British couple 'sick of traffic' buy Grand Designs' French château for half the price of their Kent home
A British couple decided to sell their home in Kent and buy a French château after they became “sick” of the traffic outside their English home.
Heidi and Anthony Muir say they grew increasingly annoyed with the constant queues of cars blocking the roads near their home every weekend.
They decided to sell their four-bedroom home in the village of Allington, near Maidstone, for £600,000 and instead purchased a château and its surrounding grounds for £370,000.
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The nine-bedroom estate in central France served as a French Resistance headquarters during World War Two and had featured three times on the Channel 4 show Grand Designs before they bought it.
Heidi, 55, and her 53-year-old husband Anthony have also taken on the running of the bed and breakfast business at the late 19th-century château, called Chez Jallot.
“It was always a bit of a hopeful wish to live in France, and never in a million years did we think we would actually end up living here,” Heidi explains.
“We had always lived in Kent; Anthony comes from Walderslade and I came from Stockbury. We'd lived in our house in Allington for almost 30 years.”
The house the couple sold was actually Heidi’s grandmother’s house from the late 1930s and had been in the family for over 80 years.
“We were looking for a holiday home, really, but decided to broaden our search and started looking at forever homes,” she adds.
“We remember watching Chez Jallot on Grand Designs in 2004 and really admired former owners Doug and Deni Ibbs. We love Maidstone, we loved our house, we really did like the area and the kids had a great time at school and everything.
“But what made our decision was the developments that were starting around the Allington area – the roads just couldn't cope.”
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Heidi and Anthony – who have three adult children – said that the “thousands” of new homes being built in the area were exacerbating the traffic problem.
“The main London Road going into Maidstone was gridlocked most weekends, so this was one of the main factors of why we just wanted to change our lifestyle a little bit,” she adds.
“There are thousands of new houses being built in the area – not hundreds, but thousands. Roads are already congested and in the coming years the road systems will only get worse.”
The French manor house in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region, boasts four large guest rooms, the Muir's own bedroom, loft space with the potential for another three to four bedrooms, two adjoining gîtes with two more bedrooms apiece as well as a living area and kitchen.
The entire main house, which sleeps ten, can be hired for €450 (£395) per person, which includes breakfast and a two-course evening meal with half a bottle of wine per head.
The two pet-friendly, self-accommodating gîtes are available for a maximum of six people, from €100 (£88) per person, and suites in the château range in starting prices of between €95 (£83) and €150 (£132) per person.
The home, which sits in the Vidaillat area of Creuse, in central France, was originally constructed around the year 1870, after Monsieur Jallot returned to the country from Paris, where he had been part of the reconstruction of the capital under President Napoleon III.
During WWII it served as a headquarters for French Resistance forces, who trained volunteers at the château and harboured parachutists, aircrew and escapees - with up to 70 people living on the property at one time.
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The home was set on fire in 1944 by Nazi German troops and left abandoned for more than 60 years before previous owners Doug and Deni Ibbs bought the property in 2004, and began the process of rebuilding it from the remaining shell of the house.
“It was just four walls, because the house was burnt down in the war by the Nazis,” Heidi says.
“When the Ibbs bought the house as a complete derelict shell, they did it up. So we've been very lucky that we've not had to do all that hard work that was already done for us.”
The couple’s children still live in England, but the château is only an hour-and-a-half drive from Limoges airport, which offers flights to seven different destinations across England.
Along with their children, the couple say that they miss their family, friends, and cheddar cheese.
“We also chose France as it's only an hour-and-a-half flight from here to England so it's really quick and simple to get back to the UK to see our children,” Heidi adds.
“The lifestyle over here in France is very different to the UK. The French have a lunch break from midday to two pm every single day; so that's difficult to get used to.
"And despite the impressive selection of cheese in France, we do often miss a chunk of cheddar.”
She adds that she and Anthony “instantly knew” that it was the house they wanted the moment they stepped foot inside it.
“It's just so peaceful and quiet out here. It's very well-known for walking holidays. It was a life-changing move that we do not regret,” she continues.
“However, I would say to anyone thinking of doing what we did to definitely do your homework. Make sure you visit lots and lots of houses because there are a lot of hidden things you don't think about. If you want a different lifestyle then I would encourage anybody to make the leap.”
Additional reporting by SWNS.
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