For about 20 years I had been visiting the Pyrenees (from my original home in the UK) for trekking, climbing and skiing holidays. There was something about the Pyrenees that always drew me back. Although it was less rocky than the Alps, it was somehow more remote, more wild, less spoiled. As I got to know the entire chain better, it was the Couserans with its isolated mountains (Pic de Certescan, Mont Rouch, Mont Valier) which appealed to me.
At first I looked for a tiny ‘pied a terre’to buy with friends as a holiday home, but after several years of fruitless searching together, I decided to go it alone and in 2004 I found what I was looking for. Within a few days of completing the purchase and staying there for first time, I realised my future was to live here permanently. I guess my time here threw the shortcomings of my life in the UK, where I was a principal of a large Architecture practice, into sharp contrast. My malcontent was not only with my own busy stressful life, but also with the UK’s pollution, media and weather! It took two years of hard work and tough decisions to make the move practically and financially possible, but I have never looked back.
My life here has been about living much closer to nature than I had done for at least the 15 years before arriving and about teaching myself the new skills needed for land management, farming and self-sufficiency, hunting and gathering (mushrooms, fruits, nuts, birch sap for example). I have kept chickens, pigs and sheep, grown vegetables and fruit, made hay, cleared fields, built fences and laid hedges, felled trees and indulged my passion for building - a chicken house, a workshop, a woodstore, a barn, a gîte, doubled the size of my house, the list goes on and never seems to stop!
I continue my passion for exploring the mountains. In summer - climbing and walking. In winter – ice climbing, ski touring and snow shoeing.
I have designed, built and/or renovated several old buildings for myself and friends and my architecture career continues, albeit at a more healthy intensity.
I maintain an illustrated on-line diary “a blog” http://inglis-sharp.blogspot.fr called “Pyrenees Adventure”.
Living here has met all my hopes and aspirations. In 2012 I married Susie. She and her 2 children were not from the Ariège, or even France, but from England. As Jasper and Ruby (then 16 and 15) did not speak French, we decided to let them finish their education in the UK. This necessitated us living in England for the some of the year and coming back to the Ariège as a family for school holidays. I was here at least one week in four to maintain the land (now without animals) and to finish the enlargement of our home for my new family. We came back to live here full time in 2016 when Jasper and Ruby’s secondary education was complete. We have chickens and sheep once more and Susie has created a wonderfully productive organic garden.
Life here has a few challenges: It is very physical e.g cutting firewood and farming on steep terrain which requires most things to be done by hand. In July, there are the dreaded horse flies. Power cuts are frequent in winter particularly when it snows, this means no internet, which in a remote location is a vital link to the outside world.
In the future, the challenges remain earning sufficient income here and the uncertainties brought by Brexit for our professional status, status living in France and our children’s futures living outside the EU.