We meet a couple who after several years of planning are about to embark on their dream of the good life in France. Matt, a regional operations manager at Learn Direct and Phil, a senior HR office for a local authority have bought a farm in lovely Haute-vienne. Matt explains how their dreams and schemes have come to fruition…
Our road to France began in 2004 when a friend and a colleague moved to the Dordogne. Over a period of a few years my partner and I visited them regularly. We saw them gradually integrate into the local community and we started to time our visits to coincide with local fetes where we really got to experience rural French culture. It’s where we really fell in love with France.
As keen walkers who spent at least one holiday each year walking in the Pyrenees or the Rockies. We dreamed about moving to France to run walking holidays. We both like cooking and entertaining and thought that with our passion for walking it would be the perfect lifestyle for us.
Looking for the dream job in France
For a few years we spent time looking at properties and researching what we needed to do to start a walking holiday business. We continued to go on organised walking holidays ourselves focussed on France and Spain to see how other operators ran them. It was a real wake up call. We realised needing to provide accommodation, food and guided walking for guests would require more time and commitment than we were willing to put in. For us the idea of moving to France was to change our lives and gain more control over our work-life balance. We wanted to slow things down.
We realised we needed to do something else to bring in an income when we moved. The alternative was to extend our time frame for the move and work like mad for a number of years in the UK so we’d have a bit more financial backing when we went.
Ten years after deciding we wanted to move to France we were finally in a position to down size in the UK. We bought a 12-acre smallholding with farmhouse and barns in need of renovation in the Haute-Vienne area, Nouvelle Aquitania, in the region formerly known as Limousin.
Living the good life in France
To support our lifestyle change we used our annual leave to take a wide variety of courses. We’ve learned animal husbandry and cheese making and pig butchery and a whole lot more. We volunteered on a local farm to get hands on regular experience with livestock. Back at home we slowly turned our own back garden into an allotment to gain experience in preparation for what we hope will be our ‘Good Life’ in France.
Renovations on the farmhouse should be completed by the end of 2017 and we are about to embark on a smallholder lifestyle. We plan to raise pigs, goats and chickens, create a large vegetable garden with fruit beds and put in a sizeable polytunnel. We have plenty of barns, piggeries and the like, all ripe for conversion to rentals. We hope we’ll be able to offer self-catering breaks at our smallholding and run short courses where others can look at our lifestyle and learn from the many mistakes we will no doubt make.
It’s a big change from our lifestyle now and from what we thought we wanted at first and it will probably evolve even more but we know it will be an adventure – France here we come!
by Matt Linley who writes about his adventures at: www.frenchsmallholding.com