Couple Dave and Kim are looking for an escape to the country where they can find a home full of character with land that they want to be full of livestock and edibles – they want to become more self-sufficient. The Welsh marches that run either side of the Wales-England border seemed the perfect fit for them as a location as Dave used to regularly visit family in the Hereford area as a child and loved the area.
Powys was perfect and Shropshire was special for this couple when they went house hunting with the BBC’s Escape to the Country team with a very healthy budget of around £850,000 – although there was ‘wiggle room’ to spend more. But early retirees former carer Kim and former engineer Dave were in a bit of a pickle as their Droitwich Spa home had sold so much faster than they expected and now they were homeless.
Friends’ homes and the occasional caravan was their present living arrangement with the suitcases never fully unpacked and most of their stuff stuffed into storage. But the couple had not been idle – they had been busy searching for that rural retreat to call their dream country home but had already lost out on four Welsh homes and were becoming desperate. Escape to the Country and presenter Sonali Shah came to the rescue with three stunning country pads to rummage around with the hope of finding ‘the one’.
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Property number one, a 19th-century former farmhouse nestled in the countryside near Llandrindod Wells with panoramic views, had the couple gushing from the very start of the tour. “Beautiful, absolutely stunning, this is looking very good,” said Kim, eager to get inside.
The recently-renovated three-bed home had an added conservatory with stunning views and a brick and timber two-storey extension that gives the master bedroom its own balcony. In the two-acre garden there’s a sunny terrace with amazing views and an outbuilding that is currently being used as a laundry room. The house at that time in 2021 was on the market for £895,000, stretching the ‘£850,000ish’, budget to its limit, but presenter Sonali thought it was an ideal proposition for them.
Property two, south of the village of Treflach, although very attractive was not a contender even though it was only £650,000 – the couple just weren’t getting ‘the feeling’.
But it was the mystery house that threw the unsuspecting couple a curveball property that divided opinion and certainly gave Dave a feeling – and it wasn’t a good one. Sonali stands outside a charming cottage near Llanyblodwel. Surely this pretty, character-packed home isn’t going to have Kim and Dave butting heads? She reveals: “The house bit of the mystery house isn’t the mystery bit of the mystery house!” That’s clear then.
The pretty cottage, although lovely, was not exactly intriguing. So maybe the mystery was the surprise three-bed bungalow lurking in a corner of the garden? Nope, that might be unusual but it wasn’t the mystery.
Sonali says: “When I walked in here I thought potential, potential, potential but I’m fully aware that not everyone thinks like me and that’s my challenge to get them to perhaps see what I see – wish me luck. What I’m about to show them is not at all what it seems from the outside.” And she was going to need all the luck and charm she could find because Dave wasn’t having any of it.
Sonali tells the couple when they arrive: “The thing I must confess – that the house we are looking at isn’t actually the mystery part. As you can see there are other things going on – beautiful garden, you’ve got a bungalow here, and then there is more beyond…” The couple are intrigued although Dave is already looking somewhat worried at what the eventually revealed mystery could be.
The tour starts well at the quaint cottage, with black beams, roses around the windows, and an inglenook fireplace to charm the couple – and it did. The couple could see through the stacked boxes and items ready to be moved out as they were in exactly the same situation – ready to move onto their new home. The house was a hit, sort of, being described as quirky, but the suggestion for the future of the poor bungalow was brutal – knock it down.
It’s safe to say this mystery house tour was being demolished too until the couple came out of the back door of the bungalow to discover the true mystery of this property – a hidden, unconverted, Grade II listed, 1,400 square foot timber and stone barn. Sonali gets excited: “You could convert your own barn! It needs planning permission and everything but let me show you it and you’re allowed to tell me if I’ve gone just a little bit mad!” Dave is full of nervous laughter and Kim is full of ‘wows’ as they enter the truly stunning beamed space inside.
Kim says: “This is spectacular, what a space! I think it’s absolutely stunning. I love it!” Dave says: “You are nuts.” Kim is falling in love but Dave is not. He says through nervous laughter: “I think you’ve both lost the plot!” The idea is floated by Sonali that they could live in the cottage while doing up the barn and then live in the barn and sell the cottage and Kim really likes that idea.
And there’s even more reason for Dave to feel uncomfortable when they wander to the back of the barn to find a meadow that comes with the property too. For Kim it’s a contender but for Dave it’s visualising months, if not years, of hard work eating into his time and Kim senses this, saying: “I love it but Dave’s scared of the work!”. Harsh but true.
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This triplet of properties are on the market for £695,000 and Kim is interested in doing up the barn and keeping the meadow and selling the rest. Dave is keen on doing a runner.
Sonali knows she has stirred things up. She says: “Don’t be annoyed at her Dave – it’s all my fault! If that’s not a mystery house I don’t know what is.” But Dave is definitely not feeling the mystery house love. He tells Kim: “I think you’re bonkers. It’s nothing like what we were after really because we didn’t want all this work. If I could run back to property number one and buy it then I would.”
And after a night pondering the properties, with Kim sleeping like a baby and a sleepless night for Dave, that is exactly what they did. On reflection the amount of work needed to make the barn their dream home just wasn’t what they wanted in reality. Dave explains: “Maybe 10 years ago we might have had the energy to do it but now I think we are getting older and it would have been a bit too much.” Property number one near Llandrindod Wells ticked every criteria for the couple without the need to secure planning and do the conversion work – it was turn-key ready and Dave is keen to secure it as their escape to the country.
And thankfully Kim is in agreement. She says: “It’s a fantastic farmhouse, exactly what I was looking for – the stone, the character, and the land.” The couple were so keen that in the morning they booked a second viewing for the same day and reported back to the programme that the second viewing had confirmed their feelings.
They put in an offer £15,000 below the asking price that was accepted. And Dave is now sleeping well at his escape to the country dream home.
This story was featured in series 22, episode 17 of Escape to the Country and is currently available to view on BBC iPlayer. And if you never want to miss the best dream homes in Wales, renovation stories and interiors, join the Amazing Welsh Homes newsletter, sent out to your inbox twice a week.