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Retired automotive executive Sandra Hunter is a horse lover, but was previously hampered in her equine passion by work commitments and lack of facilities. A few years ago while thumbing through a horse magazine she found an ideal property, being sold at an affordable price in France! Within a week Sandra was in Normandy agreeing a price with the sellers. An equivalent property in the UK would have been double the price. Seeing the property in the magazine prompted her to take action. Within four months she had taken horses, dogs and furniture across the channel to establish their new home. Here’s how she managed to meet the locals, build and manages her farm.

Normandy Life

When I lived in Scotland I managed my horses across different locations, trekking across fields before and after work with hay and torch to care for them in the relentless driving wind and rain. Now in Normandy everything is under one roof and with paddocks wrapped around the property I can wander down to the stables or fields with ease. The area has a mild climate with ideal growing conditions for making hay, and with the long growing season the horses can be outside nearly all year. The only time they need to be inside for shelter is in Summer, to avoid the heat and flies.

Since moving to the farm I have begun to fully appreciate this landscape, it is restful, safe and perfect for animal rehabilitation. So now I rescue and rehabilitate dogs. They thrive with their new found freedom, good food and spring water, they learn to live in a house, socialise with other dogs and cats. When they recover mentally and physically they move to a new loving permanent home.

We are well connected to the UK not least because we have family and friends there, and logistically where we are we have convenient travel links. We’re one hour on the French Autoroute from three different ferry crossings and three airports. The Autoroute and train station at Villedieu let Poeles is a 10 minute drive away, where you can take a three hour train ride to Paris costing only 38 Euros. It’s a charming historic town remarkably untouched by war. It has a range of cafes and restaurants and as the name suggests manufactures copper pots and pans.

There are many beautiful properties in this area which compared to the UK are moderately priced.  A thriving tourist industry is fuelled by the beautiful and expansive beaches, Mont St Michel, the D-Day landing beaches and the many attractions for children and teenagers.  Negotiating the French roads is easy, they have a silk smooth surface with very little traffic so driving is a pleasure again far away from congested British roads.

Meeting the Neighbours

I didn’t speak any French when I first arrived in Normandy so it did feel a little like a sink or swim situation. To meet the neighbours we organised a Burns night at a local Salle de Ville, just a get together for our friends. We were surprised to find that from our guest list of 50 only four who came were British, so the Burn’s Night was a novelty. Amazingly I found a local French resident who played the bagpipes, or La Cornemuse as they are called in France.

What I miss most from home …

Living in our rural idyll we want for little, but we could near perfection if Normandy had a:

British pub lunch, informal dining, big comfortable chairs and roaring log fires

British supermarket, a place of convenience offering most domestic consumables, including a choice of world foods and fresh quick to assemble meals.

In Normandy the specialist shop is still thriving, the Patisseries, the Marchands de legumes, the Boulangeries, the Charcuteries, the Traiteurs et Poissonniers all selling high quality, fresh local produce which is marvellous for the passionate shopper and gastro chef. Slow food and long lunches are the way of life here and though authentic and enjoyable they are time consuming. The French are also patriotic in how they shop, eat and drink, so you will hardly ever see a foreign bottle of wine for sale locally and you’ll have to drive around a lot to find a crumb or two of Cheddar.

Housesitters help on the farm

Since settling in Normandy with my original three horses we have acquired another three, and bred Tab, a foal of Totilas’ the dressage champion, now waiting to be licenced as a Stallion in Germany. Moving to France enabled me to indulge my passion for horses and enjoy the stunning countryside.

However, property and animals are labour intensive and take a lot of energy. One day I fell upon a solution for finding affordable help – the idea of a resident house sitter who loves horses and dogs and wants to spend extended periods of time in France.

We regularly ask housesitters to come and enjoy the wonderful life we have here, the mild climate and all the delights this region has to offer while staying rent free in the recently renovated air conditioned Maisonette with hot tub, BBQ, alfresco dining area and wifi, in exchange for helping out with the horses and odd chores around the farm.  Some have stayed for a few months as a sabbatical, and others for longer.

Sandra lists her Housesitting requirements www.housesitmatch.com

 


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