Busi­ness of the month

In Bel­lac, an­cient cap­i­tal of Haute-vi­enne, dis­cov­ers a pair of Tolkienesque gîtes re­stored by a build­ing con­ser­va­tion­ist who pre­vi­ously worked on the Tower of Lon­don

French Property News - - Contents - legget­tfrance.com

A pair of me­dieval gîtes in Haute-vi­enne fit for Bilbo and Gan­dalf

If Bilbo Bag­gins ever moves to Bel­lac, he is bound to buy this beau­ti­ful me­dieval house above the banks of the River Vin­cou… un­less you beat him to it. An al­lur­ing mix of stone, brick and tim­ber with a jet­tied up­per storey and a wine cel­lar hewn out of gran­ite, it’s straight out of Tolkien’s imag­in­ings.

That was Michael and Mary Chap­man’s im­pres­sion too when they bought the 15th­cen­tury build­ing in 2005 and set about turn­ing it into a pair of gîtes called Hob­bit and Gan­dalf. To­day their busi­ness at­tracts guests from all over the world.

With an ever-in­creas­ing turnover in the past three years, ris­ing to €18,900 in 2017, the busi­ness is ob­vi­ously tick­ing the boxes for vis­i­tors, who seem to ap­pre­ci­ate the mix­ture of modern com­forts and orig­i­nal features.

How­ever, things were not quite so rosy back in 2005. “It was on the verge of col­lapse,” laughs Michael. “There were large cracks, rot­ten beams, holes in the roof – a lot of struc­tural work had to be done.”

Such projects would be be­yond most buy­ers, but for­tu­nately Michael is a build­ing con­ser­va­tion­ist with a track record of work­ing for English Her­itage and the Na­tional Trust. Hav­ing helped re­store the stonework of the Tower of Lon­don, St Paul’s Cathe­dral and Bath Abbey, he was more than ca­pa­ble of tak­ing on one of the old­est build­ings in Haute-vi­enne’s an­cient cap­i­tal.

Work­ing with his nephew, Michael has cre­ated the Hob­bit and Gan­dalf gîtes, each with four bed­rooms, two bath­rooms, a wine cel­lar and a ter­race over­look­ing the Vin­cou val­ley at the back and the church at the front.

Bilbo, he imag­ines, would want to live in the slightly smaller dwelling on the left, with its wonky oak spi­ral stair­case, lime­stone fire­place and in­glenook cooker.

Gan­dalf, he sus­pects, would plump for the slightly larger, grander dwelling on the right, which was “mod­ernised in the 17th cen­tury”. No doubt he would feel at home with the wat­tle and daub walls, smart floor tiles and oak panelling, not to men­tion Michael’s cast of a lion in plas­ter and stone dust above the sit­ting room fire­place. He would surely also ap­pre­ci­ate the wiz­ardry of high-speed in­ter­net and the modern wood­burner, which has an ef­fi­cient heat-trans­fer flue to the rooms above.

Not quite Mid­dle Earth, Bel­lac is about half­way down France and over to the west, about 45 min­utes north of Li­mo­ges with its air­port and TGV links to Paris.

The city of Poitiers, also with high-speed rail links, is 80 min­utes to the north-west.

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