300,000. That was the population of La Creuse in 1851. At the time the region was a bustling, yet still rural, farming area. Small villages were homes to close knit communities, farming in a cooperative way, cereals and livestock. Mills were scattered along the river and the tracks traveled by oxen and carts. Most of the countryside consisted of walled rolling fields. Over the following century, the population of La Creuse declined to its level of 100,000 today. Although still a farming area, woodland cover has increased by 40%. Not only had the population dropped in the region, but many of those that remained moved closer to the towns of the region into more modern housing. What remains in the villages, unthinkable in the UK, is thousands of abandoned historic properties. In many villages, these properties make up more than half the properties. It is not uncommon to come across entirely abandoned hamlets. House and land that would be worth hundreds of thousands in the UK, if not millions, can have no value here and are left abandoned. For some properties, it is impossible to trace the owner and simply cannot be purchased, as the high French purchase fees of properties in France make these houses uneconomical to sell.
One of the main reasons I chose to move back to the region was because of it’s remoteness and low population. But, I can safely say that even if the population was to return to it’s peak of 300,000 the region would still very much be rural and remote. Renovating, repopulating and rejuvenating all these houses and villages should be one of the priorities of the region. How this can be achieved I don’t really know , although I think universal fiber optic coverage and subsidized solicitor fees would be a start. The local communities are very welcoming and are also keen to get the life back in their villages, sot if you are looking for a cheap historic house to retire or as a holiday home, then you will be very welcomed by all of us here.