A three-bedroom gîte in SW France

 

THE OLD SHEEP BARN
Hors des Brumes

An individual stone and oak-beamed traditional barn in a very tranquil setting at the end of a single-track road. A wing of the last house in a hamlet of five houses, just below the summit of a 1000ft hill with twenty-mile views from the south-west facing pool and balcony down wooded valleys. Early risers see the beautiful mists down in the river valley (the house is called hors des brumes – out of the mists – because we are usually in the sunshine above).
Sunsets are a joy, especially seen with a drink on the balcony, or during an al fresco meal. In summer, most meals can be taken outside, and it’s worth lingering after the stars have come out (to perhaps watch for shooting stars).

Accommodation
The main entrance is from the front into a 12m x 7m room with a 6m high vaulted roof with exposed roof timbers and beams. Most of this room is the living area with original oak plank floor and walls rendered in lime with exposed stone. It is comfortably furnished in the brocante style (and was once mistaken for an antiques shop).

The back third of this room provides the kitchen and dining area with an oak dining table seating six. The kitchen has a gas cooker, dish washer, American fridge/freezer, and washing machine. The living area has a large wood burning stove, which provides cosy evenings during Spring & Autumn, WiFi, satellite television, a UK video and DVD player, a music centre, and a small library of videos, DVDs, CDs and books.

French windows lead from the dining area onto a 7m x 3m wooden balcony with unrivalled and spectacular views along the Aveyron valley to the white cliffs of St Antonin (20 miles away). There are a table and chairs for a shady breakfast and later outside meals in the sunshine or moonlight.

From the living area an oak and chestnut staircase leads downstairs to three cool double bedrooms.
Bedroom 1: a kingsize double bed and an en-suite bathroom with both a bath and a large separate shower. A door opens under the balcony into the garden.
Bedroom 2: two single beds and an en-suite with a bath.
Bedroom 3: two single beds and an en-suite with a shower.
Another door from the downstairs hall leads out to the gravel garden and covered shady terrace where there are a gas barbecue, fridge, a large oak table and a Mexican wood-burning stove. Also comfortable chairs for lounging in this very cool and shady area.

Gardens and Pool
There are sixteen acres of field and woods with oak and chestnut trees and a long line of fruit trees (cherry, plum, damson, greengage, walnut, quince and fig, which you are welcome to pick in season). About an acre has been enclosed as a play area with mown grass and a pond. Wildflowers are abundant in Spring, especially cowslips. You can take longer woodland walks if you have the energy. We are close to a GR de Pays (long distance walking path). Detailed walking information, maps and guide books are available.

A separate, mature garden with a fence surrounds the pool, set in a natural suntrap with breathtaking views. The heated pool is 10m x 4.5m and 1.8m at its deepest point (in the middle) but 1m deep around the sides. There is an alarm and, for ease of access, roman steps at one end. There are sunbeds, parasols, benches, pool and garden toys, a solar shower and a summerhouse. Next to the pool is a giant outdoor chess set.

Adventure Playground
Now that we have grandchildren Peter is creating a play area for children and adults who are young at heart. He has completed a pirate boat and chateau fort with battlements, canon & decorated interior. Swing, climbing ladder & rope. We have collected many accessories and costumes to get everyone in character.

The Area
It’s a fifteen minute drive through hills and woods down the Viaur valley to Laguepie. It’s rare to see another car on the way there. Although once described in a guide book as ‘charmingly down-at-heel’ this is a pretty little town with a ruined chateau overlooking the confluence of the two rivers, Viaur and Aveyron. The town has one hotel, three restaurants, two bars, two small supermarkets, a baker, a butcher, a hairdresser, an ironmonger, a papershop, and a church. There are markets on Tuesdays or Wednesdays. People swim in the river and also kayak here.

Fifteen minutes away in the other direction Mirandol has a similar collection of shops with a bank with a hole-in-the-wall, a petrol station. Both these towns have small tourist offices (one for the Tarn, the other for Tarn-et-Garonne). Bigger supermarkets are available in Carmaux, Albi, Villefranche or La Fouillade. There are many restaurants tucked away in the local countryside, details can be found in our house book.

The Wildlife
You will probably see wild deer and hares, and possibly wild boar, pine martens or otters, as well as red squirrels. There are buzzards circling and kestrels hovering overhead, and other birds of prey including peregrine falcons, kites, and hen harriers. Eagles and a type of vulture have been seen. Herons and kingfishers are by the rivers and other smaller birds include black redstarts, who nest in our porch, swallows who fly into the barn if you leave the door open, robins, wrens, nuthatches, tits, hoopoes, hawfinches, rock buntings, stonechats and golden oreoles. There are four kinds of woodpecker.

Background music on summer evenings is provided by crickets, frogs, and midwife toads (who go ‘peep peep’). Bats zigzag by at dusk and sleep behind the shutters during the day. The hooting of owls or the singing of nightingales may send you to sleep at night. When we bought the house we asked the seller if there were mice. He said, “No…the snake eats them”. So you may occasionally see a harmless grass snake basking in the sun (as you may anywhere in this part of France). Lizards, including the large green ones, are everywhere, and black and yellow salamanders appear at dusk after any rain.