Property series. Nicki Chapman helps a buyer who is property shopping with her best friend. She has £375,000 to find some countryside respite to suit her and her elderly mother.
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This magnificent viaduct
with its 27 arches that reflect in the water behind me
makes a striking backdrop to some rather restorative gardens.
But where have I come to for this picturesque setting?
Find out in just a moment.
Today's buyer has dreams of the good life
and has brought her best buddy along for the ride.
They are both impressed by our characterful
collection of cottages.
-Oh, this is a pretty little room, isn't it?
-It's very nice, yes.
And at one of our houses she clearly feels at home.
-You're beginning to go, aren't you?
-Yeah, she is.
-The dream is a step closer.
Today, I am in Somerset
and this is the Grade II listed Charlton Viaduct.
Built in 1874,
it stands an impressive 15 metres above the River Sheppey
and was the longest of seven viaducts that were
built along the 26-mile stretch of the Somerset and Dorset Railway.
Now no longer in use,
the viaduct makes a statuesque feature to the public gardens
here at Kilver Court in Shepton Mallet.
And later on in the show
I'll be back to find out more about the history of these gardens,
but in the meantime, there is plenty more on offer
in this beautiful western county.
In the heart of the West Country, Somerset is England's
seventh largest county and shares its border with Devon
and Dorset in the south, and Wiltshire to the east.
It is a county with a range of contrasting landscapes,
from dramatic rocky shorelines
to gently rolling countryside.
As well as craggy cliffs,
the coast of the Bristol Channel is made up of long sandy beaches
such as the resort of Burnham-On-Sea, home to two wooden lighthouses
perched high on stilts.
Inland, the Mendip Hills cover an area of 120 square miles.
Popular with hikers, it's also home to one of the most famous
limestone gorges in the world at Cheddar.
Pretty villages include Norton St Philip
with its 15th century pub
which some would say is the oldest tavern in Britain.
The low-lying Somerset levels and moors are a haven to
a variety of birds and wildlife
and, although prone to flooding,
it's hoped a major investment in defences,
including the dredging of its network of river channels,
will prevent a repeat of the 2013 flooding.
With the added draw of the Quantock Hills,
a rolling landscape of patchwork fields,
this is a county for those seeking an authentic slice of rural Britain.
If you pick Somerset as your county of choice, you will find that
prices hang tantalisingly below the national average.
Currently, the average price for a detached house in England
and Wales is around £282,000,
but in Somerset as a whole
you will be making a saving of around £5,000 from that figure.
However, in the far north of the county you may expect to pay
a little bit more due to the swift transport links
between Bristol and London.
So, how will this glorious county provide the perfect
environment for today's buyer?
Well, let's meet her and find out.
Today's house hunter is Gina from Bristol
who has lived in this three-bedroomed cottage
on the outskirts of the city for 18 years.
Supporting her on the move is Claire, Gina's best friend.
Claire and I met about 30 years ago, wasn't it,
in Northamptonshire where we both lived.
-And we got chatting.
-We just instantly liked each other.
-Yep. Clicked, didn't we?
We've religiously kept in contact.
At minimum, we have a long conversation once a week
and, really, our friendship has just been like that
-all the way through.
Although Gina's spent nearly two decades in her beautifully
renovated and much-loved home, she now feels it's time to move on.
I currently live in North Bristol.
My property is situated on a no-through road,
but at the end of this road is the A38, which is a dual carriageway,
so that's a very busy road, particularly in the rush hour.
Bristol, generally, is a very busy area.
I think if you could pick up this house, actually,
and move it into the country you would be really happy.
I would, yeah.
But since Gina's two adult sons still live in Bristol,
she doesn't want to venture too far,
so the Somerset countryside is the happy medium.
Somerset is an ideal location for me.
It's got good motorway access back to Bristol,
but then again, you are out in the beautiful countryside
and I particularly love waking up in the morning, hearing the birds.
It just feels right to me,
if you can understand that, it's a feeling.
And in her spare time
Gina plans to pursue a more
self-sufficient way of life.
I think you're going to love living in the countryside.
You're going to have a bit of outside space,
-you'll be able to grow your vegetables.
-Have more animals.
-Yeah, keep a dog.
As well as her friendship, when it comes to rural endeavours,
Claire speaks from experience.
I've done a similar move to the country.
I escaped five years ago,
and I think some of our friends thought we were
a bit crazy when they saw how remote we were living,
but when Gina came down and saw the place for the first time...
-Oh, it was just wonderful.
-..she got it, she totally understood.
So I do know the ins and outs
of living in the country, and hopefully
I can point out some of the possible pitfalls, if there are any.
Until she retired, Gina worked as an office manager
for a construction company, so now the keen animal lover has more
time to devote to her two cats
as well as caring full-time for her elderly mother,
Anita, who lives with her.
Mum is obviously a big part of this move.
And to start with, when I first talked to her about it,
obviously she was a little bit reticent,
but I think now she can see the benefits
and it would make life much easier for her.
Despite a big change in lifestyle for Gina,
her good friend Claire has no doubt this is the best thing for her.
This move is only going to be positive for Gina.
You'll have peace of mind that your mum is in suitable accommodation.
-So that's all good and you'll have such a better quality of life.
I think so too.
Gina wants to be within an hour's drive from her sons in Bristol,
so our Somerset search will bear that in mind.
I'm meeting up with the two friends
to hear more about Gina's planned move.
Well, Gina and Claire, lovely to meet you.
-And welcome to Somerset.
-Why Somerset? Why this county?
-It's just a good location for me.
-And it's beautiful.
-It is. Best of both worlds in a way.
Close to Bristol but in the country.
-And you've brought your best friend Claire with you.
-I have, yeah.
Claire, what are you going to bring to this search?
Well, we've been best friends for a long time, over 30 years.
I know exactly the sort of thing Gina is looking for, because
we've got similar tastes.
And I'm hoping I can help her make the right decision.
-Are you going to be the voice of reason?
Is there anything I should be looking out for?
Um, she might just fall in love with something that's
-not necessarily exactly what she really wants.
So, what exactly, then, are we looking for? Just remind me.
OK, yeah. A minimum of three bedrooms.
I need one bedroom to be downstairs with a shower room for my mum.
I'd quite like a big kitchen-diner.
I would like a character property
and I would like a nice big back garden
where I can have a little veggie plot, fruit trees,
chickens, and if there was space for more animals, that would be lovely.
So I would like a big, animal-safe garden, really.
-Yes, the larger, the better.
-Yes, I think so.
And, Gina, you've recently become your mother's carer, haven't you?
And she's moved in with you. How does she feel about this move?
I think she appreciates that with the facilities that she
will have to a downstairs shower room, bedroom, it'll be a good move.
-So she's looking forward to it, is she?
And is she confident with your abilities to find you both a home?
-Has she given you a little wish list?
Um... No, because I think she knows
I have a mind of my own and I will
-do the best for both of us.
-I'm liking that answer. I'm loving your mother even more.
Now, Claire, you know Gina so well. Anything that she wouldn't like?
I think anything that is too remote, she may like,
but I don't think is going to be practical for her and her mum.
-And remind us of your budget.
It is 375,000.
And do you think that is realistic for this part of the country?
I think so, yes.
It's the land that is going to be the interesting one, isn't it?
Well, let's just see what you've got for me, Nicki.
Are you feeling flexible?
Yes, I'm just open to looking at anything.
Really excited about it.
We do have some splendid properties to show you.
Claire, pressure is on you as well as me with this search.
We've got to find that perfect home for the two of them.
Absolutely, we have.
-Shall we get started, ladies?
-That would be lovely.
-Come on then.
-Thank you, Nicki.
With a top budget of £375,000,
Gina would like a character property with a minimum of three bedrooms
with one on the ground floor for her mother Anita.
Gina would like a range in her kitchen
and a large enough garden to keep
chickens and grow her own produce.
We've scoured the property market
and come up with a fine selection of Somerset homes
to entice Gina and Claire,
but they won't be furnished with the price until the end of our viewings.
At our last contender, the Mystery House, we will see just how
far Gina is willing to compromise on her home
to get the land she's after.
Your time is going to be busy, isn't it? Yeah! Yeah! It'll be lovely!
And do we think a local community is going to be important, Claire?
Because you've made the move. Your macro yes.
How quickly did you make friends by new moves to the country
Well, actually, I think it's a lot easier in the country.
If you make that effort and go halfway to meet people and
join in things, then they really are very welcoming.
-Jena seems a very sociable person.
-She'll be doing all sorts, Nicky,.
She'll be on every committee, she'll be going to every type of class...
There you go. Yes.
The first property lined up for Gina and Claire is in the village
of Pilton, in the north of the county.
Situated on the edge of the Somerset levels,
the pretty village is made up of attractive lanes flanked by
rows of cottages built from locally quarried Middle Lias stone,
with red clay double Roman roof tiles.
Today, Pilton is probably most famous as the location for
the Glastonbury music festival,
which takes place on farmland just south of the village centre.
Many of the proceeds from the festival are reinvested in local
amenities and all the residents benefit from a free ticket.
House number one is located on the edge of the popular village.
So, our first property in Somerset!
It's very nice. Very well-kept.
It looks in very good condition, as if it doesn't need anything doing.
It looks as if there's going to be a fair amount of downstairs space.
-Yeah. Lovely location.
-It looks in good condition.
-Oh, look at those views!
-What a nice location.
-Isn't it beautiful?
Very nice, yes.
Is it a new-build?
Built around 1950s.
Quite a lot of work has been done to it,
especially in the last 10 to 15 years.
-It has been extended.
-It sounds like first impressions of the house are pretty good, as well!
-Are you liking it as well, Claire?
-Yes, I am. I am.
I like the look of it.
-Excellent. Right, well, I think we should start, don't you?
-Come on, then.
The current owners have lived in the property for nearly 20 years
and added the wing to the left,
which incorporates a garage with an additional bedroom above.
The ground floor accommodation is arranged off
a central hallway and includes a dining room,
study area and a bedroom, that could work for mum Anita on one side.
Then the kitchen and sitting room lie to the other.
So let's start off with our sitting room.
With access to the patio outside.
The doors to the outside are nice and I like the fireplace.
The fireplace is lovely.
Nice having the double aspect with the doors and windows.
Having access is lovely, especially if you've got a dog or the animals.
-So perhaps not the largest of sitting rooms,
but there are plenty of rooms with this property.
Do you want to follow me? We'll go through to the kitchen.
So the sitting room isn't that large,
-but the kitchen is certainly bigger.
-Do you like it?
-It's nice having the patio doors out.
-And it's nice to have room for the table.
I do like the range cooker.
-And you've got an additional hob as well.
-There is a utility room around the corner.
-I see, yeah.
And from here, along the hallway, you've got a separate dining room.
And down a couple of stairs you've got another very small study,
snug... So I'm thinking, for your mum,
you could be in one part and she could be in the other.
There's enough space.
-So although the rooms aren't huge, you do have separate rooms.
-That's good, yeah.
-That makes a big difference.
And you're probably hoping that there is an additional room
-downstairs that's going to suit Anita.
Let's take a look at the bedroom.
So that's Gin's living space covered.
The potential bedroom for her mother is just across the hallway
from the sitting room.
So the all-important room for Anita.
-That would be ideal for a bedroom.
-It's a good size, isn't it?
You also have a bathroom on the ground floor.
So you've got a bath and you step in for a shower, as well.
Mm, not ideal.
OK. Now, we're going to show you houses that aren't going to be...
So that's something you're probably going to have to think about.
Would that put you off buying a house?
-Because that, for me, is a very small job.
No, if everything else was right, no, it wouldn't.
-Yeah. But, as space goes...
-Pretty good room.
And I think as long as you've got the downstairs bathroom,
-you can always convert.
And Gina, it's just as important we find somewhere lovely for you
as a bedroom.
So let's go and take a look upstairs.
As well as the downstairs bedroom, there are three further bedrooms
upstairs, including two in the eaves in the older wing of the property.
Both served by a small shower room.
The bedroom I've earmarked for Gina is accessed by its own staircase
from the ground floor study in the extended part of the house.
This is the extension.
So the staircase that we came up has this bedroom and
-a really good family bathroom behind us.
And you're on your own - this is the wing, if you like.
-That's good, isn't it?
You could have this as your little master suite or guest wing.
-When the boys come on a separate bathroom.
That's nice, isn't it?
-Plenty of storage.
-And another nice view.
What's the overall feeling for this property, girls?
Um, for me, it's the character thing.
Not necessarily old, but character.
-Does this have enough character for you?
-No, I don't think so.
-I don't think it's quite Gina's era, if you like.
-A little too modern in some ways.
-Well, let's head back outside.
Claire, if you wouldn't mind leading the way,
we're going to discuss money.
Although we've got it right with the configuration of the rooms,
I think Gina and Claire are struggling to appreciate the
style of our 1950s property.
The gardens to the front and side are mainly lawn,
and there's a private patio area at the back of the kitchen.
But I'm conscious that Gina wanted to keep animals and grow her own produce.
Although there is probably space for a chicken run,
she'll be hard pushed to achieve self-sufficiently at this house.
-I was looking for a little bit more garden.
-I'm not going to lie,
it's not huge.
However, if you did want to keep animals further down the line -
you wanted some rare pigs or perhaps a donkey - you can see those
-parcels of land or around.
Farmers are always looking for people to rent it.
So that's not a problem.
-Let's see what we think of the price.
How much do you think this is on the market for?
-Right, who's going first?
-You go first, Gina.
I think probably about 360.
I was going to say 365, because I think it's in
a fantastic location and it's a lovely house, actually.
I'm just not sure it's the right one for Gina.
Well, you're both remarkably close.
In fact one of you is on the money.
-The asking price is £365,000.
So why don't you take the opportunity to have a wander around on your own?
-Check out the side of the garden.
-Thank you, Nicki.
-Be my guest.
Under budget by £10,000, this extended 1950s property gives
Gina much of what she asked for with a bit of money left over.
It has a kitchen with a range,
one more bedroom than she requested,
including a ground floor for Mum,
and little to do in the way of alterations.
It's on the edge of a sought-after village, but may lack the land
Gina is looking for.
I think the property is really nice.
The area is absolutely stunning.
For me, I think I need slightly more character in the property.
-This is a bit of a sun trap, isn't it?
-Oh, yes, it's lovely.
-Yeah, it's a nice little patio area.
But I don't think it quite the big garden, is it?
THe location is fantastic - the views, the village.
We were a bit disappointed in the size of the garden, though.
For Gina, that is one of her real must-haves.
So overall, I think it's a beautiful property,
but I don't think it's the one for Gina.
-Have we seen enough, ladies?
-Yes, thank you.
-That's our first house done, more to show you.
-Lovely. Thank you.
Situated in the rolling Somerset landscape of the Blackdown Hills
is the Ferne Animal Sanctuary, which has been providing
refuge for unwanted animals since the Second World War.
As a charity, it relies entirely on donations
and members of the public to help look after its 300 or so residents.
Gina's passion for animals is clear, but she's also expressed
an interest in volunteering when she moves,
so we have arranged for her and Claire to visit the shelter
where they are meeting director, Jenny Wheadon.
-Welcome to Ferne Animal Sanctuary.
-Thank you, Jenny.
Thank you very much for having us here today. It really is a beautiful place.
So how did it all start, Jenny?
There's a lovely story behind the beginnings of the sanctuary,
actually. Back at the beginning of the Second World War,
there was a lady called Nina, who was the Duchess of Hamilton.
She recognised that there were men and women going off to fight
for their country who wouldn't have anyone to look after their pets
and she went to the BBC and asked if she could use the medium of radio
to broadcast that to the nation.
And legend has it that by the time she got back to her London home,
there were 40 cats and dogs and a parrot waiting for her!
So you can imagine that was a huge task for her to look after.
And she shipped them all down to her country estate,
which was near Shaftesbury in Dorset
and was called Ferne, hence the name.
-Hence the name, yeah.
-And, of course, at the end of the war,
many of the owners didn't return so that was how the sanctuary started,
when she's tried to find permanent homes for all the animals
that she had collected through the war.
So, Jenny, you say the site used to be in Dorset and they moved here.
Yes, after the Duchess died, the estate was wound up and the
sanctuary relocated to this site in Somerset, just over the border.
How many animals have you got here?
Well, we have around 300 animals here at any one time.
All various species
from horses, donkeys, cattle, sheep, pigs,
goats, cats and dogs, and all the small furry pets as well.
300 animals may sound a lot, but it's just the tip of the iceberg.
Every year, over 7.5 million arrive at animal shelters across the UK.
The vast majority, cats and dogs
either abandoned by their owners or found roaming Britain's streets.
As well as providing refuge, the Somerset sanctuary
tries to find loving new homes for as many of its animals as possible.
Some horses and ponies are available for permanent loan.
Gina used to ride herself
and she is keen to meet one of the shelter's new arrivals.
So, Gina and Claire, this is our latest resident, as yet unnamed.
-She's just two weeks old today.
Aw, so what's Mum's story? How did she get rescued?
Well, the mum is called Sydney and she had been abandoned
with 14 other ponies, in spite of the fact that she was pregnant.
And she came here and very soon delivered her baby.
-So will the foal be adopted?
-Hopefully, when she's old enough.
And Mum as well.
It would be lovely if the two of them could go together.
-Look at that foal.
-Look at that little foal. It is gorgeous.
Charities like the Ferne Animal Sanctuary could not function
without the help of volunteers.
Around 150 of them work across the 51-acre site,
including current volunteer Bernie
and her two companions, Molly and Rosie.
I'll leave you in Bernie's capable hands.
-It's been lovely meeting you both.
-Thank you very much.
-Thank you, Jenny.
Dogs and cats are available for re-homing within a 40 mile
radius of the shelter.
With up to 250 dogs waiting to be adopted,
one of the tasks is to help exercise and socialise these animals.
So, Bernie, how long have you worked here?
Well, I've volunteered here for the past two years.
-I started when I retired from work.
-Oh, what a nice thing to do.
-Yeah, it is.
-What made you decide to do that?
Well, I retired and I wanted to do something voluntary
and I had worked all my life with children
-so I decided I'd rather work with animals for a change!
Is it sort of a nine-to-five job, you have to be available all day?
No. Really, the volunteer is in charge of the hours they work
or the days and you can help on a regular basis.
I work in the cattery, for example.
You can walk dogs, you can help in the office or in our charity shops,
because, obviously, fundraising is a major thing that we do.
So all that kind of fundraising activity, shops,
they all need people to help.
The Somerset countryside is not only a haven for animals, but could
also offer Gina sanctuary to pursue her hobbies.
We now need to find our buyer some territory of her own,
and with that in mind it's back to the house hunt.
For our next offering, we're heading to the hamlet of Parbrook,
which is just a few miles from Baltonsborough.
Here there are basic amenities,
including a public house and a large village hall,
hosting a range of events and clubs for the local community.
Back in Parbrook,
the house we are viewing is in the middle of the hamlet,
where there is an array of pretty stone cottages, which will
hopefully provide Gina with the kind of character she is after.
So let me show you our next property.
Is very nice, isn't it?
It's a Victorian property, so dates back to the 1870s.
-I like the look of it.
-I do, as well.
-Do you to know where we are within Somerset?
-No idea, really.
We're about six miles from Glastonbury
-and about seven miles from Wells.
There is a village three miles away that has everything you need day-to-day,
but we're actually in Parbrook, and it is a hamlet, so there
aren't any amenities, just, as you can see, some wonderful properties.
I'm glad you're loving the outside. Hopefully, you're going to be just as impressed with what's inside.
The former farm cottage is actually semidetached,
although from this angle it's hard to tell.
At the front there's a single garage, handy for storage,
which sits in front of an L-shaped cottage.
The house is a two-storey building attached to
a single-storey extension built seven years ago,
which is where we're starting our tour.
Come on in, ladies. I'm going to start off with Mum.
-We're actually thinking downstairs bedroom.
-Oh, right, yes!
-Yes, it should make a bedroom, wouldn't it?
-I like the beans.
-A feeling of space, with the beans.
And then just off the hallway is a downstairs toilet.
-So that you could extend all the way along to this wall,
to make it a downstairs shower room.
So you've got the plumbing already,
but you wanted a little bit of character.
-Yeah, we've certainly got that, haven't we.
So this could be for Mum.
-Let's see what you make of the rest of the downstairs.
There is a small step. You've got your dining room here,
-and then you've got an L-shaped kitchen.
-Quite a good size.
The size is workable, isn't it? Because you've got a table there.
It's very nice.
I'd say I don't think the style of the units is exactly your style,
but that's irrelevant, really, isn't it?
Because it's a good shape.
-Could you work with this?
-I could work with it. Absolutely, yes.
And next door to this you've got your sitting room just through here.
-Oh, this is a pretty little room, isn't it?
-It's very nice. I like it.
Very, very nice, yeah. Nice features.
-Big window looking at all, hopefully, your garden!
-That is - that's the good news!
-There is a garden.
-You two are instantly animated walking into this room.
-I like it!
-I could tell.
It's got a nice feel to it.
It has. It has, it has.
-Could you see yourself here with your mum?
Oh, yes, I can see her in here, yes.
-Would you change anything in this room, do you think?
-No, it's fine.
I'll be asking you upstairs. Let's have a look.
So both our ladies seem happy with what the downstairs house to offer,
although Gina may need to make a few alterations to make it work
for her and her mother.
Upstairs is a little smaller,
not benefiting from the ground floor extension,
but does have a bath and shower room and three good-sized
neutrally decorated double bedrooms, including a master.
-It's a nice shape, isn't it?
-Not a bad size, is it?
-No, not at all.
Nice light room.
I like it.
-It's not wowing you, is it?
It's just because I think I would change certain things.
-It's probably about feeling, isn't it?
And whilst I've got a feeling it's a nice house,
I'm not exactly getting that 100% feeling for myself
Well, there are three important elements to this move -
getting it right for Anita, your mum,
getting you the right property, but also finding you the right garden.
-So let's look at the final part of the jigsaw.
-Yes, thank you.
Although she is quite hard to read, I can't help but think Gina
was expecting a bit more from this house.
Hopefully, the garden will impress,
as it gives her space to grow her own vegetables
and maybe even keep an animal or two.
The garden is ideal.
It's a nice shape, enclosed, private, chickens up the corner.
I couldn't have put it better myself!
It's really nice.
-Do you like it, Claire?
-I love the garden, yes. I think it's perfect.
-So, ladies, what are we thinking?
Can we put a price on this property?
I'm thinking maybe 345.
It is difficult... And it is a guess, and I'll say 350.
-You two are so good at this, in a healthy way.
Because the asking price is £350,000.
-So you're only five out.
-We've got one each now!
You're doing very well but in all seriousness,
-it means you've got £25,000 left.
-Yes, of course.
If you wanted to change anything.
So, knowing the price, does that change anything?
-Um... No, I don't think so.
No, I think it's still about the feel.
And I do like it very much,
but I'm just not getting that absolute feel at the moment.
Not straightaway. Fair enough. Well, go back in,
get reacquainted with it and then give me a shout when you're ready.
-Thank you, Nicki.
Under budget by £25,000, this extended former farm worker's
cottage gives Gina the character she was after.
For her mother,
there's a sizeable bedroom downstairs and three upstairs.
Although the practical kitchen isn't to her taste, there would be
capital left over to remodel and perhaps even install a range.
It has a pretty, large garden and is set in a peaceful hamlet.
I really like this property. Maybe I like it a little bit more than Gina.
Gina likes it, but I'm not sure she loves it.
I'm not sure that even having a spare bit of money
will persuade Gina that she wants to go through the work of changing the
content of the kitchen and putting in a shower room downstairs.
Let's have a look in here.
-Probably a guest bedroom.
Another nice room.
Yes, this would make a good room for your best friend to stay in!
-Oh, it would, wouldn't it, yeah!
-I think so.
My heart, I suppose, is about feeling,
and my head is the practicalities.
And I'm trying, really, to be very practical about it,
because it's not just me to consider.
Gina is looking for something that she will fall in love with,
but it has got to also have all the right components.
Whether that exists, let's hope it does.
But I'm not sure this is the one.
-Well, we've had a good day to day, haven't we?
This is a beautiful spot. I'm not quite sure if we've cracked it,
but the good news is we've got more to show you tomorrow.
-Look forward to that.
It's the second day of our Somerset house hunt with Gina,
who is accompanied by her friend Claire.
On a £375,000 budget,
Gina wants a country home
which suits both her and her elderly mother too.
Still to come, the Mystery House reveals its surprise.
-Well, I can see why it is the Mystery House.
-It's just gorgeous, isn't it?
-It really is lovely.
And I meet the green-fingered fashion guru
whose colourful garden is setting a trend.
All I could see was lines of corporation roses - orange, yellow,
pink, orange, yellow, pink.
So I thought, "Well, they've got to go."
Yesterday was a beautiful day weather-wise, but little gloomy
on the property front, so today, I am hoping for some role reversal.
Now, this search hasn't been easy.
Trying to find that characterful home with a large garden
that marries up both Gina and her mum Anita's requirements
with very little adjustments.
So what I'm showing them today, well, I hope it's going to give Gina
that feeling that she so craves.
The next home we're showing Gina is in the village of Burtle,
around nine miles inland from the coast.
Nearby Wedmore is a larger village situated on a ridge of land
rising out from the Somerset Levels.
A prosperous focal point for the area,
its amenities include a range of independent shops, cafes and pubs.
Wedmore is steeped in history.
In Saxon times, it was under the control of the Kings of Wessex
and in 878 AD, King Alfred the Great
declared peace with the Danes nearby.
Today, its architecture gives the village a real charm
which shines through whatever the weather.
From late-Georgian townhouses...
to an example built in the Italianate style.
Just south of Wedmore is the smaller village of Burtle,
where our next house is located.
Right, it might be raining, but it's not going to deter us
because this is our next property.
-Oh, I like this.
-This is lovely.
-I'm liking it too well, even in the rain.
-Is that the whole house?
-It's the whole house.
-The whole house!
-Oh, look at the door.
-Is this an extension?
The original part was 19th century.
One extension was done in the 1970s
and the other was done in the 1990s, so pretty substantial.
It looks fabulous.
-So, because of the rain, let's head straight inside, yeah?
Despite the downpour, there are upbeat reactions from both Gina
and Claire to this detached country cottage.
We are bypassing the porch and using the French doors, going
through a lobby to reveal one of the reception rooms in the property.
The good news is it's nice and dry in here, ladies.
-Ooh! Very nice.
-I like it.
-Look behind you, Gina.
-Oh, that's beautiful.
-Going to keep you toasty in the winter, isn't it?
-Actually could do with it today.
-And this, I like this.
Now, the current owners have done an awful lot of work on this property.
Where they have,
they've tried to take it back to how it perhaps looked 150, 200 years ago.
-They've used as much as they can.
It's a beautiful bressummer beam there, isn't it?
-It certainly is.
-I'm just getting that good feeling at the moment. Definitely.
-Yeah, it's looking good. I like it.
-Do you like the beams?
-It's a lovely room.
-So, this is a wooden floor?
-This is reclaimed parquet flooring.
-You mentioned character and charm. Are you feeling that?
-Bucketfuls, I think.
-Yes, it's lovely.
Early days, but could you see Gina here so far?
This is a Gina house. So far, yes. So far, so good.
We will continue the Gina tour then, shall we?
Well, Claire clearly thinks this house works for her friend,
but knowing how important the feel of the place is for Gina,
I'm hoping the kitchen gives her the same sense.
-It's not massive but it's gorgeous.
-You are beginning to go, aren't you?
-Yeah, she is.
Oh, wow, that's amazing. I love the wooden worktops.
Look at the floor.
-You've actually got underfloor heating. It's electric.
-Great, that's really good with these type of tiles.
-So it's not cold on your feet first thing in the morning.
-And if you've got a cat, they're going to love it.
-I've got two.
So far, it is working for me, yeah.
-It's working, isn't it?
-Look at the smile.
Claire, I saw a little moist eye earlier on.
-This is just so Gina, it's lovely.
-Beautiful, I love it too.
-The dream is a step closer.
OK, well, still one more thing to show you on this level,
and also to mention there is a utility room.
Because the house has been extended,
they couldn't put the utility room on this side,
they've actually put on the other,
-but you've got additional storage space, washer and dryer, room for that.
Right, let's see what you make of the final thing on the ground floor.
So, with both ladies falling for our country cottage,
we just need to deal with mum Anita's living space and I've set
aside the second reception room as her downstairs bedroom.
Now, we can't forget Anita, can we?
-I don't believe this, it just gets better.
-Oh, I don't believe it!
That is amazing.
-Look at that stone fireplace.
-Lovely and light and bright.
-This is the way I actually brought you in.
There's two entrances to the cottage.
This one is a little bit wider, so perhaps if ever your mum did
need a wheelchair or easier access, you could bring her straight in here.
You've got this wonderful room which seems like a day room
-rather than a bedroom.
Potentially, if you wanted to change things around a little bit,
-you've got your utility room next-door.
You can make that into a bathroom.
-I think we could do that.
-I'm happy, Claire.
-A bit easier to do that.
I might have sulked if she said no.
You might be wondering about the staircase. So, this is the extension.
Upstairs, you've got a really large, generous double bedroom.
Next to that, you've got the family bathroom,
single bedroom with walk-in wardrobes.
-But there's another staircase with further bedrooms.
As well as the two upstairs bedrooms in this wing of the property,
there are two more in the older part.
Both bedrooms are served by a beautiful family bathroom.
One could make an excellent guest room for
when Claire comes to stay and the other, Gina's master.
-It is lovely room, another lovely room.
-It's just hitting the spot, I think.
-I love it.
Yeah? Getting a big thumbs-up?
Yes, definitely. Couldn't be better. I hate to think what it costs.
Well, we are going to have to touch on that.
It doesn't look as if it's raining quite as much as earlier on, but
the garden is so beautiful, I think it's worth getting a little bit damp.
-Let's take a look.
The enclosed garden is south-facing and laid to lawn
with a paved patio area at the front of the house.
The level land provides space to keep animals
and there's easily room for a greenhouse or vegetable patch.
-Now you can see the garden in all its splendour.
-It's really lovely.
It's a lovely garden. Lots of nooks and crannies.
Shrubs and trees, just what I wanted. And I even see chickens
-and a chicken run.
You can negotiate, actually, keeping those on.
But, what do we think about the price?
I think it's over my budget.
I think I'm going to go for 385.
That's exactly what I was going to say.
I do think that and hope they take an offer.
I like that, the optimism.
-So, you both think £10,000 over the your top budget?
The asking price is...
-15,000 under your budget.
-Oh, my goodness.
-I don't believe that. Do you?
-Oh, I'm so excited about it.
Should we do a rain dance?
So why don't you go back in the warm?
Have a look at the garden through that window at the top
and all catch up with you when you're ready.
The price of this extended country cottage comes as a nice surprise,
as it's £15,000 under budget.
Dating back to the 19th century,
it's been recently remodelled
a farmhouse-style kitchen,
two large reception rooms,
one of which could be turned
into a bedroom,
and four further bedrooms upstairs.
The south-facing plot provides
ample garden space for animals
I definitely got the feeling with this property from the moment
we actually came through the gate and saw it and saw the garden.
And it continued when I walked in through the rooms.
It's about a feeling and I definitely got it, yeah.
-What have we got here, Gina?
-Oh... This is a nice room, isn't it?
-It's a lovely bedroom. Pretty, all done, nothing to do.
So what do you think you'd do with this room?
-Well, I'm not sure a moment. It could be a spare room.
-It could be my room.
-I'm not sure.
I really like this property,
and I know Gina does, obviously.
It's fantastic. It really couldn't be any better.
I just think it's made for her.
It's her style, it's got the character,
it's got the wood burner.
And it's perfect for her mum as well.
-Now, that was a good house tour, wasn't it?
Your faces say it all. Let's go.
One last house to see and it's really got our two ladies thinking.
Any idea how much we're going to challenge you with our Mystery House?
I don't know, really,
because I'm not sure on what front you're going to challenge me.
I'm hoping it' not a really full of character doer-upper that Gina
will fall in love with.
Yes, because that's how my other properties have been, yeah.
And that would be just awful, I think,
because her heart would be, like, going two ways.
And what do you think, Gina?
Well, um...open plan,
contemporary, church or barn conversion...
I hope it's not something with a communal garden.
Oh, gosh! I don't think that would suit you.
For our final house, we're hopping over the border into Devon
and travelling to the hamlet of Staple Cross.
Two miles away is Holcombe Rogus, which was a centre of chair-making
for 400 years until the last artisan shop closed in 1919.
The village's most notable landmark
is the privately-owned Holcombe Court,
one of the finest Tudor houses in England.
There's also a thriving pub
and a garage which doubles up as a post office.
There's an interesting mix of architecture with many houses
built from cob or stone dating from the 17th and 18th centuries.
And the 500-strong community is served by a freshwater spring.
Our Mystery House is in the smaller settlement of Staple Cross.
By venturing into Devon, we are
lengthening Gina's journey time back to Bristol, but we are
going on a charm offensive, plus there is a surprise in store.
Our final property, of course, is your Mystery House.
-It's cute, isn't it?
-Very sweet. Very cute, yes.
I think it's going to be full of character, hopefully.
So we've had a little bit of a drive, not too far, to get here.
Any idea why we brought you here, why this is our Mystery House?
No, not a clue at the moment.
Is it because we are no longer in Somerset?
On the money. Totally. We are only half a mile across the border.
-Not far, but we are actually in Devon.
And this property is very different because it's part of a terrace.
It dates back to the 17th century.
It was actually the stables for the horses that worked for the pub.
-And I think it was in the 1970s it was converted into a house.
-Hopefully you are going to get the character that you are after.
Although it looks small from the front, the cottage has been extended
to the rear, offering deceptively spacious accommodation inside.
-So, off the hallway we have our sitting room.
-This is a nice room.
-This is very cosy, isn't it?
-A nice inglenook fireplace with a wood burner.
-It oozes character.
It does ooze character.
I thought it was going to be really quite small but it goes back,
-It is a warm, very friendly property.
And it does keep giving and giving as you are going to see.
So, you have a beautiful dining room which leads out onto the patio area.
Then next-door...we have our kitchen.
That's nice, isn't it?
Very characterful. And a range cooker which is on my wish list.
-And this is a kind of an L shape, is it?
So going down the little alleyway here,
you have a larder at the back, a little area and you also
have got a door which leads into a downstairs toilet and a utility room.
-I really like it.
Would you change anything in here?
Um, I don't think so, no.
Mystery House is working so far.
But, of course, there's another person we'd like to keep happy,
-so were going to go back through the dining room.
It seems that Gina and Claire
are both captivated by the charms of this mystery cottage.
The downstairs room we've set aside for Gina's mum is currently
being used as a study.
I know it's tight, but I'm hoping it could accommodate her needs.
-It's a sweet room.
-It's not very big, though, is it?
I'm sure you could get a double bed in, but whether that would leave enough room...
-You could definitely get a double bed....
-Yes, you can.
-..but you wouldn't get an awful lot of access inside.
-But at the end of the day...
-It's a sweet little bedroom.
Upstairs, the historic tone continues.
There are three bedrooms in total, all good-sized doubles
and a family bathroom with corner bath.
So, here is just one of the three bedrooms.
Oh, isn't that sweet.
-This is lovely.
-Isn't it lovely?
-I love the beams.
It has been beautifully done, hasn't it?
Oh, I really like this room, yeah.
-It looks very nice.
-Is that a cupboard there?
-That is a really good size en suite. Shall we?
-This is your room.
This is bigger than what you imagine, isn't it, from the outside.
-This is a lovely room.
-It's a lovely room.
I mean, when you first see the cottage,
you think perhaps a generous two up, two down, don't you?
-You do really, yes.
-And you step in and in actual fact,
what we are looking at is a family home.
-Yes, it's lovely.
-And that's quite a surprise, isn't it?
If you'd like to follow me,
I've still got something else up my sleeve to show you.
The surprise I mentioned earlier is outside
and it's not the fully enclosed courtyard garden with steps
leading up to the landscape raised lawn area.
The space I want to show Gina
and Claire is further along the lane from the house.
It's a private woodland garden offering Gina the chance to
fulfil her dreams of self-sufficiency.
The mystery continues up here.
-This is your land.
-That is amazing!
-0.8 of an acre.
There is a vegetable patch just there.
Some of it is laid to lawn but you've got your own woodland.
-Look at the trees!
-THEY LAUGH WITH DELIGHT
-You could keep a pig in here.
It would clear it for you.
-You could, if you wanted to keep animals here.
So, this is the final part of the Mystery House.
Well, it is a mystery, yeah!
Has it been worth crossing the border into Devon?
-It's lovely, really lovely.
I can see you're both speechless, but in a good way.
But we are going to have to try and put a number
on the property with this land. So, let's guess the price.
It's really difficult. I have no idea.
-I'm just going to say £360,000.
What about if we went in between the two of you?
Cos it's on for £365,000.
-Wow. That's amazing, isn't it?
Every property we've shown you has been under budget.
-It has, yes.
-And this is the one that has the land.
Well, I can see why it was the Mystery House, because it's...
-Gorgeous, isn't it?
-It really is lovely.
So why don't you head gently back, have a little look,
and I'll see you when you are ready.
-Mind those stairs.
Below budget by £10,000, our mystery property
is a terrace stone cottage
dating to the 17th century
that boasts a wealth of old features.
It has a farmhouse-style kitchen
and a downstairs study
that could make a bedroom for Mum.
Upstairs, there are three double bedrooms
and, as well as a courtyard garden,
there is almost an acre
of private woodland just up the lane.
From pulling up outside, it just had a very small frontage,
and the cottage just kept giving and giving.
And then, to be brought up here
to this parcel of land, it's absolutely lovely.
So, yes, the Mystery House hit the mark as well. Very nice.
-Oh, this is another lovely room, isn't it?
-This is pretty, yes.
-I like the beams.
-It's a good size too, isn't it?
It is, actually, because you've got two singles there.
-You know, you could easily fit a king-size bed.
I can see Gina living in this house. It's very much her type of house.
It had a lot of character. I think her mum would like it as well.
I'm not sure that the accommodation for Anita was perfect.
I do have a lot to think about, but, to be honest with you,
there's a clear winner in my mind.
Right, well, you've seen our properties in Somerset.
We've crossed the border into Devon for the Mystery House. That's it.
-So, I guess you want some time to have a chat?
-I think so.
-We'll have a think about it.
-Find out what your next move is going to be.
-Come on, then.
During the late medieval period,
the Somerset countryside was home to a thriving cottage textile industry.
The market town of Shepton Mallet close to the Mendip Hills,
was a major wool trading centre.
And by the 17th century,
a number of mills had sprung up along the River Sheppey.
Fast forward to the 1990s when fashion entrepreneur Roger Saul
bought Kilver Court, a former Victorian mill complex
and ran his successful leather handbag company from the estate.
But after selling the fashion business in 2004,
he opened up the site to the public.
I've come to meet him to find
out more about the history of the mill and its gardens.
-Hi, Roger. Lovely to meet you.
-Thank you very much.
Beautiful spot here.
And I understand this site has a fascinating history.
Can you tell us a little bit about its background?
Yeah, it started really, I suppose, back in probably Roman times
when they first made textiles here.
There would have been sheep up on the Mendips
and down in Shepton with the river coming through, it would
have been where they milled all of the wool from the Mendips.
By 1500, Somerset was probably a bigger wool producer than Yorkshire.
-Was it really?
-One of the biggest in the country.
So you could say that was a sort of fashion beginning.
West of England cloth came from here,
Queen Victoria's dress was made here.
So a whole sort of succession of really strong
entrepreneurial, industrial history.
The earliest mill at Kilver Court was established in the 1500s.
The present buildings date to the 19th century when businessman
Ernest Jardine ran a lace-making factory on the 3.5 acre site.
Jardine was a progressive industrialist who
wanted to keep his workforce happy, so he created fabulous gardens
and a lake for his employees to relax in.
All entrepreneurs that understood that
if they wanted to grow their businesses successfully
in those really successful Victorian times,
they had to have a workforce that was motivated.
So, at that stage, he would have rebuilt the buildings,
he would have redone some of the cottages
and made it a much more amenable place to work in.
And also, he built the gardens.
So he's really was thinking about how he could give them
the freedom to have leisure as well as work.
So, investing in the grounds
but also investing in his workforce at the same time.
Jardine's factory eventually closed in the 1920s.
But Kilver Court found a new lease of life in the 1950s
when the Showering family began producing
a well-known sparkling perry from the site.
Francis Showering remodelled much of the gardens in the '60s
using the gold medal-winning design he'd seen
at the Chelsea Flower Show.
Are there any elements of the garden that exist from
when it was created back in Jardine's day?
The lake would have been here for the water power.
The viaduct, I think, first went up in about 1860, 1870.
Today, Roger keeps the gardens in the same style
developed in the mid-20th century.
The centrepiece is a rockery surrounded by upright junipers
and yew trees.
But being a cutting-edge creative himself, Roger couldn't resist making
his own fashion statement,
influenced by a garden design in Paris.
So, here we are. My favourite bit of the garden.
And has it changed, then, in recent times?
In '96, I bought the whole site.
So you looked out from the amazing director suite into the garden.
And all I could see was lines of corporation roses -
orange, yellow, pink, orange, yellow, pink.
And very, very '60s, if you like.
So I thought, "Well, they've got to go."
So we ripped them all out.
And there's a wonderful museum in des Invalides
and it's got shapes like these box,
which are like shells or missiles.
So I took that idea and created a parterre here in the middle
and put roses and lavender and so on in it.
You certainly have got a wonderful spot here, Roger.
-Thank you very much.
-It's been my pleasure.
In gardening terms, Kilver Court is largely considered to be a classic
'60s design, but Roger has ensured that the gardens continue to
evolve to be enjoyed by future generations.
So that's it.
We've shown Gina and her best friend Claire our properties
here in Somerset and,
of course, just over the border in Devon for our Mystery House.
Now, I must admit - I don't think we started off in the strongest
of fashions, but it got better as time went on.
And, well, I'm feeling quietly confident.
But let's hear what Gina has got to say.
Well, Gina and best friend Claire, we've had
a great few days here in Somerset and Devon, of course, in the end.
We have, yeah.
Blazing sunshine, pouring rain all the elements thrown at us.
Yes, we have.
But we haven't been deterred with our house-hunting.
-No, absolutely not.
-So, how well did we do, then?
Go on. Please let me know.
Well, I think you did very well.
The beautiful white property with the lovely big garden
is the clear winner in my book.
I think it just fits the bill for Mum, myself and for any visitors.
it's got so many options with all the bedrooms, and the accommodation,
which would be for Mum, I think she'll really like.
It was just light and airy and the only thing, obviously,
it didn't have was the shower room.
But, actually, that wouldn't be a problem.
It'd just, I think, go probably where the utility room is.
-So it's a clear winner.
-And she's all on one level.
-So it's a clear winner.
Delighted! Well, we are talking about a clear winner, how far we going to take it?
-Cos your house is currently on the market, isn't it?
-Yes, it is.
And the next step, I think, is to talk to Mum
and book a second viewing and take her to see it.
Lovely. Claire, you know Gina
and her mum Anita probably better than nearly anyone.
What difference do you think that property is going to make
to their lives if Gina's mum Anita likes it just as much?
I thin it'll be a new start for them.
So I think life will be easier all round.
Gina will be happier because she's got her animals.
It's got chickens in situ.
Yes, we've heard all about the chickens.
And also you can relax a little bit with your mum as well, can't you,
-knowing that she's safe, that she's happy, that she's independent.
-And let's hope she loves it as much as you do.
-I think she will.
So, I've got to ask you one last question.
You've wanted this for years.
What's the first animal you're going to buy
-when you move into your new home?
-Well, if the chickens
are already there - that would be crossed off the list -
probably a dog.
Well, let us know how you get on.
We've really wanted to try and find you that perfect home
-and I think in the end we got there, didn't we?
-Let's hope all the rest falls into place.
Well, I don't mind admitting, it is
tricky trying to find the right house for two people
with individual needs.
And Gina was adamant there was no room for compromise.
She wanted the perfect house for them both.
And guess what,
when we showed her that stunning property with the large garden,
no compromise went out the window
and she's happy to make those tweaks so it's perfect for Anita.
And, if her mum loves it as much as Gina does,
and their offer is accepted, well,
they could be moving in very soon and make Somerset their new home.
I really hope it works out for them
and we wish them the very best of luck.
And I'll see you again on Escape To The Country.
If you would like to escape to the country in Scotland, Wales, England
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Nicki Chapman helps a buyer who is property shopping with her best friend. She has £375,000 to find some countryside respite to suit her and her elderly mother. Away from the house hunt, Nicki meets a fashion entrepreneur turned horticulturist with designs on an iconic Somerset garden.