dimanche 19 janvier 2014

Upper Dart circuit

With a lull in the stormy weather today, Susie and I headed off for a walk around the upper Dart. Starting at Poundsgate we descended to Newbridge on the two moors way, before following the Dart up through its narrow steep valley. We watched the canoeists descending the river which is currently in spate after all the rain and saw quite a few capsizes in the difficult section at long island. 

We then ascended the Venford brook to the reservoir. Shortly after climbing the hill beyond the reservoir I realised I no longer had my camera and had to run back for half a mile or so, but fortunately found it on the ground. The rain returned and when we got to Dartmeet we found the stepping stones fully submerged and the river impossible to cross. No alternative but to continue to Hexworthy adding another 2-3 miles to our walk.

Crossing another tricky stream required both the walking poles to aid balance and when Susie threw them back to me one fell in the stream and was immediately swept out into the Dart. I chased it downstream for about four hundred yards and eventually managed to throw a branch at it, diverting its path towards the bank where I succeeded in reaching it from the bank.

The long diversion graced us with the sight of a 5-6 lb salmon or trout jumping from the river, a green woodpecker and some flying ducks!

The walk up the road from Dartmeet was a bit of a drag but we made it back to the car just before dark.

lundi 13 janvier 2014

Yeah you know the view...but I'm not bored yet!

...and from Minsou's at Coumelary

Saturday was incredibly warm and with Ian cancelling our planned skin and ski, I decided to try to finish the tree clearance and re-fencing. It was good to be working outside in the balmy temperatures and I managed to finish most of the remaining work and clear the chemin d'Aleu which had half a dozen very large trees across it. I also re-fenced most of Paul's field a job which had been long overdue. Sunday the weather was even better and it was a shame to have to pack up and leave. I called in on Minsou on the way to the airport. Weather in the UK was dark and stormy (the same as when I left) and we had a very heavy landing at Bristol. I think with the strong gusting winds the pilot just wanted to get the plane down onto the runway!

vendredi 10 janvier 2014

A short film about a school friend's father Leonard Creo: artist, speed walker and 91 today. Happy Birthday Creo.

Really missing my camera : (    
...(and Susie of course!!).

Weather has been beautiful today and I've working outside all day, clearing up some of the many fallen trees and using them to make fence posts and repair the damaged fences. Most of the trees are big and either hung up or in a tangled mess with half a dozen other trees...dangerous work. There are still a few to tidy up and some to fell which are standing but damaged beyond saving and often with torn boughs dangling dangerously out of reach...they can wait until later. The chemin between Pinsou and Aleu has quite a few trees which have fallen right across it, so it's impassable with the tractor, they'll have to cleared later too.

Got a message from my tenants saying they're not moving and that C.A.F say the rent should be paid as normal? I will have to wait and see what happens.

Tomorrow is my last day here, so hopefully a ski or a day in the mountains.

jeudi 9 janvier 2014

Another mild day here. I started with some clearing up of fallen trees, a job which will occupy me for all of tomorrow, then it was off to meet tendering contractors for Nicole and Gilbert's barn conversion at La Trappe. In between times I managed to plaster the wall behind our bed.

Then it was off to Pont to try to meet with my tenants. I'd received a letter from C.A.F. saying that having reviewed their case, I would no longer be receiving rental payments (C.A.F. currently pays me their rent direct). With four children I can't see how they would lose their entitlement, so either they've decided to move out this month (without telling me) or they've been defrauding the gov't or they're trying to get the rent paid to them instead or C.A.F. have made some kind of administrative error!

No-one was at home but I did get a chance to look through some windows and the place seemed in a pretty sorry state...very upsetting. It's virtually impossible to forcible evict tenants in France so I really hope they're moving out. Evidently they haven't paid an electricity bill since May so maybe it's been cut off and now they can't live there any more? I just wish they'd communicate with me. I left another letter asking them to contact me urgently, I can do no more legally until the rent is 3 months in arrears.

mercredi 8 janvier 2014

Stuck in the mud

A meeting with a new client this morning in Biech - I have another house to get planning permission for! Then it was on with finishing the drawings for the barn conversion for Nicole and Gilbert Coron in La trappe as I'm meeting a couple of builders tomorrow morning.

Work was interrupted when after delivering building materials to my neighbours Philippe and Céline, the lorry got stuck on the edge of grass where we play badminton in the summer. After all the snow melt the clayey ground was saturated under the grass. It seems fine when you walk on it but with a vehicle on it it's like quicksand and I've lost count of the number of vehicles I've pulled out over the years. The truck must weigh 4-5 tonnes unladen (it has a crane) but the driver was adamant that I should pull him with my little tractor not the jimny. Amazingly the truck started to move and all seemed to going well until suddenly the spinning back wheels lost traction and the back of lorry span around, sliding down the slope towards the new terrace. Several attempts to get it out, first forward and then by reversing only sent the lorry closer to the terrace and deeper into the ground. In the end the cab was few centimeters from pergola. I was pulling the rear of the lorry sideways with the tractor while he attempted to reverse, we had cement on the tyres and steel plates under them to try and get traction but all no avail.

Philippe made a tour of the neighbours to try and find a bigger tractor or a powerful winch. Messers Durand and Gouazé eventually arrived from the village and after some scratching of heads, M. Durand descended to Castet d'Aleu to fetch his logging machine complete with 15 tonne winch.

With the cable redirected through a pulley around a distant tree, he managed to get a forward pull with the winch and haul the lorry effortlessly out of it's hole, even lifting the front wheels off the ground at the end.

Then with more pulling on the rear by a heavier 4x4 truck, and finally a direct pull from the logging machine we straightened the lorry up and got it on the road again, the rescue was over. No damage to the terrace but some big holes to fill in and lots of turf to stamp down.

Drinks at Philippe and Céline's for me, André and Bernard.

mardi 7 janvier 2014

Forgot my camera this trip, so apologies for the poor 'mobile phone camera' images.

A soirée with the neighbours last night - Galette de Roi...a frangipan tarte the french eat on 12th night which has a little china figurine hidden inside one of the slices. The lucky person who gets to wear a paper crown.

Today after a little bit of fence repair it was off to St G to get sand, cement and plaster. Bumped into Ian on the way and we've pencilled in a skin up, ski down morning at Guzet.

The wall behind our bed was gunned with concrete (like the living room walls), so now after nearly ten years at Quelebu I've decided to plaster it! This afternoon I got a coat of render on it, in a few days I'll plaster it.

I finally managed to transport (without damage) the bejewelled lampshade for our bedroom which I found in Totnes market.

lundi 6 janvier 2014

Quelebu again

Back in France and nice to have calm, mild weather and hear only bird song. A surprise comedy New Year's card from my old friend Julian Hopgood. Will be in touch soon.