Water perfect spot!
From coastal cottages to a peaceful riverfront watermill, Joanna Leggett takes a look at a choice handful of pretty waterside homes
To say that France has the best collection of waterside houses in the world is quite some claim but one I’m happy to make. This is because I have really been struck by both the quality and quantity of some of the properties and estates around for sale at the moment.
Delve a little deeper and you will find that many of them are next to a beautiful river or have their own lake within the grounds. This is good news as many international buyers dream of owning a waterside property.
Perhaps it’s to do with the thought of messing about on the river, or leaving behind the trials and tribulations of life in a big city to relax and fish your own lake. Or maybe it’s just the lure of enjoying an ap�ritif at the water’s edge while watching your children splash around in a scene straight out of Huckleberry Finn.
The house that started this thought process was introduced to me by Elizabeth Trunkfield, who is one of our agents in the Charente and a font of local knowledge.
It is to be found in the beautiful market town of Ch�teauneuf-sur-Charente, which is set midway between Angoul�me and Cognac. With six bedrooms and three bathrooms, it is a superb maison bourgeoise set on the banks of the river that Henry IV called the finest in his kingdom.
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Elizabeth tells me that the house is pretty special and is well priced at €699,600. Indeed, it is over 200 years old and was once owned by the famous Martell family.
It has a large, modern kitchen diner that leads straight out onto the terrace, which has seating for 12 people. The pretty 10x5m pool has Roman steps leading down to it and the formal gardens lead right down to the river. From here you can see where the old gabarres (flat-bottomed boats) used to load up their goods to transport.
The most famous cargo was of course the precious local cognac, which was transported down from the warehouses of the Charente to be loaded onto ships at the mouth of the river – from where it would be taken to destinations such as London or St Petersburg.
But gabarres carried lots of other produce, too, including salt and cannon; the river was the veritable motorway of its day, transporting all kinds of daily goods up and down its waters. Now, of course, it plays host to the odd boat coming downstream from Angoul�me and is ideal for swimming, canoeing and generally messing about on!
The second riverside property that looked a bit special was an old watermill and 1,000-year-old fort to renovate (yes, 1,000 years old so it has a huge amount of history thrown in with the price).
Set on a private island in the Vienne I will let agent David Tetlow describe the property: "This is a unique opportunity to acquire a true piece of history and would make an incredible home, hotel or g�te complex. Formerly a fort, with some sections dating back nearly 1,000 years, this fascinating property has walls over a metre thick, arrow holes, bread ovens, various terraces, ancient towers and sunken gardens overlooking the river and a magical riverside town.
"It truly is a house that dreams are made of. There are large rooms measuring up to 8x12m with arched windows overlooking the river, exposed stonework, massive oak beams and huge wooden floor boarding."
The owners are asking €519,400 and you would be buying the main house (on four levels), a second house, a separate tower and the old fort – all set in terraced gardens – a sunken garden and direct access to the river. The estate also has a further three hectares of land (with lake and stream) that are a couple of kilometres away.
Of course, you don’t need access to a river to be able to enjoy waterside living.
I was struck by a property in the Haute-Vienne. Richard Watts has been enjoying the French way of life for more than a decade now and knows a bargain when he sees one.
"My area makes up one of the largest and most picturesque departments in France. Extending across the northern Dordogne, forming part of the P�rigord-Limousin National Park, this is a region of unspoiled natural beauty split by fast-moving streams flowing into the rivers Dronne, Bandiat, C�le and Isle, a region which enjoys a rich cultural heritage, some of the most beautiful villages in the country and a warm P�rigordine welcome wherever you go."
Richard is marketing the estate, which is set down a pretty, winding lane in the heart of the national park, for €499,896. It has a large lake as well as river frontage in the grounds. The estate consists of a six-bedroom, stone house as well as attached guest suite and six further timber lodges.
The complex sits in over seven hectares of unspoilt woodland and is totally private. The lake spans three hectares and dates back to the early 1600s. It is well stocked with carp, trench, bream, black bass, perch and trout. There are two streams which run across the property, one of which is a category-A trout stream, and there is space for camping next to the lake. Clearly there is great potential to expand the existing business and to create something very special here.
Finally, I spotted a house in the C�tes d’Armor. It’s a picture-perfect two-bedroom cottage with woodland and lake in the heart of Brittany.
Beverley Smith is the agent here and she says that, due to the beautiful location that the cottage enjoys. It is good value at just €299,600.
Beverley describes it as a pretty country cottage in a stunning country setting complete with award-winning gardens, orchard, ponds, woodland and a lake – all set in over a hectare of land. If you need further space (there is currently 90m� of habitable area) there are two outbuildings that could be converted.
Of course, there are many other waterside properties located throughout France, from cottages like this one in Brittany to luxury villas 1,400km further south on the C�te d’Azur. Start your search online but make sure you have plenty of coffee to hand as some of them are sure to set you day-dreaming!
Joanna Leggett is marketing director of Leggett Immobilier.
Tel: 08700 11 51 51 (UK only)
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