"For the price of a three-bedroom flat in Norwich, we now have our own village." The smiling Julie and Steve Ward attend by Zoom from the sofa in their living room, in the center of the small semi-abandoned village they bought a few years ago in Granada.
Behind them looms a huge bed with white canopy, later they will explain that made with sleepers of old train tracks. There is also something that looks like a window. It seems, because it is only a fiction. Julie and Steve Ward live in a cave, their entire village is dug into the mountain.
This couple from the east of England is just one of the participants in Our own people, an original format of Channel 4 that has arrived in Spain this Monday from the hand of Cosmo and that is something like the definitive reform program: British who buy abandoned villages of southern Europe and reform them, Good to live, well as resorts.
Fate took the Wards directly to Los Carriones, a small village of less than 300 inhabitants in the Vega del Guardal that was once home to shepherds. "We decided to take a sabbatical, sold our house and set out aboard our caravan," says Julie, "the initial idea was to stay in some French campsite, but we did not find any that we liked and we continued south."
We discover the coolness in summer, the heat in winter, the deep sleep in complete silence and the exceptional of living in a cave
Julie and Steve Ward, owners of the Peace Caves, in Granada
They were visiting some friends not far from where they now reside when, by chance, they learned that a small village carved into the mountain was for sale, a place called Cuevas de la Paz, they could not resist trying it. "We discovered the coolness in summer, the heat in winter, the deep sleep in complete silence and the exceptionality of living in a cave," they say, "we did not plan to stay, but here we are." What ended up conquering them was, paradoxically, that there were no more British people for many miles around: "Nothing to do with the coast."
The complex consists of six caves, absolutely different from each other. In their day, the shepherds of the area used them as fodder stores and shelter for animals. Then, someone saw the recreational potential of the caves and installed kitchens to turn them into a kind of food house. "He even dug the mountain more to gain depth and installed fume extractors, spared no expense and did a very good job," says Julie. It is from that owner that the Ward couple bought their town. They don't want to say for how much, just that they didn't pay more than what a three-bedroom house in Norwich would cost them.
Las Cuevas de la Paz is currently a rural tourist complex with all the amenities. They have even built the pool that starred in their sleeplessness during the recording of the program. The Wards' is just one of three stories of Our Own People that take place in Spain. The first buyer of this peculiar program is Marcial Doporto, who took over O'Penso, a village in the province of Lugo for 225,000 euros. To get an idea of the possibilities, the program shows a map of the Galician province populated by yellow ribbons: "All these are abandoned villages."
Neil Christie opted for Arruñada, an abandoned town in Asturias that he acquired for 45,000 euros and that he rehabilitates with his own hands, and suffered on his arrival that suspicion that As bestas portrayed, of course without an iota of violence. Two decades later, he is one more among the neighbors of the council of Taramundi.
It's beautiful to meet people who help keep alive a piece of our continent's history that would otherwise be lost forever.
Piero Sfreddo, producer of 'Our own people'
The inspiration to take the reform programs further and launch into one of buying and rehabilitating entire villages came to the producer Piero Sfreddo in the form of a call. Two Bristol teachers had bought a ruined village in Portugal and wanted to tell their story. "We thought it was a beautiful opportunity to talk about heritage recovery," he recalls. When they took the idea to the British public channel, the response was: "If you find more stories like this, we give you a series." They are already filming the second season.
"We only talk about British buyers because it is a Channel 4 format, but for every British we find we get two, three, four Italians, Dutch, Spaniards ... Everyone buys villages and rehabilitates them, it's something like a fashion," he says.
Italian settled in the United Kingdom for many years, Sfreddo the case that has impacted him most has been that of a Scot of Italian origin who decided to resurrect the ruined village of his great-great-grandfather, in a remote and mountainous place between Naples and Rome. "It's beautiful to meet people who selflessly help keep alive a piece of history of our continent that would otherwise be lost forever," says Sfreddo, "the most curious thing is that the Scot's surname is exactly the name of the village. Don't tell me it's not exciting."
According to The Trust Project criteria