Estates of the nation examined

Country House Rescue
Country House Rescue
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TV Choice: Five of the best shows this week

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There’s no denying there have been some exciting televisual experiences of late.

Just this past week we’ve seen the start of a new sci-fi drama about zombies from the man behind The Shawshank Redemption, a new family drama from Hollywood director (and Richie from Happy Days) Ron Howard and the continuation of the most exciting and star-studded period drama in a time of diverse and star-saturated period dramas.

But I wasn’t watching The Walking Dead, Parenthood or The Crimson Petal and the White this week.

No, I was sitting at home, watching shows about, well, other peoples homes.

I can’t pinpoint the appeal in home shows, other than wanting tips for a nice home of your own and also an interest in nosing around the homes of others. But I invariably end up watching Grand Designs more than any other programme on the box.

First up this week was Country House Rescue (Sunday, Channel 4, 9pm).

Its focus was Garston Manor, a spectacular place built in 1813 and sitting in more than 20 acres of woodland.

Bought by Sheila O’Neill 13 years ago as the base for a Montessori School. Sheila had big plans for Garston Manor, but her attempts to introduce a wedding and conference centre fell flat. That was the point when hotel guru Ruth Watson came in.

In the show, we saw the expert persuade Sheila to hand some control to her two eccentric daughters, who created a magical treasure hunt for guests, launched a UFO academy, and made a new terrace and gardens.

As if that wasn’t enough to satisfy my appetite for knowing the goings on in stately homes, Petworth House – The Big Spring Clean followed on Wednesday (BBC Four, 8.30pm).

The idea of the spring clean is an old-fashioned notion, but we Brits are a house-proud lot and, to some, having a good tidy and clear-out is as much a part of spring as daffodils and Easter eggs.

Now, as part of the BBC’s History of the Home season, they have gone behind the scenes at one of Britain’s most beautiful stately homes in West Sussex for this brand new series.

But my fascination with homes doesn’t stop at the abodes of the upper echelons, as The Great Estate: The Rise & Fall of the Council House (Monday, BBC Four, 9pm) proved.

This one-off documentary examined the history of council housing and compared it to today, paying a visit to Britain’s first council estate, the high-rise estate that’s now the largest listed building in the world, and an estate known as the ‘town of the 21st century’.

Take a look around a house closer to home tomorrow night, when Country House Rescue comes to Hill Place in Swanmore.