Heartbeat actress Tricia Penrose's farm conversion in Adlington
PUBLISHED: 01:48 18 January 2010 | UPDATED: 15:39 20 February 2013
There's no place like a converted farm in Adlington, Cheshire, for Heartbeat actress Tricia Penrose and husband Mark Simpkin
Tricia Penrose lives in a million pound house, has two beautiful sons, drives a Bentley GT and has spent over 15 years playing loveable, confident barmaid Gina Ward in the long-running ITV drama, Heartbeat. She has a life most of us can only dream of. But she still has a mum who can embarrass her.
When Tricia and husband Mark Simpkin, entrepreneur and presenter of the TV series I Want That House, popped out of the room in their Adlington barn conversion, mum Sue proudly whipped out a faded photograph of a singing duo called Second Image. I looked closely and saw 15-year-old Tricia, with much bigger hair, with Sue. The pair sang together in working men's clubs and nightspots while Tricia was trying to break into show business.
After cries of embarrassment Tricia recalled: 'We used to get a lot of bookings. But I wanted to go out and spend time with my friends and I remember going mad at my mum because she'd booked us for New Year's Eve. I wasn't happy.'
No trace of this frustration can be found today. Sue now works as an extra on Heartbeat to spend more time with Tricia. As I sit chatting to the family on the comfortable red sofa in their kitchen, Tricia, Mark and Sue, look doe-eyed and are captivated by the family's new addition, Freddy.
The couple have built their current home, The Barn House, virtually from scratch. It was a derelict farm when they bought it but they wanted a family home for themselves, Freddy and their other son, Jake, five. It is now up for sale and they are getting ready to move into their new home, converted from one of the farm's old outbuildings.
'This has been a wonderful home,' said Tricia. 'The farms dates back to the 1600s and it's Grade II listed. We used to live around the corner and we would go for walks and always say to each other how brilliant it would be to live on that spot.
'We found out who the owner was and bought it. It was completely derelict and it took us a while to do it but it was really worth it. The views are fantastic, it's really private but we're still near everything. We're a bit sad to move out of it but we needed something bigger.'
The new home is out of this world. It features a nursery for Freddy with walls that glitter with 1,500 Swarovski crystals, a room for Jake with his own en-suite and a guest room with a round bed and its own bathroom that comes complete with a sunken bath big enough for two.
It's something that could go to your head but not with this couple. They have their feet firmly on the ground.
Tricia grew up in Kirkby, Liverpool - 'the scruffy one, not the posh one in the Wirral. She lived with her mum, her mum's family and her brothers and sisters.
'Five of us slept in one room. I grew up with all my mum's sisters and it was a bit of a squash. But it was great. I was really lucky that I had so many of my family around me and a fantastic mum. Money was tight and so was space but we made the most of what we had.'
I listen to Mark and Tricia, who married at nearby Adlington Hall in 2002, recount old memories: stories of the time they first met at the National Television Awards, when Mark was presenting for This Morning. Some of their funniest tales include when Tricia's hair got stuck to a pillow with chewing gum, her elbow got stuck to a table with gum when she met the Queen and Jessie Wallace (best not to ask). But they can't even explain most stories because they are laughing so much.
Tricia has appeared in other TV shows including Coronation Street, The Royal and Emmerdale. She has enjoyed singing success and even had her own jewellery line for a short while. But it's her role as Gina in Heartbeat for which she is renowned and she has just signed up for the next season.
She said: 'I never expected I'd still be here more than ten years on. But I can't see myself ever wanting to leave. I've grown up on the show. I've grown up as Gina has grown up. I love being a part of it.'
One of Tricia's favourite memories is working with Frodsham-born Gary Barlow when he appeared on Heartbeat. It's ironic when you consider husband Mark was part of the original line-up of Take That. He may joke when he tells me he now sells lockers but he has just bagged contracts for the 2012 London Olympics.
'I was so star struck and I kept getting really nervous around him,' she said. 'He sang for all the cast and it was absolutely brilliant. But he was involved in my storyline so all the soap magazines had pictures of me and Gary Barlow on the front. There was me posing next to Gary! It was amazing.
'He's never forgotten it because we had a really good laugh. When I went to an event where Take That were performing I knocked on the dressing room door. Security weren't going to let me in but once he knew it was me, my whole family were in there, nattering with Take That. Never in all my life would I have expected that.'
Tricia is due to have her own post-baby dieting series in a national magazine and is going into her 17th season on Heartbeat. Life is good.
Just before I leave, Jake comes in from school to a welcome of 'Hello, my little sunbeam', from mum. My last sight of the family is them pottering around the house, enjoying each others company and Tricia happily doing the ironing watching on proudly. How refreshing.