This is great for families. With its sunflower fields, pale stone walls and carthorses, the tiny village of Mandegault is a reminder of how rural France used to be. Life slows to a tranquil trot, a pace which owners Alison and Francis have happily adopted at their 18th-century farmstead. Hens and ducks potter in the courtyard (children may collect eggs at feeding time) and you are invited to gather fresh organic veg (just put something in the seeds kitty). Showing off original honey-coloured stone walls and oak beams, both cottages are done with natural colours and fabrics, and reclaimed furniture. Spotless bedrooms, small and simple yet elegant, have scrubbed floorboards and iron or wooden beds. Each private garden is pretty with lawns and teak loungers, fig trees and herbs (they can interconnect if you rent both cottages). There’s a games area and a beautiful limestone pool for children to share, and bikes to borrow too. Chef Boutonne, the nearest town, has a fairytale château, fascinating old washhouses and a Saturday market: don’t miss the Charentais melons.