Observational documentary series. Wiveton Hall cafe is beginning to thrive, but profits are devoured by the maintenance of the house and gardens.
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Come on, Ted. Come on, Ted.
Another summer has passed at Wiveton Hall Farm
on the north coast of Norfolk,
home to gentleman farmer... BIRD SQUAWKS
He's the one that's been keeping my mother awake
Desmond's lived here all his life with his mother, Chloe,
now 101 years old.
My mother's lived so long because she's never drunk milk.
I like cream, you know.
What are your other tricks?
When they're not at university, he's joined by his children,
Isabel and Edmund.
Does Granny pay rent?
She does pay rent.
Oh. Oh, my God!
Last year, Desmond kept the wolf from the door
by the seat of his tweed pants...
Do I have a lot of cash around?
No. Other people's cash, yes.
Mostly the bank's. ..earning just enough money from his 250-acre farm,
cafe and holiday cottages to maintain a country way of life
and preserve the hall for generations to come.
Perhaps this is where the nostrils came from.
Thank goodness the double chin has been bred out.
Has it? Yes. SHE LAUGHS
Now, a year on, with his debts continuing to rise,
Desmond must find new ways to balance the books.
I've had a brainwave.
There's going to be a yoga gathering.
Trying to get 12 people in here, do you think we'll...?
He plans to open up his 17th-century manor house...
It's a brief tour, this one.
Oh, my God! ..to make it pay its way in a modern world.
We need to maintain the mansion.
The summer tourist season is almost over at Wiveton Hall Farm and it's
time for Desmond to take financial stock.
How many dishes do you do a day?
We normally get through four trays of tomatoes per day.
The cafe is the energetic hub which turns the biggest profit.
This basil - look how much they're using.
Can you smell it?
It's been the busiest summer we've ever had, which is good.
Good for us. Good for the bank manager.
Calm him down.
We've been pretty much fully booked every day, which has been amazing.
We have incredible produce to work with that's come straight off
the farm, you know, so that's a real chef's dream, really.
But the house and grounds don't pay their way
and quickly soak up profits from the cafe and other areas of the farm.
Now, what am I on here?
August. Business manager Kim
has to do deal with this grim financial reality.
It is a money pit. It's difficult to fund the house and the maintenance
that it requires.
The walls need to be repaired.
The garden takes an awful lot of work.
So the rest of the business has to fund the house and grounds.
What sort of debt are you in?
In the hundreds of thousands.
Could this place ruin you?
Course it could, easily.
Anyway, not at the moment.
We're fending it off.
Up till recently, I mean,
talking about money was like talking about sex.
Didn't do it. No.
But since Mrs Thatcher it's all opened up. Mm.
You have to think of the five-year plan.
We're going Soviet.
We want the five and ten-year plans. Mm.
Because if we just carry on year-to-year...
it's a little bit...
Well, it's rather nice to have some proper ideas of knowing
where we're actually getting to. Mm.
The end goal. The end goal. Mm.
What is the end goal?
That's the bit we don't know.
Desmond's been able to afford to live in Wiveton Hall all his life.
But now the annual running costs have shot up to well over ?50,000.
Morning. Ah, hello.
Nice to see you. Now, there's the most terrible smell in here.
The hall's new wing was built in 1907, has a grand living room,
former billiard room and four bedrooms.
For many years, it's laid empty,
a drain on resources and only rented out to the occasional guest.
When you live in a house you love and you've lived there a long time,
it seems incredibly sensible to want to preserve it and keep it
as a thriving way of living, but it all is very time consuming.
Well, when I was a child, that was my parents' room,
that was my room and that round the corner was my sister's room.
And that was a spare room.
Or the nursery.
putting money into the place,
often with not huge prospects of massive return.
Desmond wants his home to be less of a financial millstone so he's
employed property manager Emma
to come up with ways for the hall to make some money.
Wiveton is rather beautiful
and slightly wonky but in a good way.
A big house needs... People. ..money. And people. Yeah.
And people. It does.
Otherwise they become like museums, don't they?
There's not much in this museum.
My job here is to market the wing as a venue
and, so, whether it's weddings, big birthday parties,
people wanting corporate weekends.
One, two, three, four, five, six, seven.
It's thinking of other things to do which can make this house into a
Without ruining it and keeping it still as Desmond's family home.
If the wing is to host more big events,
Desmond will have to reverse decades of decline.
There's a smell in here as well.
Yeah, you've got something...
Oh, my God! ..gone off somewhere round here.
Let's open the door, shall we?
Everything's to do with smells today.
This window could do with a bit of work, couldn't it, Emma? Yes. Yes.
Lead work. Oh, my God.
Oh, my God, look at this! Yes, no, I think...
Oh, look, Emma.
Look at this. This is more than a windowpane.
The bloody thing's come apart.
Lovely view making up for it.
Shall we make this our priority? You can peer into Noel's bedroom
from here. Desmond?
Come on. Emma said we had to decorate.
Well, there was a great big wet patch. Oh!
Oh, sorry. Oh. There was a tiny little wet patch.
Very small, very small.
Damp. Damp patch. Hardly could notice. So I just thought...
We ARE an Irish family.
We have it in the walls in Ireland.
Some houses in Ireland even have ferns growing on the inside.
The trouble is people don't appreciate that anymore. Ah.
No, OK. I think it's really pretty.
Well, it'll change, though, won't it? This a second coat? First coat.
I've only got enough for one coat, Desmond.
You've only got enough for one coat? Yes. Well, that'll probably do.
Yes. Spruce it up for now, won't it?
Spruce it up for now. No, no, no, I like it.
Strange flies in here.
Mm. There is a lot to do, isn't there?
In the depths of the hall,
Desmond may have sniffed out the source of one of the nasty smells.
Would you mind? Oh.
A late rodent.
Over there. We'll get a trowel. Ooh!
We'll get rid of it now. Look at that.
Must get rid of it. Ooh!
That's probably what the problem's been.
We'll put him in our boiler.
There. Oh, dear.
To entice more paying guests to Wiveton, it's not just the interior
needs tidying up. It's a bit of a mess.
The grounds need attention, too.
I'm just setting some mole traps.
I mean, you can use awful gas and stuff.
It's a huge industry, mole trapping.
The lawn must look its best as Desmond has advertised a tour of the
garden... I think we'll try here.
..at ?7.50 a ticket.
It's a small commercial venture.
Every ?200 is fantastic.
Anyway. The weather's nice, so quite a lot of people have booked to come.
And I'll show them around,
tell them a bit of history and hopefully they'll enjoy it.
And they might even have come for lunch, as well.
They'll be so weighed down with knowledge afterwards,
they'll, erm...want to, erm...
be desperate for tea.
The hall and gardens at Wiveton haven't changed much for years,
rather like the wardrobe of their current owner.
Are you good at sewing buttons on?
What do you want?
That one...is loose.
Could it be cut off and moved to there?
Otherwise I look like Tom Kitten.
Bursting out of my garments.
I do love tweed.
I mean, it's beautiful stuff.
Very hard wearing.
Well-made. They'll last 20+ years.
The lining starts to go a bit.
That's from the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides.
That's Harris Tweed. That's another bit of Harris Tweed.
This is an Irish tweed and there's a tweed overcoat.
Not very good light, is it?
Do you have anything that's not tweed? Oh, hardly.
With the shooting season on the horizon,
Desmond's treating himself to a new suit for the occasion.
I've got an appointment with Tina later, whose a rather good tailor.
Despite her being my ex-wife, she'll still make some clothes and is
Oh, look at this rain
and look at this water.
We're going to Tina's house, which is the next-door village.
She used to be in the fashion business.
Then she married me.
Then she had children.
Then she got going in the tailoring game.
Anyway, let's go in.
I like to say we're happily unmarried.
We get on very well over the children.
Oh, my goodness.
Look, Tina, it's winter. SHE LAUGHS
Wearing tweed, no-one minds.
How are you, Tina?
There we are. Oh, just one.
There's too much kissing goes on nowadays.
I've always made suits for Desmond.
I think the first one I made him was in 1986 and it was a shooting suit
and it was tweed of course.
Look at Edmund on his shooting licence.
I know. Now, Tina,
this...I'm getting a little bit...I've changed shape.
I have got the old tweeds in the car.
Isn't that the old tweed? This is one of them, yes.
I should have had the trousers lined.
Are they scratchy?
No, but they let the wind through.
And out. Because they're Harris.
Do you say that to your older customers?
Anyway... You'll find they let the wind out, sir.
OK, shall I get the ones that let the wind out in...?
You've gone red. You've gone red!
It depends on what the shooting lunch is like.
Anyway. You've got to decide on the tweed,
which is... That's the hardest thing. That can take about a month.
Yes. If... Sometimes it takes six months. Shh-shh-shh.
Just none of those are for me.
Well, just look... Look at them. I know, I can tell at a glimpse.
Why don't you have just a plain one for a change?
That's really lovely. Well.
It's just the actual density of the cloth.
I don't feel we're getting anywhere.
OK. This is what normally happens.
OK. I like to move forward...
All right. ..keeping moving forward.
OK, so, now I'm going to measure you, so come here.
Oh, dear. I feel a bit different.
I haven't grown taller, have I?
Erm. Just keep the figures to yourself.
Yeah, I will.
The upper waist measurement, which is this one...
Gone up a waist.
Do your raising your gun. Oh.
See? See, we put vents here.
But it's quite nice...
It looks nice, as well.
Desmond and Tina have a good working relationship but when they lived
together, things could get frosty.
The house is very much warmer than when Tina lived there.
Erm...she used to mention the C word a lot.
Yes, I couldn't say cold...
No. ..because it caused an explosion.
Caused so much tension.
And now it's warm as toast through this modern heating system.
Once Desmond decides on a tweed,
it will be ordered from the Scottish mill and sent to Tina.
Back at Wiveton, there's good news.
Marketing the wing as a venue is starting to pay off.
Somebody who just e-mailed out of the blue, they've been to the cafe,
she obviously knows about the hall
and she just sent me an e-mail asking
if we'd ever considered a yoga retreat.
I ran it past Desmond, he said let's try it.
Oh, yes, come and meet them, please.
What's this doing? Lights on in the middle of the day.
Oh, yes, no, that was just me testing it. Do tell them.
No, that was me. How does the light go off? Lisa, this is Desmond.
I'll do it, Desmond. Yes. Economy at all times.
We've got a yoga retreat.
Retreat sends shivers up one's spine slightly but still,
they're coming and they're going to
do their yoga, pay handsomely,
special food and hopefully come again.
Oh, hello. This is Desmond. We met before.
I think we met. Last year.
Nice to see you again. Now, remind me which one you are.
I'm Lisa. Lisa, good. And your friend is here?
Yes, she's upstairs.
We're just sorting out massage treatment rooms.
Oh, my God.
You're down for one, did you know that? Oh, that's very good. OK.
We're trying to get 12 people in here,
do you think we'll...manage? Yes, easy.
Well, we could test it out. We always get 12.
EMMA LAUGHS Always. Always?
Have you done this before? Oh, yes.
12 yoga mats? Yes, easy.
They're basically paying us for the accommodation as we would let it for
anybody on holiday and we're also going to do some catering for it,
some very specific gluten-free, dairy-free healthy stuff.
And you've got the food organised?
Yes, I've spoken to Ben. He's across everything.
Oh, good, good, good, good.
And... We just still don't know the final number, believe it or not.
Why? Is that cos...?
(Is it cos...?
(Are they quite...
(indecisive?) Yeah, the general public.
They're very chilled.
Do we call that flaky?
I don't know. It's quite exasperating. I wouldn't say that.
Quite exasperating. No, so we're either 11 or 12 people.
That's not too bad.
I don't know much about yoga.
Are you going to be joining us for the yoga? Yes.
I think they like cosmic smells produced from ethnic candles.
Yes. Here's Penina.
Penina. Oh, hello. Come and meet Desmond.
Nice to see you again. Nice to see you again.
So, are you going to have a massage?
Well, that would be marvellous at some stage.
I don't know who the masseur is.
That's me. Oh, good.
You're going to have a shiatsu. Oh, my goodness.
Sounds very painful.
It's testing the water, so we'll see if it
works, and I'm sure if it works, we can convince him to do more.
Is it me here, dear?
That's you. Following the death of his father in the 1970s,
Desmond's mother Chloe ran the hall and farm for a number of years.
Have you had a cup of coffee?
Desmond still keeps her informed on matters of business.
There's going to be a yoga gathering.
Enormous amount. What is that?
What they call goujons of plaice.
Very good. Looks good.
Have you ever done yoga?
Well, in London.
Then there's going to be a group of people going around the garden
for a tour. Yes.
I don't know if you'd like to be part of it?
You don't... Look, a bloody chicken under the table.
What's that doing? Look.
Look at it, it has rather splendid yellow legs.
That's one of the ones might end up in the pot.
Desmond's business ventures have to succeed.
As well as keeping the hall going,
the livelihoods of 50 employees across cafe,
garden and farm depend on him.
Oh, you are so good, Rodney.
Brilliant. Over the years,
he's pulled together a loyal team
with whom he's developed strong bonds.
Desmond is sort of...
He's almost indescribable.
I'm not gay or anything, but I do like him.
He's an interesting man.
Sometimes rude and obnoxious but, I mean,
that's what makes him who he is.
Oh... Oh, no!
Stop! It depends what Desmond's got going on, I think.
Yeah, there's lots going on.
Yeah, which is good, cos when he's got lots going on,
then he sort of, you know, tells you what to do
and let's you get on with it.
When he's bored, then he gets involved.
Yes. And then things can go a bit...
Pear-shaped sometimes. Pear-shaped! SHE LAUGHS
Don't you eat nuts?
You haven't got a nut allergy as well as everything else, Debbie?
Come on. They're delicious.
If I'm ill, I'm blaming you.
At the shop, a crowd is gathering.
50 tickets have been sold for the first Wiveton Garden tour.
There we are. Desmond's just got time to check the mole traps
on his lawn.
A sweet little mole.
Isn't he nice? Beautiful.
That's what make waistcoats.
Look at his little hands.
Look at his teeth.
Well, it's a shame I'm not planning to make a moleskin waistcoat because
we'd at least have one mole to start with.
The other creatures are always there to combat what you're trying to
achieve. You could say they were here first.
Which is true. They were.
But, I mean, if we want a lawn that's fairly nice,
we'd like to keep the moles at bay.
Erm. There's plenty of other places for them to live.
Oh. Here, what have you got?
What have you got? Eugh. Dead, dead.
That is, erm,
Sadly... I mean, French people eat frogs and so does the dog.
If his garden tour is successful,
it could be a new and returning form of income
for novice tour guide Desmond.
Hello. Is everyone here, do you think?
Now, what we'll do is we'll go down nearer the house,
so let's go this way.
Hello. What a nice hat you've got.
We start here.
Thank you all for coming.
I've lived here all my life and quite unfit for anything else now
but, because I've spent so much time here, I'm clearly interested,
so I might bore you on certain aspects,
but none of it'll last for long. THEY CHUCKLE
So that bit of the house was built during Cromwell's time.
No known architect.
I mean, lots of quirky bits, very much the Dutch-style gables,
flint facades and in moonlight it looks fantastic.
Do you like taking money off visitors?
Well, of course, I love it.
I come from mercantile origins.
Love taking money off people.
Making something work financially is very gratifying.
Walk into the sun garden.
This is an Edwardian garden.
And before that, it was
a yard in which carriages would've come in and turned round.
Just inside the door, a little bit of a font, and as a child,
I would sit in it as a sort of throne.
THEY CHUCKLE I was tiny once.
Yes! Now, we're going to go round there.
How many of you have been here before,
to the cafe?
Oh, quite a lot of you, quite a lot of you.
But quite a lot of you haven't, so that's good.
Well, I'm always keen to take money off you.
Mm. It's quite clear how big a house it is.
1650 it was built and it all needs maintaining.
So you've got an insight into this place,
which I hope you found interesting.
THEY CLAP OK.
OK, there we are. How did that go?
Very well. They loved it.
I slightly lost some of the historical references,
but I think they got the gist of it.
There we are. 50 people -
Not bad for 45 minutes of Desmond talking.
He should do it more often.
An even more lucrative form of revenue is setting up in the wing.
Lisa and Penina are running the yoga retreat.
North Norfolk is such a magical, I think, spiritual place.
It's kind of the perfect setting for a yoga retreat.
OK, I'll put the props here so people can just help themselves.
Penina and I are going to do a welcome circle once everyone's here
in a couple of hours, after they've arrived, and then we'll go straight
into a gentle yoga practice, get them warmed up for the weekend.
And then we'll have dinner and maybe a glass of wine.
That's permitted and, you know, just have a really nice social evening.
We've got the fires going and it should be really nice.
Absorb any sensation.
Breathe it away. Desmond will not be joining them on the mats as he's
engrossed in his own form of therapy.
Ah! It's a bit out of control.
He's preparing the woods for the up-and-coming shooting season.
Clearing the undergrowth.
some people will want to walk through the woods
when they're beating and they won't get through.
Feel like you're growing roots down through the big toes
to steady you into the earth.
I don't think he really gets yoga.
Yoga and power walking and anybody in Lycra,
he's really not happy about that.
Oh, my God, look at the size of these brambles!
Doesn't like cyclists, runners,
anybody who's doing anything in Lycra.
Go from one side to the other now.
Bring a little bit of flow, inhaling as you extend the leg.
Bringing feet together.
Ah! That's a nice young beech.
We mustn't crush it.
It's opening it up a bit and helping the trees at the same time.
I think it'd be great for Desmond to get down on the ground and to have
some body-work done.
I think he's going to really enjoy it actually.
Oh, look at the brambles!
Oh, my God!
Where is he?
Shall we go and hunt him down?
I think he thinks he's got better things to do with his time.
Perhaps, I think, he's just happy when people are in tweed.
With more garden tours and yoga retreats on the cards,
Desmond's plans for the hall are starting to bear fruit.
And there are a few perks for its owner.
Wow, you look fantastic, ready for your shiatsu. Oh, yes.
So, it's going to be great.
Come on in. Oh, look at that.
Look, it's all ready for you.
It looks as though it's a sacrifice.
All right, been lovely, so nice to see you.
So nice to see you.
So, Desmond, come and lay down.
We're going to get your chi moving.
Oh, yes. Yeah? Does that sound good?
So you can now just completely relax.
HE SIGHS (There we go.)
(Oh, my God.) (OK.)
(There we go.)
(Oh, my God.)
Oh, my God.
Next time... Good God!
..Desmond leads a quest for an ancient water supply...
Do not fall down the well.
Call the dog away.
Bloody stupid dog.
..pressure builds on Edmund to commit to a life at Wiveton...
We do need to think long-term.
You could do the cash flow with me.
..and the hall welcomes some old friends.
Mr Snodgrass and Mr Clutterbuck.
As you say, you couldn't make it up.
6 Music... Recommends.
Another year has passed at Wiveton Hall farm, tucked away on the north Norfolk coast. It is home to gentleman farmer Desmond MacCarthy, his 101-year-old mother Chloe and his two children, Isabel and Edmund. For all his adult life, Desmond has struggled to keep his stunning 17th-century manor house and farm the right side of bankruptcy. Now, hundreds of thousands of pounds in debt and with his overdraft at its limit, Desmond must conjure up increasingly clever ways to make money if he is to survive.
In this episode, the Wiveton cafe is beginning to thrive, but profits are devoured by the maintenance of the house and gardens. Desmond, with the help of his loyal team, begins to promote the Edwardian wing of Wiveton Hall as a place to stay and takes a booking from an international yoga retreat.