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December 2004

In the beginning

21st May 1984

On this day 20 years ago PHILIP VOICE slipped silently into business. No one, especially Philip himself could have imagined that date would become the start of something so special, but it was!

10th February 2004 Philip sells his successful landscape and commercial maintenance company, so closing this highly fruitful and special period for the enthusiastic and talented designer . Contractual detail meant that there was no fanfare... just there one day and gone the next ! So, why the change? A question Philip has been asked many a time since he walked out the door for the last time as Managing Director.

"Lifestyle !" would be his first response, but add challenge, opportunity and adventure to the mix. It is no coincidence that it happened in Philip's 40th year, it was always his ambition to retire at 40... Payback for 20 solid years of work, work, work!

It had became an obsession, and something into which he always put 110%. His legacy, like that of designers and builders of a bygone age, is a tangible imprint of his talents in many peoples' and communities' gardens. "That thought makes me smile and extremely proud" says Philip.

During his tenure, Philip is chuffed to have spawned many new businesses along the way. It's amazing how many people leave an impression on you, and humbly, to feel you make an impression on too. There are at least 8 landscape companies that Philip can think of whose proprietors or partners started their fledgling careers at his company, Philip Voice.

Philip hopes and believes their experience stood them in good stead. Indeed it was one of Philip's protégés that purchased the company, and it is a fitting tribute to its success that it continues to this day to bear his name.

So what are they doing now?.....After 6 months rest, Philip and Donna, who was a major factor in the success of the company, sold their house and headed for the sleepier idyll of French Life.

Having taken holidays in France throughout their married life, they decided to relocate the family there and start an exciting new chapter. They have put business skills and experience into transforming run down properties in the Lot et Garonne into stylish, quality Gite accommodation.

It will be hard graft to start with as they take on the renovation and construction work, but having no mortgage and a reasonable pot of money to live on and use for the work, it will hopefully mean that, after a couple of years, they can settle into a lifestyle that is not 24/7/365 dedicated to business. 20 years has taken its toll and whilst they are too young to retire completely they can dictate their future a bit more.

France has become popular for property investment, but perhaps a little too overheated. However, the Voice's choice isn't about money.

The family have integrated into French life well. That means their children, Henry (11) and Fleur (6), now attend French schools. "The window of opportunity for Henry was small educationally speaking", Said Philip. He was 11 in January, and it was important that he got a year at junior school before moving to the French equivalent of our secondary school. Fleur has more time.

Both Henry and Fleur were sad to leave Binsted School and their many friends, but have grasped the adventurous challenged set by their parents with both hands. The Voices wern't put off by the culture change, indeed they viewed it as a major opportunity for all and especially the children. "They are both very confident and extremely bright" Said Donna Voice.

Whilst planning and timing were crucial to their success, things haven't gone exactly to plan. Having agreed the sale on their house in Oakhanger, they received the news that their provisional offer for an old farm and barns in the Northern Lot had been gazumped.

The house near Cazals which we lost was a major blow so late on but looking back we feel the situation benefitted us.

Luckily, friends Judi and Roger Meadows stepped in with an offer to let the Voices use their farmhouse in the Dordogne for 6 months.

Based at Le Mas they were located close to the area that ultimately will become their home. "Because we know the region well and having stayed in Le Mas several times on holiday, we are delighted and comfortable with the flexibility it gave us." Indeed this enforced change of plan meant that we did indeed find that dream house.

Whilst they will not be up and running to sell holidays for a while, Phil and Donna's progress can be followed by logging on to their website where there is a web log together with photos and interesting articles.