Humble homes with incredible secrets – ball pits, jungles and hidden valleys

Buyers beware – sometimes you really don’t know what’s inside a home until you step through its doors.

Earlier this week, a builder was left baffled after discovering a whole train carriage hidden within a bungalow he was demolishing.

Andy Teal, 49, found the structure – believed to be more than 100 years old – was being used as a living room at the property in Durrington, Wiltshire.

He told The Sun : “We didn’t know the full scale of it until we took the shell down. We were shocked when we realised someone was using a train carriage to live in.”

Of course, across Britain and beyond there are thousands of ordinary-looking homes with some seriously unique selling points.

Ball pits, lavish jungles and secret pub rooms that put your local to shame – these grand designs might give you an idea for that next big DIY project.

Having a ball

Once used as a Second World War command centre, this period Victorian home is no short of history.

Yet in recent years, it’s become more of a fun house – hiding an entire ball pit ideal for keeping the kids busy for a few hours.

The five-bed house in Lincolnshire – said to have once been the residence of the Mayor of Grimsby – was snapped up quickly after being put up for sale for £350,000.

Complete with hundreds of plastic balls, colourful walls and a climbing net, the basement is anything but dark and dingy.

Frankly, we wouldn’t blame the adults for taking over the room occasionally – it looks like a perfect way to beat lockdown boredom.

Jungle fever

Ever struggled to keep a pesky houseplant alive? Well take a leaf out of the book of Nick Wilson, who brought an entire rain forest to life in his back yard.

The software salesman spent 20 years and £15,000 on this incredible project after being inspired by family holidays to Cornwall in the 1990s.

The semi-detached home in Leeds is stuffed full of ferns, bamboos and big leaf plants, and has welcomed hundreds of visitors since opening to the public.

“I had no idea that I liked big, thick enormous plants so much,” said Nick. “It was just such a difference to soft, fluffy garden plants. It’s definitely a bloke’s garden.

“My inspiration came from family holidays to Cornwall in the 1990s and suddenly my back garden was overflowing with massive plants.”

The father and grandfather of one has since raised thousands of pounds through viewings for charities including Marie Curie and McMillan.

Best bar none

Ok, so this dreamy getaway in Adelaide, Australia, is far from an ordinary home anyway, with a massive pool to relax in during those scorching summers.

Nonetheless, its best feature is hidden away behind an old bank vault door – a fully-stocked pub cellar complete with a vast booze menu on the walls.

The amazing bar comes with a truly massive wine rack, beers and spirits on tap, and a jukebox in the corner.

Put up for sale at around £447,000, the ultra-modern house features three bedrooms and – crucially after an all-night bar session – four bathrooms.

Local estate agents Harcourts Sergeant said the owners installed the vault doors especially for the secret getaway.

“The business that they own, they actually install bank vault doors,” they told Real Estate.Com.Au.

“That’s why they put that door in there, just as something a little bit different.

Letting this one slide

This grand mansion in Alyth, Perthshire boasts nine bedrooms… and a curious way to get out of one.

Starting in one of the upstairs rooms and twirling down to the kitchen is a huge metal slide – ideal for getting breakfast in a rush.

The stainless steel contraption cost £10,000 to install at the Highland retreat, which went on the market for £695,000.

The stunning property also has five bathrooms, a granny flat and an attached holiday cottage, accessible through a separate door.

A spokesman for Edinburgh-based agents McEwan Fraser Legal said: “The owner was keen for the slide to go in as they felt the house had lots of things in it for the adults and they wanted to have something special for kids.

“Any child will love this unique feature and will never be late for a meal again.”

Animal kingdom

This Grade II-listed property in Cranford, Northamptonshire, might require a bit of work if you want to put your own stamp on it.

Behind its well-kept lawns and humble exterior lies a “new surprise in every photo” – ranging from golden bedrooms to decadent chandeliers and a zoo’s worth of stuffed animals.

On a grand table in the conservatory sits a giant peacock, while deer heads and birds fill every corner of the home.

The interiors are a bold mish-mash of wooden panelling, vintage clocks, and animal-print wallpaper, and even the ceilings of the bedrooms look like they were painted by Michelangelo.

Said to have been inspired by the interiors of Belvoir Castle in Leicestershire, the two-bed cottage was bought last year after going on sale for £345,000.

An online description said the home had been “fully renovated and uniquely styled”, featuring “hand-painted wall coverings, a custom-designed kitchen and bathroom suites, reclaimed oak flooring and French polished doors”.

It added: “The layout offers a living room with large fireplace, kitchen/dining room, conservatory, two double bedrooms and a bathroom.

“Externally, there is a gravelled driveway with electronic gates for access and a Mediterranean style, low maintenance garden.”

Gardener’s world

From the outside this looks like an ordinary terrace house – neatly painted and with a tidy garden and driveway in front.

But this property in Salford, Greater Manchester gives way to a ginormous garden paradise thanks to the work of a determined gran.

Sally Berry worked tirelessly to transform the swampy two-acre plot that came with the home into a remarkable ‘secret valley’ complete with tumbling waterfalls.

It is now filled with wildflowers and plants native to Britain, sitting alongside tranquil streams and rockery.

Unusual statues fills odd little nooks and crannies in the stunning space. It even comes with its own lake, which now welcomes nesting swans, geese and kingfishers..

Sally said: “It has been fun to design and fun to take on a place that no one else wanted. It was a challenge but I have actually enjoyed it all. It kind of invented itself as it went along.”

“I have had the most pleasure seeing it change.”

Last but not East

Fancy an exotic holiday? Just step into the back yard of this four-bed home in Wales.

Don and Ann Knight’s garden is an Asian paradise and includes a tranquil, five-foot deep Koi pond, a Japanense Torri gate, a pagoda and even an Amazon waterfall.

As well as their perfectly manicured lawns, there are also dozens of tiny bonsai trees, which have to be tended to daily.

Ann told Wales Online : “I met Don and he bought me the pagoda for my first Christmas present and it went from there.

“When I said you can do what you want to the garden I didn’t expect this.”

Don was just 12 when he first tried his hand at growing bonsai and has been fascinated with the tiny trees ever since.

And keeping the beautiful garden in Llantwit Manor in perfect condition is a full-time job for the couple, who have spent thousands of pounds over the years on it.

Grandmother-of-one Ann said of her husband: “He’s always in the garden. If it’s raining he’s like a caged animal – he hates it.”