• Derek and Jenni Ray’s dream of living in Spain began with their journey featured on TV programme Grand Design Abroad with presenter Kevin McLoud. Almost two decades later Jenni talks exclusively to friend and Leader reporter Andrew Atkinson about their decision to live in Spain.
  • Quote: ‘We nearly lost everything. From demolishing the house, to fines running into hundreds of thousands of euros – I don’t know how we held on’

AFTER living the dream in a multi-million euros state of the art house in Torremendo, overlooking Lake Pedrera, Derek and Jenni ended up living in stables in the grounds, surrounded by tropical plants and palm trees.

“We rented the house out in the end and lived in the stables after renovation – we couldn’t afford to live in the house anymore,” revealed Jenni.

“It’s pretty difficult to explain it all, the debt around the house we inherited,” said Durban born Jenni, who brought up their family with husband Derek at the picturesque setting.

“The last few years during the coronovirus pandemic has been a tough time, with me having gone back to the UK and Derek staying in Spain.

“I visited recently – the first time I’ve seen him in almost a year – following the aftermath of living in Spain and what I had to do to survive.

“It’s cost us a lot, with many stresses against the Spanish authorities – we took so much flak over the years,” said Jenni.

“The journey of our Grand Design house at Casa La Pedrera, Torremendo, fighting the Spanish authorities, with fines after setting up a business.

“All the trials and tribulations of setting up a new life in a new country.

“The proverb ‘Fools Rush in Where Angels Fear to Tread’, is what we did. We took lemons and made lemonade,” said Jenni.

“I am speaking now, because the authorities can no longer target us. We got our final licence just a few months ago. A Tourism Licence,” said Jenni.

“They put my family through 17 years of ‘absolute Hell’ – targeting us for almost every single one of them.

Derek and Jenni ended up living in stables in the grounds

“The stress it put us under as a family was sometimes barely tolerable – it had a huge effect on my girls growing up – but we just had to take it.

“Thankfully the protection of some wonderful Spanish Professionals, and amazing help from various Workaway Volunteers over the years, we managed to stay sane – just!

“If not for them, we would have lost everything, and I mean everything – we certainly came close to it a number of times.

“From demolishing the house, to fines running into the hundreds of thousands of euros – I don’t know how we held on.

“I credit some of it to Derek’s thick skin, determination and resilience, as something, eventually, had to go our way.

“When I look back, the jealousy, the denuncias, the relentless attacks, actually backfired, but whilst we were going through at the time, it was awful.

“But they turned into a positive, and we got more determined and got stronger in Faith,” said Jenni.

“I don’t cry very often – but my eyes are filling with tears. It will be tough, and I will try to be as honest as I can, accepting blame, where blame is due.

“But, overall, in context of when it happened, how it happened, there were both triumphs and failures,” added Jenni.

*Jenni is telling the story, via a weekly podcast on YouTube. Subscribe at:

Caption: Jenni and Derek Ray: 17 years of absolute hell in Spain.