The volunteering in France Paradox — So rural and yet so cosmopolitan


Welcoming volunteers #escapetothechateauDIY

Many châteaunauts enjoy welcoming volunteers.

Volunteers were a benefit James a​​nd I were not anticipating when we embarked on our castle rescue dream. We moved from Elephant and Castle in London to a tiny village south of Carcassonne, in the Aude, one of the least populated departments of France.

We were quickly told by an encouraging fellow château owner about excellent sites for meeting volunteers like and

On these sites, free to hosts, volunteers and hosts can organise exchanges.

Volunteers come to stay and work up to 5 hours 5 days a week and the host organises the work and everything else. Over the years some volunteers stay for months, some pass through, several settled permanently in the region.

We, as hosts, learnt to roll with talents and interests and cajole with food, excursions and amusing explanations. Amazing things are accomplished, food shared and friendships ​made.

Cosmopolitan paradox

We met French and English speakers from all corners of the earth. The cosmopolitan conversation and company made a ‘Leaving London Paradox’. We had rarely mixed with and heard about such a diversity of lives and experiences in our London bubble.

In St Ferriol we met francophiles and city escapees from the four corners of the earth

The great geographical sweep of folk was true also of the expat community in the region but while we hunker down for winter it is the volunteers who bring the world to our door steps all year around.

Thank you volunteers for the enthusiasm, work and great company.

More pictures from over the years below.

After over two decades of living in France and visitng the regions of other castle owners from the series Escape to the Chateau DIY (#channel4 #dickandangelstrawbridge #escapetothechateau), I have written a 38 page guide to a selection of parts of rural France. It’s called Find Your France and you can sign up for a free copy by following the link below

Find Your France.

Gardening, music, food, preparing the Great Hall for a party and dog love,

I moved to France from London in 1996. I write about my experiences, to inspire and help others make the leap

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