"Dordogne" has an almost mythical connotation for some people in the
the French, the
one of two things. Most commonly, perhaps, the word refers to a long
river that rises in the Auvergne, near Clermont Ferrand, and flows down
to join the Gironde, near Bordeaux. Secondly, and in
for people living there, it means a French administrative department,
whose capital is Perigueux, and number is 24.
To many in Britain however, it means a
of France - partly in the Dordogne department, partly outside of it -
that, for some reason, has come to represent an idealised rural world,
where the pace of life is slow, and the climate is mild. The image of
this northern part of Old Aquitaine, a region of France from
from which some
their distant ancestors may have come six centuries ago, has become so
strong as to turn the area into the number one destination for Brits
wanting to escape from the rat-race and congestion of modern Britain.
It was in the late 1960s
that the first enterprising estate agents discovered that they could
sell old rundown farmhouses in the Dordogne at ten times the price that
locals were willing to pay, by selling them off to wealthy British
Francophiles. Since then, thousands more have moved in, to the point
that the area round the town of Eymet now has some 5,000 to 10,000
British residents, and the "department" of the Dordogne now has some
800 businesses registered by British owwners !! In Municipal
elections, a number of British residents have stood for election to
town and village councils, and several have been elected. .... though
that may come to an end after Brexit.
earliest residents, most of whom were of
retirement age, many of the modern British immigrants to the Dordogne
are in their forties, and have families. 8% of the 300 pupils
Eymet's middle school are British. The existence of easy air links with
several UK airports has done much to stimulate the flow of British
expats, or would-be expats, to this part of France; but the flow was
also largely helped by an extremely attractive balance of
that prevailed in the early part of the century.
was the Euro very weak compared to Sterling, but the French economy was
depressed, pushing down prices throughout France; it was a golden
opportunity for Brits who were willing to make the move, and risk a
jump into the unknown.
situation has changed, and although a large number of people in Britain
say that they would love to move and live abroad, and although Dordogne
remains a favoured destination, the flow is likely to slow down. Moving
to the Dordogne is now far more expensive than it used to be; Sterling
has lost 25% of its value compared to the Euro since 2000, house prices
have risen sharply in areas like the Dordogne, and travel costs have
gone up sharply too, with the explosion in the cost of oil.
Nonetheless, in the new Europe,
migrations are the norm, and the movement of people from Britain to the
Dordogne, and to other parts of France is unlikely to stop, unless
Brexit puts up new barriers. The
Dordogne's reputation as "England as it was fifty years ago" - however
imaginary it may be - is not going to disappear overnight, and the
attraction of an area where the pace of life is slower, and crime is
lower, and the climate drier and warmer, is not going to fade away.
Even if there are really plenty of other parts of France that
just as attractive as this little England in Aquitaine, and also
considerably cheaper, Dordogne's image is now firmly established, and
is unlikely to fade away.