Here's a blast from the past, it's a page we wrote in September 2004 after putting in our offer to buy the house.
We'd been to France on a couple of occasions, as far back at October 1993 for an initial look-see visit. As it happens we passed by within about 5km of Bellebouche on that trip and we still have some photos of Parthenay from the bright October morning when we passed through. Fast forward a couple of eventful trips and here's what we returned to the UK with in September of 2004 - a camera full of over 300 photos of a little place in the country and the prospect of a whole new lifestyle (and plenty of work) ahead of us. It's still exciting for us to re-read these pages and it's a great benchmark of just how much we've achieved in the renovation and restoration of our property.
Here's a brief page with some snaps of the place we have bought in France. The hamlet is called Bellebouche, a literal translation in English.. beautiful mouth!
The hamlet is on the outskirts
of Gourgé and the nearest main town is Parthenay. This region is
in Deux-Sevres in the departement
of Poitou Charentes. It's a very quiet agricultural area that's sandwiched
between the Loire Valley in the North, Limoges and the Dordogne in the
south and the Vendeé and Atlantic coast to the west. Our nearest airport
is at Poitiers which is just 45 mins away and well serviced with cheap
(£4.99!) Ryanair flights from Stanstead.
The house has only one bedroom at the moment but has 280m2 (±3000 sq. feet) of habitable space - the house and barns sit on just under 5000m2 of land.. (1.2acres in old money)
The main house was built in 1850 in what is referred to locally as the 'maison bourgeois' style. It mostly means that it's constructed of square cut granite blockwork with a slate roof and zinc guttering. There are a series of formal rooms, many fireplaces (this has 3, and two additional chimneys) and is most typically identified by the slate roof - most other older country buildings from this era are stone built with tile roofs (as are all the barns / lofts / stables etc.)
Approaching the hamlet from the south our place is on the left, here's a snap of the front of the place from the single track lane that passes through. It's hard to spot on maps as the lane is actually an ancient pilgramage route of "Santiago de Compostela" ( on maps as the snappily titled "GR36")
Back of the house from the bottom of the veg garden, barns to the left...
The back «grange» It's a large vaulted barn that's open on one side. It's 15x6m.
Madame Foden stood in the smaller garden, the main barn/stables, pigeonnierre and grange are behind her. This smaller garden is about 1800 m2 and is the tentative spot for a pool.
There is a nice big shade tree just outside the back door... will make a good spot for a bit of a patio. It's surrounded by a couple of huge old grapevines
The only bedroom in the place at the moment is on the ground floor at the right in this picture... the tiny arched window that's overgrown with ivy is for the 'cave' - an earth floored wine cellar (designed to be kept moist for cooling / humidity)
This is about 2/3rd of the upper floor. It was until recently used as a grain loft and is still full of unthreshed wheat
This will be our main bedroom... eventually!
Not a nail in sight. The whole place is morticed and staked through with giant oak pins
View from the 'back room' through to the main upper floor. We're going to keep the galleried landing and pop in some skylight windows and open up the entire centre of the house with daylight coming right through to the front door and entrance hall.
Immediate architectural rescue required... What is now the bathroom we'll make into a kitchen. This is because the single most impressive fireplace in the house is currently half-blocked in with a tiny little fireplace in one half and the other half has a toilet in it! The granite mantel is about 7ft high and the fireplace is a good 8ft wide.
Inside the original 19th Century pigeon loft
And finally... the neighbors at the end of the road have a nice house... this view is two mins walk away...
That's it for now.
we'll keep this page updated with fresh pictures once we move over!