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Down by the river

Posted on 3rd May 2018


A tastefully restored watermill turned holiday and wedding venue in sunny Charente-Maritime charms Sophie Gardner-Roberts.

Looking up at the Virginia Creeper hugging the large windows on the façade of this grand house, it can be hard to imagine the hard work Steve and Manisiah Forber put into creating what is now a successful self-catering holiday and wedding venue. But the attention to detail, from the small manicured shrubs in the garden to the restored wooden mill wheel which still turns today, give a clue as to how much care was put into the renovation and how loved this house has been over the years.

Voted by Condé Nast in January 2011 as one of the best 25 villas in Europe, Le Petit Moulin has been improved each year by the couple. Although Steve bought the property in 2005, he and Manisiah only started the bulk of the renovation works after they moved over to France full time in January 2007.

They replaced the flooring in the main house and created spacious ensuite bedrooms as well as two self-contained one-bedroom apartments in the east and west wings. The couple have lived in both of these apartments which make the perfect owners’ accommodation, allowing privacy while being on site to help guests.

In the two-acre grounds, they landscaped the gardens, adding several water features including three fountains, two heated saltwater swimming pools, a large poolside patio with jacuzzi and terraces “which are perfect for al fresco dining” says Manisiah.

“One of the great things about this property is that everything is more or less under one roof,” she adds. “So families can all enjoy their holiday together rather than be scattered in separate gîtes. But it’s large enough that family members can have their own space and stay private if they want.”

Not so petit after all

Having opened Le Petit Moulin as a luxury holiday accommodation once the renovations were complete in July 2008, the couple expanded to hosting weddings in 2011, to prolong the season and fulfil the potential of this fantastic property. It certainly lends itself to large parties for family holidays or, indeed, wedding receptions or corporate events.

The main house has nine ensuite bedrooms, including a beautiful bridal suite, and the little stream trickling through the property sets the scene for romance. Steve and Manisiah even installed a fantastic illuminated glass viewing panel in the dining room floor so guests can watch the water run beneath the house.

“Opening the business that summer 10 years ago was certainly a milestone for us,” says Steve. “The journey to creating this property is very special to us and we’ve been very successful all these years.”

“It proved that all the hard work paid off,” Manisiah adds. The couple are now selling up to be closer to their parents and the mill is curently on the market for €884,000.

Located close to the pretty town of Saintes and the market town of St-Jean-d’Angély, the property has many attractions close by in Charente-Maritime and neighbouring départements. The world-famous distilleries of Cognac are just a 30 minute drive from Le Petit Moulin, while the  Atlantic beaches, Gironde estuary and its celebrated vineyards, and the seaside towns of La Rochelle and Royan are all about an hour away. Further afield, you could enjoy a weekend in the Pyrénées or even Spain.

The area is especially accessible to Brits – it’s a four-hour drive from the ferry port at St-Malo while flights from the UK land in La Rochelle and Bordeaux airports, both around 1h15 away.

Make your French property dream a reality at the French Property Exhibition at Wetherby Racecourse on 19-20 May where you can browse hundreds of properties for sale, get expert advice and attend informative seminars. Register for free tickets to the French Property Exhibition now.

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