Nature reclaiming Architecture – a History of House Prices in the Dordogne

‘Le Vieux Pont’
28 x 38cm (15 x 11 inches).
© The Artist.

A Short History of House Prices in the Dordogne

Here’s a story for the Quatorze Juillet about ‘les anglais debarquement en Dordogne’…

An old crumbling bridge over a stream, an abandoned road, the ghosts of yesteryears, deep in the woods, in the bottom of a steep valley. Fascinating how the erosion of this bridge is creating stalactites just like in an underground cave. Note there’s a fallen down tree as well. Nine years since I last painted here & the forces of nature reclaiming architecture are already visible…

Confess this process of ruination & return to nature attracts me (though considerably less so when it occurs on my own real estate).

‘Le Vieux Pont’
25 x 32cm Moulin de Larroque
© The Artist.

Nature reclaiming Architecture

Not many ruins in old stone left in SW France after the real estate boom of these last thirty or forty years. There’s been a large influx of foreigners such as English, Dutch or Belgian. Europe on the move. The occassional American or Russian. Actually even the Parisians count as foreigners here according to some locals.

‘Old Abandoned House’ – detail

The newcomers had an immense desire to restore & to build. They bought up many of the old abandoned farmhouses etc, often paying over the odds to willing sellers (who could not find buyers amongst their neighbours, none of whom were ready to pay ‘le prix fort’, nor unsurprisingly neither to the real estate speculators who accumulated great fortunes in the 1970’s by buying portfolios of pretty, old ruins for a song & a dance) & thus pushed the prices of this range of real estate right up. They are now the most expensive range of real estate. A ruin costs proportinally more than a new-build or a restored old stone property & thus ironically can now be considered as ‘luxury’ real estate. In comparison to thirty five years ago, when I was first getting to know the area, these old ruins were just left to rot, sad testiments of the chronic fall of small-scale peasant farming. In fact, they were cheapest range of real estate during that time. Now they are mostly gites or second houses or belong to retired foreigners. Much beautified & newly restored, they are expensive articles of real estate.

Of course, there was (& still are) massive efforts by locals to preserve their heritage & their buildings. And the French & European governments have done the work of titians in restoring the chateaux, the churches & other outstanding ‘monuments hstoriques’. Frightening budgets & expenses. France, then as now, boosts some of best builders in the world. ‘Les Compagnons de France’ are quiet simply amazing master builders & master craftsmen.

‘Old Abandoned House’
28 x 38 cm (15 ” x 11″)
© The Artist.

The processes of ruination continue but mostly in the poor, urban, industrial, ‘arrondissements’ blighted by unemployment. Not now here in the picturesque, historic Dordogne countryside, where human endeavour have reversed the processes of nature reclaming architecture.

All part of an economic cycle akin to the cycles of formation & erosion in nature?

‘Vendanges à Monbazillac’
oil on canvas

I was lucky to know the ‘old days’… my wife’s ancestors farm & vineyards in Monbazillac, where I vendanged & worked during my first years of ‘installing’ myself in France, my home, my adoptive country, the country of my (french) wife & children.

I must post a piece of writing I wrote in 2002 about this episode. Another day.