A village home can be the perfect property choice - a tiny town with the country on the doorstep.
Torn between town and country? Want the support of local resources and the companionship of a community around you, but still yearn for wide open spaces and peace and quiet? We think there is a way to have it all.
Village properties have been growing in popularity over the past 5 or more years and for very good reasons. It’s possible to have a taste of everything a bigger town can offer and, while a village won’t have the range of shops and commerce of a town, it has other things going for it that might swing the balance.
Everything on the doorstep
Your lifestyle, your age and your health could all be factors in whether you choose village life over rural remoteness.
If you are in your 30s or 40s with young children you might want to be close to other families in a similar situation. And while the temptation might be to go for the country pad with a massive garden for games, many village properties have decent gardens and the countryside is always within easy reach so perhaps the need to own acres and acres goes away.
And, for those making a permanent move, attending the local school means children make local friends which leaves them free to meet up outside school under their own steam rather than relying on mum and dad’s taxi.
Similarly, if you don’t want to hop into the car every time a baguette beckons, then village life could be the way to go.
For some, health is an issue and being near a doctor or a pharmacy will give peace of mind. And as we all get older, there is comfort, convenience and, often, a helping hand nearby if you choose village life.
No matter what your level of French you’ll benefit from those little daily conversations with neighbours and shopkeepers. You soon get known in these close little village communities and the more you can chat with the people you see every day the more you will get out of the experience.
And there is nothing quite like getting it wrong to make something stick in your mind for ever and a day. You’ll be embarrassed, your neighbours will have a bit of a laugh with you and you’ll never forget the word again.
So, what is a village?
It’s a word that encompasses a whole range of places. Broadly, a French village has a population of between 500 and 2500. Not all of the people live in the heart of the village but will be in individual houses on the outskirts or in little hamlets nearby.
Some villages are just mini towns with thriving local shops, bars and restaurants that stay open year round. In others there might be just a bar, a bakery or even no commerce at all.
For most people a village with a bakery is a minimum requirement, but I’m going to put in a word here for those villages with no commerce at all. If you like the peaceful life at home, but you don’t mind driving 10 minutes or so to do the shopping or get a beer (with your designated driver) you might just find exactly the right property that has been overlooked by those determined to walk to a baguette. You’ll still find community, there will still be village events and neighbours and you’ll have widened your property choices.
If a true lock-up-and-leave property is on the wish list, head for a village. You’ll find properties with small gardens, courtyards and, often, no outside space at all. This all adds to lowering the cost of maintenance if you are away a lot. And with long country walks, riverside picnic spots and wide open spaces within a short distance of most places, who needs to spend their free time mowing the lawn?
Living around a village offers great opportunities to meet people, offer some of your time to support the community and develop a good local network.
Standing for the local election used to be a great way to get involved. Since the Brexit vote it is no longer possible for British people to stand but there are other options.
Volunteering for the local fete committee is a good one. Committees tend to meet every month or two and it’s very bonding to be part of the planning and execution of, say, the local flower show or the village Brocante. There’s usually a glass of wine during the meetings and the committee meet for celebratory meals a couple of times a year.
Villages often have sports clubs, too. Tennis and rugby are popular in south west France. Join up and make friends who enjoy similar interests.
Q: Are villages noisy?
A: Most people live a fairly quiet life in the French countryside. You don’t get much in the way of blaring music, parties or even people talking loudly in the streets. Of course, if you live near a popular bar there might be some noise in the evenings but the upside is that you’ll have a social life on the doorstep.
Q: What about traffic noise?
A: The level of traffic on most French roads is very low compared to the UK. Of course, if you live in or on the edge of a village, there will be movement of traffic. However, most roads are almost empty after 7pm so even in the busiest villages evenings will be calm.
Q: What about parking
A: It’s unlikely that a village property has its own parking but it’s rare to have trouble parking on the street or in the square of a village.
Q: Is there good public transport in France?
A: In the villages public transport is limited and you would really need your own car or motorbike to be able to get around easily. However, some villages do have good delivery services - ask at the mairie if there is a butcher, a baker or a general groceries van that visits.
Article appeared in French Property News, June 2020 edition
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