Folklore festivities: celebrating Les Ostensions

In May, Rochechouart underwent a major transformation in celebration of Les Ostensions: streets were adorned with red and white bunting, creating the feeling that the entire town had been enclosed in a huge circus tent. Shop fronts and street entrances were draped with fresh greenery and decorated with red and white flowers.

The 2016 Ostensions (14-15 May) were the 72nd edition and are an important part of Limousin folklore; they have been on UNESCO’s World Heritage list since 2013. They originated back in 994 AD after a major epidemic swept through the region. Religious leaders gathered in prayer and miraculously the dying ceased. A major procession saw relics carried through the streets and this historic tradition continues today – although these days it only takes place once every seven years.

Local English-language publication, Etcetera, provides a nice write up on the history of this tradition. Click here to read the full article in the May 2016 issue. SCH


We’re changing names!

From today, ‘The Little Grange’ is simply to be known as Le Manoir Saint Gervais.

Initial feedback suggests The Little Grange doesn’t bear any relationship to the offering… a boutique B&B that also runs vintage craft courses… and was perhaps a tad confusing? I really value feedback and have taken on board these comments. We now have a new URL for the website ( and will run the B&B business and courses together under that name. I must say it is starting to make life a whole lot easier!

With the name changed we now have a Pinterest account set up ( as well as a Facebook account (

I was very fond of The Little Grange as a flexible concept (The Little Barn; La Petite Grange, etc.), but recognise it came about very early in the development of the business when a UK property was still a distinct possibility. Who knows, maybe we will get to use the name one day in another part of the business?! SCH

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The Little Grange at Le Manoir Saint Gervais is (officially) born!

The house purchase is complete! The Little Grange is soon to be a living, breathing reality that was barely a dream a year ago.

I signed the deeds in France on very sunny yet frosty afternoon – a glimpse of what’s in store this time next year! It was lovely to be back and also to see the house and area in winter; certainly a huge contrast to summer. The previous owners have permission to stay in the house for the next four months so that they can renovate the barn across the road. So for now it’s a case of taking lots of photos, measuring up, getting quotes for the work that needs to be done and finalising those spreadsheets.

The major renovation work will be to the top floor (attic). It is currently an open roof space with stud walls for two rooms already in place – but it is going to need additional rooms and bathrooms as well as insulation for the roof.

Below are a few pictures of the house before we start work in April next year to turn it into a boutique B&B with vintage crafts workshop. What do you think? SCH

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Board games

Not a successful day today at the auction (I bought absolutely nothing), however, I did manage to add to my collection of board games.

The Little Grange has a large built in bookshelf on the landing of the first floor and my idea is to fill it with books and board games for guests to enjoy. Today was just fantastic because after finding an original London Monopoly game last week, I found the Paris version with all of its contents! Perfect for French guests (instructions are in French) or visitors wanting an entirely authentic experience.

I have found that charity shops are amazing places to buy used board games – you never know what you might find but you can be guaranteed that there will be a dedicated shelf providing a choice. I have paid between 50p and £2.50 for the games I have found so far and will only buy them in mint condition with full contents:

– Backgammon

– Traditional playing cards (four packs)

– The Really Nasty Horseracing Game

– Monopoly (London, UK edition)

– Monopoly (Paris, France edition)


Board games for guests

Other board games I am looking for include Chess, Draughts, Cluedo, Scrabble, Dominoes, Yahtzee. Have I missed any?! SCH

Time to take stock

Time is ticking away. It’s almost six months since I left the Middle East and panic is finally setting in!

The contract on the house in France is due to be signed at the end of November with completion following shortly afterwards. However, until the house is officially mine it isn’t really possible to start the real business of seeking the relevant permissions for the B&B or developing marketing materials. I have researched long and hard and know what needs to be done but can’t actually put any of the theory into practice until the keys are firmly in my hands.

As the days draw in and we approach the end of October, I continue to sew, bake, garden, renovate and bargain hunt – important skills that need perfecting in advance of next year’s grand opening.

I have on my ‘to do’ list a few personal sewing projects that I put on hold over the summer because of the good weather; piped cushions for Mum’s outside Adirondack chair; a blue cushion with assorted numbers for my maths-mad nephew; and renovation of an old wooden stool that sat in Mum’s garage for thirty years until it was nominated ‘guinea pig’ for my recent upholstery course.

But right now I am sitting at another auction buying more items for The Little Grange. This particular auction is in a village hall, it is not very well known and only occurs once a month so everything is super cheap and items rarely achieve double figures!

So far I have bought a large cloth folding screen (£22), vintage ‘Covent Garden’ wooden fruit tray (£10), an ornate gold mirror (£10), and a box of assorted tools including chisels that will be useful for upholstery projects (£20). The buyer’s premium is 18% so my total bill will be £73.16. SCH

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Fresh eggs for breakfast

After a couple of weeks away from the auction it was great to get back there today.

Despite a cold chill in the air there were still a few items in the outside section. Gone are the summer parasols and tables and chairs… household bricks, lawn mowers, wheelbarrows and chicken wire are more the seasonal order of the day.

Now speaking of chicken wire, I had my eye on a group of five galvanised chicken feeders and, despite a lot of interest, I managed to get them! A helpful friend explained how the large hanging feeder worked and declared it a simple yet effective feat of engineering to keep away the rats; he also fixed the water dispenser together and talked about the 120 odd chickens and pigs he used to keep. A local farmer came over for a chat with his dog Alfie to find it was his lot we were discussing and that it had made £30. He then mentioned he had about 30 pig feeders scattered around his fields that were too heavy to lift… I suspect they will make their way to auction in time.

I bought the chicken feeders because I am keen to keep chickens at The Little Grange; a new enterprise has started up in St. Gervais which means chicks and feed are now readily available. I plan to provide guests with fresh eggs for breakfast. This time next year…!  SCH


Galvanised steel chicken feeders

Property update: this is the one!

The house is perfect! A quick four-day trip over to France was all that was needed to confirm that it was the property destined to become The Little Grange. It has all the proportions of a grand house with the feeling of a warm and cosy home. It has four large bedrooms, all with en-suite bathrooms, wide hallways on the ground and first floor, a spacious kitchen, three big reception rooms and bags of character. There is also a whole other floor for renovation and a barn for when I run out of things to do and need more projects!

We had a viewing on Monday and plan put in an offer this week. Exciting times indeed as we really start to create The Little Grange! SCH


Iron detail above the front door

Practical garden design

I have been thinking a lot about garden design recently. True: the RHS Chelsea Flower Show was on TV and was as ever full of great ideas, but it’s the practical side of design that prompts me to write.


The all-important wheelbarrow

I’m the first to admit to loving symmetry and tidy borders, but the day-to-day need for a variety of garden tools, sacks, pans, compost and water has made me realise that I am going to need a garden that ‘works’. Add to this the busy running of a B&B and you soon realise efficiency is going to be key!

We have been extremely fortunate to have had seven days of uninterrupted sunshine which has been instrumental in helping clear many an important seasonal job. I’ve spent hours trimming lawn edges, staking and trimming overgrown hedges, heaving compost into bags, weeding flower beds, potting up summer plants, thinning out vegetables and herbs, scrubbing moss off the old patio, and brushing down garden furniture… the list goes on and there’s always that unexpected job each day. But the point here is I’ve probably spent half the time traipsing backwards and forwards collecting or depositing ‘things’!

So in considering the workability and aesthetics of the garden at The Little Grange, here’s my practical design priority list:

1. Water butts in a variety of locations (fed by guttering from house, greenhouse, etc.)

2. Greenhouse for growing on new plants and for winter pot storage; ideally with a built-in earth bed

3. Tool shed attached to greenhouse as well as a similar storage solution closer to the main house

4. Potting shed attached to the main house

5. Kitchen garden within easy reach of the main house

6. Duplicates of key tools for those jobs that take you to the far end of the garden

I will keep an eye out for bargain buys at my local auction since there seems to be a constant stream of old tools, garden pots, lawn mowers, ladders, etc. You never know, I might even find that all important garden shed! SCH

New beginnings

The Little Grange is born!

The concept is firmly planted in my head… now to articulate it and make it a reality. I remember my cousin saying to me two years ago: “please be the one that actually does it!” . How exciting: to begin the process of setting up and running a B&B of sorts; something I have been dreaming of doing since I was about eight year’s old.


Time to get outdoors

The concept, then, is a boutique retreat set in a rural location with rambling farm buildings where people can spend time indulging their passions or learning new skills: from baking to sewing to DIY to kitchen gardening. All those essential skills our parents and grandparents knew so well… ones which are at risk of disappearing as technology takes over and reduces our leisure time. I want the space to be beautiful and inspiring; somewhere you can totally switch off. Food needs to be grown either on-site or grown locally. Guest bedrooms need to be fresh and comfortable with an element of surprise.

Until very recently I was working in Dubai running a PR training academy. I plan to use the course management skills I gained there to set up a schedule of exciting courses based around modern crafts and artistry as well as practical, everyday skills courses.

At the moment I’m busy sorting finance, spending hours trawling websites for the perfect property as well as sourcing items that are going to add to the overall atmosphere of the The Little Grange. Until Launch Day I will be documenting my thoughts and inspiration via this blog, as well as seeking ideas and advice. As the project materialises, I will be sharing practical experiences too (the good, the bad and the better)!

If, as you read this blog, you have creative inspiration or practical advice to share – please do!  If you think an idea is crazy, I would like to know. Similarly, if you love, love, love what I have planned, do comment… that will give me the courage to keep going! SCH