About Us

When the kids left home we came to live here permanently. Our love of this region, and La Couscouillette in particular, seduced us into taking the plunge. At first Allan continued his work as a University Physics Professor, working with his students via Internet links, doing research from home and even commuting for his lectures to the other side of Europe. I am a Clinical Psychologist and had a psychotherapy practice in Holland for many years.

Restoring the Mills and the House seemed the perfect thing to do. We enjoy sharing the magic of La Couscouillette with our holiday guests who adore the tranquility and beautiful views as well as our animals.

The locals quickly discovered we were a soft touch for animals in need so one way and another we acquired lots of animals. I now turn down offers of baby donkeys, goats etc. We have nursed baby goats and wild orphaned baby rabbits. Both species had to be bottle fed and lived in the house at first. But that's another story.....

Pointed Roof Mill 1977

Renovating The Mills of La Couscouillette

You just wouldn't believe the state the two Medieval windmills and the House were in when La Couscouillette adopted us all those years ago. The Pointed Roof Mill had no roof, no windows, no doors, no floor... It was on the point of crumbling down to ground level. There was even a fig tree growing IN it!!! It was in 1977 that Allan and I started looking for a holiday house. We had spent years  getting more and more annoyed at the dirty overcrowded campsites in August. Allan was scientific about it, he made a list of our requirements. Sun and heat in the summer was the first and most important. Having been given an atlas with that kind of thing in it when he left Rolls Royce  we started working it out. We homed in on France. A narrow band close to the Mediterranean coast looked perfect. Of course the Riviera  was out of the question as it would far exceed our pennyless situation. Actually, as house prices had risen a lot we cout get a second mortgage. It was amusing,  the second mortgage guy arrived on his bicycle. That is how it goes in Holland, Delft where we were living. He was disapproving about the recent surge in value of property and reluctant to the extreme. However, he said we would of course get the 75.000 extra we wanted, he frowned and muttered under his breath.  (He was right, when we sold up  11 years later we had a 'short fall' (horrible phrase) and had to cash in some pension.) But that was not all,  in our list we required, situation, near a village or town but not in it. And room for (no, not a pony as Mrs Bucket would have it) but a pool. And large rooms. Also we wanted to avoid areas already full of expats. In those days there was no Google to help out.  We bought Newspapers and perused the adverts.  Found an exciting option,  stone built bungalow near the Med in France surrounded by vineyards, not expensive. I phoned the estate agents.  Having heard of houses sold without mains water I checked it out. Yes, no problem. So we dumped our 3 little boys (9, 12 and 13) with our poor, unsuspecting neighbours (that's another story for another day) and drove off with Leroy, our little dog to inspect the place.  Yes, after a gruelling drive we found it and the estate agent and owner..... Oh my God, it was awful. The grounds nearby had been burned by fire and were completely black. As for water... The owner pointed at the ground and stated that as there was a fig tree there was bound to be water if you dug for it. The bungalow had just been finished by him and was uninspiring. After arriving home I  phoned the townhall of the village it was associated with. In no uncertain terms I was told there was no way, ever, that village water  would be supplied to that building., So that was that.Then there was the  dodgy offer of an artist abode in Provence, we were suspicious of the offer. It seemed too cheap for what it was, a lovely house on a river  in a wooded area. When we asked we were told that the artist wanted better lighting, but were advised not to go view as it was first come first served.  We decided to not  try for this one. There were various like this, another we  drove to,  12 hours solid with kids on the backseat of the car... sold by a Dutch estate agent living in France was high in the mountains, I don't like heights.

I remember getting out of the car on a  motorway layby en route back to Holland and just collapsing from fatigue and disappointment. Much to the annoyance of our three kids who were embarrassed having a mother like that.

This is the advertisement photo, the front of the house. Someone had bunged a few windows in and made the photo.

Then we bought a French newspaper, Le Monde. And there it was;  a few lines about marvelous views and some mention of olive trees (were told later we would have to plant them to have them) in the Languedoc.

The phone number was wrong. We guessed what it it should have been and got through to an estate agencyon the other side of France. Yes, it sounded  perfect. The girl claimed that  for 3000 Dutch guilders it could be renovated. The photo showed the front of the place with windows and a door.

Bundling the protesting kids in the car we set off again. 1400 km and we met up with the estate agents in a nearby restaurant in Capendu.  He drove in front of us to La Couscouillette. When we drove up the path I was so scared, I put a cushion over my head. It was unpaved. then we arrived at the house.

This is the back of the house,

it was not visible on the advertisement.

Guess why not!

 

 

Inside the house we found this! There had been 300 sheep living in the house before it was standing empty for 20 years. (this area is now the diningroom/kitchen).

 

 

 

The Bedroom, with its crumbling plaster, broken roof and straw on the floor.

And no staircase to get up there.

 

 

 

Here's the sittingroom

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is the 'chai' where we would build our first pool.

 

 

 

countryside is bare, bare, bare, but with thym, rosemary and lavender growing wild.

so we got to work

Planting pin parasols and cypresses with pickaxe or dynamite!

 

 

 

 

Our son Paul, 13, planting a tree using a pickaxe!

 

 

 

 

We had to carry water up from the village at first, there was no running water!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We all worked very hard, restoring the ancient Mills and the House.

No electricity, no running water, no sewers so no lavatory. A ruin..... But.. it had potential. Large rooms, stone walls, ground around it. Near a village... Space for a pool.

At first we worked on the house in our holidays, though the marvelous local builders we had did the main structural jobs.

Paul, Robin and me working

 

 

 

We were living in Holland at the time with our three sons. The first 'holiday', in 1977 was a disappointment, the builders had not done much, the place was still a ruin. But we made the best of it, here are some photos.

 

Lunch in the rubble of the Patio, no electricity for shaving. Our faithful dog Leroy 1 peeping out under the table.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finding the right stones for a job is very important, I was looking for stones to build little walls around the baby trees we were planting to protect them from the fierce Tramontane, the local wind.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some of those 1000 (!) trees were grown from seed on my windowsill in Holland. This is a photo of them made a few years ago, they are even taller now. Quite a Change!

 

 

 

 

Then there were the two Mills Both had been used to house 300 sheep before standing empty for 20 years. The second Mill, (now named Pointed Roof Mill) had no roof at all and there was a fig tree growing in it! It would have crumbled and collapsed if we had not rescued it.

The other Mill had the traditional sloping roof which for centuries was given to mills which had lost their original, wooden roof. We called it the Sloping Roof Mill. Click on the links to see how fantastic the two Mills look now.

After we moved to La Couscouillette permanently in 1988 we decided to resurrect the Pointed Roof Mill. We found historical drawings of similar mills which all had pointed roofs. However, the roofs were made of wooden boards which we didn't want.

We decided to rebuild according to the historical shape of the roof, which meant we had to use slate. Slate is of course not typical of local village roofs, although the Cite in Carcassonne has lots of slate towers. The lovely pink local tiles can not be used at such a steep slope so we decided to go for slate.The nearest roofers who were specialised in slate roofs are to be found in the Montagne Noir. Which is how it came about that every day Charles and his helper drove about 60 km to come and build the roof on the Pointed Roof Mill.

Being French, they had to have their cooked daily lunch, which I prepared for them. Having fortified themselves with that and drunk a bottle or two of wine, off they'd go again, clambering high in the air on the roof of the mill. I was amazed that there were no accidents.Before that point was reached though, Jean-Jacques, our local builder had already laid the foundations for the roofing work.1990Here you see Jean-Jacques and my husband Allan working on what is to become the Pointed Roof Mill The windmills date from the Cathar period (1266) and are probably the first windmills in the South of France. The historic interest of this property is well documented in an ancient book, recently reprinted; 'Montlaur-En-Val' (1926) in which an entire chapter is dedicated to La Couscouillette.  The period is important in the history of France. For more details of the book and history of the mills please also look at History of the Mills of the Couscouillette . The two mills, and maybe part of the house were built in the 13th cent. by Simon de Melun, one of the Northern conquerors of the South of France. He had them built so the villagers would no longer have to grind their corn and maize manually and individually. The windmills were new to France then, only watermills were well known. It is said that Simon de Melun, well known in the history of France, brought the knowledge of the East concerning windmills (Crusades) to the S. of France. He purchased a piece of land called 'La Couscouilede' (the name of the hill) to build the mills on. In the 14th cent. the windmills were destroyed, probably by the 'Black Prince' who had also burned down the town of Beziers, killing 20.000 people.  In the 16th cent. the Comte de Malacoste acquired 'rights on the wind' from the French king. He restored the two mills and became rich due to his monopoly position on the grinding of corn. After that he was given his title by the king. In those days farmers lived mainly from growing corn, not grapes. Over the centuries the house was constantly changed and extended. Millers lived here up to the beginning of the 20th century. Around 1930 grinding the corn was no longer economically interesting. A shepherd moved into the house and mills with 300 sheep. He left around 1950 and the house stood empty, falling to ruin till we bought it in '77.It was of course divine justice, or instant karma, whatever you want to call it, that the English Black Prince burned it down and we then bought it and it became our life's work to renovate it and make it live again!! At least, that is what the builders stated when we started renovating it... the English destroyed it, the English rebuilt it!

 

 

 

 

And now the Pointed Roof Mill is reborn

 

 

 

 

As is the House!

 

 

 

 

Compare this photo of the bedroom to the one shown at the top of this page! We did keep the gorgeous heavy ancient beams but the entire roof was redone.

 

 

 

 

And the Kitchen!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Sittingroom Now

 

 

 

 

 

The Hall Now

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our House Pool where the Chai was!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We built a Beautiful Tiled Pool in the grounds!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We designed what we call

The Royal Suite

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

with its Marble En Suite

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A gorgeous natural stone staircase was built leading to the Loggia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Front Door to Kitchen Diningroom

 

And this is the view now when coming into the house by the solid oak front door

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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