Château de La Ruche
Rebecca and Tim
Château de La Ruche, Rebecca and Tim couldn’t resist the temptation when they discovered they could buy a 14-bedroom French château for the same price as their four-bed house in England. Despite it being in a much worse state than they had imagined from the estate agent’s pictures, and freezing conditions for the first few months, they haven’t regretted their decision for even a single moment.
Château de La Ruche, Original is best
You’d have to think long and hard before making a decision that would change your lifestyle forever, wouldn’t you? So, if you decided to quit your job, sell up in the UK and buy and renovate a 14-bedroom château in France, you’d need to do some very thorough research and planning. Learning the language, speaking to local builders, finding out potential obstacles from the local officials, checking out schools and creating a robust business plan…
Not if you’re Rebecca and Tim. They made the decision, according to Rebecca, on a whim!
Changing job, home and country?
At the time, Tim was a full-time engineer and Rebecca was a part-time journalist, with two young children. But they were both looking for a new challenge and asking each other if they’d stay doing the same job until they retired.
They had a few connections with France… They loved the country and going on holiday there, visiting the Loire Valley, Paris and the south. Also, the château is in a part of France called Pays de la Loire, and they already knew a little about it because Tim’s mum had lived there for a few years a while back.
Where it all began
The trigger for the life-change was Rebecca watching a re-rerun of the first series of Escape to the Château on TV. “I started searching online” explains Rebecca “and realised we could swap our four-bed Victorian Lincolnshire townhouse with its postage-stamp garden for a 14-bedroom château with 15 acres of park and woodland.”
She’d always explored online properties for sale as a hobby, and she sent a link to Tim of a château that looked perfect. She didn’t think he’d take it seriously, but unbeknownst to her, he asked an estate agent for more information. In the Easter holidays in 2017 they went to have a look and it was literally love at first sight.
Love at first viewing
“It looked a lot more tired and run down than it had in the estate agent’s pictures” Rebecca admits. “And the rooms just kept coming, one after the other leaving us feeling very overwhelmed. But it had such great bones, beautiful windows, original shutters and panelling, tiled floors and a garden full of stunning trees. There was so much potential that we couldn’t walk away.”
They didn’t even bother looking at another château, and by September they’d sold everything and moved.
Was there a language problem?
No-one in the Jones family could speak a word of French. Yet the children, Rufus and Laurie were thrown into a French school just four days after moving in. Meanwhile, Rebecca and Tim are learning as much as they can as they go, although they have to deal with French bureaucracy via Google Translate and the internet.
The building was habitable when the Jones moved in – which was important with young children to bring up. But there was no heating to start with, so everyone had to wear a lot of clothes and slept in bed with thermals under pyjamas – and hats too!
During the day the family migrated to the kitchen to try and keep warm (as best they could) by using an inefficient log burner.
A symmetrical building
Rebecca fell in love with the symmetry of the property – it’s split into two roughly identical wings.
The left wing was added later, with building work started before WWI broke out and not finished until after the war was over. The house also comes with 15 acres of park and woodland, and in the old days a bell on top of the roof was rung via the bell-pull in the hallway to inform workers on the estate that dinner was ready. Rebecca and Tim keep up with that tradition to let the children know when meals are ready today.
Whose idea is best?
One of the biggest challenges for Rebecca and Tim in refurbishing the property has been staying loyal to their own ideas. Friends, family and guests all have their own opinions and ideas and sometimes it’s hard not to get swept up by their enthusiasm. More than a few times they’ve had to step back and remind themselves of what they want to achieve.
For inspiration Rebecca turns to the rooms themselves. The light, the garden view, the feel and sense of it. Sometimes a piece of fabric in a room, or a colour, or even a picture, will catch her attention and she will use that as a focal piece to expand on a room’s design. But she always bases everything on what she wants people to feel, and a corporate style is definitely out. Rebecca and Tim like their guests to feel as if they are visiting friends rather than staying in a hotel. Fresh flowers and candles are everywhere and the rooms are set up just how they would for their friends.
Everything takes longer – and costs more – than planned
They’ve also learnt that everything takes far longer than expected and that budgets are always stretched. But they never cut corners and try to always pay attention to the little details that make a room look and feel finished.
How has the pandemic affected the Jones?
The pandemic obviously adversely affected business for the Jones family.
They had an enormous amount of cancellations from guests who just couldn’t travel, and instead of wall-to-wall bookings, they only had occasional guests from mainland Europe. But this downtime gave them the opportunity to rethink their way of life too.
Time to consider what’s important
It meant Rebecca and Tim had more time with their children, plus it gave them a chance to reassess their business. Now they’ve decided to give themselves a little more time to themselves, and only serve dinner five days a week rather than every night.
The pandemic, together with the challenges of Brexit, have meant that the family hasn’t been able to return to the UK for fifteen months now. The lack of seeing family in so long has left them feeling a little homesick.
Keeping the kids happy
The children learned to cope with the big change to their lifestyle when they moved to France and have been quick to make new French friends. They also like to barbecue and camp in the woods, and with so much to help their parents, there isn’t time to dwell on absent friends.
Come and find out for yourself
They’ve no plans for moving back to the UK, and are very happy where they are. Which means, if you’re interested in a stay at Château de la Ruche on the Pays de la Loire, you’ll have time to consider booking a break with Tim and Rebecca too.
Château de La Ruche Services
weddings, race weekends, gites, cookery retreats
Find out more or to book a stay – contact the owners here