Newspaper article The Chronicle (Toowoomba, Australia)

Former Pittsworth Couple Savour the Grandeur of French Medieval Granary; Owners Never Imagined Living in an 800-Year-Oldbuilding

Newspaper article The Chronicle (Toowoomba, Australia)

Former Pittsworth Couple Savour the Grandeur of French Medieval Granary; Owners Never Imagined Living in an 800-Year-Oldbuilding

Article excerpt

Byline: Louise O'Keeffe louise.okeeffe@thechronicle.com.au

FORMER Pittsworth resident Susan Walter never imagined she would end up in an 800-year-old property and running a specialist tour company in France.

But that is what she did.

And just how did a small-time country girl end up in a small country town on the other side of the world?

Susan's family moved to a dairy farm at Irongate, just outside Pittsworth, when she was 11 years old.

After some years the farm was sold and the Walter family moved into a house in town, where her parents John and Ruth Walter still live.

"My father took a job in a local hardware store and my mother was one of the Blue Nurses," she said.

"After I graduated from Pittsworth State High School with a Senior Certificate, which included five years of French, I went on to attend the Queensland Agricultural College (now University of Queensland, Gatton Campus)."

Susan studied for a degree in business and hospitality management.

After living and working at the Sunshine Coast for a couple of years she returned to Pittsworth.

"After a brief spell running my own arts and crafts shop I then did a 10-year stint as a public servant," she said.

"It was while working for the government as an administrator that I met my husband Simon Brand, who was born in England and had transferred to Toowoomba from Canberra."

During this time she established a reputation as a talented craftswoman, making quilts, costumes and embroideries.

In 1996 she noticed an advertisement for a summer school at Manchester Metropolitan University in the costume and textile department.

"I was unhappy in my job and unable to get the time off work to attend the workshop in England, so I resigned," she said.

"We put our furniture in storage, rented out the house and moved to London.

"Once there, I got a job with the National Trust and Simon studied music technology.

"After eight years in a job I loved, the Trust restructured and offered me a redundancy package."

Although Susan said it was very sad to leave, she saw it as an opportunity to go back to university to study field taxonomy, which is about conducting biological surveys of sites so the people who manage the environment know what species they have.

Susan's expertise is in lowland grasslands, flies, bumblebees, dragonflies, sedges and rushes, umbellifers (wild carrot, celery, parsley, Queen Anne's Lace) and more recently terrestrial orchids.

The couple also started looking around for a new home after living in London for 12 years.

They bought a former grain merchant's premises in the small country town of Preuilly-sur-Claise in central France in 2006 and then moved into the granary in May 2009.

"We very quickly established friendly relationships with our neighbours and local businesses," she said. …

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