Two landscape gardeners who have never been able to break into the UK property market have bought an entire French village for €14,000.
Paul Mappley, 47, and Yip Ward, 47, purchased the historic hamlet of La Busliere, Normandy in April 2021.
Appearing on Channel 4’s first episode of Help! We Bought a Village, the couple describe how they have never owned so much as a studio flat in the UK, but plan to create a holiday destination in France.
The village consists of six cottages, two barns and a paddock plus a two-storey workshop, cider press and communal bread oven.
Paul Mappley, 47 (right) and Yip Ward, 47 (left) couldn’t break onto the UK property ladder. The landscape gardeners appeared on Channel 4’s Help! We Bought a Village
The couple purchased the historic hamlet of La Busliere, Normandy in April 2021 for just 14,000 euros
The pair were living in a caravan in Tunbridge Wells, Kent before Yip was offered the change to buy the end-of-terrace cottage by a friend in 2019 who had changed their mind about their own purchase.
It was at this point that they realised the potential in La Bousliere and decided to purchase the adjacent buildings.
When the price came in at €14,000, the pair couldn’t believe their luck at sealing the deal for less than the deposit on a house in the UK.
However, they were left with a huge task on their hands, because there was no electricity, and the cubbyhole for the stopcock was home to a snake and a salamander.
Paul and Yip uncovered an oak-framed barn with an antique apple press, a working well and a stone-built bakery with a domed oven
Paul and Yip weren’t bothered because when they first arrived at La Bousliere they had been living in a converted horsebox and said that anywhere felt like luxury after that.
‘Something like this has so much history. It’s an amazing, amazing feeling, We’re very lucky,’ Paul said.
When they uncovered an oak-framed barn with an antique apple press, a working well and a stone-built bakery with a domed oven, the pair said: ‘It’s the first day of the rest of our lives.’
The men are planning to turn the village into cottage lets and add a glamping site.
The village consists of six cottages, two barns and a paddock plus a two-storey workshop, cider press and communal bread oven
The pair plan to turn their French hamlet of La Bousliere into cottage lets and add in a glamping site
Paul and Yip have a lot of work on their hands and said that they would be ‘living camping style’ whilst ‘brining life back to their village.’
Five buildings in the village were completely engulfed by thick vegetation, and after 45 minutes of clearing the way they found a stone barn, which Yip described as ‘Miss Havisham’s house.’
Carving a path to the other properties was so difficult that their hedge cutter broke down.
The pair where overwhelmed at what they uncovered, they found three buildings and a well of water, which they hope to use for flushing toilets.
Paul joked: ‘Don’t think we’ve ever lived in a council flat upstairs,’ as he pulled down ladders to access 70 square metres of loft space.
The most exciting find in the episode was the hamlet’s old bakery and Paul in particular was impressed with its history.
It would have been a communal space for many families before the French Revolution and so the baker had to be available both day and night.
Paul said: ‘I love all the history that goes in with it as well again, you know, how many loaves of bread have been cooked in that for the village over the years, it’s just amazing.’
They bought an end terrace house in 2019 before completing the purchase of the whole village in April 2021
It may be a long time before Paul and Yip can turn the Hamlet into a business, and admitted their home was like a ‘squat’ when they first moved in. But for now it is a dream come true.
Speaking to The Sun, Yip said: ‘In the area we were living before 2021 it was about £300,000 to buy a tiny place to live, and that was just never on the table for us.
‘It has been stressful at times, and we are short of money, but coming from only ever renting, we are so grateful to be here.’
The programme also interviewed Frederick Cousteau, 77, who owns a village 400 miles south of La Busliere.
Frederick was just 34-years-old when he decided to bring the 20th century dilapidated village back to life.
He has renovated the village and has since opened his doors as an event venue.
British chef and wedding planner, Anneli Faiers has also moved to France to the private village of Gascony – a restored medieval fort.
Anneli was well on her way to making the village a luxury event destination until Covid-19 hit.
British chef and wedding planner, Anneli Faiers has also moved to France to the private village of Gascony – a restored medieval fort
Yorkshire couple Francesca and Carl bought a holiday home years ago in the Italian Alps and are now planning to create a holiday village
Channel 4 follows her first big event since the pandemic and how she hope to generate enough business to make sure that the village can be maintained.
Anneli said: ‘I find it to manage this place is an incredible honor and so I take it really, really seriously obviously.
‘And I also feel very strongly for the owners who invested so much of their lives in this place and are so emotionally attached to it.’
The show also followed a more conventional story unfolding in the Italian Alps outside Turin, where Yorkshire couple Francesca and Carl had bought a holiday home years ago for £55,000.
Now they are gradually purchasing the houses around them, planning to create a holiday village.
Next week’s episode will revisit Paul and Yip, Anneli, and Francesca and Carl on their journeys to making successful holiday retreats in France.