lundi 2 mai 2016

East Prawle

Susie's last SPRUNG dance show at KEVICC last week. Two nights of beautiful contemporary dance and many lovely tributes to Susie (who set up the dance department 16 years ago). Some of her ex-students, now professional dancers, came back to perform at the Thursday night show.

An afternoon walk with the Dare's at East Prawle visiting the remains of the wreck of "The Demetrios" which hit the rocks there in 1992. 

lundi 25 avril 2016

Back in the UK for a couple of weeks. 99% the electrical first fix got completed for I left. Most the distribution is at first floor level and will be boxed-in (except for junction boxes which have to be accessible). Next trip will be to carry out the plaster boarding and pointing ahead of the chaux-chanvre (lime and hemp). 

The seasons are a bit behind France in the UK this year, trees are only just coming into leaf and the bluebells are out.

lundi 18 avril 2016

Last few days have been spent doing the first fix electrics and fitting an old salvaged door to make everything secure. It's a abit of a drag but another day should see it all finished, then its on with pointing ahead of chaux-chanvre on the next trip.

 Too many sockets!

Distribution board progressing

vendredi 15 avril 2016

A return to hot sunny weather with the South wind blowing. The trees are getter greener and the snows are rapidly reducing.

Barn/gite works continue to occupy my every waking hour - I put an old piece of 6" flue pipe through the wall at the stove location - the flue is actually 5" so effectively this is a sleeve. That took most of the day as the hole is four feet (120cm) long and as it goes through the wall at 45 degrees it was quite a job to remove stones without the whole wall coming down - plus of course it has to line up with where the hole is in the roof! Once in, the wall was carefully rebuilt around the flue.

The last window in the old gable was also installed. The old one was was more frame than glass and didn't let in much light. It was also fitted within the oak frame (so had so had gaps around it), the new one is slightly larger and fits into a newly cut rebate. I also cut a proper sub-cill out of the oak wall plate.  All in all this means it is much better weatherproofed and draft sealed. First fix electrics have also started.

As most the electrics are distributed via the first floor, I had to empty it of the 90 bundles of thatch that were stored there. I managed to make 4 mini bales, which are just about moveable by hand.

In the garden everything is bursting into leaf including our kiwi which at last looks like it's getting going. the newly laid hedge is budding and it's oak before ash this year so it looks like a dry summer. 

I knocked off early (5.00) and went for walk - Biech / Col de Boulogne / Cane / Biech. Was hoping to find some morels - no chance.

mercredi 13 avril 2016

Latest progress

Eventually found a way through the 65cm thick granite walls for the various incoming services and took the opportunity to start the rough pointing of the interior ready for the chaux-chanvre (lime and hemp) plaster.

The main ground floor room - fireplace will be where the reed bundles are stood, kitchen against the low stud wall.

Looking the other way towards the kitchen.

The little mezzanine at the top of the stairs.

lundi 11 avril 2016

It's been a few years since I've seen a Hoopoe at Quélébu, but after our sighting at Col de Viele Mort last week, yesterday I saw one here too. I almost trod on it but then it flew away into the high branches and resolutely refused to come closer for a photo.

I was looking at the caravan and assorted rubbish left by last year's "margineaux" visitors and thinking of asking the Mairie when they could clear it up, but today before I'd had a chance to ask, the Maire and M. Durand were there starting to remove it. 

The return of the South wind and high pressure has brought back the sun and warmer temperatures, together with the butterflies.

I'm sure the morel mushrooms are coming. I made a long walk yesterday, but there was no sign yet.

A visit from Minsou and her daughter, arriving with a puncture - fortunately I was on hand to change the wheel. Paul also came to inspect the works which are pressing on - insulation and flooring underway.

samedi 9 avril 2016

Cladding finished...almost

It's taken a couple of days to finish the larch cladding - the first day was interrupted by having to restock the house with firewood, tidying the workshop and frequent snow showers.  Rain late this afternoon but tonight the South wind re-establishes itself and we have a return to warm sunny weather - just in time fo me to have to work inside of course!


mardi 5 avril 2016


A trip to the Vide Grenier at St Lizier on Sunday where Susie and Ruby found some clothes and I got a "Suffolk" push mower for 10 euros.

Cladding has been put on hold for a few days, whilst I assembled the flat packed stair. It's slightly out of sequence but I knew the stair would need many hands to manoeuvre.

Because the stair has two sets of winders and is enclosed on three sides by walls, assembly is a sod. In the end I pre-assembled three main parts, before these were joined together with the last few treads and the newels in-situ. All rather awkward and requiring the help of all the family before they leave on Wednesday. 

Handrails will go up once I've caught up with the insulation, 1st fix electrics and plasterboarding.

samedi 2 avril 2016

Internet up and running!

We arrived to a warm and balmy afternoon...perfect! During the next couple of days the weather was changeable but we made a tentative search for morels and clad one wall of the barn and I collected the staircase which we will be assembling soon (hopefully on Monday).

Today, we all headed out to Tuc de la Coume and Pic des Lanes for some great views and a stomp in the snow. We also saw a hoopoe on the way back near the Col de Viele Morte.

The South wind building clouds behind Mont Valier

On the ridge connecting the peaks

Lunch spot

Knee deep on the descent

dimanche 27 mars 2016


Back to France on Wednesday with Susie , Jasper and Ruby. The weather forecast doesn't look too good and we'll be without internet as we're in the middle of changing from SFR to Orange. Update when reconnected (hopefully the 7th April).

mardi 15 mars 2016


For some reason the post from Friday 11th March didn't publish so...After my last post I built a tool that enabled me to drive the last few 20cm helical cold roof fixings through the counterbattens which were located under the thatched verge overhang of the existing barn roof - there is no room to swing a hammer. The tool involved copper pipe, a length of studding and an old SDS drill bit. I threaded it through the thatch and used a breaker to drive in the fixings. Once that was done I could at last get felt and temporary battens on the roof to make it watertight. Some more snow showers and an overnight fall of 3 inches hampered progress edging up the steep roof on the battens...but it was like winter climbing only without crampons! 

The next day I collected a new little sofa for the living room, then sped off to Pamiers to collect windows.

An afternoon blizzard, mud and a temperamental stapler put me behind schedule and Thursday was looking like a very busy day with the last of the windows to install and a large hole to dig for the ErDF meter box, which would be installed 18th March. Next day was crisp with a good fall of fresh snow on the mountains. 

I was up early and had just installed the last window when a digger arrived. It was a contractor come to dig the trench and install the duct for the ErDF. I asked if they could dig the hole for the meter as well and they said of course! Suddenly I had a spare day with snow on the hills. 

I jumped in the car and headed off to Guzet - which was deserted as the school holidays in france had ended the weekend previously. The fresh powder was beautiful and I soon found my ski legs (if not my fitness) and spent 2 and half hours on Freychet skiing the off piste beyond the black run "dome"  -wonderful!


The duct was installed when I got back. My last day was spent putting in the floor joists for the first floor, having a huge clean up and filling the house with firewood for the next visit in a few weeks with Susie, Jasper and Ruby.

The flight back to the UK was delayed because of technical problems and then because someone on our plane decided to smuggle a knife on board. The police boarded twice and the second time left with the passenger. Statements had to be given and all the cabin luggage checked before we could finally leave Toulouse.

Back in the UK the weather is clear and bright (almost the first time in 5 months!) so we have been keen to get outside. At Dartington Gardens the snake head fritillarys, crocii and daffofils are out.

On Sunday Susie and I stretched our legs on Dartmoor, making a circuit joining Haytor and Hound Tor in beautiful spring sunshine.

A dipper catching some sun.

dimanche 6 mars 2016

A couple of inches of snow this morning and snow showers all day. The snow on the ground lingered until about lunchtime, then gave way to mud. Veranda beginning to take shape. I reused the decks that the sheep used to sleep on in the barn for the soffit - had to scrap the sheep muck off first!