In the summer of 2016, Channel 4 broadcast the very first episode of a new series.
They kept their fingers crossed, hoping it might do well – certainly nobody expected it to become a phenomenon viewed around the world with a couple of spin-off series to boot.
Now Dick and Angel Strawbridge are returning to our screens for the eighth run of Escape to the Chateau, a heartwarming mix of family life, DIY and crafting.
Before the show began, some viewers may have recognised Dick thanks to his appearances on other programmes, most notably Scrapheap Challenge, Coast and Saturday Farm. The former British Army officer certainly proved his mettle on the first in that list; those tuning in often felt that no matter what the contestants fashioned from bits of rubbish, he could have done better.
Nevertheless, some believed that he and Angel had bitten off more than they could chew when they bought a 45-room French castle and set about turning it into a spectacular family home and wedding venue – all while being watched by a camera crew.
It was a far cry from their previous home, a two-bedroom flat in Southend, and back in the early days, it seemed as if Dick felt overwhelmed by the project (it would have been a pretty dull show if he weren’t). However, Angel was more optimistic, seeing the shell of their future home as a blank canvas full of possibilities. In the years since, she has been proven right.
If nothing else, watching their efforts inspired some folks to improve their own homes or businesses, with the couple dishing out welcome advice along the way.
“Small changes can make a big difference,” he once explained. “That’ll increase your profit and reduce your costs.”
“We’ve had many emails from people who have made the move to France,” says Angel.
“Quite a few of them have had a chateau for a long time, and are just having issues with it,” adds Dick. “But what has happened is that they’re interested in talking to us because they’ve seen the programme and they see that we’re having exactly the same problems they have.
“We get contacted by people who have moved to France who have bought a tiny house, and they have exactly the same problems we have, just on a smaller scale. We’re all in it together, because we all go through the same problems.”
Even though there are issues involved, Angel reckons it’s easy to see why people continue to follow in their footsteps: “You really do get a lot for your money out in France, and I think that’s one of the biggest catalysts, because you get so much land.”
Dick agrees: “The lifestyle’s definitely part of it. Living in a chateau, or living in the country, it’s a lifestyle that’s attainable, but back in the UK we couldn’t have that. Unless you happen to win the Euromillions, buying something like this place in the UK is impossible – you can’t even think about it.”
Now it’s time to see what else clan Strawbridge has in store post-pandemic before perhaps considering your own escape to the chateau…
A message from the Editor:
Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.
In order for us to continue to provide high quality and trusted local news on this free-to-read site, I am asking you to also please purchase a copy of our newspaper whenever you are able to do so.
Our journalists are highly trained and our content is independently regulated by IPSO to some of the most rigorous standards in the world. But being your eyes and ears comes at a price. So we need your support more than ever to buy our newspapers during this crisis.
With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our local valued advertisers - and consequently the advertising that we receive - we are more reliant than ever on you helping us to provide you with news and information by buying a copy of our newspaper when you can safely.
You can also enjoy unlimited access to the best news from across Northern Ireland and the UK by subscribing to newsletter.co.uk
With a digital subscription, you can read more than five articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Visit https://www.newsletter.co.uk/subscriptions now to sign up.