My girlfriend and I have just returned from a great week in France. We were staying with Kelly's aunt and uncle, Tracy and Don Neal, at their house and holiday gite, Les Petits Moulins, the latter being available to rent. Set in the heart of Parc naturel régional Périgord Limousin, Les Petit Moulins is a little hamlet, just outside the village of Saint Estephe, about a 1 hour journey from Limoges, where the nearest airport is situated.
The hamlet of Les Petits Moulins is a collection of four water mills which, in their day, milled flour and walnut oil. From the garden there is a great view of the St. Estephe and yes, that is a swimming pool in the photo below, which is yours when you book the gite. For me, this place was absolute heaven; in the middle of a national park, surrounded by animals and more photographic opportunities than one could ever wish for.
Without even mentioning the wild fauna, which I cover in subsequent posts, Tracy and Don have a menagerie of animals, all very friendly, all milling (no pun intended) about the property.
First are their three dogs which will no doubt welcome you to the property. If you do ever stay here, and have a few spare hours, you might want to think about playing fetch with Thornton, one of their Dachshunds. Once you start, he will expect you to continue until he's ready to stop, with him regularly prompting you to throw his ball again.
Next up are the chickens. I should probably have researched the different breeds but, well, I didn't. I was too distracted by everything else going on, sorry.
Then there are the ducks and geese you will see wandering around the garden.
This is Antoinette. She's a gorgeous young duck saved from a French market and is to be found messing around in the garden, enjoying the tubs of water she finds, making everyone chuckle at her drinking technique.
A couple of the other stand out characters are Blush and her surrogate child, whose name escapes me. Blush's own brood unfortunately died whilst very young so she became the surrogate to another and they are inseparable. Not withstanding the fact that her child is a completely different breed, they still go everywhere together and love to laze around the pool, much to Don's dismay.
This is Blush...
... and this is her child.
And this is what Don doesn't want to see; those two enjoying the pool (notably only with the cover on, which I found a bit strange for a pair of ducks).
You might also get welcomed by two of the geese, Lou-Lou and Bow. Born and bred at the house, they are very much part of the family and sometimes, when the gate isn't shut, they even manage to sneak into the house when no one's watching.
Tracy and Don's latest addition to the flock are two pigs, Bakewell and Buxton. Full of character, these two can be hand fed and even made to sit before they take their food.
There are also cats; two domesticated, Merlot and Frank, and one semi-wild cat. Soon after Tracy and Don moved into the property a cat appeared in the garden which, as they later found out, was sleeping in the roof of one of the barns. Having now become accustomed to Tracy and Don, she will come into the house to have some food and warmth. This is very much on her terms, however, and she is definitely not a cuddly cat; hence her name, Hissy!
Tracy is heavily involved in wildlife rescue and regularly takes in sick and injured animals, helping them back to health and re-releasing them into the wild wherever possible. One of the current animals is a hedgehog which is thought to have been hit by a car and lost its sight. Unfortunately it will never be able to be released. Still, he looked very happy when he was in the kitchen munching on some leftover chicken he was given. Previous tenants have included two Tawny Owls and a Little Owl, all now successfully re-released into the wild.
Personally, I think I've saved the best for last. This is the one animal I knew Tracy had and the one I was most keen to meet; a Barn Owl called Lunar. Orphaned and raised by Tracy since a chick, Lunar now lives in an aviary in the garden as she would be unlikely to survive if released. She seems very happy about it too, especially at feeding time.
Kelly was also pretty pleased to meet her as well.
Each evening we were able to sit out in the garden and watch a couple of Lunar's wild Barn Owl friends coming to say hello. You will definitely hear them coming and hopefully, when we go back, there will be a breeding pair in the barn they were checking out.
The property backs onto protected woods, with a myriad of pathways, wooden bridges and granite boulders, including Roc Branlant which, although weighing many tonnes, can be rocked by a persons hand.
With south and west facing aspects to the garden, we were treated to sunny days and beautiful, constantly changing sunsets.