Back in 2002, we left the U.K to come and live a more environmentally responsible and connected life in rural France.We believe that many (not all) of the environmental problems that we face have practical hands-on solutions within easy reach of most people if the will is there to make a difference. Reducing our consumption and spending our money more intelligently and more responsibly on the things that we do consume is something that we can all do. We know only too well that it’s not always practical or easy or financially possible to live the way we aspire to but we hope that by setting up the yurts in the way that we have we are making things much easier for you to have a low impact holiday.
For instance – the hot water for the shower is sufficient if you wash and use the water prudently but not if you stand under a torrent, contemplating your navel! We deliberately don’t supply mains electricity because it is not needed. We are enthusiastic about human waste because it is not waste – it is a useful fertiliser if treated properly. None of our methods are new or groundbreaking but just good old-fashioned common sense. We have pigs to recycle food waste but they also clear the ground beautifully for tree planting. Our hope is that when people leave they will take with them simple, practical solutions that they can apply to their own lives at home (not necessarily buying pigs or building compost toilets, although that would be great!) We want people to think a little bit more about the day to day impact of their actions.
Using Local Ressources
We have always been interested in environmental issues and passionate about sustainability, so it is important to us that wherever possible materials for the yurts and buildings are sourced locally. We are restoring a derelict chestnut coppice for a friend, the benefits of which are two-fold: we utilise fallen timber for building the kitchens, and bathrooms that would otherwise rot on the ground and the clearing of the dead wood and brash revitalizes the woodland and re-establishes the coppicing cycle.
Almost all of the furniture and equipment for the yurts and kitchens has been acquired second hand from brocantes or charity shops or donated by local people. We have become well known for giving things a new lease of life and are now a stop off point for people on their way to the dechetterie which can be a double-edged sword but invariably we are given things that have amazing potential. We then revamp and re/up-cycled which we love to do, creating things of beauty for each of our hideaways, modern-day Wombles !. Even the human waste is made use of!!
Compost Toilet System
A revelation and all of the guests’ deposits are carefully composted to remove any pathogens and then used for tree planting projects or down at the willow plantation to produce more willow to make more yurts. We are continually building new yurts and occasionally sell off our oldest one as this ensures that our yurts are always in a beautiful condition for our guests. We use fifty times less water than a standard western style mains toilet system and end up with the most amazing compost, a win-win situation! The toilets are emptied on a regular basis as it is very important to us that our guests come away from the compost loo experience with a very positive feeling, some of our guests arrive mildly apprehensive but leave in awe. Don’t be scared of the compost loo!
Hot Water System
A basic solar system using black water pipes laid on a black background, on a hot sunny day the water can get very hot on a cool cloudy day it does not. We like the idea of our guests working with nature and choosing appropriate times to shower however on a cloudy or cooler day there is an alternative Australian solar hot water system which is much more high-tech and stores the hot water so that you can still have a hot shower no matter what the weather.
Guests are encouraged to use biodegradable products in the shower and the kitchen. When washing greasy pots and pans we ask you to use kitchen towel to remove the worst of the grease before contaminating the water. All waste water is used in your own garden.
Most of the food waste can be either fed to the pigs or chickens – anything not suitable should be composted and bins are provided for this purpose.
Rubbish and Recycling
Any landfill rubbish goes into black bin bags for LANDFILL needless to say we try to keep this to a minimum. Plastics, metals, paper and cardboard go into yellow bin bags for recycling and all glass goes to the bottle bank – again we supply all the necessary labeled bins and bags.
Cycling is definitely encouraged. It is beautiful here and the roads are very quiet (French drivers actually like cyclists)!! Bikes and a tandem are available for hire. If you arrive by bike (and look sweaty enough to convince us that you really have cycled from England or the nearest train station ) then we’ll give you 5% off the price of the yurt!
Wherever possible we encourage our “yurties” to shop locally. There are many local producers within easy cycling distance. Fruit, vegetables and eggs are available from Chez Devalon, and depending on availability, lamb and pork from our freezer we make a wide range of sausages pork and lamb for your BBQ’s, be careful of the tonsil scorchers! We have local dairy farmers for milk, fantastic ice-cream and occasionally beef. A goat farmer for milk, cheese and occasionally meat (they make excellent sausages). Our local mayor is a trout farmer and you can go and choose a fish right out of one of his many vast tanks, and an excellent duck and goose farmer is very nearby.
The local small town of Verteillac has a boulangerie, butchers and large convenience store (known as the Harrods of the Dordogne) along with a newsagent, post office, bank, bars, and restaurants and the local GP. There is also local wine (red, white and an excellent sparkling white wine) and the popular Charentaise drink, Pineau (a blend of grape juice and cognac) available from a producer just outside the nearby village of Champagne.
Candles are supplied (but more can be bought at the Harrods of the Dordogne if you need them) but they must be kept contained within a lantern (also supplied). The kitchen is lit by solar powered lights and there are also decorative (but subtle) fairly lights. Solar fairy lights and wind-up solar powered torches are also provided for you in the yurts.
We don’t want to beat people over the head with the eco stick but just give them a gentle nudge!!!