24 Hour Pâté People: Meet the Manchester family who bought the French village

largeMurphy and her husband Dave were playing with their children in their back garden in Manchester when they got the idea to just leave their lives behind and flee to France and buy an entire 17th century estate.

Mr Murphy ran inside to grab the laptop and within days they were trading gray British skies and radio jobs for the endless rows of sunflowers and cattle farms in the Poitou-Charentes region.

Instead of simply joining the 86,000 UK households with second homes across the Channel and with the help of Mr Murphy's Irish passport in a post-Brexit world, they have managed to occupy an entire village.

Lac De Maison are a world away from the industrial North that inspired bands like Joy Division

(Liz Murphy)

Liz and Dave never have to go back to the old house in Manchester where they spent £1,700

(Is provided)

Once they laid eyes on the ruined farmhouses at Lac De Maison, which translates to House Lake, they immediately knew there was no turning back.

The three-acre plot with six houses meant their parents, Terry, could also sell up and join them, leaving the family with enough spare change to convert the derelict farm into cottages that can accommodate 20 guests.

New £140 pppn Airbnb sleeps 20 people

(Lac De Maison)

“I discounted it at first I thought it was too far out in the countryside,” Ms Murphy said The independent. “But when we got here, we pulled into the driveway and we were like ‘wow.'” We have six houses so it's kind of a village. In the UK it would be millions of pounds, but here it's £400,000.

“It's quite scary looking back now, if we had stayed in the UK it would have been very difficult. Our mortgage was a costly £1,700 a month and the repayments just skyrocketed every year.

“When we came here, we were immediately mortgage-free. We're never going to make as much money as we did back home, but we have a much better lifestyle. Which makes us happier in a sense.”

An elegant farmhouse kitchen that would make Alain Ducasse proud

(Lac De Maison)

A typical day now sees the couple picking up their children for their school trips to the next nearest village 2km away.

Then it's time to feed their goats, ponies, collect eggs from the chickens, clean their pool before continuing with more renovation work and prepare gîtes (French rental houses) for visitors over Christmas and New Year.

“It's very different to what we did in the UK, it's a lot more manual than our office jobs,” says Ms Murphy. “Dave was always very helpful in DIY, but neither of us were experts by any means and we don't claim to be now.”

The couple are loving their new life in France

(Liz Murphy)

Despite three years of constant renovations and more than €100,000 spent, the couple's relationship was never strained.

“We always dreamed of moving abroad when we first got together, but then kids, careers, mortgages and life got in the way,” she said. “We are doing very well. We are like any normal married couple some days we want to kill ourselves.

“We were both on leave during Covid and it sounds bad but we really enjoyed each other's company.

“When you're stuck in the rat race, you see each other, but you can forget why you got together. It was so much fun and I wouldn't want to do it with anyone else.

Liz and Dave now have a pool built into the open fields

(Lac De Maison)

“Anyone can do this, but you just have to take that leap of faith. It's scary, but no scarier than living in England and watching your mortgage go up and up until you can't afford to pay it.

“There is a small English community as well and we try to mix it up as much as possible. Everyone is so lovely and welcoming if you try to speak French.

“When we first came, managing our lives was hard work. The French are really bureaucratic and if you are not fluent in French it is very difficult. I have GCSE French and that's it.

“We were lucky to meet an Englishman with a French wife who spoke no English but helped us in every way. Without her we would have been stuck.”

Stormy renovation of an empty farmhouse

(Liz Murphy)

Her biggest challenge was to transform an entire farmhouse that had lain dormant for over a century.

“It had no electricity, no plumbing, no windows, no doors. It was full of birds, bats and all sorts. We turned it into a four bedroom [self catering holiday homes].

“It took a year during the wettest summer on record. There were a few times when we lost the plot. We had to live in a caravan in a field with our animals, it was horrible.

“We had horses at that stage and they kept trying to get in with us. We can laugh now, but at the time I really hated it. We will never go on a caravan holiday again.'

Ms Murphy concluded with some advice: “I would say that anyone who is thinking about it just do it. If you think about it long enough, you will get away with it.

“There's always a reason to stay or say ‘maybe next year' or ‘we can't move the kids.' The life is too short. Just do it.”