Ex-pat Faith Adams swaps French home to move to Barrow

Faith Adams, son Dexter, husband Christophe Gonzalez, and daughter Clarisse Faith Adams want to live in Barrow to reconnect with her family and to get her children fluent in English

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A family of five have decided to swap life in their picturesque village in southern France for a bungalow in Cumbria.

Faith Adams, 45, her husband Christophe Gonzalez, son Dexter, nine, and daughter Clarisse, seven, used a house-swapping website to find a temporary home in Barrow-in-Furness, where she spent her childhood.

It means leaving behind their three-bedroom home, with pool, in in the small village of Charols in the Rhone Alps.

Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, England

Piel Castle, Barrow-in-Furness
  • Rich shipbuilding and industrial heritage
  • Attractions include Furness Abbey and the Dock Museum
  • Big employer - BAE Systems where thousands work building Navy submarines

Unsurprisingly, it did not take long for Ms Adams to find a Barrow couple willing to give up life in the industrial and often chilly seaport.

Ronald Green, 65, and his partner Enid Hayes, 66, agreed to exchange homes within days.

Ms Adams said: "I'm very excited. I want my family to know British culture and to be bilingual.

"I want to return home with a family that speaks English at home and French outside.

"My son wants to learn about rugby and cricket and the family want to experience the food."

She added: "We go to Barrow often enough to know the capricious weather and we're ready to give up our lovely weather in order to gain some terrific experiences, there is always a price to pay."

Charols, Rhone-Alpes, southern France

Faith's garden
  • Charols is a small village with a population of about 900. The nearest big city, Marseille, is about 100 miles away.
  • It has a primary school, a bar, shop and an art gallery.
  • It is a close-knit village which holds an annual Easter egg hunt and picnic
  • It is 30km from the Vercors mountains where the French resistance hid out during World War II.
'Miss speaking English'

She loves living in France, but she said there were things about her native land she misses - the irreverent British humour and the pub culture of quizzes and after-work drinks.

Ms Adams and her family left Barrow when she was very young and moved to Canada.

But she still has lots of family in the town, including her grandmothers Dorothy Hardie and Evelynne Adams, and visits once every couple of years.

She moved to France to marry in 1994 after meeting her husband Christophe on a camping holiday near Biarritz.

Her husband, a policeman, is giving up work while in Barrow and will concentrate on learning the language.

Their new home does not have a pool, but has plenty of space and Barrow being near the Lake District is an added bonus.

Charols, with a population of just 900, also has its charms.

'Destination of surprises'
Ronald Green and Enid Hayes Engaged Ronald Green and Enid Hayes say they will miss the Barrow coast

Ms Adams said: "The locals are very friendly and we are surrounded by small mountains well known for their walking trails."

Barrow-in-Furness, situated at the southern tip of Cumbria, to the north of Morecambe Bay, is "one of the best kept secrets in Britain," according to the local authority, which also praises the "beautiful beaches and inspiring scenery".

Other attractions include the 1127 Furness Abbey and the Dock Museum Barrow featuring its development from a 19th Century hamlet to an iron and steel producer and major shipbuilder.

Retired hospital maintenance man Mr Green and former nurse Miss Hayes, who have been together for 14 years, are also very excited.

Bob Dickinson, 58, is a freelance BBC producer, who has family in Barrow

Barrow is in many ways a traditional, northern industrial town whose industry, shipbuilding, has survived at BAE Systems, which makes all the submarines for Britain's Royal Navy.

There are some attractive places to live - Ulverston, not far away, is a lively little town with plenty of cultural activities.

Nobody would deny that Barrow has problems with unemployment and poverty - but people do find work in the area.

But it is isolated - young people often feel tempted to leave to get closer to urban life.

Keen on caravanning, they will use the French home as a base to go travelling around the region.

Mr Green said: "The house swap all just fell into place - Enid spotted an article in the newspaper and we just fancied travelling, we were going to do it next year but then this came up. We do not speak French, but hopefully we will get by.

"I will miss Barrow, we are a close-knit community with very special people. I will also miss the coast. Faith is moving into a great house - my dad was a bricklayer and built it in the 1960s so it is a real home.

"We have also become very popular as a couple - lots of friends and family are due to visit us in France."

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