Deep in the heart of rural France, in the Seven Valleys area of Pas-de-Calais in the north is a sizeable community of English speaking expats. This part of France is very popular with British, Dutch and Belgian holidaymakers, second-homers and émigrés. Close to the borders with those countries and just an hour from Calais port it is a hidden gem and a secret part of France that is truly lovely. There is lush green countryside, wonderful architecture – from impressive Flemish influenced buildings to country cottages with shutters and gorgeous old doors draped in roses and pleached pear trees climbing the walls. It is a place where heritage and tradition are cherished, a place of culture and good cuisine, inhabited by the friendliest people in France. There are lovely properties for sale here, some at bargain prices and with the commute to London being just a few hours its a popular place for Brits to buy property. Just outside the charming and picturesque market town of Hesdin some British residents have set up the Seven Valleys Social Group and have their club house in the village of Cavron St Martin.
The Good Life France was keen to find out more about the social activities and the people who make up the group and talked to Sandra Clarke, Secretary of the club:
TGLF: When and how did the group get started?
7VSG: Our group began in March 2010 when it was decided between some friends to hold a quiz night. It was held in the house of Debbie & Alex Sutton who are our current President and Treasurer respectively.
It was such a success and well supported that we had a meeting between three or four of us afterwards and thought it might be an idea to hold other events in Debbie’s home. Over a period of 6 months we decided to become an official Association de France and as of October 30th 2010 we are now a legal association.
TGLF: How many members are there in the group?
The current number of members is around 50. Guests can come too – we hold club night every 3rd Wednesday of the month and on all Wednesdays throughout July and August. We also have a list of supporters, who though they are not members, sign up to receive details of events as they wish and attend at their convenience. Membership doesn’t necessarily increase during the summer months as most of our members are French resident. But we do find members have more visitors in the Summer and they can and do bring their family and friends to events which does swell the numbers.
TGLF: What sort of things do you do?
Well where do I start?! We have a bar which is stocked with wines and UK & Continental beers and soft drinks. We have a Superleague pool table, dart board, football game and board games for all members to take advantage of. We meet every 3rd Wednesday of each month and our evenings are usually themed. This year we’ve had a soup making competition, 2 quiz nights (very hard fought and very popular), games nights, barbecues, strawberry cream tea night & a beetle drive. We also have a Hallowe’en party, a Xmas party and a New Year’s Eve party. We have regular line dancing nights with one of our members doing the calling and those events are very popular.
By far the biggest thing we have done since May 2011 is incorporate an amateur drama group (7 Valleys Drama Group) into the 7VSG. We were given a portable stage and with donations of curtains and painting done by members – we now have a mini-theatre with seating for 70 people. In January this year we staged Cinderella the pantomime over 2 nights and had a full house both nights. In May we held a Murder, Mystery Evening where we had an invited audience who sat down to a three course meal whilst they pondered “who-dun-it”. A lot of fun and laughs along the way.
Our last production was our version of an Old Time Music Hall, held on July 7th. Another full house watched songs, sketches and monologues as well as joining in with all the old songs of the day.
From September we will begin rehearsals for our next panto – Dick Whittington to be staged in January and February 2013 (dates to be announced soon).
TGLF: Do you have any memorable moments to share with us?
Memorable moments – a) when Debbie & Alex tied the knot (secretly) in April 2011 with a huge party 2 days later! b) We also donate regularly to an orphanage in Madagascar with money raised so these poor kids have a much needed holiday c) Encores from the audience are particularly gratifying after a show, makes it all worth the effort we put in.
TGLF: Do you entertain your French neighbours at the Club House?
Most of our members are British but we have quite a few French members and other nationalities too. And we always have a good French turnout for the Hallowe’en and other non-monthly events.
We have French visitors for club nights and we have created a really good Anglo/French rapport within the area.
TGLF: How do I get to be a member?
To become a member you should come to one of our monthly evenings, see what we do, if you then wish to become a member see myself or Debbie & Alex to pay your subscription of €7.50 renewable each year in January.
To find out more about the 7Valleys Social Group or to join their mailing list see their website Our France.