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The life-changing issues individuals purchased for £1: ‘Some discover the concept of getting a fort ridiculous’ | Cash

‘After I purchased the fort, it was on the level of collapse’

Martin Higgins, 60, Brockham, Surrey

The place I grew up, in Brockham, everybody knew about Betchworth Fortress. Each little one, together with me, trespassed there a minimum of as soon as. My mother and father even had an area map on our lounge wall, so I couldn’t miss out on the ruins of this early medieval fort in parkland. My mom was a eager native historian and my father was a civil service panorama architect, so we had a free go to Historic England websites. Holidays had been one ruined abbey after one other.

I gained an structure diploma at college, then a grasp’s in historic timber-frame buildings. I labored for the Nationwide Belief, then as an area authority conservation officer in London and a historic buildings officer in Surrey. Though one of many jobs throughout these 20 years was to assist protect buildings, I by no means encountered Betchworth professionally.

The fort, probably an iron age hill fort, had featured within the Domesday Ebook and contains bronze age options. King Edward I as soon as stayed there, however it had been diminished to a “romantic spoil” by the aristocratic Hope household. Its historical past is fascinating. After the district council acquired it in 1955 – , they tried to drag it down. By this time, a golf course was laid out round it. However the authorities blocked the demolition, railings went up and, periodically, lovers like my mum would plead with the council to do extra. I attempted to purchase it a number of instances, however obtained nowhere. In 2008, I made a decision it wasn’t adequate: I secured a gathering with the council and, when it turned clear they couldn’t afford to do something to protect it, I stated: “I’ll inform you what, I’ll purchase it from you for £1 and do it myself.” They agreed immediately.

The constructing was in conservation deficit – which means the restore value was higher than market worth – however £1 supplied a nominal monetary consideration for me to be recognised as its new proprietor. On completion, in February 2012, I didn’t get the keys to the fort precisely, however I did get the important thing to a padlock for the railings round it. I secured conservation grants, together with £186,000 from English Heritage, and council money was allotted to scaffold the location. Years later, I admitted to my spouse I’d spent £29,000 from my very own pocket in match funding. We rebuilt the highest 18in of the two-and-a-half storey partitions, inserted a chrome steel window body and repaired the terrace, wrecked within the nice storm of 1987.

After I purchased Betchworth, it was on the level of collapse and attracted 7,000 guests a yr. Final yr, I estimate there have been 28,000. In lockdown it was actually busy, which gave me a really heat feeling. It’s massively satisfying to see a household up there for a Sunday stroll.

Domestically, I’m often known as the person who owns the fort; individuals prefer to drop it into dialog. I feel they discovered the concept of shopping for one for £1 ridiculous, though they’re all the time complimentary about my endeavour.

Dorking Museum runs guided excursions. I used to steer them myself, however unwell well being means I can’t stroll that far any extra. I am going there each couple of weeks to make sure it’s secure and do a litter choose. There’s no earnings for maintenance, so volunteers, Mates of Deepdene, minimize the ivy and tidy up three or 4 instances a yr.

My subsequent problem is to safe its future. Just a few years in the past, on my daughter’s twenty first birthday, I gave the freehold to my kids however stored the legal responsibility, with a full repairing lease. My ambition is to create an endowment, passing the lease to a preservation belief to make sure its public profit lives on. Having purchased it for £1, what could possibly be higher than giving it away?

‘Astapor stormed to victory on 200-1 odds and have become the joint biggest-price flat winner in Britain’

John Riches, 76, Pilling, Lancashire

John Riches in a stable yard with his racehorse Astapor
John Riches together with his racehorse Astapor. {Photograph}: Craig Easton/The Guardian

Astapor got here to me by chance – or luck. As a child, I’d dreamed of proudly owning a racehorse. I listened to the racing each weekend with my mum. We’d placed on sixpence cross and double (a two-part wager) with the bookie’s runner, which was unlawful on the time, and I liked the joy. At 16, I went to work as a secure lad in Catterick, North Yorkshire, incomes 5 shillings (25p) every week with digs, and discovered to trip inside every week. The sensation was completely improbable.

I had different jobs – at Butlin’s, window cleansing, fish hawking – then in 2001, Linda and I purchased an previous milk farm with a sand paddock and turned it into stables. At 65, I gained my NVQ degree three at Newmarket and have become a licensed coach.

By 2019, I’d been conserving horses for almost 20 years. I’d not lengthy purchased a three-year-old, Rain Cap, from Mick Channon, the ex-England footballer turned racehorse coach. Rain Cap was extremely strung: at any time when he ran, he got here final. He didn’t appear like an excellent purchase, so Mick supplied to ship a second, Astapor. There could be no cost. Within the olden days, you’d hand over some pennies fairly than take one thing free of charge, so I despatched the lad who picked him up with a £1 coin as a bond for Mick.

Astapor is bay-coloured, with a white spot on his brow. He measures 15.2 palms. The primary time I took him out, on a mile-and-a-half run, he got here flying to the entrance. After I tried him on the gallops he went like heck, and once I put somebody on him, he ran flat out. I entered him in a couple of races. He’d achieved 12 when, in June 2022, I put him in a six-furlong novice stakes at Hamilton Park, Scotland. The jockey didn’t must do a factor. Astapor stormed to victory on 200-1 odds and have become the joint biggest-price flat winner in Britain. My spouse, Linda, and I had been watching on TV. We almost jumped via the ceiling. We took house £3,942 for the win – not a nasty return, given what I’d paid.

We’ve had different horses come and go. Astapor is one in every of 5 that we personal. I used to be by no means in it for the cash – you don’t make a lot except you’ve obtained a giant title. I similar to to see them run.

You possibly can’t put velocity on a horse – they’ve both obtained it or they haven’t. There’s no magic contact, however perseverance, understanding and loads of mints assist.

Rain Cap has received 4 races for me now – I put a visor on him so he wasn’t afraid of crowds. And Astapor got here second in a race not lengthy after his first. What an absolute discount.

I wished my very own studio, and a relative talked about the council’s Outlets for £1 scheme’

Taya Hughes, 40, Wirral, Merseyside

Taya Hughes standing in the window of the shop she rented in Liverpool for £1
Taya Hughes at her store in Liverpool. {Photograph}: Craig Easton/The Guardian

Since transferring to London from Zimbabwe, aged 17, my dream was to work in trend. I certified as an accountant and labored at numerous jobs, however I by no means misplaced that zeal for design.

I obtained married and moved to Liverpool, the place I studied trend, artwork and design in school. By 2015, once I was pregnant with our second little one and spending time at house with our toddler, I made a decision it was time to start out my very own womenswear model of vibrant, art-inspired garments, Tayamika. I used to be eight months pregnant once I confirmed my first assortment at Liverpool trend week.

After the present, I went across the metropolis’s boutiques to see in the event that they’d inventory my garments, however nobody was considering an area model. In the meantime, I used to be getting internet orders so I used to be placing my child to sleep and going downstairs to make garments day and evening. I wished my very own studio. I put phrase out that I used to be in search of premises, and a relative talked about the council’s Outlets for £1 scheme, geared toward bringing a row of six empty outlets in a then rundown a part of town again to life. I utilized to open a garments store devoted to native designers. The deadline was two weeks away. I didn’t sleep. I wrote 36 pages, together with a marketing strategy, and was chosen from 140 candidates.

It took years for the deal to finish. I began two extra manufacturers, one impressed by my African heritage, one for night put on, and offered the garments on Etsy whereas I waited. When lockdown hit, store information went quiet. Then, in mid-2020, an e mail arrived saying renovation had begun. Abruptly, it turned actual.

The realm was starting to search for after years of degradation. The council had already offered off dozens of empty, rundown houses for £1 within the terrace streets behind the outlets, which gave me reassurance that this could sooner or later be a thriving neighborhood, however at this stage it was nonetheless very a lot a ghost city. All I may see was homes boarded up with steel. There was a document store open, and what regarded like a cell phone restore store. The remainder of the outlets had been boarded up.

Builders would refurbish the premises. I’d fund the fit-out and pay simply £1 a yr in lease for 3 years, rising to £400 a month for 2 years, then regular charges (between £600 and £800).

I opened Seven Streets boutique in February. Not having to pay market lease is a big aid. I pay payments, insurance coverage and enterprise charges, however would have struggled to afford my very own area some other method. I rotate 18 designers and our garments look great within the store – it’s brilliant, with vintage pink upholstered chairs and a chandelier within the centre. The neighborhood round us is flourishing; there’s a hair salon and Italian meals retailer, too. Folks put their hearts and souls into their companies. It’s laborious work, however I’m grateful day by day that I didn’t hand over.

‘She was a lovely boat however had fallen on tough instances’

Maya Eliza, 25, presently in Sweden

Maya Eliza and her husband Aladino standing on the deck of a boat in Sweden.
Maya Eliza and her husband Aladino in Sweden, the place they’re restoring a ship they hope to take around the world. {Photograph}: Tomas Ohlsson/The Guardian

I bear in mind the primary time I noticed the wood boat with pink sails that turned mine for $1 – I immediately fell in love with it.

I had grown up close to Vancouver in Canada, and gone to Quest College in British Columbia. I used to be 18 and I’d usually escape examination stress by taking a stroll across the harbour. As a youngster, I’d discovered to sail and browse a library e-book a few woman who circumnavigated the globe. I had an ambition to do the identical. Being across the boats stored me in contact with the dream.

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On one in every of these walks, I noticed this stunning 26ft boat. I stared at it for therefore lengthy {that a} close by boat proprietor requested if it was mine. After I answered no, he defined that it had been uncared for. It’s frequent follow, in Canada, for an proprietor to submit their contact particulars within the window so I jotted down the e-mail deal with and messaged that evening, providing to assist keep their boat if they could let me sail it on weekends.

5 days later, the reply got here: “She’s yours. You possibly can have her for $1.” I used to be terrified. I didn’t know what to do subsequent. I believed for some time. The dream was being handed to me for a greenback, and if I stated no I knew I’d remorse it. I agreed, discovered someplace reasonably priced to maintain her and began fixing her up at weekends.

Mates would preserve me firm and my dad, a marine engineer, helped me repair the engine. She was a lovely boat however had fallen on tough instances; the tarps defending her from the weather had blown off and her varnish was peeling. After a yr, I went out on day journeys, usually taking a pal, crusing to my mother and father’ house and again, or discovering the islands and guarded bays off the Pacific north-west coast. I did in a single day journeys too.

Proudly owning her was transformative. The rising sense of confidence, accountability and autonomy guided me gracefully into maturity. That little boat turned the bone construction for the remainder of my life.

The summer season after college, in 2017, I took a job on a tall ship within the Mediterranean and met my husband, a boat-builder. It’s not usually you meet one other younger boat proprietor, and we quickly deliberate a future collectively, travelling Europe. You possibly can’t ask a wood boat to attend for you, so I offered my little boat, for $1,500, and started my subsequent journey, aboard his. We’re in Sweden for the time being. We’re renovating a second boat that we hope will take us all over the world sooner or later, and I make movies about our work and voyages.

I by no means met the individuals I purchased my wood boat from, however the funniest half is, once I first went aboard, I discovered $3 left on a shelf. It paid for itself and a lot extra. It modified the whole lot for me.

‘I selected a €1 home perched on a hill in a lovely city in Sicily. It had been deserted for 15 years’

Danny McCubbin, 57, Mussomeli, Sicily

Danny McCubbin sitting on a doorstep outside the house in Sicily that he bought for €1.
Danny McCubbin exterior the home in Sicily that he purchased for €1. {Photograph}: Mimi Mollica/The Guardian

In 1998, aged 33, I moved from Brisbane, Australia, to London. I fell in love with England and travelling throughout Europe – notably Italy, the place the sense of household, the meals and the climate jogged my memory of house. I’d envision a life there. I began working as a PA with Jamie Oliver as he launched his non-profit Fifteen Basis and, via work, solid hyperlinks with a programme in Italy the place they rehabilitated younger individuals via meals.

After I left Jamie in summer season 2019, I wished to use for Italian residence and had the concept of shopping for one in every of many vacant houses being offered for €1 by small Italian cities needing to spice up dwindling populations. I deliberate to show it right into a social venture, however preserve England as house, and blogged about my plans on social media. A TV manufacturing firm approached me to be a part of a present they had been growing, following six Brits doing the €1 home factor. I selected one perched on a hill, within the stunning city of Mussomeli, Sicily. It had been deserted for 15 years. There was one bed room, a small kitchen and a bathroom on the touchdown.

In November 2019, I realised I used to be in love with Mussomeli and wished to make it my house, however when Covid hit, the TV present was cancelled. Throughout the pandemic, I labored in neighborhood kitchens in London. Sicily’s poverty was exacerbated by Covid and the impetus to feed a neighborhood there grew. I knew I needed to go earlier than Brexit accomplished, so on 7 December 2019, I obtained on a airplane with a one-way ticket. I knew one particular person – the property agent who offered me the €1 home, which was uninhabitable. The roof was leaking, there was no heating or rest room, and the deserted homes on both facet had contributed to exterior injury. It was suspended in time. I rented one other property to reside in, 10 minutes’ stroll away, for €300 a month, and went to the €1 home day by day, lit a hearth within the oven and deliberate a future.

I launched a crowdfunder to show the home right into a neighborhood kitchen and raised over £24,000, largely from the UK. Builders had been briefly provide and, whereas I waited to search out somebody who would renovate it, I obtained the neighborhood kitchen off the bottom in an empty store area within the city sq., which I rented for €150 a month. With volunteers, we started distributing meals to households in want. Native nonnas taught us to make pasta, and we began cooking courses for youths.

Because the months handed and costs went up, renovation quotes for the €1 home skyrocketed to €28,000. I made a decision to make use of the crowdsourced cash to develop and set up the city sq. operation as a charity, The Good Kitchen, and offered the home again to the company for €1. I had misplaced nothing, however gained a neighborhood – and the kitchen I dreamed about.

An Argentinian household purchased the home and turned it into an artist’s studio. I offered my flat in London and purchased myself a home, for €8,000, close to the kitchen –property is way cheaper in Sicily. Immediately, the charity has eight board members and delivers 100 meals every week. Each Thursday, I am going to the wholesale fruit and veg marketplace for a car-load of surplus produce that we use to cook dinner vegetarian Sicilian dishes, like caponata.

The toughest factor has been studying Italian via a Sicilian dialect. I reside a easy however stunning life amongst individuals I’d in any other case by no means have met. I nonetheless smile every time I stroll previous the €1 home that introduced me right here.

‘Along with her artwork deco saloons, the steamship was as soon as a showpiece, however she hadn’t labored since 1984’

Captain Dan Cross, 48, Widnes, Cheshire

Dan Cross on his 1903 steamship.
Dan Cross on his 1903 steamship. {Photograph}: Craig Easton/The Guardian

After I was eight, my mother and father purchased a 17ft river cruiser and put it on the River Weaver, close to our house in Cheshire. We might go up and down at weekends and spend summer season holidays on the water. The Weaver was nonetheless a business river and I used to be fascinated by the massive ships.

In school I labored on a passenger boat, and at 19 turned a deckhand on the tugs in Liverpool, working as much as mate, then captain. I by no means wished to spend months away at sea. I obtained married and, a couple of weeks after our son was born in 2004, discovered myself the proprietor of the Daniel Adamson (the Danny) – a 1903 steamship with a historical past so vital she’s on the Nationwide Historic Ships register in the identical class because the Cutty Sark.

I knew a bit about her, having seen her on show at what’s now the Nationwide Waterways Museum in Ellesmere Port throughout these summer season holidays. Along with her artwork deco saloons, she was as soon as a showpiece, however hadn’t labored since 1984, when the Manchester Ship Canal was on its arse and somebody in head workplace determined she wasn’t definitely worth the cash to keep up. She was loaned to the museum, however turned a goal for vandals and arsonists. The hull was corroded, water wanted pumping out and all her mechanics wanted restoring.

When a pal and I heard the Danny was destined for scrap in February 2004, we turned to an lovers’ web site, Tug Discuss, for data. A deal had been achieved with an area scrap man, and she or he was to be towed in 4 days. We agreed one thing needs to be achieved. Inside hours, I used to be on the Ship Canal HQ with a letter providing to tow her free of charge. Forty-five minutes later, the port director and head of engineering had been asking how a lot I’d purchase her for. I emptied £4.85 out of my denims pocket and so they took £1 on the situation I obtained her off the canal and out of their hair. I left questioning: “What now?”

A sequence of telephone calls and on-line communities began up. Inside 24 hours, lovers, enterprise individuals and a mate with a berth and a smooth spot for canals turned as much as kind a belief with the intention of getting her to the dock. Somebody put up £2,500 for insurance coverage, a surveyor signed her off as water-worthy, and folks started providing providers and supplies low-cost or free of charge. Over the following decade we grew a band of volunteers and money grants, and restored her steam engines, pumps and hull.

We had a imaginative and prescient for her to hold passengers once more, and in 2015 received a £3.8m Nationwide Lottery grant for a full, year-long restoration within the Birkenhead shipyard the place she was constructed. We educated up a crew and I first captained her with passengers on the Weaver in September 2016. There have been individuals lining the banks to see her. I felt immensely proud.

Now we do 40 passenger journeys a yr and personal charters. Essentially the most rewarding factor is that native engineering college students come on board to be taught, and we host psychological well being workshops and classes for youngsters who’ve fallen out of mainstream training. They love the story of one thing neglected and destined to be destroyed being introduced again from the brink.

This summer season, I used to be awarded the Service provider Navy Medal for Meritorious Service for the Danny’s restoration. I by no means, for a second, anticipated a gong.

We didn’t need this to be a vessel that was polished up and put in a museum once more. I need it to succeed in individuals. Once we hit the stage the place so many individuals wish to come aboard that we’re turning them away, I’ll have had my £1’s price.

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