Manny's Blog

Sharing our French adventure as we live and work and renovate our forever home in the Haute Loire.
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A bit of background

It all began earlier this year (2016) when Joe spotted a farmhouse for sale in our beloved Tence – the small town in the Haute Loire where we spent our first four years in France.

Over our 8 years here, we’ve looked at the odd property here and there, but never found anything that has given us the gut-feeling that we should go further than a single visit… This place, however, set our hearts alight the moment we saw it!

Four and a half kilometres out of Tence, in Solignac, a little hamlet of six or seven houses, down a small lane, lies our new adventure, nestled in the heart of the countryside, over-looking the most beautiful field, surrounded by woods… the field is ours too.


Across our field to our future home (fingers crossed!)

We knew as we walked away from the house that we were going to finally plunge in to the French property game, after 8 years of renting… Would we get a mortgage?  We honestly had no idea!

Property in our beautiful Haute-Loire is incredibly good value – but as we’ve watched over our years here, not easy to sell.  We knew that if we committed to a house here – it would be for the long term. We’ve been property-free for more than ten years now, and have loved the liberty it has afforded us – but neither of us are getting any younger… the freelance nature of our professions (and the debacle of the UK private pensions collapse), means that we have no pensions awaiting us…  maybe this was the last chance to hop back on to the property ladder again and afford ourselves a bit of security in the future.

We sold our house in Swanage, Dorset in 2005, rented there until we left the UK in 2007 for our year of travelling Europe with our four children, Luke, Harry, Beth and Arthur, in the bus we’d converted into a home.

We then settled in France, renting first in Tence and then moving to a beautiful house in Bas en Basset, where we are now, about 40 kilometres away. As the catchment area was changing, we moved to be nearer the lycée where the children attended and where I taught for four years.


Luke and Marie


Our eldest son, Luke, left first for University in nearby St Etienne, and then headed off for an adventure in Ireland, where he worked for a year or so, then 18 months in Paris with the same company until last summer (2015), he decided to move back to Monistrol and work with Joe’s design company 43 Media, bringing his sales and marketing experience to attract local clients.

He lives in a beautiful apartment 6 kms from us.


Harry left home in 2013 after getting his BAC, to live with Armel who was studying at the Sorbonne – they spent a year in Paris, a year in a Stockholm, and then returned to Paris in 2015 for her to begin her Masters degree. Harry started his web design business while still at lycée and has gone from strength to strength, working up an amazing client base and reputation for excellence!

Screen Shot 2016-11-06 at 17.24.57.png

Harry and Armel got married this summer – a glorious day of love, magic and family bliss!


Harry and Armel


Oh Happy Day!












Then, hot on the heels of the big wedding, we drove Beth to England to start her Film Production Degree at the University of Creative Arts in Farnham.  She seems to be having a ball – can’t wait to have her home for Xmas!







So our big bustling family has been dramatically downsized in recent years!


Arty and Cloé

Just the three of us now – Me, Joe and Arthur, who still has a few more years at lycée. Our baby boy is now over 6ft – has a beautiful girlfriend – (they are both in the sports class at school) and is currently thinking of studying law.








Night before the wedding…

Massive changes of family dynamics – especially after the full house of summer; friends and family gathered from all over the world  for Harry and Armel’s wedding, and rarely a meal with under 10 around the table.


Moa, Harry and Arty at Harry’s bachelor party

The Farm…

So we first saw the farm on 27th May this year (2016). We went straight to the bank (4th June) to just find out where we stood mortgage-wise.  It looked more promising than we could have hoped for – in principal they offered us a mortgage at a tiny 1.5% for the purchase plus a 0% loan to help with the renovation! We couldn’t believe it! When we think back to the years we were on an ‘interest only’ mortgage in the UK, this all looked extremely promising!


Just needs a little TLC…


Look at those beams!




The farm was on the market for 95,000€, we put in our offer of 80,000€, preparing to negotiate to a mid-way point… and our offer was accepted!


Just after signing the compromis…


We finally signed the ‘Compromis’ (the promise to buy – so much better legally than the fragile ‘offer’ in the UK which can be withdrawn at the last minute) at the Notaire’s in Tence on July 29th (my Dad’s birthday, which felt like a good omen!), after a failed attempt on 15th July, where we discovered there was an ancient right of access right across the property which we wanted to have rescinded – and luckily for us this was accomplished with little fuss and no cost to anyone.



With the Compromis signed, we started the official mortgage application – it’s been a long haul of jumping through hoops – not at all as gloriously straightforward as the first meeting at the bank suggested – it’s November as I write now, and whilst we have had an Attestation of the loan which we’ve been able to give to the Notaire, we still don’t have the offer on the table yet – the goalposts seem to change constantly.

Our French is improving as we slowly discover more and more of the complexities of the property laws (especially ex-agricultural properties!)


summer sun


and autumn hues


We fell in love with the house at the end of spring, we have seen it through the summer and recently in it’s glorious autumn colours – maybe it’ll be ours before the first snow of winter?

Fingers and toes crossed!



 The Renovation

We had to have a bunch of quotes (devis) to give to the bank for our mortgage application, so even before we’d had time to think about what we really wanted to do with the project, Joe had to draw up some plans – since the first ideas all those months ago, we have made many discoveries and honed and talked late into the night about our dream house – and how we really want to live in it.

A few pieces of synchronicity have brought us simultaneously to an interest in Permaculture – and the latest shifts in how we proceed have been really coloured by this idea of sustainability and self-sufficiency.  Our great friend Hills from California is coming to France to study permaculture next year, and has offered to come and help us with the renovation, as part of a personal quest to see if she wants to move permanently to Europe. She had already booked her Permaculture course before the idea hit our sphere of thinking – she has experience and passion, and we are so thrilled to be embarking on this adventure with her.

So this is where we’re at in November 2016 – Here are some pictures of the house – I plan to blog our journey, as much for us to have a record as for anyone else who might be interested!

Thank you for reading this far!

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  1. Karen Alcock says:

    Fantastic Manny … so happy for you!!!

  2. Lynn Bishop says:

    I am dribbling in anticipation for you. The bones of the building are simply stunning.
    We embarked on our dream property project on the Isle of Wight, having our offer accepted in June 2015 with a long and complicated exchange process that took us to December, finally collecting the keys on the 10th. Designing, planning and tendering now complete. We have appointed our builder , works start in 2-3 weeks time for a 10 month duration. With a fair wind we are hoping to be in by Christmas 2017. Very exciting times!
    So, I’m keeping fingers and toes crossed for you, and look forward to seeing and hearing about your progress. XxxLynn

    1. I’ve just moved to the Island!

    2. mannyatkins says:

      Oh Lynn, that’s brilliant! – is your project a new build or a renovation? The Isle of Wight is beautiful – we spent seven years looking across at the beautiful white cliffs from Swanage!

  3. superbe aventure! même plus que ça; Vous le méritez vraiment, le site est tellement joli. A quand le premier repas de fête? Je vous embrasse tous et sur tout , toi ma chère Amanda.

  4. This is so exciting, Manny. I wish you all the luck (and strength!) in the world with the venture!

  5. Julian Dakowski says:

    Hi you guys! Just greener than your field with envy! And at those costs ONLY. My God, why are we living here?? That amaaaazing barn of a space as well! Waitrose must have heard already…. they have an “Atkins” Wine on their shelves. Congratulations from Julian & Anita you lucky ***********s

  6. Lynn says:

    I haven’t been on a blog before so have no idea what I am doing. Not sure if this is replying back to you.
    The house is in Bembridge, built in 1894, we bought it from the grandchildren of the Thornycroft family who originally built it. It needs everything , new roof, 47 windows, water and heating systems etc, etc. Will send a few photos to you via Facebook. Xx

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