We are Jane and Peter Webster, 2 Australians 52 and 54 years of age. We have 4 children 3 of which are now adults.
We sold our house in Melbourne Australia in 2005 and bought a very run down Chateau in Normandy , about 1 hour Nth west of Paris .
Over the years we have slowly brought our chateau back to modernity. We have had much help along the way from wonderful people many who have volunteered to help in various ways.
The Chateau was built in 1852 on the foundations of the previous chateau which burnt down in 1801. The carriage house and stables remain from the original chateau. The Pigeonniere also remains from that period.
We purchased the Chateau from Romaineville - a suburb of paris , who had previously used the chateau for the purpose of a summer camp for the children of Romaineville, a so called Colonie de Vacance. Romaineville bought the Chateau from the previous owner in 1938. A few years later, the Nazis occupied the chateau commandeering it for the purpose of servicing the Panza tanks that were stationed on the coast as part of the defense called the Atlantic Wall.
Rommel often stayed inside the chateau on his regular visits to inspect the servicing unit stationed at Bosgouet. There were reportedly over 20 buildings erected on the chateau grounds to house the Panza's . Just 2 remain, one houses our tractor and various other equipment, and the other is the old Nazi Barack's where many of the soldiers slept.
Bosgouet is a small village in the Eure department of Normandy. It has a population of around 500 people with its own school, church and Mayor. A bigger town Bourg Achard is just 2 km west of us with all amenities. With 3 supermarkets and numerous artisanal food shops such as a Butcher, 2 fruit and vegetable shops, 2 boulangeries, a patisserie, charcuterie and a Monday morning market, there is plenty of shopping.
Rouen the capital of Normandie and home of Jean of Arc is 20 minutes away. It is a beautiful small city with wonderful cathedral many great restaurants , a university and amazing medieval architecture.
It is possible to catch a bus from the front gate of the Chateau into Rouen. From Rouen there is a bus to Paris or even to Charles de Gaulle airport, and many other destinations in europe via the Flixbus, OisBus, eurolines. There are also hourly trains to paris . Car sharing has also become very popular in France in recent times BlaBla car is very safe, well respected, and there are Covoiturage Terminals in most major towns including Bourg Achard
As we are at this time dependant on volunteer exchange programs, we are seeking a nominal 20 hours per week in exchange for your accommodation. We most definitely seek enthusiastic singles or couples who really enjoy what they are doing. Many in the past have worked beyond the 20 hours as they really enjoy the challenge. This is not a requirement however. What is a requirement however is to get the basics done that we require to have the Potager looking and producing the way we have traditionally had it.
With good time management it is relatively easy to have the Potager looking beautiful and productive within the 20 hours per week
What this means is that we can be as hands on or hands off as you like. It really depends on you. For example Some prefer to take great attention to weeding- which can be time consuming and this can be at the expense of more important tasks. If the person is doing this for their own personal fulfillment and is working beyond the 20 hours , and getting all the other tasks done then we prefer to be hands off. But if the person is spending too much time weeding (as in this example) and not completing the other basic tasks, then we prefer to be involved in their time management .
As far as daily tasks , these are numerous and varied. But anyone with a gardening background will recognise most of these. Here are some.
- Planting and raising seedlings,
- Raking of gravel if leaves are present
- Cutting grass using our ride on
- using compost where required
- Not on a regular basis
- trimming hedges
- cutting up of fallen trees (if you have chainsaw experience)
- Planting of new hedging plants
- Other landscaping projects
We are very excited to continue the development of the potager , which now has 4 big raised beds for the vegetables. There is also a Pizza oven and a lovely big pergola with grapes growing over it. We aim to construct more raised beds and start composting in earnest, once the compost stalls are constructed. UPDATE feb 2018: In 2017 we completed a walk-in raised bed project, using repurposed wooden fence posts .
Our gardeners cottage is getting closer attention now too. The cottage sits within the confines of the 1 acre walls of the Potager and will have 2 bedrooms. Our aim is for this building to be a summer house for accommodating our summer gardeners. There is still much to do, but it should be a wonderful addition to the facilities at the chateau. We will have to first evict the bees that have moved in about 4 years ago! We think we will start producing our own honey from the myriad of linden trees on the property, so a project involving some hive construction is brewing in the back of my mind as well.
We are also trying to design a glass house constructed out of used windows that are now readily available for purchase in france due to the new energy laws. Once this is constructed , we will be able to grow tomatoes. Tomatoes have been pretty unsuccessful to date due to the variability in the weather early in the season here in Normandy. Once this is complete we will restart our heritage tomato growing.
We try to grow a variety of heritage vegetables from seed, we have had a lot of success with seeds that we have flown in from Australia which seem to like our Norman conditions.
Here are some of our pinterest boards that we are using for inspiration
So the chateau is moving in a more organic, permaculture direction- although we will never be slaves to either of those principals, we are trying to be as sustainable as is practically possible. This flows through to our water conservation, weed control, energy usage, recycling, and re purposing of materials in the Potager.
If you are interested in coming to the chateau either short term or long term- (we are looking for either) then please reply and we can take it from there.
There are two separate caretaker accommodations at Bosgouet. The Maison de Guardien is a summer house . It is located on the edge of the estate in a Longere. It has a modern kitchen and bathroom and three bedrooms as well as a sitting room. Here you can relax and spend time under the beautiful Linden tree at the front of the cottage.
In winter we ask that the caretakers live closer to the chateau for security and also more efficient heating. There is an apartment in the lower level of the chateau with views over the parc and close to the potager.