.....after their adventures, Matt worked as a farm manager on a sixty acre fruit
and veg PYO farm just outside Oxford and Wendy in sales and marketing for Royal Mail.
After three years they left the farm and its’ tied cottage and Matt started his
own business growing willow and making woven willow fences and garden products, all
whilst renovating a pair of grade two listed cottages in the Cotswolds and having
their first baby – a busy time! Luckily Wendy stayed at the Royal Mail doing a proper
job (well earning money anyway)!
The willow business became very successful and Matt undertook many exciting and challenging
projects including exhibiting each year at RHS Hampton Court Flower Show, constructed
the centre piece (large willow bower) for Prince Charles’ Healing Garden in memory
of his grandmother at Chelsea Flower show, ran regular courses at RHS Wisley, and
fell out with Tommy Walsh whilst constructing a willow castle on a Ground Force episode!!.Having
made a lovely home, had another couple of children and established a viable business
some said they were mad to give it all up and start a much bigger and scarier project
in France, however having fallen upon their dream farmhouse and smallholding in the
north-west Dordogne and never ones to shy away from a challenge, Wendy, Matt, and
their three boys moved to France in 2002. They saw the move as a chance to jump
off the merry-go-round of their hectic lives, and lead a more fulfilling and relaxed
life style ……… little did they know!
What followed was a mammoth task of renovating buildings and barns to create their
own home and a holiday gite, setting up the gardens and kitchen garden with a polytunnel,
orchard and rainwater recuperation irrigation system, land management to include
fencing in preparation for the arrival of the chickens, sheep and pigs, and planting
25000 willow cuttings of varying varieties and managing the growing plantation. Alongside
all of this Matt still occasionally manages to do willow commissions in peoples’
gardens, teaches willow weaving, does other fencing and landscaping work whilst Wendy
runs the holiday gite and does a bit of catering.
And now after eight years of hard work they are offering luxury eco holidays in yurts
built by themselves from willow grown on their own land. The yurt building all started
because they were invited to exhibit their willow business at a French eco festival.
At the time they had a lot of willow suitable for yurt building so Matt decided
to have a go at building one. It was a big success and they then realised that there
was an opportunity to create something really special utilising all of their resources
– Matt’s willow and green woodworking skills, Wendy’s seamstress skills from when
she was younger, the willow plantation, and their desire to run an ecologically sustainable
business and share the beautiful countryside in which Chez Devalon sits.