Firstly, I have had some complaints from my loyal reader that I didn’t publish a blog last week. Please accept my apologies. There are a couple of reasons for this. Principally, we came home a little late from birthday drinks with some new friends in Commana, but also, because the weather over the last fortnight has been very ‘Breton’ (aka wet) it prevented us doing as many interesting tasks outside as we wanted and administration doesn’t make for an interesting blog or photos!! At least it allows me to cover a couple of weeks today.
At present we have lots of projects on the go, some of which I have mentioned in my previous blogs, as we try and develop the gardens, clean up some of the work that we have undertaken, address some of the issues we have found and prepare 2 gîtes for the arrival of our first weekly guests of the season next Saturday.
In my last blog I said we were widening the rear access to the property to install some gates and that much of the digging was a challenge due to the amount of rock and root in the soil. More than once I thought how much easier it would be if we had a digger. And then on Monday, one turned up!
Last year our neighbour behind us, Olivier, had spoken to the Marie to see if they would install a pipe along part of the lane to assist with drainage as water pooled in a position that led to flooding in his barn. While the Marie had agreed, which meant digging through our rear drive, they weren’t able to commit to a date. They turned up 2 weeks ago and did in a few hours what took me days! We did benefit however, as I hadn’t completed the new drive to allow access from right and left (previously it was just from the left) and, for the price of a couple of cups of coffee for the guys the drive was widened on both sides. Gate not yet fitted – that remains an ongoing project.
I also mentioned in a previous week that the recent high winds had exposed a number of problems with the roofs. Our own house has lost a number of slates but, thankfully, we don’t have any leaks. However, the cement flashing on both ends of the Priory’s roof had broken in places and, without any additional protection underneath, we had water coming into the building in a number of places.
Last week we had a local roofer, Monsieur Hélard, come to start the work and we have been really impressed. The weather has been anything but ideal for working on roofs as it has been windy and, had I mentioned, wet, but he has made a really great job of the repairs so far. Assuming it is dry tomorrow he should be able to finish leaving only a repaint job in a couple of Priory’s bedrooms to complete.
Repainting was needed in Hayloft as well after a busy season last year. Having refurbished the accommodation to what we believe is a very high standard, we are conscious that we need to maintain them at that level which will need lots of attention and effort, especially as we have 4 couples who stayed with us in our first season booked to come back this year which we’re delighted about.
The biggest single project of the last 2 weeks has been improving the front access to Hayloft and better defining the small terrace in front. The space is a real sun trap in the morning making it an ideal spot to enjoy breakfast but was very open to the main driveway and the old wall had collapsed in places and petered out more than ended in the soil that was a tangle of ivy and bramble rather than an attractive flower bed.
Using some of the slate that I had unearthed in my digging around the plot, as well as a lot that Olivier had been kind enough to give us, I have extended the wall to follow the curve of the drive and created a large flower bed in front of the gîte. Initially that was the only intention but, as these jobs often do, it grew in scope. Having finished the wall and been really pleased with the result we thought it would be good to build a small wall to form a boundary between the terrace and the lawn.
In all of the digging I have done around the garden we have found no interesting artefacts. While we hadn’t envisaged buried treasure (although that would have been nice) for a building dating from 1640 we had thought we may find something of interest, even digging our pond in SW London I found an intact earthenware vessel and broken Victorian marmalade jar! Sadly, the most interesting things I have found here to date are a couple of rusty horseshoes and 2 sickle blades.
Having dug the trench to start this wall I uncovered 2 large concrete slabs which started under the gravel and continued under the lawn. While it would have been interesting to investigate how large these were, and whether they covered anything, they were too large to expose completely so we just used them as a foundation to the new wall and buried them again. To be further explored in the future possibly if we ever make BIG changes!
I haven’t quite finished this project either – but have a firm deadline of next Saturday when our guests arrive – so haven’t got the final ‘after’ picture but hope these give an impression.
This coming week will absolutely depend on the weather, as it so often does. The forecast is for it to be much warmer but not too many totally dry days are expected – although meteofrance is almost as inaccurate as the Met Office used to be so anything could happen!!