Property series. Jonnie Irwin is property-hunting with young parents from Stevenage who are seeking an authentic country lifestyle in Suffolk and a rural family home.
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Built in 1923, this striking folly stands some 70 feet tall
and is known as the House In The Clouds.
But where is it, and why was it built? Find out in just a moment.
Today's buyers are longing to leave suburban living
for the slice of country life they've always dreamt of.
-We may have struck lucky with our properties.
-That is a wall, isn't it?
It's actually made out of real Suffolk gold.
And their vision might be closer than they imagined.
I'm looking around and I'm thinking, where I would fit my furniture?
And it's the first house that I've seen, that I've done that.
Today, I'm in east Suffolk,
and behind me is the village of Thorpeness.
Built in the early part of the 20th century, it was
the brainchild of eccentric Scottish barrister Glencairn Stuart Ogilvie.
He was passionate about Tudor and Jacobean architecture.
And he wanted to create a holiday village that, in his view,
harked back to the days of quintessential England.
but there was a problem. A ginormous water tower
that overlooked the entire village.
In Ogilvie's view, it wasn't
in keeping with the rest of the houses, so he wanted to make it so,
and what you see today is the result of his modifications.
The tower has been ingeniously disguised as a clapperboard house,
complete with windows and a pitched roof.
It's even got a chimney stack.
Today, though, the village no longer requires the water tower, but,
you will be pleased to hear, it's been converted into a luxury home.
And stands tall testament to the unique vision of Ogilvie himself.
The East Anglian county of Suffolk is bordered by Norfolk
to the north, Essex to the south and Cambridgeshire to the west.
Looking out over the North Sea, the Suffolk Heritage Coast stretches
50 miles from Felixstowe in the South to Lowestoft in the North.
Along the way,
the ever-popular seaside town of Southwold is recognised for
its stunning Georgian architecture and multicoloured beach huts.
The pier, originally built in 1900, was completely refurbished in 2001
and offers some wonderful views back towards the town.
Moving inland towards the heart of the county,
the cluster of historic Suffolk Wold towns and villages date back
as far as the 15th century, when the textile trade was big business here.
To the south of the county, Dedham Vale has some of
the country's most serene and stunning landscapes
which were immortalised by 19th century artist John Constable.
Some of his most celebrated works such as The Hay Wain
and Flatford Mill were painted in the countryside
around the nearby village of East Bergholt, where he lived.
With a wealth of period properties
and beautiful surrounding countryside,
you'd think that would be reflected in Suffolk's property values.
Yet the average cost of a detached house here at the moment
is just under £278,000.
Which is around £16,000 below the national figure, which,
I think, represents pretty good value.
But be warned - towards the south of the county,
where properties are closer to road and rail links back into London,
prices do begin to climb.
So whereabouts in the county are today's buyers looking?
Let's meet them and find out.
Laura met New Zealander Matt seven years ago at a bar in London
whilst he was backpacking around the UK.
She convinced him to settle with her here,
and they bought a home in Stevenage, Hertfordshire.
I would describe Matt as a typical Kiwi. He's very outdoorsy.
Lots of fun. Really easy-going and friendly and easy to get along with.
Things have changed substantially since I arrived in the UK.
I've now got a wonderful wife and two fantastic children.
And I couldn't ask for anything more, really.
Having lived in Stevenage now for two years,
Laura and Matt are finding that as their daughters - Sophie, three,
and Elizabeth, two - get bigger, the house is beginning
to feel smaller, and the location also no longer suits their needs.
Currently, we live quite close to the town,
and it can be quite busy and quite crowded.
We'd like to give the kids some space, some freedom,
some ability to be curious and just explore things by themselves
without having to be too controlled by us.
It would be nice to be able to look out of the window and see fields.
And to have that feeling of space.
And you were quite happy living here
until you found out that you weren't the only Kiwi in the village!
Whilst police officer Laura is currently on a career break,
staying at home to bring up the children, now is the right time
for them to make a move before the girls start school.
We're hoping to escape to Suffolk.
We've been over there a couple of times. Some beautiful countryside
and beautiful houses and beautiful little villages that we could
really see ourselves settling into, and becoming part of the community.
Nice little cosy pubs in the winter.
And lots of sheep, primarily!
Which is not why I'm attracted to Suffolk at all, but, yeah,
we would like to get some land that we could potentially keep
some sheep on in the longer term.
Just to give our girls a sort of a rural upbringing.
Matt grew up in the New Zealand countryside close to the sea,
and they're keen for the girls to experience the same kind
of childhood he enjoyed.
Suffolk's got a long coastline, and I'd really like to teach
the girls how to sail, like I was taught when I was younger.
And I'd like to learn how to sail, as well.
But it would be nice to be able to go to the coast for the day.
Yeah, absolutely, just get on the boat at the coast in the morning,
or for the afternoon, for fish and chips.
-It would be amazing, wouldn't it?
Committed to making the move to Suffolk work,
Matt would like the property to be no more than a 15-minute drive
from the nearest railway station,
so he can still commute to his risk-management job in London.
I'm fully prepared for the commute to take a bit longer.
It's a trade-off with lifestyle.
And with rolling fields and sea air on the horizon,
Laura and Matt can't wait to immerse themselves in country life
and begin their search for their dream home.
I'm primarily looking forward to the peace and quiet,
the kids being able to make as much noise as they want to
without annoying any neighbours,
and just having the freedom to do what we want, whenever we want to.
Having visited Suffolk only a handful of times,
Laura and Matt are open to living anywhere in the county,
so this gives us great scope for our property search.
I'm meeting up with them to pinpoint exactly what they're after
in terms of their new home and new life in the countryside.
Welcome back, you two, to a bright but blustery Suffolk.
-Good to be out in the countryside?
So, how well do you know Suffolk?
We don't know Suffolk very well.
A voyage of discovery for you both.
-Why have you chosen Suffolk, then?
We were looking to move back to New Zealand at some stage, and...
-That's called Escape THE Country!
-Escape THE Country! Absolutely.
And Suffolk is quite similar to New Zealand in terms of countryside.
This is sort of a compromise between the two.
Well, you're still working, so it needs to be commutable.
I've spoken to a few people in my work that do commute from Suffolk.
I've had a look at the Sudbury commute,
and that seems quite reasonable.
Now, schools have got to be a factor coming up, haven't they?
That's a key aspect of the property search for us -
the schools available for the children.
So let's talk about the house itself. And its environment.
You're from New Zealand, so I imagine you want to be in the middle of nowhere.
This is where we compromise again.
I would rather be in the middle of a village.
Matt would rather be in the middle of nowhere.
So I think somewhere in between that would be ideal.
What does it look like, then, this dream countryside property, then, Laura?
Ideally four bedrooms at least.
An annexe would be nice.
If people are coming to stay,
-I think it's nice for them to have their own space.
Especially for people staying from New Zealand,
that are over here for extended periods of time.
That makes perfect sense, so, like your folks, of course.
-OK, style-wise, have you got anything you both like?
We've looked at barn conversions,
we've looked at Victorian properties.
We'd prefer something with a bit of character.
-Yes. Now, outside. Big garden?
Why did I even ask that question?!
-Matt would like five acres. I'm a bit more realistic.
I'll go with your answer, then, Laura. Any particular no-noes?
-We don't want it right on a main road.
-Let's talk about budget.
I understand you've got two options, haven't you?
We have. We have a property in Stevenage at the moment
and we'd quite like to keep that and rent it out,
or selling it would increase the budget somewhat over here.
So, if you keep your property in Stevenage,
how much would you be able to spend here?
-I think 450 is realistic.
-OK, and if you sell your property in Stevenage?
So, how about, then, we look around 450-ish, option one, and 550-ish,
maybe squeezing a bit more out of it, for option number two?
-Sounds a good plan.
-Let's get going.
Having a budget in the region of 450,000 and £550,000, Laura and Matt
are looking for a four-bed detached property with
lots of space for their growing girls to explore and enough land
to appreciate rural living, but also not too far from a local village.
We've got some gorgeous properties lined up which reflect
the bountiful architectural heritage of Suffolk that Laura
and Matt love, combined with the space they're longing for.
At the end of the house tours, I'll be asking them
to estimate the price of each.
Our final stop will be the mystery house, which provides an alternative
option and may make them reconsider elements of their wish list.
So, have you lived in the countryside before, Laura?
I haven't, no. I'm what you would describe as a townie.
Is it daunting?
A little bit, yeah, because I'd be leaving my family,
but then Matt wants to live in the countryside.
I'd still be lucky enough for my parents
and friends and family
to come and stay with us at weekends.
We're not a million miles away.
That sounds like a mother-in-law staying at your house a lot.
Absolutely. Hence the requirement for an annexe!
What do your folks think about you moving away?
I think Mum would prefer us to move to Suffolk than New Zealand.
They just want me to do whatever makes me happy.
So what sort of things do you want to do in your new life in the country?
Have you any ideas of things you want to do as a family?
We'd like to be more involved in the community, basically,
and have some close relationships with people that live around us
and just get involved in the country lifestyle.
We've got a couple of really active young girls
and we want them to grow up with the ability
to do some... Get outdoors and see a bit of the country.
Your children will be growing up as country bumpkins.
Won't they? Not townies!
All we need to do now is find you the right house.
-In the right community.
We're beginning our search in the village of Bacton.
This popular and attractive village is set around a pond
and offers a local store and post office,
pub and garden centre with cafe.
There's also a highly regarded school, which could be
a good option for Matt and Laura's girls.
On the edge of the village and just a gentle saunter
from the centre of the community is the property we're going to view.
Now, you told me you like a variety of styles,
so what do you think of this one?
Wow, it's very pretty.
-Yeah, I really like it.
I like the windows.
It's lovely. It's set back from the road. Nice and quiet. Yeah.
But with a few neighbours.
To bake cakes for. I'm building a picture of your life. I want in!
-I do bake.
-Good. Let's go inside.
This substantial, Grade II-listed,
picture-postcard cottage has origins dating back to
the late 17th century and, although modernised throughout,
retains many original and characterful features.
OK, let's start in the kitchen because, by the sounds of it,
-you are going to be spending quite a bit of time in here.
It's lovely. Nice, open-plan.
I love the fact that the conservatory area comes off of the kitchen,
-because it makes the kitchen look a lot bigger.
-It's a good family space.
-Somewhere to cook, eat, entertain. That's right.
And that would really suit our lifestyle, wouldn't it?
I love cooking. I love being in the kitchen.
-We could certainly live in here very happily.
Also on the ground floor is a study and a shower room,
which would be useful for visiting family.
Your main living room.
OK, this is cosy.
Yeah, nice. Very cosy.
But, what you get with all this wonderful timber
is the character just oozing from the walls, don't you?
-It's beautiful. The timber is beautiful.
-Yeah, the wood is a really lovely colour.
There is planning consent to go through there -
see where that window is? And keep those big timber uprights.
You've got a really nice opportunity for another ground-floor room.
-So this could lead into a much bigger living room.
Formal dining room, whatever you want to use it for.
-It's a really pretty room. Yeah. Lots of potential.
Now, before we go upstairs, I want to show you one room down here,
because I think it lends itself to what you're after.
So follow me.
OK, so this, officially, is the other reception room.
But, as the current owners have elderly parents,
-they use this when they come to stay.
So this is a nice guest room.
And it's a nice place to have a guest room.
So, would you keep it just as this?
Well, it could be a good children's playroom, as well,
when it's not being occupied by friends and family.
I'm looking around and I'm thinking, where I would fit my furniture?
And it's the first house that I've seen, that I've done that.
Let's go upstairs and look at the bedrooms.
Matt asked for four,
and with the option of the fourth being downstairs, upstairs
there are two double bedrooms, one single, and a family bathroom.
Now, this is your master bedroom.
That is a wall, isn't it?
Yeah! It's a gold wall!
It's actually made out of real Suffolk gold.
-It's quite a statement, isn't it?
A bit more light might open it up a bit. It is a reasonable-sized room.
That's for sure.
It's not that I don't like it, it's just that it's just a room.
It's not wowing you.
But, does a bedroom need to wow you?
-The most important rooms in the house are downstairs.
Let's go outside and talk about outside space.
We'll also have a think about how much
this place might be on the market for.
Deceptively small-looking from the front of the property,
the garden actually stretches out and round the cottage,
which sits within a third-of-an-acre plot.
-Now, all-important outside space.
I really like it. I think it's a lovely size. It's manageable.
And of course, this isn't the smallholding that
I know you dream of, Matt.
-We're not going to be running 50 sheep on it, but...
-Just two girls!
-Yeah, the two girls.
-Maybe a couple of chickens.
So, how much do you think it is?
I'm thinking 435,000.
-OK, I was going to say the lower end of our budget at 450.
Not great news for you.
This place is on the market for offers around £485,000.
I think that reflects its position.
It's in one of those rare old villages that has the pub,
the post office, the shop, Stowmarket,
one hour and 26 minutes on the train, so it's commutable.
-You've got the village community.
-And you got outside space.
-Now, I think you should go back into the house
and have a look around all the other rooms
and then I'll meet you back out here, and we'll move on.
-OK, thank you.
That was the first house. I've seen some great reactions from them both.
And I think, as Laura said, they could see themselves living here.
So, good start.
£65,000 under the top end of their budget,
this cottage offers up four bedrooms,
a large, sociable kitchen
and a garden big enough for the girls to explore.
With a convenient layout for when family come to stay
and being a stone's throw from a village community,
it's pretty much what Laura and Matt were after.
I thought the house was absolutely beautiful. Really impressive.
Lovely. Nice bit of land behind it.
-I think the girls would like playing here.
-Plenty of room for them.
-Yeah. And it's interesting, as well.
Interesting garden, and it's mature. I love all these trees.
Yeah, they're beautiful.
I absolutely fell in love with the kitchen, conservatory area.
And downstairs had an extra room which would be ideal as a playroom or
a guest room, and I think that would really work well for us as a family.
-Cosy little room, isn't it?
I think Elizabeth would like this room.
Yeah. At the moment. She'd soon outgrow it, though.
I'm aware that the property does have planning permission to add an
extension on, but, as it is at the moment, probably quite tight for us.
I really like this house and, if it meant that we could
keep our current house, then I would happily live here.
-So, all done inside?
-Yes, we're done.
Didn't bang your head on any beams?
-I must have missed them all.
-So, you could get used to it, then, maybe?
-Yeah, possibly, yeah.
-Truth be told, that's all I want to hear. Let's get going.
The Suffolk countryside is home to extensive views
and an undulating terrain, and below this surface lies land rich in clay.
In Bulmer, on the Suffolk-Essex border,
there's a site dating back to the Middle Ages, where clay
is still being used today to make decorative terracotta
plaques in the style of the past.
We sent Laura and Matt, who are keen to find out about the local area
and traditions, to meet tile- and brick-maker Peter Minter,
whose family have been running this brickyard since 1936.
Good morning. Nice to meet you, nice to meet you. Jolly good.
So, Peter, is the clay local clay?
We are sitting on a clay seam.
This is the north edge of the Thames Estuary, would you believe?
And this was all the silt in that estuary.
And it's a very clean, fine clay.
And that's perfect for making a whole range of things.
-What are you going to do today?
-Well, I think we'll make some plaques.
These are plaques.
This is a carving of a traditional Tudor rose from the time of
the Wars of the Roses, and this is a little stylised rose.
And they are carved in wood in reverse and then moulded
and we shall see that process.
Peter makes all the plaques using traditional moulds made
out of mahogany, which enable them to retain their shape.
Rescued by Peter's father after the Second World War,
the mould they are using today was one of many set to be burned
before he brought them back into use.
We have come to the making shop to try to make a decorative
plaque for you. So this has been sanded, ready to throw the clay in.
And we're going to roll the clay in sand, rather as you would use
flour with dough, so that the two will come apart.
And if you have a look here, here's the start of rolling what is
called a warp, which is the shape that's going to go in there.
So it just needs a little bit of sand, just literally to roll it in,
and you can roll back like that, you just get each corner
just slightly rolled, and then it will go into that box, we hope.
As one piece. That's it.
That's lovely. And then, if you punch from the centre,
push it in, we're going to push it into each corner with your fist.
It's really good fun.
And then just fold it in slightly from the edges. That's perfect.
Then we bow off the surplus clay.
Press down and draw along. Lovely! And then roll that back.
-I'll take that.
-That's the start of the next brick.
And then we take a metal, we call it a strike.
Just put a little bit of water on there, as well,
and then you can just smooth that off with that rod.
Right along the top, there. That's perfect.
This has got to go onto a board, when you turn it out,
so we put a little sand on there, just like a flour again,
so the next thing is to pick it up.
That's it. That's lovely, perfect.
You've got a job!
That's lovely. Pick up a board, lay it on top.
Turn it over.
And with a bit of luck, it should, hopefully, come out.
-Just give it a little wiggle.
-Slowly. Not too much. Just straight up.
-You're so bossy!
-How about that?
So, now, you're going to put this to dry,
and during the drying process, it will shrink.
Once the plaques are out of the moulds,
they need to dry out for around three to four weeks
before they can be fired in a coal-burning downdraught kiln.
This is the kiln.
Why do you dry the plaques out before you put them in the kiln?
Because if you've got moisture present when it heats up,
it will turn to steam, and the whole thing will disintegrate.
Your plaque, once it's dry, will be dry enough to go in here,
and we shall pack it in with other bricks.
And put it at the height that we want to get the colour,
because the colour is affected by the height it is in the kiln.
What sort of temperatures do you get in the kiln?
At the top of the kiln, about 1,100 centigrade. So it's quite hot.
Is there much variation between the top and the bottom?
About 200 degrees.
-So the hotter they are, the paler in colour?
Your plaque will be put in the middle to protect it,
so that it comes out a perfect red.
And you leave it that way for...?
Three days. Three days to fire it, and three days cooling.
-So in a couple of months' time, your plaque should be ready.
Lovely, thank you.
It's very nice to have met you, and thanks very much for coming.
-Thank you for a fantastic day out.
-Jolly good. Very good. Thank you.
Our house-hunt continues in the hamlet of Creeting St Peter.
Nearby is the town of Needham Market,
which originally grew up around the wool-combing industry,
and where there's a butcher, a baker, a post office and two pubs.
The property we're going to visit is 2.5 miles
from this thriving community and a five-minute drive
to a local primary school for Laura and Matt's girls.
Now, someone here mentioned they liked the idea of a barn conversion.
-There you go.
All this timber-clad building is yours,
from the two-storey building, all the way along here.
And the living accommodation ends right there at the carport.
-It's quite extensive, isn't it?
I think it looks quite small from the outside,
but I think it's going to actually be quite big.
Now, can you hear that?
That's the train that takes you into London in one hour and 26 minutes.
The station is less than a couple of miles away. At Stowmarket.
What do you really think about this area?
It seems a bit more in the middle of nowhere for me.
The convenience of the train is quite appealing.
Inside, this could be the house that you fall in love with.
It really, really could be. Let's go and find out.
Stylishly converted 12 years ago,
this Grade II-listed barn has foundations which date back
to 1753, and sits within a development of eight dwellings.
Right, first off, I want to point out
you've got a utility room just there.
-Big tick for you, isn't it?
-Well, that's nice.
-I like the kitchen, lovely island in the middle.
Now, they've spent some money on this house, especially in the kitchen. You can see it.
Shot-blasted granite worktops, state-of-the-art cookers.
Yeah, very contemporary, yet still quite country at the same time.
Yeah, and if you look through those double doorways,
-you've got a really good-sized dining room.
-I'm liking it.
Through that door that way, you got a living room
and an en-suite double bedroom.
-That's almost like an axe.
So you can go and discover that later on,
-but I just want you to know that is there while we walk through the rest of the house.
Come with me.
-Now, I really like this room.
-I think you will, too.
-It's a good size, isn't it?
-It's a really nice room.
It's got a lot of what you liked in the previous house, but then, look!
-Just more space.
-Yeah, beautifully decorated.
-It certainly is.
-Nice flooring. Very impressive.
-I like this room.
-You like the inside of this house, don't you?
-I do. I really do.
-And because of that, the outside is growing on me, too.
It's all about the package. Of course it is.
Let's keep looking around. Let me take you to one of the bedrooms -
-I think you'll like those, as well.
Due to the unique layout of this barn conversion,
on the ground floor there are two double bedrooms
and two bathrooms located at either end of the property.
On the first floor, there are a further three double bedrooms -
one currently used as a library, one as a study - and two more bathrooms.
Obviously, this is your master, en suite.
-I think you can get all your family at this end of the house.
-I love the timber.
And what we love about it
is that it's so separated from the kitchen/dining room,
so if you've got friends over and you're having a party
and it's a little bit noisy, it's not going to disturb...
The little ones, yeah, good idea.
Don't forget downstairs, there's a double bedroom,
great for visiting relatives.
-I really feel at home here. Do you?
-Yeah, I could see myself living here.
-I think the layout would suit us really well.
You spied that other bit of garden from the living room.
Let's go out there and also maybe start thinking about the price.
'Since viewing the inside of the barn,
'the property seems to have grown on Laura especially.
'But let's see if the landscape garden here of half an acre
'lives up to expectation, too.'
This is a really handy bit of garden space here, isn't it?
-I really like this.
A little bit overgrown at the moment,
-but you can really do something with this space.
Nice views of the countryside here.
Compare your thoughts or reactions now to your first reactions
when you were stood on the other side of that building.
Yeah, well, I was a bit disappointed when we first saw the garden.
But, actually, I've walked around the house and I've come out here
and there's a lot more garden out here and it's beautiful.
You just keep finding more and more house, don't you,
and more and more garden? So, yeah, it's quite surprising.
OK, then, your next problem is to guess the price of this house.
-Well, I definitely think it's the top end of our top budget.
But I don't think you'd be so mean as to show us somewhere
that I would fall in love with that we couldn't afford.
-So I would say £600,000.
I'm going to go slightly lower.
-I think £580,000.
You'll be pleased to hear that this place is on the market
-for offers around £575,000.
-That's good, isn't it?
That's surprising! Yeah, I was being optimistic with my 580.
-That's really doable.
-I like that.
-Something to think about?
Good package, isn't it, really?
-I love this house! I love it!
Well, I love hearing that.
Now, look, I think you should go back into the house,
have a look at all the rooms you haven't yet seen.
Maybe the guest suite - the guest wing, should we call it? -
at the other side of the kitchen
and I'll meet you outside whenever you're done.
-OK, brilliant. See you in a mo.
Well, this house has really grown on both Laura and Matt
and I think a lot of that is, of course, the size of the accommodation.
It's been really well done
and I do actually think this is a contender this time.
At the very top end of their budget, this stunning barn conversion
with four bedrooms and contemporary kitchen
offers the perfect solution for separate guest accommodation.
So there's plenty of room for Laura and Matt to play with.
-Oh, this is a nice space.
Like a fantastic playroom for the girls
and just somewhere they can mess up and you can shut the door on it!
-Space is what we were after and this place definitely delivers that.
Walking round the house, the rooms are all lovely.
It's beautifully decorated.
-This would make a fantastic guest room, wouldn't it?
Yeah, very impressive.
I love the style, this place has been done very tastefully.
-Your mum and dad would be pretty happy with this, wouldn't they?
-As would mine.
Possibly where this house falls short is on the outside space.
If we were to buy this house, because it is at the top
end of our budget, we would have to sell our house in Stevenage.
But I think, for a house like this,
that would be something I'd be willing to do.
Tell me, guys - what was it like spending some time
-in this house on your own? Did it grow on you even more?
-Yep. I really like this house.
It's surprising how you've almost turned a corner.
You said it looked quite nice, but you weren't certain about the area.
-But you really seem to have warmed to it.
The inside is just fabulous.
Mmm. I have, too.
I liked it to start with,
but seeing the inside just makes it even more...
-Hopefully, something to sleep on now, isn't it?
It's the second day of our property search in Suffolk,
with Laura and Matt from Stevenage in Hertfordshire,
who have a budget of between £450-550,000.
They're ready to leave busy suburbia behind and enjoy the space
and freedom country living can provide for their growing family.
Coming up, they're blown away by what's on offer.
Every time you turn a corner in this place,
it just gets better, doesn't it? Just space.
And I take to the water in search of one Suffolk's finest delicacies.
-That must be 20 years old.
-What are you going to do with that?
-We'll use it for oyster soup.
I think it's fair to say that Matt and Laura
rather like barn conversions, so I'm going to stick with that theme
for the first house today.
Then, we're off to the mystery house.
Now, often, this is a bit of a gamble.
But I was quite pleased with how Laura reacted to the rural
location of house number two.
And although the mystery house is the most rural of all
the locations that Matt and Laura are looking at, I think it's
worth this gamble, because Matt, in particular, should be laughing here.
It comes with three acres of land, so plenty for all of his sheep.
But before the mystery property,
our search is taking us to the village of Old Newton.
Close by is the ancient village of Haughley,
the market for which was once an important
and historical hub for the area,
until a great fire in the 1500s destroyed much of the village,
and brought about the end of the market, which was then moved
to nearby Stowmarket.
Today, there are still a range of amenities.
And, 1.5 miles away, just around the corner from the nearest
primary school, our offering can be found in the heart of the community.
You might not guess it quite yet,
-but this is actually a barn conversion.
What do we think?
-I really like it.
-I really like it, too.
-You like the position?
You're only a ten-minute drive from Stowmarket,
so good train access back into London.
It's a strange shape, isn't it? Interesting shape.
When you think barn conversion, you think lots of beams,
but I don't think there's going to be lots of beams.
-I think it could be quite modern inside.
-I think you're going to like this place.
Let's go inside.
Formerly a Victorian threshing barn built in 1847,
this property has phenomenal proportions
and certainly isn't shy of space.
Sympathetically converted in 2003,
it's also been refurbished since by the current owners.
This could be a really nice, light reception hall there,
with those blinds taken up.
But take a look at this.
I like that!
-THAT is a fireplace.
-That IS a fireplace.
-That's pretty special.
-What a room.
Christmas, can you imagine it in this house? Look at this room!
I'm already decorating the room.
We could have the whole extended family for Christmas, yeah.
We've got stockings over the fireplace...
-So - big enough, isn't it?
-It certainly is.
I really like the style of the house inside so far.
-Favourite living room so far?
-It beats the previous one.
-And you liked that one, didn't you?
-I did like that one.
-OK, let's keep looking around.
Just wanted to have a quick peek into here,
because I thought, Christmas dinner.
-It's cosy in here, isn't it?
-Imagine the whole family in here, gathered round the table.
-It makes a great, great formal dining room.
-Doesn't it just?
But you've got space in the kitchen, as well - let me show you.
Also on the ground floor, there's a study which could provide either
a playroom for the girls or a further guest room for family.
-Mind your step on the way down here.
This is nice.
Every time you turn a corner in this place, it just gets better.
Good. I'm glad you said that. And bigger!
Just space. Lots and lots of space.
Beyond there, you've got a utility room and a downstairs loo.
They've done a fantastic job of it, too.
-Well, I'm glad you like it.
Nice mixture of wood, brick and... plastered surfaces. Yeah, that's...
-It's got a great feel to it.
-It has. It's beautiful.
-Great news. Let's go upstairs.
-Come with me.
'Up past this vast, vaulted hallway on the first floor,'
there are four double bedrooms -
two of which benefit from en suites -
plus, there's a family bathroom.
The master bedroom.
-Just keeps delivering, this place, doesn't it?
-It does. Wow.
And I'm guessing through that door there, there's en suite?
Yeah, I like this bedroom a lot.
-Just the sense of space and light and...
-Mm. The high ceilings.
We really like high ceilings, don't we?
-It's exactly what we're looking for.
Well, you've reacted really, really well.
I wonder if your prices are going to reflect your reactions.
Let's go outside and have a chat.
So far, so good.
However, whilst the well-manicured garden here completely envelopes
the property, there's only 0.4 of an acre of land,
so I'm hoping that won't dampen their spirits.
Now then, you can see you've got these different segments of the garden again.
-A bit like yesterday afternoon.
-Do you like it?
-It's really nicely done.
-I really like it.
You've got the play area for the girls
-and then the party/entertainment area for us.
So...come on, then, tell me -
how much do think this house is on the market for?
I think you've been a bit mean to us, Jonnie, and I think you've
gone right to the top, if not a little bit over our budget.
-So, I'm thinking around the £610,000 mark.
I'd say 600, definitely top-end.
this place is on the market for offers around £550,000.
It's a good shocked - it's in budget!
-That's a lot of house for the money.
I think the house has absolutely blown us away,
and I think with the quality of the house and the space that the
house offers, the compromise on the land is one I could easily make.
But also, I think because there's a field next door,
it gives you that sense of space.
Yeah, throws the eye, certainly. Good.
Well, look, go back into the house, have a good look around it.
You know what I'm going to ask you to do - start comparing this place
with what you've seen before now, and I will meet you outside. OK?
-See you in a mo.
A fantastic house tour, make no mistake about it.
And the fact that Matt's now prepared to maybe consider
buying a place without any land, well, it's great news.
But we've got one more property to see.
Just under the top of their budget, this modern barn conversion
beautifully retains a sense of its heritage.
There are four bedrooms, plus more than enough living space
for their growing girls to enjoy, and to accommodate visiting family.
It sits on the edge of a village and is blessed with countryside views.
Walking into the first reception room, erm...
I don't think I've ever been in a room so big in a house in the UK.
It's... It's just amazing.
It's exceeded any expectations.
-I'd be tempted to have this bedroom...
..as our bedroom, for the view.
-That's what they're after, isn't it?
The living space in this house would so suit our needs as a family.
There's big spaces and plenty of room for us to grow.
-Aww! This is a perfect little-girl bedroom, isn't it?
When I think about a country property that we would move to,
you know, this pretty much is it.
It delivers on everything we're asking for -
space, bit of character with the beams...
It's just everything we were looking for.
The house itself is beautiful.
It's got beautiful features, it's beautifully decorated...
It's my dream home.
-Now then, I think it's fair to say we all enjoyed looking round that house, didn't we?
-Did we potentially look around your new home?
Oh-ho-ho-ho! Straight in!
-I think we're both quite keen on the property.
Well, we've got one more property to have a look at...
Let's get on the way.
-So for the mystery property, you know we mix things up a bit?
What do you think it could be today?
I think the mystery property could be a thatched cottage
on a fair bit of land that needs a bit of work done to it.
So you think you'd be getting the land
but the compromise would be the cottage in proportion...?
-Would a thatched be really bad?
-Erm, not for me.
What do you think it might be, Laura?
Yeah, I think Matt's probably right there.
What would you personally love it to be?
I would love it to be something like the second house we saw yesterday,
but with the land that Matt wants.
You've really reacted well to character, to beams,
-to history, haven't you?
-Yeah. I love all that.
-And I like a little bit of quirkiness.
-It's just got to have the space, as well.
That's the key element for us, with the rapidly growing family.
..we're hoping for big things today.
You might get them. Careful what you wish for, mate!
For our mystery property, we're visiting the village of Offton.
Close by is the village of Somersham, which,
with a good sprinkling of old, traditional buildings,
has a tightknit community who run the village shop.
There's also a local primary school which would be handy for Laura and Matt's girls.
From here, it's just 2.5 miles to our next property,
which has a stunning rural setting.
-Now, the mystery house is this.
What's going through your mind?
-That my daughter, Sophie, would absolutely love it.
-Ohh! Why so?
-OK, well... All right! Suffolk pink it is.
-With lots of pargetting on the facade and the rear, as well.
I think it's very pretty.
-The house looks quite small from the outside.
Hoping it will be bigger inside.
So I'm imagining it's probably got something large that comes with it.
It has indeed. Come with me.
Steeped in history dating back to the 17th century,
this Grade II-listed cottage spent its former years as a pub
which closed in 1907.
Lovingly restored by the current owners,
it includes a host of period features.
There's a small pantry through that door there.
-Straight into the kitchen.
-Mind your head.
-It's cosy, isn't it?
Oh! Really? Come through with me...
Give it a chance! OK...
-A lot of history in here, isn't there?
I love it, it's very pretty...
but, for our family living, this is too small.
I think I would have to agree with Laura on that one.
It is exceptionally lovely, but I think it's just a little bit...
-Not combining both these spaces, though?
-You've got a separate dining room next door.
-OK, well, let's keep an open mind and see the rest of it and see how that pans out.
-All right, do that.
Now this dining room... If you like open fires, you'll be impressed.
-Look at that.
Wow! That's lovely. You can picture family dinners in here -
nice and cosy in the winter by the fire - can't you?
I think the reception room you would use is just this way.
OK, so the dedicated adults' room, I think.
-Nice and cosy in here, isn't it?
Whoever's renovated it has done an absolutely fantastic job
of stripping all the wood back and making it look really pretty.
Yeah, beautifully done.
But we're not really talking about it being a home, are we?
-That says everything.
-I don't think it would suit us as a family.
-And a growing family at that.
Well, as you know, the mystery house is all about a gamble
and compromise, sometimes, so...we thought you may be pushed
-a little bit internally as regards to family size, of course.
But we chose it because it gives you something that you haven't
-yet seen, and that's lots of outside space.
-But before we go out there and have a look around the land...
-..let's have a quick peek at the bedroom.
On the ground floor, there's a further reception room -
which could be a fourth bedroom - and a family bathroom.
Upstairs, there are three double bedrooms and a shower room.
We're heading for the master.
..a creaky bedroom!
-I love that! Beautiful floorboards.
-They are, aren't they?
-There'd be no sneaking in at night, though, would there?
-Not really, no.
I think it's a beautiful house.
Absolutely stunning. I think we both do.
But, in terms of the space aspect that we're really craving -
hence our move out of the city - erm, it's not got it.
Maybe this house can give you the space outside as opposed to inside.
-Come with me.
The land is the real selling point of this country cottage,
with veggie plot and stunning views.
There's over 3.5 acres here,
and I'm hoping this time Matt will be happy with his lot.
Now, the man wanted land. Satisfied?
-It's a good lump of land, isn't it?
Cracking view from up here, isn't it?
I think, coming here and seeing, you know,
the land and what you get in terms of a house for the price,
and the compromise you have to make between the two, I'm swayed
more towards the house being the focal point, rather than the land.
So, how much do you think it's on the market for?
I'm thinking around the 450,000 mark.
-I'd say 500.
-Ooh! Quite a spread.
And it's split the camp,
because this place is on the market for offers around £475,000.
-I feel like the mystery house on this occasion has been
an exercise in flushing things out.
Maybe you've already seen a property you like more
and it helps make your mind up.
So, have a quick scoot around on your way out and I'll meet you whenever you're ready, OK?
-See you in a mo.
£75,000 under the top end of Laura and Matt's budget, this pretty pink
cottage offers the character they're after, a substantial amount of land
that Matt has always dreamt of, and the village location they hoped for.
However, the property itself just wasn't big enough to accommodate
the needs of their family.
The mystery house is a beautiful little cottage,
but probably just not right for us.
The house was very lovingly restored, but the rooms felt very small
and the ceilings were low.
We have two young, very energetic children who need space to grow
and to run. And I just feel that this cottage would be
too small for them to be able to do that.
It's helped me realise that the land that
I was longing for is possibly not as necessary as what I thought it was.
The best move for us would be to spend the extra money
and sell our house in Stevenage so that we could perhaps buy
a bigger place over here and get exactly what we want.
So, that's it.
-No more houses.
Maybe we've found you something that you really like. Hopefully so.
Let me take you somewhere you can have a chat
-and I'll catch up with you after that.
Just outside this Suffolk coastal village of Orford sits
the three-mile-long Butley Creek,
a small tributary to the River Ore and a breeding ground for oysters,
which have been farmed here since Roman times.
By the early 20th century, the trade had almost completely died away.
That is until the 1950s, when Richard Pinney,
a Londoner keen to make his own escape to the country, heard of this
rich oyster heritage and reintroduced oysters to the creek.
Three generations later,
and Bill Pinney is still working the oyster beds.
So I've come to meet him to find out a little more about this
age-old tradition, and, of course, the delicious Butley oyster itself.
Bill, thanks very much for seeing me this morning.
Firstly, how would you describe what you do here?
-Well, we are oyster farming.
We buy the oysters as very small seed
and grow them all the way through.
So on the river - on the surface to start with, in small mesh bags.
And when they get big enough, we put them on the bottom,
where they grow much more slowly. But they grow into a better oyster.
-So have you been out yet today?
-Not yet, no. Now is the time.
-Shall we go?
Having been introduced to Europe's shores around 40 years ago,
the deep-shell oysters here are originally native to Japan,
and with Butley Creek being tidal, the mixture of fresh water,
salinity and natural plankton provides optimum conditions
for the growth of around 50,000 of these oysters each year.
So, what's going on in these ones, then?
We've got the small ones growing under us...
So these are ones you're growing, Bill?
Yeah, these are the baby oysters that are getting big enough
to go onto the ground. I'll show you.
These are very, very small, these ones.
-So, how long have these been in here?
-Yeah, we've had them six months.
And when you put them in here, how big would they have been?
Well, they were absolutely tiny.
I mean, they were just like the tip of the oyster there.
They were that small. These ones are getting near the end.
Probably in another three or four weeks they'll be big enough to go on the bottom.
Quite close to it, yeah.
Can we have a go of dredging some that have been there?
Yes, I'll take you on to a bed where they've been down
for about six or eight months and you'll see the difference in growth.
The oysters in these beds can be harvested all year round
using traditional methods which have barely changed
over the last 2,000 years.
Tugged behind the boat,
the heavy-framed dredge scrapes the oysters off the riverbed
and catches them in a net-like bag before it's
then pulled in by hand.
-Do you want to have a go?
-It's all yours, then.
-It's this way up? Just throw it in?
I've got a good feeling about this one, Bill.
-It's all in the throw, I think.
-Yeah, we'll get a bag full.
Haul it in, then. See what you got.
-Pull it in.
Feels heavier. Here we go. Moment of truth.
Got it? Oh, yeah, that's good. You've got half a dredge full.
Pull them in.
Look at the size of that!
Goodness me! Wow!
Well, this is more than six months old, isn't it?
Yeah, that's probably about 20 years old, I should think.
That's the size you would normally eat.
-What are you going to do with that?
-We'll use it for oyster soup.
Or we might use it for angel on horseback, where we
-wrap it in bacon.
After being dredged, the oysters are washed
and purified before they are ready to eat.
And, having worked up an appetite on the water, I'm itching to try one.
But first, I've got to get past that shell. So, how do you open one?
-Because it looks difficult.
-There is a knack. In at that end, yeah?
Under the hinge, give it a little wiggle.
A little pressure, keep wriggling until you feel it pop in.
Keep going. That's it, you've got it, you've got it.
And then you just pop the top shell out.
You can just lift it up a bit and get your finger in.
And then just slide along the top shell. Cut the muscle.
Go in that way and you'll feel that top muscle give.
That's it, you've got it. Plump little oyster.
You're now going to cut underneath that muscle.
You slide the knife underneath the muscle there
and it's free from the shell. That's ready to go.
-How do you prefer to eat them?
-Most of our oysters are just eaten raw,
so we're going to put a little bit of lemon on them.
Sprinkle of red pepper, perhaps.
-Like most fresh things, the simpler the better, isn't it?
-Thank you, sir.
That is gorgeous. That is absolutely gorgeous.
Well, I must say, Bill, it's not the quickest form of farming,
but it's certainly one of the tastiest. Thank you very, very much.
-It's been fascinating today.
-Best of luck for the future.
Well, it's pretty clear that the barn conversion in the village
is Matt and Laura's favourite property.
But after a bit of time to think and consider things,
has it done enough to quash Matt's dream of a property with land,
and, indeed, tempt Laura away from her family and friends in Stevenage?
Let's catch up with them and find out.
So, your favourite house?
-It's got to be the barn conversion in the village.
Why is the barn conversion in the village your favourite property?
-What set it apart?
-The lounge was just fantastic, with the fireplace.
You couldn't fail to be impressed when you walked into that space.
And the fact that you walked through the house
-and it just gets better and better.
-Yeah, quite. As did your reactions.
-Now, from my perspective, this looked like a two-horse race between
the semi-timber-clad barn conversion and the one we saw in the village.
The outside space in the village barn conversion worked much better.
It wrapped around the house a bit better
and the fact that it was right next to fields
and it had a beautiful vista over the fields, as well.
-Even if we didn't own them.
-Now, Matt, for you,
one of the big factors was land.
This barn conversion doesn't have a lot of it.
Has the house done enough for you?
I think so.
The house blew us away and that more than makes up for the...
Well, it's still got a reasonable amount of land.
It's 0.4 of an acre, which is not to be sneezed at.
To sacrifice the wide open fields that I'd envisaged,
-which are admittedly right next door to the property also...
-Yeah, so it's a perfect compromise for us.
-Because in that village...
You started to sound quite interested in that community
aspect, which, beforehand, in New Zealand, I think
you were after something very, very rural.
Yeah, but with Laura home during the week,
it's going to be important to have a community aspect to our lives.
I'm moving from a town. I've always lived in a town or a city.
So to move into the countryside is quite a big deal for me,
but I think this would be a fantastic compromise.
-And the house was just absolutely fantastic.
-So, what's the next step?
I think we need to take a bigger look at the area...
Just find out what the schools are like.
Visit a school, maybe look at the house again.
Just sort of...another day with a fresh set of eyes.
Is Suffolk the place for your family, long-term?
-Driving round, Suffolk is a beautiful county.
It's got so much variation in the landscape,
and every time you come around a corner, it's a new vista.
Which, you know, is just amazing.
How soon do you think you'll come back here and have a look around the area?
I think a house like that's not going to be on the market
for a huge amount of time, so it's going to have to be quite soon.
-I think so.
No matter what you decide, do let me know what happens next, won't you?
-Good. Well, good luck.
Well, it's been great showing Matt and Laura around those fantastic properties.
But what I've really enjoyed is seeing them both compromise
on what they individually want in order to
get what's best for their entire family in the long term.
And I think with that barn conversion,
they're achieving just that.
Now, of course, by their own admission,
they don't know this part of Suffolk particularly well.
So I totally understand why they want to come back up here,
and, in particular, look around that primary school
for their two young daughters.
And, if all that goes well, then maybe the entire family will be
making a more permanent move up here to Suffolk very soon.
See you next time.
If you'd like to escape to the country
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Jonnie Irwin is property-hunting with young parents from Stevenage who are seeking an authentic country lifestyle in Suffolk and a rural family home. Jonnie offers his expertise along the way before experiencing the rich spoils of the Suffolk coastline.