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'Thank you' - Tears of joy as Shropshire DIY SOS team work miracle

South Shropshire | News | Published:

It has taken nine days and a crew of more than 100 tradesmen, contractors, and general volunteers. And now Shropshire's DIY SOS project has been completed, providing Joe Grafton and his daughter Lucy the home they had always dreamed of.

The BBC DIY SOS programme has been at the home of Joe Grafton and his daughter Lucy in Hopesay

Joe and seven-year-old Lucy were finally allowed back on site in the village of Hopesay, near Craven Arms for the first time since work began a week last Tuesday.

The pair were nominated to have their country cottage transformed by an army of volunteers after Joe's renovation stalled last year, forcing them to spend the winter living in a caravan next to what was supposed to be their dream home.

The misfortune followed tragedy as Joe had lost his wife, and Lucy her mother, when Jessica Grafton died from leukaemia in 2014, just weeks after an accident at work that put Joe out of action as a firefighter.

More than 100 volunteers who had worked on the house gathered down-field as film crews form BBC's DIY SOS: The Big Build filmed inside the property, where presenter Nick Knowles was showing Joe and Lucy around.

Joe said: "I am completely overwhelmed. I want to thanks everyone who has turned it around for me and Lucy.

"I am saying to people here that when they you go home tonight go up to the people they love, cuddle them and tell them they love them with every bone in their body."

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Taking a peek inside. TV viewers will be able to see the results when the programme is screened in May.

TV viewers will be able to see the results when the programme is screened in May.

Among those there to see the reveal were a Bromford Housing Association team from Telford.

Paul Stokes, volunteering with the team, said: "Last night everybody mucked in once people had finished their own jobs - we had electricians helping in the garden, it was really good."

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Members of Men in Sheds branches from Oswestry and Sansaw, near Shrewsbury, were also there to see Lucy's delight at the wooden garden play house they had built her.

Tony Wilson, Men in Sheds in Shropshire organiser, said: "I can't imagine what impact this will have on Joe's life, but he certainly deserves everything he has been given today, and Lucy will know she is not alone.

"And for us it has got the Men in Sheds groups out of their sheds and doing things for the community."

Jennie Cole, a villager who maintains the website for Hopesay parish, said: "The tradesmen here have been of such a high standard that I'm going around collecting all their business cards to go on the website.

"It's going to be very quiet here once everyone's gone," she added.

Seven students from Shrewsbury College also joined the big build under the guidance of painting and decorating tutor, Barry Mason, who said: "I'm really proud of what our students have achieved. They got praise from Nick Knowles on the standard of their workmanship."

Lee Newton, 44, a first year painting and decorating student, said: "This is the first time we've done anything like this, but I'd do it again in a heartbeat. It's been an experience mucking in with different trades and it's been fun."

Tradespeople walking down to the house

After thanking the crowds of supporters on-camera, Joe Grafton then shook the hands of dozens queuing up to wish him well.

He said: "It's just unbelievable. I kind of knew they would have repainted inside and done some things outside with the garden, but when you see the attention to detail and just how much they have achieved in just nine days, I'm staggered.

"It's so difficult to describe the feeling – you want to cry but you're happy too, my feelings are all over the place."

Joe Grafton with his daughter Lucy and presenter Nick Knowles

Joe and Lucy had been living in a caravan next to the house since the end of March 2015, with his home little more than a building site. The story of how he ended up like that is a catalogue of misfortunes.

A firefighter with London Fire Brigade, Joe and his wife Jessica moved to Shropshire and Hopesay about five years ago, and into the house that has now been transformed. Joe was still working in London at the time, commuting for his shifts and returning home when he was off-duty.

"It worked, because when my wife was alive she was here to look after Lucy," he said.

The house needed work and was bitterly cold in the winter, he said, but they were happy enough until tragedy stuck in 2014.

First Joe was in a nasty crash while on duty which hurt his back and put him out of action as a firefighter.

"We answered an emergency call and I was driving. We came to a T-junction and there was a driver there waiting to pull out.

"We actually made eye contact, but then he looked the other way and just went. You'd think it would be difficult to miss a big red fire truck," he said.

"That was in February 2014. Six weeks weeks later my wife died."

The two events had a devastating effect on Joe, and he developed post traumatic stress disorder.

"I have seen a lot of dead bodies through work. It may sound callous, but I didn't bat an eyelid at the time, you just get on with it – but then seeing my wife die, all of these things suddenly started coming flooding back."

Joe Grafton thanking helpers and well-wishers

Jessica, 39, contracted acute leukaemia that came on over just one weekend, he said, and also developed septicaemia.

"Her body just couldn't fight it," he said.

It was a dark time, but come 2015 Joe decided to sort out the house for Lucy's sake, to give her a boost and a nice place to live. But things did not work out.

He said: "I had to move everything out, we went into the caravan and they started work over the summer.

"It was a bit of a novelty at first, the longest we have ever been in a caravan is three weeks. It was OK in the summer months, and we were expecting to be back in the property by September."

Joe Grafton thanking helpers and well-wishers

But as the renovation work went on the builders uncovered "horror after horror," that had been hidden away, he said.

One of the worst problems was discovering the stream, now diverted around the side and through the garden, actually went under the very foundations of the house, creating a massive amount of work and expense to move.

"Nobody knew it was there, it's not on any of the old maps, I was just horrified," Joe said.

He said the money ran out and the novelty of caravan living wore off, facing the cold and damp of winter with no resolution in sight.

"You are just in one room together all the time, and you need your space, even as a child," he said.

It was two friends and village residents, Meg Gwilliam, 64, and Christine Perkins, 55, who wrote to the BBC on his behalf.

Mrs Gwilliam said: "I used to stop and chat to him on my dog walk when he was taking Lucy to the school bus.

"When his renovation went wrong we were all very concerned because there just didn't seem to be anything we could do."

Joe said: "It's deeply humbling, especially to see everyone here today who has given up their time and money to help me.

"Everything is done – I don't think I've ever lived in a house where everything is done before. Lucy is just overwhelmed.

"It's totally awe-inspiring and it has restored my faith in humanity."

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