Here interwoven are two stories, the story of ancient land and an old stone farmhouse, and the story of a couple with a vision to manifest.
If it hadn’t been for the insistence of Catherine, our wise and dedicated estate agent, we would never have viewed La Source. So, coming here for the first time was an after thought. “For comparison only” we said.
And then the magic began.
From the village of Mèlas, the Chemin de Serre Girard fords a stream, narrows and climbs through two hairpin bends. Suddenly the hustle and bustle of the Rhône corridor is left behind. It is as if you have crossed a mysterious portal into another world. In less than half a kilometre, you are in deep nature – a steep sided little valley, dense oak woods and Mont Rosier rising behind.
The first time we entered this sanctuary, massive shivers ran up our spines and waves of emotion pulsed in our hearts. Even before we saw the actual house, we knew we had come home.
But that is the beginning of our story, not the long history of the old farm we call La Source.
La Source is in the Ardèche region of southern France tucked away in a secluded location above the village of Mèlas on the edge of the Rhône valley commune of Le Teil. This is an ancient land. Exposed geological strata here contain fossils from many millions of years ago. Our little valley is called Le Pèlican and this name tells an old story too, being associated with sacred sites of the druids and ancient celtic spirituality.
The actual house dates from the 17th century although it was progressively enlarged over the years. In times past people would have lived simply here, close to the land and in harmony with the seasons. Goats and chickens were kept, vines and wheat cultivated and there were fruit trees and vegetables gardens. Nature provided everything – stone to build, wood for fuel, water from wells and in the woods, mushrooms to gather and game to hunt. Life centred around the family, the neighbourhood, the markets and the church.
Aspects of this traditional way of life continues here even into the 21st century. Vines are still grown around the house, but much of our nine hectares of land is now wild woodland, the refuge of boar, foxes, badgers, deer and a profusion of birds, invertebrates, herbs and wild flowers. It’s a lovely location with its own micro-climate, befitting from the Mediterranean warmth that permeates up the Rhône valley and protected from the mistral winds and the harsh winters of the Ardèche plateau.
The house was fully restored around 2010 in a way that respects tradition while providing modern amenities like a salt water swimming pool. There is a wisdom in the design of these old farmhouses. Really, they are the first “eco houses.” The thick stones walls and shutters keep the house cool in the summer and retain heat in the depths of winter.
Water had always been a problem to the old farmers and at the time of the house’s renovation, a new well was sunk, reaching 180m deep into the bedrock to find an abundant source of the most incredible pure water. To us, this sacred water is the very soul of the place and led us to name the house, La Source.
Sandrine is French, and after a long sojourn in England longed to return to her native land. Nick is English and a lifelong Francophile. Both of us had spent decades exploring spirituality, healing and personal development and both of us worked as therapists and transformational coaches. After our paths crossed, we found a shared sense of life purpose and began to work together offering workshops focused on emotional healing, spiritual growth and conscious relationship.
Disappointed with the quality of retreat facilities we found in the UK, gradually a dream began to take shape of opening our own retreat space in France.
At the start it was little more than a dream, something we’d do in future. But the universe had its own ideas and far sooner that we could ever have imagined, La Source came to us. The house ticked every one of our “essentials” and offered much more besides. We felt a magic and spiritual presence in the old stones, in the land and the trees. We felt the healing essence of the deep well.
We also connected with Melie, the lady who lovingly restored the house together with her late partner Max. It felt more like a passing on of stewardship rather than a mere financial transaction. It was in fact, way over budget, but by a miracle the money was found, the “compromis” was signed and on 13 July 2019 we were indeed the guardians of La Source.
As we settle into the house and land, we are letting the spirit of the place show us the way forward rather than imposing our ideas. Our vision is of creating a deeply nurturing space where we can offer our work, but also a space where people can simply come, individually or in groups, to find the inner peace and healing that will allow them to move forward in their lives and realise their full potential.
In practical terms, this means that as well as offering our own work here, La Source is available to other group facilitators who are aligned with our vision and offers guest rooms for personal retreats or simply holidays. In the longer term, as we expand the available accommodation, La Source will be the anchor point of a community of like-minded spiritually aware people.
It is at the heart of our vision, that what is offered at La Source, in terms of facilities, accommodation, catering, teaching and care and, of course, the warmth of welcome, is an experience of the very highest quality. Whether you come here alone, or as part of a group, whether you come to work or to relax, our wish is that your stay at La Source is both memorable and life changing.
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