THE STORY of an Essex girl who upped sticks to Spain and ended up single-handedly running a popular ex-pat bar is to be told on primetime TV.

Claire Tyson had never lived outside of Waltham Abbey or spoken a word of Spanish when she made the move to Alicante five years ago.

"I have always lived in Waltham Abbey, since I was born," said Miss Tyson, 40.

"I met a boyfriend here in 2006 and within a year my mum and dad were having a house built in Spain.

"Dad said we could have the house to live in, rent free. So I rented out my house here and we moved."

After a year, Miss Tyson and her boyfriend were offered the chance to take over Rayz bar in the heart of a thriving ex-pat community in Guardamar.

The couple took the plunge. But, after only two months, they split up - and Miss Tyson was left to man the business single-handedly.

Her previous bar experience was limited to a short stint pulling pints in The Sun Inn, in Sun Street.

She said: "I don't know how I did it. I think it was because I'd split up with him.

"Everyone was expecting me to crumble. I think I totally shocked everyone."

Over the following four years the business went from strength to strength until its restaurant was catering for 100 covers a night.

"It was the hardest thing I've ever done," said Miss Tyson.

"It was just getting busier and busier."

In March Miss Tyson was asked to take part in Trouble Abroad, a documentary following the lives of British ex-pats in Europe.

She agreed in the hope of boosting business and the crew spent nine days following every aspect of her life.

But by June the stress of running Rayz began to take its toll - and the lure of Waltham Abbey drew Miss Tyson back to her home in Margherita Road.

"I left without saying goodbye. I had so many customers. It would have broke my heart because they were like my family," she said.

"If I'm totally honest I probably would have gone back after 18 months, because it's not the dream people think it is."

Trouble Abroad will be shown on ITV1 on Thursday January 10 at 9pm.

It features footage of Miss Tyson on her return to Waltham Abbey where, after a six-month break, she now hopes to begin a new career.

"I'm single and I've come back and I've got to basically start my life again," she said.

"Basically it's just the sunshine, that's all it is. I could have been living in Waltham Abbey - but with sunshine.

"I did well in my bar, but there's no place like home."