mercredi 28 septembre 2016


Tucked into the boneless ham I made last winter, it's been air drying for about 9 months - delicious!

Susie been hard at work on the vegetable garden, I've been finishing the chicken run (salvaging old chicken wire and repairing holes) whilst Jasper's started on digging for the last bit of garage concrete slab.

The cats are now happily out and about and using the cat flap and the weather is fabulous.

lundi 26 septembre 2016


It's been an upsetting week. On Sunday morning my beautiful sister passed away, I'll travel to the UK next week for the funeral. 

Here I have felled half a dozen acacia's which were mangled by the May snowfall in 2010 to make fence posts and firewood, started building a new chicken run, with susie and Jasper constructed the enclosure for the organic garden and after a few unsucessful mushroom hunts, Susie and I got a super haul this morning which made a fabulous risotto.

vendredi 23 septembre 2016

Time in the mountains and Quélé-wood

Most things are now unpacked and with some new shelves and use of the attic the house is feeling calmer. Farm machinery has been moved, grass cut and the space for the potager and chicken run provisionally marked out.

On Thursday it was Jasper's birthday, so we headed up for our first stroll into the mountains. Nothing too strenuous after our long journey - so we headed for Pic de Girantes (2088m).

Early autumn sunshine and clear skies made for a pleasant ascent and lunch on the summit.

stress is good for your six-pack :)

After an initial navigation error we soon gained the right path for the interesting descent via the Pas de Roc, which I hadn't done before. This is now marked with yellow markers.

I think we've come the wrong way

Jasper now 20!

Today Phil's son and his associates arrived at Quélébu to film a couple of scenes in a short film he is making. Phil plays someone called William and I was an incidental character called Steven. Filming was very professional and took most of the day with one scene down at the barn/gite fixing my tractor and second in the kitchen back at the house. Hopefully I'll be able to post a link to the finished film at some point in the future.

This evening a short storm and some magical lighting.

mercredi 21 septembre 2016

Nous sommes arrivé

At last we have arrived! On Saturday in fact but internet/phone problems have put us offline until now.

By lunchtime Friday we were packed and ready to leave the UK. The ferry wasn't until 11.00 p.m. so at 8.00 I hitched the trailer only to discover that the trailer lights had stopped working.

An hour under the car in the twilight with a neighbour holding the torch whilst I rewired the hitch and the trailer lights and all seemed to be working. The trailer must have weighed nearly 3 tonnes, so gingerly we headed for Plymouth. At the check-in someone pointed out one the trailer tyres was almost flat and in the next 10 minutes it was completely flat!

No time to change it so we drove onto the ferry with it flapping. We weren't allowed to change it on the ferry either so it had to wait until we disembarked.

The ferry was huge and comfortable and the sea calm. We had a cabin, so had beds to sleep in but the cats had to stay in their boxes in the car below decks. By 3.00 a.m. the swell had increased and awoken me. I'm not good with boats so got dressed and spent the rest of the night on deck in the breeze. We arrived at Roscoff at 8.00 a.m. French time and got on with changing the tyre. Unfortunately the wheel brace and jack were under the floor of the boot so we had to unpack the rear of the car. The trailer was also exceedingly heavy so we bent the jack handle. Two further problems now presented themselves: Firstly the direction of rotation of the spare suited the right hand side of the trailer but the flat was on the left. The weather was reasonably dry so I ignored this. Secondly, on close inspection I discovered that two other tyres on the trailer had nails embedded in the tyres (we must have run over some nails in the road). They didn't seem to be going down yet, but we had used our spare already so things were looking decidedly dodgy. I didn't share this information with my already stressed passengers.

We stopped a few times at garages trying to find tyres of the right size but without success, so we just pressed on. It was a long way - 14 hours on the road in all! The car did amazingly well pulling the trailer but on some of the long steep long hills we were down to under 40 miles an hour.

At the house after dark we found we had caught a loire in one of our traps but it was now full of maggots and stunk to high-heaven. The cats were super relieved to get out of the boxes and stretch.

Several loires were still at large but after a couple of minutes eyeballing the cats from a beam, they may have departed.

In the morning the mountains showed themselves with fresh dusting of snow.

We have spent the last couple of days unpacking and tidying up after the SMDEA who came and installed the water meter to the barn.

More later!!

jeudi 8 septembre 2016

Vignemale, Ordesa, Breche de Roland

Some holiday time with the family before Ruby goes to University and Susie, Jasper and I move to France. After a brief stay at Quélébu it was off to Bidart just south of Biarritz. A lovely campsite "Pavillion Royale" gave us a few days of hot weather, big waves and sandy beaches - perfect relaxation after days of packing.

Then it was off in the car to Cauterets and the start of a 4 day circuit through two national parks. We started a little after 2.00 so caught the télésiege from the Pont d'Espagne up towards the Lac de Gaube to save some time - a first chair lift ride for Susie and the kids.

In a few hours we reached the massive north face of Vignemale beneath which we planned to bivouac. It wasn't long before the clouds rolled and a there were a couple of rolls of thunder, contrary to the forecast! We managed to scramble into our bivvy bags just as the rain started - there were slightly worried faces all round.

Fortunately it was only a shower. We found an abandoned flysheet and rigged a tarp to protect our heads should the rain return, but in the end it was a starry night.

Next morning started with the climb to the col des Mulats before the long, hot, descent down the Ara Valley to Barajuelo.

At the col

Looking back towards Pic d'Arataille

The weather was blistering hot and it took 8 hours before we could dip our feet in the Rio Ara at Barajuelo. We got a taxi from there to the village of Torla where we had booked room in the Refugio Lucien. A meal and the first mattress for a 5 days were very welcome.

Next morning we caught the shuttle up into the Ordesa Canyon and decided that after such a long day in the Ara and with heavy packs, we'd skip the Faja de Pelay path which traverses the canyon at mid-height with spectacular views, in favour of the easier path on the canyon bottom. It was a shame but probably the right decision. We were all glad to get out of the trees and eventually reach the upper canyon where the spectacular scenery is more apparent.

After lunch at the head of the canyons we climbed upwards to the Refugio Goriz, where we had a room for the night. The hut was (as always) packed with walkers heading for Monte Perdido. A great meal which alas wasn't matched by the sleep obtained in the hot, stuffy, noisy dormitory. I think bivvying would have been better!

The last stage between Goriz and Garvarnie is a classic crossing of the Breche de Roland. At first the path heads across a crazy barren landscape, until finally heading across more difficult terrain to the the breche. 

Jasper practising his jedi skills

So late in the season there was no snow on the approach to the breche and snow slopes were replaced with unstable scree and rocks - difficult terrain for inexperienced legs. Finally there was the Eychelle des Isards to cross, a 30m section with a chain handrail. I ferried the rucksacks across and accompanied each family member in turn. Jasper was very nervous as he sometimes suffers from vertigo but with determination he made it across.

Tired legs made their way down from the Breche to the Sarradets hut, closed for major enlargement works which filled the valley with noise.

Ruby was beginning to suffer from the heat, so I shouldered her pack for the last couple of hours beneath Taillon to the Col de Buchero, then the parking at the Col des Tentes. I hitched and taxied my way back to Cauterets in about 1 hour 20 where I'd left the car. Then drove back to collect everyone from the col where they watched the sun go down in there bivvy bags.

A duck dinner in Luz St Saviour then the long drive home, where we arrived in the early hours.