Mark and Gill Wakely from Cardiff met each other on a trip to France 38 years ago. Now in their fifties, they have fulfilled their dream of moving there, with a little help from A Place in the Sun. Mark, 59, tells all.
“We met on a trip to see the racing at Le Mans when I was 21 and Gill was 16. However, over the years we have holidayed in many areas of France exploring different areas and dreaming about buying a home there,” says Mark who runs a taekwondo school.
“We have always been very busy and worked hard for many years. My parents died within close succession a little while ago and so we took a step back from our life and thought we need a change. So, we started looking for a property that would give us the scope to earn some income in France.
“The region we chose – the Vienne department in Poitou-Charentes in the southwest – was governed by the affordability: our budget was £120,000. We liked the laid-back way of life of the area. The river opens out onto a lake and there are water sports, and plenty to do.
“We went on the TV programme with Ben Hillman in August and our wish list was three to four bedrooms we could convert to en-suites (for paying guests), oak beams, stone walls, outbuildings and a location that was walkable or cyclable from the nearest village.
“We actually got all of those, apart from the stone walls, in a village called Luchapt, 35km from Limoges airport. It’s near the town of L’Isle-Jourdain and the river Vienne. We paid £87,000 for the property, through the agent Beaux Villages.
“I thoroughly enjoyed the filming, even though I found it a bit stressful. There was a lot of information thrown at us and we had to make decisions on TV.
“Our plan is to move out there by February, a month before Brexit, so we can register as residents. In the meantime, we are having lots of work done on the property, with help from my brother who quite likes the idea of possibly moving out too. The neighbours are English too.
“It will be a culture shock having to go five miles to pick up a pint of milk after living on the main road of a city, but I’m sure we’ll adjust. We have been over three times already, taking over bathroom suites and kitchen units.
“We are planning not to work whilst we are there: our children [aged 27 and 30] are taking over the running of the taekwondo school and we might run summer camps out here. We are the sort of people who always like being busy.”