Apologies that it has been three weeks since posting a blog – it seems like so long ago! At least there is lots to cover as it has been a reasonably productive period at least the last 2 weeks have. The first week less so as I was struck by a pretty nasty bug that knocked me out for a while. I don’t think it was THE bug as my symptoms weren’t those generally expected and, thankfully, I managed to shake it off in a few days.
Most thankfully I was able to shake it off to join some friends in visiting a local brewery at the end of the week. We had heard of a craft brewery in the village of La Feuillée about 15 minutes from us but had never visited. Recently we got to taste some of their brew – and see the impressive containers you can buy to take some home – so we had to visit.
Having got back to fighting strength I have managed to complete a couple of tasks that had been outstanding for a few weeks including finishing the staining of Grange and my man shed. They look great and should now be protected for a few years (when I’ll have to do it all again!)
I also managed to progress the hedge cutting but still not quite finish as my hedge cutters chose not to pack up but to cut out frequently when I tried to use them. Of course, when I took them to our new repair shop they chose to work exactly as they should and show no sign of a problem – grrr. Thankfully, I managed to cut the vast majority of the hedges – some manually – and the little remaining could even wait until next year …
In the last blog I wrote we had just changed a tap in a gîte having had to clear the drains and said things came in threes. The third, not the same gîte thankfully but plumbing related, was a problem with the boot room pipework. Not yet resolved but will at least be something I will be able to do myself and not get the professionals in this time.
Having taken my hedge cutters to the repair shop I was able to see if a chainsaw I had dropped off before was able to have been repaired. It hadn’t so I was given the bits in a box! This meant that in my efforts to clear the garage and tidy by clearing a couple of piles of wood last week, I had to do the cutting manually and have invested in another chainsaw.
The other major task we have started, having taken the opportunity of a change in the weather at the end of last week, was the autumn lawn scarifying. The back lawn, the largest, we scarified in the spring but just before it got very dry for a long time and it never recovered properly. Seeing that we are due a damp couple of weeks, we have scarified it again and we have bought some new grass seed to lay with a more durable type of grass that should perform better in drought.
In the short term it has made the lawn look even sparser – but you can see the nicely cut hedges in the background of one and the very large pile of (bramble covered) wood I need to clear in another! For another few weeks!
We have at least managed to maintain one ‘habit’ that we started a few weeks ago on David’s birthday – a day out exploring our lovely region. We have always said that we need to take the opportunity to take time and explore around us as, if you love the outdoors, there is so much to offer. In David’s birthday week we, accidentally, went on a long, but beautiful, walk in the Monts D’Arrée and for the last 2 Sundays we have chosen another area to walk.
Last week, we revisited a part of the coast we had actually walked first a few years ago. From previous blogs you will know that we love the Sunday market in Daoulas although, in this odd year, we hadn’t visited at all in 2020. So, as we had no guests we went back and continued onto the peninsular of Logonna-Daoulas for a coastal walk.
The weather was amazing – blue sky, very hot and zero wind – which made the beautifully clear sea seem more Caribbean than Breton. The coastline there has some fabulous shingle beaches and hidden coves which provide some great private bathing as well as some dramatic scenery.
The dogs love swimming in the sea but, again, haven’t been able to at all this year, so made the most of it. Having got them salty we thought it best to detour to the Lac du Drennec on the way home so they can swim in fresh water and clean off. Of course, being at the lake we thought it rude not to pop to Au Lac and have a quick half. In Mercedes’ always generous manner, the first half led to another and another and … well, as you saw, no blog last Sunday!
Today, as the weather was very different from last Sunday, low cloud which gave poor visibility, we chose a woodland walk rather than anything we would do for the views. We returned to the Fôret du Cranou which, while we had visited for the first time earlier this year, we explored a different part of and loved it. It reminded us that we are so fortunate to live somewhere where we can choose such different walks depending on mood (and weather) from fantastic coastal cliff walks; open moor and heathland; woodland and forest walks or canal or lake side strolls all within easy reach.
We’ll have to choose something else for next Sunday and, assuming we don’t get diverted to Au Lac, I will get back into the habit of writing a weekly blog!
Apologies for not posting a blog last week – will let you know why later.
It has been an odd couple of weeks in terms of work – possibly not the busiest or most productive – and there aren’t too many major things to share with you.
I have continued to stain Grange although the weather and other tasks have prevented me from finishing (still!) and the garage clearance hasn’t made much progress either.
The last blog I posted mentioned that I had a very unpleasant task to complete with the plumbing in one of our gîtes. I actually didn’t do anything on my own with that until the Wednesday when we had the professionals in – and they arrived with a huge lorry. I was expecting a man-in-a-van to come but a massive septic tank emptying truck arrived. Unusually for rural France, we are not on a septic tank, but the drain pro said that this is their smallest vehicle. A big lorry for a big job as it were!
After some very careful manoeuvring down the drive, where there was less than 10 cms clearance either side, he was able to position himself so he could access the gîte and his kit. With the right people and equipment he was able to clear the blockage pretty easily although wasn’t helped by his new drain camera not working! After a bit of exploratory work he has provided us with some suggestions as to what to do to prevent a future recurrence – another project for the winter maybe!
Job done we were able to get the gîte ready for its new guests last Saturday who really enjoyed their stay – despite the kitchen sink tap starting to leak profusely when in use! They say things come in threes! That proved a much easier job to rectify and a new tap has been fitted.
Last Sunday was the beginning of David’s birthday week, hence I didn’t write a blog, and we decided to have a day out including our first visit of the year to the restaurant in St. Rivoal, the Auberge du Menez and were delighted to see that it continues to be excellent.
We chose to visit a place we had only been to once before a couple of years ago, the Abbey du Relec which is not very far from us. While the abbey itself is interesting we wanted to go for a walk in the adjacent woods with the dogs. Having had a lunchtime drink in the excellent little restaurant in the abbey courtyard we started our walk. It was a hot afternoon and we were dressed in jeans and thick tops expecting to only go for a short walk. We picked up the signs for a circular walk and 2 ½ hours and 13 kms later we finished!
While rather longer than we’d anticipated, it was a lovely walk. One we would recommend and definitely do again ourselves, as it takes you up to some of the highest points in the Monts D’Arrée and you got to see some unusual wildlife!
The route also takes you through the hamlet of Trédudon-le-Moine known as the first resistance village of France due to its activities in WWII.
This week has been a similar one of ‘bitty’ things without many major milestones being met. We have started to think a little more about our own house now that our gîtes are at a stage that we are delighted with them and don’t need such major work. One of the investments we have made for our home was for 2 large pieces of furniture, one to replace the old aquarium which we brought with us from London and had sat in the lounge ever since. A sort of self-birthday present for David.
These were delivered on Thursday by another large lorry, evidently larger even than the drain lorry as this one didn’t manage to get under the phone line at the end of Hent Gorreker which it promptly pulled off the pole and broke. Thankfully, it evidently isn’t the line that provides our phone and internet as we are (miraculously) unaffected but it is the one that provides phone services to the neighbour who allows us to use their connection when we are off line.
So, in a reversal of fortune, the have visited us a couple of times to download mails and complain to their phone provider who has told them, in true French client service style, the line will be fixed by 7th September! The fact that the line is currently hanging at about next height across the lane and so is a hazard to traffic doesn’t seem to increase the priority!
The coming week could be very productive however, we have an inspection on Thursday to be officially classified, so while we don’t have guests in the family gîtes, we will need to ensure they are fully prepared as if we were about to welcome guests and so we will be focussed on making sure they are as spotless as they would be when we are expecting guests.
Last week’s blog stated that I was focussed on 2 tasks – hedge cutting and staining Grange. It was the latter that was the continued focus for this week and still it isn’t finished!
I know it seems like it is taking an awfully long time to do something fairly simple, and to be fair it probably is, but I can justify the slow progress! The staining isn’t all I have been doing, it’s just the major task that creates pictures which, I hope, are worth looking at!
Last week, as this week, we have had lovely couples stay in our Chambre d’Hote, Stable. Last week’s couple were my sort of people in that they had their breakfast at the leisurely hour of 10am. As I am i/c ‘normal’ breakfasts, David does anything more complex, for the last week I haven’t been able to start anything major, or dirty, before I have delivered breakfast.
I have managed to put the second coat of stain on the north end of Grange and painted the render behind the bins and water butt giving an impression of what the whole building will look like when I have got around to doing that.
I have managed to put a single coat on the staircase and my man shed although, with the man shed cladding being newer and so not silvered as much, the finished colour isn’t quite the same despite using the same stain. Might look a little closer when I have added the second coat, although I have used a clear varnish for the second coats up to this point.
During the week I have managed to empty the garage bay where we dumped (no better way to describe it) all of the packaging from the Priory refurbishment. I managed to fill our trailer completely with just the cardboard packaging we had accumulated. My effort to start clearing out the garage bays – although the man shed is still chaos inside!
The COVID situation continues to impact us and our guests. The UK government’s decision late last Thursday to require travellers from France to quarantine when entering the UK led to our 2 British families (the first Brits we were expecting in 2020!) who were due to arrive for this week (and next!) to cancel their plans at the last minute. We are obviously disappointed not to be able to welcome them but we completely understand their position. Thankfully both have deferred their trips rather than cancel outright.
There was one silver lining of their cancellations as we had some guests leave us on Saturday morning who reported a problem with the plumbing. Not to go into too many details, yesterday I spent doing the most unpleasant job I have had since arriving but without success. When our German guests arrived who were due in the affected gîte, we were able to move them into one of the family gîtes that had become vacant. What we would have done had we not had a spare gîte for them to use, I’m really not sure!
Even with the help of our friendly plumber we are yet to solve the plumbing problem and we hope to call in more professionals next week – thankfully it has bought us a little time to get on top of it but will be an unpleasant start to the week. The glamour of gîte ownership!
Whether I will be able to finish the staining next week is very dependent on the weather. Last week’s forecasts were for thunderstorms and showers although they didn’t materialise until a spectacular lightening show last night. We’ll see if the next week’s forecasts are any more accurate.
Last week’s blog said that we had started 2 major projects which desperately needed doing. It is both of these that I have been continuing with this week – although neither are actually finished!
Earlier in the week I continued with the hedging which is very nearly complete. I was fortunate in that the weather was extremely good and we had lots of adventurous guests who were out and about most of the time so there was less of a concern that I was creating a lot of noise. Thankfully when I needed to be quiet, I was able to give the wisteria its biannual trim and train it against Priory. I can see this summer being the most difficult in years to come as it puts on so many new tendrils in the growing season, all of which weave together, it is very difficult to see what to cut and what to keep. However, having completed and trimmed the buxus at the base it is looking smart at the front of Priory again.
The hedging itself generates a lot of green waste which, at the minute, we can only take to the déchetterie, so a number of things also have to line up to allow me to do it. I need to be able to use the trailer, have access to the car and the déchetterie needs to be open.
As we live in a rural area the déchetterie isn’t open every day nor indeed all day of those days it is open. Many of its open periods coincide when Dave works in Brest so he has to use the car. While I can load the trailer and then take it at a convenient time, it is amazing how little hedging needs to be cut to fill it up – especially in the summer cut when it grows so fiercely between March and July.
We are also half-owners of our trailer having bought it with a neighbouring couple who also have a large garden. We tend to get the better end of the deal as we have ‘custody’ of it for the majority of the time, but if they need to use it we are fortunate in that we have lots of other projects we can pick up.
That other project was continuing to stain the exterior of Grange. By last Sunday I had done the east side which was always going to be the easiest. During the last week I have managed to complete the south side, other than the steps, and have put one coat on the north side. All, so far, without injury!
Hopefully, in the coming week I will be able to get a second coat on the north and 2 coats on the west side. If I get the steps done that will be it completed – at least for the next 7 years! Hopefully too I will get most done before the weather changes from the very hot and dry we have enjoyed for the past few weeks to less settled next week. At least the lawns should start to look green again.
2020 has, for everyone, been an odd year all round although it has meant a couple of firsts for us. With the uncertainty that COVID has made to travel, earlier in the year we had the first time when all of our gîtes were occupied but none of our guests were British. Last week, was the first time that all of our gîtes and we only had French guests stay. Obviously we welcome guests from anywhere, but we were very pleased that the name of Kergudon is being shared within France especially as the French like to holiday-at-home more than most nations.
I can’t believe that my last blog, 2 weeks ago, was written the day we completed Priory. It already seems like so long ago … Thankfully, both families who have stayed in Priory in the last 2 weeks have absolutely loved what we have done and have left us some lovely comments. The family who arrived yesterday also seem to have fallen in love with it which makes all the hard work worthwhile.
The blog mentioned that after we had taken a few days off to relax there were a number of projects we needed to pick up including hedge cutting and finally finishing Grange, and this is what I began last week as you can see it desperately needed it.
I think hedge cutting will take more and more time each year as the metres and metres of new yew and lonicera we have planted grow and mature. However, it always looks so much better when done.
Sadly, as you can see on the last picture, the honey fungus that appeared a couple of years ago has continued to destroy some of the old privet hedge surrounding Granary. It is very sad as the arch which we creating into the Granary garden is now destroyed. Sadly too most of the griselinia cuttings I planted in the spring have also died possibly, despite watering, the very dry spring and summer so far didn’t allow them to root. Because we cannot get rid of the honey fungus we have decided to plant griselinia, which is not prone to the pathogen, to eventually replace all the privet. It is disappointing that these cuttings have died as we have lost a year’s growth but we have a plan for the autumn which should mean the next plants we add will survive.
The other task I began is one that I have meant to do for a couple of years, stain the exterior of Grange. Since we clad the building in 2017 the wood has aged from the bright yellow of the pressure treatment to a soft silver but it now needs assistance to keep it in a good state.
I have started with the easy side – the front – which looks much better now it has 2 coats. The other faces will be harder to access but I hope to get them done this week.
Last week we had some guests, friends now, staying with us for their 3rd stay. Their previous visit was for Christmas when one of them received a drone. In the 7 months following they have been practicing how to fly it so, when they brought it back with them this time they were able to get some footage.
The first film was sadly taken on a fairly overcast day (before I had cut any of the hedging!) but shows how beautiful the countryside is around us, and how close we are to the Lac du Drennec which is a wonderful place to walk, swim or kayak.
We understand that they took more footage later in the week, on sunnier days with better hedges(!) that we should be able to share soon. David is looking to do some of his video editing to put something lovely together.
Next week hopefully I will complete the whole of Grange without doing myself an injury and, who knows, perhaps even start to empty it out!
When I wrote last week’s blog I said that we had a leaky shower which needed to be resolved quickly if we were to stand any chance of getting Priory complete, and that I wasn’t panicking (at that stage) that we would be able to finish on time.
Our plumber came back last Monday to sort the shower and, as we feared, one of the joints behind the tiles and plasterboard was weeping. Thankfully, he was able to resolve only needing to remove a couple of tiles meaning that, having left it for a week to dry out, I have now retiled so when he comes back (again!) tomorrow to reattach the taps we should, finally have a water tight system.
As we managed to resolve the problem within the week we should be able to complete on time and, while I am still not panicking, the impending deadline is starting to focus my efforts!
Last week’s blog said that I needed to take a day to make sure the exterior of Hayloft was ready for its first guests of 2020. This included a trip to the quarry for a trailer of stones which we had been meaning to get for over a year as the terrace was getting thin in places. With a bit of weeding, clearing the wood we felled from the hedge and laying the new gravel it looks great again and can be enjoyed by our guests just as soon as the summer weather returns.
What our first Hayloft guests did enjoy was one of Dave’s fabulous 3 course suppers and the summer beef stew with Coreff beer remains popular as too the strawberry cheesecake.
I was back in Priory from Tuesday and David and I have had a productive week. On Wednesday I did manage to empty the building of all the offcuts of wood, plasterboard and metal framework which on its own has made a big difference to the space.
We have a family arriving in Granary next Saturday but as that gîte is still acting as the store for Priory’s furniture and various items, I needed to progress the lounge side of Priory so we can move everything back across. This has been the focus of the latter end of the week and has meant lots of staining, painting and varnishing.
For those familiar with Priory you will know the house is in 2 halves. The lounge and mezzanine are one side of the central wall with the kitchen, bedrooms and bathrooms on the other. As of this afternoon, the lounge side is complete and David has spent 2 full days dusting and cleaning.
Again, as we don’t want to spoil the big reveal when it is eventually all done, I won’t publish too many pictures but will give you a taste of the new lounge before we refurnish.
I have managed to sand and fill the family bathroom, hallway and second bedroom so I can start painting next week; as soon as the shower is complete the en-suite shouldn’t take too long which will only leave the kitchen and cloakroom – and they look like 2 weeks work between them!!
We had hoped to move all of Priory’s furniture out of Granary this afternoon but it wasn’t until 4pm that the weather became dry so we will need to do that tomorrow. With a number of tasks that need to be completed in there before our guests arrive on Saturday there will be a day or so when I won’t be in Priory. I’ll let you know next week if I have reached panic stage!
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 …