We have had much less pottering in the last 7 days than the previous week and have managed to complete one significant task, make good progress on 2 others and I even spent a couple of days back in Priory.
The Priory work was, again, relatively minor and involved lots of preparation for painting in the bathrooms. Having removed the old lambris walls to maximise the floor space, some of the lambris used on the ceiling didn’t quite reach the edges of the new room! Lots more filling and sanding are required but I should be able to actually apply some paint, well undercoat, next week.
The focus has principally been outside again. Thankfully we received a delivery early in the week of the spare part we required for the shredder, a new V-belt. The part was fairly simple to fit and we were able to pick up where we left off clearing the felled sycamores on the orchard lawn.
After a day and a half the lawn has been completely cleared. I say lawn, with the trees having lain on the grass for 5 months, what grass there was is now completely dead. In all fairness, much of that area of ‘lawn’ was moss anyway because the sycamores prevented any sun reaching that part of the garden. With the trees now felled, there is so much more light getting to the garden and there are so many more places available to sunbathe – at least in comparison to how it looked before.
The shredding has created masses of perfect mulching material for the flowerbeds we have created and Dave has mulched all but one of the beds in the orchard. There is plenty left to do the last one as well.
As there is a lot of moss in all of our lawn areas, last autumn we bought a petrol scarifier as we want to gradually improve the quality of the grass. Before the weather turned far too wet, and we felled a number of large trees on it, the only lawn we managed to scarify was the orchard but it did recover quite quickly and was much thicker and more lush.
Sadly, as we weren’t able to cut the grass for months, we lost the advantage gained but, having the scarifier, we had always planned to do the same in the spring – other than it has been far too dry!
Last weekend we had a couple of days of good rain and the lawns have started to grow again. As scarifying makes the lawn look terrible for a couple of weeks, but with under the current situation we aren’t likely to have any guests for a while, we have decided to start the scarification, especially as the forecast is for a wet week ahead so the grass should recover more quickly.
To date we have scarified the orchard and Granary lawns and hope to do the main lawn behind Priory tomorrow before the rain arrives. The orchard has suffered most, and felling the trees have made it even more lumpy and bumpy than it was before. We have ‘reserved’ some top soil from a close neighbour and friend which we will be able to collect when the confinement is relaxed so we can level the ground a little and re-seed where required.
The other delivery which arrived was our new serre. This is far more substantial than the one that collapsed in the wind and we have made a start at putting it up. The instructions state that it should be a day’s work for 2 people but perhaps not a Sunday as, despite both of us doing it, we have only got the frame up which is probably about half way through. It is a little longer and wider than the previous one – but we do now have a lot of sycamore wood to store!
Next week the forecast is very different from the previous few weeks and we are expecting quite a lot of rain. This has 2 advantages, it means the lawns should recover quite quickly and it will force me into Priory and more progress can be made, if not appreciated for a while!
Stay safe and stay healthy.
So, despite saying in last week’s blog that I would once again focus my attention to Priory, that hasn’t happened.
We have actually had a much quieter week and I have done more ‘pottering’ than focus on any major task. For the start of the week the weather, frustratingly, remained dry and hot, which was very pleasant but didn’t help the garden at all. Thankfully, yesterday we had some decent rain, a good couple of centimetres, and we are forecast more for tomorrow so we hope that the plants will appreciate that and continue to roar away.
As I mentioned, President Macron addressed the nation last Monday and, as expected, he has extended the period of confinement until Monday 11th May. By that point we would have had 8 weeks of restrictions in France although he gave some hope that, from 11th May, there would be a phased opening up of various activities and businesses although he has already precluded restaurants, bars and other venues which attract large gatherings – and tourists!
With the extension the current limitations preventing me getting decorating materials and preventing our electrician and builder joining us, remain. As such, again, Priory hasn’t been my focus and I have taken my foot off the gas a little.
One of my ‘pottering’ tasks was to re-commission a birdbath we were kindly gifted by a neighbour a couple of years ago. The birdbath had been lying on its side in his field for many years previously and he only ‘re-discovered’ it a few years ago when he was cutting back the brambles which had hidden it. Having been kindly donated it, it took us quite a number of months to retrieve it and even then, when we had, it then lay on its side in a messy area of our garden.
With it being so hot and dry recently David, who has spent a lot of time feeding the birds, was concerned that there weren’t many areas of water that we know of close-by where the birds could drink, so we decided to set the birdbath up.
When we were given it the bath had a pump with it, the cable of which passed through a hole in the base so it was not able to hold water. Last year, Father Christmas gave me a solar powered fountain in the expectation that we would eventually get around to using the bath and so I needed to seal the hole. I have done this, and actually created 2, sealed, tubes between the basin and the base. The reason being, we don’t know where it will ultimately be sited or if we will use a powered pump so I have ‘future-proofed’ it for every possibility.
For now, we have positioned it in front of Priory and it looks good and sounds refreshing with the sound of splashing water.
In the week I dismantled our serre in advance of another arriving. You may recall I mentioned that the serre we bought last year as a, cheap, temporary, stop-gap, proved utterly unsuitable to sustain the winter storms here and the frame collapsed as the tubing is too thin.
A couple of weeks ago we bit-the-bullet and bought a proper serre which we believe will arrive next week so we will be able to recover the area and continue to clear the various wood piles around.
David has been busy do lots of weeding again as well as work, in his IT department hat, on a much larger project that we will share with you soon.
Other jobs, where I forgot to take before photos, have been to tidy the parking area alongside Granary which had become heavily rutted in the wet weather earlier in the year which has had the added advantage of using some of the gravel from our large pile in front of the garage.
I have continued to clear the talus behind Stable which we began a couple of weeks ago, and we have ordered lots of new hedging plants, although sadly they are unlikely to be delivered until the confinement is over so we can’t plant while we have nothing else to do!
Also we haven’t yet received our part for the shredder so, while the lawn will green up nicely with this rain, there remains 2 large piles of branches to shred. Also, if the rain makes the grass grow more strongly, we won’t be having guests for a while, we have the opportunity to ‘destroy’ the lawns next week when we scarify them. It will make them look pretty rough for a couple of weeks but, hopefully, will mean that they are much improved in the long term.
Perhaps I may even get back into the Priory!
In the meantime, we hope that you are all staying safe, staying home and making the most of these interesting times.
Happy Easter to everyone. It has been an odd weekend in that, being the first holiday of the year we would normally have guests in the gîtes but, with the travel restrictions in place, we are obviously empty but it has felt even quieter than previously.
The movement limitations have seen a cancelation of all the fun Easter activities here. There is generally an Easter egg hunt for the village children and a market by the lake on Easter Monday – both off. We have however, enjoyed a day off today and David’s 2020 simnel cake.
The current restrictions in France last until next Wednesday but President Macron is due to address the nation tomorrow and we fully expect the lock down to be extended until the beginning of May. As such, we cannot expect any guests for a while and our artisans have not been, and will not be, joining us so Priory has not progressed very much.
I did spend a couple of days in there at the beginning of the week to convince myself that things are moving forward, and began to prepare the bathrooms (yes, plural now!) for decorating. This mostly involved lots of sanding and filling with more to come.
As the weather has remained exceptional (and we still haven’t had any, now desperately needed, rain) we were back in the garden. Despite things being so dry, as it is so warm things have sprung into life and is noticeably greener – even the lawn is beginning to recover.
We are really pleased with how the gardens are starting to look. Almost more than the buildings, when we arrived, the outside was a blank canvas with lots of potential. We were always very conscious that we can make the interiors as beautiful as we can but the garden also needed to be a space that people want to sit in, relax, and enjoy the sunshine and peace and quiet of this rural space.
As such we have added colour by creating and planted lots of flower beds; are making the perimeter more attractive and secure by planted huge numbers of hedging plants; trying to tidy by clearing areas which were previously weedy and overgrown and, tried, to create the ‘English’ lawn. We are conscious that there is a lot left to do, but at this time of year we can see things really taking shape. The other advantage of developing the gardens is that the number of wild birds visiting has increased and so too the amount of bird song.
The wisteria that we planted a few years ago is now starting to look really good. This spring is the first time it has so many flower buds. Whether this is after my pruning masterclass last year and so we are starting to look after it properly and / or it is just happier and more settled in its spot. The buds are perhaps not so visible on this picture but we will take photos when the flowers are in bloom.
The same is true of the cherry trees we have planted in the orchard which have more blossom this spring than before.
The crab apple tree in one of the champignon is always amazing at this time of year, although sadly, its blossom is always at its best just after the pear tree’s blossom has faded so you can’t see them together. With the box hedge growing so well the beds look great – better now they’re mulched – and we love the variety of greens (sadly not so obvious in the pic) between old box, new box and the griselina next to the pétanque pitch.
We did complete one significant task which has been on our ‘to-do’ list for 4 years, which was to install internet access to Dave’s gym.
With the Brest gym being closed due to the coronavirus restrictions Dave is giving more and more classes online. For one of them, you can assist him – more of that later. He also has a number of personal training clients that he coached from our living room. He always believed this didn’t look too professional, aside from the fact that it showed a fitness session was perfectly possible from the lounge – where most of his clients were training, and we had always intended to get wifi in his gym.
Despite, having the kit to do it, the delay was we thought it better to hard wire his access rather than rely on a broadcast link – although this was a personal view rather than anything scientific! To do this we needed to dig a trench along our, very compacted drive, of about 35 metres to get a cable from our lounge to his gym so, on the hottest day of the year so far, we did just that. Honestly, the second photo is after the work, we haven’t just moved the cable!
The catalyst for getting internet to his gym is a new class David is giving starting tomorrow and where you can help. His gym, Fitness Plus, has joined other gyms throughout France to give online classes which anyone can join via Facebook.
Dave is one of 30 trainers (3 from Fitness Plus) giving classes and they will all be judged and ranked by the class participants by means of the number of interactions, thumbs-up and hearts; comments and especially participants tagging 3 others in their comments. Can you assist please? You don’t actually need to do the physical bit – just watch the class and give Dave lots of thumbs-up.
The timetable is on the Facebook page. Dave is the only Dave on the timetable and he has the Fitness Plus logo next to his name. His first class is 1615 (UK time) tomorrow (Monday 13th April). Thanks.
Next week, depending on M. Macron’s Monday missive, I plan to focus again in Priory and move that forward further.
In the meantime, we hope you have a good Easter, enjoy the public holidays – at home – and stay healthy and safe.
Last week’s blog said that the dry weather would allow us to complete the shredding of our felled sycamores and get back to work in Priory. Neither turned out to be the case!
The weather did remain dry and we did continue the shredding. The blog said that there were probably 3 days left to complete the task and after a day and a half we had pretty much broken the back of it. Then we also broke the shredder! This was really irritating, especially as the cause was something really silly and completely avoidable. However, thankfully, the problem is minor, easily rectified and the spare part required is very cheap. Sadly, remaining under lockdown, we had to order online for it to be delivered and it won’t be here for at least 2 weeks!
As part of the clearing, we cut down the last of the sycamores on the boundary between us and our neighbour – the ones that were small enough for David and I to do together and not have to pay the tree surgeon. A few years ago I planted a number of lonicera cuttings I’d taken in the hope that they would put their roots down and get a head start for when we were in the position we are now. Now they are getting lots more light and water, we hope, they will roar away and we won’t be have quite such an open boundary for very long. We will need to buy a few more when current restrictions are lifted to plug the gaps – with some more attractive, interesting and appropriately sized trees to replace the sycamores.
I have also cut down some tall, but skinny, myrtle trees which were on the talus behind Stable. Myrtle makes a great hedge when controlled but takes a long time to get established. We hope, having cut down these trees they will sprout again at the base and start to form a proper hedge which we will augment with some more lonicera which is just faster at establishing itself.
You will have to use some imagination here, but the small area behind Stable, a garden-waste dumping ground before our arrival, we plan to make into a private terrace space for the B&B. Having cut down the sycamores it now gets some sunshine in the summer afternoons and will be a lovely place to relax. This won’t be for a couple of years until the hedges are a little larger ensuring it is private, and also as we will need to dig some of it out with the digger and I can’t access it yet with the large pile of wood we have created!
We have managed to clear a lot of the lawn area so were able to give more of the orchard a mow. It is amazing how lumpy the ground has become where the large trees were felled onto it, and there are large areas where the grass has completely died as lots of ivy prevented any light getting to it. We are confident it will recover if only – and after the winter we have just had I can’t believe I am saying this – it would rain!
The forecast has been great for doing gardening but not so good to let the grass green up quickly. We are expecting a few showers this evening but, every time I look at the met website, the amount of rain predicted is getting less and less.
Being dry and unable to shred we turned our attention to weeding principally. David focussed on the large bed we have created in the orchard which he has cleared and used practically all the shreddings to mulch; I recommissioned the pétanque area which had become to resemble a wild flower meadow rather than a boules pitch.
We were also able to cut a few hedges before bird-nesting season begins in earnest, including the box around the champignon beds. I mentioned last year that we feared some of the privet enclosing the Granary garden was starting to die but we wouldn’t know for sure until this spring. Well, sadly, we were right and more than we had hoped has packed up. We have therefore decided to insert some griselinia cuttings into the parts of the hedge which are dying / have died as it seems to like our conditions and we have had a lot of success with cuttings in the past. We used it for the hedge around the pétanque pitch which was planted in February 2016 and, you can see from the pictures then and now, that it grows quickly and well. The February 2016 pictures show a much better lawn!
With the dead privet removed, Granary garden is again a little more open that we’d like, but, IF we get some rain and the cuttings take successfully, we hope to have a half decent hedge in a few years.
Other for some minor things Priory has not been the focus but, while there is still LOTS left to do outside, and the forecast remains incredibly dry, I may resume for a few days next week and move things forward.
We remain on restricted movements until at least 15th April, and we suspect even longer, probably until early May, but we remain healthy and busy. We hope everyone is well, virus free, and able to live as normal a life as possible whatever you do. Stay healthy.
We hope you are all well, staying active and making the most of the requirement to stay at home.
We have received lots of lovely messages of support and peoples’ best wishes – thank you for them all. Thanks especially to a lovely couple who stayed with us for a month last year, Judith and Vern, when they were travelling from the US. They arrived as guests but most definitely left as friends and who made a very lovely gesture for us during the week.
As I mentioned in my blog last week, the French authorities have now officially extended the period of travel restriction to at least April 15th and have not ruled out extending it further again if the medical situation dictates. We have adjusted to life under the changes, although it impacts David’s day-to-day living more than me as his gym remains closed so he does not have to travel to Brest. He, and his colleagues, have put together a series of online classes for their members which he gives and participates in as well as recording videos in his gym and posting them online.
David has continued to do the food shopping and, in an effort to minimise contact, he has been trying to use the online system for our local supermarket. While home-delivery does not seem to exist in France, or here at least, they do have the equivalent of a click-&-collect service. There are many lovely things about life in France but customer service generally isn’t one and it could easily be concluded that French-run businesses aren’t set up to provide any sort of service to their clients.
The click-&-collect David uses is in Morlaix, co-located with the supermarket itself. While the French don’t seem to be panic buying in the way that appears to be happening in the UK, many basic items weren’t available online. Having picked up the online order early, David chose to join the queue to get in the store as well – and everything was there, in significant quantities! Why????
Last week’s blog mentioned that, with the travel restrictions in place, the Priory refurbishment wouldn’t be completed on time and that, as we weren’t likely to get any guests for a while, we could focus on a couple of other things. It actually said that I would split my time between Priory and the garden but, in reality, the majority of our time has been spent outdoors.
With the weather being dry and warming (with the exception of this weekend’s arctic blast) things are starting to spring to life in the garden not least the lawn. Having had a number of sycamores felled last autumn and left on the lawn, we needed to clear them up to allow the grass to recover and have a fighting chance of being a lawn when we can welcome guests again.
What we didn’t appreciate is how much mess 4 very large sycamores create! Rather than burn the waste material, which we would have done in the past, we are taking the greener option and are shredding it to use as mulch around the garden. This takes a fair amount of time, especially as we need to spend some time preparing some of the branches so they can easily be fed into the shredder’s hopper.
With the smaller branches shredded we have managed to mulch our 2 ‘champignon’ flower beds behind Priory, and are now piling the remainder for other areas. The larger branches we are stacking ready to cut and split in the future – eventually we should be self-sufficient for wood for a couple of winters.
Having worked on it together for 3 days there is probably another 3 days of work until the grass can be cut and allowed to grow. Ironically, having had the wettest autumn and winter, since our first cut of the season a couple of weeks ago it hasn’t rained since and the grass looks like it could be August!
I have managed to do some work in Priory. Lots of little things that are needed before progressing, and I have started to construct the kitchen units and install. We are aiming for a real country-cottage style when complete.
Another task I have managed is to fill the trench I had to dig for the new power cable to Priory. It always amazes me the difference in volume of the less compacted soil. As you can see, the trench is full although I still have an entire sheet of soil that came out of the trench when I dug it. As it settles I will be able to use some of this to top it up before we replace the gravel.
Next week, dry weather will allow us to complete the shredding outside and I should be able to pick up Priory and there may be more to show of that next week.
Stay home. Stay safe. Stay healthy.
We hope you are all well.
Last week’s blog was a description of limitations implemented in France to try and limit the spread of coronavirus. Since then these have become more stringent with anyone leaving their homes having to carry a certificate stating which of the limited justifications for travelling applies to their journey.
Almost a week into the initial 15 day lockdown and there is already talk of the measures being extended for an indeterminate period which comes as no surprise. From the outset I thought that whatever the result of the limitations, the movement restrictions would be continued. Had it worked in reducing infection, it would have been extended because it was working. Had it not worked, it would have been extended until it worked!
Listening to the UK government’s briefing tonight it seems, because a significant number of people are not complying with the social distancing, that similar measures may be introduced in the UK. Even in the normal course of life, I leave Kergudon infrequently but the last 6 days has proven to be as limiting and frustrating as I am sure it is necessary.
With the additional measures neither Lee nor Pascal has been able to work and so our deadline for Priory will be passed. Of course the urgency has diminished somewhat as we won’t have any guests for the foreseeable future either! Thankfully the last week has coincided with the first week of good weather we have had this year so we have chosen to split our time between continuing Priory and getting out in the garden.
Over the last 2 weeks Priory has had some progress. When Lee was with us 2 weeks ago plumbing was the focus. For me, the tasks which have made the most significant impact have been applying stain and sous-couche (undercoat) to our new internal walls and hanging a new chandelier above the lounge. Remember my hint last week?!
I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that we had moved the lantern we were using above the mezzanine level and the reason was we wanted to have something a little larger, and more dramatic, to light the lounge area. The problem we faced was hanging something to the apex beam above the lounge – 7 metres above the ground. It doesn’t sound much and is just about reachable using the entire height of our scaffold tower, but having used all the scaffold pieces I had none left to provide a barrier for me and, psychologically, it made the height much greater.
We didn’t take any pictures of me doing this – in case it didn’t work out well! However, with slow and careful movements we managed to get the lamp hung on its 3 metre chain and, when it has all its parts re-attached, and we have power in the gîte, it will look amazing.
The painting / staining has made a huge difference to the mezzanine level and new panelling in the lounge. Both are now ready for the coloured emulsion but my intention is not to do that until we have almost completely finished all the work.
We have been busy in the garden too, not least cutting the grass for the first time this year. Every winter we say that we won’t let it get as long as we did the previous year but then do. This winter we do have the excuse that, both, it hasn’t stopped raining since September and our lawnmower was being held by the maintenance shop which had closed down.
Despite (or perhaps because) it has been so wet, it has been a very mild winter and, as a result, the grass had never stopped growing. Even with both of us involved, it took 4 hours to do a single cut and we had to do it twice to get it down to a height that we want to keep it at for the summer. With the isolation rules in force the déchetterie is also closed so we can’t take the cuttings there but have found somewhere discrete to do some green fly-tipping!
We have also continued with tidying the boundary of Kergudon and thinning out the many self-set trees that have grown over the years. Some had grown next to the Hayloft terrace and were both blocking the evening light and threatening the security of the slates on the Hayloft roof. One was a large, double trunked, willow which grows like a weed here; another was the remaining trunk of a hawthorn tree that we hadn’t cut down before; and the last a three-trunked yew. Having cut them all, with minimal damage to the Hayloft, the idea is we will now trim them to create a better hedge to provide privacy but maximise the evening sun to the terrace.
Two other trees we cut down were self-set oaks just next to the Granary parking space. We cleared that area of the boundary in our first winter as it was just a mass of bramble and the dreaded Japanese knot weed.
Having cleared that area we left 2 self-set oak trees although knew we would have to take them out at some point. As they continued to grow in the subsequent years they now were a risk to our telephone cable and blocked too much light from the plants in the bed so they had to go. It also allowed us to test, finally, a new bit of kit we bought last year when we had lots of large sycamores felled – a garden shredder.
The blog post I made when we cleared the area showed the griselinia cuttings we had planted to create a hedge as well as us cutting the turf to make 2 flower beds behind Priory. Today’s photos show that the hedge has grown well, despite not getting a lot of direct light; and the shredded oak branches have made a great mulch on part of the well-established flower beds.
Having tested the shredder, and with the urgency of completing Priory a little diminished, assuming the weather remains dry, which it’s forecast to do, we may even make a dent in the large pile of branches left from the sycamores – and expose more of the lawn to cut …
We will likely continue to split our time between Priory and the garden next week and make progress in both as we continue to remain at home.
We hope you all remain healthy and, although we now earn our income by offering travellers and holiday-makers accommodation, we hope you stay at home and safely indoors.
Last week’s blog said that, by today, I’d have hoped that both the bathrooms would be finished other than the decoration. I also mentioned that the project was progressing more slowly than I’d have liked. You may know where this is going …
The last week has continued to progress Priory, and principally still plumbing. While the bathrooms are not in a ‘ready to paint’ state, they do now have the sanitary ware generally fitted. The plumbing has also included the kitchen, cloakroom and new water heater so progress is happening.
There have been 2 major additions / visual changes to the mezzanine and lounge area. Both of these look great but I won’t share photos just yet and leave that ‘hanging’ (there’s a clue) for a week or so.
This week the blog will be short and principally focussed on the current situation with the Covid-19 / coronavirus situation which continues to escalate.
As other European countries, France has seen the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus rapidly increase in the last 72 hours and, sadly, the number of fatalities too.
Previously the French state had banned gatherings of over 500 people and announced that schools, universities and nurseries would close for an indefinite period. Yesterday they went further and reduced the gatherings to 100 people although, in reality, are asking people to avoid all social contact. Now they have also shut all ‘non-essential’ business. This latter category is defined as ‘non-essential to the life of the country’ and, as it includes restaurants and bars, it shows how seriously the French are taking this!
There are a number of ‘cluster-zones’ across France where there are a higher number of infections. This includes the neighbouring département of Morbihan. However, one advantage of visiting this amazing part of the French countryside is that you really can avoid people as much as you want!
As part of the measures, the gym David works at has closed until further notice. At least this means there is another pair of hands to get on with some of the projects here! However, there is also now a risk to completing Priory on time as we will inevitably need some additional items and materials. The cooker and fridge freezer which are on order won’t be delivered under current restrictions (although should have been here 2 weeks ago!) Thankfully, we did a shop for litres and litres of paint a couple of weeks ago.
I fear 2020 will be an ‘interesting’ year. The minor disappointment of ruining what would have been a fantastic weekend of sport with the culmination of the Six Nations tournament and the first Grand Prix of the year, is likely to become a frustrating extended period of limited opportunities.
All that said, we do understand that the virus can be extremely dangerous to a percentage of the population. We hope these measures are effective in reducing the spread and so minimising the potential fatalities. Above all we hope everyone does manage to stay fit, healthy and safe.
I will continue to post blogs as we progress Priory and other projects and hope that normal life will be resumed as soon as it can be.
Apologies for not being able to post a blog last week. I was all ready and prepared but when I tried to upload some images to our website it was obvious there was a problem with our site editor. Our IT department (David) has found a way that I can post while WordPress sorts out the bigger problem. As such, this blog will have pictures of where we were last week as well as the state now – I hope it is obvious which are which!
Unsurprisingly, the last 2 weeks have been focussed on one project – Priory refurbishment. We have made progress but, as I guess is not uncommon with projects like this, it feels like slow progress and I’d had hoped to be have completed more in the last 14 days.
The most progress has been made in the, now 2, bathrooms with much of the plumbing in place and the tiling underway. I mentioned in the last blog I posted that we knew these spaces wouldn’t be enormous but we are pleased that they don’t feel as small as we thought they might. The white reflective tiles have also assisted in making the family bathroom feel larger.
The smaller, new, en-suite bathroom also feels generous for a shower room and although, not unlike many en-suite bathrooms, it doesn’t have natural light, when that is tiled we think it will also brighten the space. When building the new walls for the en-suite we have decided to retain some of the original slate, previously hidden behind the old lambris walls, as a feature to highlight the age and construction of the building.
We hope, just one more week and the bathrooms will be in a state completed all bar the decorating.
Where we have exposed slate in the bathroom, we have completed the panelling in the living area to hide an entire wall of it. When I posted these pictures on our Facebook page last week they caused some discussion as to where they were. For those who know Priory, the 2 walls we have clad are the back walls in the living space which were previously hidden behind large wooden, Breton, cabinets. One wall had previously been painted white, the other was slate. When complete, the previous slate wall will have a smaller table in front so you can see the panels but we will retain the older cabinet. Both walls however will have new lights incorporated making the space much brighter.
The later pictures show the panelling added with filler applied to the screws and any small gaps. Again, it now shouldn’t take too much to sand, re-fill, sand again and finally paint. The picture also shows some of the work our electrician, Pascal, has done, installing the new radiators which are fed off a new air source heat pump we will have installed outside. Perhaps not the most attractive item but no less so then the, now removed, old, ineffective wall-mounted hot-water radiators and far more efficient.
Pascal has worked hard since we started this project as he is re-wiring the entire house and with most walls made of solid slate, we have had to find alternative methods of running cable that doesn’t require huge channels dug out of the walls. I will show you some of those as we near completion, but one of the larger tasks will happen early next week. Previously, we had a hall lantern suspended above the main space. It was one we bought in London when we were planning to refurbish our hall there but never got round to it! So as not to waste it, it became some of the lighting in Priory. We have now bought another, larger, suspended light that we will use in the main space, so Pascal has moved our ‘London light’ to the mezzanine dressing area where we think it looks great.
The mezzanine was also a focus the week before last when I spent a day sanding the new woodwork and plasterboard. This is the area that we think has made the most significant change and will look fabulous when painted and complete.
While I said I feel Priory is progressing more slowly than we’d hoped, we have now accepted a booking for April 25th so we have a drop-dead time limit! It is a lovely French family from Bordeaux who have stayed with us twice already, once before in Priory. We hope they will love the changes. While the progress may be slow, I do feel we are getting to the point that by the end of March, we should have all the ‘big’ things installed and ready leaving only days of cleaning and dusting – oh, and lots of decorating and painting!
More to report next week …
Apologies for not posting a blog last week. We, as all of the UK and NW France were in the teeth of Storm Dennis. Thankfully, here at Kergudon we have escaped any significant wind damage and, being high up flooding is never going to be a problem. With the exception of a few hours without power last Sunday we have got through unscathed.
We do appreciate however that having arrived a week after Storm Ciara, Dennis has caused or aggravated damage and flooding in many areas. We hope that people are managing to recover where necessary and things are looking brighter than they were.
While the winds have died down (apparently temporarily) with a few exceptional days it has remained generally wet and dreich. On one of those exceptional days it would have been good to get our lawns cut as, despite it being winter and wet, it has been relatively mild so everything is already springing into life.
However, last October we sent our mower to be serviced by a company that we have used before and had been recommended by a number of our neighbours. It is a company run by a couple of old-school mechanics who have evidently been tinkering with garden and agricultural machinery for years. We liked using them precisely because they were old-school and did a good job but they weren’t quick.
However, having not heard from them for over 3 months, which was even unusual for them, I started to chase them up. Only then did we find out that they had closed down and an auction house was in the process of selling off all of their stock. Despite our contact details being attached to our mower (and a chain saw they had had for an even longer period) no one had called us to let us know or arrange collection of our things. Thankfully, having contacted the auction house I was able to collect our things (in true French fashion, at a time that suited them more than me!)
On the upside, our mower had been fixed and we weren’t asked to pay for the fix, although the chainsaw hadn’t been looked at. Sadly, since then there hasn’t been a chance to use it and tame the grass yet.
Despite storms Ciara and Dennis trying to impact us over the last couple of weeks, it was a loud, low rumble we heard last Wednesday night that caused us most concern. Quickly dismissing some catastrophic problem with Priory having cut the main A-frame on the mezzanine, social media highlighted that Finistère had experienced an earthquake registering 3.4 on the richter scale with its epicentre about 5 kms south of Brest.
Thankfully earthquakes are fairly rare around us – far less so than damaging storms – and geologic change is glacial in its speed. Which leads us to work in Priory …
While my comment above is a bit tongue-in-cheek, sadly our builder Lee has been poorly for a part of last week so we had a limited amount of time to progress the big stuff. Thankfully, we have completed a couple of big things, principally las week we re-tiled the kitchen floor. One of the major changes we wanted to make in this project was to replace, actually cover, the old floor tiles as many had become chipped, cracked and generally unattractive.
Re-tiling the floor was the principal reason we removed the stud walls that created the cloakroom which made the kitchen appear so much larger. Rather than lift all the old tiles, we have re-tiled on top which required me to prime the old surface to allow the adhesive to adhere better. It even looked better just with the red primer!
While Lee was tiling, a job I couldn’t really assist with, I picked up my work to clear the far side of Hent Gorreker. Having not maintained the hedge I initially cleared in 2016, all the sycamore and hazels had grown new trunks which were greater in number, due to the coppice effect, and were getting tall. At least this time they were thinner and easy to bend so I have made an effort in laying a hedge – we will see how it looks and I will try and maintain it. It will at least ensure we get more sun to the end of the garden and by Stable in particular.
Before re-tiling, we made the decision to move the support post from the end of the staircase and place it into the centre of the room. While it is not essential to the structural strength of the building it does help and is better centrally placed, especially having added a little detailing. It did mean we needed to replace the newel post at the base of the stairs. Having done this it should make getting furniture up and down the stairs so much easier! Also, on Lee’s advice, we have created a small step at the base of the stair that we will tile to match the floor, which has also evened out the spacing of the steps themselves.
Having retiled last week, this week we were able to rebuild the cloakroom and start to plaster the walls of the new bathrooms (now plural!) The tiled floor made the kitchen appear a large space than we remembered, especially with the small addition for the new fridge. However, re-building the cloakroom has made a dramatic difference and it appears small again, although it is still a good sized room.
On the other hand, now we have committed to exactly where we will divide the single bathroom to create 2 (not yet built so not visible in these pictures), both seem to be larger than we had anticipated which is great news. Another advantage of building new walls for the cloakrooms and bathrooms, we have been able to add insulation to them that was lacking before. We haven’t done this to make any difference to the heat as they are all internal walls. But, to be delicate, the insulation will minimise noises emanating to from the bathrooms to the adjacent bedroom and kitchen.
The final thing we managed to achieve was to affix the last plasterboard to the mezzanine level completely hiding the cabling. Having completed the plasterboarding, now when Lee starts some plumbing next week I can continue on my own with filling and detailing.
Next week, we will complete the plasterboard around the bathrooms and Lee will make a start on the plumbing so there may not be many photos to share. Thankfully however, it actually feels like we are getting to the point when we are approaching if not the final furlongs at least the last lap!
The last week has been one of those frustrating time when, despite working all week, when you look back at what has been achieved you get the feeling that it isn’t as much as we should have!
That said, we have generally continued to build rather than demolish, and add to the charm of the cottage. We have focussed on 2 areas, the mezzanine level and the front door.
Previously, the rear of mezzanine was clad in dark wood with a light box at about head height. We never found this terribly attractive ourselves, and, having bought a four-poster bed in our first year to be a(nother) amazing feature of this lovely building, it also made the mezzanine level a tight fit.
Having stripped off the old cladding, we exposed another A-frame which was built when the building was re-roofed, we think, about 15 years ago. It also became obvious that the lower cross beam of that A-frame would prevent us gaining any significant space on the mezzanine to push the bed closer to the wall.
Not being the sort of people to accept a minor problem like this, being highly-qualified structural engineers(!) we came up with a plan – move the cross beam.
Not only do these pictures show how many cables our electrician has had to install, and can now be hidden behind the new wall, you can see that we have raised the cross beam to buy us a few centimetres for the bed.
We think the A-frame is an attractive part of the building so we have decided to make it a feature of the new mezzanine, and have added a few additional supports to it – all purely decorative. We are really pleased with how it is taking shape and, when it is finally stained, painted and refurnished we think it will look amazing.
The other major task we have undertaken involved more deconstruction before replacement which was the front door of Priory.
In our first year at Kergudon we replaced the door that was there and had become very rotten, with one that our builder manufactured for us. What we didn’t do was replace the frame and threshold etc. As such, while it functioned, we have had a few problems with the door, including having to remove the tiles on the inside recently, and so we never felt it was the right first impression when entering the gîte.
This work has given us the chance to rehang the door with a new frame, new exterior step and new threshold. Thankfully we have been able to reinstall the door before Storm Ciara arrived although we still need to render in certain areas and make good so the work isn’t finished as yet, but already looks better with a lovely new slate step.
Over the weekend I have done some concreting. A small amount to level the step inside the front door which we will tile, and a larger area to increase the floor space of the kitchen generally. The reason for the latter is because we made a small error! When we were buying new electrical items for the kitchen, we saw an amazing fridge-freezer that was on such an incredible offer we had to have it. We knew that it was taller than the old fridge-freezer but we hadn’t realised by how much. The only way we could stand it in the kitchen was to extend the area of floor under the stairs which is fairly advantageous anyway and will look great.
Hopefully some great leaps forward during the coming week – assuming we don’t suffer any damage from Storm Ciara which has been blowing furiously all day. We appreciate that the storm is even stronger, and wetter, in other areas so we hope you all manage to stay safe and dry until it passes.