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Dick Strawbridge: buying dream home in France left us penniless

Ballyclare TV presenter revealed couple were forced to borrow money from their friends

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Delight: Dick Strawbridge and his wife Angel at their chateau

Delight: Dick Strawbridge and his wife Angel at their chateau

Dick and Angel on scaffolding around the chateau

Dick and Angel on scaffolding around the chateau

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Delight: Dick Strawbridge and his wife Angel at their chateau

TV presenter Dick Strawbridge and his wife Angel have told how they ran out of cash when they bought their French retreat just five years ago — and had to borrow money from family.

The Ballyclare-raised ex-soldier made a hit show from their move to France for Channel 4 called Escape To The Château, but they revealed how renovation bills left them strapped for cash before getting back on their feet.

Angel (43) said: "Before we even bought the château, we had a plan. You can’t just buy a château and expect the money you have left (£20,000 in our case) to go far.

"Dick had a National Geographic show commissioned, which meant that we knew funds were going to come in in the first year. That was all part of the planning.

"We also planned for Dick to continue being a TV presenter until we established the business here at the château, which we never for one moment thought would happen overnight."

The couple wed in 2015 — Dick's second marriage and quickly decided that their dream was to buy and renovate the castle to host weddings, corporate and luxury getaways as well as providing an investment for their two kids, Arthur and Dorothy.

Angel continued: "When we first moved to the château, we were all in we sold everything we had, including my old and much-loved Fairway taxi called Ethel Red and our shared VW family car. We knew we needed every bit of extra cash.

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"Being broke at the start of 2016 is part of our journey. Most people would be after moving to a new home and having their wedding.

"We had the additional costs of starting the restorations of a 45-room, 19th century château... enough said. With everything going on, we had not really paid much attention to the fact that our neighbour Bertrand had not yet submitted his bill for the work he did on our sewerage system, so when the €12,000 bill came in, we had to borrow some money from our family.

"The fact that we were car-less and waiting for work was all part of the early stress. So our families added a few thousand extra to allow us to buy a little run-around car."

Dick (62) said that the extra pressure made them more focused on making a success of their project, and as a former Lieutenant Colonel of the Royal Corps of Signals he had the organisational know-how to do so.
In their new book chronicling their journey, Living the Château Dream, Dick also told how he was able to sort out the gardens thanks to skills learned growing up in Northern Ireland.
A former Celebrity Masterchef finalist, he said that when it comes to growing his spuds he remembers a maxim from back home he plants them on St Patrick's Day, March 17 and lifts them on the Twelfth of July.

"I had bought a box of ‘Charlotte’ seed potatoes and they had been chitting in the remains of the old tower. When I planted my first two rows I think I did a happy dance. I was only a little late,” he added.

"I’d always marked the planting of our potatoes at home by putting them in on St Patrick’s day on March 17 and harvesting the first ones on July 12, the day of the Orange Order parades.

"These were easy dates for someone from Northern Ireland to remember and, what’s more, they worked.

" I was going to find out if they worked hundreds of miles south in France."


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