For sale: Norfolk TV star’s lake house in Thailand
Norfolk angler John Wilson spoke exclusively to EDP property editor Caroline Culot to say after five years of adventure, living in Thailand, he and his wife Jo are coming home to Norfolk.
It was a dream for the man once voted the 'Greatest Angler of all Time' when five years ago, he and his wife Jo left their beloved Norfolk home to live in Thailand.
But now, the dream has ended and the couple, who have two children and six grandchildren, have decided they miss their family too much and it's time to come home.
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John, 75, originally from Enfield, who made angling hugely popular with his sheer enthusiasm for the sport in his long running series Go Fishing, returned to Norfolk briefly at the weekend to start looking for a house to buy, and spoke to the EDP of his incredible five year adventure.
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'I don't want to leave, I love it out there, I love watching my fish grow in the lake I created for them, I love watching the arapaima rolling in the water. I love the fact you can walk from inside to outside and not feel a temperature change.
'We built the house to live there forever but we miss the family, there's no English speaking people for miles from where we live and it's time to come home to Norfolk.'
The dream began with John's brother David, who had lived in Thailand for 12 years, finding a seven acre plot in the middle of the jungle in Chumphon, southern Thailand.
'I went over to look at it and bought it,' said John. 'I'd already designed the house in my head. With my Norfolk home, I couldn't really see the lake from the house so I wanted to build a house where I could lie in bed and see the water.
'So, that's what I did. In Norfolk and Suffolk you've got the estates created by famous gardener Capability Brown and that influenced me too.'
So John and his wife Jo sold the Lake House, Great Witchingham, near Norwich, which had a two acre lake he also created and moved to Thailand in 2013.
A team of about 20 Thai builders set about creating John's new four acre lake, digging it out to remove the clay and over the next eight months built the house on a plot with no running water nor electricity. A 77m deep well had to be dug to pipe water and electricity had to be connected from the main road some distance away at the cost of £20,000.
Building the house, which has three double bedrooms, all with en suites, and verandas from where you can dine almost in touching distance of the water, was also a challenge.
'I used a 'spirit house' which is a Thai shrine to the protective spirit of a place, so will never be moved or tampered with by the locals, as the way of measuring distance,' said John.
'I asked for the house to be 15ft from the lake and I wanted to move in by Christmas Eve, and that's what we did. We had friends from Norfolk come and stay with us that first Christmas.'
John planted up many of the trees, plants and water lilies. But to create a well stocked lake at Bung Sawan, literally meaning 'lake garden', originally cost £10,000 with John buying the fish from Bangkok. Having fished with his brother for 12 years, he knew exactly what to buy and first set about creating a food source for the bigger 'predators' by putting in 10,000 fish like barbs and tilapia, and then six months later, added:
130 redtail catfish
100 giant Siamese carp
30 Mekong giant catfish
20 ripsaw catfish
20 giant gourami
70 hybrid tiger catfish
12 arapaima - the biggest growing to be 300Ibs.
'Every day, I walk around the lake with a gallon of pellet food and feed the fish at seven different points,' said John.
The property with all this fish is now for sale for a guide of around £1m. It can be purchased through a limited company otherwise you need to be married to a Thai because of the laws governing property ownership by foreigners.
The relocation has been quite an adventure over the years, creating some unforgettable memories. The couple almost drowned once in a monsoon when the truck they were driving went underwater and they've both been bitten by scorpions. Seeing snakes is also a common occurrence.
John, 75, doesn't think he'll do any more TV shows, but he is updating his autobiography, with the working title 70 Years a Fisherman which will chart the last 10 years of his life.
But the main focus now for the couple is house hunting in Norfolk; they are looking for a barn conversion or bungalow which, unsurprisingly needs to overlook a river!