F-47360 Madaillan, near Agen, Lot-et-Garonne (44016* N, 0035’30″E)
Vergnes is the perfect location to get away from it all in the tranquillity and privacy of a beautiful rural setting, surrounded by orchards, fields and glorious views of this stunning region of south west France.
Built in 1837 as an elegant manor house next to an ancient stone cottage, Vergnes is set in three acres of land comprising beautiful gardens, one of which is set in the remaining walls of the original barn; magnificent trees; a clear blue 14m swimming pool; poolside terraces and two small pavilions housing a shower, changing room, toilet, utility room and kitchenette; a large south facing terrace; a pigionnaire; meadows and a small orchard. Vergnes is in a very special place, surrounded by fields, farm and woodland, with its hillside position giving a panoramic view across the valley from the back of the house and lots of options for country walks.
The house itself is lovely, brimming with French rustic character due to its massive stone walls, cool tiled floors, large shuttered windows and carefully chosen furnishings. Locally-sourced antiques are combined with contemporary items, whilst beautiful olive pots and stunning Egyptian tapestries are among the many personalised details that make this such a homely and charming place.
The nearest village is a twenty minute drive away, with the city of Agen being only another five minutes away. The house is secluded but not completely isolated, with other houses located out of view and earshot, five minutes’ walk away. A guardian who looks after the property lives in the neighbouring cottage but works full time and is very discrete so you barely notice she is there unless you need help with something.
The large terrace which leads to the north entrance of the house is a perfect place for cool alfresco dining with a view across the lawn to the magnificent trees, pigeonnier, walled barn garden and fields beyond.
The spacious living room (400 sq.ft) with its imposing fireplace is furnished with large sofas, dining table and chairs.
There is further comfortable seating in a smaller library and TV room that leads off the main living room. There is wifi, a colour TV with satellite receiver for BBC World TV and radio channels in addition to the French terrestrial TV broadcasts, a VCR, a DVD/CD player and telephone.
In all, there are three double bedrooms and two rooms with two single beds. Two double bedrooms with king-size double beds have bathrooms en suite. The third double bedroom has a standard size double bed. It shares an interconnecting bathroom with the fourth bedroom which has two single beds.
The bedrooms and bathrooms are attractively and comfortably furnished, with fresh linen and towels provided.
The kitchen opens onto the north terrace and to a hallway leading to the living and dining room. It is equipped with a refrigerator with small freezer, gas and electric hob, electric oven, dishwasher and an excellent range of cooking equipment.
A spiral staircase leads from the hallway to the lower floor where there is a laundry room equipped with washing and drying machines, a small bedroom with two single beds, a large games room with a table tennis table, and a lounge with French doors leading to the lovely back terrace where there is lush planting.
The downstairs twin bedroom (5 on the plan) has a terracotta tiled floor, pine cupboard and a glass door leading outside. The glazed door is the only window in this room and it is next door to the utility room on one side and the games room on the other so it has a much simpler feel to the upstairs bedrooms. Also on this floor is a perfectly functional if rather dated bathroom with shower room, hand basin and WC.
THE SWIMMING POOL AND POOLHOUSE
A short walk across the lawn in front of the house is the 6×14 m swimming pool. An automatic purification system and vacuum cleaner ensure that it is always in sparkling condition.
The pool house comprises two pavilions connected by a terrace shaded by a pergola. Simple meals can be prepared in the kitchenette and eaten on the terrace. The appropriately-equipped kitchenette has a sink (cold water only), two-ring electric hob and small fridge). The second pavilion houses a changing room, shower (cold water only), WC and store room.
THE GUARDIAN’S COTTAGE
The picturesque old farm cottage with its external double oven for the drying of the famous Agen prunes has been restored and is occupied by a guardian her son. Their presence in no way interferes with the privacy of the guests. The guardian can assist with the operation of appliances and equipment in the house. She looks after the pool filtering system and maintaining the lawns.
THE PIGEONNIER, GARDENS AND ORCHARD
The three-storey dovecote, or ‘pigeonnier’, is typical of the region and enhances the character of the property. The ground floor is used as a store room and the upper floors are currently inaccessible.
The large south-facing terrace and garden, the orchard with plums, pears, apples and cherries, and the garden in the former barn provide a choice of peaceful places to sunbathe, read or just enjoy the view.
THE WOODS AND LOWER TERRACE
A path at the edge of the orchard leads along a steep escarpment to a wooded area on the border of the property. A virtually unnoticeable unfinished stairway leads part of the way to the lower overgrown area. Do not allow small children to go unsupervised near the escarpment.
The property is in a beautiful location. The Chateau de Madaillan and a number of houses and farms are within walking distance but a car is essential with the nearest villages being 15-20 minutes’ drive away. The nearest sizeable town, Agen (25 minutes’ drive) on the river Garonne, has a charming mediaeval quarter, a tiny museum plus lots of shops, cafes, restaurants and bars. There are plenty of local villages to explore and the markets are full of produce from the surrounding rich farmlands, vineyards and orchards, and fish, lobsters and oysters from the Atlantic. Local specialities are superb including, of course, the wine.
There is plenty to enjoy in the area – history, architecture, festivals, food markets, ‘brocantes’, walks, wine, gastronomy, golf and boating on the canals – but often guests are tempted to spend most of the time enjoying beauty and tranquility of Vergnes.
Photo: Kelly Hill