We’ve had the joy of living at the Château de Lalande for 14 years. I met my best friend, Nic, a million years ago at Oxford university. The very first time we spoke, I told him, ‘We’re going to buy a château together one day.’ He thought I was mad, but the idea didn’t go away. 10 years later, at the age of 29, we each sold our two-bedroom London flats, and bought Lalande.
Everyone thought we were mad. Everyone with the notable exception of my parents and my then boyfriend, Michael.
He and I loved nothing more than travelling around France looking at beautiful chateaux. We’d stand outside and take photos and imagine that we owned them!
The first three years were hard – we lived amidst constant building work as we tore down walls to rediscover the original proportions of the rooms, removed asbestos, created a huge new sewage system, dug hundreds of metres of boreholes to install geothermal heating, and redid all of the plumbing and electrics. And at the end of this mammoth task, we still hadn’t started decorating! My parents, Nic, Michael and I were all living in insane discomfort (-10 degrees in the house during our first winter), but I was loving every minute. As was my father, who never once doubted his daughter’s sanity in taking on such a behemoth.
Sadly, at the end of these big renovations, my wonderful father became sick and he died in 2005. In quick succession, Nic had to move back to London for work, Michael and I split up after 10 years, and my mother and I found ourselves at Lalande without them. The death of my father sent me into quite a tail spin, and work on the château stalled for a while. But Lalande is a happy place and it gave me the strength to carry on. Michael remained part of this crazy family and his love for Lalande never wavered (he has now bought into the chateau and has created a stunning apartment for himself in the old groom’s attic). We started decorating and hosting workshops and eventually my mother found her wonderful fiancé, Percy. I couldn’t have dreamt of a nicer man to welcome into our family.
In February 2017 we were contacted to take part in a television series about Brits renovating chateaux in France. I thought it sounded fun and, on a whim, agreed to participate, (mainly imagining the hilarity of my mother on film!). By the following month a tv crew had come to film our annual Easter madness. We all expected to be a tiny part of an obscure show on an even more obscure television channel, and were surprised when we first learnt that it was to be a Channel 4 spin-off series from Dick & Angel’s legendary ‘Escape to the Château’! Even so, nothing could have prepared us for the incredible public response to ‘Escape to the Château DIY’, which has quickly become a cult classic!
I want to thank everyone for their support of ‘Escape to the Château DIY’. You can’t imagine how much it means to all of us who are struggling to ensure these buildings make it through our watch intact (and improved!) for future generations. We no longer feel that we are working in isolation, but are part of a supportive community who bring enormous joy into our lives. Although there is still an unimaginable amount of work to be done, Lalande is flourishing. There’s no doubt in my mind that this is what I was meant to do with my life. I love nothing more than bringing this magnificent building back to life, welcoming people to our home, and letting them discover the magic of this chateau.