It's big, some might say too big but it's great for the kids, 16 acres in total. The pool is 10x5 metres in size with a Roman end (curved bit with steps). It is surrounded with a rendered wall on three sides and the outer walls of the courtyard on the other. There are gates at either end with a sliding lock and clip to keep little ones out when unattended. There are four olive trees which are illuminated once the sun departs for the night. Guests are invited to enjoy the salt pool. This does not mean salty like the sea but salty such that you don't need chlorine to keep it clean which can hurt your eyes and irritate your skin. We ask that you use it responsibly and respect the other guests who maybe sharing it with you.
The courtyard is surrounded by gorgeous Perigordine natural pierre apparent walls and a pigeonnier. Under the roof of the pigeonnier is a table and chairs where you can sit and while away the day whilst enjoying some locally produced vin in a responsible and health conscious kind of way or if you prefer by the bottle. In the centre of the courtyard is a raised pond with aquatics and goldfish, which I believe are closely related to the aforementioned rabbits as they have multiplied so fast.
Grassy bits are quite large and we have one patch we have kept mown for large groups, usually with kids who need regular exercising, to use as a baseball /rounders pitch. Positioned between the barn and the cottage there is also a full sized table-tennis table, where many a grudge match has been played on a final night.
Down by the river L'Isle there is another pub bench. This is a great spot to watch the river just flow by. We use it for picnics, supporting the local viticulture industry as the sun goes down, swimming and checking up on the local wildlife. Watching aquamarine kingfishers perform low level flying with their underbellies reflected in the water is great. Creeping up on water rats, who have to be the deafest, blindest creatures around is kind of fun. Marvelling at dragonflies making more dragonflies on the wing is incomprehensible but incredible to watch.
We have a wooded area of a couple of acres where you can go 'on a bear hunt`. Only adults with children will understand this last sentence. Here you will see or more likely hear woodpeckers doing what woodpeckers do. Hear cuckoos cuckooing and maybe see herons in flight, which look like aerial battleships to me.
We have created a child-friendly play area with a trampoline, a set of swings and cabin on stilts where you can bounce, swing and peek out from respectively.
After three years I have a potager with ten raised beds. Here, I try (certainly not always successfully) to grow a range of fruit and vegetables. Some things do fantastically one year and pants the next but that's gardening. I have never seen such marvellous aubergines as those I grasped in our first summer here compared to the stunted, poor excuse for an eggplant, I tried to rear in the UK.
Raised in our beds you will find courgettes a plenty, fabulous parsnips (rarely found in France due to an association with WWII I am told), potatoes, sweet corn which are so sweet and succulent it is almost criminal to cook them. We also grow hot chilli peppers, pumpkins and squash which make fantastic chips, a lovely base for stews and of course rich warming soup. I appreciate you are unlikely to want a hot warming soup when it's in the high 20's/30's outside but it's great come winter.
Red onions and garlic do as they please and are bountiful one year and meagre the next but taste how they should. This year we even had our first asparagus tips which were 'awesome man'.
On the fruit front we have strawberries both local and English, my grandma's raspberries and French ones too, which if I am being honest are far superior, but I am sure that is down to location. Black and redcurrants do well if the birds don't notice them first. And more blackberries than you can imagine.
Herbs we grow too. The list is long and varies on the season but includes rosemary, thyme, sage (purple and green), bay, oregano, coriander, fennel, parsley, horseradish, basil , mint and chives.
We have trees a plenty which give us plums, peaches, apples, cherries, figs, cobnuts, walnuts, quince and chestnuts. Also vines with grapes and kiwi fruit.
If we have some spare we offer these for sale at a very reasonable rate. Having kids lift the potatoes for their supper is a delight as is gorging on freshly picked raspberries.
We also make our own made preserves and these too we offer for sale as a perfect accompaniment to your morning baguette or croissant if you're feeling reckless.
Our eldest son has a penchant for chickens which he shares with his brother. The size of the flock varies due to the vagaries of life (historically, free range dogs and pine martens I am told) but consists of some of the maddest and most elegant looking birds you will ever set your eyes on. Frizzles look like the chicken equivalent of chevaliers in full garb, whilst silkies make me think fluffy small ostrich whilst the millefleurs are just technicoloured, feather footed dwarfs. Chickens do eggs. Some we eat, some we sell and some we pop in the incubator and make into baby balls of fluff which are just a little too cute for their own good.
My wife comes from a cultured background (work- wise, not rearing, I hasten to add) and it is thanks to her that our interiors are so lovely. Whilst here she has turned hand to the production of hand painted slate signs which make a lovely little souvenir to take home and remind you of your holiday.
On our arrival here there was really no formal garden to speak of, which was in part due to the abundance of our bunny 'friends'. The RHS does provide a list of rabbit resistant plants but unfortunately these Frenchie lapins don't have internet access. A friend and myself spent a very long, wet and miserable day excavating a 150 metre long trench in which we placed chicken wire to a depth of 40 cm and height of 70cm to fence off the an area from the outside. Unfortunately I believe we are still troubled by at least one intruder.
We have grown many things from seed, both for the table, the garden and sometimes both. I have a thing for bamboos and have raised a fair few from seed but the tough winter frosts have taken away too many to mention. It takes a while to suss out what will do and what is a waste of your time but ...
Each season we grow a selection of annuals to freshen the place up including cosmos, tihonia and the obligatory sunflowers. Also outside go the dahlias, agapanthus, cannas, and agaves from their winter hiding places, (the greenhouse, the barn lounge and the cottage kitchen).
In the 'wild' garden you can find four varieties of orchid along with a great range of trees : walnut, knarled sweet chestnut, ancient oak, hazel, poplar, wild cherry and many more.
In season you can pick blackberries to your hearts delight and if you are lucky you may find lovely edible puffballs, field mushrooms, and if you are really lucky a morel or even a cep or two.