.
-It's not enough, no.
-We've still got the mystery house to go to.
-Let's go to that.
Now what can I tell you about the mystery house?
Well, with the other homes, we've tried to accommodate the family
that they're going to be leaving behind.
But the mystery house, well,
that's really more of a property just for Wendy and Nigel.
For our final offering,
we're heading to the town of Wells-next-the-Sea,
right in the middle of the North Norfolk Heritage Coastline.
But our journey to the mystery house is beginning slightly differently than normal.
Now, we can, of course, drive to the mystery house,
-but I thought it would be more fun...
-No, this is brilliant!
-..to take the train!
Afternoon. Would you like to sit yourselves down?
-Yeah, this way?
-Thank you very much.
-This is brilliant!
'The Wells and Walsingham Light Railway is a Heritage line
'running between the coastal town of Wells and the inland village
'of Walsingham, along the track bed of a former standard gauge line.'
-A mystery ride to the mystery house.
-The magical mystery tour!
-A big kid's love affair with trains.
-I love steam trains.
-We like trains.
-Big or small, I love them.
-I didn't know that, but now I do!
Has it given you any ideas of what the mystery property might be?
-Old railway station, perhaps?
-Ohhh! Could it be...?
-We'll have to wait and see!
We're getting off four miles down the track at the village
of Little Walsingham.
-That was lovely.
-Our mystery house awaits. Thank you.
-Thank you much!
-That was fabulous. Thank you.
The medieval village has changed little over the centuries,
with pretty age-old timber frame buildings lining the narrow streets.
Walsingham is affectionately known as England's Nazareth due to its
religious shrines in honour of the Virgin Mary, housed in both Anglican
and Catholic churches, attracting pilgrims from around the world.
As well as spiritual refreshment, the village has a number
of cafes and restaurants and a popular farm shop.
So that train has taken us straight to the mystery house,
because there it is.
-Oh, wow! Literally there to there?
That's why I thought the train would be a good idea.
It was built by the railway company
-for the level crossing guard in 1865.
-So it's an old railwayman's cottage.
-Oh, my word!
-Well, it doesn't look it. It's been...
-It has been modernised.
Only a couple of years ago, actually. What do you think of it?
-I think it's really pretty.
-Yeah, it is.
-It looks very nice.
And we are very close to the sea. We're four miles...
-Oh, that's good.
-Shall we go in?
This property is the closest to the Heritage Coastline we've seen,
but homes here attract a premium, so the former railway signal cottage
is the smallest of the houses I'm showing our buyers.
There's more than enough room for Nigel and Wendy,
but visiting family might have to get the camp beds out.
-So you come straight into the living room.
-What kind of "OK" is that?
-Yeah, this was the old cottage.
-This was it.
-A lovely new wood-burner there.
This looks like it's two rooms...
-It was originally two rooms, I'm sure...
-Knocked into one.
This lounge is small.
This house, I felt, would be more something for the two of you.
Yes, there's room for family, but it is a smaller house.
And the advantage of having the smaller house is that we've
been able to show you something a lot closer to the sea,
-which you were quite keen on.
-Yes, we are.
We are very keen on being near the sea.
So this was the old cottage, which means that's the extension.
-Let's go and see the kitchen.
To maximise space, the cottage has been built onto at the back,
and the rest of the ground-floor rooms are located
in a one-storey timber extension.
Oh, wow! OK...
-As you can see, a very modern kitchen.
-Oh, yeah, very modern.
-You can tell it's been done recently.
-Yeah. Very nice.
I think they've done really well with the way they've used the space,
because it could have been this very narrow kitchen,
but actually, they've arranged it well.
No, it's beautiful. I like it.
-And then you've got the sort of breakfast/dining area here.
-Which looks straight out onto that patio area.
I like that. That's lovely.
-So, bathroom... Is that the bathroom?
-Yeah, just through.
Exactly. Through the kitchen is a bathroom.
-And, actually, a bedroom.
You could use it as something else - a study - but, at the moment,
-they use it as a bedroom because this is a three-bedroom cottage.
It's cosy, it's nice. I like it.
I'm not feeling it's big enough at the moment.
-But let's...see the rest.
As well as the ground-floor bedroom,
there are two further double bedrooms in the upstairs of the old
cottage, both cosy doubles, plus there's also a small shower room.
I think this would probably be your master,
but all three bedrooms are about the same size.
-I know what that "right" means. "It's too small, Sonali!"
-That's small. It's very pretty.
-Yes, beautifully done.
-And quite a sizeable terrace out that way.
Golly. Wow! That's nice.
So my pitch - do you want something for just you two? -
-I think that's a resounding no, isn't it?
-That's possibly a no-no.
Yeah. We want more space.
It was always going to be a gamble bringing our buyers here,
but in the list of priorities, clearly, space for visiting family
comes before proximity to the sea.
I have one last play, and that's the garden,
which is surprisingly large, laid to lawn and enclosed,
with both a summerhouse and man shed.
-It's a nice-sized garden.
-It's a big-sized garden.
I never expected to see so much garden.
So, from here, you can really see the extension and the old cottage.
Sort of the best view of it, really.
It's very clever, how they did the extension of the kitchen
and the bedroom and bathroom.
-Because you can't see it from the front.
-No, you can't tell.
-It's quite secluded.
-So it does look like that cottage.
-No, it's very well done.
-How much would it cost you?
-I'm not going first!
-Shall I go first?
-You go first.
-..on a decent-sized plot, I suppose...
-The garden is nice, isn't it?
-Yes, the garden, a blank canvas, really.
-Whoa, I think that's optimistic!
Yeah. I'm going to go...375.
-Wendy's very close.
-Oh, God, I did it!
379,950, it's on the market for.
-So you would have 20,000 from your budget.
-But judging by your face, Nigel, that's not enough.
No. Do you want to go in and look at the rooms you haven't seen?
-And I'll meet you at the front.
-By the train station!
Under budget by £20,000,
our mystery house is a former railwayman's cottage which
has been extended to the rear and finished to a high spec throughout.
There are three bedrooms, including a downstairs guest room,
and a spacious garden, and it's just four miles
from the stunning North Norfolk Heritage Coastline.
-This is nice.
And this is probably a bigger bedroom than the two upstairs.
-The finish is fantastic.
They've really done it well, haven't they?
It's lovely. It's too small.
It's a beautiful cottage, I have to say.
Beautifully done, but it's too small. It is too small.
Beautiful little village down the road.
Great, four miles from the sea.
I'm beginning to think, "Are we mad?" You know?
It came over as a very, very nice holiday home in a good location,
but I didn't get the feeling you'd come to live here as a family home.
I think you'd come to live here for a short period of time.
That's just the overall impression you get from the house.
-Well, we've seen all the houses.
I think I know which is your favourite!
-But are you going to go for it?
-Let's find somewhere warm to discuss.
Set in the tranquil Norfolk countryside is a magnificent
just one of a number of fine stately homes to be found in the county.
Surrounded by ancient yew hedges,
Blickling Hall has a history stemming back several centuries.
The current house was built in the mid-17th century,
but there's a record of a Manor of Blickling in the Domesday Book.
During its long life, the estate has been home to a number of distinguished residents,
including a medieval monarch and a Tudor Queen of England.
But it's now in the care of the National Trust.
I've come to find out more about the property's past
but also about its present, and how on a daily basis the Trust
goes about preparing its treasures for the public.
'It's an hour before the doors open
'and I'm meeting house manager, Jan Brookes-Bullen.'
Jan, what a magnificent estate.
Isn't it? Yes.
And over the years, I understand lots of illustrious people have lived here?
Yes, illustrious, infamous, famous...
There's been activity on this site for about 2,000 years.
King Harold owned the estate and, of course, the Boleyns had the estate.
So they're probably the best-known.
-And was Anne Boleyn definitely born here?
-Oh, yes, yes.
There's been many sort of myths and legends about her birthplace
but research has now shown that the birthplace is here
and not Hever Castle.
How long did she spend here with her family?
I would say, possibly, she'd be seven or eight before they moved off to Hever Castle.
-And now, this all belongs to the National Trust.
It was bequested by the 11th Marquess of Lothian in 1940, who actually
instigated the country house schemes whereby you could
leave your property to the nation in lieu of death duties.
We are so thankful he did - a very visionary man.
-And how many visitors do you get here?
-Is it hard to get it ready for them every day?
Erm, yes, it is. The girls start very early.
But they're already under way, so if you want to see how we get going...
-Let's go and have a look.
Since it was built, the Grade I listed mansion has been updated,
most extensively during the 18th century,
which saw the addition of grand staircases and opulent staterooms.
To maintain Blickling's historical integrity, every morning,
a team of up to nine conservation assistants have just three hours
to prepare 25 spaces for the public.
Daily jobs include vacuuming the 48 treads on the main staircase
and brushing precious artefacts to remove
the property's biggest enemy - dust.
Here we are in the Brown Drawing Room, where Louise is actually busy
-getting the furniture ready for today.
-Some very intricate dusting going on there.
-Yes, very intricate.
-I love these tools.
Yes, my brushes that I've got here,
although I've not using too many of them today.
This is one of our really soft brushes. Do you want to have a feel?
Oh, yeah. And what's this good for?
This is good for our really quite delicate surfaces.
So I've been using it just on the metal edges there,
looked a little bit dusty.
And would you be doing this every day?
There must be some things you only do every week or every month?
Yeah, absolutely. And sometimes even every five to ten years.
-That's probably a big tapestry or something like that.
Yeah, or some of the paintings, the canvases, on those.
You're preparing these rooms for the visitors themselves,
but presumably they're ones bringing in some of the dirt?
Yes, we all bring in dust.
Even those that work here bring in their own dust.
But it's strange - people laugh when we talk about dust so much.
I've even been to a dust conference, would you believe?
But it's the biggest impact on furniture and furnishings.
As well as looking unsightly, dust can cause physical damage and,
if left to build up, becomes sticky, binding itself to an artefact.
Another potential hazard is light, both natural and artificial.
The fading effect on precious paintings is well-known,
but light can even fade ebony and damage textiles.
When the property is closed, rooms are kept in almost total darkness.
By opening time, 91 blinds across the house must be raised,
such as in the Great Library,
with its rare collection of 13,000 books and manuscripts.
-As you can see, there are a lot of blinds down here.
-A lot of blinds.
-So we'll start with this one, and there's tricks to it.
Now, because we're south-facing, we only really want to take up
the blue blinds today, because it's very bright.
'The library's blue blinds act as blackouts,
'whereas the cream blinds, which Jan is leaving down this morning,
'reduce the light intensity to a safe level for the books.
'A special film on the windows
'filters out harmful ultraviolet light.'
Sometimes it's quite gloomy, you can take them up quite a lot higher
and you can take the cream ones up as well.
But, today, no, we've got sunshine, which is great.
And it's that balance, isn't it, of being able to see
the collections and also not letting too much light in.
When people were living here, would they have been letting too much light in at that time?
Possibly not. If you've paid a lot of money for your silks and fabrics,
-you're not going to let the sun fade them, are you?
So we're just carrying on that really historic housekeeping.
As well as cleaning and lighting, part of the housekeeping duties
includes decorating the public rooms with seasonal flowers.
I'm helping staff member Jo Pipe with a final floral flourish.
The arrangement takes pride of place beneath the man who had
quite an impact on Blickling's most famous resident.
-Henry looks pleased.
-He does. And I think our visitors will be too.
Opening time, but in less than 24 hours,
Jan and her cleaning team will be doing it all over again.
Over the past couple of days,
Wendy and Nigel seem to have agreed on most things.
So, the question is, are they on the same page about the next move?
-Wendy and Nigel, you know what I'm going to ask.
What are you going to do next?
Well, I think it's fairly obvious from the journey we've just had
through the various houses,
there's one in particular that stands out for both of us.
Yes, really does stand out.
-That modern chalet.
-Modern chalet, yes.
It kind of ticked all of the boxes that we had in our mind.
The house itself was fantastic.
Possibly be more room than we would need, but plenty and plenty of room.
Kitchen... Great kitchen.
That's what won it for you?
It's a very nice house indeed.
A very nice house.
-It sounds like it really could be the house.
-A great contender.
Realistically, we need to have a good look around the town
and see what it has to offer us in terms of amenities, which is
-an important part of the process.
And if that turns out OK, well,
maybe we'll look to be doing a second viewing.
-It's all very positive.
-Very, very positive.
But I think it's a process we need to go through.
You're being more cautious, I think, than Wendy. Is that fair to say?
-I think you like the house that little bit more.
-There we go, the sensible guy.
If it was down to you, would you be already talking to the agent?
-I bought it. Boom-boom.
-Oh, you'd say that?
Wendy's is more an emotional response, which is understandable.
Mine is just a little bit more measured. It's just how I am.
Well, if Wendy's plan goes to plan, you'll be buying the modern chalet.
So will you give me a call when he has come round to your way of thinking...
-..and you've moved in and then we can celebrate?
-That'd be great.
-Fantastic. We will do that, for sure.
I'll let you know.
Because I have a feeling, Nigel, it's going to go Wendy's way.
I'm going to get dragged into this, aren't I?
-Thank you for the experience. It's been amazing.
-It's been brilliant.
It's been great fun and we've learned a hell of a lot too.
If Wendy had her way,
she would have already made a move on the modern chalet.
It really was the perfect home for them and the family.
It had everything they asked for.
It's understandable Nigel is a little more cautious,
and even though he needs some time, I don't think it's going to be long
before they both make Norfolk their home
and can unpack those boxes for good.
See you next time on Escape To The Country.
Wendy and Nigel did go back to see the chalet house
and made an offer which I'm delighted to say was accepted.
So we wish them the best of luck with their Norfolk move.
If you'd like to escape to the country in England,
Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales and would like our help,
you can apply online at...
Sonali Shah is on the hunt for a home in rural Norfolk for a retired couple who are living in Manchester. Looking for a slower pace of life, they have £400,000 to fund their country move. Away from the house hunt, Sonali finds out just what it takes to keep England's historic houses running.