Couple buy £385,000 chateau in South West France unveil its renovation

Lockdown… in a castle! Couple who took inspiration from TV’s Dick and Angel to buy a £385,000 chateau in South West France unveil its stunning renovation and organic food gardens

  • Dick Strawbridge and his wife Angel swapped their two-bedroom flat in Essex for a French chateau 
  • Now they’re helping others do the same in the latest series of Channel 4’s Escape to the Chateau DIY
  • EXCLUSIVE: This week, it’s the turn of Jono Prior and wife Mariam , owners of a chateau in South West France
  • They receive a helping hand from Angel on the best ways to approach the project’s interior design

The beloved stars of Escape to the Chateau are back on our screens for another series of a popular television spin-off how where they help guide others to follow in their footsteps.

Dick Strawbridge and his wife Angel swapped their two-bed flat in Essex for a 45-room chateau in France, and now they’re returning for a second series of Channel 4’s Escape to the Chateau DIY.

In the latest episode, shown yesterday evening, we were introduced to 58-year-old Jono Prior, from Kent, and his 54-year-old wife Mariam El-Accad, along with 18-year-old son Monty.

Pictured at Chateau Domaine de la Salle: Jono Prior with his wife Mariam El-Accad and son Monty

Two years ago, Jono and Mariam bought an 11-bedroom chateau in South West France for €385,000, the equivalent of £339,000. 

The episode showed how they transformed the property, with advice from Dick and Angel. 

In particular, Angel gave some advice about interiors – including tile painting – having been responsible for the interior design at her own family’s chateau and having also launched her own range of home furnishings.

Angel told MailOnline Property: ‘Mariam was an incredibly lovely lady. It’s always a pleasure to meet other like-minded chateau owners and share knowledge with each other.’

The couple received renovation advice from Escape to the Chateau’s Dick and Angel Strawbridge (pictured)

Jono and Mariam completely renovated the property, which has 1,000 square metres of living space and is called Chateau Domaine de la Salle.

Mariam said: ‘All the plaster was taken down and all the floors were taken up. We had 15 builders working on it.’

She explained that the couple spent significantly more on the house than the purchase price.

‘They say you need to budget to spend northwards of €800 per square metre with this type of renovation,’ she said. ‘And how much more you actually spend depends on what you decide to put in.’

The interiors have been completely renovated and now show a classic French chateau design

Jono Prior and his wife Mariam El-Accad live at the chateau with their 18-year-old son Monty

Hitting the right note: One of the living areas has a grand piano, where guests can be entertained

The filming of the renovation for Escape to the Chateau DIY took place before the coronavirus crisis occurred.

The couple were starting to welcome guests, with Easter fully booked, when the coronavirus lockdown was announced.

‘When this is all over, we will be ready to invite people in and welcome them back,’ Mariam said. 

In the meantime, the pair say it is the perfect place to be during the lockdown in France.

The living areas include painted walls and wooden floors with large windows and fireplaces


The couple have worked hard to transform the property into a welcoming  home

Chateau Domaine de la Salle covers an extensive 1,000 square metres of living space

Mariam explained: ‘It couldn’t be a better place to be during the current situation as there is so much space and so many things to do here.

‘We have not been able to accept guests during the pandemic. But otherwise, we haven’t really noticed the lockdown, apart from not being able to go shopping like we did before. 

‘We are ploughing the fields with some spring barley and varieties of old wheat. ‘And we’re planting every type of vegetable imaginable where we use the organic seeds the following year.

‘We aim to be self-sufficient and sell some organic food. But we already have more than we need and so as a community we will look to give some to those who cannot afford it, so it will not get wasted.’

Mariam El-Accad helps to plant the vast number of organic plants in the chateau’s grounds

The couple have dedicated a large area at the chateau to growing their own fruit and vegetables

Chateau Domaine de la Salle has an impressive 11 bedrooms, ready to welcome guests once the virus crisis if over

The support from Escape to the Chateau’s Dick and Angel during the renovation included Mariam learning how to tile paint with Angel.

Mariam explained that Angel also gave her advice about valuing what you’re doing.

‘It is odd to do that and charge people when you love what you are doing and are used to sharing it,’ Mariam said.

And what about Mariam’s advice to others now that she has completed her own renovation project?

‘Learn to speak to French because local people love it and they will go the extra mile for you if they know you’re making an effort,’ she said.

‘For example, with us they gave us advice about which local builders were reliable.’

And she added: ‘Try making radish soup as it’s something all the locals do here.

‘Wash some radish leaves, fry some onions and mix together with some stock. It is delicious.’  

Escape to the Chateau DIY is on Channel 4 Monday to Friday at 4pm

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