Couple Dave and Kim seek a country escape where they can find a house full of character with land 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 to suit them just fine, as Dave used to regularly visit family in the Hereford area when he was 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 on a very healthy budget of around £850,000 – although there had “wiggle room” to spend more. But the first retirees, ex-caregiver Kim and ex-engineer Dave, were in a bit of a pickle as their Droitwich Spa home had sold much faster than they had expected and now they were homeless .
Friends’ homes and the occasional caravan were their current way of life with suitcases never fully unpacked and most of their belongings stowed away in storage. But the couple hadn’t been idle – they’d been busy looking for that rural retreat to call their dream country home, but had already lost four Welsh homes and were getting desperate. Escape to the Country and presenter Sonali Shah have come to the rescue with three great country pads to rummage through in hopes of finding “the right 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 start of the visit. “Gorgeous, absolutely stunning, looks very good,” Kim said, eager to enter.
The newly remodeled three-bedroom home had an additional veranda with stunning views and a two-story brick and wood extension that gives the master bedroom its own balcony. In the two acre garden there is a sun terrace with stunning views and an outbuilding which is currently used as a utility room. The house at that point in 2021 was on the market for £895,000, stretching the ‘£850,000’ 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 in contention even though it was only £650,000 – the couple just didn’t have ‘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 good. Sonali stands outside a charming cottage near Llanyblodwel. Surely this cute house full of character isn’t going to have Kim and Dave banging their heads? She reveals, “The house part of the mystery house is not the mystery part of the mystery house!” It’s clear then.
The pretty cottage, while charming, wasn’t exactly intriguing. So maybe the mystery was the surprise three-bed bungalow hiding in a corner of the garden? No, maybe that was unusual, but that wasn’t the mystery.
Sonali says: “When I walked in here I was thinking potential, potential, potential but I’m fully aware that not everyone thinks like me and it’s my challenge to get them to maybe see what I see – wish me luck. What I’m about to show them isn’t at all what it seems from the outside.” And she was going to need all the luck and charm she could find because Dave didn’t have any.
Sonali told the couple upon their arrival: “What I have to admit is that the house we are looking at is not really the mysterious part. As you can see, there are other things going on: a beautiful garden , you have a bungalow here, and then there’s more beyond…” The couple are intrigued, although Dave already looks somewhat worried about what the mystery finally revealed might be.
The visit starts well at the quaint cottage, with black beams, roses around the windows and a cantou to charm the couple – and it did. The couple could see through the stacked boxes and items ready to be moved as they were in exactly the same situation – ready to move into their new home. The house was a hit, of sorts, being described as quirky, but the suggestion for the poor bungalow’s future was stark – tear it down.
It’s safe to say that this mystery house tour was also being demolished until the couple stepped out the back door of the bungalow to discover the true mystery of this property – a hidden wood and stone barn, unconverted, Grade II listed, 1,400 square feet. Sonali gets excited: “You could convert your own barn! You need planning permission and all but let me show it to you and you have the right to tell me if I’ve gone a little crazy!” Dave is full of nervous laughter and Kim is full of “wows” as they enter the truly gorgeous beamed space inside.
Kim says, “It’s spectacular, what a space! I think it’s absolutely beautiful. I love it!” Dave says, “You’re crazy.” Kim falls in love but Dave doesn’t. He said through a nervous laugh, “I think you both lost the plot!” The idea is floated by Sonali that they could live in the cabin while fitting out the barn and then live in the barn and sell the cabin and Kim really likes this idea.
And there’s even more reason for Dave to feel uneasy as they wander around the back of the barn to find a meadow that also comes with the property. For Kim, it’s a competitor, but for Dave, it’s about visualizing months, if not years, of hard work eating away at his time and Kim feels it saying, “I love it but Dave is scared of the work !”. Hard but true.
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This triplet of properties is on the market for £695,000 and Kim wants to fit out the barn, keep the meadow and sell the rest. Dave is keen on making a runner.
Sonali knows she stirred things up. She says, “Don’t be bothered by her Dave – it’s all my fault! If that ain’t a mystery house, I don’t know what is.” But Dave definitely doesn’t feel the mystery house’s love. He told Kim, “I think you’re nuts. It doesn’t sound like anything we were really looking for because we didn’t want all that work. If I could go back to property number one and buy it, I would. would do.”
And after a night of thinking about properties, with Kim sleeping like a baby and an all-nighter for Dave, they did just that. On second thought, the amount of work that went into making the barn their dream home just wasn’t what they actually wanted. Dave explains: “Maybe 10 years ago we could have had the energy to do it, but now I think we’re getting older and it would have been a bit too much.” The number one property near Llandrindod Wells ticked all the boxes for the couple without the need to secure the planning and carry out the conversion work – it was ready to go and Dave is keen to secure it when their escape to the country.
And luckily, Kim agrees. She says: “It’s a fantastic farmhouse, exactly what I was looking for – stone, character and land.” The couple were so enthusiastic that in the morning they booked a second viewing for the same day and reported to the program that the second viewing had confirmed their feelings.
They made an offer of £15,000 below the asking price which was accepted. And Dave now sleeps well on his escape to the country dream house.
This story was featured in series 22, episode 17 of Escape to the Country and is currently available 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, delivered to your inbox twice a week.