We bought a crumbling French château – but restoring it became no fairytale

Like many others, while Dick Strawbridge and his spouse, Angel Adoree, decided to uproot from England with their younger family and pass to France for Los Angeles belle vie, they envisaged a modest farmhouse, possibly an easy gîte. But, forty-five rooms, 78 windows, 12 acres, one moat and 10 exhausting months later, they are the proprietors of a stunning château, a five-floor home in pays de Los Angeles Loire, 10 instances the size of your common British house – involved in the improbable figure of £280,000.

But like maximum fairy memories, there has been a trap. This château got here and not using any electricity, heating or water, a sanitation machine that emptied into the moat – no longer to mention masses of lifeless flies, bats (very a lot alive) and lavatories that hadn’t been flushed for forty years. It would take someone with great enthusiasm and electricity to tackle a restoration challenge like that and pop out the other facet smiling.

Dick Strawbridge and his wife Angel Adoree 

Happily, Strawbridge has form. The retired Lieutenant Colonel first appeared on our displays as a plucky and imaginative contestant at the Channel 4 collection Scrapheap venture (he went on to give the program), earlier than starring in three collections of BBC two’s It’s no longer clean Being inexperienced inside the mid-Noughties, about his struggles to stay an ecologically pleasant, low-effect lifestyles, with first spouse Brigit and their teenage youngsters. His modern challenge has required every ounce of his gung-ho spirit.

“humans speak approximately going off and having their adventure, and we’ve simply performed it,” says the 56-year-antique. “We’ve got wild boar in our woodland, deer wandering around the front, kingfishers and crimson squirrels. It’s all pretty special. We do pinch ourselves that it’s miles apiece ridiculous. However, we made a preference to not live in the M25.” The couple had spent 4 years looking for the precise region to convey up their own family, Arthur, 3, and Dorothy. “they’re now growing up in a place wherein if they play hide and are seeking for, they may never find each other,” Dick says.

Dick met Angel in 2010 once they were brought by their shared agent (“Very media, I recognize,” he says), and then he relocated from Cornwall to London, where the couple lived in a one-bedroom flat in east London.

Angel, who ran a hospitality commercial enterprise, The vintage Patisserie (she seemed on Dragons’ Den, triumphing commercial enterprise investment and Deborah Meaden and Theo Paphitis), thrived on city existence. Still, Dick, a country boy at coronary heart, wanted extra. “For me, London regarded to be frantic with our going anywhere,” he says.

Having spent time in France together, they started to dream of a better first-rate life. Dick says: “It becomes like going back in time. Stores weren’t open at lunch; the food becomes exceptional. We at the start wanted to shop for something very cheap and no longer have any bills, so that we could see simply paintings whilst we desired to, with the money going within the pot in place of servicing a loan.”

quick, even though, they realized that in France they might get a remarkable deal more for his or her dollar, and they began searching at larger houses: “pretty soon it was châteaux porn.”

however, from the moment Angel laid eyes on Château de Los Angeles Motte Husson, she knew she wanted to propose, even as the walled lawn and orangery clinched the deal for Dick. “I ought to have achieved backflips once I saw them,” he says.

In its decaying country, it might be the assignment of a lifetime for the majority. no longer so for Dick and Angel, who set themselves a company 10-month cut-off date to tug the château into the 21st century. As an added incentive, they scheduled their wedding ceremony day for November 2015 and have been determined not to get married on a construction website. They took ownership in the depths of a cold January – so cold that the moat froze over – with Dick making plans to take on most of the infrastructure paintings himself. to feature in the drama, Dick invited a Channel four film crew to chronicle the recovery.

Angel says: “We just jumped in and got on with it. Dick and I are company believers inside. The harder you figure, the luckier you get. And he’s so younger at coronary heart. He has extra electricity than most young boys. He’s like a bit rabbit. He maintains going on and on.”

still, she concedes that the size of the assignment was overwhelming in instances. “For Dick, it becomes genuinely complete-on. each time he did something, every other difficulty popped up,” says the 38-12 months-antique. The couple put in a brand new sewage machine, plumbed in loads of metres of piping for the heating and water distribution device, and had EDF connect them to mains electricity. making sure the youngsters had a functioning bathroom became considered one of Dick’s main priorities.