Property series. Nicki Chapman goes property hunting with a couple who have £575,000 to spend on a rural family home in Wiltshire.
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This grand, Grade I listed manor house
was home to the same family for more than five centuries,
spawning a line that would go on to change
the very re-fabric of English history.
So where exactly am I?
Find out, in just a moment.
'Today's house-hunters are looking to return to
'childhood roots to raise their family.
'We surprise them with the scale of one of our properties.'
-It's amazing. It's huge! Isn't it?
-Is it the whole thing?
It looks massive, it looks like it's two, I think.
'Either way, it seems to be having the desired effect.'
-I'm starting to feel slightly excited.
-Yes, so are we.
Hey! All three of us, that's good.
Welcome to Escape To The Country.
Today, we are in Wiltshire and this is Lydiard Park,
home to the St John family for more than 500 years,
following the marriage of Oliver St John to one Margaret Beauchamp
early in the 15th century.
Now, Margaret inherited this magnificent house,
but she was also to become the great-grandmother
of King Henry VIII, the man who famously rejected
the Roman Catholic faith, altering the course of English history forever.
Today, this beautifully restored house and garden is open to the public
and remains just one of the gems in this county's rich heritage.
Lying in the south of England, Wiltshire is surrounded
by six other counties, including Dorset, Somerset and Hampshire.
Its rich and varied countryside showcases both classic rural landscapes
and international heritage sites alike,
including the Neolithic stone circles at Avebury,
as well as Stonehenge, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Little is known about how this iconic prehistoric monument
was created, but it's this fascinating mystique that
makes it one of the most visited sites in the country.
The county's rolling hills give way to downland at Salisbury Plain,
which spreads across 300 square miles and whose grassland
is home to unique flora and fauna.
Built mainly on chalk, Wiltshire is home to
three Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty,
and set within this backdrop, is the cathedral city of Salisbury.
Described as "the city in the country", its 13th century cathedral
is a leading example of English Gothic architecture.
While the village of Castle Combe,
featuring a range of buildings made from honey-coloured Bath stone,
has been voted the prettiest village in England.
The county's impressive array of historical marvels explains
Wiltshire's enduring appeal for visitors,
as well as those seeking a more permanent rural escape.
The average price of a detached property in Wiltshire is
just over £318,000, around £36,000 above the national figure.
Now, that may sound expensive,
but there are still bargains to be had if you know where to look.
Market towns like Devizes in the centre of the county
or Warminster in the south-west,
can offer better value for money than the popular villages
in the commuter bubble, closer to the Hampshire border, towards the east.
So what is it about Wiltshire that has so attracted today's buyers?
Well, let's meet them and find out.
Louisa and Chris met after an introduction from a mutual friend,
and love quickly blossomed.
We met in Fresher's Week at university, at Oxford Brookes.
I think we were introduced while Chris was living
with a friend of mine, so I went down to see him in halls, and...met you.
Yeah, he turned out to be my best man,
at my wedding, so he introduced us, and, yeah...
It went on from there.
'After leaving university,
'they tied the knot and moved to the leafy suburbs of the capital.
'But the appeal of suburban life is starting to fade for them
'and so the time feels right for a change.'
So we currently live in a cottage in East Molesey,
and it's been great as a starter home.
We had our little girl here, who is now two.
But...we've kind of outgrown it.
It's been brilliant, but we need to move on to the next thing, now.
'But with this next move,
'they will still need to consider Chris's work in terms of location.'
Well, currently I work in construction
and have been for about seven years.
My head office is based in Guildford
so...we're looking to - at the moment -
still maintain that set-up.
I will commute to work and then the rest of the week
I'll be travelling back to wherever our new
humble abode will be.
'Becoming parents has completely changed their lives
'and now much of their attention and time is focused
'on a certain little person.'
Evie is our two-year-old daughter,
who only turned two very recently,
and is very much a troublemaker,
a very excitable young lady.
She's definitely the focus of our lives.
A lot of energy.
Yes, since she was born
she's been the person that everything revolves around now.
So, yes, life's geared up for her.
-Keeps us very busy.
-That's why moving to the country,
for her especially, it's going to be...
it's going to be amazing.
'And after leaving the city,
'Louisa and Chris plan to return to their roots.'
So...we're looking to move back to the West Country,
which is where Louisa's parents are from.
She grew up there for about 25 years
and I went to school in Wiltshire,
so that part of the world is somewhere that is quite close to our hearts.
We're looking to move back to in and around the Bradford on Avon region
and be not too far from Bath.
'For Evie, country life will be just the ticket.'
I know not all children are,
but Evie is definitely an outdoorsy child.
She's her most happiest
when she's jumping in a puddle or just getting filthy,
so I think, for her,
it's just going to be completely perfect.
'And perhaps Evie will also have a new brother or sister to play with
'once they all relocate west.'
When we are down in Bath or the surrounding area,
we want to extend the family,
because we haven't got enough room here.
When we are in a new location and a bigger house,
-that's definitely something we...
-..want to do.
And more babies, that's it.
Since we've come from uni it's really been a case of, you know,
just quite rapidly moving out of places and moving further out of London.
So this is the BIG MOVE,
the big move back to a long-term settlement plan, I think.
'When our buyers move to Wiltshire,
'they're hoping to settle within striking distance of Bath
'to be close to friends and family
'and also near good commuter routes for Chris.
'So we're concentrating our search on the villages found to the west of the county
'and we're all meeting up so I can get a better understanding
'of exactly what they're after.'
-Well, Louisa and Chris, welcome to wonderful Wiltshire.
We're just on the edge of the West Country here, but why Wiltshire?
Why do you two want to move?
Well, I think it's been a while coming
since we've been in London for around six years now.
We're looking to make the move back for our family
and heading back to our roots, really.
I think it's now cos Evie, she's two,
she's going to be starting school in a few years.
So we want to come back, be settled before she starts school.
So you've obviously thought long and hard about this move.
What does the perfect property look like in your minds?
I think the key is going to be space.
Moving out of London, we're looking to maximise what we can get for our money in terms of space.
It's quite cramped at the moment with the little one.
-So, yeah, looking for more bedrooms.
-How many bedrooms?
-Probably four bedrooms.
-Ideally four, yes.
And I think one of the key things for us is going to be a big kitchen.
-Heart of the home.
That's going to be a big area where you can eat and cook and kids can play.
That kind of thing, that's the idea.
So four bedrooms, a good-sized kitchen, what else are you after?
I think we want a good garden.
We don't feel like we need anything enormous,
cos gardening is not your - or my - favourite thing!
So nothing enormous, but a good garden, again, for running around,
-You'd quite like some kind of study...
-..for you to work at home.
-I'd need either an outbuilding
where there's a little office space
or a study for when I am working at home.
That would be a useful attribute, definitely.
What about location?
Do you want to be within a community?
Would you like to be more rural?
I think, for us, we definitely want a few local shops nearby,
just so you can pop out, get the milk and newspaper, that kind of thing.
The big thing about location is schools.
I'm a primary school teacher so, at some point,
I'd like to go back to work
and a local primary school
for a little girl and, hopefully, maybe me would be perfect for us.
Well, let's look at money, then.
Just remind us what we've got to spend here in Wiltshire.
We have got a maximum budget of 575,
Do you think that is a realistic budget for what you're after?
I think it is, yes. I think it's pretty realistic.
-Well, I will let you know it is a very popular county...
..because of where it is, the countryside and, also,
relatively close to London, as well.
Having said that, we do have some splendid properties lined up to show you
and, of course, one is going to be the mystery house.
Shall we get started?
-Let's do it.
-Come on, then.
'With £575,000 to spend,
'Louisa and Chris have a healthy budget for their country property.
'Central to their search
'is finding enough space for them to grow as a family,
'so a generous kitchen is important,
'as are enough bedrooms.
'Besides a manageable garden,
'they need access to good schools,
'commuter links for Chris
'and to be close to family in Bath.
'And we've got some great Wiltshire properties to tempt our couple
'away from the city,
'but I won't be revealing the prices until the end of each tour.
'Then, to finish up, we will reveal our mystery house,
'which should really challenge their preconceptions
'of what that preferred country home should be.'
Well, let's talk about hobbies.
Anything that you can't do at the moment where you live,
but you're hoping to do when you move?
I think horse riding's a big thing.
There's nowhere, really, around where we are that we could...
That's for Evie Grace.
Again, that's for Evie Grace.
There's nothing specifically new,
-but it's probably being able to do things more easily.
Walking's one of the main things, go on a nice family long walk,
having that more on your doorstep
than around London, where it's normally just simply the parks.
And we'd love to get a dog, wouldn't we?
-So, I think...
-Which we can't do where we are now.
-It wouldn't be fair, I don't think.
'We're kicking off our Wiltshire property search
'in the village of Winterslow,
'20 minutes from the cathedral city of Salisbury.
'Originally three separate settlements called West,
'Middle and East Winterslow,
'they now collectively form the parish of Winterslow.
'Here modern properties mix with thatched country cottages
'and local residents are well catered for with a village shop providing essentials
'along with four churches, a village hall,
'a primary school and two pubs.
'And just to the north of the village,
'located in a private courtyard,
'is the house we've lined up.'
So let me introduce you to our very first property.
Wow! It's amazing.
It's huge...isn't it?
-Is it the whole thing?
-It looks like it's two, I think.
-I hate to disappoint you...
I was going to say, it's enormous.
-It's actually three properties.
It's an old granary, it's about 100 years old.
It's not listed and this part, this is our house.
This is the one we're going to be looking at.
First impressions? What do we think?
I think it's beautiful.
Yes, it's really sweet, very cute.
-I love it.
-It does look very welcoming.
Well, that's a strong start.
Let's see what you make inside, come on.
'Dating back to the 1800s,
'this old granary was converted in 2002.
'It's historic external aesthetic seems to have won our couple over,
'so I'm hoping the inside will have the same effect.
'We're starting our tour with the most important room in the house for Louisa and Chris...'
So I thought we'd start the tour coming through the side door...
and it brings us straight into the kitchen.
Yes, I love it.
When I first came in, the first thing I noticed was the range.
Yeah, that's great. Great bit of kit.
-Very country, very homely...
-It's very nice.
What about the actual kitchen itself?
-Really like the style.
-It's really nice. It's a very country feel.
It's been done very, very nicely.
Potentially, for me, maybe a dash small
in being what we are looking for in terms of an overall family kitchen.
In terms of size...
Is it the kitchen itself? Because, to me, this is a good-sized kitchen.
Are you thinking, perhaps, a family room on top of it?
Yes, possibly. For the kitchen itself, we wouldn't need more space.
But having a room attached, it's then utilised by everyone,
so everyone's in one big space. I think it's possibly lacking that.
Well, this is only the first room.
-Let's continue and see what you make of the others.
Down a small flight of stairs, we find the next room.
So next stop is... Well, I was going to call it the sitting room,
but I'm actually going to rename it the family room.
-It is really lovely.
-It's really beautiful.
-It feels very homely.
-Good. I mean, that's important.
It's the first house that you've seen,
and as you walk through the door you want it to feel like a home.
-I know that is a priority for you.
-Yes, definitely. And it does.
It feels cosy, it feels warm
and just lovely. Yes, really nicely done.
Is this the type of thing that you are after?
Yes, at the moment we are all in one room, dining room,
you know, we feel cramped.
-But this is a separate room.
I just wonder how child friendly it is...
-We can make it child friendly, I guess.
-So...so far, so good.
-Excellent, let's hope it continues upstairs.
'Also on the ground floor is a dining room with doors leading outside,
'a compact study and a utility room.
'Then, upstairs, we find four good-sized double bedrooms
'and a tiled bathroom.
'We're showing Louisa and Chris the largest of the rooms.'
So you've got a good-sized landing.
-This would be the master.
-Yes, it's nice.
-This is a lovely size.
-I love the really high ceilings.
-That's the wonderful thing.
-I mean, this is the master because it has
-an en-suite. OK, brilliant.
-And you don't have one of those home, do you?
You're never going to go back!
You're never, ever going to go back!
So this is a house that...for four bedrooms that you've asked for,
but, in actual fact, you could grow into it, as well, if you wanted to.
Yes, absolutely, and that's what we are looking for.
This is our house
and we want to be here in our next house for a good time.
So far our buyers seen more than happy with the house
and I'm hoping those smiles will continue as we move outside into the garden...
So you've got this patio paved area,
which leads to a very long and secure garden...
-And then just look at that view.
-I know, it's amazing. It is amazing.
-It's very rural, it's lovely.
-Nice, low-maintenance garden, as well.
-It's absolutely beautiful.
-Yes, a low-maintenance garden and secure.
I can't see too many places for little ones to escape.
-And as you can see it's been sectioned,
because there's actually a double vegetable patch at the bottom.
You've got a greenhouse and a shed and a little swing seat here.
-That's slightly more maintenance. That will go!
-So you could just leave it, yeah!
Come on, let's try and put a figure on our very first property.
-I'm not going to...
-HESITANTLY: 525? 530?
I'm going to say slightly over our budget, I'm going to say about 585.
The asking price is right on your budget,
Way below, I completely got that one wrong.
You thought slightly over.
In actual fact, Chris, it's been on since the autumn
so it has recently come down in price to 575.
-Well, why don't you take another look at our first property on your own.
This is certainly a house that you can grow into, that's for sure.
-There's a lot of possibility...
-A lot of potential on top of what's already there.
-Be my guest.
Bang on budget, this converted granary provides everything
Louisa and Chris asked for in their country property.
With four bedrooms and two reception rooms,
there's plenty of space to accommodate an expanding family.
What's more, it's ideally located
to some great commuter links for Chris.
It's a nice little dining room.
Yes, good size. Could be...could be a playroom, couldn't it? Possibly...
-Yes, that's what I was thinking.
Shut the door, all the toys.
-Yes, make a good-sized playroom.
I think my initial reaction when I saw the property was,
yes, bit of a surprise, it was really nice.
The courtyard area was lovely.
It was a really nice area, sort of enclosed the various houses around.
And I really like the timber cladding, as well.
I thought it was nice to see a converted barn,
which wasn't something I was expecting to see, so it was very nice.
There's many things I like about this property, because it just feels so homely and cosy.
Love the high ceilings and the beams.
The garden's beautiful, really nice size, safe,
very child friendly.
And just generally the feel of the place, I think. It's lovely.
-Are you happy? Have you seen enough?
-Yes, I think so. Very happy, yes.
-Yes, had a good browse around.
It's hard to believe it's a former granary, isn't it?
-I know, it's been done so beautifully. It's lovely.
And that's only our first property, because we do have more to show you.
-Let's make a move.
It's fair to say that the landscapes of Wiltshire are steeped in history
and the county offers more byways than anywhere else in the UK.
So what better way to explore the countryside than by bike?
Chris and Louisa are meeting with Dave Evans of Heritage Cycle Tours,
who's guiding them on an expedition
to learn a little more about Wiltshire's most famous landmarks.
-Hi, nice to meet you. I'm Dave.
-Nice to meet you, I'm Louisa.
-Hi, Chris. Nice to meet you.
-Well, welcome to sunny Old Sarum.
-BOTH: Thank you.
Old Sarum's the original place for Salisbury,
Sarum being the Old English name for Salisbury.
William the Conqueror decided that he liked it so much
that he'd build a castle, a motte and bailey castle here,
which is what we can see the ruins of behind us...
and also a cathedral.
That was the original Salisbury Cathedral.
-It was up for 100 and something years.
So why did Salisbury Cathedral move down into the valley?
There were two reasons.
I believe the bishop fell out with the crown
and it was also very crowded up here.
There were something like 3,000 or 4,000 people who lived up here in a village.
It was really cramped.
There's an old legend that says they fired an arrow from here
and where the arrow landed was where they were going to build the new cathedral.
But you can see it's quite some shot
and I think it probably had a following wind,
because that must be two miles away!
-But it's a lovely legend. I like the sound of that.
-OK, then, guys.
So you've seen Old Sarum, it's time to go and press on
and it's all downhill from here.
-Shall we go?
This way to the right.
Winding north of Salisbury along the Avon Valley,
this cycle route passes through some of Wiltshire's
most fascinating scenery.
Scattered throughout the landscape are a number of ancient man-made mounds.
Right, are you OK?
-How is it going?
-Are you enjoying this?
-Yes, it's lovely.
So we've just arrived in a place called Wilsford cum Lake,
which is, kind of, the greater area of Stonehenge
and we're going to see a lot of these mounds.
They're burial mounds and they're called barrows.
-So what group of people were actually buried in the barrows?
-It was English folk, we think,
but there is evidence that several of the people buried around here -
a lot of the people buried here - came from further afield.
They've found people from the Alps, people from Spain, from the Mediterranean.
So it was probably quite a well-known site for people around Europe.
And why are the mounds so big?
It's possible that the significance of the size of the barrows
was to actually show people that these very important people
are sitting here on the hillside.
When they would have been made, they wouldn't have had turf on them, they would have been white...
So they would have been quite visible to people in the area.
'Time to get back in the saddle and continue the tour.
'Wiltshire has the highest concentration of prehistoric sites in Europe,
'so there's plenty to see
'and the final stop of the excursion
'is at the county's most celebrated landmark.'
-Well, this is the last stop on the tour.
This is Stonehenge and its surrounding landscape.
What you see now is actually the last version of Stonehenge.
They had three attempts at building it.
Do you know why the stones are aligned like that?
Older versions had an alignment with the sun
and there was always some connection with the rising sun
and Midsummer's Day.
Do you think they used manual labour to get the stones up?
There are two major theories.
One would be they dug holes to put the stones into the hole to get it upright
and then built an earth bank alongside it
to then put the lintel on.
The other one is that they used timber structures like A-frames,
tied together with ropes
and then pulled the stone on top.
Do you have any idea about how long it took for them to complete it?
If you don't know how they constructed it,
it's very difficult to determine how long it would take.
It certainly must have taken them years, I would have thought.
Well, have you enjoyed your tour? Has it been fun?
-Yeah, it's been great.
-I've learnt lots.
Well, I think you've earnt yourself a cup of tea, don't you?
-Oh, yes, please.
-Shall we go and get one?
'That's it for our couple's historic sightseeing tour.
'So it's high time we cracked on with their house search.
'For our second property we're heading north west
'to the village of Seend,
'which is a 40-minute drive to Louisa's home town of Bath.
'A rural location with far reaching country views,
'Seend also lies on the Kennet and Avon Canal
'and surrounded by rich agricultural farmland.
'Many buildings within the village date back to the 15th century,
'including the parish church.
'More modern amenities within the village include a community centre,
'a post office and local store,
'two pubs and a school.
'Our second house lies to the north of the village.'
So we like to show our buyers quite a broad range of properties
is the house we want to show you.
-Yeah, I love it.
I love the look of it.
-I really do, yeah.
This is...when I think of, you know,
when you drive past houses and you say, "Oh, I like the look..."
This is, kind of, always what I think I like.
-I like the cornerstones.
-Nice little feature.
Well, I've got an "I love it!" and "I like the cornerstone!"
So you might have to work a bit harder than that, Chris!
I'm just reserving judgment until I see the whole thing, I think.
-I'm looking at it holistically.
I think so, yes.
-Bet you're keen, now, to get inside.
-Yeah, I want to get inside.
This attractive family home was built in 1988
and its modern exterior has attracted a positive response from Louisa,
but I'm not sure Chris is convinced.
Hopefully there's enough going on inside to persuade him.
Now, unusually for a house in the country, I've brought you through
the front door, because normally people use the side.
Really we have to start off with the most important room for...
-Well, I was going to say the two of you but it's the three of you, isn't it, with your daughter?
-What are we thinking?
-Yeah, spacious. Yeah, it's big, isn't it?
This is what you wanted?
Yeah, this is what I envisaged when I thought of a big family kitchen.
I can see us having family meals, socialising.
So, yeah, this has hit the mark for me.
Not style exactly but on size, it's, you know, it's big.
You might want to change it but...
I think anything we did change would just be superficial though,
painting, maybe tiles.
Well, Louisa, you gave the house love outside,
you're loving the kitchen.
Chris, I think you might be warming up somewhat.
I'm getting a bit warmer, yes.
Yeah, I'm wondering if this house can win you over.
Let's see what Evie might like through here.
It's a definite thumbs up for the kitchen,
let's see how the rest fares.
So this property actually has two sitting rooms, we've just walked
through one, which we are thinking could be Evie's room.
-And then this room, for the two of you.
-Yeah, it's lovely.
-Yeah, it's a good size for a family living room.
-It's a handsome house, isn't it?
-The core, the shell is there.
The classic style isn't really my thing, my cup of tea
but you can see through that, see through the decor and...
-And of course you've got your wood burner...
-Yeah, very nice.
-..with Bath stone surround.
-That is beautiful, yeah, it's lovely.
So, we're getting a positive reaction on the downstairs,
-let's see what you make of upstairs.
The generous proportions of the ground floor,
which also includes the study,
seem to be hitting the right notes for Louisa and Chris
and with four large double bedrooms, all served by a good-sized
family bathroom, I'm confident upstairs will also impress.
So here is our master bedroom.
It's a really good size, isn't it?
-Yeah, it is, definitely. Yeah, a nice big room.
-Put your dream emperor bed in here.
Yeah, could definitely fit a big bed in here, which is nice.
You could fit an enormous bed in here, couldn't you?
And still have room to spare.
Chris has dreams of having us all, kids, everyone in bed together.
-Oh, Sunday morning...
-Lovely. I can see that.
I think we'd probably do a few things to the decor but other than that...
So do you like the house? Is it working its magic on you?
Come on, Chris. You can be honest.
-It doesn't have the same kind of character as the other one did.
It doesn't jump out at me quite as much.
The other one, yes, character, but I feel this is more practical for us.
Fitted wardrobes in there.
-You've also got a really good sized en suite.
-Could you see yourself here in five years' time?
-Yeah, I could.
Right, that's interesting. Right, we're going wander outside and
-obviously you two have got to start thinking money.
Inside the house has delivered on Chris and Louisa's wish list,
so it's time we got out into the garden to see whether
the outside space will also match up to our buyers' vision.
So we've got a good-sized property
with a good-sized garden to match.
-Could see her running around like a madman.
Absolutely, it's a lot of space. It's a good size.
-Now, are you gardeners?
All right, then. Well, ideas for this garden,
how could you make it work for you?
Nice lawn just across there, get rid of flowers.
A big expanse of grass would be much more practical than anything.
Yeah, I think you have to be honest, don't you?
You know, young family, time sensitive,
-make the garden work for you rather than you work for the garden.
-I mean, you have that wonderful expanse of countryside right at the bottom.
-That is beautiful.
So it's a large property, what price are we going to put on it?
I reckon about 560,000 is my estimate.
I reckon around 555,000, or a bit lower.
-Slightly lower I'd say.
Well, your budget is £575,000.
This large property is under your budget.
-The asking price is £550,000.
I wasn't expecting it to be that low.
-That is interesting, something to think about.
So, Chris, you were really close on that one.
Yep, another victory for me.
I like that. But the best news is, £25,000 under your budget.
Have a look with that price in your mind and what this house
could deliver for the two of you, well, for the three of you.
-Let's not forget...
-There may be more.
-..the little one.
-Off you go.
This modern detached property is priced at a healthy
£25,000 below our couple's budget.
The house offers...
When we first saw the house, I loved it. It's my taste, my style.
-So I was excited about seeing inside.
-Yeah, I'd probably agree, to be fair.
I think the first impression was, you know, it looked quite smart.
It was something we'd be happy to live in
from first glances, definitely.
I think first impressions when we walked in the house were
obviously there is a certain decade theme going on.
So there's some cosmetic elements that would, obviously, from our particular taste,
would need to be altered and changed.
But the actual kitchen itself, that we went into, is a fantastic size.
The kitchen is really important to us because when I grew up it
was where we did everything, we socialised, we did homework,
we had family meals, it was the hub of the home, the heart of the house.
-Ah, right, how are we feeling?
Have we given you plenty of food for thought today?
-Yes, absolutely, a lot to consider.
-Lots to think about.
-In a positive way?
-Yes, definitely, just options.
Lovely, let's hit the road.
It's the second day of our property search in the Wiltshire countryside
and we're on the hunt for a family home for Louisa and Chris
from Greater London, who have a budget of £575,000.
But what will I be revealing to them as our Mystery House?
A little bit of a surprise as we walk around the corner.
-Yeah, I think so, definitely.
-It's like a giant ship.
And I'll also be discovering the classic British art work
that adorns towns and villages across the country.
For me, as I walk through the door,
in a way it's like coming to a mini art gallery.
So, it's the second day of our house-hunt here in Wiltshire
with Louisa and Chris.
Two more properties to show them, let's see how we get on.
The first one is in a family-friendly village
but the last house that
I have up my sleeve, it is of course our mystery property.
Now, they are very aware of the family, they want to be near a community
and with this house, I'm hoping it's got everything that they want.
It might need just a little bit of work along the way.
Let's see how we get on.
The next house on our Wiltshire property search lies just
under an hour from Bath in the village of Hilmarton.
Hilmarton is a classic English village featuring honey-coloured
limestone properties alongside picture postcard thatched cottages.
Its grade I listed church dates back to the 12th century
and apparently owns one of only 200 original King James Bibles
that still exist today.
Our next offering brings us to the present day
and for this one, I've got high hopes.
So we're going to show you a little bit more of a modern property
-for our next house.
-I like it.
-I do, yeah.
What works for you, Chris?
I like the big wooden porch, it's a nice feature.
It's maybe for me not as pretty as perhaps I'd like.
It's a bit dark, the front is a bit dark for me.
-But we obviously have different tastes.
-Yeah. Well, it's quite brown.
Also, there isn't any shrubbery, there isn't any greenery here,
-it's a practical home, isn't it?
-It's low-maintenance, isn't it?
-What we like.
-That's why I like it possibly.
-So shall we step inside?
Externally, this property may not have made a great impression
on Louisa, however, Chris seems more than happy with its kerb appeal.
Although the camp is divided, I'm confident the sheer space
this house offers internally will impress them both.
So, off the hallway we have our sitting room.
-It's really spacious.
-Yeah, it's nice.
And again, big, nice windows.
This is kind of our taste, isn't it? Quite clean and bright and fresh.
Yeah, absolutely, yeah. It's a massive room, isn't it? It's huge.
-Now originally it would have been divided up into two, you can see from the beams.
-If you wanted to, you could always put doors in there if you wanted to divide it.
-So a strong start, do we think, to the tour?
-I think so, yeah.
I think this is the first house that we're actually in agreement on.
-Yeah, I think so.
Well, just off the hallway there's a downstairs cloakroom
but an awful lot more to show you, in actual fact.
Louisa seems happier with the house, which is great.
Let's hope the property keeps up the good work with
what's on offer in the kitchen.
-You see, I think this house is deceiving.
-Yeah, it is.
-It kind of feels a lot... Well, yeah, it's confusing.
-There's a lot more space than I thought there'd be.
-Yeah, it's nice.
In your mind, you think, "This is the kitchen and that'll be it."
It's a good-sized kitchen, fully integrated, plenty of space
and then, you're right, you realise, in actual fact,
because it's been extended relatively recently,
to the left you've got a laundry and utility room and then you've got
-that massive dining room at the back.
-Yeah, that's lovely.
-Huge doors, opens out onto the garden.
-It's really nice.
-Very good, isn't it?
It's lovely, I love it and again bright, airy, clean,
just to our taste. To our taste?
Yeah, I like it. I do, I do like it.
But I didn't want to give too much away in the sitting room
but in actual fact now you see
you've also got all of this as well.
This is lovely.
Yeah, because each time we've looked at something, there's been elements that you've loved,
there's been elements that you've loved but we haven't quite got it right for both of you.
-If you can get over the outside of this property,
as you walked through the door, both of you were united.
-I'm starting to feel slightly excited.
-Yeah, so are we.
-Yeah, all three of us, that's good.
-Well, let's hope it continues upstairs.
'The scale of this house has won our couple over and so far
'each and every room has delivered.
'As we move upstairs, I'm hoping the magic continues
'in the largest of the bedrooms.'
So upstairs, the staircase splits into two.
So you've got bedrooms on one side,
if you like, and these bedrooms on the other.
This is the master.
-It's a really nice size, isn't it?
-Yeah, good size, it's big.
Yeah, and again lots of windows, big windows, lots of natural light, beautiful views.
-Yeah, really nice.
-Yes, no, it's nice.
-A really good-sized bedroom, definitely.
So how many bedrooms has this house got?
-Three double bedrooms, which are all en suite.
The nursery, plus an additional double bedroom.
-So you've got five in total.
Are you sure this is within our budget? I'm starting to doubt it.
-It's impressive, isn't it?
I think everything, well, personally, has been impressive so far.
There's a little touch to this room that you can explore
on your own a bit later on because there is also
-a dressing room of a generous size...
..and a wonderful en-suite bathroom.
-Yep, with a master.
-It's been done beautifully, it really has.
I don't know, why did they want to move?
-So I've got one more thing up my sleeve to show you.
A little bit different outside. Let's see what you think.
With five bedrooms, there's ample room here to
accommodate our couple's growing family.
But I've a feeling that the garden may, once again, split opinion.
So we have a spacious house
-but it has an additional pool in the garden.
-Yeah! Wasn't expecting that.
-No, definitely not.
-Bit of a surprise?
Not often I can offer people a pool.
You've got quite a large garden here, most of it you can see is paved
-but we also have an additional garden on the other side of the house.
-It's divided up.
-Can you see yourself using the pool?
I think, personally, I would have a think about filling it in maybe.
-The kids would love the pool, though.
-It would be amazing.
-You would use it for three weeks of the year.
-Do you know what I would do, personally?
-I would keep it for a year and see...
-If you use it.
..because if Evie loves it then it would change your opinion.
Breaking the ice out just to make a point.
-It's OK, it's nice.
-I want to go swimming.
-I think it would be fair to say that you both like this property.
You're going to have to put a price on it now.
-Yeah. I would say 585,000, 590,000.
-I'm going to go slightly lower at 560,000.
-Chris, you're very good at this.
Because the asking price is £562,000.
That's amazing. Wow, OK.
-Have a think.
Have another look around because I think this could be the
family home you're looking for.
-I'm saying that, fingers crossed.
-Yeah, thank you.
Surprisingly, this expansive, five-bedroom detached house
falls £13,000 below Louisa and Chris's budget yet it
provides them with everything they wanted in a home and more.
With five bedrooms, the property delivers on space
but is also ideally located within a lively village
as well as close to good commuter links.
Wow, look at this.
-His and her sink.
-This is really nice.
-It's big, isn't it?
I think when I first saw the house my reaction was definitely
positive, not negative in any way.
It gave me a good feeling in terms of wanting to look inside.
To be honest, from room to room I was just really, really impressed.
Probably the only thing I can think negative is,
for me perhaps the swimming pool would need a slight think about
just in terms of children's safety and whether we'd use it.
I think if we were to stay here I think we definitely would use the pool.
I think throughout various summers you get long periods of
hot weather and I think we'd definitely get a lot of use out of it from family and friends.
-How are we feeling?
-Yeah, no, it's a good property.
-It's given us lots to think about.
You seem to be in agreement with this one.
-I think the first one that we are in agreement with.
-Right, I think we're going to leave on a high note.
-Come on, then.
-So we're on our way now to our Mystery House.
Trepidation, excitement, what's going through your minds?
Excitement, but I have absolutely no idea what kind of curveball
you could throw in there.
We've seen quite a lot of variation thus far
so it would be interesting to see what else is thrown into the mix.
Yeah, I think we've really stretched you in actual fact with all the
different styles architecturally, areas we've shown you.
-It's given us a lot to think about.
What could we really throw you with though if I showed you...
If we pulled up and you saw X,
what would make your heart sing or perhaps your heart sink?
I think if you showed us a plot of land, we'd be slightly overwhelmed, wouldn't we?
Yeah, or a shack, you know, which is a derelict barn or something.
I think we're not in a position to pick up a project like that.
We're travelling 30 miles south to our final stop on our property tour
and our destination is the village of Codford.
Codford has strong links with Australian and New Zealander Anzac soldiers,
as it was during the First World War that the village became
a staging camp for Allied troops, a legacy kept alive by the
Anzac badge which is carved into the chalky hillside above Codford.
The nearby Anzac War Cemetery is the second largest in the UK.
To the west of the village, up a private road,
we find our Mystery House.
-It's a converted stable.
A little bit of a surprise as we walk around the corner.
-Yeah, I think so, definitely.
-It's like a giant ship.
-No, it's pretty.
-It is pretty.
-It's aesthetically pleasing, for sure.
-Any idea why it's our Mystery House?
-Does it have stables?
A horse, gave it away little bit.
The clue is in the four legs, isn't it?
-It does need a little bit of work doing inside.
-So perhaps more of a project then we've looked at in the past...
..and it has land.
-We haven't really talked about Evie's passion for horses...
-..and horse riding.
-Should you want to, when she's a little bit older,
you could have your own pony.
So on first impressions, what's going through your minds?
-Really pretty, lovely, lovely looking.
Yeah, it's very quaint, very cute.
I'm not sure if a bungalow is exactly my thing
but let's wait and see, have a look inside.
-Well, the good news is there's an upstairs.
-So let's take a look and all will be revealed.
'The property dates back almost 200 years
'and was originally a stable block for the local manor house.
'As we move inside, I'm hoping our couple will appreciate
'its unique character combined with its generous proportions.'
Let's start our Mystery House tour with our kitchen,
-or should I say, country kitchen.
-Yeah, it's lovely.
Yeah. It's a very nice country kitchen, isn't it?
-It does feel, screams country, with the range.
-It is a nice kitchen.
-It's got a very homely feel to it, definitely.
Hasn't quite got the wow factor that we've had in previous properties, has it?
The way it's been done, I think, yes, but perhaps the size not so much.
I think it's probably one of the nicest ones we've seen
but just in terms of size it probably doesn't quite tick that box.
Yeah, I agree.
-Well, let's continue because you might like what's next-door.
'Although the dimensions of the kitchen don't seem to be hitting the mark,
'I'm certain the sitting room will more than make up for it.'
-Now, what is this?
-A ginormous room.
I think this is the biggest room I've ever seen.
-The largest sitting room you will ever see.
You almost think, "It's kind of too big."
Really, the way the room has been laid out is that it maximises
that view over the paddock and the woodland as well.
Yeah, it's really pretty.
What sort of sense are you getting from this house, it is the mystery?
-Silence. Well, I think that says it all in a way.
For me, perhaps, I think it's not as nice as some of the other things we've seen.
-I didn't walk in and go, "Wow."
I love the kitchen but I just think there's quite a lot of things
we'd have to do to make it our own.
It doesn't seem quite as practical for what we're looking for from a house.
Right. So I think we've got a question mark
-for the downstairs, haven't we?
-A little bit.
-Let's see if we fare any better upstairs.
'This converted barn also has a spacious utility room,
'as well as two double bedrooms down on the ground floor,
'both of which are served by a bathroom.
'There are two flights of stairs in the property,
'each leading to a first-floor bedroom.
'On one side is a double with exposed beams
'and on the other is the master.'
Now, the upstairs of the stable block is...
It's unusual, I'm not going to lie.
-The way it's set up, there are two staircases...
..you're on one side, there's a further bedroom on the other side.
-So Evie would be... You'd have to go down and then back up.
This is the master bedroom with walk-in wardrobe.
-You've got a huge en suite, which is always lovely to have.
What do you think, what's your gut feel as you come up here?
It's a good-sized room. I mean, again, it doesn't make me say, "Oh, wow."
It's nice and I like the skylights and things.
It doesn't seem particularly practical in terms of what
we want to use it for, in terms of a family home.
It doesn't seem that it would probably fit in with how
we, kind of, live, I think.
Well, let's see because I've still got one more thing to show you
-which is outside and then we can talk money as well, the price.
'Sadly, this unique home doesn't seem to be working for Chris and Louisa
'but maybe over an acre of land will swing it.'
I think when it comes to country living,
the Mystery House has to win.
Not only are you looking at wide-open fields
with woodland at the back, but you have your own paddock.
-Yeah, it's beautiful, isn't it?
-It is rather fantastic.
I don't want to scare you too much
because you don't have to have a horse or a pony. Evie, when she's a bit older might...
-She might demand one.
-Yeah, she might twist your arm.
The land is amazing and just looking out onto it is just beautiful.
-I agree that this feels country.
Listening to the birds singing, yeah.
The chickens and the horse definitely help.
So for the final time we've got to try
and put a price on the Mystery House with the land.
What are you thinking?
I'm going to go for definitely the top end of our budget
so 575,000, 580,000.
I think it's going to be a little lower than that,
so I'm going to say around the 560,000 mark again.
The asking price is
£575,000, so right on your budget
and Louisa, on the money.
One for me.
-Well, I guess for the final time I'm going to send you two off.
Think of poor Evie, we know she loves her horses.
Yeah, she might not...
-I'll meet you out the front when you're ready.
-All right, great.
Right on budget, our Mystery House
on paper offers everything
Louisa and Chris were looking for
in their country home...
But I'm just not sure
it's a winner for our couple.
The style on the outside of the building was quite unique,
it was really nice, very pretty and obviously old, a 200-year-old barn that had been converted.
Yeah, it was very beautiful and it had a lot of land as well to
go with it, so it was a very nice-looking property.
When I came into the house I was slightly taken aback, I thought
it was going to be slightly more modern perhaps.
So my first impression was slightly,
"Oh, hang on a second, you know, what have we got here?"
Intriguing but maybe not quite what I was expecting.
I think this property, in comparison to the others, it has a lot of
great features in terms of its age and existing beams and wood fires.
However, I don't think it has the layout
and the functionality that some of the other properties have had.
All right, so that's it, that's our final property.
The tour of the Mystery House over, let's go somewhere quiet
and have a proper chat, find out what your next move is going to be.
-Let's do it.
There is nothing quite as British as the traditional country pub
and like most counties, the villages of Wiltshire are full of them.
It was the Romans who introduced the idea of a pub sign to Britain
and these colourful and descriptive works of art were often
used as an early form of marketing.
Today, the art of traditional sign making is a dwindling one.
I've come to a sign writing workshop at a brewery in Devizes
to meet pictorial artist Dave Young.
He's been painting pub and inn signs for over 20 years
and has agreed to take me through the history of the pub sign
and also give me an insight to his unique craft.
-Good to meet you.
-Welcome to the sign shop.
Well, thank you. You're calling it a sign shop
but for me, as I walked through the door,
in a way it's like coming to a mini art gallery.
As you drive along country roads and in towns and villages throughout
the UK, we see these signs and in a way,
would it be fair to say we take them for granted?
But how did it all start?
It's a tradition that the British took on because obviously
a lot of the population were illiterate in those days,
couldn't read or write,
so the visual image basically,
"We sell beer, we give accommodation,"
was obviously very useful to the population of the time.
Was ever there a law passed that you had to have a sign on a public house?
I think it was 1393 and King Richard II brought in an act
whereby every inn had to display a sign outside.
I think it was mainly for tax purposes, really.
-It is quintessentially British, isn't it?
-That's right, yeah.
It is quite a unique thing to Britain.
Well, I've got a wonderful opportunity of getting
up close and personal with some of your artwork.
-Can I have a bit of a tour?
-Yeah, no problem.
Pubs have a vast range of names
and their origins are influenced by many different themes
including myths, legends, local trades, politics and religion,
which are also featured in the imagery of each sign.
So, Dave, so many different names and titles of pubs and inns,
quite a few I recognise but what's the most popular in the UK?
I think the Red Lion is the most popular, actually.
James I of England, who was James VI of Scotland,
when he acceded to the throne basically wanted
the population to know he was the boss
and so all the establishments, and mainly the pubs,
had to show a sign of allegiance to him and that was the Red Lion.
The one behind us, the Trouble House, I get that
but I'm not quite sure what else is going on. Perhaps you could explain.
Well, as you can see, Nicki,
this sign depicts quite a lot of history, really.
You had a skirmish in the Civil War
between the Cavaliers and the Roundheads,
one of the landlords drowned, another landlord hung himself and
a few years later there was a Luddite Rebellion outside the premises.
So a real snapshot of the history of the pub
-and what it's seen over the years.
-Well, that's right, yeah.
Any chance you've got a sign which is work in progress that I could have a go at?
-Certainly have. If you'd like to come this way.
'The signs are made from external marine ply
'using durable exterior-grade oil paints.
'They have a shelf life of around ten to 12 years before they need
'to be replaced or restored.
'And, of course, the artwork has to be duplicated perfectly
'onto both sides.'
Now, this sign looks far more imposing, more regal, if you like.
This is beautiful
but this isn't the only thing you're working on at the moment, is it?
No, that's right, Nicki. At the moment I'm working on a sign
for the Chelsea Flower Show.
-Ah, now the famous RHS.
-This is basically a mock-up sign.
And what's the whole idea behind it?
I think it's mainly a play on words
but it's obviously the hop cycle, which is to do with
the brewing process and I think they're having a garden there
with various different hops that they're growing.
So what part can I have a go at?
-Well, you can help me have a little go at the eyes, perhaps.
Excellent, right, well,
I'd better take my coat off while you mix the paints.
There are over 50,000 pubs in the UK
and the modern tradition is to replace the old classics with
more quirky and striking titles, such as the Goat And Tricycle
or The Hairy Lemon.
-So this is keeping your hands steady?
-That's right, yeah.
I must admit I'll be feeling the pressure
when I have to do my bit as well.
'So, after a quick tutorial from the expert, it's my turn.'
And how long would it take in total?
Around about two weeks really altogether.
And do you ever have a preferred side?
I do usually at the end of it, you know, one I'll prefer and one
I'll take photographs of but they are usually pretty identical, really.
'For a novice, I like to think I'm doing OK.'
Yeah, that looks fine, doesn't it?
That's not too bad. Now, yours is sort of...
Mine is round and yours is more oval.
I think the bunny looks like he's been sampling the brew, doesn't he?
If you need an apprentice, you know where I am.
You start Monday morning.
-Thanks very much.
Well, we've travelled the length
and breadth of Wiltshire, trying to find Chris and Louisa that
perfect family home but have we been successful?
I'm not sure. Let's find out.
Well, you two, we have travelled, we've seen a lot of Wiltshire
-over the last few days, haven't we?
-We definitely have.
But Chris, Louisa, have we found you your new home?
It's certainly made us think
and one thing it's illustrated
is the differences of what we want, between me and Chris.
-Has that surprised you?
-Yeah, it has.
-It has a bit, yeah.
Just realising that we look at different properties
in different ways and probably have different...
-Different styles and different tastes.
So tell me is there one property out of everything that we've
shown you that has got close or perhaps even hit the mark?
-I think it's the house with the pool.
-Swimming pool house.
Not to put too much emphasis on the pool, I don't think that was
the primary factor in the house, I just think...
Inside it had five bedrooms which is brilliant,
-more than we ever thought.
-Loads of space.
Lots of living room space downstairs and then the core areas,
the big kitchen, dining room area,
that's a massive plus really because that's what we're looking for
in terms of a place to spend a lot of time as a family.
And did you like the location?
Because I know that was really important for you, this move to the country.
I think the location definitely hit the marker
probably more than some of the other properties.
I think it's... It hit the mark in terms that it's definitely rural
but we'd need to do...
I'd need to do anyway, definitely some more research in terms of how
far would it be to work, to getting towards Guildford?
And how close would it be towards various projects?
And other things that are going on in the local area, really.
So it definitely needs some consideration in terms
of its geography and location.
-But I think it's something that we're going to pursue.
-A second viewing?
-I think so, yeah, I think that will be the case.
Yeah, just to reaffirm in our minds what it was.
And will Evie-Grace be with you when you have that second viewing?
-I'd want her to see it...
..even though I don't think she'll have much of an input but I think,
-you know, to see if she gets excited by it.
-She'd love it.
-I think so.
-I wonder which bedroom she's going to pick.
-The swimming pool.
-She's got a lot to choose from, hasn't she?
But whatever happens, keep in touch.
Thank you so much, we've really enjoyed showing you Wiltshire.
-Yeah, thank you very much.
-Thank you for helping us.
It's been a great experience.
Well, that's it, the end of our week here
in beautiful Wiltshire with Chris and Louisa.
And I must admit, there were times as we were going around
our properties, I did have my doubts.
But it seems at the end we got really, really close.
So I hope over the next few months everything works out
and they can make this wonderful county their new home.
I'll see you again soon on Escape To The Country.
Chris and Louisa returned to the house with the pool
and decided to put in an offer.
I'm happy to say it was accepted and we wish them
all the very best for their new life in Wiltshire.
If you would like to escape to the country in either
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Nicki Chapman goes property hunting with a couple who have £575,000 to spend on a rural family home in Wiltshire. While there, Nicki tries her hand at painting traditional pub signs, a rare craft practised these days by only a few artisans.