In an exclusive interview and photoshoot with HELLO!, Flavia Cacace-Mistry and husband Jimi have told how the pandemic pushed them to start a new life in the country.
The couple told how their new online fitness and nutrition business floundered when Covid-19 struck after they were faced with competition from free online workouts.
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"It was hard because we'd invested a lot of time and effort into our business but then we thought, how do we turn this whole thing into a positive?" said former professional dancer Flavia, who met ex-EastEnders actor Jimi in 2010 when they were partnered on the BBC1 show.
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Seven months ago they swapped their bungalow in Guildford for a seven-acre smallholding in Devon and their life is now reminiscent of 1970s comedy show The Good Life, which followed the adventures of a couple striving to be self-sufficient.
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They live in a converted stone barn, sell eggs from their flock of hens, keep three rare breed sheep and grow their own fruit and vegetables, including potatoes, onions, pumpkins, tomatoes, apples, plums and figs.
"We didn't have a clue what we were doing," admitted Flavia, 42. "We bought some books and didn't intend to grow anything or get any animals for the first year but then Jimi's mum said, if you water it, it will grow, and we thought, hey, we can do this."
"In the past, we couldn't even keep a houseplant without killing it because we were never home," added Jimi, 48, who gave up acting and retrained as a chef. "It's second nature to me now to pick a vegetable or collect an egg and cook it. I couldn't imagine buying them in the supermarket."
The couple grow their own fruit and vegetables
The couple, who married in 2013 and chart their journey on their Our Life at the Barn Instagram and Facebook accounts, also plan to set up a farm shop and open a guest house. "We haven't looked back once," said Jimi. "The ambience, the feeling, the energy that has been created here has made us feel so much calmer and better about life."
"We feel calm and stress-free and our old life feels alien," said Flavia. "We did it for years, but it's amazing when you come out of it and realise you can finally breathe."
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