23 October 2015 by Jessica Boston
Meet the Owners: La Sagerie, Brecey, Normandy
Jill Body and her partner Mike Stammers have owned a private holiday home in Manche and the nearby farmhouse ‘La Sagerie’ that’s been available as a holiday rental for almost 8 years. The original plan was to find a French property that would give them a chance to split time more or less equally between a home in the UK and a more relaxing, peaceful cottage in rural France.
“We gave our wish list to some French estate agents, we were very clear what we wanted” said Jill, “One day we got the call from one of the agents to say they thought the right property had come up! It was three days before we were due to take a trip but we managed to squeeze in a quick visit to see the house before we went and it was indeed perfect! The phone call was on Friday, we saw the house on Saturday and by Sunday the deal was done!”
The purchase of a 17th century farmhouse
This kind of decisive thinking resulted in the purchase of an adjacent farmhouse when it came on to the market “It seemed like a good idea. We love the area so much that a chance to own and manage this other property was a great way to protect the idyllic local area”.
Both properties were in a good state of repair so there was no need for major renovation or restoration projects, but the extensive gardens are an ongoing project as Jill adds special touches to bring to life the traditionally austere French garden design.
La Sagerie is a large 17th century farmhouse with six bedrooms comfortably sleeping up to 15 guests.
“It’s a spacious house so we often get groups of friends or extended family coming to stay. It’s the perfect place for a holiday to celebrate a special birthday or anniversary, or just spend some quality time together. Having said that we also get much smaller groups – there is a couple who are visiting at the moment who are repeat guests and just love it here, so you don’t have to fill the house to feel at home”.
The huge gardens and outdoor eating area add to the spacious feel and allow plenty of space for children to play and explore.
The tranquillity of rural Manche
Jill has fallen in love with the relaxed pace of life and tranquillity of rural Manche, “It’s a wonderful place to stay, really peaceful and relaxing – like going back 30 or 40 years to a time with less traffic and stress. The countryside is lush and there are red squirrels and lots of birds to spot. It’s extra beautiful on a clear night as there is no light pollution so the stars look amazing!”
A wealth of history in Normandy
The other attraction of a Normandy second home for Jill is the wealth of Second World War history in the region. It’s a particular passion and she enjoys visiting the important D-Day sites and battlefields like Mortain. She’s also been able to add to an impressive collection of WW2 memorabilia by scouring the frequent local antique and brocante markets
“Collecting is so addictive and you never know what you might find next! The last things I bought were probably some shell casings and a Kriegsmarine hat at a market in Hambye. It’s a lovely town with a pretty Abbey that we visited while we were there too”.
Tourist destinations famous and less well-known
Normandy has so many famous sites but Jill has been able to discover more off the beaten track places too, that paint a richer picture than the ‘must-see’ tourist destinations. “Of course everyone wants to see Mont St Michel – it’s a wonderful site but because it’s so popular it’s often prohibitively busy, I’d suggest getting there as early as possible to beat the crowds. It’s only 45 mins from our property so you can set off first thing and get breakfast there”.
Another famous Normandy attraction that lives up to the hype is the Bayeux tapestry “It’s one of those things that you can’t fully appreciate without seeing the sheer scale and detail in person, it’s a very impressive piece! Since living here I’ve also discovered the modern tapestry at Pirou Castle. It’s inspired by the original and depicts the history of Normandy including the Viking invasions. It’s the life’s work of one woman and an incredible thing to see”.
Discovering hidden gems is something of a hobby for Jill, “We sometimes just point the car and go exploring” she explains “It’s the best way! Keep an eye out for little sign posts, footpaths or pretty views and just see what you find.”
The delicious local cuisine
The other thing well worth exploring in Normandy (and indeed anywhere in France) is the delicious food! “It’s our duty to try out restaurants and leave our recommendations in the guest information file, a hard job but someone has to do it!” There are a few good places to eat in the nearest town of Brecey 2km away, but going a little further can lead you to stumble upon wonderful restaurants where set menus are extremely reasonably priced.
“The last memorable meal was €18 for 3 courses – the starter was gazpacho with fresh basil mousse and tomato sorbet – absolutely delicious! Going out for lunch is such a treat here, especially when you know you can spend the afternoon relaxing in the garden with a glass of wine!”
It’s not hard to see why Jill enjoys her time in France, why not book a stay a La Sagerie and get a taste of the good life for yourself?
Jill’s top tips when staying in southern Manche:
Visit Arromanches. This historic beach played a pivotal part in WW2 and was the site of ‘Port Winston’, a temporary harbour brought over from England that safely landed 2.5 million men, 500,000 vehicles and 4 million tonnes of supplies. The museum is very good with models of the harbour alongside views of its original site that really bring the past to life.
Explore Saint-Sever forest. This beautiful forest has miles of trails for hiking, cycling or horse-riding and is a great place to walk your dog if you’ve brought them on holiday with you. The lake at the bottom of the valley is the perfect picnic site and there is even the site of a 10th century Mott and Bailey castle to discover!
Go swimming at the outdoor pool in Brecey. In summer there is a large open air pool in Brecey to use; lovely for the children on a warm day. There is tennis, boules, table tennis, mountain bike rental, stables, carriage rides and a fishing lake on the same site – something for everyone!