The small holding is in the commune of Saint Sornin – a small rural community of less than 200 people in the very centre of France. It lies to the north of the Auvergne region, between the larger towns of Montluçon and Moulins – see map at the bottom of the page.

The house is about a kilometre from the village centre, but has no immediate neighbours – the nearest is some 300 metres away. The village has an excellent bistrot / bar, open from lunch to evening. A range of shops (including a pharmacy, a small supermarket, and a bakery) and a bank can be found in Le Montet, about 5 km distant. Larger supermarkets and petrol stations can be found in Cosne d’Allier, Montmarault and Bourbon l’Archambault, which are between 20 to 30 minutes away.

The nearest train station, with a regular, direct line to Paris, is a forty minute drive away in Moulins. Limoges airport, with flights to eight British destinations, as well as to Paris, Lyon and Nice, is about two hours by car.

This shows the location of the smallholding (outlined in red) and the village centre (bottom right).

The village fishing lake, cemetery and sports field can also be seen (centre right). There is also a newly-established horse-riding centre.

The Allier is the northernmost département of the Auvergne region in central France. It is a green and pleasant land of undulating hills and valleys, thick with woods and streams and threaded by several of France’s great rivers. This website beautifully describes the varieties of landscapes of the Allier département.

Saint Sornin is in the middle of the Allier, in the part known as the bocage Bourbonnais. This is a gentle landscape of rolling countryside – a network of pastures separated by ancient hedges and planted with isolated oaks, interspersed with hardwood forest and fishing lakes. Old villages with châteaux are surrounded by a galaxy of hamlets that have escaped urbanisation – with modern facilities and services, yet in many ways unchanged by modern times. Criss-crossed by hundreds of lanes and tracks, the bocage Bourbonnais is a permanent invitation to “wandering without a compass” in its peaceful tranquillity. The quiet and undramatic environment around Blanchetière encourages an awareness of the present moment, and an appreciation of the wonders of the here and now.

The meadows and streams attract an interesting variety of butterflies, moths and dragonflies. The area is a haven for wildlife, including deer, martins, hares and many birds. Buzzards and herons are a common sight around Blanchetière, and the spring brings nightingales and hoopoes. Golden orioles are present all year, although their fluty calls are more noticeable in the spring. A balmy summer’s day will bring flocks of swallows feeding over the fields and ponds, with groups of bee-eaters passing over. An early spring evening walk up the lane will be accompanied by the serenading of frogs, and the call of owls, and the same walk in summer will be soothed by the chirping of field crickets and the haunting call of distant stone curlews. At dusk, along with feeding bats and occasional glow worms in the long grass verges, a garden dormouse or two might be spotted, sometimes in the roof gutters of the house, identified by their strange, distinctive sounds. And, as darkness falls, the Milky Way appears in a perfect night sky, unpolluted by street lights.

You can find us on the map below – use the zoom in (+) and out (-) controls to see the level of detail you need.