mercredi, juillet 29

Flat refurbishment

A long week in Bath refurbishing my flat after the tenant moved out. A lot of cleaning, new shower enclosure, new velux, replacement tiles in the kitchen, CO alarms and redecoration. Hope the next tenant looks after it a bit better!

mardi, juillet 7

Crazy hot weather has continued for the past week with it peaking at around 38 in the shade each day and barely dropping below 22 at night. It's been a struggle to keep the house cool!

Justin, Emily, Thea and Myla came over for lunch on Sunday and it was good to catch up with all their news. Thanks for the saucisson!

The bathroom make-over is complete - the last single glazed window has been removed and blocked up (it never was very comfortable sitting on the loo with people eating their dinner outside the window on the terrace!), new oak trims, some teserae outside the shower, plus a general repaint. A new window for the porch also.

samedi, juillet 4


Temperatures are pushing 40 in the shade at the moment, which makes for uncomfortable working outside. Early starts are required for grass cutting, scything under the fences and other works.

No signs of mushrooms, but the amount of vegetation growth in the last month is incredible...even for the Ariege.

Fortunately this includes our kiwi plants which last year we thought might have died as they did nothing but shed leaves.

The big meadow is armpit high and full of flowers. Other works this trip include finishing revamping the old shower room and swapping some windows in the porch and utility.

lundi, juin 22

A little too much work at the moment, with regular round trips to Hastings (6 hours of driving each way) and some major demolition at Tigley as we have knocked through the half metre thick stonewall between the extension and the existing house.

Stonehenge from the A303, I drive past every time I go to Hastings

The weather remains summery and Susie and I have been making the most with walks around Dartington and to the coast.

Backlit Copper Beech leaves

 Cornfield at Coleton Fishacre

mardi, juin 16

Summer in full swing

Elderflower Champagne fermenting

A bumper broadbean harvest this year

mercredi, juin 3

Pic de Crabere 2629m

With the weather forecast for a sunny cloudless day, I got up early and packed for a day in the mountains - an ascent of Pic de Crabere. It took about an hour to drive to the parking at Anglade close to Frechendech and at 8.30 I set off. There was plenty of morning low cloud but the sun was already burning it off and I needed only shorts and T-shirt.

It took 2 hours 30 minutes to climb upto Etang d'Arraing. The path is never too steep and climbs steadily, mostly high above the river, through broadleaved forest. A little before the lake you finally emerge from the trees and the huge face of Pic de l'Har looms overhead to the left.

The lake is held back by a dam which also generates some electricity. I was amazed that the water level was very low, I thought at this time of year it would be full with snow melt. Just before the refuge I stumbled across three people (engineers I assumed) who were sitting on the ground each studying laptops which had been plugged into sockets mounted on a post in the middle of the mountain. Evidently some of the electricity is made available! 

After a spot to eat I pressed on towards the summit about another hour and half away. My lack of fitness began to show after the col d'Aueran and the endless zig-zags leading the last 400m to the summit were exhausting. The weather briefly changed as clouds welled up from the valleys (yesterday evening's rainstorm evaporating no doubt) and I was sometimes engulfed in cold cloud. Near the top I disturbed some Ptarmigans.

Amazingly the path to the summit avoided the snow, though the summit had a cap about 30m x 30m. The peak is famous for its great views of Pico Aneto and the Luchonais Pyrenees, but I was in and out of the clouds. I descended a little on the Spanish side to eat my lunch out of the wind.

The descent of the zig-zags was much quicker than the ascent and I meet a party of three ascending, the only other people I saw all day. As soon as I was down and back at the Col d'Aueran, the sun returned and temperatures climbed all afternoon. I took a longer way back crossing the Pas du Bouc (2170m) and descending to the Cabane d'Uls. I had meant to then climb to the Col d'Auarde but I mistook an earlier cabane for the Cabane d'Uls and climbed to another col by the Etang d'Uls. 

At the Col I saw an Eagle which I have now identified as a Short-toed (or Snake) Eagle, so called as it eats mostly snakes.

Having realised my error I decided to press on, descending steeply to the Trous des Maumats then attempting to contour northwards to pick up my planned route at the Cabane des Pugues. I eventually gave this up and descended more directly towards the Chapel d'Isard through the Reserve Biologique d'Isard on difficult pathless terrain. Descending towards a snow field I saw a Red deer doe happily sitting on the snow to keep cool. Eventually she saw me and fled off into the woods.

The flowers on the walk and particularly through the Reserve, were stunning today with too many species to list - but everywhere was carpeted in blooms and the selection seemed to change at every turn.

I headed for the Chapel d'Isard, a curious chapel high in the mountains far from any habitation, but alas is was locked because of storm damage.

From here I picked up my path of ascent and returned to the car - hot and with sore feet. It had been 17 miles, 7000ft of ascent and nearly 9 hours of walking! I got home at 6.30 where the thermometer in the sun was still reading 42 degrees!

Tomorrow is my last day and I have the last of the clearing out to do from the garage at Pont and some work to do here also.

mardi, juin 2

The weather has been lovely and hot with clouds clearing early in the morning then slowly building again in the late afternoon....this afternoon we had a torrential downpour but it only lasted 40 minutes or so until the heat returned. 

The fields are full of flowers - orchids, ox-eye daisies, sorel, rattle, etc

I spent a morning having a good clear out in the woodshed, cutting the huge pile of small wood into kindling and re-stacking the logs to make room for the two wood working machines that have been in storage at Pont since I bought them for a song about 5 years ago. I cast a concrete slab to support the bigger 5 in 1 machine.

The field down in the woods which has been much neglected is destined to become my "edible forest garden" soon. I spent a morning topping it with the scythe -  a surprising amount of grass under the growth on the upper two terraces.

Work - trying to sign off Gilbert and Nicole's barn conversion at La Trappe and finishing the plastering and painting around the windows here at Quelebu has kept me busy.

Loading, moving and unloading the machines was destined to be a job and a half. In the end it took 2 full days a lot of grunting and the purchase of a 1/4 tonne winch to move them on rollers, on and off the trailer.

Tomorrow I'm heading for Pic Crabere - it's the western most peak in the Couserans and amazing that I've not yet climbed it.

jeudi, mai 28


It's been half term in the UK so Anna planned a lovely evening walk to the The Maltsters on Monday and on Wednesday Susie cooked an amazing spread of Indian cuisine for some friends at our house in Dartington.

An early flight this morning and I'm back in France. Gloriously hot and lovely sound of a thousand crickets in the meadow. After some much needed grass cutting, I went for stroll to check on the fields and bumped in Paul.

Nearly 91 and still driving his tractor up to his barn at Le Sarrach and climbing through the woods searching for mushrooms most days. He gave me the sad news that Louise (Annie and Lucette's mother and Minsou's sister, died last week).

The fields are full of orchids, some photos:


samedi, mai 23

Project updates

Slating and leadwork complete at Laura and Guy's

 The random width chestnut boarding on the facade

The project at Hastings 'slowly' progressing

samedi, mai 16

The latest building project, a kitchen and bathroom extension for Laura and Guy taking shape.

First shots with the new camera which Olympus sent to the replace my old one.

 Looking across Dartmoor on my way to see Anton Coaker for some chestnut.

Lovely weather yesterday, so we spent the afternoon in Dartington Gardens.