To begin, my apologies for not posting a blog for the last 2 Sundays. Not completely my fault.
The first Sunday (7 June) I did decide not to write a blog as the progress we had made in Priory didn’t make for great photos. Last Sunday we were without phone and internet at home – again!! The line went dead the previous Friday and didn’t come back on until Monday morning – suggests there wasn’t much happening over the weekend?!
So I have had to think carefully about what we have achieved in the last 3 weeks that I can write about. I can’t think of a time when we haven’t been doing something, and we have spent as much time in Priory as we can, but it may not be as advanced as you’d expect! I do keep trying to convince myself that we are at that late stage when everything comes together very quickly but my deadline of the end of June may be a little ambitious!
Looking back, the last blog which showed any pictures of the work we have done in Priory was as long ago as 17th May. There has been progress but, so as not to spoil the surprise, we will ration the number of pictures I include on these blogs for the next few weeks until it is finished completely.
The last blog I posted said that we had found a new plumber who was willing to come and take on the task and he began his work at the start of June. It is always a major challenge asking someone to come and pick up a job which had been started by someone else, and it took our new guy a bit of time to trace the pipework that had already been installed.
Inevitably the new plumber’s way of working differed from the old plumber and he didn’t use the same system of attaching the corners, T-pieces and terminals to the pipework. What he did do, I think, was rather better, and certainly quicker, but it did mean we had to go and buy lots more attachments that he could use.
With no discredit to the new plumber, the job took a bit longer than I’d hope and he had to pop back a couple of times to fix a number of leaks that emerged after the water had been turned on. In fact it was only yesterday that he made his last visit and we now have a watertight system which drains properly! Our thanks to him for all his work.
This of course now means that all the work that needed to be done by other people is complete, and it is now down to us, mostly me as Dave is back at work, to get it finished.
I have been working throughout and, as the plumber finished in various areas I was able to do the finishing tasks or whatever was required for the next bit. This has included boxing in the new chauffe-eau and starting to box in the pipework; tiling the en-suite shower so he could install the taps, and installing the kitchen sink so the taps could be fitted.
The last task listed became the classic ‘one job leads to another’ scenario as, having installed the sink and work top, I saw a small area of loose paint above which started to scrape off. The walls are rendered on the inside and it looks like they had then been painted with regular emulsion, which evidently hadn’t adhered too well so, having started to peel some off, it led to me having to strip a far larger area of wall than I’d anticipated.
Thankfully, the sink is now installed and plumbed in, the splash back is tiled and grouted, and I have used a special sous-couche on the wall in preparation for re-painting.
I have tried my hand to a bit of basic carpentry and created wooden window shelves in the dining area which I will photograph when they are sanded and stained; and have spent time painting and cleaning the mezzanine level. Now I have been able to dismantle the scaffolding you can get a much better appreciation of the changes we have made – we love it.
Having concreted the end garage bay, while the plumber was working in Priory, I took the opportunity to stain and paint the interior. We had always intended to do this, and will do so to the entire garage hopefully this summer, but I wanted to do it now, as with the new concrete floor, we could move some furniture into the bay and many thanks to our 2 friends who came across this afternoon to provide us some ‘muscle’ to assist us.
One of them was a large Breton style sideboard that was in Priory but wouldn’t fit into the new décor, the other was my large fish tank that we brought across from our flat in London. We had tried to sell both through various websites without success. There are hundreds of old pieces of Breton furniture available so they don’t sell for much, and no one wants it anymore and they are generally too large for modern houses; and the fish tank too is very large and again would need a lot of space so they are now both ‘stored’ in the garage.
Taking the tank out of our lounge has made a huge difference to the room (once the 5 year accumulation of dust and cobwebs had been cleaned) but it may not last long as David has already found a piece of furniture he’d like to replace it with!
The concrete floor has also proved really and meant that I have been able to use that bay as a workshop area in the last week when the weather has been very wet – and I can sweep up the sawdust!
With the COVID confinement rules relaxing further, it has been a bit of a sociable week too. Belinda and Andrew managed to make it back to France to open up their campsite on the shore of the Lac du Drennec and they held a BBQ on Thursday night which was fun, and Mercedes, who was also locked own in the UK, also made it here and opened the restaurant for the first time last night so we popped down for dinner.
Finally, my last couple blogs had been complaining that the spring had been so dry and all of the plants we’d put in were getting stressed. Thankfully, most of last week has been very wet again which was welcome relief and has meant all our waterbutts are overflowing and everything is looking vibrant and green again, as it should this time of year!
Next week – Priory, Priory, Priory – and we finally welcome our first guests of 2020 on Friday. Fantastic.
Having outlined lots of reasons why Kergudon is the perfect place to come for a ‘post’ COVID-19 family holiday in last week’s blog, one thing I did not include, although should have, was weather. Today, the last day of May and still spring, the growing season, we have had less than 10mm of rain in the entire month and are enjoying temperatures up to 28 degrees.
Spring weather in Finistère is generally good, and we often have periods of hot and dry days. This year however, is exceptional although we probably could have predicted it being so dry having planted many griselina cuttings, 70 lonicera plants and scarified the lawns at the end of April so needing it to be wet to let the grass plants establish and lawn recover!
Normally, we have a total capacity to collect 3400 litres of rainwater with the water butts around which can last us a couple of weeks. This year, 2 butts behind Granary totalling 1000 litres were out of commission as I had to move them to dig the trench for Priory’s new power supply, and with the new plants our need for water was greater. As such, we ran out of our own supply a couple of weeks ago and have had to put one of the butts on the trailer to make an emergency bowser to collect water from the village lavoir. This will have to do us until the next rain arrives although we don’t know when that is – there is nothing in the forecast again for the next 10 days.
Over the last 2 weeks we have been progressing with a number of projects and have completed 2 big tasks that will assist us move forward with others. Minimal progress, from me, in Priory.
The first large task was completing the build of the new serre that we started a few weeks ago. This one is much more robust than its predecessor and, not only are the tubes used for the frame considerably wider and stronger, the cover (bache) is held in place by burying it into the ground on all 4 sides. This took far longer than I’d hoped, made worse by us having erected it near to the boundary where there were lots of large roots and rocks to dig through with very little foot-room or space to deposit the soil.
However, now it is done and up and should (fingers crossed) last many more months, years we hope, than the previous one. This will allow us to store and dry lots of firewood currently lying around in piles in parts of the garden.
The second major task was concreting the base of one of our garage bays. This, again, was something we have wanted to do for a number of months but, ironically, were prevented over the winter as it was too wet!
The bay we chose had been emptied last autumn in preparation for the concreting but, as it wasn’t done and we had stripped out Priory in the meantime, it had started to fill up again! One of the things we had left there over the winter was our mini-digger as its co-owner, Paul, has been in the UK since last September and we were the only ones likely to be able to use it. With the wet winter it had sat in the garage and, inevitably, when we needed to start it up to remove it the, admittedly very old, battery wasn’t up to it. Thankfully, with a new battery bought it flashed into life immediately and is currently sitting at the edge of the lawn under a tarpaulin.
We had decided to do the work ourselves as I calculated us buying the materials required was about 1/3 the price of buying pre-mixed concrete delivered in a cement lorry. I was anxious however that I didn’t buy much more sand and gravel than was required as any remaining would make another Kergudon cairn and add to the piles of ‘stuff’ we have around which we are honestly trying to clear! Thankfully we found a good website that calculated volumes of material required for the amount of concrete required and we used that to buy 500 kgs of cement; 1 tonne of sand and 1.5 tonnes of gravel.
With the weather being so hot it was hard work when I started the job on my own last Wednesday. However, we sped up when David was able to assist and, having shifted 3 tonnes of material, the finished result looks good. It will allow us to move some of the surplus furniture from Priory, and our own house, into a dry and safe space.
The website was pretty good at calculating what we needed too and there is almost no surplus material. We have even used up an old pile of sand that had sat outside the man shed for a couple of years that represented a manoeuvring obstacle for guests in staying Hayloft and who can’t drive out of the back gate.
The other advantage is, while the cement mixer was dirty we mixed up a few additional barrows to create a hard standing behind Granary to re-seat the water butts which I have plumbed in to capture the rain – if we ever get any!
There has been some significant milestones met for Priory too – just not by me! Last Monday the electricity provider connected the gîte to the grid and Pascal made the final connection. As a result, for the first time since Priory became habitable after renovation, probably about 16 years, Priory is self-sufficient and there aren’t 2 electrical umbilicals running from our fuse board to Priory’s.
On Tuesday the heating engineer also came and commissioned the new air source heat pump and radiators giving the gîte a much more efficient, and effective, heating system for our guests outside the main summer season.
In the ‘outside world’, France continues to lift some of its COVID restrictions and Dave’s gym is able to reopen from Tuesday. In preparation he has been on an online training course for 3 hours a day Monday to Saturday last week (tiring work in French) and is going into Brest tomorrow to help prepare the gym for the next normal.
It has been fun having Dave here all day, every day, for the last couple of weeks and we have had quite a productive time doing things together. But it’s back to the commute from tomorrow so we are having a second afternoon off, lounging in this glorious sunshine and watching huge numbers of swallows soar and play above us!
Also, with restrictions being lifted there is a new impetus to complete Priory and I will be back in there tomorrow in earnest. We have found a new plumber who has been kind enough to come out of retirement for a few days and complete the plumbing so I have set a new deadline of the end of June to have the gîte fully decorated and able to let. The cleaning will take a few weeks alone!!
This week, rather than outline what we have achieved in the last 7 days as we would normally do, we thought it would be good to outline why we think a trip to Kergudon is the perfect family holiday in the post-COVID world.
I say ‘post’ COVID but, in reality, when things get back to any sort of normality they will have to do so taking account that COVID will still exist. That is likely shape how people behave and what we do for some time to come.
A couple of weeks ago the UK Health Secretary said that for 2020, ‘big, lavish international holidays’ would not be possible. Indeed, with the requirement for travellers between the UK and France having to enter 14 days quarantine in each direction, we are acutely aware that we will not be able to welcome UK guests for the foreseeable future.
This will of course change at some point and people will be able to travel on holiday, and we want to let you know all the reasons why Kergudon is the ideal destination in these new times – and you can have as ‘lavish’ a time here as you want!
Getting to Kergudon couldn’t be easier, or safer.
While we understand that coronavirus is likely to be devastating to the airline industry, we know that lots of people will be reluctant to travel in a sealed metal tube sharing the air that all the passengers are breathing!
Travelling as a family by car to Kergudon is simple. Brittany Ferries provide an excellent service from either Portsmouth or Plymouth with a fleet of spacious ships where you can socially distance as much as you like, even staying outside on deck in good weather. Sailing from Plymouth you arrive in the charming port city of Roscoff when you are only a 45 minute drive to us. From Portsmouth you can choose the historic cities of St. Malo (2 ½ hours away) or Caen (4 hours) both of which are definitely worth a visit. We can offer our guests a reduction of 20% on the price of your crossing.
If you suffer from mal de mer and ferries aren’t your thing, Eurotunnel is a convenient, and safe, option. While it is a little longer to drive to reach us, we’re almost as far west as you can get in France, most people who have driven in France find it so much more relaxing than driving in the UK with the quieter, and better maintained, roads.
When at Kergudon all of our gîtes are separate from our own home and from each other allowing you to spend your time together without interacting with anyone outside of your family. With your own parking spaces and front door you can live home-from-home and socialise as much, or as little, as you choose.
Your gîte will be prepared for you and cleaned to the highest standard and we have signed up to the Sawday’s Clean and Safe Charter.
Each of the gîtes have their own private garden space where, again, you can enjoy the gardens and nature around us separated from others. We are very fortunate in that we are surrounded by nature. With the exception of the odd farmers’ tractor, this is the most peaceful place. During the day there is no traffic noise just lots and lots of birdsong while at night the only noise is another bird – one of our many local owls. The sky is unspoilt by light pollution and provides an amazing place to sit and stargaze.
We do have some ‘communal’ facilities such as the boot room, mountain bikes, pétanque pitch and games room where we will put procedures in place to ensure that there is no risk to guests in their use. For example, the games room, can be reserved by a particular gîte for their private use for pool, table football or a family film night using the cinema.
Things to do
The first point to make is that this part of Finistère is not Magaluf and, generally, people who want to holiday in Magaluf don’t come to Finistère!
In many respects, this part of the world is the perfect place for the socially isolated break. Rural and sparsely populated you can walk for hours in this beautiful countryside without seeing another person. Walking from Kergudon you can take a picnic and spend the entire day walking through the forest to Menez-Meur, Mont St. Michel or Sizun. A short drive from us opens up hundreds of other walking opportunities for a day’s walk.
If you’d rather a less energetic activity and prefer a day’s lounging on the beach, Finistère is a coastal département with hundreds of miles of beaches. The choice is almost endless between wide sandy beaches, small rocky coves and dog-friendly bays. With so many to choose from, and all accessible from our central location of Kergudon, you can always find one where you can sit far from the madding crowd.
If neither walking nor beach lounging appeal, there are many interesting towns and villages to visit and explore. From the ancient Breton charm of Locronan, to old merchant architecture of Morlaix or the départemental capital ‘city’ of Quimper there is a huge variety of explore.
Many of these have their own food markets which have been allowed to continue as a source of excellent, generally locally produced food. Our favourites are those in Morlaix (Saturday), Daoulas (Sunday) and Landerneau (Thursday to Saturday).
Alternatively, if you’d simply rather enjoy spending time together as a family in a peaceful, beautiful environment, without the stresses and strains of your usual life and routines, with the added benefits of French produce and wine, we’d love to welcome you to Kergudon.
Travel restrictions will be lifted at some point and it will be possible to visit France from the UK and we hope you’ll come and see us here in Saint Cadou and see why we think this is the perfect place to spend precious time together. In the meantime, stay safe, stay healthy and stay local – or you can drive between London and Durham if you don’t care about anyone else 😉
I mentioned at the end of last week’s blog that France was beginning to come out of confinement and that we would definitely be able to make progress in Priory. Thankfully, we have.
As movement restrictions were lifted Pascal, our electrician, came at 0830 on Monday morning and has been working all week. Worryingly, despite trying to contact him, we haven’t heard anything from our plumber, Lee. We exchanged emails during the confinement and tried again a couple of weeks ago but nothing. We’re getting concerned for his welfare. As he sometimes reads our blogs – Lee, if you’re reading this one, please get in touch, not least to let us know you’re OK.
Pascal has managed to wire everything in now and, while we’re not on mains power as yet, he has used the existing power from our own house to check all the circuits – and things are looking amazing. We are especially pleased that our new chandelier works as I really wouldn’t want to climb to the top of the space again!
One of his largest jobs was installing the new fuse board. We asked him to put it next to where the old board is, at the top of the stairs, so as he was doing his work a huge snakes’ wedding was being created with the huge numbers of cables required to comply with French regulations. The new board is much neater but you can see just how many circuits we have had installed to bring Priory into the 21st century.
We feel it is a big step to see all of the new lighting functioning as, having had the whole gîte rewired we have taken the opportunity to do things exactly as we want and installed a lot of lighting as we feel good lighting can create lots of character, and we have had the switches put in the ‘right’ places!
Some of these pictures show our new lighting, although you can also see how much cleaning we have to do before we paint and decorate, but hopefully you agree that, when done, Priory will look fabulous.
As a new, and separate, power supply we were expecting to be inspected by the electricity provided before they connect us to the grid. However, Pascal has already received the all-important certificate of conformity required so, with luck, we will be all connected in the next couple of weeks.
While Pascal was doing the electrics, I was focussed on installing the kitchen, something I have never done before on my own. However, I am really pleased with the result so far. We needed to get the tiling in on the ‘dry’ side of the kitchen so that, next week, Pascal can do the sockets and switches there and, finally, we have been contacted by Darty who tell us that the cooker and fridge freezer will be delivered next week – 4 months after ordering them!
With the confinement being eased, we were really grateful to be able to get haircuts, as we both desperately needed one. Also the slightly odd rule about who could visit the déchetterie I mentioned last week was rescinded so we could go and empty the trailer only to fill it up immediately with soil from our friend. This has allowed us to finish planting the loniceras I started last week which will make Stable look amazing when grown.
Of course, having planted 63 new hedging plants in the last week, we haven’t had any rain for days and there isn’t any forecast for the next week! Even the lawn is starting to suffer although we did enjoy an afternoon of sunbathing today!
Next week is a bit up in the air and depends on hearing from Lee (call us!!) but we’ll find something to do …
Apologies for not posting a blog last week. Looking back at the preceding week it was another one of those ‘pottering’ type weeks when you progress a number of little things but no real major milestones.
The last blog I did write was after we’d scarified the orchard and Granary lawns and I said that we’d hope to do the main lawn behind Priory the following day before some forecast rain arrived. Thankfully we managed to achieve that but it did make a bigger mess than we’d anticipated. The lawn was in a much worse state than we thought so, when scarified there were many areas left very bare.
Thankfully too however, the predicted rain did arrive, albeit not in the volume promised, so the healing process could begin. Over the last couple of weeks we have had a few periods of rain, including an impressively loud thunderstorm yesterday, which has meant all of the lawns are starting to look more like, well, lawns. And they’re turning green!
Thankfully it hasn’t been wet all the time and we did manage to have our first BBQ of the year on Friday night. While there have been many hot, dry days so far in 2020, the only other time we managed to plan a BBQ was a day when the weather changed. We often have weather fronts pass over us but rarely are they so obvious or dramatic as one we had last week. The photo doesn’t really do it justice but there was perfect blue sky and a very clear line of cloud. Sadly my cloud recognition is not what it used to be but I think arcus – anyone?
You may recall that a few weeks ago we said we had ordered some hedging plants having cut down the sycamores on our west boundary. The vendor said that delivery probably wouldn’t happen until confinement was lifted but, earlier this week we received our 72 lonicera plants.
We like lonicera as it appears to grow rapidly here; makes a good dense, evergreen, hedge and seems to be pretty robust. We have a lot of it already and have taken many cuttings over the last few years but this time we’ve chosen to buy some more established plants and, while small, they have great roots and it would have taken us about 5 years to get cuttings to this stage.
Over the last couple of days I have cleared a lot of space behind Hayloft and south along that boundary and planted 48 of them. This has included the talus behind Stable where I mentioned a couple of weeks’ ago we will eventually create a small private terrace.
We want to do the same in front of Stable too so we have similar hedging all along Hent Gorreker, but having removed the capping stones the talus isn’t as full of soil as we’d imagined it would be. As we have been promised some soil from friends nearby we haven’t been able to plant them here but I have done 80% of the area we wanted.
During the periods of wet weather I spent some time back in Priory doing more filling and sanding – you’d have thought the walls would be beautifully smooth now – and also some boxing and making good where the electrician had to cut holes in the lambris to install new cabling.
The biggest change I made was to grout the tiling we have put up in the bathrooms and cloakroom. As the plumbing hasn’t been completed the actual shower in the en-suite bathroom hasn’t yet been tiled but the majority is now done and it is moving forward.
It looks very white at present – and will be more so when I add any undercoat. But we have decided on a more contemporary colour for the walls when we get around to the final coats. We’ll show you when done. We have decided not to do any of the actual painting until all of the electrics and plumbing has been completed as there is too high a chance of damaging things and having to redo.
Thankfully, France is starting to come out of confinement from tomorrow so we are hoping we are high priority for Pascal and Lee.
The new rules allow most businesses to open (not yet Dave’s gym, restaurants or bars) and people can travel within France to a maximum of 100 kms from their homes. We don’t think this will mean we will see many guests immediately as, while the French are good at exploring their own regions and taking breaks relatively close to home, a lot come to Finistère for the beaches, and sadly the beaches are remaining closed.
Also frustratingly, while the déchetterie is open from Tuesday, the prefecture have limited your ability to visit based on your car registration. You can visit on days that coincide with the last number on your licence plate – ours is 7 so we can visit on 7th, 17th or 27th assuming these fall on days the déchetterie is open. We have lots of things we need to dump so will have to make many trips on 27th this month!
At least the hairdresser we use is open next week and we have made an appointment for Friday – we both desperately need a haircut – but will need to take our facemasks with us.
Next week – definitely more progress in Priory. Honest.
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.