What's it like living in the Creuse?

(Paul Lewis) #1

Hello all.

We moved to France last year and bought a house and land in the Charente a few kilometres from Verteuil sur Charente. Unfortunately things haven't really worked out as planned and we have decided that we are going to sell up, once we have finished renovating the house. We realise it may take some time to sell, but we have savings to tide us over and may even head back to the UK for a few months.

We both love living in France, but we feel that the Charente is not the right department for us. Where we are located is just a little too busy and the landscape is a little bland and heavily agricultural. It has also been severely hot and baked here in the Charente this summer, so maybe for us and what we want to do, living at altitude will help moderate the temperature.

In hindsight, the Haute Charente/Haute Vienne is much closer to the type of landscape we love.

We spent a couple of years researching our move to France and looked at properties in the Dordogne, Haute Vienne, Vienne and Charente. We were staying with family in the UK at the time and felt that they needed their space back, so having looked at around 50 properties we chose the one we now have, under some pressure, I may add. We have now realised we made a mistake and need to move on.

We are starting our research early and looking at other places in France. My partner wasn't too keen on the Dordogne (although I liked the northern part of it). We both liked the Haute Vienne, but couldn't find the right property/land combination.

One area we didn't check out was the Creuse. However, we have met several Brits who have really recommended it and said it is beautiful and quiet. We have lived in some very quiet and remote places in Wales and Scotland, so isolation doesn't concern us. We would just like to get people's thoughts on living in this quiet part of France. What is the climate like? The locals? We have also read that the area is popular for Green tourism?

One thing for sure is that we have been on a massive learning curve during our ten months in France! It really is very different living in a place to just visiting for a few days!!

We are planning a visit to the Creuse in the autumn to check it out for ourselves.

We would appreciate people's thoughts?

Paul and Jackie

(Peter Bird) #2

Some parts are nice but the weather is a lot different to Verteuil ! It gets cold over there so be prepared for some cold weather.

I like the area around Millevaches where you will also find a ski station.

Not my cup of tea but there are some nice parts of the department.

Best thing would be to spend a few days driving around to get the best idea.

(John Brian) #3

You can get a good idea of the department by having a couple of day trips out from your present location. Personally I found the area to the north of Aubusson to be delightful but the town itself was a disappointment.

(Paul Lewis) #4

Update: We have nearly finished our renovation of our property near Verteuil in the Charente. The surroundings of the house have been landscaped and we are busy planting up the garden. On the inside our builder has a few small jobs to complete and we have decoration to do which we will complete over the winter and into the spring. The house will then go on the market in time for the around April 2016. We are planning to have a short break in early November to have a few days away from the house and we are planning to visit the Creuse as a possible destination to move to once we sell our house in the Charente. Neither of us have been to the Creuse before but have been recommended to check it out. We both love green countryside and dramatic topography with big hills, winding roads, rivers and lakes and lots of woodland. We like the landscape of the Haute Vienne and imagine that the Creuse is similar but on a bigger scale. Can people recommend places/areas worth visiting in a long weekend trip. We were thinking of checking out the following areas:- Crozant and Fresselines; Gueret area; Bourganeuf area; Aubusson area; Also we would like to check out the area around Lake Vassiviere in the south. Any suggestions?

(Shirley Morgan) #5

Paul&Jackie, bland and agricultural is exactly what the Sarthe is like, or what I’ve seen of it in 21 months now. the towns feel empty because they probably are. August is the month of annual French ‘vacance’ well certainly for the beurocrats and their families! probably off to visit relatives elsewhere :slight_smile: as for the restaurants being closed, that does surprise me, so don’t know why, but yes generally the attitude of the lady in the one you did go in, doesn’t, they can be lovely the French, or some not so. another 10 days or so, schools will start again, businesses will reopen and then the towns & villages will start to come back to life, don’t forget that many will close at 12noon for their 2 hour lunch break! now it’s time for bed in 10 mins, but do keep us posted on your travels and searches! Bon journee!
in my 2nd reply, I like the wildlife in moderation, what I really meant was it was the thought of isolation, I live alone, pretty much like you I made a too hasty decision when I moved up here, at persuasion of In-laws, for health and support reasons. The health is getting sorted but the support wasn’t eventually. I do need people around me for a social type of life and a few local amenities. I don’t have a car now, so hence why I’ve not seen much of the Sarthe. I’ve heard the Loire Valley my region, is beautiful with its rivers and chateaux, and warmer even in the south of the dept., but I’ve not had the opportunity to see any if it.

(John Brian) #6

The Poitou Charentes countryside is nothing like the Sarthe. I went on a trip around the Creuse today, visiting a couple of brocantes with my neighbour. It’s pretty countryside but the towns have an empty feel about them even in August. Friendly people though. We stopped in a restaurant for lunch and had the fixed menu with a couple of drinks and one coffee. We chatted a bit with the owner when the masses who had ordered before us left and she talked a bit about the good and the bad of the area. When I came to pay I pointed out that she hadn’t charged us for our drinks. They were a present she informed me. With generosity like that around, who wouldn’t want to live there?
PS There were masses in the restaurant we ate in as we passed one closed restaurant after another, the one we ended up in was the only one we found open. That was a bit depressing.

(Shirley Morgan) #7

isolation, wildlife - visit the Grand Causses! pretty much all it consists of! too much of both for me. several years ago I bought a beautiful book called Journey through France, published by the AA. and they say, takes you to all corners of this diverse country, visiting both well known tourist locations and hidden gems, at every location you can enjoy a tour by car, on foot or even by canal!
might be worth a look at it!

they have a website: www.theaa.co.uk

(Shirley Morgan) #8

hi Paul, have you considered the Herault (dept 34) or the Aude Dept 11.’ in the Languedoc Roussillon. I used to live 400 metres up in the mountains, 50 Kim’s N of Beziers, where we had the expansive views, I hrs drive from Med , 1.5 hrs approx from Carcassonne Perpignan, Montpellier airports - all had one or other low cost budget airlines flying to them, Beziers also at only 40 mins, plus access to A9/A7 minSpain a couple of hours away, the A75/A71 a N/S motorway, passing over the Millau Bridge… easy Look at the Map and the worlds your Oyster, with the Pyrenees to the West, Spain/Andorra to the SW, Cote dd’Azur and Italy to the E. the winds from the Pyrenees can make it cold in Winter, but also the local mountains giving some shade and protection from the Mediterranean climate, so a bit cooler sometimes. this summer I believe has been exceptionally hot in most areas.

I am now farther North, in the Sarthe (72) but like your part, its very agricultural flat and uninspiring, I’d love to move more south than here, perhaps the Tarn. wish you well in your search! try a 1 month rental somewhere if you can, to give yourselves time to explore!

(Paul Lewis) #9

Believe me though Simon, there are quiet spots where you won't see another soul for days on end in the depths of Wales and Scotland...I know as I have lived in these places!! The area of the Charente we live in is over run by comparison! I have also read that the Creuse is popular for Green eco tourism, which is what we are into.

(Martin Cooper) #10

Hello Paul.

No issues. You can hear sometimes the guns going off in the distance. Never see anyone going onto our land.

Only issue we had was when two stray hunting dogs appeared lost on our property, one night. We got the telephone number from the collar and the owner came grateful the next morning. (We tied them up, gave them a blanket and some food) Apart from that, no other issues.

(Paul Lewis) #11

Very much so..We love isolation! There are always visitors to relieve the isolation. Just us and the wildlife, that's what we are after!

(Martin Cooper) #12

Hello Paul, totally agree with the way Andrew has summed up the area of Creuse. That’s why I love it so much. Been isolated is wonderful if you are in the right mental state to be in. :slight_smile:

(Peter Bird) #13

Andrew is spot on with his Creuse opinions. Beautiful area all the same.

Another nice spot is between Limoges and St Yriex de Perche, nice rolling countryside etc however the prices are a bit higher due to it being a Limoges satellite area probably. Nice area though with Limoges on the doorstep but lacking that St Junien sized town with all the services. St Yriex has it's good points but I know someone who moved out of town due to problems with kids etc in the town centre.

(Shaun Clark) #14

Yes we get the jets over the house too but not too often. The odd one here and there maybe 3 times a year.

The winter I arrived it dropped down to about -20 and I have heard it was colder before when trees near me started snapping in the ice.

(Simon Roxburgh) #15

there are no quiet places in the uk there are all ways tourists wandering around,the least populated county in england is full of visitors all year round. northumberland is twice the size of creuse and has half the population. but then few tourists visit the region as it is of the beaten track and about 400km from paris.

(Bruce Brewer) #16

Of interest.... http://www.lepopulaire.fr/limousin/actualite/departement/haute-vienne/2015/07/31/a-la-frontiere-de-la-creuse-le-viaduc-bar-alimente-la-vie-du-petit-village-de-folles_11537131.html

(Paul Lewis) #17

Hi John.

We are not confused whatsoever. When we bought the house we were in a situation where we had been living with family in the UK and needed to let them have their space back. We had looked at loads of houses and this one seemed to tick most of the boxes. It was our third property viewing visit to France and felt we needed to choose somewhere. We took a punt based on a couple of visits and a week spent in the local area. However it is very different living in a place to visiting it for a week. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. With hindsight we should have rented out here before buying!

The house does have a lot going for it! It is a nice looking property and we are improving and modernising it. It has plenty going for it but it is not for us. Plenty of people move to France then move again.

For us the deal breaker is that the house is at the side of the D26. We had no understanding of the nature of this road or the fact the traffic is quite frequent. Our mistake! We should not have believed the agent and should have done more research. We will not make this mistake again, believe me!!

For many people this won't be an issue as guests and visitors have said the level of traffic is fine. But for us it is not. We are in our late forties and do not wish this to be our forever home based on 10 months of living at this location. We would like a property in a secluded location (off the beaten track) and we are hopeful we will sell this one and move on. Maybe in a year,hopefully less.

I don't think our approach is unconventional...we just made a mistake!

Regarding the landscape of the part of the Charente where we are located. The beauty is in the detail and there are some lovely spots. But overall (for us) it is a bit bland. Too flat, too soft and too large scale arable farming. It is only our opinion formed after living and exploring the area for ten months. We just happen to prefer the landscape as you head further west towards the Haute Vienne and Limoges.

(John Brian) #18

I can’t help but wish you good luck but I think you are still a bit confused. You bought your dream home, after looking at over 40 properties, in bland surroundings, or did you?
'It is a very attractive house and has a barn, a separate bread oven, entrance driveway, two wells and a beautiful meadow with a mature orchard area. The house has wide ranging views across the Charente countryside. There is a lot going for it (that is why we bought it!!)'
You have opted to take the risky option of pouring money into a renovation in the hope that it will sell and also at a price that will cover your costs. That seems to be a fairly optimistic point of view. You are taking one hot, dry summer as the norm. Perhaps you would prefer the summer to be like yesterday’s 17 degrees or today’s rain. I doubt your paying guests would agree.
I hope you keep the forum updated as to your progress as it will be very interesting to see if your unconventional approach bears fruit.
As I said before, good luck.

(Deleted 2) #19

I'm Creuse borders too, in the south Indre. I cycle often across the border as the Creuse is my playground. It is beautiful, it has to be said. Hills, valleys, green. I remember when we first were looking around that the Charente was really not to my liking, and I much preferred the Creuse. I love the blend of agriculture and trees, there's a natural tranquillity.

Downside (and it may not be for you), it is isolated. The word 'backwater' was used and is very true. The region is the butt of some French jokes because of it. Also touched on, winters can be harsh (ish) and lonely. Nothing much happens as people basically close the shutters and wait for spring to arrive. That said, some of my favourite bike rides have been on such days, a kind of Hobbit-ville feel with misty mornings, stone houses, smoking chimneys and green valleys. If your of a depressive state of mind though then maybe the Creuse is not the best place to be!

(Peter Bird) #20

The climate changes around the Confolens area with the Limousin influences coming into play. The further east you travel the more harsh the winters in my experience. St Junien is on that limit along with Bellac. Limoges is a slightly different climate with the eastern Hte Vienne around Bugéat quite wintry compared to here. There are ski slopes in the area which gives an indication. I like the eastern Hte vienne and the Creuse but the weather is less hospitable so allow for higher heating bills etc. I lived in the Verteuil area for about twenty years and the climate is not the same as St Junien for example.

Broadly speaking the Poitou Charentes is more temperate with Atlantic influences and the Limousin is more Massif central influences. St Junien is on the 'border' so has a mixture of both so the winters are a bit kinder and the summers less steamy.

Properties in the eastern Charente and western Hte Vienne are still relatively low but maybe not as low as the Creuse, I don't know I haven't looked. St Junien is great for shopping etc and within easy reach of the outlying villages, a bit like Ruffec being quite handy for Verteuil etc.

I'm looking to downsize but woud still like to remain in this area though maybe it's time for a change..