Paradoxically, the House of the Devil is situated
in Heaven. Remote, impossible to find without
detailed directions, and accessible only in a 4x4
(or on foot), Le Mas du Diable is an extraordinary
site, perched on the edge of a natural amphiteatre
in the Cevennes.
Laura and Rachel, two refugees from the London rat
race, bought Le Mas du Diable four years ago. The
estate agent who was driving them round, showing
them other houses, seemed reluctant to drive them
up there, and with good cause - it is a very bumpy
The house sits just under the brow of the hill,
facing south, a stone’s throw from the Grande
Randonnee - along distance footpath which winds
it’s way along the tops of the Cevennes on its
journey from the Alps to the west coast of France.
There are fabulous views of the Cevennes from the
terraces and the house itself.
They bought the house for its sunny south facing
position and its remoteness. Laura wanted land to
grow vegetables and Rachel was excited by the
possibilities of working with the wood and stone,
available in some quantity, to create works of art,
buildings, or buildings that are works of art in
themselves. The house is long and large, and just
along the hillside is a clede, or chestnut drying
building, large enough to be converted into a
separate house – on the ‘to do’ list.
“We left London because the 90 hour working-week
was losing its appeal”, says Laura. “We both
resigned our jobs and four weeks later we were in
the car heading south. We didn’t really have any
plans. We thought maybe Italy.”
They started looking around the middle of France
and came cross the Cevennes while travelling south.
“We knew we wanted somewhere peaceful with some
land but we didn’t really plan coming here. It was
rather impulsive but we have been here four years
now and that’s the longest we have lived anywhere.
Rachel still works on the Internet doing web design
and computer animation for people in the UK and has
also designed a website for us. We use the Internet
to get information and to talk to people around the
world who are interested in what we are doing or
can give us advice because they are doing similar
Despite appearances, Rachel insists theirs isn’t a
only takes a quarter of an hour to get to the
nearest village and we have only been unable to get
out of here once, two years ago when we had lots of
snow”. However, sometimes they choose not to go
down the mountain for a month. Then there are other
times when they go every day. “We make our own
bread so we don’t have to go out for that but there
is still a lot of shopping to do. It would be
better if we could do less”.
“It is warmer here in the winter than we expected
and we don’t get too many problems with the
weather”, continues Laura. “Storms are great.
Sometimes we are right inside them with thunder and
lightning crashing all round.”
“It isn’t really lonely”, says Rachel. “We are too
busy and we keep in touch via the internet. Laura
is a compulsive writer and records everything.
People come and help us for a bit sometimes but we
don’t get hoards of visitors. We came here with two
London cats who adapted well. One has died, she was
very old, but we have since domesticated two others
and we have just found a litter of five kittens
that we will give away when they are old enough. We
have a bit of a problem with wild cats but we have
just ordered some cat traps from America. We will
trap them, have them neutered at the vet and let
them go again”.
Cormack talks to two London escapees about their
make the Cevennestheir
The reluctant estate agent also told the seller not
to accept their offer as they were not “serieuses”.
He couldn’t imagine how or why two young women
would want to live there. Once the purchase was
completed they set about clearing the long
neglected steep terraces, renovating the decrepit
polytunnel and importing tons of sheep dung to
create a wonderful and productive organic garden.
They have also rebuilt dry stone walls - no mean
feat when some are over ten foot high - cut trees,
coppiced woodland for fuel, rebuilt the kitchen,
changed the heating system, and then in their spare
time designed an excellent website where they blog,
chart their gardening progress, and publish
mouth-watering recipes using organic seasonal
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