FIVE years ago, a former Hexham resident and her partner began talking about the possibility of upping sticks and moving to France.

It’s no doubt something many people have often considered, but it could mean leaving well-paid jobs and a family behind. Five years down the line, Jeany Brazier and Paul Jackson have done just that.

The couple, until 2018, had jobs as a psychotherapist and a business development manager, but now they are the proud owners of Gites du Marigné, a charming group of holiday homes in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region of France.

The gites can be found around two hours north of the city of Bordeaux.

The properties were difficult to find, and it took several trips over a few years to identify their ideal new home and business. However, it may have taken even longer had a number of other challenging factors not come into play.

Jeany, a former pupil at Hexham’s Queen Elizabeth High School, has two grown-up daughters and grandchildren left behind in the UK, while Paul also has two children at university. But they both decided that life in England was just too stressful.

“We were just thinking there’s got to be more than earning lots of money and being really stressed all the time,” explained Jeany.

“We were earning a lot of money, but we had big bills.

“We were talking about it for five years, then it was about three years ago before we started to make a plan, which included having gites.

“It was hard to find the right place and I did about six months of research. We were originally looking nearer Bordeaux, but that was quite expensive and really hot.

“We started to look about two years before we came out. The last visit we did was really concentrated.

“The area we ended up in just kept coming up as really affordable and a nice climate.”

While the idea had been in their heads for some time, Jeany and Paul’s decision was brought forward by health issues, and the death of Jeany’s mother.

Paul explained: “We were talking about future plans after Jeany’s mother died.

“We went to Germany, where Jeany was born, and we started to formulate a plan. We thought it would be great to live in France.

“When we decided it could be done, we started to think what it would look like in terms of our children and stuff.

“We knew France pretty well, but this part of it was somewhere we didn’t know.

“In France, the main tourist attractions overall are wine, cycling and skiing.

"We decided to go in the off-season and see what these places were like without tourists, and some of the places were really lovely.

“We scouted around the Médoc region, a famous wine region, in May, and it was very cold. But what we saw was, we liked the way it looked.

“We did that scouting around wine region one year, but we found the area we eventually moved to was much nicer and a better base to explore.

“We were going to look at the Alps the following year, but then the place I was working for closed its doors and made me redundant. That was a sign that we had to go and do it.”

Jeany also felt there were signs they had to make the move. Between them, they had been made redundant several times – and her health concerns meant that there was no time like the present.

She continued: “That was Paul’s third redundancy in five years, and I had one too.

"We wanted to be the masters of our own destiny.

“Eleven years ago, I was diagnosed with a non-cancerous brain tumour, and then four years ago I had a brain haemorrhage whilst training for a 10km run.

“It’s the whole health thing – we wanted to do things now and live our life in. We didn’t want that life anymore, it just didn’t cut the mustard.”

The couple swapped their life for France, and are now custodians of three family-friendly gites, a large area of green space, a swimming pool, and a flock of chickens.

Jeany first headed out in June 2017, renting a property initially while the sale for Gites Du Marigné went through in October. She spent a year in France before being joined by Paul the following year.

The move and the change of lifestyle hasn’t been without its challenges – the language barrier being one – but Jeany and Paul have certainly found the more relaxed way of life they were looking for.

The area they live in also has a thriving expat community.

“It’s been very challenging,” Jeany admitted, “starting a new businesses and the change in culture. But all those things are being overcome.

“The greatest joy I have is learning the language, it’s a beautiful language. I come out of my French lessons buzzing. It’s such a buzz, and it means my brain is working in a totally different way.

“We’re outside 80 per cent of the time in summer, we live in a lovely community.

“We don’t spend much money, it’s a very simple life and everybody has time for each other.

“When people ask me what it’s like, I always give the analogy of Christmas shopping – the week before Christmas, there’s only a little Christmas merchandise in the shops. All the people don’t fill their trollies, there’s nothing like that.”

Gites Du Marigné has its own Facebook page and can be booked via number of websites, including Airbnb.

Since being taken over, Jeany and Paul have had rave reviews from guests.

Describing the gites, Jeany said: “I would say they have a rustic charm. They’re very comfortable and they have everything you could need on holiday.

“They have all the modern comforts with many original fittings in place, in a really peaceful, quite place in the country.

“We’re five minutes away from the shops and bars.

“We don’t hear any traffic, but there’s everything close to hand.”