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Buying a property with a lake in France
Since fishing is one of the most popular pastimes in the UK and France is one of British holidaymakers' favourite destinations, it is not surprising that the two have found common ground. Properties that come complete with their own lake are increasingly sought after amongst British buyers in France. Whilst some people are looking for their ideal second home retreat and the opportunity to indulge in a spot of private fishing, others hope to use their lakeside properties to set up a business running angling holidays.
The recent enthusiasm for properties 'avec un lac' was also fuelled by an episode of Channel Four's 'No going back' series which featured a couple who bought a house with its own lake in France and funded their venture by organising fishing holidays. The programme chartered the highs and lows that Kevin and Carol Snuggs encountered and the business is still up and running successfully. You can check out their website at www.clearwaterlakes.com.
Finding the right lake requires careful consideration. If you're going to turn it into a commercial venture then you'll need it to be at least 5 hectares in size. Bear in mind the fact that most fishermen/women prefer using their own equipment and do not want to drive for too long. Therefore, a lake that is easily accessible from the UK might give you a significant advantage if you want to target the UK market. You also have a number of legalities to research. Lakes that were created since 1829 are subject to tighter regulations than those of earlier origins. Some lakes are considered to belong to the public even though they are on private land. This means that a business venture is not possible, as you would effectively be gaining as an individual from public property.
Next, you have to research the lake itself, as well as your potential neighbours. Whether the lake is fed by spring water and if it is deep enough are important questions, as is, who owns the boundaries and what they do on the other side of them. Kevin Snuggs won a battle with the local council to prevent his neighbour from rearing pigs next to the lake. You may find yourself up against similar obstacles, although you may not be as lucky as him.
Similarly sized properties with lakes can vary in price. If the property and surrounding land incorporating the lake has planning permission then you can expect it to be a lot more valuable. Setting up a successful fishing business is no mean feat and requires a large injection of capital. If, however, you are just looking for somewhere for your family and friends to fish then there are plenty of bargains to be found. The Limousin and Auvergne regions are good starting points as they have plenty of lakes at very reasonable prices.
Limousin offers some of the finest fishing in Europe. Trout, carp, pike, bream, dace, salmon, chub, gudgeon, barbel, perch and black bass are just some of the fish to be found here. A good area to begin your search for a property with its own lake is in the vicinity of the vast Lac de Vassivière which covers 1000 hectares and lies on the border between the Haute-Vienne and the Creuse departments in the heart of Limousin. Towns in this area include Eymoutiers, Felletin, Bouraneuf amd Gentioux-Pigerolles. Another area well worth looking in is around Limoges, the regional capital in the centre of the most westerly department, the Haute-Vienne. This area of north-western Limousin incorporating the towns of Rochechouart, St-Jumien and Oradour-sur-Glane is criss-crossed by rivers and lakes and is renowned for its beautiful waterways.
Limousin's easterly neighbour, Auvergne, which lies in the middle of the Massif Central mountains should not be overlooked in your search for a property that comes complete with a lake. The best area in which to begin your search is probably the north of the region around Lac d'Allier. This stunning lake is situated in the south-east of the Allier department near the town of Vichy. However, lakes are dotted throughout this department. If you follow the Allier river from Vichy in the south of the department up to the departmental capital of Moulins in the north you will find numerous lakes dotted throughout the river basin.
Northern France is very popular with British anglers due to the easy access, peaceful countryside and extremely large coarse fish in the numerous lakes here. The region of Picardy is home to numerous lakes both large and small. If you're looking for a private lake to use for either personal or commercial purposes, this is a good place to search. Owners of properties with lakes charge hefty fees for the privilege of fishing on their land.
Whether you are thinking of buying a property with a lake or not, there is nothing to stop you from taking advantage of the brilliant fishing on offer at one of the many public lakes in Auvergne and Limousin. However, you should be aware that some lakes have restrictions on which types of fish you can catch at different times of year. A carte de pêche is also a pre-requisite for any fishing trip in France. These can be purchased from specialist angling shops, campsites, tobacconists and some bars and cafés. The rivers and lakes in France are grouped into one of two categories according to the level of difficulty they present for anglers, when fishing is permitted and by whom so bear this in mind. However, if you are just visiting, there is a special holiday permit available in Limousin, which allows visitors to fish in both categories of lake and river throughout the region for 15 consecutive days.
If fishing is not your thing, then the lakes of Limousin and Auvergne are much more than simply a pêcheur's paradise. The larger lakes offer plenty of activities to amuse all the family (see the following paragraph for details). Alongside Lac de Vassivière and Lac d'Allier mentioned above, other lakes include:
· Lac de St Pardoux in the town of the same name directly north of Limoges in the Haute-Vienne roughly between Nantiat and Bessines-sur-Gartempe
· Lac de Bort in the village of Borts les Orgues in the far east of the Corrèze near the towns of Neuvic and Ussel, which are close to the border with the Cantal department in Auvergne
· Lac du Causse which lies 10km south-west of the town of Brive-la-Gaillarde in the Corrèze below the villages of Lissac and Chasteaux
These large lakes play host to a whole range of aquatic and non-aquatic activities. Most of them allow swimming in designated zones as well as a variety of watersports including boating, canoeing, kayaking, windsurfing and waterskiing. At Lac du Causse, visitors can walk the 7km around the lake's purpose-built perimeter path or play golf on the lakeside course. The lake also hosts an annual international rowing competition. The larger lakes commonly offer camping facilities and bike hire as well as excellent bird-spotting opportunities. Lac de St Pardoux has three beaches (Chabannes, Santrop et Freaudour) dotted around its shores each with beach volleyball, basket ball and a children's playground. These mini waterparks are a great way of keeping a young family entertained outdoors amidst stunning scenery. Chabannes has a tennis court and Santrop has beach entertainment, pedaloes and water toboggans in the summer months. Lac de Bort is a conservation site and is well known for the 70km cycle route which roughly follows its shoreline. Hang-gliders are often seen drifting above this beautiful lake.
As well as having a large number of lakes, Limousin is also home to 39 damned reservoirs. In fact, the gorges of the Dordogne and Creuse rivers in the Corrèze and the Creuse departments respectively are made up of a series of damned reservoirs which offer alternative activities to those available on the lakes. Taking a barge trip down the gorges is a popular past time amongst families. Alternatively, you can hire a traditional gabare, a vessel once used to transport wood, salt and wine along France's waterways.
For those people who do not wish to pay a premium for a property by the coast, the lakes and waterways of Limousin and Auvergne offer a very real, more affordable and extremely action-packed alternative. There is little available by the sea that is not also on offer here - except of course for the queues…
Can I ask you a question please; if you were to purchase a lake / land in France, would it be possible to crane in barge and then live on the barge on the lake? We do similar here in the UK and was wondering if that is possible/legal in France?
Thanks for contacting us, though I'm afraid I can only point you in the direction of the Mairie and the Maire, who should be able to help, as quite often they are the ones who says what can be done and what can't. I realise you may not yet know where exactly you will be living, but if you know the area you could try contacting the Mairie there for advice. And bear in mind the advice may differ from department to department.
Certainly the Mairie gives the ok (or not) for static caravans and mobile homes, so they probably would do the same for barges on lakes.
I am sorry not to be able to help you further.
Hi there. The recent "raids" on French lake owners in the last year or so has lead to a nightmare for people that have not got it right in some way, shape or form. Sometimes this is intentional... sometimes it's not. Generally I feel people often try to do the right thing but don't get it right.
Language problems, a misunderstanding of the requirements and sometimes the sheer blind faith in what they are doing is "fine" (it would be fine in the UK - why not in France?) and the excitement of chasing that dream, leads to massive problems and sometimes that dream being dashed.
There seems to be a remarkable amount of English-owned lakes in France. Is there anyone who knows the regulations inside and out, who would be able to help the vast amount of owners who are "not quite there" in the getting it right stakes. What I feel is needed is something like a book, translated into English (for those of us that aren't quite there on the language front yet) from the vaults of the DDR (Lakes and Fisheries Authority) "rule book" bullet pointed as to what is required.
1. No woody vegetation on dams
2. Grills with gaps no bigger than 10cm on the inlet and outlet.
3. You cannot stock or have in your lakes, "these" (??) kinds of fish.
4. Etc., etc.
There is a lot of information on self cleaning grills and ways of solving problems with dams and all sorts of stuff, but what we need is the "Lake Ownership for Dummies" manual... or is it just too complex and undefined to put into words. We've tried the DDR and it's very difficult to get any definitive information, even when you speak spot on French. Doing it without that wonderful gift/ability is virtually impossible... trust me I know. We know for a fact the "Raids" (similar to a Drug Bust or Terrorist Threat response) are set to continue in the Limousin, then go to the Champagne Region and then to Brittany... both strongholds of fishing holidays and English and French-owned lakes.
All the lake owners need to check and double check everything. Fish stocks, business procedures, dam vegetation and a great deal of other procedures and then check it again.
So - is there anyone out there who can help?
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