Taking over a watermill and gîte in Pays de la Loire, France has been “an excellent way of life alternative” | Actual life

PUBLISHED: 11:35 09 Might 2019

Le Moulin de St-Blaise in Sarthe (c) Frederic Boutard

Le Moulin de St-Blaise in Sarthe (c) Frederic Boutard


On a quest for a extra relaxed tempo of life, Phil and Elaine Miles determined to swap the rat race for a transformed watermill in Pays de la Loire, the place they supply mattress and breakfast and self-catering lodging

What prompted you to make the transfer to France?

We had come again from a go to to buddies of mine who had relocated to Spain. It was February and uninteresting and dismal again within the UK and we actually weren’t trying ahead to a return to the lengthy work hours, the seemingly limitless visitors jams and the widely manic tempo of life.

We each agreed that maybe it was time to alter some issues in our lives earlier than we obtained too outdated and set in our methods. We had each loved visiting France on vacation, I spoke French having studied it to A degree at college, so it appeared a logical place to decide on to dwell, with, hopefully a slower, extra relaxed tempo of life.

What attracted you to Sarthe?

We weren’t particularly seeking to purchase in Sarthe, however we’re actually glad that we did. We have been on the lookout for someplace that hadn’t been overrun with Brits, that was north of the Loire Valley, so can be inside simple travelling distance again to the UK and with Phil being a eager fisherman, someplace close to water.

Sarthe is gorgeous – it has forests, rivers, lakes, valleys and vineyards. It is called the ‘Backyard of France’ and at all times appears to be lush and inexperienced. The climate is often higher than the UK, with longer summers and barely larger temperatures the place you may nonetheless expertise all 4 seasons. We’re within the south of the area and simply over half-an-hour’s drive from the airport at Excursions which has common flights to London Stansted. The primary châteaux of the Loire Valley are slightly below an hour away, or head half-an-hour north and you’re in Le Mans of 24-hour automobile race fame.

One of the bedrooms at Le Moulin de St-BlaiseOne of many bedrooms at Le Moulin de St-Blaise

Had you at all times wished to run a mattress and breakfast?

Though we knew that no matter property we purchased must additionally provide us earnings incomes prospects, we weren’t initially seeking to run a mattress and breakfast, however gîtes. The property we purchased was a three-bedroom watermill with an connected cottage that was in want of main renovation.

The mill was marketed privately on a web site, and we visited it throughout November – the climate was chilly and mizzly and a mist hung low over the fields behind the constructing. However we beloved it and will see the potential.

Initially the plan was so as to add a few en-suite bedrooms to the huge attic house in the primary home to kind a five-bedroom household gîte and renovate the cottage to supply a two-bedroom gîte.

Was there a number of work to hold out earlier than welcoming your first visitors?

We moved in April 2008 and instantly began work on the cottage. It wanted to be utterly re-plumbed and rewired, we added a brand new kitchen and knocked down a few partitions. Aside from the plumbing and electrical work we did all of the work ourselves – Phil was beforehand within the constructing commerce previous to altering to laborious landscaping. Our first visitors arrived within the October of the identical yr – it was my outdated boss and his household and he freely admitted that he now understood why I had resigned from my outdated job.

One of the renovated bedrooms at Le Moulin St-BlaiseOne of many renovated bedrooms at Le Moulin St-Blaise

In the primary home, we insulated the attic and put up dividing partitions to create two massive bedrooms every with en-suite bathe rooms. The entire home was redecorated in and out, and we took our first home reserving 12 months after shifting in.

Outdoors we created new patios for every of the properties and began a vegetable backyard.

For the primary 5 years, in the course of the summer time months when each properties have been rented out, we lived in a caravan parked in our massive barn, and moved again into the primary home in the course of the winter months.

We then determined that so as to lengthen the letting season and make lives somewhat extra snug for ourselves, we might change the primary home right into a mattress and breakfast. We remodelled the primary flooring in order that as a substitute of three bedrooms and one rest room we now have three bedrooms every with their very own loos.


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Did you discover it simple to get entangled in native golf equipment and associations?

Our property really has a foot in two villages, Chahaignes and Lhomme. The river that flows via the center of the mill buildings is the boundary line between the 2. We’ve got extra hyperlinks with Lhomme (inhabitants approx. 900) as we’re nearer to it.

Most of the rooms overlook the mill pondA lot of the rooms overlook the mill pond

We obtained married within the native mairie in 2009 and a few days later had a marriage blessing in our again backyard, to which we invited the mayor and the French buddies we had made thus far. This actually broke the ice and since then, we have now been actively concerned in village life.

Each July there’s a village fête which spans three days and Phil began serving to with the set-up of this annually, regardless of not talking very a lot French. A few years later I used to be invited to affix the comité des fêtes as secretary – a put up which I held for a yr.

4 years in the past when the native elections have been being deliberate, I had a go to from the mayor who requested whether or not I might be keen to affix his record for election to the native council. I agreed and was duly elected – the primary Brit. This includes me in a number of native actions and I am amazed at how a lot is completed for the neighborhood on an area degree, from the flower competitors for native residents’ gardens, to the four-course meal offered for the aged residents to the Christmas packing containers packed and delivered annually.

We’ve got discovered it comparatively painless to combine as everybody has been so pleasant and welcoming. The native shopkeepers and restaurateurs recognise the truth that we’re contributing to the native financial system with our visitors that keep within the mattress and breakfast.

What do you do to calm down in-between guests?

Our potager and the grounds surrounding our mill hold us busy and I additionally make a variety of jams and chutneys which I promote at native Christmas gala’s and brocantes. There are pretty walks within the space – via vineyards or alongside river banks and, in fact, Phil enjoys the large alternative of fishing lakes and rivers.

The streamThe stream

In the course of the spring and the summer time months there at all times appears to be loads of actions within the neighbouring villages, from vide-greniers to comice agricoles (agricultural reveals) to pétanque matches. And are available 14 July there are large fireworks shows and celebrations in not less than 4 native cities or villages.

What recommendation would you give to expats considering of shifting to Sarthe?

Be taught not less than the fundamentals of the language. Though within the cities of Le Mans and Excursions and in vacationer points of interest individuals do converse English, it isn’t frequent amongst tradesmen and shopkeepers on this rural space.

Additionally, if you’re seeking to retire to this area, do not be tempted by the peace and seclusion of a distant farmhouse or cottage – as you grow old you can find your self remoted. We’re only a 15-minute stroll to the native village.

What plans do you could have for the longer term?

This has been an excellent way of life alternative (with our massive vegetable backyard we have now turn out to be nearly independent), we have now immersed ourselves in native village life and have loved assembly individuals from everywhere in the world and introducing them to this lovely nook of France.

The kitchen and dining room houses the old mill gear workingsThe kitchen and eating room homes the outdated mill gear workings

Three of our gîte visitors have fallen in love with the world a lot that two have purchased vacation properties regionally and the third has moved to the world completely!

After we moved right here we had a 10-year plan, which we have now roughly accomplished. Nevertheless, as we get into our sixties we’re critically contemplating downsizing and taking life somewhat simpler. We nonetheless have two barns and a few different connected outbuildings which may very well be transformed to an extra gîte or B&B rooms, however we expect that maybe this may be a mission for a brand new proprietor!



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