Dreamt of owning your own place in France, but been put off by the thought of all the legal hassle?

Sue Ockwell finds that buying a share in a French chateau in Normandy could be the answer.

TIME-share conjures up images of apartments in the busiest holiday resorts, but as I found out the chance to buy time in part of the Chateau d'Hemevez in deepest rural France is about to change all that.

The Chateau is easy to reach from South Wales via Portsmouth (M4/M3), the fast ferry crossing (under three hours to Cherbourg) and just 20 minutes' relaxed driving on uncrowded French roads.

The 18th/19th century Chateau is being restored and converted into 12 very spacious apartments (with between two and four bedrooms) and one four-bedroomed manor house, each with private garden amidst the extensive parkland, plus tennis courts, a croquet lawn, boules pitch and indoor swimming pool. There's space for a cinema, snooker table, library and more.

A concierge will ensure that each apartment is ready to move into, with beds made - just arrive, unpack and pour yourself a glass of wine before you take a swim or a stroll around the grounds.

How much does such French perfection cost? You can buy one week a year (from the date of purchase until Kingdom come) in a two-bedroomed apartment for just under £5,000.

Considering the cost of buying, furnishing and equipping a second home in France - and how long it would take - this is something of a bargain. It comes with the reassurance that you are buying a share in a British company - all the paperwork is, of course, in plain English - and you can sell your share at any time, or bequeath it so that your family and their children may enjoy it in due course.

The Chateau will not only be completely refurbished - new roof, plumbing, heating, top-of-the-range kitchens and bathrooms, etc - but will also be fully furnished and decorated, with a mix of antiques and new beds, sofas, etc, by an interior designer of some repute.

The end result will both please the eye and prove practical.

Hemevez is in ideal walking and cycling territory, with three golf courses nearby, plenty of value-for-money restaurants, plus the delight of French markets and French food shops for those who like to savour local delicacies in their own dining room. Regional specialities include seafood, cheeses, crme fraiche, cider and calvados.

The first six apartments will be ready for Easter 2006, and the initial prices (a one-off payment of from £4,900 per week) include a 20% discount for buying "off plan". It will have paid for itself in five years', but it's yours forever.