TV star Strawbridge swaps London flat for sumptuous 45-room chateau in France
When Northern Ireland TV star Dick Strawbridge decided to upsize when buying his new home, he did it in style.
The Co Antrim man and his wife, Angel Adoree, are enjoying life as the proud owners of a gorgeous French chateau boasting 45 rooms, five floors, a private forest, pasture land - and even their own moat.
The couple decided to sell off their two-bedroom flat in London for £400,000 and scooped the stunning Loire Valley property for just £280,000.
That sort of money would get you a decent-sized house in Northern Ireland, but who would have thought it would also be enough to purchase the sort of property most people could only dream of owning ... and in one of the most beautiful regions of France to boot?
Antrim native Dick (56) spent nearly a year converting the neglected 19th century castle - Chateau de la Motte Husson - into an enviable family home for Angel (38) and the recently-married couple's two children, Arthur (three) and two-year-old Dorothy. And now the Strawbridges are reaping the rewards.
"We're having so much fun. It's idyllic," he said.
"Here we are in what is a beautiful setting, in a beautiful home. We've got 12 acres, a walled garden, a moat, an orangery, stable blocks and woods.
"We've got wild boar, deer, Kingfishers. We've our own chickens and pigs and we're growing our own veggies.
"We also have planning permission for three more houses on our estate and that's what's turned it into really good value for money."
It may be a dream home now, but Dick admitted that bringing the building up to a habitable state was a bit of a nightmare, especially as the couple had set themselves a 10-month deadline to complete the project in time for their wedding last November.
There was no electricity, heating or water, a sanitation system that emptied into the moat - and toilets that hadn't been flushed for 40 years.
But the retired lieutenant colonel was determined to make the vision a reality for second wife Angel - who ran a hospitality business, The Vintage Patisserie, and once appeared on Dragons' Den - and their little ones.
"With two small children we had our hands full, that's for sure, but I would say we're now between a third and a half of the way through all our problems," he said.
"It was a rush to bring it back to life in time for our wedding, with Angel and I working 20-hour days, but we got enough rooms done, the place looked good and we had a wonderful two-day wedding with all our friends."
The father-of-four - who has two other children, James (32) and 30-year-old Charlotte with first wife Brigit - first appeared on our screens as a contestant on the Channel 4 series Scrapheap Challenge (he went on to present the programme), before starring in BBC2's It's Not Easy Being Green in the mid-Noughties.
However, the former Ballyclare High pupil admits that married life and this latest challenge have brought him the greatest satisfaction.
The grandfather-of-three, who was awarded an MBE in 1993 for distinguished service in Northern Ireland, admits his French home hasn't come cheap, but he says it was worth it.
"We've spent the best part of £100,000 on the renovations," he said. "We didn't have that money, so I went to America for five months to make a TV series for National Geographic called Dirty Rotten Survival. The funny thing is, even when I was roughing it in the States, I was probably more comfortable than Angel and she was living in our chateau!"
Chateau de la Motte Husson (quite a step-up from Dick's last property, a two-bedroom flat in east London) will play host to weddings - the first of which will be held on September 3 which, coincidentally, happens to be Dick's birthday - and 'experience' weekends.