I arrived in France in January 2013 having purchased La Chabanaise - a former farm just over a kilometre from the Dordogne river. It is based in the very south west tip of the Corrèze department of France, next to the Lot and Cantal and just a few miles from the Dordogne department. The area is rural, uncrowded, with beautiful countryside and stunning views. I live in a converted barn on the land and have recently restored the former farmhouse into two gites, with a total floorspace of around 250 square metres.
In addition the site has around five hectares of land in a small valley, made up of open pastures, woodland and two small streams. Guests are free to roam across most of the site, relax by the natural swimming pool (10m x 5m swimming area), or on their own private terrace. Equally you can spend time meeting the animals or discovering the wildlife.
Here at La Chabanaise I am the proud owners of two donkeys, nine hens, a cockerel, three cats and a hive of bees.
My two donkeys, Gaston and Julie, will often be seen on the land, munching their way through whatever they can find. If you're lucky, they may say hello when they see you approaching.
My hens (all called Deirdre) and cockerel (Christophe) enjoy an easy life here at La Chabanaise. They are free to wander where they like. The hens usually lay eggs all year round, and Christophe...well he just takes care of them all and looks handsome.
My three cats are Bobby (tabby and white), Pumpkin (black) and Sparky (ginger). They can be a little shy at first, but once they get to know you, may be persuaded to have a fuss.
I obtained my first beehive in the summer of 2014, and extracted the first honey last year - 8 kilogrammes in total - while being sure to leave enough for our bees over winter.
Flora and Fauna
The variety of flora and fauna at La Chabanaise is amazing – and I was used to the countryside when we lived in England.
I have a pair of swallows who visit every year, and set up home in the basement to raise their young (usually two broods a season) and I often put up a webcam to watch their progress. During the day you will see them flying in and out of the basement with food or sitting on a wire chatting away to each other. Once the young fledge, you may be treated to a flying show spectacle over the meadow. Occasionally previous broods come in and join the fun.
You may also be lucky enough to hear the beautiful song of the Golden Oriole, who usually arrives in early May for the duration of the summer. His melodic song is unmistakeable and for those with a pair of binoculars you may catch a glimpse of this shy bright yellow bird sitting in the treetops.
Other birds that can regularly be seen (according to the season) are buzzards, red kites, great spotted-, lesser spotted- and green woodpeckers, marsh tits, black redstarts, jays, booted eagles, firecrests, siskins, spotted flycatchers, robins....the list goes on!
If mammals are your thing, and you have some patience, then at dusk you may be fortunate enough to see roe deer, pine martens, foxes and badgers. The are regularly seen in the meadows and woodlands furthest from the house. If you approach quietly you can sometimes get a great view (and photo!).
Reptiles – we have the usual lizards (common and green lizards), frogs and newts as well as non-venomous grass and whip snakes. Nothing to be afraid of – in fact they are more frightened of you, than you are of them. The sound of your footsteps is enough for them to make a hasty retreat. To catch a glimpse, quietly find a sunny spot near some bushes – they do like sunbathing.
Insect-wise, well where do we start? A range of butterflies – swallowtails, meadow browns, purple emperors, large skippers, large blues, white admirals..... Other flying insects include dragonflies, scarlet tiger moths, damselflies, broad-bodied chasers...
Flowers – we have many throughout the year; orchids, wood anemone, lungwort, verbena, forget-me-not, scarlet pimpernel, cowslip...utterly breathtaking.
There is always something to see at La Chabanaise...nature at its finest.