I finished last week’s blog saying that we were expecting a busy week as it is the start of the Toussaint holiday in France. It turned out to be so and we were delighted to be completely full last night with 16 people, our maximum capacity, across the 4 gîtes. Today Stable is changing occupants and we welcome new guests in Hayloft and Priory tomorrow which is brilliant for us.
With the high summer season being over we had been calm in the gîtes for a couple of weeks so we took the opportunity to give them a deep end-of-season clean before our guests arrived. As a consequence I haven’t made the progress on a number of projects that I’d have liked although we have got a few things done.
In last week’s blog I said we had done a long walk on the Crozon peninsular and that we had done it on Saturday rather than the Sunday which we would normally choose. The main reason for this was that we were told there was a pépinière (nursery) in the town of Le Faou which we drive through on the way and it may have a particular plant that we wanted – and they did.
Since we have lived here we have begun to develop the gardens as much as the gîtes themselves. This is partly because Kergudon is our home and we want it to be attractive for us, partly because we want the gardens to be attractive for our guests and partly because we enjoy doing it.
In our plans we want to have as many plants that produce amazing spring and / or autumn colour and a couple of years ago we planted a Ginkgo Biloba which is amazing in the autumn. Sadly, that plant was snapped when we had the sycamores felled last autumn and, while it is recovering and re-growing slowly, we wanted to replace it but with a particular variety. Most Gingkos grow to about 30 metres which we think is a little large for where we wanted to plant it in the orchard, so we have bought a variety called ‘Compacta’ as it should only grow to about 5 of 6 metres.
I planted it on Monday and it looks stunning, as too the orchard lawn – the scarifying is obviously making a big difference (as too the rain we’ve had in the last couple of weeks!) When the cherries gain their autumn colour and we have added a couple of other things that we are planning, we think it will be fabulous.
During the week, I managed to get round to repairing the drainage from the boot room laundry which had become blocked in September. I never managed to find the cause of the blockage, despite chasing through into the bike shed, which was frustrating but I have rejigged the pipework which, hopefully, will prevent it happening again. With the boot room and bike shed rebuilt the guests have full use of all our facilities again.
One thing I haven’t progressed as much as I’d like was rebuilding our own laundry room. We are really enjoying this concept (new to us in our own home!) of having heat and hot water on demand but we are still living with the contents of our laundry room in our lounge – now including a tumble dryer which we had stored initially in Hayloft but thought it best to move when we had guests arrive!
I have started to plasterboard the ceiling which was going well until the lights stopped working. To sort it out I had to cut through the ceiling planks to access the void space above where I found why there were quite so many drafts coming into the room. There was insulation there but it had basically been dumped in a pile rather than used to insulate! I also found the mystery ventilation system that was the cause of infrequent but irritating power cut-outs in our first couple of years.
We will keep the access as the space could be good storage in the future – you can never have enough storage! Hopefully I will be able to progress more in the coming week.
One major task we both completed earlier in the week, which had the potential to be problematic, was to register on the French online system to exchange our current residency permits (Cartes de Sejour) for the cards we need when the UK leaves the EU.
The French had been promising a new online system for over a year and its launch date had been delayed twice but went live last Monday. We thought we’d wait to apply as we have months to do it and we thought day 1 had the potential to be when everyone attempts to access it and it would crash or have all its glitches exposed.
However, curiosity got the better of us and we logged on Monday evening. I could not have been more impressed. The process was simple, quick (it took us less than 10 minutes each) and amazingly for France, paperwork-lite. It certainly assisted us having applied for the previous permits last year and all we needed to provide this time were copies of our passports and a utility bill to prove we were still resident.
Every congratulation needs to go to the French government for their system – I get the impression the UK government hasn’t done anything so simple for Europeans citizens living in the UK – and all we need do now is wait for our new cards to be issued.
Next week the focus is our laundry room and then back to the garage and manshed. Always lots to do!
In last week’s blog I mentioned that, if a company showed up when they said they would, we were having something lovely done in our own home. This would focus my efforts for the first couple of days of the week.
The ‘something lovely’ was having a new boiler installed and my efforts would be to empty the utility room where the old boiler was situated. Our utility room has become essential to the business. It is our main laundry area; the general clean up area for DIY projects and, being off the kitchen, is also a bit of a larder space as I put up all the old wall cupboards we took out of Hayloft and Granary in our original renovations of 2015.
It is only a small room and, like so many of our other ‘storage’ spaces(!) had become a little disorganised and overfull. It was also the source of so many drafts coming into the house and chilling it down over the winter as the external slate walls have lots of holes and the ceiling has massive gaps between the boards!
In this small and chaotic space was an oil-fired boiler of indeterminate age but our estimation is in excess of 20 years. The timer function had long since stopped working so it could not be programmed leaving 2 power options, on or off. You could switch off the pump so I wouldn’t feed the radiators and just provide hot water. We did this when we first arrived at Kergudon and had the luxury of hot water whenever we wanted but we did get through 500 litres of oil in less than 6 months.
As it was so old it was extremely inefficient. More so when there were 2 radiators running off the system in Priory which were completely ineffective at heating that large space. Consequently, for the last 5 years we have only been turning the boiler on for periods of 15 minutes or so once or twice a day when we need to shower and wash up. This meant we didn’t use so much fuel oil but it did mean the house was always between chilly and arctic-cold in the winter and we used a lot of firewood instead in the poêle.
During our refurbishment of Priory in the spring we removed those radiators and installed an air source heat pump as, we understand, they are extremely efficient. So far we have been very impressed with it. While Priory’s heat pump only heats air which is used to heat the gîte, hot water being provided by an electric immersion heater, some friends showed us their system which heats water and plugged straight into their exiting radiators.
Having convinced us that this was the way to go for our own home, our friends then sealed the fact by telling us that the French state, as part of its efforts to combat climate change, are providing assistance to householders wanting to replace inefficient oil boilers with super-efficient heat pumps.
This week saw the work done but did mean that it took me a while at the start of the week to completely empty the utility room so the team could do their work. The room is so different when empty, and much lighter, but now our lounge is (temporarily) full of laundry and cleaning things!
The 2 guys who came to do the work were really efficient. Two days of work was all they required to rip out the old boiler, and the extremely unattractive fuel tank on our side terrace, and replace with a new system. Unfortunately it was less than 2 days before I broke it(!) at 5 pm on Friday. I was really impressed when at 9 am Saturday their maintenance team were with us and within a couple of hours all was back up and running. In my defence I hadn’t broken it but, while they were quick, the installers hadn’t done something quite right and a few tweaks were required to get it operating correctly.
Now we have some of those things others take for granted and we provide in the gîtes, hot water on demand and a warm house all day long!
We are so impressed with heat pumps that we are having a Priory style air-air system installed in Granary in the next couple of months to make sure it remains toasty in the winter season but in a more efficient way. One of the other tasks I did during the week in preparation for this was to create a concrete pad behind Granary on which the external unit will eventually sit.
Now we have the new system, next week will be the start of me rebuilding the utility room and first will be to dry line the ceiling with plasterboard to reduce the drafts coming into the house. Having ripped out the old sink but it being essential, we spent much of Friday in Brest looking for a replacement as well as new wall cabinets Dave having authorised their purchase. The old Granary and Hayloft units will get re-re-used in the garage and our new cabinets are white which should mean the new utility room will seem lighter, and larger, and we have been able to maximise the space so will be able to store more stuff!!
We continued our weekly walks yesterday with the longest yet. We did a 17.2 km circuit on the north side of the presqu’île de crozon (Crozon peninsular) starting and finishing at the pretty town of Landévennec. Another beautifully clear, crisp autumn day and another fabulous walk through forest, woodland and along the south side of the Rade de Brest almost exactly opposite where we walked a few weeks ago.
Unlike last week when we were too early for the autumnal colours, this week we saw some fabulous signs of nature and the amazing year we’ve had. I haven’t seen as many holly berries as this year for a long time.
Going onto the Crozon peninsular means crossing the Térénez Bridge which is a fabulous feature of the journey, the French do build amazing bridges, and we got some good views of it on the walk. Other interesting views were of the French Navy’s warship graveyard which is in the protected waters where the curves of the river Aulne enter the Rade de Brest estuary. When warships get to the end of their useful life there are a number of things that can be done with them. France uses this part of the estuary to ‘store’ their old hulls before final disposal so the number and size change frequently but they always hold an odd fascination.
Next week will be busy – lots more shed and garage clearing to be done! It is also the start of the French Toussaint (All Saints) holiday and we are looking busy in the gîtes so lots to do!
My last blog said that the preceding couple of weeks weren’t perhaps the most productive of my time but that David had a week off work, from Brest at least, so I would have a work mate and we may be able to get more achieved.
I’m glad I said ‘may’ and not ‘would’! Who would have thought that David would want to relax during his week off and not do any major heavy lifting during the week?! That said, we haven’t been as slack as previous weeks and have managed to make progress in a couple of things.
When the weather allowed most of those things were outside and included David starting to change the hanging baskets from their summer to winter planting and, sadly, cutting out a number of privet plants in the Granary hedge which have been killed by Honey fungus in the soil and replacing them with griselinia plants.
The honey fungus has been slowly working its way along the privet hedge in 2 places around Granary’s garden killing the plants as it goes. This was the reason we planted a number of cuttings in the hedge earlier in the year having had success previously. Sadly, with such a dry spring and summer, these cuttings didn’t take so we have decided, at least where there is effectively no hedge now, to plant some more established plants. We will still take some cuttings and root them over the winter to add in as the remainder of the privet is likely to die.
While it has been fairly damp over the last couple of weeks, I did manage to get the lawns cut and, while Granary and the orchard look great, the back lawn less so. Sadly, not much of the grass seed we laid having scarified a couple of weeks ago has germinated although it’s not been helped by the mole which is back and causing as much damage as it can!
When it was wet I (re-)started the major task of clearing, emptying and tidying my man shed and the garage bays. Having finished the refurbishment in Priory the day we welcomed guests, and having been booked ever since, I never started the sort through of everything that we cleared out of the gîte and deposited ‘temporarily’ in the garage and shed.
Frustratingly, as I empty space in the end garage bay (where we laid a concrete floor earlier in the year) precisely because it is concreted we use it when we buy things that need to be kept dry. We have a couple of projects happening next week (hopefully) and we have had to buy some new plasterboard and concrete for them. The end bay is the only really acceptable place to store them – this time at least just for a short period.
This one may last most of the winter but at least I can press on as the weather gets wetter and cold.
Today, we have picked up with our new habit of taking the dogs for a walk and exploring the region we live in. That said, today we revisited an area we have walked before although walked a different route starting and finishing in the town of Châteauneuf-du-Faou. While the weather wasn’t as clear as we’d have liked, as you’ll see from the pictures, it was at least dry (mostly) and lovely weather to walk in.
Châteauneuf was where we used to attend French lessons and we often walked along the banks of the river Aulne that snakes on the outskirts of the town where it forms part of the Nantes-Brest canal. We have walked the canal in a number of places, and it is beautiful everywhere but we hoped by going today we may see the amazing autumn colours as the canal is flanked by large deciduous woodland. Sadly, we were a couple of weeks too early and the turn hasn’t begun in earnest but it was a lovely walk anyway – and finished with a couple of pressions in a canal-side bar.
Next week we have a target to meet as we are something lovely done to our own home (or hope too if the company turns up when they said they would). I will tell you about that next week but it will focus my efforts for the first couple of days. David is back in the gym too so all that work that needs both of us will have to wait a little longer …
So, having said in my last blog, posted 2 weeks ago after a couple of week’s hiatus, that I would get back into the habit of writing a weekly blog. However, it did have the caveat that it was ‘assuming we don’t get diverted to Au Lac’. You will have seen there was no blog last week …
Looking back at the last couple of weeks, I cannot say that it has been the most productive of periods during our time here. In fact, both David and I have started to feel the fatigue that comes at the end of a long and, despite everything going on, busy summer so we have probably had more downtime than in the previous few months. At least I have, David has been going into work as normal but has taken some leave for the coming week so can wind down too.
The last blog did mention that a change in the weather was due so that we could scarify the back lawn and lay some grass seed. While it has been wetter over the last 2 weeks, the last 3 days have been exceptional and, with Storm Alex passing through we have been deluged.
Thankfully we didn’t have the same amount of rain as other parts of France and northern Italy where it was devastating, and we didn’t have the same strength of winds as our neighbouring département of Morbihan or Ille-et-Vilaine, also in Brittany. The strongest wind of 186 km/h (115 mph) was recorded on Belle Île, just beyond Lorient, which broke all records, but we did have a sufficiently strong gust to snap a tree on our boundary which promptly fell through the power lines and onto our neighbour’s car.
The days preceding the storm we had a couple of tree surgeons visit to quote to cut down a tree which we thought was particularly vulnerable to a storm and is sited where it would certainly break through power lines. Of course this isn’t the tree which snapped and it remains standing and perfectly OK!
Having lost power to our own home and Granary gîte, it surprised us to see that Priory was completely unaffected. Thankfully we had some very understanding guests staying in Granary who, while there was no heating, quite enjoyed their last evening by candlelight.
Evidently, when we had the new power supply installed for Priory as part of the refurbishment earlier this year, the power comes in a different way to Kergudon and Granary, despite them all coming off the same electricity pole!
The advantage however, was that we were able to rig an extension cable from the socket on Priory’s terrace through our back door so we literally could, as the old joke goes, watch television in the dark during the power cut! It also meant we could plug in our freezer and prevent that defrosting overnight.
We were then very impressed that despite all the damage in the area, the electricity company were able to come yesterday afternoon and, almost exactly 24 hrs to the minute after we were cut off, we had power again.
Also very thankfully, we believe that our neighbour’s car has got away very lightly and with minimal damage his wood shed, and the power cables, having taken most of the weight of the falling tree.
The last week has been pretty sociable however. On Friday 25th September we had some friends stay in Stable and went out to Au Lac for dinner to celebrate their birthday. When we were there, Mercedes mentioned that she was closing for the winter after service on the Sunday lunchtime. Of course, this meant that we didn’t continue our new routine of a Sunday walk exploring the area as we had to go and have our last supper (well lunch) of 2020 at Au Lac.
As it turned out Sunday lunch wasn’t our last meal in Au Lac this year as, having closed, Mercedes was kind enough to invite us to dinner last Tuesday evening to eat what was left in the fridge. As Merc has amazing dishes with fantastic ingredients, we were spoiled with a lovely meal of fois gras and delicious beef. Our thanks again to Mercedes for a great night – we’ll miss you over the winter.
This evening we also have a social event with Kergudon’s second annual end-of-season film night. Last year we invited a number of friends around to celebrate the end of the busy summer season and watched Bohemian Rhapsody in our cinema. Everyone enjoyed it so much we are doing the same again and, to follow the theme, we are watching Rocketman!
Hopefully, will get a bit more achieved in the coming week, especially with David on leave I have a work mate to assist although suspect that he may want to relax a bit during his time off!!
Apologies that it has been three weeks since posting a blog – it seems like so long ago! At least there is lots to cover as it has been a reasonably productive period at least the last 2 weeks have. The first week less so as I was struck by a pretty nasty bug that knocked me out for a while. I don’t think it was THE bug as my symptoms weren’t those generally expected and, thankfully, I managed to shake it off in a few days.
Most thankfully I was able to shake it off to join some friends in visiting a local brewery at the end of the week. We had heard of a craft brewery in the village of La Feuillée about 15 minutes from us but had never visited. Recently we got to taste some of their brew – and see the impressive containers you can buy to take some home – so we had to visit.
Having got back to fighting strength I have managed to complete a couple of tasks that had been outstanding for a few weeks including finishing the staining of Grange and my man shed. They look great and should now be protected for a few years (when I’ll have to do it all again!)
I also managed to progress the hedge cutting but still not quite finish as my hedge cutters chose not to pack up but to cut out frequently when I tried to use them. Of course, when I took them to our new repair shop they chose to work exactly as they should and show no sign of a problem – grrr. Thankfully, I managed to cut the vast majority of the hedges – some manually – and the little remaining could even wait until next year …
In the last blog I wrote we had just changed a tap in a gîte having had to clear the drains and said things came in threes. The third, not the same gîte thankfully but plumbing related, was a problem with the boot room pipework. Not yet resolved but will at least be something I will be able to do myself and not get the professionals in this time.
Having taken my hedge cutters to the repair shop I was able to see if a chainsaw I had dropped off before was able to have been repaired. It hadn’t so I was given the bits in a box! This meant that in my efforts to clear the garage and tidy by clearing a couple of piles of wood last week, I had to do the cutting manually and have invested in another chainsaw.
The other major task we have started, having taken the opportunity of a change in the weather at the end of last week, was the autumn lawn scarifying. The back lawn, the largest, we scarified in the spring but just before it got very dry for a long time and it never recovered properly. Seeing that we are due a damp couple of weeks, we have scarified it again and we have bought some new grass seed to lay with a more durable type of grass that should perform better in drought.
In the short term it has made the lawn look even sparser – but you can see the nicely cut hedges in the background of one and the very large pile of (bramble covered) wood I need to clear in another! For another few weeks!
We have at least managed to maintain one ‘habit’ that we started a few weeks ago on David’s birthday – a day out exploring our lovely region. We have always said that we need to take the opportunity to take time and explore around us as, if you love the outdoors, there is so much to offer. In David’s birthday week we, accidentally, went on a long, but beautiful, walk in the Monts D’Arrée and for the last 2 Sundays we have chosen another area to walk.
Last week, we revisited a part of the coast we had actually walked first a few years ago. From previous blogs you will know that we love the Sunday market in Daoulas although, in this odd year, we hadn’t visited at all in 2020. So, as we had no guests we went back and continued onto the peninsular of Logonna-Daoulas for a coastal walk.
The weather was amazing – blue sky, very hot and zero wind – which made the beautifully clear sea seem more Caribbean than Breton. The coastline there has some fabulous shingle beaches and hidden coves which provide some great private bathing as well as some dramatic scenery.
The dogs love swimming in the sea but, again, haven’t been able to at all this year, so made the most of it. Having got them salty we thought it best to detour to the Lac du Drennec on the way home so they can swim in fresh water and clean off. Of course, being at the lake we thought it rude not to pop to Au Lac and have a quick half. In Mercedes’ always generous manner, the first half led to another and another and … well, as you saw, no blog last Sunday!
Today, as the weather was very different from last Sunday, low cloud which gave poor visibility, we chose a woodland walk rather than anything we would do for the views. We returned to the Fôret du Cranou which, while we had visited for the first time earlier this year, we explored a different part of and loved it. It reminded us that we are so fortunate to live somewhere where we can choose such different walks depending on mood (and weather) from fantastic coastal cliff walks; open moor and heathland; woodland and forest walks or canal or lake side strolls all within easy reach.
We’ll have to choose something else for next Sunday and, assuming we don’t get diverted to Au Lac, I will get back into the habit of writing a weekly blog!
Apologies for not posting a blog last week – will let you know why later.
It has been an odd couple of weeks in terms of work – possibly not the busiest or most productive – and there aren’t too many major things to share with you.
I have continued to stain Grange although the weather and other tasks have prevented me from finishing (still!) and the garage clearance hasn’t made much progress either.
The last blog I posted mentioned that I had a very unpleasant task to complete with the plumbing in one of our gîtes. I actually didn’t do anything on my own with that until the Wednesday when we had the professionals in – and they arrived with a huge lorry. I was expecting a man-in-a-van to come but a massive septic tank emptying truck arrived. Unusually for rural France, we are not on a septic tank, but the drain pro said that this is their smallest vehicle. A big lorry for a big job as it were!
After some very careful manoeuvring down the drive, where there was less than 10 cms clearance either side, he was able to position himself so he could access the gîte and his kit. With the right people and equipment he was able to clear the blockage pretty easily although wasn’t helped by his new drain camera not working! After a bit of exploratory work he has provided us with some suggestions as to what to do to prevent a future recurrence – another project for the winter maybe!
Job done we were able to get the gîte ready for its new guests last Saturday who really enjoyed their stay – despite the kitchen sink tap starting to leak profusely when in use! They say things come in threes! That proved a much easier job to rectify and a new tap has been fitted.
Last Sunday was the beginning of David’s birthday week, hence I didn’t write a blog, and we decided to have a day out including our first visit of the year to the restaurant in St. Rivoal, the Auberge du Menez and were delighted to see that it continues to be excellent.
We chose to visit a place we had only been to once before a couple of years ago, the Abbey du Relec which is not very far from us. While the abbey itself is interesting we wanted to go for a walk in the adjacent woods with the dogs. Having had a lunchtime drink in the excellent little restaurant in the abbey courtyard we started our walk. It was a hot afternoon and we were dressed in jeans and thick tops expecting to only go for a short walk. We picked up the signs for a circular walk and 2 ½ hours and 13 kms later we finished!
While rather longer than we’d anticipated, it was a lovely walk. One we would recommend and definitely do again ourselves, as it takes you up to some of the highest points in the Monts D’Arrée and you got to see some unusual wildlife!
The route also takes you through the hamlet of Trédudon-le-Moine known as the first resistance village of France due to its activities in WWII.
This week has been a similar one of ‘bitty’ things without many major milestones being met. We have started to think a little more about our own house now that our gîtes are at a stage that we are delighted with them and don’t need such major work. One of the investments we have made for our home was for 2 large pieces of furniture, one to replace the old aquarium which we brought with us from London and had sat in the lounge ever since. A sort of self-birthday present for David.
These were delivered on Thursday by another large lorry, evidently larger even than the drain lorry as this one didn’t manage to get under the phone line at the end of Hent Gorreker which it promptly pulled off the pole and broke. Thankfully, it evidently isn’t the line that provides our phone and internet as we are (miraculously) unaffected but it is the one that provides phone services to the neighbour who allows us to use their connection when we are off line.
So, in a reversal of fortune, the have visited us a couple of times to download mails and complain to their phone provider who has told them, in true French client service style, the line will be fixed by 7th September! The fact that the line is currently hanging at about next height across the lane and so is a hazard to traffic doesn’t seem to increase the priority!
The coming week could be very productive however, we have an inspection on Thursday to be officially classified, so while we don’t have guests in the family gîtes, we will need to ensure they are fully prepared as if we were about to welcome guests and so we will be focussed on making sure they are as spotless as they would be when we are expecting guests.
Last week’s blog stated that I was focussed on 2 tasks – hedge cutting and staining Grange. It was the latter that was the continued focus for this week and still it isn’t finished!
I know it seems like it is taking an awfully long time to do something fairly simple, and to be fair it probably is, but I can justify the slow progress! The staining isn’t all I have been doing, it’s just the major task that creates pictures which, I hope, are worth looking at!
Last week, as this week, we have had lovely couples stay in our Chambre d’Hote, Stable. Last week’s couple were my sort of people in that they had their breakfast at the leisurely hour of 10am. As I am i/c ‘normal’ breakfasts, David does anything more complex, for the last week I haven’t been able to start anything major, or dirty, before I have delivered breakfast.
I have managed to put the second coat of stain on the north end of Grange and painted the render behind the bins and water butt giving an impression of what the whole building will look like when I have got around to doing that.
I have managed to put a single coat on the staircase and my man shed although, with the man shed cladding being newer and so not silvered as much, the finished colour isn’t quite the same despite using the same stain. Might look a little closer when I have added the second coat, although I have used a clear varnish for the second coats up to this point.
During the week I have managed to empty the garage bay where we dumped (no better way to describe it) all of the packaging from the Priory refurbishment. I managed to fill our trailer completely with just the cardboard packaging we had accumulated. My effort to start clearing out the garage bays – although the man shed is still chaos inside!
The COVID situation continues to impact us and our guests. The UK government’s decision late last Thursday to require travellers from France to quarantine when entering the UK led to our 2 British families (the first Brits we were expecting in 2020!) who were due to arrive for this week (and next!) to cancel their plans at the last minute. We are obviously disappointed not to be able to welcome them but we completely understand their position. Thankfully both have deferred their trips rather than cancel outright.
There was one silver lining of their cancellations as we had some guests leave us on Saturday morning who reported a problem with the plumbing. Not to go into too many details, yesterday I spent doing the most unpleasant job I have had since arriving but without success. When our German guests arrived who were due in the affected gîte, we were able to move them into one of the family gîtes that had become vacant. What we would have done had we not had a spare gîte for them to use, I’m really not sure!
Even with the help of our friendly plumber we are yet to solve the plumbing problem and we hope to call in more professionals next week – thankfully it has bought us a little time to get on top of it but will be an unpleasant start to the week. The glamour of gîte ownership!
Whether I will be able to finish the staining next week is very dependent on the weather. Last week’s forecasts were for thunderstorms and showers although they didn’t materialise until a spectacular lightening show last night. We’ll see if the next week’s forecasts are any more accurate.
Last week’s blog said that we had started 2 major projects which desperately needed doing. It is both of these that I have been continuing with this week – although neither are actually finished!
Earlier in the week I continued with the hedging which is very nearly complete. I was fortunate in that the weather was extremely good and we had lots of adventurous guests who were out and about most of the time so there was less of a concern that I was creating a lot of noise. Thankfully when I needed to be quiet, I was able to give the wisteria its biannual trim and train it against Priory. I can see this summer being the most difficult in years to come as it puts on so many new tendrils in the growing season, all of which weave together, it is very difficult to see what to cut and what to keep. However, having completed and trimmed the buxus at the base it is looking smart at the front of Priory again.
The hedging itself generates a lot of green waste which, at the minute, we can only take to the déchetterie, so a number of things also have to line up to allow me to do it. I need to be able to use the trailer, have access to the car and the déchetterie needs to be open.
As we live in a rural area the déchetterie isn’t open every day nor indeed all day of those days it is open. Many of its open periods coincide when Dave works in Brest so he has to use the car. While I can load the trailer and then take it at a convenient time, it is amazing how little hedging needs to be cut to fill it up – especially in the summer cut when it grows so fiercely between March and July.
We are also half-owners of our trailer having bought it with a neighbouring couple who also have a large garden. We tend to get the better end of the deal as we have ‘custody’ of it for the majority of the time, but if they need to use it we are fortunate in that we have lots of other projects we can pick up.
That other project was continuing to stain the exterior of Grange. By last Sunday I had done the east side which was always going to be the easiest. During the last week I have managed to complete the south side, other than the steps, and have put one coat on the north side. All, so far, without injury!
Hopefully, in the coming week I will be able to get a second coat on the north and 2 coats on the west side. If I get the steps done that will be it completed – at least for the next 7 years! Hopefully too I will get most done before the weather changes from the very hot and dry we have enjoyed for the past few weeks to less settled next week. At least the lawns should start to look green again.
2020 has, for everyone, been an odd year all round although it has meant a couple of firsts for us. With the uncertainty that COVID has made to travel, earlier in the year we had the first time when all of our gîtes were occupied but none of our guests were British. Last week, was the first time that all of our gîtes and we only had French guests stay. Obviously we welcome guests from anywhere, but we were very pleased that the name of Kergudon is being shared within France especially as the French like to holiday-at-home more than most nations.
I can’t believe that my last blog, 2 weeks ago, was written the day we completed Priory. It already seems like so long ago … Thankfully, both families who have stayed in Priory in the last 2 weeks have absolutely loved what we have done and have left us some lovely comments. The family who arrived yesterday also seem to have fallen in love with it which makes all the hard work worthwhile.
The blog mentioned that after we had taken a few days off to relax there were a number of projects we needed to pick up including hedge cutting and finally finishing Grange, and this is what I began last week as you can see it desperately needed it.
I think hedge cutting will take more and more time each year as the metres and metres of new yew and lonicera we have planted grow and mature. However, it always looks so much better when done.
Sadly, as you can see on the last picture, the honey fungus that appeared a couple of years ago has continued to destroy some of the old privet hedge surrounding Granary. It is very sad as the arch which we creating into the Granary garden is now destroyed. Sadly too most of the griselinia cuttings I planted in the spring have also died possibly, despite watering, the very dry spring and summer so far didn’t allow them to root. Because we cannot get rid of the honey fungus we have decided to plant griselinia, which is not prone to the pathogen, to eventually replace all the privet. It is disappointing that these cuttings have died as we have lost a year’s growth but we have a plan for the autumn which should mean the next plants we add will survive.
The other task I began is one that I have meant to do for a couple of years, stain the exterior of Grange. Since we clad the building in 2017 the wood has aged from the bright yellow of the pressure treatment to a soft silver but it now needs assistance to keep it in a good state.
I have started with the easy side – the front – which looks much better now it has 2 coats. The other faces will be harder to access but I hope to get them done this week.
Last week we had some guests, friends now, staying with us for their 3rd stay. Their previous visit was for Christmas when one of them received a drone. In the 7 months following they have been practicing how to fly it so, when they brought it back with them this time they were able to get some footage.
The first film was sadly taken on a fairly overcast day (before I had cut any of the hedging!) but shows how beautiful the countryside is around us, and how close we are to the Lac du Drennec which is a wonderful place to walk, swim or kayak.
We understand that they took more footage later in the week, on sunnier days with better hedges(!) that we should be able to share soon. David is looking to do some of his video editing to put something lovely together.
Next week hopefully I will complete the whole of Grange without doing myself an injury and, who knows, perhaps even start to empty it out!
Well we’ve made it. We are both a bit shattered but at 10 am today our first guests arrived in the newly finished, revamped, redecorated and refurbished Priory. And, while I may be a little biased, it looks amazing.
In my last blog, I said that I wasn’t panicking about getting things complete on time, and I never (quite) got to that point. It certainly was nowhere near as fine a run thing as it was when we were preparing Granary in our first year and not as many stitches were required. However, as then, we did have some very long days that more resembled our working life back in London – albeit the work was more fun. Also, as then, we did have some assistance on the last day from 2 friends, Pierre-Jean and Cyril, who were instrumental in getting things over the line without us having to put in an all-nighter.
The last 2 weeks have actually not been totally focussed on Priory. As my last blog mentioned our first guests of this COVID year arrived in Granary last Saturday which meant that we had to take some time to prepare that. Because we had been using it as storage for all the Priory furnishings we had to empty it, give it a pre-season deep, deep clean, and do a number of smaller maintenance tasks that had been building up.
These tasks were all fairly minor individually (reattaching some tiles; replacing the wood above the new front door; giving the new front door 2 more coats of gloss; reattaching some hanging basket brackets that had blown off in the wind; plumbing in a new cooker we had bought in the spring ….) but collectively added up to a day’s work and meant that Granary looked amazing when our guests arrived.
There was a moment of greater panic when we were preparing Granary than we ever had in Priory as on the Wednesday during, but not while actively, deep cleaning, the electricity supply tripped and could not be remade. David managed to identify the circuit which was causing the problem so restore power but without most of the sockets and so without all the niceties of TV, fridge, kettle …
Thankfully Pascal, our super-electrician, came to the rescue at 0830 Thursday morning and had resolved the problem by lunchtime.
Granary prepped, back into Priory and its own issues, inevitably plumbing based. My Facebook message last Sunday mentioned one that had manifested itself that day caused by the fact that water cannot drain uphill! Thankfully I was able to resolve that relatively easily. Monday’s problem initially caused more concern and was to do with the new en-suite shower – again!
The shower has proven more than problematic and our new plumber, Terry, had visited at least 4 times to try and make watertight. Two weeks ago we thought he’d managed and it remained dry for about a week before it started seeping again. Fearing the worst that we would again have to strip off tiles and cut through to the pipework we were starting to cut things really tight. Thankfully, Terry identified what we believe (hope to goodness!) was the cause without striping tiles off and resolved. It has remained dry so far – but then it did before!
As of 8 am this morning the gîte is finished and looks fabulous.
I have made you wait long enough – now the pictures and the ‘big reveal’. These are some ‘quick and dirty’ images that probably won’t be used for marketing but I thought you’d like to see them before we update our website. As such, they really don’t do the finished project justice. To compare with the ‘before’ just see the relevant pages on the website.
Again, as a partial narrator, we think everything has made a huge difference and it is difficult to identify individual things that we like the most. However, if I were to choose the new king bedroom with its en-suite shower room is fantastic and much roomier than we’d expected.
The new heating system is far more efficient and will ensure that the gîte is cosy all through the year and the fire can be used for atmosphere rather than the principal, inefficient, source of heat.
The kitchen is fabulous with lots more storage and we have splashed out on a fantastic range cooker and, if you have seen in the pictures, a holiday home for dogs joining us. We particularly like the new back door that our carpenter friend has made (the same carpenter who made Granary’s lovely new front door) with some lovely detailing. With the much larger window it provides more light and makes the garden and terrace more inviting.
More light was what we had been trying to achieve in the lounge which, due to the age of the building, doesn’t have any windows. Now, it is more like Blackpool illuminations! We love the new rustic chandelier and the spots we have added into the niches in the dining area.
And finally, possibly the largest visual change is the mezzanine. Removing the old lambris from behind the bed and adding lights and character has made a huge difference – and means it is no longer a squeeze to walk along the end of the bed.
It looks great now and will look magical when decorated for Christmas – which is good as this week we have received reservations for both Priory and Granary for Christmas this year so someone will really enjoy it.
It has been a long 6 months plus to get here and, as is always asked on Grand Design type programmes, while due to confinement it is well over time (over 6 months rather than the 3 hoped) it is roughly on budget. Of course we have had some help and we must thank a number of people.
Pascal, the sparky who rewired and installed the heating system; Terry for stepping in and picking up the plumbing with all the problems he had to deal with; John for his fabulous door and new storage space under the stairs; and Pierre-Jean and Cyril for their assistance on a couple of occasions
Looking back when we completed phase 1 of our refurbishments in 2015 when we were fully booked for the first time ever, we had a truly international clientele. Then there was an Irish family in Priory, Spanish in Granary, English in Hayloft and French in Stable. Tonight, the first night full in COVID 2020, we have Irish again in Priory, Belgian in Granary, Swiss / German in Hayloft and French in Stable.
We are having a couple of restful days, not completely off as David is in the gym next week, before picking up all of our other tasks possibly starting with hedge cutting and sorting out own house which has been somewhat neglected and now resembles Granary when it was being used as storage. The next major project is finally completing Grange but before we do that I need a few déchetterie runs to dispose of the packaging and waste of everything we have put in Priory. Where has my lovely empty concreted garage bay gone?!
I’d have an early night but they do insist on showing the Grand Prix highlights so late – and there’s breakfast for Stable early tomorrow so no lie in …
I want to dedicate this blog to David’s Grandma who sadly passed away early this morning. David was very close to his Grandma. Regrettably she was never able to come out and see our new venture and we only managed to see her once a year but she will be sorely missed.