Rod and I had a 4 acre smallholding in North Yorkshire. Riding was our hobby, and horses led to land, and then chickens, sheep and pigs. We wanted to produce as much of our own food as possible, if not organically, then with as few chemicals and food miles as possible. However, both working full-time to fund the mortgage to afford the lifestyle, we had little time to devote to it. Increasingly, the animals and veg patch became just more chores to fit in at the end of a tiring day. We were stuck in a rut. Or rat race. Or both. Not getting any younger, we thought that there had to be more to life than the daily grind. Then a series of personal and professional events led to us making the fateful decision over the Easter holidays. So the idea was to buy in France where we hoped to have the house, land and lifestyle and be mortgage free. Financial downsizing!
We had narrowed our search area to somewhere warmer than the UK, so South of the R Loire, with sunflowers (symbolic of a different climate), not flat, and with mixed small scale agriculture. And cheaper rural houses. We did a quick recce in May half term, flying out to Bergerac and driving 1500km looking at the areas between the Dordogne and the Lot. We fell in love with the gently undulating countryside of the north Lot et Garonne, dotted with picturesque bastide villages. And full of fields of sunflowers, as well as vines, maize, and fruit orchards, creating a varied landscape.
Ironically, on our first day, driving from the airport, quite by chance we pulled into the village of Lauzun to buy a baguette for lunch. As we drove into the picture perfect village and up the small winding street lined with quintessentially French stone houses with wooden shuttered windows, I commented to Rod that it would be lovely to have a village like that as our local community. As it now turns out, Lauzun is the nearest village with amenities to Quatre Chemins and will indeed be our local.
Although small, it has all the basic amenities – bank, artisan boulangerie, boucherie, tabac, shop, hairdresser, restaurant, garages, Gamm Vert, 24/7 petrol and even a John Deere showroom (essential!). Oh, and an immobilier. It was closed on that day, but I took a photo for the contact details and we returned in July – and that is how we found Quatre Chemins.
On the particulars, the property was described as “an interesting set of buildings with a habitable farmhouse, stone built barn and smaller stone barn…with over 3ha”. The picture looked attractive, it fit our main criteria, so off we went.
The drive down to it took us past fields of glorious sunflowers, which was a great start!
As we arrived, our first surprise was the size of the main barn – which is enormous, and dwarfs the house. The whole ensemble sat in the middle of the land, so it surrounded the house. Privacy guaranteed.
The grange is like a cathedral inside with fabulous oak beams – all fortunately in very good structural condition. How much stuff could we hoard in here!
The small barn was not what I would call small normally, but in comparison with the larger… If we hadn’t seen the big barn, we would have been quite content with it’s little sibling!
The house is a typical small farm house – all on one level, with a wide central corridor running the length of the house and all rooms off that. The house had been “modernised” about 50 years ago, which meant that most of the original features and character had been ripped out. The inside had been dry-lined and the outside covered in a somewhat unattractive grey render called crepie. This did mean however, that the house appeared light and airy inside. (We had been into many “character properties” with wooden floors, ceilings, beams, brown tiles and walls and it had been like going into troglodytes caves!) As the walls are all more than 2′ thick it is obviously original stone underneath, so we may try to take some of the crepie off to reveal the pretty house underneath.
There is a big kitchen diner with a huge stone fireplace, living room, 3 large bedrooms, and a (very outdated) bathroom.
The biggest, and best, surprise however, came when we went through the house, and I glimpsed the glimmer of water through the windows. Not a hint of the views in the particulars – which were fabulous. The house sits with the land sloping down towards one fishing lake, and views up other second lake as well. All the benefits of the lakes and non of the maintenance!
Looking across the small lake to Quatre Chemins.
Looking back down the large lake to the house.
Who wouldn’t want to make an offer? We were sold!
Monty and Dippy think they are moving to Labrador heaven. From the house there are walks all the way round the lake, with some lovely wooded sections, and swimming at every turn in the path.
The basic plan is to fence half of the land for sheep, pigs and chickens and leave the rest as meadow for hay. I think that fencing 1.5 ha ourselves will keep us gainfully employed for forever – the hay can run wild! We plan to plant an orchard and will dig a veg patch and soft fruit area as soon as possible. Our first house warming presents, from my parents, were 2 fig trees ( how exotic is that!), 2 olive trees ( very Provence) and a cherry tree to get us started. Self sufficiency here we come.
However, man cannot live by bread ( or meat and veg) alone. We are both a long way off collecting our state pensions ( me longer than Rod!!!) and so Quatre Chemins is going to have to earn her keep. The idea is to do a reverse of the gite idea. We will create a small “maison d’ami” in the back of the barn which will be a summer residence for us, with separate drive and entrance and totally private from the house. We can then let the house out for the summer. I hope that people will be as entranced with the location as we are.