Jules Hudson heads to Snowdonia with a buyer who wants to downsize and move closer to relatives. She would like her new rural property to come with business potential.
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Welcome to Escape to the Country.
These astonishing mountains were the training ground for
the world's first successful ascent of Mount Everest,
but strangely they are closer to home than you might think.
So, where are we?
Well, join me in just a moment and I'll tell you.
Today's property search reveals something of a generation gap.
-Can you see your mum in here?
-Yeah, it's definitely her.
That sounds like it's definitely not you.
Yeah, he doesn't like olde worlde.
I'm thinking I'll whack my head quite a few times.
And it looks like we might uncover Mum's dream country home.
-I knew it would be, I knew it would be.
It's gorgeous, it's gorgeous.
Well, today I'm in North Wales
on the Watkin Path at the base of Mount Snowdon.
This is one of six routes that leads to the peak,
the highest, of course, in England and Wales.
Now, despite being eight times smaller than Mount Everest,
Snowdon and its challenging environment was
the perfect training ground for Sir Edmund Hillary and his team.
They came here in the winter of 1952 to test their equipment
and hone their skills prior to their conquest of Everest itself
in May of 1953.
Now, of course, every year thousands of us make the climb
to the top of Snowdon, following in Hillary's footsteps,
but how many of us really appreciate just what it takes to work,
farm and maintain this stunning environment?
Well, later on in the programme, I'll be finding out.
North Wales includes the Llyn Peninsula to the west,
and the Isle of Anglesey and Colwyn Bay to the north.
At its heart, Snowdonia crosses the areas of Gwynedd and Conwy
and is the largest National Park in Wales.
There are no fewer than nine mountain ranges here
covering over half the park's surface.
But rocky peaks are not the only natural delight on offer.
The area abounds with gorges, valleys and forests,
and is also home to around 26,000 permanent residents.
Settlements include Penmaenpool,
originally built for workers
serving the country residence of a Lancashire entrepreneur.
The hamlet's wooden toll bridge dates from 1879
and can be used to reach a nearby RSPB wildlife reserve.
On a grander scale, Conway is considered
the best preserved medieval walled town in Britain.
Not only have the stone fortifications remained intact,
they boast an incredible 22 towers.
The castle itself was built in the 13th century by Edward I,
following his successful conquest of Wales.
It overlooks the harbour,
once described by the visiting Daniel Defoe,
author of Robinson Crusoe, as noble.
North Wales' rivers include the Dee.
This 70-mile long waterway journeys from the mountains of Snowdonia
via lush valleys passing through Bala Lake at Gwynedd.
The lake's famously deep, clear waters
are home to an abundance of fish,
including perch and brown trout.
With such a wealth of stunning scenery,
historic settlements and varied coastline,
it's no wonder that North Wales is so popular
with both holiday-makers
as well as those wanting a more rural lifestyle.
Now, when it comes to house-hunting here in North Wales,
property here is remarkably affordable.
Currently the average price of a detached property
in this neck of the woods is just under £200,000,
and that compares very favourably with
the nearly £290,000 average across England and Wales at the moment.
Now, of course, there are hotspots, Gwynedd,
this enormous northern county,
is dominated by swathes of the Snowdonia National Park
and, as with most National Parks, well, of course,
if you're in it, you're going to have to spend
a little bit more than if you're outside of it.
So, if you want your budget to go that little bit further,
my advice is to head west over towards the Llyn Peninsula
and Wales' west coast,
or indeed east over towards Conwy and Denbighshire.
Let's face it, wherever you are up here
you're never that far from the mountains.
But what about today's buyers?
What's attracted them to one of my favourite parts of the UK?
Well, let's meet them and find out.
Today's buyer Maxine is from Olney,
within the Buckinghamshire borough of Milton Keynes.
She's lived in her current home for almost 30 years, raising two boys.
Youngest son Cyron is now 20 and studying music at Bangor University,
meaning Maxine feels it's time for her to move on.
I realised this house was far too big for me
and it hasn't got a heart any more, you know. It's a place to stay,
but it's not my ideal home any more.
The area where I live...is a small town,
but it's getting bigger and bigger
and I can just see it getting too big for me,
and neighbours are too close,
I'm overlooked by a number of properties.
As soon as I look out the windows, I'm looking at brick walls,
other people's brick walls.
You know, I feel hemmed in and claustrophobic
and I want to look out into some beautiful countryside
or see hills in the background and think,
"I'm just going to put my boots on
"and go for a nice walk in the countryside."
And there's one place
where Maxine feels her boots were made for walking.
I feel very Welsh. I was born in Newport in South Wales.
I suddenly realised how beautiful it was when I was taking my sons
Casper and Cyron up to Bangor University.
And every time I went up there, I just thought,
"I don't want to go back home."
Cyron shares his mum's sentiment for her Welsh homeland
and is keen to help her make the move.
I want to sort of bring a slightly younger and fresher perspective.
Having that collective thought would possibly
help better with the move than just one person themself.
It's just getting back to my roots, really.
I'm an outdoorsy person, even though I don't show it,
I still like seeing...
I love my scenery shots. Hill walking, I like that as well.
And especially... Is it Mount Snowdon?
I haven't even been up it yet.
But there are practicalities to consider.
Maxine will have to give up her cleaning business, so the new home
will have to provide both a place to live and a source of income.
When I go to North Wales, the property's got to work for me.
I'm going to start afresh,
so the building really does need to have
either already a holiday let attached to it
or an annexe that I can change into a holiday let.
However, it's not just about earning potential.
There are dreams of what a home in Wales will offer.
When I started to explore villages up in the hills,
in the mountains, I thought, "Yeah, I could be up here."
And there are such beautiful stone properties,
old Welsh stone cottages that I would love,
with little windows and little doors and sheep on the doorstep.
That's where I want to be, really.
And I really do just want to get a little backpack,
with my water in and my sandwiches and my camera
and a woolly hat and a nice raincoat and off I go into the hills,
and I'll be out for hours and hours.
And I really look forward to that.
But most of all it's about starting a new chapter.
It would definitely change my life completely, utterly completely.
It's primarily her house. She's going to be living in it.
I am moving on.
A new life, completely new life,
and I think my mind will be freed up and I'll start to get ideas.
Maxine is open to living anywhere in North Wales,
although she particularly likes the mountain views of Snowdonia.
But before we start to look at houses, I'm meeting her and Cyron
to find out more about the type of property she's hoping to find.
So, officially, Cyron, Maxine, welcome to Escape to the Country
and to North Wales. Why now?
It was from when I was bringing the boys up, Cyron's brother as well,
up to Bangor back-and-forth the last three years,
every time I came up to Snowdonia National Park
I just fell in love with it and I thought, "I've got to come up here."
As soon as I saw the hills, I just relax and I just think,
"Yeah, this is where I want to be."
But you'll have a clearer idea, I hope, of what your mother is after.
Yeah. I've known her for 20 years,
so hopefully I should know a few of her tastes now.
Well, I've got a few of my own, of course.
In terms of the property that you are dreaming of,
give us a quick run through as to what it needs to have.
Definitely not modern. I don't like modern.
I just want older properties, you know, with history.
Anything from Victorian backwards.
You have been very clear on style, but give us the spec -
how many bedrooms, kitchen, dining room - all that sort of thing.
Really small, for myself, just a two-bed.
I don't want anything big to live in.
I'd just rattle around in it, mainly.
My boys will be coming and going.
Cyron is looking, I think, for a studio for himself.
-What kind of a studio do you want?
Oh, right. OK. So, music studio, yeah.
-Check. Got that.
Some land because I'm hoping to have a greenhouse,
-maybe get into growing my own veg.
The ideal property would have to work for me.
I've got to either have a property let or B&B,
or if it's got outbuildings on, I'll try and use them for something.
I'll grow things and try and sell them. I'll whittle spoons, anything,
just to be up here and stay up here.
I can look at it and adapt it and make it work.
And how much do you want to spend on this little endeavour?
OK, well, I think my upper limit,
if it's already set up with a holiday let
and I don't have to spend a lot of money on refurbing anything,
will probably be around £350,000.
I don't mind living in almost like a shack,
as long as I'm up here and I can start my business
and my life up here, then I don't mind living in mess, you know.
I think we can find you something a little better than a shack.
-Let's have a look.
For a maximum budget of £350,000,
Maxine is looking for a property
with some olden day character.
She needs at least two bedrooms to
give her room for her sons to visit
and is keen for the property
to offer some income potential,
such as a holiday let,
as well as having enough land
to grow fruit and vegetables.
And she's happy to take on
some renovation work if necessary.
We've got an incredible variety of properties to tempt them with
and at each one I'll be asking them to guess the price
before I reveal it.
The last stop on our search will of course be our Mystery House,
which certainly delivers on Maxine's requirement for historic charm.
But first, we're off to look at house number one.
Our North Wales property hunt is kicking off in the small village
of Dinorwig, just outside the Snowdonia National Park
and a short drive from the village of Llanberis.
Llanberis is the gateway to Mount Snowdon,
in the heart of the National Park.
The village has a train station
from where it's possible to ascend the mountain by rail.
There's a wealth of mountain and lake activities
as well as plenty of amenities serving both locals and visitors
who come to enjoy this spectacular scenery.
In nearby Dinorwig, our first house is ideally located,
sitting high above the lake
with spectacular views of Mount Snowdon itself.
Well, this is what I thought we'd start with,
-and that view.
-Something else, isn't it?
-That's a view.
It's wonderful. It really is wonderful. Location is fabulous.
It's not too big. It's got a conservatory.
It's got lots of windows, lots of light.
I can imagine lots of light going in there.
Cyron, what do you think of this location?
-A little bit reserved.
-Oh, really, why?
It's still next to a road, so people can peer into your garden.
It is actually a dead end.
-It finishes just over there.
But in terms of you sitting out here with your laptop composing music,
I mean, look, Elgar had the Malverns, you've got Snowdon.
Yes, better setting.
Originally built in the 1800s,
this scenic detached property comes with the added bonus of
a separate annexe that has a four-star holiday let rating.
Mindful of Maxine's need to feel reassured that she can make income
from her new home, we're going to start our tour in the annexe,
where an entrance hall leads into the open-plan living space.
So, come right in.
And you can get a really good, I think,
understanding of what is on offer here.
Ah! That's pretty.
You've obviously got bed there, kitchenette, shall we say.
I rather like this sort of booth arrangement.
They've basically cut an old pew in half.
-So, putting your business head on...
-..could you market this?
Oh, this, definitely.
But I'm not so sure it will give me enough income to live on.
On a good day, it's probably about £400 a week.
OK. Ah! That's a bit better.
I wasn't expecting that.
Yeah, that makes a difference, then.
I would like to stay in a place like this because, I mean,
maybe a single person...got a bed.
It's pretty much all compact into one space.
It's pretty much...
No, you're not having it. It's going to be a holiday let.
Well, I think we can argue over this one all day long,
but let's get on with the main property next-door
cos that I hope is a place that you might share.
You never know. Just thinking aloud. Come on.
A short walk takes us back to the main property
where it's porched front door leads straight into
the warm and welcoming reception oozing authentic period features.
That is just the space that I would like to be sitting in
with my cup of tea every night.
It's lovely. It's really quaint and cosy. I mean, that's your typical...
Is it called Inglenook fireplace?
It is a classic Inglenook, yeah.
-Can you see your mum in here?
-Yeah, it's her. It's definitely her.
That sounds like it's definitely not you.
-Yeah, he doesn't like olde worlde.
I'm thinking I'll whack my head quite a few times.
Now, the kitchen is not enormous,
-but you didn't want an enormous kitchen/diner, did you?
Have a look at this. See if this would work.
-You're going to have to watch your head on this one.
-It's even smaller!
Everybody through without any damage, I hope.
But this is what you've got.
Galley arrangement. You've got a bit of a larder through there.
And then you've got a bit of a kitchen/diner end,
-dominated again by that lovely range.
It's you, again. It's very you.
Well, that, let's face it, is what we're after here.
-It's very important.
-You are the one living here full-time. I'm passing.
But this is very snug and cosy.
Also, of course, you're getting the heat off of the conservatory,
which we saw when we first got here, which is again giving you
a wonderful opportunity to enjoy those views whatever the weather.
-And it could also double up potentially as a dining room.
I was considering that.
-Just need to practise my cooking though.
I'm sure it's not that bad.
-You've brought up a fairly big, strapping lad, there.
-Haven't poisoned me yet.
-No, not yet.
I think the banter proves that
Maxine and Cyron are both feeling at home
and seeing the potential in this country cottage.
There's also a snug next to the main reception room
and stairs which lead to the three-bedroom accommodation.
At the rear of the house,
there's a large double with two windows,
as well as a smaller double.
Then, to the front of the house,
above the main reception, lies the largest of the bedrooms.
These are all served by a family bathroom.
And there's more outside. The annexe has its own garden and parking.
Whilst in the grounds of the main house,
a useful workshop provides further options for Maxine
and Cyron to wrestle with.
There we go.
So, I think we agree this is quite an interesting package,
-but is it affordable?
OK. So, who's going to go first?
-Let's put Cyron on the spot.
-The unlucky one.
I would say about 280.
I would have thought, with this view,
it's going to be at least 300,000.
Now, this is a turn-up for the books, isn't it?
-He's nearly right.
-No! He's always right.
Usually gets it right.
Well, he's not perfectly right.
To be precise, it's on the market for £275,000.
Oh, wow! OK.
Right, then, off you go. Have a wander around.
-And I will come and find you a little bit later on.
£75,000 below Maxine's top budget,
this beautifully situated 1800s house
has both income potential and charm.
The main house offers original features
and a conservatory with extensive views,
as well as one more bedroom than she's asked for.
Then there's the self-contained annexe
that could be offered as a holiday let.
What's more, there's also a useful workshop
that could possibly provide studio space for Cyron's music
when he's back from university.
I do actually like the house. I like the quirky nature of it.
I like the low ceilings.
It's got these great massive thick walls,
and it looks like it's going to stay in this spot for many,
many years to come.
Having that view is something to just get up and think,
"Oh, I'm on holiday."
And you could do that every day for the rest of your life.
-Our time is up, I'm afraid.
-Keep this one in mind though...
..because I think this is one you should not forget in a hurry.
It's a really good option. Come on, then. Let's go.
After you, sir. CYRON CHUCKLES
-Looks like he needs feeding.
Before the Industrial Revolution of the 18th century,
the Welsh economy was predominately agricultural,
and making a living from the land
is still a central part of many North Wales communities.
However, over 80% of Welsh farmland is designated less favoured due to
natural features of the climate and landscape, so can offer a challenge.
As Maxine is keen to make a success of growing her own food here,
we've arranged for her to meet prized vegetable producer Medwyn Williams.
He's president of the National Vegetable Society
and a multiple gold medallist at Chelsea, no less.
What's more, he's willing to share
some of his tried and tested tips and tricks.
Welcome to you here on my nursery on Anglesey.
How did you get into producing your own produce?
I was just about seven or eight years old.
My father was a farm worker.
He turned over a bit of soil in his garden,
about a square yard, and he gave me three packets of seeds
and they were radish, mustard and cress.
And I invited my friend Gareth over.
We had a big sandwich of radish,
mustard and cress with lots of salad cream on it.
And from then on, I think I was hooked.
I just love growing vegetables.
When I move to Wales, I'm interested in starting my own veg plot
and I wondered what to start with.
The best thing to do is
to have a good think what vegetables you like to eat.
Knowing the soil is very important.
Dad's saying was, "There's no such thing as poor soil.
"You get out of it what you put into it." And that's very true.
-Come alone with me to the greenhouse.
Medwyn grows 45 different types of vegetables here in Anglesey,
many of which you're not likely to find at your local greengrocer.
Well, we've gathered a few vegetables together for you now.
This is not a rugby ball, much as I'd like it to be,
-but it is actually a big onion.
-No! No way!
And that weighs about 5, 6 lbs.
One thing's caught my eye is those things over there.
-What do you mean? The leeks?
-Well, let's go have a look at it, shall we?
-Not ordinary ones either.
Legend has it that Welsh soldiers once put leeks in their helmets
to identify themselves in battle,
whilst local superstition holds
that if a girl puts a leek under her pillow,
she'll dream about her future husband.
True or not, Medwyn's leeks are certainly of mythical proportions.
Well, these are the leeks. Quite proud of these, actually.
They're not your regular size.
To create his supersize specimens,
Medwyn grows not from seed but from something called a bulbil,
produced by removing the top of a leek,
stripping the remaining barrel and planting it.
When the plant forms a flower head in the spring, it's cut back.
Now, these have all come from one head.
So, it's very simple, really.
Just grab one.
Cos if you do a good job, we know you're in danger of being
employed here when you live around here, when you buy a house.
I wouldn't mind that at all.
-Are you doing well?
Well, you've only got another 1,000 or so to do, so...
-..how about staying on and finishing that?
-Good luck with your house-hunting. Come here any time you like.
I'll be back for advice.
-Definitely back for seeds.
-If you've got any problems, let me know.
-OK, keep going, then. Don't stop.
Let's hope today's planting yields another bumper crop,
as we turn our attention back to
finding Maxine somewhere to lay down her own roots here in North Wales.
Our property search is taking us to the small village of Rhosgadfan,
five miles south of the town of Caernarfon.
A royal town and port,
Caernarfon has been settled since prehistoric times.
Despite his name and persistent attempts,
William the Conqueror never did conquer Wales.
Indeed, it was only in the 13th century that the invading English
finally took hold of the region,
promptly erecting the highly fortified castle at Caernarfon
to act as an administrative centre and to maintain rule.
These days the streets are more likely to be invaded by tourists,
where the draw of history and scenic beauty has seen a plethora
of business pop up to cater to the influx of visitors.
And five miles away in the wonderful Welsh countryside of Rhosgadfan is
the next cottage I want to present them.
Well, Maxine, look at that.
That is the Llyn Peninsula,
this mountainous finger of land that points out into the Irish Sea,
-which is looking particularly calm today, I must say.
-But that's what I want you to really take in.
One of the first things I was going to do when I got my little cottage
was to paint the door and the window frames red.
-Well, look, we've done it for you.
-Yeah, it's already done.
And what do you think, Cyron?
-I have reservations.
I'm really excited about this one.
-It's an idyllic spot, this.
-Yes, it is nice though.
Come on. Let's see what you think.
Well, that's certainly a very positive first impression
for this Welsh cottage,
from Maxine at least.
Once used as a quarryman's home and smallholding,
the Grade II listed property was built around 1800.
But we're not taking that eye-catching red front door,
we're starting our tour in the conservatory,
which was added by the current owners around eight years ago.
Well, let's start with this
cos I think this is a really, really interesting space,
and it's made such a difference to the footprint of this property.
You can use this, of course, all year round, but I think for those
really cosy wintry evenings you're going to love the living room.
It's through here.
There. How about this?
Lovely! I knew it would be, I knew it would be.
It's gorgeous, it's gorgeous.
And it's a really good shape to use. Ah, I love it!
I know it's going to sound funny,
but I was going to get a carpet like this to go with my red door,
you know, cos I know the colour fits in places like this.
Come and have a look at the kitchen.
-You might need to duck here, Cyron.
Do watch your head, but it's well worth it cos this is what you get.
It just gets better and better.
-Got to agree with that, actually.
-You like that?
-Cos it's quite olde worlde.
-Yeah, I like this.
It feels modern but still rustic.
-It's got more head height.
It's just wonderful. I wouldn't change anything.
It seems this home is almost made for Maxine,
who not only has warmed to the space,
but also the style of what she's seen so far.
There are three bedrooms all reached via the kitchen.
The first, a good size double, is down a hallway,
next to which sits the family bathroom
featuring a roll top bath and shower.
Directly off the kitchen is a very small bedroom
that the current owners use for their chocolate making business.
And up a couple of steps is the largest of the three rooms,
which Maxine could use for herself.
Now, you could have this as a guest room,
but this is what the current owners use as their room.
-I'd keep it as my bedroom. I love that window.
-And the beams.
-It's a nice feature.
-And the dark furniture.
-It's just me.
-The key thing, of course, is affording it.
-Let's have a discussion outside as to what the future may hold.
Maxine's heart already seems won over
by this cosy former quarryman's cottage.
And outside, there's even more to captivate her.
The sizable 1.8 acres of land includes
a terrace for al fresco dining.
A games room offers possible business options,
plus there's a static caravan with power and plumbing
that could be rented to bring in income.
And it all benefits from the incredible outlook.
-Look at that.
So, how far do you think is your £350,000 going to go
with this particular property, Maxine?
Not far. It's just too ideal.
It's got to be top of my budget,
-350 at least, if not more.
-I'm going to say about 320.
-I mean, 350 is affordable, technically.
320 is even more affordable.
-295,000, however, makes it really affordable.
Oh, that's really good.
-What do you think about that, mate?
-I did not expect it whatsoever.
-It really felt like it was too good to be true.
-With all this land!
-You've got a lot to think about.
-Go on, off you go.
Have a wander around
and I will catch up with you a little bit later.
£55,000 shy of their top budget,
I think this Grade II listed former quarryman's cottage
might well be Maxine's dream country home.
The single-storey accommodation has enough bedrooms for Cyron
and his brother to visit.
Then, outside, there's a games room
plus a static caravan that could offer income opportunities.
And what's more, there's a generous amount of land
and the plot boasts incredible views of the mountains and sea.
I really, really like this house.
The style, spookily, is my style.
My mum would definitely have a beautiful life here,
being able to slow down, unwind, relax,
all the words you can think of!
It's definitely something idyllic for her, and she loves the red door.
I don't think you can show me anything better than this one,
I'd be very surprised.
You know, this place really is exceptional.
-I can't believe the weather.
-And I can't believe we found you such a bargain.
-It's just perfect.
The whole lot is just perfect.
What do you think of this house-hunting lark, then?
Well, this one's definitely a check in my book.
Yay! Good. Let's write a cheque. Come on.
Maxine from the Buckinghamshire borough of Milton Keynes
is with son Cyron, hoping to find her perfect home in North Wales.
We've already shown them some great property
that could give her the lifestyle and income she needs.
But there's still more to see.
And the Mystery House could well offer
all the historic character she's after.
I've been itching to show this to you all week.
-It is a wow, isn't it?
-Pretty impressive focal point.
And I'm finding out how some old-fashioned shepherding
is being used to help maintain the dramatic slopes of Mount Snowdon.
-There's a great degree of cunning involved in this, isn't there?
Well, as you can see, the sun is shining on our final day
of house-hunting here in North Wales.
And the thing I really love about this region
is that it offers, I think,
the best of both worlds - stunning mountain scenery
along with some pretty gorgeous coastline as well.
It also today, of course, contains our Mystery House.
Now, this is a property that I think will test Maxine's earlier assertion
that she was up for a bit of a project.
And as for Cyron, well,
this is definitely a building in which
he's not going to bang his head.
So, let's see what they think of it.
Our mystery offering is located
four and half miles south of Caernarfon,
in the small village of Bethesda Bach,
within half a mile of the coast at Dinas Dinlle.
Dinas Dinlle is a small seaside settlement.
Designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest,
the beach here is a mix of pebble and sand.
And our mystery property is just a short walk away.
There you go.
It's lovely frontage.
That really is a lovely-looking house.
Have you worked out what it was?
There's a big mill stone there.
-Yeah. It's an old mill.
-It's lived up to its mysterious name.
The lower floor could become a self-contained holiday let or B&B.
OK, OK. I love the stonework.
There is as much stonework visible on the inside as on the outside.
Come on. Let's see what you think.
Built around 1706,
this former mill house was once part of a large estate.
Arranged over three floors,
we're entering via a door that leads into the ground floor,
which could perhaps be used as a self-contained holiday let.
Its unique hallway features a dining area at one end
and a kitchen at the other.
-Oh! Oh, wow!
-You like it?
Yeah, I love it. I love the stone.
Come this way.
I love it.
I love it.
It's so solid and it's all higgledy-piggledy, you know,
I love it.
It's definitely at the other end of the spectrum of what I like.
It's too far gone for you.
Yeah, it's a bit too much of what my mum likes.
Have we pushed you over the edge?
-Is it too historic?
-I think so.
I mean, you could, of course,
-just leave all this here and do B&B down here.
But I think the holiday let idea down here is a really simple fix
cos it is only just removing that staircase, which is easy.
The historic character of our Mystery House
is certainly charming Maxine.
And if she did decide to offer this floor as a holiday let,
her guests would also have two bedrooms,
both of which are currently configured as twin rooms
and served by a family bathroom.
The two upper floors can be accessed via a bridge on
the other side of the property,
but we're taking the stairs
which take us up to a large landing and snug.
I'm thinking this might be your kitchen area...
-..if you were to convert downstairs.
I can see that.
-Can you see it, really?
-Yeah, I can, actually.
It would all flow very nicely into this room,
-and I think you would not want to change this into a kitchen.
You'll see why. Come and have a look.
-I've been itching to show this to you all week.
-It is a wow, isn't it?
-Pretty impressive focal point.
-It's a castle.
I mean, look at the ceiling. I think that's just been beautifully done.
It's beautiful. It's really got the quirkiness I was looking for.
-Nobody else is going to have a house like this.
And then up there, the last bit to see, your master bedroom.
-You get your own sort of eyrie, as it were.
Well, imagine waking up every morning
-and coming down to see all this.
So, finally, here we are -
the top floor and your room.
-Yeah, it's a decent size.
-Your en suite...
I dare say you might turn to something a little more neutral.
-And again, this lovely architecture of the roof.
-Yeah, it's really quirky. It's individual.
-Is it you?
-Yeah, it is.
-I thought it would be, yeah.
But, of course, it's all going to come down to the price, isn't it?
-Come on. Let's talk about that.
Well, Maxine does seem to be impressed
by the individual character and layout
of this 18th century mill house.
Outside, a plot of around an acre
includes a small manageable garden and a paddock.
There's also a large stone outbuilding that was once the mill
and is currently used as a garage
that could be put to a range of uses.
It's an impressive building.
I'm trying to get my head round rejigging things, you know,
without spoiling the look of the place.
-Make me an offer on our mystery mill.
Well, it's really impressive.
I'm going to go for 300,000.
I'm actually going to say 290.
-Interesting. It's on at £295,000.
-Lots to mull over.
You keep giving me these different ideas and I'm getting a headache.
Go and have a wander around
and I will catch up with the pair of you later on.
-Off you go.
A significant £55,000 below budget,
our 18th century mystery mill
gives Maxine even more to think about.
It has all the character features she could wish for
whilst the three storey layout lends itself to separate living quarters
and a ground floor holiday let.
There's also a large stone outbuilding
and it all sits on an acre of land
within easy reach of the sea.
The Mystery House certainly has lived up to its title.
It caught me out, actually. The living room here,
with these beautiful high stone walls
and the beautiful wooden ceiling
and the majestic fireplace
is just wonderful.
I feel like I'm sitting in my own castle.
It was something that's not to my taste.
It's definitely to my mum's taste,
and this is basically her perfect property.
Right, then. We've shown you as much as we can show you.
It is now time for you to go away, the pair of you,
talk about it and hopefully come up with a plan for the future.
-Come on. Let's go.
It may be intensely beautiful to look at,
but much of Snowdonia is also working farmland,
the often harsh terrain being particularly suited to sheep.
Whilst the image of herds on the hills maybe a picturesque one,
livestock can damage this environment.
Arwyn Owen manages a 4,500-acre sheep farm
within the National Park.
I've come to meet him to find out how he's combining
the need to graze his flock
with a new and exciting conservation project.
What a place to work - the National Park in Snowdonia.
I mean, this is many people's ideal escape,
particularly for a holiday or a walk.
But as well as managing your flock, you're also managing the landscape
and that's encouraged a new initiative.
One thing we do here is we monitor the impact of how the animals graze.
We have an ecologist who goes out
and actually looks what the impact has been on the plants.
And what we were finding was the animals were still grazing areas
that we didn't want them to graze too heavily,
and then there were other parts of this valley,
specifically the valley floor, that weren't being grazed heavily enough.
The problem is something known as hefting.
Left to their own devices,
sheep develop a preference for grazing certain areas,
which they pass down and reinforce over generations.
In order to break this hefting habit
and establish new sustainable patterns,
Arwyn has returned to the old method of a man and his dogs.
Previously, the sheep did their own thing,
now there's someone here, a shepherd here,
and he's moving sheep from areas which are most sensitive
to those areas that need more grazing.
It's a joy to watch a good shepherd working dogs
and how they understand how the sheep will move,
how the dogs work them.
And it's a joy I'm going to share today
as Arwyn is taking me to see Bryn Griffiths,
who's been shepherding since he was ten years old,
with his three Border Collies - Meg, Non and Pero.
-Bryn's been with us two years now,
so he knows these mountains pretty well. You've walked, I guess,
-pretty much every inch of them by now, Bryn.
It's a big job, Bryn, trying to keep an eye on hundreds of sheep
in a landscape which gives them plenty of places to hide away in,
-Yeah. It's quite the task.
I took about a good two months to know the pattern of the sheep,
the way they naturally move.
I'm starting to know which ones are where
and how to get them from there now, yeah.
I mean, there is a psychological element to this,
-which is kind of interesting.
Well, they say that sheep are not smart,
but I've learnt a different side to that since I've been up here.
Well, I'd love to see the dogs working, Bryn.
-Yeah, no worries. Follow me, I'll show you.
-Let's have a look.
With 2,000 sheep to watch seven days a week,
Arwyn recently decided to expand operations
by advertising for a second shepherd.
He was shocked by the flood of applicants
from as far afield as Norway.
But, for the moment, it's just Bryn, Meg, Non and Pero,
working pockets of sheep away from the higher ground
and towards the grass of the valley floor.
-These dogs can't wait.
-No, they're itching to go.
Using a series of whistles and calls, Bryn directs his dogs
to encourage the ewes to take the tracks to the lower ground.
HE GIVES COMMAND
Bryn's commands, he's commanding the dog to go left and right.
-And there's one command for it to walk on.
-And then obviously stop.
-There's a great degree of cunning involved in this, isn't there?
And you've got several minds at work.
You've got the sheep, of course,
you've got the shepherd and the dogs,
so everybody is involved in this great sort of interplay.
And ultimately the sheep as well know that we've got
a little bit more control over them than they thought that we had.
It's been a real pleasure to witness farming
and conservation going hand in hand,
protecting this landscape for generations to come.
I think that catching a glimpse of the shepherds working these hills
can only enhance the experience for the tens of thousands of walkers
who currently take the footpaths through the valley
each and every year.
When we first met Maxine, she gave us two challenges, really.
The first was to find her a home, but the second was to find her
some sort of business idea that might go with it.
Well, we've certainly given her plenty to think about,
loads of options, really.
But have we managed to find anything that's truly viable?
Well, there is, of course, only one way to find out
and that's to go and ask her.
Well, there is one property. Let me guess.
-Oh, is it the little cottage with the red door?
Yes! Of course it is.
Yeah, it was just perfect.
You know, the view is stunning.
I don't have to walk up a hill or around the corner for a view,
I can just enjoy it as it is.
What happens next, then?
As soon as I can, I'm going to contact the agent
and find out some more details about the property
with the view of trying to buy the property.
And you'll be just down the road for at least another year or so
at Bangor University so, actually,
you've got somewhere to come and do the washing.
-Are you pleased?
-I am very pleased.
-Good. Are you pleased?
-Yes, very much.
Phew! That means I am.
We wish you all the best of luck.
I can't wait to hear the good news.
Let's cross everything
-that you finally manage to secure it.
-And good luck with the rest of your studies, mate.
Well, if like me you're a fan of landscape painting,
I'm sure you'll agree that that is a near-perfect composition.
This is one of my favourite views of Snowdonia.
When I think of North Wales, that is what I picture -
the view south down the Llanberis Pass towards Snowdon,
wreathed in cloud.
And it's this sort of rather dreamy image
that's helped lead Maxine back here to find a new home.
And now, with any luck, well, she's got one.
So, that's it from us,
but I'm going to leave you with that.
I'll see you next time.
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Jules Hudson heads to Snowdonia with buyer who wants to downsize and move closer to relatives. For a £350,000 budget, she's after a new house as well as a new business and has brought her son along to help. Away from the house hunt, Jules joins one man and his dog to learn about shepherding in the region's protected landscape.