Like lots of others, when Dick Strawbridge and his better half, Angel Adoree, chose to root out from England with their young family and relocate to France for la belle vie, they imagined a modest farmhouse, perhaps an easy gate. 45 rooms, 78 windows, 12 acres, one moat and 10 stressful months later on, they are the owners of a gorgeous chateau, a five-floor home in Pays de la Loire, 10 times the size of your typical British house all for the amazing figure of 280,000.
Like many fairy tales, there was a catch. This chateau came with no electricity, heating or water, a sanitation system that emptied into the moat not to mention numerous dead flies, bats (very much alive) and lavatories that hadn’t been flushed for 40 years. It would take an individual with large enthusiasm and energy to handle a remediation obstacle like that and come out the opposite smiling.
Luckily, Strawbridge has type. The retired Lieutenant Colonel initially appeared on our screens as a plucky and resourceful contestant on the Channel 4 series Scrapheap Challenge (he went on to present the program), before starring in 3 series of BBC Two’s It’s Not Easy Being Green in the mid-Noughties, about his battles to live an ecologically friendly, low-impact life, with first other half Brigit and their adolescent children. His most current job has actually required every ounce of his gung-ho spirit.
People talk about going off and having their adventure and we’ve simply done it, says the 56-year-old. It’s all quite special. They are now growing up in a place where if they play hide and seek, they may never ever discover each other, Dick says.
Penis fulfilled Angel in 2010 when they were introduced by their shared agent (Very media, I understand, he states), after which he transferred from Cornwall to London where the couple resided in a one-bedroom flat in east London.
Angel, who ran a hospitality company, The Vintage Patisserie (she appeared on Dragons Den, winning business investment and the patronage of Deborah Meaden and Theo Paphitis), flourished on city life, however Dick, a nation boy at heart, wanted more. For me, London appeared to be frantic without going anywhere, he says.
Having spent time in France together they began to dream of a better quality of life. Dick states: It was like going back in time. Shops weren’t open at lunch; the food was wonderful. We initially wanted to buy something really cheap and not have any costs, so that we could simply work when we wished to, with the cash entering the pot rather than servicing a mortgage.
Quickly, though, they understood that in France they could get a good deal more for their buck, and they started taking a look at bigger properties: Pretty quickly it became chateaux porn.
From the minute Angel laid eyes on Château de la Motte Husson, she knew she wanted to make an offer, while the walled garden and orangery clinched the offer for Dick. I might have done backflips when I saw them, he says.
In its rotting state, it would have been the job of a life time for the majority of people. Not so for Dick and Angel, who set themselves a firm 10-month deadline to drag the chateau into the 21st century. As an added reward, they scheduled their wedding for November 2015, and were figured out not to obtain wed on a building site. They took ownership in the depths of a freezing cold January so cold that the moat froze over with Dick planning to handle most of the facilities work himself. To add to the drama, Dick invited a Channel 4 film team to chronicle the remediation.
Angel says: We just jumped in and got on with it. Penis and I are firm believers in the harder you work, the luckier you get. And he’s so young at heart. He has more energy than most young kids. He’s like a little bunny. He just keeps going on and on.
Still, she acknowledges that the scale of the project was overwhelming sometimes. For Dick it was actually full-on. Whenever he did something, another problem appeared, says the 38-year-old. The couple put in a new sewer system, plumbed in numerous meters of piping for the heating and water circulation system and had EDF link them to mains electricity. Ensuring the children had an operating bathroom was one of Dick’s main priorities.
Creating a modern practical home was no mean feat on a site that can trace its origins back to the 12th century. The existing chateau was integrated in 1886 by the then Count De Baglion as a summer house for the Countess. In spite of being given the generations, your house hadn’t been resided in by the De Baglion household for nearly 40 years.
While the 280,000 price may appear like a snip, neither Dick or Angel were under any illusion regarding exactly what it may cost making it habitable. These locations are money pits, says Angel.
Cock has no idea how much he has actually invested in the restoration to this day, but threats it is in the tens of thousands. I sanctuary t included it up, he admits. I know what we’ve made has vanished.
To help pay for the restoration Dick went to America from March to July 2015 to make a TV series for National Geographic called Dirty Rotten Survival (it included a 25-mile hike through the Berkshire Mountains of western Massachusetts), leaving Angel to hold the fort. Great deals of late-night teleconference kept the job moving along, consisting of one after a bat flew into Angel s bedroom. In terror, she called Dick for assistance. I ended up staying under the covers for 40 minutes until it had gone, she states.
On his return, they ramped up the rate in order to fulfill their November due date, tackling everything from the hunt for scaffolding high adequate to reach the 30ft-high ceilings to drilling through 3ft-thick stone walls.
Life is all about energy and passion and living it, states Dick. My girl s got a big chest and that jackhammer wobbles and she just jiggled away, chuckles Dick.
Angel has actually definitely been through her own transformation. I’m now half city girl and half nation girl, she says.
Angel’s passion for all things classic inspired the design of the chateau, which she had simply 4 weeks to complete. Still, she found time to develop a wallpaper museum composed of salvaged initial wallpapers discovered in the attic, which also showed a veritable bonanza (a stash of initial Victorian clothes fit little Dorothy perfectly). While for the wedding event, Angel utilized pages from Second World War copies of Paris Match to hold the confetti.
The wedding breakfast was held in the orangery, which seated 80 people and then more than 200 individuals partied at the chateau for two days. We had a hell of a party, states Dick.
They now plan to host experience weekends and weddings, in addition to keeping up the rate on restoration.
While they have their own living quarters, 2 of the floors are yet to be touched and the couple strategy to put in 3 more restrooms, on top of the three they’ve already set up.
Their first wedding has been booked and the couple are due to host their very first food lover weekend where visitors will go to the regional markets and then work down in the kitchen with Dick (a previous Celebrity MasterChef finalist) to produce magnificent French food.
We’re excited to get everyone over here, Dick says. We simply have to make sufficient money so we can decorate the other rooms. I don t know how long it will take. However, when we complete we’ll have to start once again.
For Dick, after a life time of moving, the chateau represents, he hopes, his last home. Already he’s investing more time in the walled garden, the couple s pigs are fattening up nicely, they’ve put in fruit trees and are growing their own vegetables. His children, James and Charlotte, from his first marital relationship, and his grandchildren are routine visitors.