This may seem really bizarre to most people but I quite fancy living in a barn but not renovating it. Thinking of only living in it for 4 months of the year April - end May, September to end October.

How do I stand with this - can I just do this?

Two French owned and built straw bale houses have recently gone up in our village.....

In principle dead right, but never compare with what locals get away with and it also depends on where and how long. Hereabouts I would give it roughly six months maximum, the commune immediately across the river about a week because the oh-so-righteous British people there and their glorious leader would tell the mayor!

Good point. Get ill or hurt and even if you are insured that will not cover you. So, there you go with the bills. I have had them but with full cover and for just an ambulance call out... No proper, permanent address simply means nothing covers you. Since the barn has to be insured to live in it once it is up to standard to insure, that also stands in your way. Ian, you have opened a hornets' nest there, which is to be expected give that lots of things here carry a sting.

I'm with Mike. Don't ask for permission & force somebody to make a decision, just do it. It's not like you will be spending a bundle "doing up" the place so if "they" eventually say "No" you can plead insanitary, which you will be by this time, & move on ;-) For what it's worth we have a bloke around here who was kicked out by his missus & has been dossing in an old wreck of a barn for yonks & everyone knows he's there. Are you planning on buying or "renting"?

There are all kinds of 'caravans', 'mobile homes' and the like, the problem is that under French law, living permanently in them is illegal! To complicate the issue, they are 'TOLERATED' - good French word which means almost nothing!

Health and Social issues are a can't sign on with a doctor, can't send kids to school etc, etc.

Question also of whether the 'barn' with or without caravan etc is on 'terrain constructible' in other words land where buildind permission has been granted. (Town hall applications)

Loads of them here too in SW France where it is drier and warmer.

When you buy the paper work with the notary will say what you intend to do with it. If you intend to buy and not convert then you are not supposed to live in it. I asked my friend after writing the long bit when he stopped for a coffee. If you are nabbed then the mairie will probably never give you permission to convert just to show you... He also believes that unless you are careful, even on your own property you can be considered to be squatting. That is a crime in France, known as 'house kidnapping'. Unless you have permission to reside you are occupying illegally and can be forcibly removed. To have permission you need a mountain of paperwork completed and installations as described earlier.

Have a few bevvies and doss down for a night or two perhaps, but a protracted length of time puts it all at risk (plus the fine I imagine would come in the package).

Trouble is that lots of these things are made in the UK for UK audiences Vivien. They are just out of the question here. The rules and regulations are a real pain in the nether regions. But then there are things like Mark Sampson's straw house - he is an SFN member - and people building yurts/gers - Alex Crowe and his wife have a place with a number of them, he is an SFN member too. I have been lucky to 'live in' a bit of a mix from Hebridean a black house, to Andean stone huts, Amazonian forest long houses, a castle and many more. Goes with the job.

I guess you meant to say "re-enact" - unless you intend to do some horsing around?

You will probably get away with this for quite a while, so long as you are not too eccentric in your behavior or appearance. Saying a pleasant "Bonjour" to everyone and looking pleased to see them will go a long way towards integrating into the community, even if your French isn't very good. But I think it might be a mistake to actually apply for permission. This would result in someone having to make a decision, endless meetings and discussions and someone having to carry the can if they get it wrong. With luck, you will find a place where there isn't a local busybody looking for an opportunity to make trouble, but it would make sense to look for somewhere where you are not easily visible from a public road.

Good luck with your adventure.......!

I can recommend borrowing "The Vernacular Architecture of Brittany" by Gwyn Meirion -Jones, ( which will explain quite a lot about evolution of house design, at least in Brittany, and how the medieval house worked. Our house is late medieval (1533) and we have tried to change it as little as possible. It has worked as a holiday home for 20 years once we organised a bathroom (unfortunately we can't find the well we must have had originally) but at New Year no-one strayed far from the open fire. Now I want to live there permanently and must do more about insulation and heating.

I think your experiment would be fun, but I don't know anything about the legal aspects. It is interesting to see what you do and don't need to live comfortably. Personally I'm always rather attracted to the reconstructions of Iron Age huts. Kevin McCloud's Man Made Home TV series might also interest you. About living off grid, in a home made shed, and some episodes are still available on line.

I certainly wouldn't like living alone with my beloved after I'd just referred to her as "Wife" and "Wench"! Even a barn wouldn't be big enough after that!

Good luck Mike

You visited the Bayleaf Wealden hall. I know it well. In fact, I was once married to a former trustee of the Weald & Down Museum. The difference between that and a barn here in France is that it is a great hall is made up of service rooms such as a buttery, which was the store room, the pantry where food was kept and at the other end by partitioned rooms for the owner and his family - the great hall, the 'bedroom' and the privy. The fireplace was a centrepiece (not exactly at the centre) that was quite large and probably moved every now and again. Cooking was done in a separate building to minimise the risk of burning the hall down. It is not exactly medieval since Bayleaf is considered to be 15 century which is the end of the medieval period.

Anyway, for living in before it was twiddled about with it would originally have had a thatched roof which insulates very well, but once tiles replaced that they would not have been the kind you may find in a barn here but rather more 'spacy' so that smoke escaped but heat was held in and to an extent retained. The structure is made up of a lot of wood with wattle and daub between. Very good for retaining warmth, then shuttered windows and a heavy but relatively small main door that would also keep the wind out.

Problem with France is that this kind of barn is as rare as hen's teeth. There are a few but most late medieval and early modern barns and halls are long since gone. The majority have always been stone built. Stone structures are very porous, so the wind howls through them, they are damp much of the time and rarely offer much comfort. Modern brick, wooden shuttering and metal/asbestos structures are for such things as tobacco drying, cattle food storage and keeping livestock dry and warm in the most extreme weather. They are not built like a great hall. You soon find out why a great big barn costs sod all then the conversion breaks back and bank. We set out originally to do a conversion but as soon as I began to look at structures my enthusiasm waned very fast. Our idea of making some basic amendments and then being able to live in the 'compartments' proved not to be a clever idea. We also found that there was no earthly chance of being warm in winter no matter how the place was heated and in a lot of the barns it seemed like trying to stay cool in summer was never going to be. The tiles get hot in the sun and warm them up incredibly. So we changed and bought a house instead. Just as well, but that is another story.

As for living in it. Just a few hundred metres from us there are two conversions going on. One is a man alone, early retired whose wife has now kicked him out so that he needs to have the conversion he has been slowly working on over the last 20 years or so ready for next winter. A few hundred metres on a family have bought a barn recently and are working on it. In the former case the man is staying at a nearby gîte and in the latter the family have set up a tent. We know both and now realise our plan would have been nigh on impossible. The people are not allowed to live in the barns until properly installed sanitation and drainage is in place, the construction and standard of living space is up to a particular standard and then they can move in and complete work around themselves. Your problem then is that if you buy a barn that is being sold for conversion to residential use then you are bound by those rules and if nabbed are in trouble and if it is for agricultural use then you are not at all supposed to kip down in it. OK, you'll get away with the odd day perhaps but just remember the risk of being seen. You will not know who has it in for foreigners, they do exist, or who is on the local council and is an absolute jobsworth. The risk is always there.

Then there is Vic's idea. In the next hamlet, well just above it anyway, there is a barn with a caravan in it. It is a very large one at that. The family arrive a couple of times year and spend a few weeks but even despite having packed the caravan with insulation under around and over it is too cold after about October until April. For some reason that is quite legit. They have it on mains water, have sanitation as per a camping site plus electricity connection with exterior meter. Up goes the inflatable pool when they arrive and Bob's your uncle.

I do exactly know your point and love the great hall notion too. It was part of our plan, with a really huge great wood burner rather than a fire of course but with the one large main hall open up into the roof as Bayleaf. It just does not work here for too many reasons. Best of luck with the idea anyway and, as Vic says, keep us updated.

I think it sounds like fun! For a bit anyway... :)

Good luck with that one then! I couldn't think of many things worse than that. At my age I like my mod cons. Do let us know how you get on & where you finally find your barn. Plenty of old barns in my neck of the woods.

Get a cheapo caravan & stick it in the barn. Tell everybody it's only being stored there. Live in the caravan. Job done! unless of course you want to sleep rough, but then again, if you are, why are you asking? :-)