Jamie & Ali’s special g
|Jamie and Ali Stickler moved to their farm in the Aveyron, in 2004. After years of major work on the property, their very special gîtes are now ready to rent. Here’s Jamie’s account of their life in France, the ethos behind the decoration of the gîtes, and their farm, which produces organic beef.|
Making the Move
We moved here in 2004 and made the move ourselves (e.g. all negotiations, arrangements, transport), based upon a desire for a step change for our family, to move away from some of the corporate and commercial aspects of our lives in the UK and to try and create something of greater value at a more human level.We happened upon La Singlarie by chance on a ‘free day’, having spent about a week with estate agents in the Lot, without finding what we were after. That is, a habitable house – we have two teenage children to keep dry – buildings with development potential and land for our own use.
The major work started in late 2005, with structural and major earthworks to un-bury some of the barn. After dealing with floating septic tanks (due to unplanned-for underground streams) and collapsing walls (due to over enthusiastic use of a JCB), we were left with a shell in which we have created the gîtes. The first gîte was finished in March 2007 – DIY on this scale takes time, and we have to ensure that the ongoing works are not intrusive to current guests. The second will be finished by mid August 2007, and a third in 2008.
La Singlarie provides our guests with a unique holiday, where the farm, its workings, produce, spectacular setting, the quality of the gite accommodation, the broad range of local activities and places of interest all combine to create a very special experience.
If our guests are interested, we welcome the opportunity to help them get to know the farm, involve them where it is sensible and safe to do so and help them explore the abundance of the natural surroundings.
Reaping the Rewards
So far, all feedback from guests has been positive. Visitors are first struck by our location, which is absolutely beautiful. We have terrific views across to the Aveyron and Najac. All of our guests have commented on the quality of the gîte, its design, which makes the most of the view, and its tranquility – it has a terrific atmosphere.
We’ve retained many of the original features of the barn; stone work, sand and lime pointing, massive oak beams, and carried this through into the new structures we have put in place. For example, with the addition of new rustic oak staircases and beams. The ambience is one of rest, and a blending with the natural surroundings.
About the Beef
We discussed the commercial potential of the land with a number of local farmers and concluded that the pasture we were buying was best used for grazing, and beef seemed a good choice. We have a mixed herd of Salers and Limousine cattle for which we try and maintain as natural an environment as possible, without insecticides or artificial fertilizers. We are currently in the process of achieving Agriculture Biologique (organic) status – a process that takes three years.
We sell the beef in 5 and 10kg mixed packs. My wife, Ali, undertakes most of the marketing, very successfully I must say. I tend to take care of managing the cattle.
Life in the Lot
We could write a book on the experiences of the last few years from suspected dog napping, carrot eating cows, the trials of making hay, encounters with wild boar (La Singlarie means path of the wild boar) and some of our more eccentric neighbours/friends – there is rarely a dull moment.
By Gemma Driver
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