Margherita Taylor has Â£750,000 to spend in south Devon as she helps a couple find a rural home with enough space to house a collection of over 3,000 books.
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The view behind me was the inspiration
for a very evocative hymn penned by a local clergyman in 1847,
which, to this day, brings tears to the eyes of British sport fans.
I wonder if you can guess which hymn it is and where I might be.
I'll let you know in just a few moments.
Today, it's good old country air
that's attracting an artistic duo to move south.
And our houses are met with a warm reception.
-It has that nice feel about it.
-It's got a cosy feel, hasn't it?
-Yes, that's it. That's the very word I was looking for. Cosy.
There are also some surprises in store.
We certainly weren't asking for period, but...
this may be an exception.
Today, I'm here in the beautiful county of Devon,
and this is All Saints' Church in Brixham,
where the Reverend Henry Francis Lyte was the vicar.
Tragically, he contracted tuberculosis
and had just a few weeks left to live
when he wrote the evocative words to Abide With Me,
a hymn that's gone on to be sung at every FA Cup final since 1927.
His legacy is the creation of a beloved British sporting anthem,
and every evening, here in Brixham,
the streets echo to the sound of church bells
ringing out that famous tune.
The county of Devon is located in the area of England
known as the West Country,
with Cornwall to one side and Somerset and Dorset to the other.
It features two striking coastlines.
The northern one faces out to the Bristol Channel,
whilst the southern one includes a large section of the Jurassic Coast,
England's first Natural World Heritage site.
The cliffs here are a 250-million-year walk through time,
with some of the oldest and most recent rock formations
both located in the county.
Inland, Dartmoor National Park combines broad expanses
of open moorland and densely wooded or gorse-scattered hills.
Dartmoor's deep valleys are home to atmospheric villages
and small towns like Chagford.
Known for its well-preserved 15th and 16th-century buildings,
including an impressive octagonal market house,
legend has it that a wedding day tragedy in the local church
inspired the 19th-century historical novel Lorna Doone.
Dartmoor is also where the two sources of the River Dart combine.
Thought to be named from the Celtic "river where the oak trees grow",
it's a description of the waterway that remains true to this day.
Journeying south, the Dart meanders through the market town of Totnes.
Claimed to have more listed buildings per capita
than any other town in Britain,
it's also become something of a centre for arts and crafts.
So, with its unique coastlines, extraordinary landscapes
and historic towns and villages,
Devon is a county that provides a captivating mixture
for both a temporary or more permanent country escape.
With so much on offer, it's no surprise that here in Devon,
the average price of a detached house
is £20,000 above the national figure, at almost £310,000.
And in hotspots like Dartmouth on the River Dart,
that can quickly rise.
So if you want your money to stretch further,
it's worth coming north of the A38,
away from the coast, to towns like Buckfastleigh and Ivybridge.
But what about today's house-hunters? What are they after?
Let's find out a little bit more about them.
Professional storyteller Janet
and her retired systems engineer husband Jeff
met 25 years ago over their love of classical music.
We went to the same event and we saw each other and...
lo, and behold!
He sat next to me in the Proms,
and then afterwards, we went for a drink.
True love blossomed and they never looked back.
So we got married in '94.
-Yeah, so it's 21 years.
The things she gets me into...
You never know what's going to happen next week.
Jeff is a man who takes his time to think about things.
Erm... And he doesn't rush into things
and I have to say, I do get him into some scrapes.
Certainly, some extraordinary experiences.
But, you know, that's what life's about.
They have lived together in their four-bedroom bungalow
in Ewell in Surrey for 23 years,
but it's been home to Jeff for even longer.
I bought this bungalow with my brother over 30 years ago.
-..Janet came into my life.
And we fitted our lifestyle around it.
I'm afraid so.
It's a very nice cul-de-sac, nice neighbours.
It's off a dual carriageway,
and we're just 400 yards from the boundary with Greater London.
Unfortunately, Janet has faced health problems over the years
and living so close to the big smoke often makes matters worse.
The hope is that a move to the country,
with access to fresh sea air, will provide something of a tonic.
So we want to look to going to the country or by the seaside...
-..because the air will be cleaner.
So part of it is a health reason.
And after a trial run, they know just where they'd love to be.
We plan to move to Devon...
..focus somewhere around Sidmouth.
We have a flat in Sidmouth which we've been using
for the past four years as kind of a transition flat.
Get to know the area and get to know people.
I know Sidmouth very well. I've been going there since 1976.
I love the countryside, I love walking in the countryside.
I like doing activities.
You know, I used to be an orienteer,
so I'm not running through the country.
But past that now, but I loved it.
They won't be relocating alone.
Janet's love of a good read
means that they'll have plenty of company
in the form of a rather large amount of reading material.
At my peak, I had 3,000 books
which went into the library and into the dining room and...
We kept the living room, didn't we, free of books?
-Well, I've been packing my books since last November.
And that's why we've got 160-odd boxes in the garage at the moment.
Yes, that's true!
And that doesn't include the thousands I've given away.
Janet is planning to continue her storytelling after the move,
something which first arose from her background as a social worker.
As well as telling stories as pure performance, she also uses
storytelling as a therapeutic tool for both adults and children.
And Jeff will have plenty to keep him busy too.
I have three main interests,
one of which is photography,
the other is golf
and the third is volunteering.
I've been volunteering with the Epsom Riding for the Disabled group
now for 15 years,
and I'm hoping to explore the opportunities
wherever it is we end up
for the local Riding for the Disabled.
With their bungalow already sold,
it's time to get the ball rolling on their property search.
So they'll shortly be moving to their flat in Sidmouth
while they wait for their Devonshire dream home to come along.
I'm really looking forward to moving down to Devon.
I want to be able to walk out of my front door and be in country,
breathing in the fresh air, but also being able to enjoy seeing nature.
I've only ever lived in two houses,
one I was born in and this one,
but we're moving on to new adventures in Devon.
Janet and Jeff have asked us to concentrate our search
in South Devon, between Plymouth and Exmouth,
an area to the west of their flat in Sidmouth.
'And before we begin the story of their house-hunt,
'I'm meeting them in Devon to make sure I'm absolutely clear
'about what it is they are looking for.'
Well, Janet, Jeff, welcome to Devon.
-So what kind of thing are you searching for?
A minimum of four bedrooms,
and make sure that both Janet and I have a place to work,
a nice study area.
So, two studies, a home for the books and lots of bedrooms.
This is just for the two of you?
Well, we've got lots of family we want to come and visit,
and friends to visit,
but I also like running workshops with storytellers.
Is there anything you're not looking for?
I'd prefer not to have thatch.
OK. And what are the must haves?
Well, for me, it'd be nice to have a bungalow,
but we are open to looking at two-storey.
But for me, there needs to be the possibility
of having a bedroom on the ground floor.
I have a bad back and sometimes
it's very difficult to walk upstairs.
And what about the garden, what would you like to see?
-A lot of space, or...?
-Not too much.
But Janet wants people to be able to camp in the garden
in case we're putting people up.
-So a place for tents.
So, no garden for you, as in to enjoy,
-but somewhere that...?
I love gardens, I love doing a bit of work.
The garden's always been Jeff's domain and, you know,
what ever he wants, Jeff can have.
And what about the key things in the area?
What are you looking for there?
We're certainly looking for a local community
where we can get involved with activities,
So with, you know, arts and crafts.
We like being with people and, you know,
we like popping in and out of each other's houses.
I've always had the opportunity to do that, or where I haven't,
I've sort of helped develop a kind of community.
You know, that's what I want to be, part of the community.
And I think it needs to be fairly flat.
Yes, because when I say, again, when my back is bad,
I really can't cope with any kind of slope.
But also that's close to local amenities, like a pub,
a little shop, a post office, so that we can walk down there
without having to get in the car and drive somewhere else.
Just remind me of the budget that we're working with?
And that is if it's a perfect house.
Well, I know we have some fantastic properties for you to see,
-let's get searching.
-Good, let's go.
For their budget of £750,000,
Janet and Jeff are looking for a home that's either a bungalow
or allows for single-storey living, if needs be.
They need space for Janet's library of books,
and they'd each like a study, as well as at least four bedrooms.
Outside, they want a garden that's manageable,
but has room for camping.
And location-wise, they'd ideally want to be somewhere that's flat.
They'd also like to be close to amenities
with an opportunity to be part of the local community.
We've chosen a selection
of interesting and contrasting properties
for Janet and Jeff to view,
but they'll only find out the price of each one after they've toured it.
The final visit will be to the Mystery House,
which might leave them thinking they're seeing double,
but it should guarantee each and every one of Janet's books a home.
So, it's a big decision, buying a property.
Who usually makes the decisions?
-Well, we do it together, really.
When we bought the flat, we looked at four properties in a weekend.
And the fourth property was the flat that we saw and, you know,
within a couple of hours, we decided that was the one we wanted to buy.
So when it's the right property, we will both know.
So when you're sure, Jeff, that decision's instant?
Yes. Oh, yes. I can make quick decisions.
-Might be few and far between...
We're kicking off our house-hunt in the hamlet of Batson,
just a ten-minute walk from the seaside town of Salcombe
and within the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Sitting on the Kingsbridge Estuary which flows to the English Channel,
Salcombe is fortunate to have a year-round mild climate.
Its history goes hand-in-hand with the sea - fishing,
seafaring and shipbuilding have all played a part here.
The town also saw the less honest careers of smuggling and piracy
in days gone by, which meant homes weren't built close to the water,
but further inland.
Winding lanes are brimming with artisan shops
alongside bars and restaurants serving local produce.
Just ten minutes away from this pretty resort is our first house.
So, first impressions, what do you think?
Well, love the outlook. I'm just worrying about the steps down.
It looks quite steep from here.
They're actually quite shallow, the steps.
Looks low-maintenance. It's very great. Lovely.
-I love the stone.
-That's cob stone.
-Local cob stone that they've built with.
It has been refurbed.
Built in the '50s originally,
and the current owners literally refurbished everything.
New wiring, plumbing, the roofs been done ten years ago,
-so a really low-maintenance property to take on.
-Sounds good to me!
-And these gorgeous views, too.
And, Jeff... Thatch next door.
-I've avoided that for you.
-Thank you very much.
And you've also got the garage space up here as well.
Room for a couple of thousand books perhaps?
You could convert that. That could be an option.
-Excited to see inside?
-Shall we go in, then?
This 63-year-old property was renovated from derelict
by the current owners who bought it nine years ago.
A few steps lead us down to the front door.
Come this way.
So, into the main living space.
-Oh, nice, big room.
-It certainly is, very nice.
It's a nice, big space.
And certainly nice and bright.
The dining area there, so that's very pleasant.
And the log burner?
For a nice evening, can you imagine yourself cosy on that sofa?
-And plenty of space for me to hang my pictures up.
-All your lovely photography.
-Shall we explore some more?
-All right, let's head for the kitchen.
The kitchen is directly behind the living room
at the back of the house.
First thing you notice as you walk in here,
look at that view out there!
It is sumptuous, isn't it?
Got lots of space, but it's not too big,
-so just the kind of size of kitchen...
-Space for a table.
That's very good.
-You would have space for guests here.
And that breakfast space could extend out onto the terrace as well.
Exactly, exactly, and that would be lovely.
-It is a heavenly sun trap in the morning.
-It is beautiful.
Well, positive reactions so far.
Now, this may be a two-storey property, but it does offer Janet
the option of living downstairs if she needs to in the future.
There are four bedrooms here with three of them
on the ground floor served by a fully tiled family bathroom.
There's a large double at the back with glorious views to the garden,
plus an en-suite shower room.
Next door is a smaller double in use as a twin and,
at the front of the house, is a room currently used as a study.
But we're heading upstairs
where a beautifully light-filled landing leads us straight
into the master suite, the only room on the first floor.
-You've got the beautiful aspect out the windows.
-Gorgeous view to wake up to in the morning.
Fabulous en suite and then you also have a walk-in wardrobe over there.
-A walk-in wardrobe.
Which, again, storage, more book space perhaps
-or photographic equipment...
-Book space? Book space?
-No, not book space in the bedrooms, please!
-What do you think?
-I think it's great.
I would be a little concerned that it is above the kitchen
and any cooking smells might just permeate
because there is no door here.
-Well, you could easily put a door in at the bottom.
And then actually, it could be... You were talking about having guests
to stay or running the workshops,
-this could be a closed off guest space.
-That would work perfectly like that, yes.
This house certainly offers Janet and Jeff
the flexibility they require and the outside space provides the same.
There's the garage we saw earlier,
adding another room to the property next to the utility room.
The garden consists of a large, flat terrace, ideal for Janet
and a beautifully sheltered lawn with magnificent views
and enough level land for camping visitors.
What do you think of that view?
It's a beautiful view.
I feel a "but" there, Janet.
But I'd be spending most of my time up here.
I don't think I'd be able to get down there and get back up.
I think even with that slope, on my good days,
I would still find that a challenge.
I think this terraced space would be fine.
Summer barbecues with the family,
autumn evenings looking at that gorgeous view.
Yes, and that is a gorgeous view.
That is not to be disputed.
So, you've had an explore, you've seen these lovely gardens...
What do you think this house is on the market for?
That's certainly a difficult question.
I would guess at £740,000.
I think it will be slightly over budget, so I would think £760,000.
OK, well, you're both sort of almost there.
It's actually on at 750.
£750,000, so the top of your budget.
But I did have a chat with the owner earlier
-and he is open to offers.
I'll let you to have a peruse around the rest of the house again.
-And just take it all in.
And we'll catch up afterwards.
This beautifully refurbished detached house has come in
right at the top of Janet and Jeff's budget,
but there's always the possibility of striking a deal.
The rooms are spacious and there's a choice of single-storey living,
plus there are just the number of bedrooms they need
with the option of having a study each.
What's more, the garage could be a home for Janet's library of books.
Outside, there's a large patio with fabulous views across the garden
and the house's position is ideal,
just a walk away from amenities and the sea.
Ah, so this is the other room that could be used as the master bedroom.
-Quite a good size.
And the en suite through there.
-It's really nice.
I like it, it's a very nice house.
The decoration is perfect.
The layout should work for us.
Little concerned about the space for Janet's books.
So we might need to modify the garage,
but other than that, I think the house is fine.
I think it's a lovely house.
It's very nicely decorated, the kitchen is perfect.
This lounge is very, very nice.
I think the difficulty for me is I probably want more room
and the reality is that the steps from outside down
I would find very difficult.
So love the house, wish that it was on a flat place. Which is sad,
because it has a lot of features that are really working for me.
-Hi, so you've had a good look round.
-Yes, thank you.
-Lots to think about.
-OK, let's make a move.
-Thanks very much.
Devon's rich pasture land and moderate climate
means a good variety of crops flourish here,
but one of the oldest crops known to man,
dating back some 30,000 years,
has all but died out in the county,
and it's called flax.
Perhaps known more nowadays for the linseed it produces,
its fibres are also traditionally used to make linen.
Susie Gillespie is a textile designer
based just outside Totnes
who uses the environment around her for inspiration.
She marries age-old techniques
with her own creative, modern-day vision
and produces unique creations from linen,
made entirely from scratch.
She also runs courses in linen spinning and creative weaving.
Today, Janet and Jeff have come to meet her at her home studio
to learn how it's done.
Now we know Janet loves to spin a yarn, and so does Susie.
I'm a weaver and I process my own flax.
I've always used linen,
so I thought it would be nice to try and make my own.
So I've started growing it in the fields and processing it
to use for my work.
I use textiles and materials in some of my storytelling
with my work with people who have profound
and multiple learning disabilities,
because it helps them to have a tangible basis for learning a story,
or feeling a story.
At the moment, I buy lots of my materials from shops,
but the idea of maybe being able to create my own textures,
I think that's quite exciting.
Susie works with home-grown flax,
planted in the orchards surrounding her studio
which she harvests by hand, pulling it up roots and all.
Once it's dry, the first stage is to remove the seed heads
using a large metal comb.
The flax is then submerged in water before it's dried again.
This is the flax that I've pulled up and wetted
for a couple of weeks in a bath of water.
-And that just loosens off the fibres from the woody core.
And the fibres are what we need for the spinning to make the yarn.
But if I just show you how I do it with the flax breaker.
It's an amazing tool.
The design was taken from an old-fashioned flax breaker.
It's essentially the same process that has been used
for thousands of years.
The flax is crimped, which reveals the inner fibres.
-You keep working at it.
-Yes, I can see how that's turning into...
-The fibres are coming out.
-..the fibres, wow.
That's very interesting.
If Janet's serious about making her own yarn,
then she better have a go herself.
You take the handle.
It's changing, it really is changing, isn't it?
That's probably ready now, I can show you the next step.
This is called a hackle.
It's really just to comb the flax through.
It's almost like a ponytail, isn't it?
Yeah, that's where you get the phrase, "flaxen haired maiden" from.
I tell many stories about flaxen haired maidens. And now I know.
The next stage is for the flax to be spun into yarn
using a spinning wheel before it's woven into fabric.
The golden yarn can be dyed a rainbow of colours.
Susie creates all kinds of products from her linen,
including cushions, artwork and table runners.
So this is the yarn that's been spun?
Yeah, so it's ready now to start weaving.
So with the weaving, you use your feet to press the pedals.
And we use the two outside pedals to make the alternate shafts come up.
These are the shafts.
So if you press one pedal down, and you put the shuttle across...
..and you use the beater to beat the thread in place.
And then you take your foot off the pedal,
then put the other foot on and change it to the other side.
So I guess it's a lot different from machines in the factory,
where they produce perfect stuff every time.
Yeah. Well, I think by doing it by hand,
you are able to put in elements that you like
and then sometimes, if it goes a bit wrong,
it just adds to the creativity, you know, the human error adds to it.
Now Janet and Jeff are getting the chance
to put their stamp on a weave.
Yay. And to the other one.
And then we are whacking this one through. Over.
Can I see what you've done? Really nice.
It's been a lovely day. Learnt a lot.
Thanks for coming. Good luck with your house-hunting.
Now our pair have learned how to spin yarn,
it's back to the hunt for a new home,
to give their story a happy ending.
We're on our way to the village of Diptford
in the foothills of Dartmoor.
The rural village is located in the South Devon Area
of Outstanding Natural Beauty,
overlooking the River Avon and surrounded
by stunning Devonshire scenery.
There's a post office here as well in a parish hall,
which, curiously, doubles up as the Diptford Arms pub four times a year.
There's also the attractive 13th-century St Mary's Church,
whose spire towers over the village.
Three miles away is the larger village of Avonwick,
where there's a traditional pub and a garage as well as a shop.
An eight-minute drive takes us back to tranquil Diptford,
where we find this remodelled bungalow.
Oh! This looks interesting.
Very interesting. It's a bungalow!
A beautiful, very spacious bungalow.
-Yes, it is.
-It seems to go on for ages.
Wow. And a double garage over there, Jeff.
Yes. And plenty of parking, which is good.
Yes. There's a little village in every direction.
We're actually on the boundary
of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
-You've got two farmers living either side.
-There's so much more to tell you.
-Shall we get in?
This wonderfully located property is perfect for Janet,
offering her single-storey living.
There's a pretty garden to the front
and we're entering straight from the terrace
into a beautifully bright kitchen.
So you've got the triple-aspect kitchen.
This was the new part of the bungalow
that was built four or five years ago.
-Beautiful high ceilings
and a wonderful look into your back garden,
as you wash up of an evening.
And then that open-plan into your living area.
-Is this somewhere you could have a morning cup of coffee?
Well, probably nip out there.
Well, your garden door, literally, there's not even a step
into the garden. I know you just want that lovely flat aspect
-into the garden.
-We'll soon have the table and chairs out there.
I like this - forward planning already!
Shall we do a little exploring?
-Plenty more surprises with this particular house.
Come this way, come this way.
The sitting room leads to a hallway, off which are four bedrooms.
We're heading to one at the back of the house.
Now, I wanted to show you this bedroom,
because it's one of the master bedrooms,
but this particular one's got an en suite,
-which I know you were wanting.
And then views out into your garden.
-It's a good size. Plenty of room.
There's a lot of space in this house,
and I know you were really after that.
We need a home for your books.
-Shall we see if we can find one in this particular house?
-I think we may have just the thing.
All right, I shall lead the way, follow me.
Opposite the bedroom is a family bathroom with a separate shower,
and along the hallway are the other three bedrooms.
There's a bright double with doors to the terrace at the front,
a smaller double at the back,
and next to that, a room currently used for storage,
then a door at the far end of the bungalow conceals the last room.
-Oh, my goodness.
-It's another kitchen.
-It's a second kitchen.
What a beautiful room.
You've got a gorgeous decked area out here.
-And the reason we have a second kitchen in this house
is the house is actually owned by two friends,
who live in separate parts of the property.
-But I thought this would be perfect for you.
You can have guests stay in this half of the house
or you could run your writing workshops or storytelling workshops.
I think it would work very well as a workshop area space.
Yes, it offers a whole heap of opportunities.
It has that nice feel about it,
it's really quite nice and welcoming and just sort of...
-It's got a cosy feel, hasn't it?
Yes, that's the very word I was looking for. Cosy.
This property has already revealed one surprise to Janet and Jeff,
but there's another one, as we head outside.
The garden is well laid out with mature trees, shrubs and flowers,
and there's even a pond and a small area of woodland.
The compact kitchen garden has far-reaching views
across neighbouring fields,
adding up to around three-quarters of an acre.
There's room for tents too, but that's not all.
-Is that a good "ah"?
-You're already liking what you see?
-Your beautiful writer's retreat, here.
-That looks good.
Two rooms, one's used as a bedroom at the moment.
-So you could have guests staying.
The other is actually used by the current owners for artist workshops.
-What do you feel when you see that?
Well, I have to say I feel very excited.
-So you've got your writer's retreat
as well as your bungalow.
What do you think the value of this property is?
Well, I think it's got most of the things that we really want.
I reckon it must be around about £720,000.
I think it's about £740,000.
OK. This house is on the market
-Oh, very interesting.
-That sounds very interesting, yes.
-Do you want to explore your writer's retreat?
-Get in there, go on.
This detached bungalow has a price tag
a generous £101,000 below our buyers' budget.
The kitchen/diner is bright and spacious
and the separate self-contained living area and kitchen
open up all sorts of possibilities for Janet's workshops.
Four bedrooms allow Jeff to have his own space, too.
The garden and its views are magnificent,
and the writer's retreat is an unexpected bonus for Janet,
who could house some of her book collection here.
Oh, yes. There's plenty of room here.
For your big worktable.
Yep. And there's the room next door.
Yes. I was eyeing that up for my photography room.
-Well, yes, actually, that's a very good idea, isn't it?
Well, the house here, it seems to meet all the requirements.
There's plenty of nice rooms, a few adaptations we will need to do.
It looks great.
And there's a greater outside space for Janet's library
and my photography workshop.
I think this house is very interesting.
It has lots of rooms, lots of opportunity for developing things.
I think it really is a real contender,
and I think this whole place is inspirational
and I would look forward to being able to do some writing here.
Have we potentially found a home for your library, Janet?
Well, there's certainly the space for it.
OK, lots of smiles.
Absolutely, lots to think about.
-Let's keep going.
Morning has broken on the next leg of our trip around South Devon,
searching for a country home for Janet and Jeff from Ewell in Surrey.
And armed with a budget of £750,000,
our brief is to find a property that allows for ground-floor living.
We've still got a mystery house with a rather big bonus.
Now that would be a great place to have a glass of something lovely
in the evening, on that patio space there.
Or first thing in the morning.
Oh, first thing in the morning! I like your style.
And I will be working out whodunnit
when I visit a world-famous crime writer's
rather magnificent Devonshire home.
Any details in this room that are in her books?
Absolutely. In Dead Man's Folly, Poirot was sitting here,
Mrs Stubbs would be sitting here
looking at her emerald ring with her arms stretched out.
Today is day two of our property search,
and later on I'll be showing our lovely couple their mystery house,
or should I say houses?
But first to a rather grand and very imposing property.
For our next visit, we are heading just outside
the village of Stoke Gabriel,
which is situated on a creek of the historic River Dart.
The unspoiled village has a good selection of shops,
alongside places to eat and drink.
Its narrow lanes roll down to the river,
where Dart salmon has long been fished.
The quay is a draw here, where pretty pastel-coloured houses
peeping out from the wooded hillsides
form a beautiful backdrop.
There's also a medieval church,
its bell tower standing tall since the 13th century.
Just a six-minute drive away
is the rather handsome property we've come to see.
What I'm liking is the big, big smiles that I'm seeing already.
-It looks great.
It is full of character.
I love the doorway.
The doorway is just so inviting, it's so much a story house.
It's got a history. There must be a story there somewhere.
It has a great history.
Late Georgian, Grade II listed,
restored just four years ago through the entire house.
So there is so little work to do inside.
We certainly weren't asking for period,
but this may be an exception.
-Let's go in.
-All right, you can't wait, can you?
Come on, let's do it.
This impressive double-fronted property
was built around 1820 as a farmhouse.
The current owners have spent a year transforming the property
into the home we are about to explore.
It is attached on either side to former farm buildings,
which are now separate residences.
As we cross the threshold,
a grand entrance hall passes a sweeping stairway,
which leads to a rather majestic sitting room.
Beautiful cornicing in keeping with a Georgian property, ceiling rose.
The original sash windows from the farmhouse.
And the original shutters as well.
It's a good-sized room, isn't it?
Yes, I could see myself here.
It's certainly got a nice, warm feel to it.
-There is another beautiful living room of this size.
And I thought that could make a perfect downstairs bedroom.
-Again, it's gorgeous views onto the garden.
And behind us is a cloakroom, and utility room,
along this stretch of wall,
which is already plumbed in
and you can look at adding a shower in there,
and then you have that perfect downstairs bathroom,
-so you could investigate that as an option.
This house may be a period property,
but its fine proportions and excellent flow
could provide an appealing option for Janet and Jeff.
And at the back of the property
is a fantastic farmhouse-style kitchen/diner
with access to the garden and adjacent parking spaces.
Oh, my word. Oh, look at the flagstones.
The original farmhouse floor.
A kitchen that has been restored so lovingly,
and you have your range.
You've got your dining space behind you.
-It's very nice.
-I do like the fact that they do run into each other,
and it's a different character from the kitchen.
They are separately defined spaces.
And then in this wonderful old farmhouse kitchen,
running the entire length of the kitchen and dining area,
you have a basement room.
So for guests, friends, family coming to stay,
it also has a little bathroom downstairs, too.
More places, either for storage, and a wonderful library,
or just a lovely place for guests to visit.
So lots of living space on the ground floor for you.
Shall we take a look upstairs?
The winding stairway leads to the first floor,
passing a wonderful picture window with views to the garden.
Up on this floor, off a large landing,
there's a bright, tiled family bathroom and four bedrooms.
A spacious twin room lies at the back of the house,
a double at the front with a pretty feature fireplace.
And next door there's a smaller room used as a study.
But we are on our way to the largest and most impressive
of the four bedrooms, the master suite.
It's lovely and big.
-Lovely, big space.
-And I love the fireplace.
It's a beautiful-size room.
Off this bedroom, you have an en suite, as well.
Double sinks, and a lovely walk-in wardrobe.
So you don't need wardrobes in here.
No, you don't. Shall we keep taking a look?
-Let's explore those gardens.
Maybe now is the time to start thinking about
how much a house like this might be worth.
-You don't want to leave, do you?
Right, come and tell me where you're going to move everything into.
Outside, there's a large garage, providing additional storage space,
and there's also a workshop.
We're heading to the grounds, which lie to the front of the house.
The exceptional walled garden is filled with bursts of colour.
There's also an immaculately manicured lawn
surrounded by mature shrubs and trees.
And beyond, in a further area of garden,
an idyllic summerhouse in which to soak up the tranquil surroundings.
That is quite a view of the property, isn't it?
And this land goes right up into that lovely viewing bench up there.
And not too difficult to maintain.
Mainly lawn in this area.
-You are wondering about the price, I'm sure.
What do you think this property is on the market for?
I think about £690,000.
I shall go a bit higher than that.
I think about £730,000.
I have to say, Janet, you are closer.
This property is on the market...
Yes. I think it's a very nice amount, and it's a nice property.
I get the sense you're itching to explore some more.
I'm going to send you off. I shall enjoy this gorgeous view.
This wonderful Georgian home is priced at £55,000
under Janet and Jeff's budget.
And with all its character and space,
it's given them plenty to think about.
It's got the farmhouse kitchen Janet was dreaming of
and four good-sized bedrooms.
Outside, the garden is not only beautiful,
but also provides workspace options for both Janet and Jeff.
-Oh, look at this!
-What a great space.
-What room there is!
Oh, definitely library space.
Oh, I think so. I think we might be able to fit all your books in here.
I really like this house.
As we approached it down the path, it was immediately a story house.
It has a story of its own,
but it looks like the typical sort of storybook house.
I love the house. I love this symmetry as you approach the house.
I love the size of the rooms.
Nice, tall ceilings.
Georgian windows, beautiful lights.
The garden is very nice.
Beautiful views from up there, particularly of the summerhouse.
Very nice views across the valley to the local hills.
We had hoped for a bungalow
because obviously then it's living on the flat for everything.
But this being a two-storey house, the main living we could do
on the ground floor
and having that other living room as a potential bedroom,
so that at the point
when I need to use downstairs as a bedroom, we can do.
So, have you seen enough?
-We certainly had a good hunt around.
All pretty positive?
-I think it's really good, very interesting.
And we still have that mystery house to see.
The mystery house.
It's not just Janet who's drawn to seek inspiration
from Devon's beautiful landscape.
Many creatives past and present have links to the county,
including Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy and Jane Austen.
But one novelist is synonymous with the south of the region,
and that's crime writer Agatha Christie.
Born in Torquay, she bought Greenway House near Brixham in 1938
as a holiday retreat,
a Georgian property with a Grade II-star listing.
It sits on the banks of the River Dart,
and Christie dubbed it, "The loveliest place in the world."
In the year 2000, Christie's daughter gave Greenway
to the National Trust and the property now welcomes
over 100,000 visitors a year, plus overnight guests.
I've come to meet house and collections manager Elaine Ward
to find out more about the very private writer
and her holiday hideaway, where she was known by her married name.
She used to come here and escape from being Agatha Christie.
She was Mrs Mallowan while she was here, she was part of the community,
the school, children used to come in,
gardeners here, the community.
This is where she came to relax.
So would we find the house in any of her books?
We know it as Greenway, but many Agatha Christie fans
will know it as Naase House in Dead Man's Folly.
This is where the garden fete was happening,
and also where the murder victim was found in the boathouse
there down in the garden.
So when you read Dead Man's Folly,
and you're walking through the garden, walking through the house,
you can see the story come alive.
And was this always her holiday home until she passed away?
She did own this house until she passed away.
Obviously, subsequently, her daughter
and her son-in-law, Anthony, took over this house,
but she had this house until she passed away in 1976.
Now the National Trust have taken over
and we're keeping it in the spirit of Agatha Christie,
as if she has just walked out into the garden.
Well, not only is it an incredibly impressive house,
I can understand why Agatha Christie would have loved this view so much.
-It is stunning.
Greenway was built in the late 1700s.
Agatha Christie had admired the striking property
since she was a little girl.
So when, as an adult, she saw it was up for sale,
she knew it was her dream house.
Today, its interior is just as it was in the 1950s.
This is such a large room,
and yet there's a sense of a really cosy atmosphere here.
What would Agatha have used this room for?
This is her drawing room.
And they used to spend time in here relaxing with the family,
mainly this area here is where they used to read her scripts.
She used to sit here with her family reading the stories,
reading the chapters.
So she would actually sit here reading to her family?
-Sort of testing out the stories?
-Yes, she would.
-And are there any details in this room
that are in her books?
Absolutely. Again, Dead Man's Folly. Poirot was sitting here.
They would come through the doorway here,
and then one of the characters
were leaving out through the French window over here.
Also Mrs Stubbs would be sitting here,
looking at her emerald ring with her arms stretched out,
so you can just imagine her sitting here whilst she's looking at this.
Are these actually the sofas that Agatha actually sat on,
or have you just replicated everything?
No, everything that is here
actually belonged to Agatha Christie and her family.
For instance, that's a desk she used to write at whilst she was here,
drafting out plotlines, notebooks, that sort of thing.
What in this room would I find in her books?
Well, the small figurines over here that you can see,
there's a little one called Harlequin.
And most of the fans and readers of Agatha Christie would know
The Mysteries of Harley Quin, was a gentleman in her books,
so it's a play on the name of the harlequin figurine,
to make out a name of Mr Harley Quin.
So not only was this a getaway for her,
-it was inspiration for Agatha?
This room is furnished from Christie's childhood home
and the trinkets are collections from five generations of her family.
The house certainly has a romantic feel about it,
when you imagine one of the world's greatest crime authors relaxing here
and soaking up the peaceful atmosphere,
but there were times it wasn't quite as serene.
Not long after Agatha Christie bought the house
obviously World War II happened.
During that time, this house was requisitioned
for the American Coastguard and they used what we see as the library now
-as their officers' mess.
-So did she move out during that time...
-..or was she here making tea and coffee?
No, she moved out during that time.
They were here, they took over the house, they used to have the ships
coming up and down the River Dart getting ready for D-Day
and going over to Slapton Sands.
So she allowed them to move into the house
-and use it as a base?
This house is truly fascinating,
a shrine to the revered writer,
and you can feel her spirit all around.
But outside in the grounds, her presence is felt, too.
There are 272 acres here, which roll down to the river,
where, by the water's edge, is the boathouse
Christie and her family used to relax in,
hold barbecues, swim and, of course, keep a small boat.
It was yet another location featured in her novel Dead Man's Folly,
where one of her characters met an untimely death.
Well, this is a little different from the main house.
What's going on here?
As you can see, it's in a bit of a dilapidated state,
so we are doing a building restoration here.
Sadly, we've got...
..plaster coming off the walls here.
So is anything here as it would have been in Agatha's time?
What you see in the building, you've got the fireplace there,
that was here, obviously, when Agatha was here.
-You've got some of the furniture.
-Oh, this is hers?
This is her chair. This is where she used to sit and do some reading.
So what are the unique challenges of renovating a property like this?
Well, the boathouse gives us an initial challenge straightaway.
We are right on the River Dart here,
so with the environment, we have to put new lime plaster on the walls.
We have to make sure that it's clean and dry
and very warm to make sure that that plaster dries significantly,
otherwise it all has to be taken off and started again.
So it's a lot of research involved
to make sure we use the correct materials.
How long will it take before we can walk in here
and see it as Agatha would have done?
It could take up to two or three years
because we've got different phases of what needs to happen.
Currently we're working on phase one, which is outside.
Phase two, we'll then start looking inside in this part of the building.
Phase three, we'll start looking at the plunge pool underneath.
We have one of those downstairs
and it would be great to get that working again.
Elaine, thank you so much for taking the time
to let us come and explore.
I know there's lots of work to be done, so I will let you get on.
Thank you very much.
From one fabulous Devon pad to another,
but we've got to wait a little while
to get to the bottom of our thriller today.
What are you thinking we might show you?
I think it's going to be a modern farm conversion.
-With a thatched roof?
Well, you never know.
For our last property,
we're travelling to the village of Bigbury-on-Sea,
also located in the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Local amenities include a shop and a 16th-century pub and restaurant.
Just under six miles north
is the historic market town of Modbury, where a wider selection
of independent shops and eateries can be found,
including an attractive 14th-century coaching inn.
A quarter-of-an-hour's drive takes us back to Bigbury-on-Sea
and our mystery property,
which is located behind a sweeping circular drive.
Just 200 metres from the sea,
it boasts a bird's-eye view of Burgh Island,
a tidal island reached by foot at low tide
and a sea tractor when the tide is high.
It provided literary inspiration to Agatha Christie
and also attracted Noel Coward to its Art Deco hotel in the 1930s.
So here we are, our mystery house.
-It's a bungalow.
-Which is what you are after.
And it looks very big, it seems to go a long way back.
Any idea why it's our mystery house?
This particular house is our mystery house because it is two houses.
So you have the main house here. And then the other house...
You know you were talking about your writing groups,
friends and family coming to stay? You could run it as a going concern,
which is what the current owners do.
They rent out this section of the house
and live in the annexe at the back.
-What do you think of the idea of the two properties in one?
I think it's got potential.
-Should we see inside? Come on, let's do it.
This wonderfully located bungalow was originally built in the 1960s
but was extended five years ago to create a self-contained annexe.
We are entering via a hallway into the original part of the property,
currently rented out for holidays by the present owners.
So nice, big hall space.
Already a couple of bookshelves up. Maybe room for more.
-And then a lovely, big living area for you.
It's a nice, big space.
-With those lovely views of Burgh Island.
Now that would be a great place to have a glass of something
lovely in the evening, on that patio space there.
Or first thing in the morning.
Oh, first thing in the morning! I like your style.
Our welcoming mystery house
has already got Jeff's imagination working.
Just behind us is a dining room area,
off which is a beautifully finished kitchen
with access to a small courtyard garden.
And there's a utility room next door.
Then, behind the kitchen is a nautically themed family bathroom,
serving three double bedrooms.
There's one with doors to the courtyard
and a smart shower room.
Next door is a twin,
and another double is lucky enough
to have views across to Burgh Island.
That's the main bungalow,
and next door is the adjoining annexe the current owners call home.
It's just the other side of the courtyard.
We are starting from the open-plan kitchen and living room,
which takes up half of the property.
It's very nice.
You could use this as maybe your writer's retreat
and then have the main part of the property to yourselves.
There is also a little office outside,
which is a converted garage, which could be your man cave, Jeff,
if you wanted.
So, our mystery house does have lots of options for you.
-Should we go and see the master bedroom?
The sleeping quarters just next door
take up the other half of the annexe.
So big, big room.
Lovely cupboard space for both of you.
You've got full built-in wardrobes there.
Very large bathroom. Lovely walk-in shower.
So a nice, big space for you in the annexe.
Certainly, it's a beautiful master bedroom.
And what about that view into the garden?
-Nice to wake up to that.
When you are in bed, you can see all the way up the hill.
Now you've had a look, should we head out into that garden?
-OK, come on.
The main bungalow benefits from wonderful sea views.
Behind the annexe is a stunning and expansive garden
surrounded by fields and hilly countryside.
The grounds are well kept with beautiful flowerbeds,
mature trees, a kitchen garden and a greenhouse.
There's also lapsed planning permission for a double garage,
which could become Janet's longed-for library.
It's worth coming up this tiered garden
to catch that view of Burgh Island and the ocean.
I think it's easy maintenance, just the right size.
So, easy to look after, even I might cut this grass.
-So it would work for you?
-It certainly would.
You've seen the garden, the house. Now down to the price.
Oh, the difficult bit.
What do you think our mystery house is on the market for?
I'm going, optimistically, at £720,000.
I would think around about £680,000.
Take each of those offers, come halfway.
-Offers in excess of 700,000.
So you're both 20 out.
-Would you like to take another look at the house?
-You do that.
I'm going to take in the view a little bit longer.
This mystery property, with its bonus annexe,
could leave Janet and Jeff with £50,000 in the kitty
if they decide to make it theirs.
It offers Janet accessible single-level living
in a spacious home with more options than they could have dreamed of
for housing Janet's library,
as well as welcoming guests and holding workshops.
And Jeff would have a photography room for himself.
Outside, the garden is perfect for our pair
and comes complete with spectacular views
that are sure to inspire some of Janet's storytelling.
Plus, it's close to amenities.
Mystery house, it is very interesting.
Being divided as two, it gives great potential in dividing up
in the way that we want to use it.
Garden - just a nice size.
Just big enough for me to play around in and cut the grass,
not too big that it becomes too much of a chore.
I found the mystery house intriguing
and I can see the possibility of living here.
I can see how you might use it, how we might set it out.
But I think, for me, I'd need to know more about the area
before I could say, "Yes, definitely a contender."
-You've had a good look round the mystery house?
-You've seen all the properties now.
-Lots to think about.
-Lots to think about.
-Shall we find somewhere to have a coffee
-and a chat?
-Let's do that, come on.
Right, it's time to catch up with Janet and Jeff
and find out what their next step is going to be,
and, I have to admit, even at the end of our search,
I'm not 100% sure in which direction they're heading.
Janet, Jeff, do we have a frontrunner
from all the properties we've seen?
Well, I think there are two which sort of spoke to us more.
That was the Georgian house and the mystery house.
And what was it particularly about those two that you loved?
I think in terms of the Georgian house,
the size, the great rooms and the garden.
In terms of the mystery, what a view!
And, again, accommodation
which could be tailored to our requirements.
I'm a little bit surprised you went for the Georgian one so much,
because it was a bit of a gamble to show it to you.
It wasn't a bungalow
and it had period features which you hadn't asked for.
We'd been focusing on the bungalow
because we'd been focusing on flat living and, yes,
you have actually offered us
a Georgian house with features on three levels,
but it is possible just to live on the one level
and so that does give me one-level living if I need it
and with character and with that beautiful garden.
So what might be the next step now for you?
We're interested in both properties,
so part of what we aim to do
is to go back, have a look round the areas,
find out more details about the kinds of things that go on.
-So we have two great houses...
Which of those properties is speaking to your heart
and which one is speaking to your head?
Um, to my heart, it's the Georgian house.
Um, to my head, because it's much more practical,
it's the mystery house.
-And Jeff, is that the same for you?
-I think it's the same for me.
And will you go back for a second viewing on either of the properties?
I think that's really subject to, you know, testing out the area,
finding out more about the area, what the local facilities are.
Well, I wish you all the best of luck with your continued search,
and I look forward to coming and exploring,
perhaps borrowing a book from your library very soon!
You'll be very welcome.
Perhaps you'll join Janet at one of her workshops there.
-I'm in, I'm in. Sign me up now!
-Come and tell a story.
So we're at the end of a successful few days house-hunting
here in Devon.
I'm really pleased that we've managed to find Janet and Jeff
two properties that they really liked.
It just remains to be seen, in this particular tale,
whether it's their heads or their hearts that will win out.
See you next time on Escape To The Country.
After a lot of thought, Janet and Jeff have decided
to narrow their search to be closer to Sidmouth, but their eyes are now
open to the possibility of living in a home with more than one level.
If you would like to escape to the country
in Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales or England, and need our help,
then apply online at...
Margherita Taylor has Â£750,000 to spend in south Devon as she helps a married couple find their ideal rural home with enough space to house a collection of over 3,000 books.
Sticking to a literary theme, Margherita visits the home of Agatha Christie, for whom the West Country landscape was a constant source of inspiration.