France Easter Trip 2022. Number 3

The past 10 days have been a mixed bag re weather and certainly a mixed range of activities. We have had two days where it rained heavily, that makes a total of 3 days in the 25 days we have been here, shouldn’t complain I suppose😊🌅We have eaten outside most days, lunch and evening meal and it’s been warm enough to sit out until at least 8 pm most evenings as it is as I write this blog.

It wouldn’t be a blog re France without at least one photo of me on the roof, thankfully I have now solved and cured the minor leak.

One curious thing that has been happening since we arrived is that fibre optic cabling is being laid along the lanes around us, and past our house, we are in the middle of nowhere but the underground cables go on and on for miles deeper into the countryside. So who knows we may have 5g capability next time we arrive, we need something as the wifi signal is quite poor.

On Saturday we visited the market at Ste Foy Le Grande, and from there onto an agricultural equipment centre to re place my stolen jockey wheel for the trailer, we then popped into a garden centre and bought a few conifers to fill in a gap in our hedge. Peter and Alison were with us and they bought an olive tree to take home. It was a very wet morning out.

Is this where Sherlock Holmes buys his pipes?

Sunday was another wet day we went as a foursome to two vide greniers but due to the weather there weren’t many stalls, we bought a few things and Peter bought a piece of South African pottery with a giraffe on it that was interesting.

Over the past two years a pine tree that was growing at the top of drive next to the gates had begun to lean in an alarming manner, I had on two occasions cut off a large number of branches to reduce its canopy but it was still leaning more. I took advantage of Peter and Alison’s company to help me to lop off the top of the tree. They were on rope pulling duty whilst I was up the ladder with the chain saw, thankfully when it fell it missed the gates.

Timberrrrr
They had to help clear up their car was down the drive, no way out.

Since I’ve had the house, 31 years now, we have always relied on a wall gas heater to heat the water for washing up in the kitchen, this meant keeping at least two bottles of gas handy and the price of these has shot up over the past two years. So I took the decision to take out the heater and connect the kitchen to the water system that feeds both bathrooms and the utility, the hot water for this comes from a large immersion heater. It took about 5 hours, there were initially a few leaks but a quick tighten up of a few joints soon cured that and now it’s working very well.

The hammer is essential😂

Michelle has worked extremely hard since we arrived, she has re emulsioned the four bedrooms, the small lounge, the kitchen, utility room and the main bathroom, she has also revarnished the floors in the two original bedrooms. It’s all looking clean and fresh.

Peter and Alison have a very nice swimming pool, they identified the need for a new pool cover just before Covid caused us all problems. Sadly during the time we weren’t able to visit due to Covid the cover continued to decline and so they had to order a new one, we gave them hand to fit the new cover when it eventually arrived via a French delivery service.

The old cover being dismantled.
Using a part of the old cover to provide support whilst the new one was fitted.
New cover in place.

As is the norm at the end of our visit we had to take Layla to the vets to get her pet passport completed, as we had further difficulties travelling here due to a date not being acceptable. I explained this to the vet and thankfully he agreed to issue a new passport at no extra cost, hopefully this time it will work, in four years Layla has got through four passports.

To end on an amusing note. Last November we received a letter from the Marie telling us they were going to issue us with a house number and street name, it hasn’t needed one for 150 years, the postman never had any difficulty in knowing which of the two houses in our petit hameau to deliver to, in fact we haven’t a post box so all mail goes to my neighbour ( if you aren’t here to open the box the snails eat your post, a variation of snail mail😁). Any way our neighbour kindly collected our number for us and when she gave it us I dutifully fixed it to the gate post ( not many other people appear to have bothered) later that day Michelle was looking at some paper work from the vets and informed me I had given the vet the wrong house number. When I showed her the letter from the Marie she said it wasn’t the number I’d fixed to the gate post. It turns out that my neighbour had given me her number😂 what is bizarre is that the numbers aren’t sequential, there must be a system but I’m not sure what it is.

The wrong number.
At last the correct number
The new name for the lane, apparently she was involved in the resistance in the second world war.

Sadly it’s our last night, tomorrow the long trek home so it will be au revoir until August.

France Easter Trip 2022 Number 2

We had a very pleasant Easter Sunday, we collected our friends Alison and Peter and went to a vide grenier in St Laurent des Hommes, again it was a day purchasing some items for the grandsons in preparation for their visit in August. Afterwards we went back to Alison and Peter’s bungalow where we enjoyed a very pleasant lunch and whilst Peter and I went for a walk Alison gave Michelle a lesson on how to use a sewing machine. I’ve put in an order for a new suit😂😂

Vide grenier at St Laurent des Hommes.
Well it wouldn’t be Easter without an egg would it.

Earlier in the week we visited the local market, there were fewer stalls than normal, I’m not sure if that was Covid related or weather related but it is the time of year for asparagus.

It’s more common to have large white asparagus in Europe rather than our thinner green asparagus.
One of Michelle’s favourite stalls, it sells all things sewing related.

From the market we drove down the valley through Libourne and onto our friend Dominique’s house where we had been invited for lunch. Dominique is the daughter of my neighbour here in France and was once married to an Englishman and lived near Leeds so she speaks very good English and often helps me if I’m stuck for translation.We spent about six hours there in total and had a good time catching up on news etc.

Since we arrived here our washing machine stopped working, disgusting really as it is only about 28 years old it didn’t seem any point trying to arrange a repair so we found a suitable one online that could be delivered to a local electrical outlet.

We then had a highs and lows Saturday. Firstly I tried to buy the washing machine on line and it refused to accept my English mobile number. So I bravely went into town and explained my problem to a very helpful girl in the shop, using the in store computer we managed between us to open an account for me and order the washing machine.😊I drove back to the house feeling somewhat pleased to be greeted by Michelle with the news that we had a leak under the sink. All I needed. After spending some time in the cupboard it became obvious that it was the tap that was leaking, no amount of fiddling cured it so it was back down the town to Bricomarche and I returned 40 euros worse off with a new tap.

As always it was a hard task to remove the old one but after an hour the new tap was installed and working, I’d just put all my tools away when I heard Michelle screaming in the bathroom. I rushed in to find her paddling in water and a jet of water shooting up out of the toilet cistern, bouncing off the ceiling and falling back down on her. I turned off the main stopcock and paddled int the bathroom ( tiled floors no problem) to find that the inlet into the cistern had come loose, thankfully only a minutes job to repair. I’ve banned Michelle from going near water outlets. Having said that, the utility got flooded to day when I tried to remove the old washing machine, the isolation tap that hasn’t been touched since installation doesn’t turn off the water to the washing machine.😖😖

Thankfully Saturday ended on a pleasant note when Alison and Peter joined us for an evening meal and a glass or two.

Tonight’s main course was a vegetable tajine with cous cous.

Layla continues to enjoy herself immensely out here and has now decided it’s fun to join me when I’m mowing the field.

A funny ending to the blog, well Michelle thinks it funny! whilst shopping recently I was buying some salad and asked Michelle to get me a bunch of spring onions. The next day I had two with my lunch and commented on how strong they tasted, for the 24 hours following I had the taste of garlic in my mouth, they weren’t spring onions, but young garlic bulbs.😵‍💫😵‍💫😵‍💫😵‍💫

Not spring onions.

France -Easter trip 2022

After months of absence we quickly drift into a familiar life style here at our French house.The house is basic but comfortable, being approx 150 years old it needs permanent attention to keep it going.There’s never a time that there isn’t something that needs doing, this week we have carpeted one of the guest bedrooms, upgraded some of the electric sockets amongst many small tasks. Thankfully the grounds weren’t in too bad a condition since we left last November, so far I’ve mowed about an acre and spent a morning putting up 60m of barbed wire as a deterrent to the wild boar that have been invading. Michelle has been working on her garden pruning and weeding and using the Flymo on the lawn area.

One of our apple trees in blossom.

The weather has been reasonable since we arrived with only one wet day and night, on Friday we had gale force winds that lifted some tiles from our verandah but they can be easily replaced. A large oak tree blew down in our neighbours wood quite close to the stable housing his two pet donkeys.

Every evening we walk around our field and make a fuss of the donkeys, tonight they had a carrot and apple each.

Layla is becoming more tolerant of the donkeys although she does love to run up and down the fence teasing them. She is only about 40 cm tall but she has decided that she is a deer hound and has taken to the task of repelling any deer that try to come into our field to graze, she is content to see them run off before returning staggering with pride. I doubt I will get any photos of them this trip.

Whilst pruning some brambles that prevented me mowing one area I noticed that up in the tree was a hornets nest from the previous year it is about 60 cm in height.

No Sunday would feel complete without a visit to a vide grenier, today we went to a local village an old English bastide, Villefranche de Lonchat. We used to buy unusual items, things that intrigued us, items to put on display but this year as new grandparents our buying pattern appears to have changed. Today we returned with an inflatable paddling pool for 2 euros, and two car seats which cost 10 euros each, a bargain.

I wonder what the coming week will bring.

The Arrival

Tuesday 5th April 2020

A non motorhome blog as we have travelled to our French house by car.

The journey to Portsmouth Sunday was easy going, first time we have travelled there in the light for a long time. We handed in our passports and nervously Layla’s new French passport, the very pleasant Brittany Ferries lady politely pointed out that there was a problem with it as the French vet had put the wrong date re her rabies jab. Thankfully I had carried all her vet info and her original passport and that was accepted as the correct info, a huge sigh of relief but we will have to see if we can get our French vet to correct the error,

The ferry’s arrival was delayed so we had some time to sit in the queue waiting to board, we were parked behind one of those annoying car owners who got in and out of his car about 20 times in 90 minutes, opening and shutting doors, messing in his boot, taking the dog for a walk every 10 minutes. When we got on board and went to our cabin there they were outside the cabin next to us😖😖thankfully they realised that it wasn’t their cabin and they wandered off up the corridor.

The journey down through France was 370 miles which took us 7 hours including two 30 minute breaks at the motorway services, one at Le Mans and one just north of Poitiers. Most services are new having been rebuilt in the past 5 years and should you require it serve a good range of food.

Aire Jaunay-clan

About 30 miles from our destination the main road was closed, I assume for road works and we had to take a diversion to complete the rest of our journey on narrow twisty country roads, just what you need at the end of a long drive.

We were pleased to find on our arrival that the garden hadn’t turned back into a jungle after our last visit here in October/ November last year.

Everything with the house seemed fine but on a sad note some thieves had climbed into the garden I believe intending to steal the old trailer, however the trailer had a hitch lock on it and they couldn’t open the garden gates as they are securely locked, they were foiled and in revenge stole the jockey wheel. The amusing thing is we no longer want the trailer and would happily give it away. We have also had a visit from wild boar who have dug up a few areas of the field, today I’ve spent some time today reinforcing the fencing where they obviously pushed their way through.

This damage is quite shallow compared to previous visits.

We travelled here on one tank of diesel, we struggled to fill up at home on Sunday morning all the supermarkets had no diesel and eventually we found an independent garage that had fuel but was 10p a litre more, this mounts up as I put £95 worth in.We managed to get here on one tank at an average of 50 mpg which considering we drove a lot at speed on motorways I’m pleased with. We had some left in the tank but this morning after doing some food shopping we decided to head to the towns petrol station to top up, there were long queues to get in and once in the queue I had no choice but to stay in it, after about 20 minutes I managed to top up, the French government are subsidising the fuel by 15c a litre. When we drove out the queues were even longer blocking the traffic island, you imagine how many car horns were being honked.

Shrewsbury Antiques Fair

Saturday 12th and Sunday 13th March 2022

Both Saturday morning and this morning I woke feeling progressively better so I was pleased to get some pleasure out of the weekend. Saturday was pleasant and dry after Fridays miserable weather .

The adverse weather obviously had had an outcome on the number of stalls that had been set up, it was probably only 60 % in size in comparison to our previous visit.

The BBC programme Bargain Hunt were filming with blue teams and red teams wandering around supported by their specialists Mark Stacey and Thomas Forrester, they had Caroline Hawley as the presenter for the programme. It was interesting to see how much the background staff, camera man, sound recordist, plus two others were involved in guiding the teams and the scripts. At one point the camera man broke off from filming the team and filmed Layla, she showed no nerves and ignored him, then today Mark Stacey walked over from his team and gave her a big fuss, I’m sure she would have preferred a treat.

We were very restrained with our purchases spending £1.50 on a jar of lime pickle, £1 on a new knob for Homers kettle and Michelle splashed out £4 on broach shaped as a pear.

After lunch we walked into Shrewsbury, it was strange but also pleasant to see it full of people bustling around, cafes and restaurants busy and a lovely craft market in the old market square. A few face masks still in evidence but most people were getting on with life after Covid. We walked back along the river in all covering 5 miles today.

During the evening the wind got stronger and stronger and at bed time it began to rain which it did on and off until 9.30am this morning. We went for one last walk around the fair, there were a few different stalls but fewer had turned up than yesterday, I’m not sure if that was a help or hindrance to the contestants. Ground conditions were pretty dire squelchy grass and muddy patches.

With very little else to occupy us we decided to leave at 11am, it appeared we had run out of gas overnight so we stopped off at a service station with lpg, it didn’t let us put much in so now I’m not sure if we had run out or not.

Shropshire County Show Ground – Shrewsbury.

Friday 11th March 2022.

When on Monday afternoon we returned from our weekend away it was with the full intention of mothballing Homer until May as we are spending April in France travelling by car.

So as we drove to Shrewsbury this afternoon in double speed wiper weather it is obvious something has changed😊

Monday evening we saw an article in the local newspaper as to how a team of local people were working hard to prepare the show ground in readiness for an Antiques Fair this weekend. The showground was a few weeks ago totally flooded by the River Severn over flowing it’s banks. Not an unusual situation it happens quite regularly.

We have camped here before a few years ago where we were pitched under some trees which dropped acorns on our roof all night long😵‍💫 they now have some different hardstandings with electric hook up so we are staying on one for the weekend. We have also travelled here by car in the past to visit an Antiques Fair which we enjoyed immensely so we are combining the two this weekend. Thankfully the heavy rain stopped at 6 pm so hopefully it will be better underfoot tomorrow.

I woke this morning suffering from a heavy cold and cough, Michelle said we should perhaps call the weekend off, but I decided being ill in Homer wouldn’t be any worst than being ill at home plus there’s lots here to occupy Michelle. So we will see what tomorrow brings.

Congleton – Little Moreton Hall & Ash Tree Pub, Armitage.

Sunday 6th March 2020

After leaving Sandbach we drove the short distance to a National Trust Property -Little Moreton Hall.

Little Moreton Hall.

From the 13C the Moreton family were powerful local landowners, by the early 15th century they had acquired enough land and wealth to start building Little Moreton Hall. The hall is built on marshy land, large blocks of stone were used for foundations but as the family’s wealth increased they extended both outward and upward without strengthening the foundations. Leading to its rather bizarre appearance as areas of the house settled.

Crossing the moat.
The chapel.

During the English Civil War the family’s allegiance to the Crown began their downfall and the estate began a slow decline. From the late 1600’s through to the 1950’s the hall was let to tenants , however in 1892 Elizabeth Moreton inherited the Hall and she invested money to slow its decline even though she never lived there. In 1938 it became a NT property.

After we left the Hall we drove south skirting Stafford and headed to a Pub Stop, these are pubs that encourage you to stay over in exchange for having a drink or meal in the pub, we arrived at The Ash Tree at Armitage. This is on the side of the Trent and Mersey Canal and we enjoyed a long and leisurely walk along its towpath. Upon our return we went into the pub and had a 2 for 1 meal with a drink, very enjoyable. We had a quiet night on the car park.

Sandbach

Saturday 5th March 2022.

We are spending the weekend in Sandbach with Alison and Peter staying at Farm Fields CL site next to the farms fishing lakes.We stayed here before in March 2019 when it cost £16 a night, it is now £21, the price of inflation.

Early morning visitors.

It’s approximately a mile into Sandbach and we enjoyed the walk there in bright sunshine but there was a bit of a bite in the wind so we weren’t lulled into thinking Spring had arrived. We strolled around the town for an hour or so with Michelle and Alison going to all but one of the charity shops, believe me there were a lot😵‍💫.

We then decided to have lunch, thankfully finding a dog friendly pub which had a table free , menu was limited but we all enjoyed what we chose, and the price was good.

From there we strolled to the local park which was a hive of activity with many families enjoying the facilities.

On the way here yesterday we had a stopover at Market Drayton a town in north Shropshire, using Parkopedia we found that the car park at the Leisure Centre had four dedicated spaces for motorhomes and parking was free. When we arrived there was one motorhome parked up but the other spaces were taken by a Covid Testing Station and the cars of the testers.

As you can see from the photograph we parked Homer where there was plenty of space and didn’t inconvenience anyone, when we returned we decided to have lunch before moving on. As we sat there a woman drove in and parked so close to us we couldn’t open the side door on Homer, she went off with her swimming gear so I had a fear we would be stuck there until she got back but thankfully car opposite left so I was able to manoeuvre out and carry on with our journey to Sandbach.

Brackley and Turweston.

Wednesday 9th Feb 2022

Today we have driven 67 miles south, much of the journey on the A5, also known as the Roman road Watling Street. It was a relatively quiet journey as most heavy traffic uses the M1. Our first port of call was Brackley.

We are fans of Bargain Hunt and Antique Road Trip and enjoy the fact we’ve often been to the centres they visit, Brackley Antiques Cellar has been on numerous times and we promised ourselves we would go one day, and here we are. The cellar is underneath Waitrose supermarket and so they have a joint free car park which was quite handy. The cellar is split up into over 160 small independent areas with a whole range of collectibles, thankfully not full of expensive antiques.

From Brackley we drove a short distance to Turweston a small picturesque village where we are staying for the night in the car park of The Stratton Arms.The pub is part of the Britstops scheme whereby you can stay free in exchange for buying a drink or meal, but many places don’t even insist on that.

After lunch we went for a walk around the village, most of the properties were old, rather large, and I assume expensive, there was however a pleasant atmosphere.

St Mary’s Church.

My sister and brother in law live not too far from Turweston and they joined us for a meal in the pub, good quality and quantity, friendly staff, a good range of beers what more could you ask.

The only small problem was that it had virtually no phone/ wifi signal outside and non inside so I have had to upload this post today. After leaving this morning we called in at Tesco in Brackley to do the weekly shop and then headed home via the M40 and M42.

Conkers National Forest

Tuesday 8th February 2022.

This forest is part of a 200 square mile project to attempt to blend ancient woodland with newly created forest reclaiming industrial scarred land. Today we walked a section of it that is criss crossed by roads, a railway, canal and a reclaimed goods railway line.

We followed as closely as possible the blue route which is 4.5 miles long, the route is way marked but occasionally we had to double back on ourselves as the route split with no clear sign post. The Conkers element to the forest are two outdoor centres, fee paying that encourage water sports, arial walkways, wobbly bridges,a barefoot walk, wooden structure play areas plus a host of other activities.

This area formed one loop of our walk, the pool links onto a stretch of reclaimed canal.

Entrance to Conkers.
Unfortunately it was closed and sadly they didn’t allow dogs in.

From here we took another looping walk crossing several roads to arrive at Albert Lake where we paused for a break.

Looking down over Albert lake.

We sat on a bench with this view and had a snack which included a pork pie which we purchased on Sunday in Ironbridge.

Layla was keen to join in😊

We were getting tired as we walked the last half mile, today’s walk was the longest I’ve managed in one go since I damaged my leg whilst in France last November. So it was a pleasant relief to get back and enjoy a relaxing lunch and leisurely afternoon.