A warm wel­come

Lots of sun­shine and friendly lo­cals made Avey­ron the per­fect choice for this cou­ple

French Property News - - Contents - Donna Sloane is gen­eral man­ager of French Con­nec­tions hol­i­day ren­tals and prop­erty sales french­con­nec­tions.co.uk

In Novem­ber 2005, Nina and David Oak­man flew to Nice and hired a car, ready to em­bark on their hunt for a prop­erty in the French coun­try­side. Af­ter two weeks and 3,000 miles they reached the pretty 13th-cen­tury bastide town of Na­jac in Avey­ron and rel­ished the sense of peace and the beau­ti­ful scenery. They were strongly re­minded of the Scot­tish bor­der coun­try that they love and de­cided that this was the place for them.

“Although the coun­try­side is lush and green like Scot­land,” ob­serves Nina. “The cli­mate is much warmer, with lots of sun­shine, sum­mer tem­per­a­tures of around 33°C and good weather for at least nine months of the year, so that was a strong in­flu­ence on our de­ci­sion.”

Build the dream

Af­ter some search­ing they found Pont Jal­bert, an old farm­house just 5km from the nearby vil­lage of La Fouil­lade. It was the main build­ing in a tiny ham­let, also known as Pont-jal­bert. Built in 1840 as a mixed farm, it was now of­fered as a house, two barns and three acres of land in­clud­ing the stretch of river. “I’ve been a con­sul­tant in prop­erty de­vel­op­ment all my life,” ex­plains David, “and I’d al­ways wanted to build my own house. Pont Jal­bert was per­fect be­cause we could move into the farm­house, de­velop one of the barns as a beau­ti­ful new home for our­selves, then ren­o­vate the farm­house as a high qual­ity hol­i­day let to pro­vide us with sup­ple­men­tary in­come and some re­turn on our in­vest­ment.”

Af­ter about two years, the cou­ple had cre­ated a spa­cious hol­i­day home in the farm­house and a four-bed­room fam­ily home that com­bines the old barn con­ver­sion with a new build­ing. The prop­er­ties are full of tra­di­tional char­ac­ter, with cathe­dral ceil­ings, ex­posed orig­i­nal oak beams and stone walls and lin­tels.

The cou­ple fur­nished and equipped the farm­house as a lux­ury self-ca­ter­ing home. It has a cosy sit­ting room with huge so­fas that seat up to 12 peo­ple, a wood-burn­ing stove, cen­tral heating, a large fully equipped kitchen/diner, four gen­er­ous dou­ble bed­rooms and three bath­rooms, two of which are en suites. Out­side is a sun ter­race, swim­ming pool and land­scaped gar­den.

Home from home

“We’re very proud of the high qual­ity and com­fort of the two houses,” says David. “The houses and a par­tially con­verted barn form a U-shape on the site, which means that both we and our guests en­joy as much pri­vacy as we may need.”

Along with work on the houses, the Oak­mans in­stalled not only the out­door swim­ming pool but also an in­door gym. “I used to be a fit­ness teacher,” ex­plains Nina, “and I thought a gym would be an ex­cel­lent ex­tra fa­cil­ity for our guests. Now, even I am amazed how much they use and en­joy it. Some are first­timers while oth­ers come to train for events, like the triathlon ath­lete who com­bined gym work with cy­cling the area and swim­ming the lo­cal rivers.”

Look­ing lively The Oak­mans love the ru­ral life in Avey­ron. They have found their sur­round­ing com­mu­nity very wel­com­ing, and now so­cialise with a num­ber of lo­cal res­i­dents in the area. Both they and their vis­i­tors ap­pre­ci­ate the friendly na­ture and good fa­cil­i­ties of La Fouil­lade vil­lage with its modern su­per­mar­ket, li­brary, cafés, banks and doc­tors.

“We and our guests like all the nearby pretty vil­lages and towns. The bastide towns of Na­jac, Cordes-sur-ciel, Bel­cas­tel and Ville­franche-deRouer­gue are a 10-30-minute drive away and each has its château, church, spec­tac­u­lar views and restau­rants. Ca­hors is 50 min­utes away and so is the cathe­dral city of Albi on the river Tarn, with its Toulouse-lautrec mu­seum and golf course. The Pyrénées are within easy strik­ing dis­tance for those who fancy a week­end of ski­ing or hill walk­ing.

“There are two Miche­lin-starred restau­rants within a 30-minute drive. If we want a big night out, most of them also of­fer rooms so you can have an ex­cel­lent, leisurely din­ner with wine and then stay over. And there are some very fine vine­yards in the lo­cal area, no­tably Gail­lac and Ca­hors, both within easy reach. A visit makes an ex­cel­lent day’s out­ing.”

Yet, de­spite all the lo­cal at­trac­tions, guests who take a hol­i­day at Pont Jal­bert of­ten don’t feel the need to go out much, be­ing very happy to stay put, to spend their days around the pool and in the com­fort­able farm­house, and to en­joy eat­ing out­side in the warm evening air un­der a sky full of stars.

Ac­cess to Pont Jal­bert is quite easy and the Oak­mans find that driv­ing in France is a plea­sure com­pared to the con­ges­tion in UK. Some guests make the nine-hour drive from Calais, usu­ally with an overnight break, while oth­ers fly-drive. Rodez air­port is an hour’s drive from the prop­erty and the large hub air­port at Toulouse is about an hour and three quar­ters away.

Nina and David have found ev­ery­thing they were hop­ing for at Pont Jal­bert, but have now put the prop­erty on the mar­ket as they plan to re­turn to the UK to be close to their four grand­chil­dren and age­ing par­ents.

“We are sell­ing the farm­house as a go­ing con­cern and suc­cess­ful hol­i­day let. It will in­clude all the fur­ni­ture, linen and equip­ment, and the fam­ily house is ready to move into. We don’t plan to do any more de­vel­op­ment here now, which means that there is plenty of po­ten­tial for some­body new to com­plete an ex­tra apart­ment and con­vert a beau­ti­ful barn.

“We are happy to give a buyer any help they need to smoothly con­tinue the let­ting busi­ness and to have them take over our web­sites. There are book­ings for the 2017 sea­son, many of them from guests who have been be­fore and are en­thu­si­as­tic re­peat vis­i­tors. We re­ally like the idea of new peo­ple en­joy­ing the life­style and busi­ness suc­cess that we have rel­ished here in Avey­ron.”

Pont Jal­bert is on the mar­ket for pri­vate sale with an ask­ing price of €695,000.

The prop­er­ties are full of tra­di­tional char­ac­ter, with cathe­dral ceil­ings, ex­posed orig­i­nal oak beams and stone walls

Gite: Guests love spend­ing time in the com­fort­ably fur­nished hol­i­day ac­com­mo­da­tion or around the pool, and the gym has proved par­tic­u­larly pop­u­lar

Fam­ily home: It took around two years for the Oak­mans to cre­ate their lovely four-bed­room house which is sur­rounded by a land­scaped gar­den with pool and three acres of land lead­ing down to the river

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