Build a New Life in the Country - Thursday June 14

build a new life in the country (3/10)

Five’s property and lifestyle show returns for a third series, following another group of British adventurers who dream of creating homes in perfect rural locations. The series is presented by Five’s resident architect and property expert George Clarke, who guides the stoic restorers through their projects. This week, a couple from Grimsby attempt to convert a centuries-old ruin in a remote Scottish fishing town.

At the age of 29, Mick Wilmer suffered a heart attack through stress, prompting his family to make a dramatic decision that would change their lives forever. Mick and his wife Jenny decided it was time to leave the gritty urban life of Grimsby in favour of a new existence. They sold their home, and for £94,000 bought a 600-year-old ruin near the town of Kirkcudbright on the south-west coast of Scotland. The property is rumoured to have been visited by Mary Queen of Scots, and comes with five acres of rugged land –perfect to fulfil the Wilmers’ dream of running a small farm.

However, the family really have bought a ruin: there is no roof, and only a mere suggestion of walls –let alone plumbing or electricity. Mick and Jenny are faced with the challenge of building themselves a four-bedroom family home from nothing more than a pile of stones. They have a budget of just £90,000 and no contingency plan. Mick finds a job at a local engineering firm to keep the money rolling in, but it is going to be very tight. To keep costs down, the family decide to live in a static caravan on site until their home is complete. Mick is determined it will be finished by the end of the year, adamant that his family will have Christmas dinner in their new home.

In May, work gets off to a promising start. Mick and Jenny hire a team of builders, and in just two months have rebuilt all the external walls and the second floor, and are starting on the roof. With the build going well, the Wilmers kick-start their plans for the farm, buying lambs and two pregnant cows. This is the first taste of the country dream for Jenny and the children, but potentially a very lucrative investment: if the two cows produce bulls, the family could sell them for £10,000 of much-needed funds.

As September arrives, things take a turn for the worse. A spell of bad weather causes delays to the build and hits the budget hard. The roof is finally finished, but Mick and Jenny can no longer afford professional labour and are faced with the prospect of finishing the house all on their own.

By the end of October, the family have completely run out of money, and are forced to take out another bank loan to finish the work. Mick makes the risky decision to give up work, devoting all his time to the build –he is still determined to hit that Christmas deadline. But now the family have no income at all, and increasing debts… and Mick’s health is under threat once more.

Over the following two months, it takes a real family effort to get the house finished. A final building inspection is booked for the day before Christmas Eve, which the house must pass in order for the bank to release the final mortgage money. But disaster strikes when the house fails the inspection: after seven months of backbreaking toil, Mick and his family are devastated.

When George makes his final visit in February, has the Wilmers’ new country life begun at last, or has their dream come to nothing?

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