Our Grand Design in Montemboeuf, Charente, France


One step closer – un pas de plus

Our most recent trip to the Charente started in Montemboeuf so that we could visit our plot.  This was the first time that we were able to stand there and say, ‘this is ours’!  It was quite a good feeling and very exciting to know that we had got this far.  We were there to take a survey of the land and measure the changes in levels, as well as plot where all the trees were and make a note of what species there were.  It was great to see the land looking in great condition,  maybe that has something to do with the sheep – and as we found out later from the man himself, a local farmer, who has been keeping and eye on things, cutting back the verges and stacking wood for us!  Very kind of him, especially when all we are doing is letting his 4 sheep graze the land!  It seems like a win win situation!

We have a lot of fruit trees on the land

We have a lot of fruit trees on the land

The trees were laden with fruit while we there it was a shame we couldn’t take it with us.  In the hope that not all of it goes to waste we told the owners of our friendly B&B to help themselves.  We worked out that we have apples, quince and hazelnut trees – wonderful!

After our flying visit to Montemboeuf, it was off to Confolens to meet the regional architect and the local planner to discuss our designs.  One of our biggest fears was that they would ask us to site the building nearer the road which would mean cutting down some of those amazing trees.  Our fears were completely allayed when the architect asked us if we planned to keep the trees.  When we told him that we did and that the plan was to site the building further down the hill, he was very pleased!

The meeting could not have gone better, they liked all of our plans and designs and the only comment the architect made was that we should use natural wood if we decide to clad in timber.  The architect is going to write us a letter of recommendation to go with our planning application!  Fantastic news.  Although, next step will be to write that application and send it to the Mairie in Montemboeuf.  Luckily the planner has offered to help us if we need it.  The architect also recommended that we make contact with a group called Futurobois.  They are a professional association of timber companies in the Poitou-Charentes region.  They include firms that deal in everything wood from logging, to architects, to mills, coopers, carpenters, etc – a very important group of people to know if we do decide on a timber construction.

Plans and elevations

Plans and elevations

Our next stop was to meet some builders.  Tom had set up a meeting with a local company called Bati Paille-Constructions.  These guys are specialised carpenters who build low ecological housing and build with passivehaus consumption principles – and they are 30 minutes drive away!  We were both really impressed by their design and knowledge and clearly a lot of other people are as well because they are busy until September 2014!  We are also impressed by their time scales – the house would be pre-fabricated in their factory which takes about 6 weeks.  It then takes them about 2 weeks to put the building up and make it watertight!

 Tom plans to send our designs to them so that we can get a quote…..so quite a lot to be getting on with before our next trip!


New designs to take to the French planners

Apologies that things have been a little quiet on here of late, but this is because Tom and I (well mainly Tom) have been working hard on our new designs.  We are off to France soon for the Medoc Marathon and we have managed to book a meeting with the planners in Confolens on 5th September to show them our ideas before we submit our formal planning application.  The idea behind this is that they will make their comments there and then and if there are changes then we can make them before we submit in the hope they will grant planning permission with no delays or changes….nous souhaitons!

Garden perspective

Garden perspective

The new design is similar to the old with the idea of a living space at one end and sleeping at the other, but it now has more of a barn style feel.  It also takes away the flat roof in the living end of the house and now incorporates a double height space – something Tom has always been keen on.  We have also included a covered outdoor area which has easy access from the living end of the house.  Tom has also found a building company close by that specialises in ‘green architecture’ and can also make pre-fabricated straw bale walls!  This is something that we are both interested in so I think we will be paying a visit to their factory as well.

We have also asked my brother-in-law, Al, a talented young Landscape Architect to draw up some plans for our garden.  He has come back with some initial ideas which we are very excited by.  These designs will appear here and on our design pages soon.

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Planners and runners

Our designs are moving on a bit and we will be adding them to the Design page soon.  In the meantime Tom has contacted the planners to arrange another meeting.  So far the fabled ‘French bureaucratic system’ has not caused us any problems.  It has all be quick and efficient.  Maybe it is just that, a fable, then again we have all seen Grand Designs…..On which note we watched a bit of a classic Grand Designs abroad the other night all about a couple who were planning to build a timber framed house in The Lot.  Our design we will very different from this, but it is still interesting to see. Anyway, we will be updating these pages shortly with more news on the planners and our designs.

A marathon through the Bordeaux vineyards?

A marathon through the Bordeaux vineyards?

On another note, we have booked our next trip to France for September. We will be combining this with the marathon du Medoc.  A crazy marathon through the vineyards of Bordeaux, where a bit of dégustation on the way round! And you ask why people love France….!