I mentioned at the end of last week’s blog that, while we had made some momentum the previous week, the weather forecast for last week was likely to stall that – and so it proved to be the case. As such, this blog won’t be terribly long …
We did experience some damp autumnal weather interspersed with a couple of bright, warm, sunny days. David’s parents were still with us at the start of the week and, on Monday, one of the wet days, while they visited the Leclerc exhibition we had seen with my Dad, not wanting to waste an entire day, we started a good ‘wet weather project’ – clearing and sorting our store room.
The store room is the half of the first floor of the garage (Grange) which isn’t the games room. Since completing it, it has made a huge difference to our lives. Not least because we have been able to store things previously taking up space in our home but because, when we change the gîtes over it gives us a single space where we can gather everything we need.
However, being a large useful space, it has also become an area where we can accumulate things that perhaps we don’t need to hang onto (I may have mentioned that I don’t throw much away!) Now seemed like a good time to empty the space out, remind ourselves what’s in it, and then restock it in such a way that we are able to better see what we have. It is the first time the room has been empty since I built it.
It is amazing how much ‘stuff’ we have managed to accumulate and is quite therapeutic sorting it out. Amazingly (for me) some of the items, which we will never need, will be thrown out and others, which we may need but irregularly, will be stored above Dave’s gym. What this means is that we will need to do the same sorting to that space next week.
Tuesday was the best day of the week by far, but it was also a significant day for Dave’s Mum so we took the day off and went with them to Camaret-sur-Mer at the end of the Crozon peninsular for a lovely lunch. There are a number of great restaurants at Camaret and we tried a new one, for us, which was part of a small spa hotel but ideally located with a terrace overlooking the marina. It was actually really hot and we had a lovely meal before coming home where David produced an equally amazing dinner in the evening.
David’s parents left us on Wednesday morning and we’ve not made any great strides since. On the only other fairly dry day we have started to clear a wood pile in front of the Dairy building. The wood is principally the remains of the apple trees which were either blown over or we have cut from the orchard. It is starting to season, having been cut down a couple of years ago, but is open to the elements so gets wet and then dries on a regular basis which is not good for it, or terribly attractive just inside our main entrance.
After an afternoon of cutting and splitting we have made a significant dent in the pile and should have it cleared after another day or so of work – when it dries up!
Today has been a reasonably good day as well but, being a Sunday, we don’t like to make too much noise so didn’t want to start using the chain saw again. The ground is also completely sodden so I didn’t want to do anything in the garden (at least that’s my excuse) so we have had to take the tough option and watch some amazing games in the Rugby World Cup.
We think it can be windy here but watching the devastation in Japan yesterday really puts things into perspective. I have only visited Japan once, and found it the most fascinating place with wonderfully hospitable people, and our thoughts go out to those affected by Typhoon Hagibis. We were amazed that they were able to continue to stage the rugby and Formula 1 race today after such an event, and watched the most fantastic game to rugby between Japan and Scotland which was the best advert for the sport we could imagine and one that Japan thoroughly deserved to win. Our thoughts go out to the Scots too – to a much lesser degree.
As we have made it to the end of the summer season, we are looking ahead to the Christmas break (already, I know!) David has put a new video together to highlight our gîtes as the perfect place to spend your festive break as a couple, family or extended group. Please do share with your friends.
Next week’s efforts again are determined significantly by the weather which isn’t looking great – where have our crisp, dry autumns gone? I hope we will be able to find sufficient things to keep ourselves occupied.
I said, at the end of last week’s blog, that autumns have often proven to be productive times for us in getting things done – and that it was about time we started making progress again. Thankfully, this week we have made more progress than perhaps any previous one since the start of the summer season even with Dave’s parents with us and the changeable weather!
One entire day was spent taming the wisteria we planted a few years ago in front of Priory. Evidently it likes the position we have chosen for it as it has grown considerably. We always wanted a wisteria as they always look good growing over the front of an old building and are beautiful when fully in flower.
Having researched, we saw that there are 2 types of wisteria, Chinese and Japanese, one which twists clockwise and the other anticlockwise. We knew that pretty much all commercially available plants are grated to ensure they flower. Ours came from a local garden centre and we know that it flowers, as it did a bit this year, but it appears to have 2 grafted stems, one twisting clockwise and the other anti-clockwise so, it appears, that we may have got ‘lucky’ and have one of each!
This does however make things complex when it comes to training it. Wisteria care I believed was extremely complex and, unless you get it right, the plant either doesn’t grow very happily and / or doesn’t flower as profusely as it could. Despite having been given guidance from our keen gardening neighbour, I still don’t really know if I’m doing it right. When I trained the thin leader shoots during the summer most of them died and so didn’t help form the shape I wanted. I left the whole thing until now and it had become a mass of tangled and twisted shoots some of which were extremely long and starting to grow between the slate and under the roof tiles.
Having spent a long time trying to unwind the shoots carefully and choose the strongest and best placed to extend the frame eventually I became a bit more brutal. It has at least now got to a size that I can start to train above the doors. I only hope that next spring it is fairly forgiving, produces lot flower and continues to grow happily.
During the damper days of the week I continued to clear out the garage (heard that before have you?) but have managed to empty the end bay furthest from the house.
This has made us think again about what to put on the ground. Initially we had planned on a system of sand, plastic (to prevent moisture rising through the floor) and gravel but now we favour a concrete floor. We will do this ourselves but probably not for a couple weeks until we have a dry few days.
When it was, mostly, dry Dave and I also started to clear a(nother) forgotten corner of the garden, this one behind the Stable (which is now watertight again as our roofer did appear last Monday!)
The area immediately behind Stable is a little out of sight, out of mind, so we hadn’t done anything to it other than dump branches we cut down a few years ago before we had the ability to cut them up easily or transport them to the déchetterie. As a result the brambles had taken over and were the only things growing there.
While it had always been on our list to clear this area, it has now become the focus as we have asked a tree surgeon to come and remove all of the trees on that boundary. Before he can do this he asked us to clear the brambles from underneath. It is always sad losing trees but these are predominantly self-set sycamores (i.e. BIG weeds) which haven’t grown to form a nice shape and, being on top of a talus (stone wall) may not be as well anchored as they could be so vulnerable to a big storm in the future. Taking them out this year removes any risk and ensures we get more light into the garden. We will replace them with other, more interesting tress – elsewhere!
Rather than just cut the top of the brambles off, we have begun to dig out as much of the root as possible which, as you can see, has unearthed lots more slate which I can use to build another wall. Removing the roots will help prevent them growing back too quickly and we will also mulch with chippings of the tree branches when they are felled. This may not happen for a few weeks, months potentially but it will be a big change and we will certainly show you in my blogs.
Just clearing the bramble off the front wall has made Kergudon visible from that part of Hent Gorreker so, in the spring, we will plant some new hedging and cut back the old buxus and privet which is there which should create a lovely hidden spot behind Stable for a terrace that we will build. Something else to add to the list!
Finally, I mentioned in the last blog that the commune had plans to resurface Hent Gorreker and they did so this week. It looks pretty good – let’s see how long that lasts – and has allowed me to tidy the front access to Stable and use a small amount of the gravel pile on our drive for the first time in a while!
Good momentum gained this week, my fear is that it may be lost again next as the weather looks decidedly iffy!
Apologies again for not posting a blog last Sunday. Not within my control this time but a result of being cut off from the internet (again) for a few days.
Looking back, it has been a period of slow progress on a number of things with a number of smaller jobs tackled and, this week at least, no major outside work as autumn seems to have arrived early.
The week before last we certainly enjoyed the better of the weather which allowed me to continue various small tasks in the garden. The most major of these was to scarify one of the lawns. The French don’t seem to understand what they see the English attachment to a well maintained lawn, and they often comment on the frequency we cut the grass. This frequent cutting has certainly improved the grass at Kergudon hugely since we arrived but we think it could be better!
In previous years we have applied weed and feed to the lawns, generally in the spring, but we have never removed the old thatch and moss which grows through most of it. To do this manually would be impossible so, earlier this year, we treated ourselves to a petrol driven scarifier. The one thing we had been told, and read, about scarifying lawns is that they make them look terrible for a few weeks so we were keen to do it when we didn’t have many guests but when the weather was warm, and wet, enough to allow the grass to recover.
We have only managed to do one area of lawn, and not the largest one at that. Following my Google research I started cutting the lawn and clearing away the clippings and then scarified at the machine’s shallowest setting. They weren’t wrong it would make a mess! Despite the scarifier having a collection box, it is so ridiculously small I decided to leave it off and clear the debris away manually – perhaps not the best idea! The scarifying took about 40 minutes, the clearing away a couple of hours and filled our trailer with moss.
Having raked it up I thought I would scarify it again in another direction but at the same depth. Thinking that, doing it at the same depth, it would generate only a fraction of the waste than the first pass. Nope – almost exactly the same amount although this time I chose to use the lawn mower as a vacuum to remove the moss but, as there was so much, it meant having to empty the mower bag after every 15 metres or so and filled a second trailer. I didn’t then try and scarify it at a deeper setting this time thinking there wouldn’t be anything left.
Having completed it, it doesn’t look completely bare so hopefully what remains will recover quickly. The weather should help having been a mix of rain and sunshine to encourage it to grow – although we have also had a lot of wind which has covered the grass with the falling sycamore leaves which probably won’t help.
I hope we will see the full results next spring when I intend to scarify it again (and the other lawn areas) as well as add some more top soil in some of the hollows, and re-seed where the lawn has got most patchy.
It wasn’t only us who was doing some ‘industrial’ gardening. Last Thursday the commune, who are planning to re-surface Hent Gorreker in the next couple of weeks, sent a team to cut the edges more brutally than they had ever done. We understand this is because the re-surfacing machine they will be using is quite large and wouldn’t get through with any overhanging branches. You can see from these pictures that the cut was quite brutal on our neighbour’s hedge to the right. We have been cutting our hedge, on the left, since we got here to give it a better shape and fill it out.
The cutting has assisted in some areas especially where it has cut the trees to increase the distance to the power cables so reducing the risk of the branches breaking our power supply. They have also much reduced the height of the hedge next to Granary, which isn’t looked after by its owner, and so increased the amount of light into Granary’s garden. However, they didn’t assist anyone when their cutting efforts included cutting the telephone cable for our half of the village – hence us being offline last Sunday.
Being in a ‘zone blanche’, one where there is very limited mobile connectivity, we weren’t able to call our phone provider (SFR) and let them know. We decided to go to Sizun as we knew we could both call SFR and complain to the Marie at the same time. SFR seemed to be fairly efficient this time and told us they would send an engineer on Saturday afternoon (of course no one turned up) and, while the Marie told us they had contacted the phone company, they didn’t seem too motivated to assist any of us get back online.
I was back to visiting a neighbour twice a day to download mails over the weekend and, thankfully, we were reconnected on Monday.
In that week we also had the first piece of work done in preparation for the revamp of Priory next year. At present, Priory’s electricity supply is the same as our own house, Hayloft and Stable. We want to provide it with an independent supply so, in a piece of joined-up work that was probably more coincidence that planned, Enedis (the power company) did the digging required to install a new box behind Granary last week before the road gets resurfaced. They will be back to make the relevant connections next week.
It has gone behind Granary as this is the closest point within our boundary. We will then have to dig the trench and install the cable to Priory as part of the work we will be doing next year.
This week the weather has been very autumnal at times and meant that I have had to focus internally. One day was spent almost entirely online updating the agency websites we use to advertise the cottages. Some are very straightforward to amend, others a complete nightmare, and of course, there isn’t some clever piece of software that allows me to make one set of changes that then gets fed to all of these commercial sites. Having spent a day doing this we received a booking through an agency we have used for a couple of years, without much success, for a weekend in November. Maybe a coincidence or perhaps I will need to spend more time in these sites – joy!
I had another constructive day cleaning out our fish tank. When we lived in London, I had a fish tank built for a specific position in our kitchen. As it was made to measure, and quite large, it wasn’t very cheap. I did make an effort to sell it before we came to France but, as we didn’t want to give it away we weren’t successful so it came with us and has stood in our lounge ever since – but not cleaned.
Regrettably it doesn’t, and won’t, match the décor in Kergudon so, I have reluctantly agreed to try and sell it again. To advertise it I have had to clean it out and it looks great again. Hopefully we will be able to sell it but at least we have something more attractive to look at in the meantime. If you know anyone who would like a 500 litre fish tank do let us know …
David’s parents arrived with us this morning after a bumpy crossing and we have been to one of the village’s annual social events – the cochon grillé. The event is to mark the feast of Saint Cadou which is 21st September. In true Saint Cadou style, rather than a religious ceremony and parade as other villages have, we hold a hog-roast so we can eat and drink and socialise. Much better.
Next week’s efforts will very much depend on the weather again and the rugby world cup(!) – although we do hope our local roofer is coming tomorrow as Stable has sprung a leak and all of the lovely work I did in the spring is at risk of getting damaged. Looking at the forecast it doesn’t look great but, in previous year’s, autumn has always been very productive and I do get the feeling that it was about time we started making major changes again!
My apologies for not posting a blog last week – you will see why shortly.
I ended my last blog 2 weeks ago saying that while my Dad and his wife had arrived with us it shouldn’t prevent me progressing work specifically, clearing out the garage that I had eventually gotten around to starting.
As things turned out, it wasn’t having visitors that meant I had a slow week but my back. Many years ago I had major back pains for a while which, obviously, I didn’t do anything about. While they went away, it does mean that every few years without cause or warning, my back revolts. In the worst cases this immobilises me for a few days, in the best cases it means I am just a bit more restricted in my movement. Thankfully, this time it was the latter and, having been given a warning twinge, I decided to take things very easily for a few days and allow my back to recover.
This meant that the progress I had made clearing the garage stalled – again! It didn’t stop us accompanying my Dad and his wife to Landerneau for a day to visit this year’s summer exhibition at the Leclerc Foundation.
In previous year’s blogs I have mentioned that the French supermarket chain, E. Leclerc, began in the town of Landerneau a short distance from us. As the Leclerc family gained their fortune, they established a cultural foundation and built a fabulous exhibition space on the site of their original supermarket.
In previous years, with the name Leclerc behind it, the foundation has been able to hold exhibitions of major artists including, most recently, Chagall, Picasso and Henry Moore. This year they have chosen to do something a little different and their summer exhibition is called ‘Cabinets de Curiosités’.
As the name suggests it is an eclectic mix of objects from various private and public collections to create, on a grand scale, the very traditional idea of a Cabinet of Curiosities.
The style of exhibition divided our small party, and so I assume most visitors, as to whether it held the interest as a single artist show. There was certainly a mix of the odd, the fascinating and the unusual as well some more macabre mixing the scientific, medical, natural, and mechanical worlds as an old cabinet would have done.
It was certainly worth a visit.
When my Dad left us we were joined by David’s aunt and uncle for the social event of the year. As regular visitors to Kergudon they have become friends with some of our friends, including the owner of Au Lac restaurant, Mercedes. Mercedes reached a milestone birthday in June but, as the restaurant is obviously busiest in the summer months, she had delayed her big party until last weekend.
Having her teenage years in the 80s, Mercedes has chosen to have an 80s themed party and we were all suitably costumed. Sadly, there are no images of David and I but Mercedes looked amazing as Madonna (one of 3 all managing to capture another aspect of Madonna’s styles in that decade)!
It was a fabulous party, and weekend indeed, as very generously, Mercedes opened Au Lac to her guests on the Sunday for a crepe party at lunchtime and burgers in the evening.
I think it is fair to say that a good time was had by all and HUGE thanks from us to Mercedes for such a great a time and her generosity.
Sadly for David’s family, and our other guests, last week was not the usual Indian summer we have got used to in September so progress outside wasn’t great.
With a better back however I did manage to progress lots of small tasks and continue with the garage clearing to the point that I have nearly emptied one of the 4. The bay I have started with became the dumping ground for lots of wood – now mostly in the serre – but also lots of slate tile offcuts and pieces that I unearthed when digging the foundations and clearing the back boundary.
I have often acknowledged that I am a bit of a hoarder of things that may eventually have a purpose. Having kept these bits of slate for so long, I didn’t want to just take them to the déchetterie so thought that we could use them as a weed suppressant under the hedge that borders the pétanque pitch.
The base of the hedge gets very weedy and doesn’t look great so I wanted to add them here. However, before doing this I needed to break them up a little more as some were in too large pieces to look good. This meant I spent the best part of a day fundamentally breaking rocks as if sentenced to hard labour. Thankfully we don’t cost our time for these jobs and the result looks great.
While we don’t have enough bits to complete the whole hedge, it has helped clear the garage bay floor and we may then buy some more next year to finish the job.
I have managed to achieve a number of other more minor tasks (clearing away this year’s sweet pea plants and replacing them with conifers; washing most of the sun bed cushions in preparation for next year; hedge and grass cutting) and should have that bay cleared with a couple of additional days labour next week.
The week ended with another ‘cultural’ event, that annual Commana Foire à l’ancienne (Horse Fair) which was bathed in sunshine. Again, while still not in the market for chickens or ducks (one day …) it is an interesting fair to visit for a few hours to look around the livestock and brocante stalls. We were very restrained and only bought some saucisson.
The sunshine appears to be with us for a week or so which should mean I can make good progress on a number of things – the difficulty will be choosing which should be this week’s priority!
I can’t believe that it is already September and so we have begun meteorological autumn today. Thankfully during our time in France, September seems to bring warm and dry weather, at least during the days, and the longer it takes for the evenings and nights to cool off the better.
Having made it to September, I have succeeded in putting the garage clearance off for as long as I could – although this wasn’t a deliberate or conscious decision. This week however I have, finally, been clearing out the bays and moving wood into the, recently recovered, serre or my, recently completed, chimenea wood store.
Last week I promised some images of the new wood store, and you may recall from an earlier blog that we are trying to create a Moroccan / Arabic style to our terrace as we had attempted to do when we lived in London. In our minds, and as a sort of homage to Majorelle gardens in Marrakech, this means bold colours especially blues and yellows which has led to our store looking quite striking now that it is complete!
We wanted a wood shed on the terrace as a ready-use store for our chimenea, which, I may have mentioned before, I really love!! With all the wood we have around the place at present some is old and rotten so wouldn’t be any real use in the wood burning stoves to heat the houses, and some we wouldn’t want to risk keeping inside because of the wood and possible insects.
With the large blue pots we bought a couple of weeks ago now planted with some lovely bright plants to lighten things, our terrace is starting (4½ years after moving in) to look a little like how we want it! We have lots of other ideas and thoughts for additional things but they can wait for now – plenty of other things to do first.
The major thing is the garage. You may recall that we had erected our serre a few weeks back but the cover was nearly blown off in a storm. Thankfully we were able to recover it and re-secured it with additional bungees and straps and now we are able to start filling it. You can see in the picture how well the grass has started to grow on the new smaller slope alongside Stréat al Louarn – so much that I gave it a first mow this week.
The principal idea is to log the wood currently piled in the old veg patch and store it in the serre to dry and season. However, it also gives us additional space to store the large amount of wood currently in the garage bays. Much of this are off cuts from the garage and man shed builds which, rather than move into the serre whole, I am splitting into kindling prior to storing. We have many months’ worth and it is taking longer than I’d hoped but I think worth doing this way.
In the short term, as ever, there will be an element of shuffling things between spaces but, when I take a number of things to the déchèterie next week that will further help clear the bays although it may take a few weeks yet.
My Dad and his wife arrived with us yesterday for a few days stay although it shouldn’t prevent me progressing the work … You’ll see next week!
I ended last week’s blog saying that there were no excuses for not clearing out the garage bays and starting to fill our serre – although I may be able to find some. Well, here they are …!!
Last week was the last when we had some very good friends staying with us so we wanted to spend time with them. It was also, unlike the preceding week, another of amazing summer weather so I was able to spend some time outside.
The week was predominantly a number of smaller jobs including plumbing in another water butt; cutting lots of kindling; progressing the hedge cutting that had stalled while it was wet; lawn mowing as the grass has gone wild after last week’s rain; and progressing my wood store on our terrace (photos next week) – but not a lot of serre filling or garage bay clearing!
We even took a day off on Friday to spend with our friends on the beach at Carantec. Amazingly, and disappointingly from our perspective, despite the amazing weather we have been enjoying this year, it was the first day we had spent at the beach this year.
Carantec is a fun little town which has an excellent beach and great restaurants on the seafront including a favourite of ours which does great Moules Frites and burgers.
While I may not have been the most active this week, other people have. 2019 has seen the running of the Paris–Brest–Paris cycling event which happens every 4 years and passes through the centre of Sizun.
The idea of the event is for participants to cycle the 1,216 kilometre course, unsupported, within a certain time limit. The time available, dependent on which event within the event is entered, is either 80, 84 or 90 hours. At its quickest this means cycling an average of 15.2 kmph non-stop for 3½ days!
There are approximately 6000 riders participating in the event, all of whom ride through Sizun town centre en-route to Brest – and then again a day later heading back to Paris. Being unsupported I suspect the bar and boulangerie should do well from the riders – if not the spectators who travel miles to watch. Some of our guests bumped into Australians who had travelled here specifically to watch.
David has had a mixed week. Sadly it started with the bad news that New York Gym, where David taught his group exercise classes, is closing down at the start of September. David’s classes were very popular at the gym, he enjoyed giving them as much as his participants enjoyed attending and he has met some good friends through them. He was very fortunate to have found the gym to use his fitness qualifications that was flexible enough to work around the gîtes but all good things …
One of the girls who attended his classes is helping him put together a French CV which he will send off to other gyms to see if he can get anything else. Unfortunately the timing is not great as French gyms, as many other businesses, focus on getting themselves staffed and ready for now – the end of holidays back-to-work / school time.
The end of the week was better as David celebrated his birthday when our friends were here. They were kind enough to give him a birthday lunch in Carantec and he and I had a birthday dinner at Au Lac last night which has become a tradition for us.
Our guests left us yesterday morning so next week there is genuinely no excuse for not making more progress than we have done in the last few weeks – including the garage bays …
While I didn’t post a blog last week, I can’t say that the previous fortnight has been the most productive of our time here.
There are a number of reasons for this, not just because we’ve been lazy(!) Sadly, at least for our guests if not the garden, it hasn’t been the most summery of weather so we haven’t been able to work outside often. We have also had a fairly social couple of weeks including hosting, and being hosted, by some very good friends who have, and are, staying in our gîtes.
In the last couple of weeks we have experienced 2 mini-storms when some deep low pressure systems have passed to the north west of the UK.
During the first we had been invited out to a mini son et lumière in the village of Saint Thégonnec. The village is celebrated for its parish close or enclos paroissial which is one of many in this region. The enclos paroissial is the enclosed area in front of the church which often includes an ossuary but always has a calvary, an elaborate sculpture depicting the crucifixion.
When originally built, generally in the 17th century, they were highly decorated and very brightly coloured, each parish attempting to prove their devotion with a calvary larger and more colourful than the others. Over the years this decoration has faded so they are all the colour of the stone they are engraved from.
Every year a son et lumière is held in a couple of the enclos paroissial where the calvary is lit to represent how they would have looked originally with an explanation of the architecture and history of the close. We were very impressed with the illumination which is amazingly detailed and able to pick out eyes, buttons and decorations on clothing. We were less impressed with the weather which was monsoon rain!
The, briefly, autumnal conditions led to a postponement of the annual fireworks on the lac du Drennec but only by a day. The fireworks are run by the Commana commune as their Fête Nationale celebration but are always about a month after 14 July – possibly so as not to clash with everyone else’s events.
The following day we took a day off to visit another group of friends who were holidaying in Carnac in the south of Finistère. Carnac, approximately 2 hour from us, is renowned for its many prehistoric standing stones (menhirs) and henges and is well worth a visit but we chose to meet halfway in Concarneau.
We love Concarneau and describe it as a mini Saint Malo because of its old walled city, but the day we chose to visit so too did every holiday maker in Finistère, or so it seemed! That, coupled with it being market day and the start of a major summer festival, meant that the town was heaving with people – quite a culture shock from the calm of Saint Cadou but worth it to see our friends albeit briefly.
With more rain recently than we would have expected I have been able to lay some grass seed on the rear bank we created a few weeks ago which should germinate quite quickly as it remains warm. It has also meant that I have continued to clear out the garage principally so that I could put the rotary clothes line in one of the bays and continue to dry the laundry!
After the second storm had passed through we recovered the serre with its original bache but have also added a second sheet which we have bungeed to the frame and then anchored the whole frame to the ground with some ratcheting straps attached to spiral ground stakes usually used to attach dogs to. Hopefully that should keep it secure through the worst of the storms we encounter.
With the serre covered and able to be filled I now have no excuses for not clearing the remainder of the garage bays out – although I suspect I’ll find some!
Assuming I don’t, that may be the focus of next week’s activities.
At the end of last week’s blog I mentioned that we were due to get some rain but, if it stayed dry, I would be able to start cutting some of the hedges. Both happened.
The weather did change at the start of the week and, not only did we get the much-needed rain we had a mini storm pass through which kept us inside for a couple of days. Thankfully the high winds didn’t do too much damage other than shred a few leaves and small branches off the trees. It did however highlight that the cover on our new serre we put up a couple of weeks ago was not anchored down as well as it needed to be!
Being a ‘brico’ serre, it doesn’t have any reinforced anchor points to attach it to the ground, and very few to tie it to the frame, and I had tried to weight it down with slate. Evidently it wasn’t enough. Thankfully we caught it (almost literally) before the cover was blown out of the garden and we have now bought some additional things that should assist hold it down. While we haven’t yet reattached the cover hopefully when we do it will be much more secure and last the few years that we are likely to need it.
When the weather dried up from Wednesday I started the major task of cutting the hedges. Ideally I’d be able to cut the hedges at least twice a year to make sure they stay thick and bushy. However, with only a couple of exceptions, I haven’t yet been able to achieve that. What I also have been able to achieve is to take any ‘before’ photos to make a comparison.
As the many hedging plants we have planted (100 + yews; 50 + hollies, lonicera, griselinia) mature over the next few years cutting the hedges will become an even longer task to complete but, it makes a huge difference when done. It does highlight that the area at the end of the Granary garden, where currently there is massively overgrown laurel, bay and bramble, does need to be cleared. It has been on my list for a while but perhaps should be given higher priority – although there is a lot to compete against!
Sadly, this summer some of our privet hedging on the front drive has started to die off. We always understood that privet was as tough as old boots and could survive everything but sadly we have lost a number of well-established plants and we’re not sure why. Most distressingly, while the photos don’t show it clearly, one of these is the bush that makes up the north half of the arch which, over the last 3 years, we have been trying to create over the gate into the Granary garden.
If the suffering is just because they have been getting too dry and baked on the talus they may be recoverable but we are worried that there may be something more terminal in the soil. We may not know until next spring and, if the latter, we may need some major surgery and replace them with something else.
I didn’t manage to cut all of the hedging so will continue next week and progress a number of other smaller projects we have on the go – will update next week.
This week’s blog won’t be terribly long as, while we have done lots of small, bitty little jobs there hasn’t been any great strides on any major projects. This is principally because, again, it has been so hot I wanted to avoid being outside for extended periods.
One day was impacted by a morning wasted mostly shouting at a printer and cussing HP. We have always had fragile internet connectivity which has become even more frustrating recently with frequent short outages. David has undertaken a lengthy Twitter discussion with SFR, our internet provider which, eventually, resulted in a visit from an engineer to check our line and set-up. Frustratingly, he couldn’t definitively identify what was causing the problem so just changed the router in the hope that was the reason.
Thankfully, changing the box does appear to have fixed the problem but it also meant that we had to reset all of the things that work using the wifi and the HP printer proved really difficult. David has always been better at techy stuff so I thought I’d try doing what should have been a really easy thing.
HPs website proved useless as too their online virtual assistant so David resorted to Twitter again. It does now seem to be the only way you can get ‘big business’ to respond – public humiliation! They did respond but, sadly, their help didn’t. David did however, eventually make the printer work, but admitted that he doesn’t know how.
Another day was spent in Brest partly shopping and partly starting the research for our planned work in Priory next year. We wanted to have a look at some bathroom and kitchen options to begin our thinking and we needed to buy some material for one project. What we didn’t need to do was buy 2 enormous garden pots – but we did!
Being old slate buildings, the rear of Kergudon and Priory is very dark so we have spent a lot of time brightening the terraces up with planting. We have also bought a number of blue pots in a similar colour to our ‘Kergudon blue’. These were very popular in the UK a number of years ago, and we have heard Alan Titchmarsh sniffily refer to them as ‘a bit 80s’ in a recent programme. However, being a bit 80s in the UK means they are all the rage here(!) and so available but these were a shape we hadn’t seen before so are unlikely to see again. So we treated ourselves. We have put them on our own terrace and they will look great when we plant them up.
The project we bought the material for is also something for our terrace – a wood store for our chiminea wood. We completely revamped our garden in Balham were giving it a Moroccan / Arabic style which we really liked (probably a bit 1980s!) We want to do a similar thing with our own here so the wood store I am building will have an Arabic style and will be the same colour as our back door above.
The advantages of this project are that it gives us space to store the wood which we won’t use in the gîtes but also uses up some of the large amounts of spare wood I have in the garage. Starting to clear the garage is one of the tasks we have progressed this week – a bit. This is how the central bays looked at the start of this week – we will return to these in the coming weeks!
I did manage to revamp our bar stools in the games room, another job we have wanted to do for a while. The stools were in Priory when we arrived and we replaced them with others but, knowing that we planned to build a bar we thought we’d keep the bar stools. Perhaps not a massive change but they definitely look better, and are much comfier to sit on, and the bar is almost fully operational.
Thankfully for us, if not our guests, the weather is due to change next week and it should be cooler and we should be getting some much needed rain. If it stays dry long enough the plan is to start cutting some of the hedges – they desperately need a haircut.
My last blog mentioned that I had continued the work to clear the old chicken run at the back of the garden. That was 2 weeks ago, and while it perhaps hasn’t been the most productive of fortnights, I have completed everything required of that project.
Part of the reason I say it may not have been the most productive, and the reason that I didn’t write a blog last Sunday, was that some of our favourite sporting events were taking place and all came to a climax a week ago.
The first week, when I was manually shifting soil around the chicken run, it remained extremely hot so I got into a pattern of working when it was cool either side of some engaging tennis. For sofa sports enthusiasts like me, you will know that last Sunday saw the Wimbledon Men’s Single final clash perfectly with the British Grand Prix and the final of the Cricket World Cup held in England with, amazingly, an English team as finalists – for the first time in 27 years. Normally, with the latter 2 events being televised on pay channels we wouldn’t have had a problem but, this year, as all were available on free-to-air TV we wanted to watch all of all of them!
We ‘solved’ the problem by watching the tennis live, having the cricket text commentary on a computer and recording the Grand Prix to watch later in the day. What we weren’t to know was that the men’s final was to be the longest in history and the cricket the closest and most exciting match possible. Worse, all the key moments seemed to happen at exactly the same moment so you couldn’t even easily channel hop. With the way the cricket played out I am not convinced there wasn’t some involvement of a dodgy Far-Eastern betting syndicate but, amazingly, both in manner and result, England triumphed.
All of this took place on France’s Fête Nationale so sadly it meant that we didn’t get out to any celebrations that night. We did however go to Sizun’s party the night before and really enjoyed it. For a small town Sizun does put on a good Fête Nationale party and used the church spire and arch to great effect again making a brilliant fireworks display.
I mentioned that I did manage to complete the clearance of the chicken run and it has made a massive difference to that part of the garden – it even looks bigger. There were a number of days of manually replacing soil I had used the digger to remove, levelling and raking flat, but it enabled me to take out as many of the roots and rocks as possible so I can eventually mow it.
Our digger has had some reliability issues when I first used it – and these didn’t stop. One day while using it the track came off the left side so I couldn’t move it. Having consulted the oracle that is YouTube again, replacing it proved to be pretty straightforward – until I had to tighten the track and then it was obvious we had another issue with a grease seal.
Having discussed with our friend who we co-own the digger with, we thought this was an issue we needed professional help with. However, another mutual friend told us that, among the many roles he has had, he used to manage a plant hire shop and would be happy to take a look – and he fixed it! Thanks to Frank I was saved many more hours of manual soil shifting and, while frustrating and causing delays, it has meant that I could complete the levelling ably assisted by Mouse!
With the videos in my last blog and this picture from last November, you can just see how the area used to look.
Now it looks like this and the hedging plants we planted should grow a little faster. The next time we get any prolonged rain, which could be weeks, we will sow some grass seed and expand the lawn.
To match the change inside the garden, I have even, finally, gotten around to stripping off all the bramble and weed to one exterior side of the talus and revealed the lovely, original, stone wall. We don’t want to make it too ‘Disney’ but we think it looks so much better clean and will definitely do so when the hedge is matured.
Of course, having cleared the space we are now filling it up already! One of the things that we had planned to do is build a serre at the edge so we can cut up and store the numerous piles of firewood we have created around the garden. While the serre isn’t the most attractive thing, it is better than the weed that was there, and should only be a temporary addition. The medium (short?) term plan is then to clear the entire length of the back garden as we have done here when the wood is moved.
With all of the work we have been doing we have been accepted as having the Values of the Natural Park of Armorique. David has been doing a lot of work with some of the tourist offices in the area and approached the mangers of the Natural Park who validate businesses in the park who support and adhere to their ethos.
Our natural park, Parc Naturel Régional D’Armorique, is one of 54 in France but, when created in 1969, was only the second established. As well as administering the parks their managers encourage those living in the boundaries to follow ecological and sustainable practices. As a business in the park we were visited and inspected to see how we respect our environment before being discussed among their managers. Thankfully we were accepted and can now display their logo and receive publicity through their network.
Our final ‘achievement’ if that is the correct term – is that, for the first time since we opened in 2015, all of our accommodation is full but we don’t have any British guests this week. Being British, we have always found it easier to advertise to the UK market, and have been very fortunate to have welcomed lots of lovely people. But David has done a lot of work on our website and we have tried other methods to increase our publicity to other European markets.
Perhaps we are having some success as this week we have 2 Belgian families in Priory and Granary; a German couple in Hayloft and a French couple in Stable and we have other weeks this summer which are the same. Of course, we are delighted to welcome any guests from anywhere but we are very pleased to have reached this milestone.
We have mentioned before that one of the many amazing things about living in such a rural area is that the stars are amazing. This week, on the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing, we had a fabulous view of the partial lunar eclipse. My photos didn’t come out so well so I have stolen the moon images from our friend Frank – it’s not just fixing diggers he can do!
The forecast for next week is looking good (but we do desperately need some rain!) so I hope to start filling the serre – and making progress in emptying the garage!