From Bury to the Lake District with the help of TV's 'A Place in the Sun'

PUBLISHED: 14:17 14 January 2010 | UPDATED: 16:41 20 February 2013

Paula, Graham and Jonnie at Honister Slate Mine

Paula, Graham and Jonnie at Honister Slate Mine

Many people dream of a guest house in the Lakes, but a Bury couple achieved their ambition with the help of a TV programme. Amanda Griffiths reports

Paula and Graham Smith are living their dream. The couple upped sticks from their home town of Bury and moved to the Lake District to combine their love of walking with a desire to run a guest house.

It sounded easy, but it was as long and as hard a slog as any ramble across the fells and the irony is that the time it takes to run a B&B means walking is now a rare pleasure.

When redundancy struck, graphic designer Paula began thinking more about her lifelong ambition. The couple searched high and low in the Lakes for the right guest house and were eventually forced to put the project on hold.

But within six months of being promoted at his work, 40-year-old Graham was made redundant and they sold up and resumed the search.

Finding the perfect property proved difficult and Graham suggested buying in Italy. In a total quandary, they turned for help to Chanel 4s A Place in the Sun: Home or Away presented by Jasmine Harman and Jonnie Irwin.

Actually it was my sister-in-laws idea, laughs 37-year-old Paula, relaxing in her living room in Lingmoor, Windermere. Id never have thought of it without her. Within six months of contacting the programme, filming began, first in the Lakes and then in the Dolomite region of Italy.

Its not as glamorous as it looks on the telly. We filmed over four days in each location, and theres quite a lot of hanging around. Its a small team and everyone mucks in, Jonnie and Jasmine included.

They really know their stuff. Jonnie was really helpful, adds Graham. We thought we couldnt afford something of this size and had been looking for something that just one of us could run while the other kept working. But he helped us look at our options.

I think we were hanging onto the idea of one person still working just for extra peace of mind, says Paula. When Jonnie showed us this place he told us it was too big for one of us to run and asked had we considered working together. It was something wed never thought of. I spent about two hours talking myself in and out of the idea. Graham chips in: Meanwhile, Jonnie and I were talking about sensible things like sport!

Their time in Italy only reinforced their desire to be in the Lake District so after heading back to Britain, they made an offer for a property. Once again, it was far from straightforward.

Our mortgage was agreed in principle before the show, so we were in a position to make offers, says Graham. Our offer on Lingmoor was accepted but when we went back to the bank they had stopped lending because of the economic crisis. We tried everywhere but we were being turned away. Then Paula was talking to Cumbria Tourism and they suggested applying to a local branch which knows the area and the market.

I spent every Friday pestering the local banks . David Holdsworth at our Kendal bank said he could see how passionate we were about it and that hed be a fool not to lend us the money!

Contracts in place, the couple finally moved into Lingmoor in January 2009, three days before Paulas birthday.

We had two couples booked in the first weekend we opened and have been full most weekends since, says Graham. In the height of the summer, we only had one room free for one night, one week.

Its certainly been busier than we expected, whether thats just a blip this year because of the economic crisis I dont know, but everyone we talk to seems to think itll be the same next year.

In fact, one bank holiday weekend a guest didnt turn up on the Friday night, so we released the room on the internet and it sold within ten minutes.

Paula says: When we were both working full time we had a cleaner. Then, when I was made redundant I suppose I fell into the more traditional role of doing the cleaning but I never thought Id see Graham with a vacuum cleaner, let alone changing the beds and cooking breakfasts.

At our busiest in the summer there were days when we didnt leave the house!

But they have no regrets. There are things we miss, says Paula. Id rather be sat in the pub with a drink on Saturday night than ironing duvet covers and pillow cases, but the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. I dont think I could go back to working for someone else now.

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