France – October 2021- Blog 4

Friday 15th October 2021

It’s been a busy week, non stop work, commencing Monday morning with a repair job on the roof. A tile had slipped and created a small hole approx 2cm in diameter in the under waterproof fabric which obviously when it rained heavily had been letting in a small amount of water above our main bedroom. Thankfully there wasn’t any serious or long term damage but it needed sorting. So out came the trusty well used scaffolding tower which takes me up to eaves height and then a short step forward and I’m on the roof, it took no time at all to remove an area of tiles, glue on a patch over the hole and relay the tiles, hopefully all now is fine, we will know when it rains.

Conforms to all health and safety rules.

We have been busy working on the grounds, hacking, chopping, strimming and mowing, I spent approx 10 hours getting the 3 acres of field into shape., whilst Michelle has been recovering her garden areas.

So far we have transported two large trailer loads of branches to an area in our woods where we let the branches slowly rot down and we have a further 3 loads waiting to go, with more to come when we trim the conifer and laurel hedges. Today I have been chain sawing all the large branches we have lopped into small logs for the fire.

It hasn’t all been work, there have been odd moments where we have snatched a beer in the sunshine.

Thirsty work gardening.

We have sat out quite late some evenings and seen some fine sunsets, the weather we have been having here has been superb with hot sunny days and clear starry nights, Thursday morning there was a thick frost.

Red sky at night.
Sunset with the moon out.

Tonight we have been to our regular haunt the restaurant at Beaupoyet where it was Chinese night, a starter of chicken and sweet corn soup, a second course of spring rolls and wontons with chilli sauce and a main course of chicken teriyaki with vegetables and fried rice. There were deserts to follow should you wish but Michelle and I refrained.It was a very pleasant meal and it was good to see Steve the proprietor and his partner and catch up on news. We are now relaxing in front of the log fire with a small drink, bliss.

France October 2021 – Blog 3

Sunday 10th October 2021

Sundays are vide grenier days, a quick look on the internet identified one not too far away in Port Sainte Foy, so off we set on a very misty autumn morning. On arrival there was no sign of any vide grenier, a quick look on Google ascertained that it wasn’t where we were but in a village called Ponchapt a few kilometres away which was in the Commune of Porte Sainte Foy.

A misty River Dordogne.
Port Sainte Foy

The drive there along narrow lanes was beautiful as we meandered through the vineyards, we climbed quite steeply emerging from the mist into wonderful sunshine.

The car park 🙂

The stalls wound their way around the village lining both sides of the narrow street, we bought two bed side lamps for a total of 5 euros and a wooden butter mold for 5 euros, not to mold butter, just as an ornament.

Basket weaver in action.
Roasting chestnuts.
Street entertainment.

Shortly after returning home our motorhome buddies ( who are also local French property owners) arrived for a chat and a drink in the sunshine. They left for lunch and we arranged to meet them at 3 p.m. at the local charity super store, what a bizarre way to spend a Sunday afternoon you may think, well it is but it’s a very bizarre place. It has furniture that could grace a chateau, huge pieces for less than 50 euros, items that bemuse us and we have no idea of what they are, loads of dross and occasionally a little gem. From there we went back to their bungalow, sat in the sunshine and enjoyed a well aged beer.

Rubbish disposal update.

Peter read the previous blog and he managed to track down the website for obtaining a card to open the black waste bins, so using his info I’ve applied for a card, the return email read we hope to be able to supply you with one within months.

Also on the webpage were details of how it works, in future the element of costs for rubbish collection will be removed from the council tax. There is a standard charge of 80 euros per year per household, you then have to opt for charges for use, the lowest rate is 65 euros which allows you to open the container 24 times, putting in a maximum of 2 x 30 l sacks, you will be billed for any further uses at a cost of 2.70 euros a time. The purpose is to reduce non recyclable waste but as we’ve already seen it will give rise to fly tipping, people are already leaving items/ sacks to the side of the containers. It will be interesting to see what develops.

France visit Oct 2021 – Blog 2.

Sat 9th October 2021.

Whilst Michelle occupied herself on cleaning the house interior I made a start on the exterior jungle, overnight on Tuesday I charged the tractor battery and first thing Wednesday morning I used the petrol strimmer to cut my way through the brambles to the tractor garage. Once inside with the battery now attached the tractor started first turn😁😁 Initially I mowed the front garden and the over grown limestone chippings drive, once down to a reasonable level out came the flymo and then the electric lawnmower by the end of the day we could walk around at the front of the house. I used the tractor to clear areas so that Michelle could hang out the washing and below the house an area for Layla to run around in as prior to that she had to keep springing up out of the long grass to see where she was. The next day we tackled the area around the well which has our bbq and pizza oven plus shady seating area, it was completely covered by wisteria, whilst I cut it down Michelle piled it onto the steadily growing bonfire pile, again by the end of the afternoon we had returned it to normal and I even had time to mow approx an acre of field.

The before view.
It’s looking better.
Layla’s play area.

Last night I read that the dustbin men ( sorry refuse collectors) had gone on strike in Marseilles because they had been asked to increase their working week from 21 hours to 32 hours, historically low because it was a strenuous job, they even got an extra 3 weeks holiday each year on top of the normal 5 weeks to recover from the efforts of their work.

This leads me onto our own refuse collection story, on Thursday and then Friday we put out our wheelie bins for collection and by Friday night we’re bemused they hadn’t been emptied, we began to surmise the collection days must have changed. Oh no, not that simple, our neighbour informed us that there wasn’t a refuse bin collection any more. Dotted around the area are containers that you have to take the rubbish to yourself 🤔

We had on our trip to the supermarket seen a cluster of the bins and assumed they were encouraging people to recycle more.

One such cluster of containers.

There’s one for glass, one for cardboard, one for recyclable materials and one for general rubbish, seems simple doesn’t it, but no you can’t actually use the general rubbish container without having a plastic i.d. card.

General waste.

You have to scan your card, push the button which releases the lid and you can put in your rubbish but it only takes allows you to put in two 30 l sacks. If you have a lot of rubbish can you do it twice, visit another container in a different spot? Who knows, does it record who is putting the rubbish in, do you get fined if you do it wrong? I’ve no idea, it does mention being fined but I can’t work out what for. Our kindly neighbour is ordering a card for us I’ve no idea how long it will take, will it arrive before we leave for the UK is another question, we could have a mountain of rubbish by then😂 I will keep you informed.

Back to France after 20 months.

Tuesday 5th October 2021.

This account is spread over two days and began yesterday afternoon. We were half way to Portsmouth when we had a text to say due to rough weather the ferry would be arriving 45 minutes late, then about 30 miles from the port by now very dark and raining heavily I realised the front offside head light wasn’t working and visibility was very poor. The road is two/ three lanes wide and there are huge road works going on it was impossible to find anywhere to pull over, I managed to tuck in behind other cars and follow their rear lights and eventually we limped into the car park at the port. I then spent 20 minutes as a contortionist trying to fit a replacement headlight bulb in an awkward space using my iphone as a torch. Eventually success and we joined the queue to the ticket/passport booth, I then realised I’d left my phone under the bonnet and had to stop again.🤭

We handed over the documents at the passport control fine for us but when he examined the Health Certificate for Layla that I’d paid the vet £135 for three days before, he began to tut. “This is no good” he said, “it isn’t filled in correctly or signed in all the correct places.” He then sent us back around the passport booth into the car park with instructions to go and speak to someone in the terminal. The somewhat brusque woman examined the 9 page document and again the tuts started and I was told it hadn’t been filled in correctly. I explained I was the customer not the vet, how was I supposed to know if it was correct? The response was we couldn’t travel as it wasn’t correct, however when I pointed out all the relevant information was included in the document even if not in the correct place she without any grace said ok, off you go. We were now at the back of the queue again,where at the same passport booth the original officer told us he could have given us the same permission😵‍💫😵‍💫😵‍💫as a result of this we were the last vehicle on the ferry which sailed an hour late. The large drink in the bar was very necessary before what turned out to be a very rough crossing.

When we arrived at Caen it was a simple procedure, our passports were stamped, our Covid Passport was examined on our iphones, there was no request to see the Self Attestation form we were told we had to complete and no one looked to see if we had any illicit food items ( mind you it was raining heavily and no one came out of the passport booths).

The 360 mile journey to our French house went reasonably well, it’s tiring but after 31 years I’m used to it, I did wonder that as it has been 20 months since we last came here I might have forgotten the route but I didn’t.

Then we arrived, the house was still standing, the photos show the outside and the interior was dusty and needs a good clean but the fact we are now toasting our toes in front of the wood burner replete after an evening meal with the prospect of a few bevvies later shows things will be OK. We are here 5 weeks so have plenty of time to put things right.

Our trailer is under there somewhere!

Needham

Monday 13th September 2021

As mentioned before we have been staying at a camp site to the rear of The Red Lion in Needham.

It has 12 pitches, ours had electric hook up and it’s own water and drainage, there is a small but very well maintained toilet block with a great wet room shower. The pub is obviously well supported by regulars and is mainly used by people taking meals, as such it only opens for approx 4 hours a day so the clientele have very little impact on campers. There is a self service area to buy eggs.

As we drove around Suffolk lots of houses had tables or small display areas outside selling eggs/ vegetables/ plants/ jams etc in Needham there were several, Michelle bought a plant from one and I bought jam from another.

Needham stretches for about a kilometre on either side of a quiet country road with a mixture of old and modern houses, there are no shops but there is a village hall, church and a lovely new play area for children large and small.

Village Hall
Many of the churches we saw on our travels around had unusual towers , this one in Needham went from round to octagonal.

We had a great time in Suffolk, everything was new to us and we weren’t disappointed, parking Homer can be difficult but that’s the case virtually everywhere you go in the UK.

Bungay and Beccles.

Sunday 12th September 2021.

Bungay and Beccles, sounds like children’s tv characters doesn’t it?

We started the day in Bungay, at the island on the entrance to the town Michelle spied a hand written sign for parking to our left so we did a quick left turn and found ourselves on the access road to a golf club. The local scouts were directing people to suitable parking spaces and it was voluntary to give a donation. Being goodies we of course did. There was a foot bridge over the main road that then lead you into town where there was a fantastic “ farmers market” taking place through the streets. It very much reminded us of the markets in France, we bought a yellow rose plant and some decorative steel plant supports, plus a ciabatta and an Eccles cake which Michelle eat in Beccles.

A local choir were providing the entertainment, they sounded very good.
Bungay Castle ruins.

It was just a short hop from Bungay to Beccles, we zoned in on a car park next to the river but unfortunately someone beat us to the last space as we pulled in, there were no markings to guide parking, if everyone had parked correctly there would have been space for a lot more vehicles.Admitting defeat we drove to the other side of the town and parked on the Tesco car park, not very scenic and no river view. We walked around the town but there was very little open, there was however an unusual church, St Michaels.

The church was built in 1369, it has a porch built in 1455 and a separate bell tower built in the early 16th century, a strange mix. In 1586 a fire completely destroyed the interior of the church and it was never restored to its original glory so the exterior shows the best of the church. The bell tower was costly to maintain so in the mid 20th century it was sold to the Borough for 1penny.

Framlingham and Diss.

Sat 11th September 2021.

This morning we headed to Framlingham, the info on the internet said there was a Saturday market as well as an ancient castle but it got busy very quickly. We arrived at 10.00am and we were the first vehicle in the overflow car park, I went to get a parking ticket when Mr Jobsworthy asked me to move Homer, I wasn’t parking in the manner they liked, this was in a grass field with no markings!

We walked the 100 m into town to the market, it was a little disappointing as there weren’t many stalls, however what was there was selling local produce and nice quality too. I bought a few bits to have with lunch and a cheese and onion focaccia to have with tonight’s lasagne. There was a good range of other shops there too.

Framlingham Castle is managed and maintained by English Heritage, as non members the admittance fee for the two of us was £22. The castle was originally a motte and bailey castle built in 1148 but destroyed by Henry 11 in 1173. The Earl of Norfolk Roger Bigod constructed the replacement. It was unusual for having no central keep, but instead used a curtain wall with thirteen towers to defend the centre of the castle. Despite this, the castle was successfully taken by King John in 1216 after a short siege. Bt the end of the 13th century it had become a luxury home surrounded by extensive parkland used for hunting.

Entrance gate.
Artists impression of it would have been.
You can walk a complete circuit on the castle walls.
Exterior view.

After lunch we returned back to the campsite via Diss, we parked on the huge car park at Morrison’s, free for three hours. It was a short walk into town and we enjoyed an amble around the centre, it is home to an auction house that is often featured on the TV programme “ Bargain Hunt”. There is a Mere just off the High Street with a floating boardwalk along one edge, on the other side of the mere is a large well maintained park.

Lowestoft and Southwold.

Friday 10th September 2021

We used A roads today to take us to Lowestoft, we took the easy option and parked on a retail park a mile from the town centre, it was an easy walk in but the town didn’t have a lot to entertain us.

We walked down to the sea front and to the end of Heritage Quay, South Pier where there was an old sailing boat that is used to train people to sail or take a somewhat adventurous “ cruise”. Next to it was an old sidewinder fishing trawler named Mincarlo which was built in and worked out of Lowestoft. It was built in 1961 and used for fishing until 1974 catching mainly cod, plaice, haddock, skate and sole.In 1977 it began a new life as a standby vessel to the oil rigs in the North Sea. It is now a floating museum and we were warmly invited aboard, one ex crew member gave us a short talk about it’s life fishing in the North Sea and then we were free to wander around the boat.

Corridor to accommodation.
Dining room, sectioned to stop your meal sliding off the table.
The powerful engine.
Captain Birdseye.
Able seaman fish finger.
Where did I leave my ship?

After lunch in Homer we drove to Southwold, we parked in a field on the entrance to the town and bought some strawberries from a kiosk there.

We walked to and along the pier, the wind was fresh off the North Sea so we didn’t linger, again no dogs allowed on the beach so we walked along the sea front and up into the town. It is home to Adnams brewery and it was hard to miss being there in the centre of town, there’s a magnificent church and a wedding was taking place as we walked past. The town had a laid back feel to it and we enjoyed walking around the small shops, it was an easy drive back again on A roads.

Water powered clock.
Southwold.

This evening we have had a few short rain showers, first time in a week.

Woodbridge, Sutton Hoo, Aldeburgh.

Thursday 8th September 2021.

Our journeys today were mainly along B roads, very unlike the roads in the two counties above, these roads twisted and turned their way through the countryside, thankfully however traffic was light. One woman we met today proudly told us there were no motorways in Suffolk. Well at a stately pace we made our way to Woodbridge a town on the River Deben eight miles inland from the sea, it has a history of rope making and boat building, Sir Francis Drake had his fighting ships built there. It has a working Tide Mill one of only two in the UK. It is also closely associated with Sutton Hoo which is on the opposite side of the river.

Replica boat, Tidal Mill in the background.

We drove a few miles to Sutton Hoo which is National Trust owned, it was very busy but we managed to find a good space for Homer, after lunch we walked to the entrance and paid the admission fee of £28 for the two of us.

Sutton Hoo is the site of two early medieval cemeteries dating from the 6th to 7th century. One cemetery excavated in 1938 had an undisturbed ship burial with a wealth of Anglo Saxon artefacts, most of which are now in the British Museum. It is believed that Raedwald of East Anglia is the most likely king to be buried in the ship.The artefacts excavated showed influence and materials from not only Scandinavia but also of Mediterranean countries. The exhibition centre gives a good explanation of it all and has replicated some of the finds. The actual burial area with its mounds isn’t in my opinion very exciting perhaps if money becomes available they could recreate the grave where the King was buried inside his ship and give everyone a better idea.

Burial mounds.
Kings burial mound.
Carved tree trunk.
It was another hot cloudless day, this pig knew how to cool down.
View of Woodbridge from Sutton Hoo.

From Sutton Hoo we headed to Aldeburgh on the coast, north of the River Alde,we found some free parking alongside a lane leading to the sailing club, which according to one lady in her motorhome was free to park and you could stay overnight, the sailing club chose to ignore you. It was amusing because it was alongside a car park that banned motorhomes and charged cars to park. Layla enjoyed a play on the beach, well pebble bank, and we walked along the sea front into Aldeburgh, a pleasant place, obviously well to do, hardly a charity shop in sight

We drove back along some small roads including one the Sat Nav guided us to and Michelle confirmed the route, it was called Christmas Lane, it was just about wide enough for Homers wheels and there were passing places every few hundred metres, no hedges just ditches to each side, after three miles when we got to the end I wasn’t in a Christmas mood.😉I was so fatigued instead of cooking we decided to buy fish and chips from the nearby town, at £18 for the three of us I will be paying the debt for ages to come.

Newmarket and Bury St Edmunds.

Wednesday Sept 8th 2021.

We started the day by driving to Newmarket in Suffolk, it is generally considered the birthplace and global centre of thoroughbred horse racing. As we drove through the town I missed the turning down a narrow street to the car park ( normal occurrence ) and we had to navigate a maze of back streets of the town with horses and jockeys riding down the road and turning into stable areas.

After finding the car park we went for a quick trot around the town, it is obviously a wealthy area but the actual high street wasn’t all that exciting so after approx an hour we galloped off to our next stopping place.

Outside The Jockey Club.

Taken in the grounds of The National Horse Racing Museum.

Our next stopping place was Bury St Edmunds, here we managed to park in a dedicated motorhome parking bay where you are allowed to stop over night for £1.After having lunch we set off to walk into town via the grounds of the ruined abbey which was built as a shrine to Saint Edmund, Saxon king of the East Engles.The grounds were being used by people for picnics or just to sit and enjoy the sunshine, the formal gardens were attractive and you could tell from the outline of the Abbey ruins how important it was.

We enjoyed walking around Bury St Edmunds, the streets had interesting architecture, there was a market in the centre of the town and a good mixture of small shops. We would certainly return here.

A further 30 minute drive took us to the campsite we are using for five nights, we want to explore Suffolk but couldn’t during our time frame find a suitable campsite, so we are just over the border in Norfolkshire. We are staying at The Red Lion Pub in Needham which has a small campsite for twelve units, the pub is only open for short periods on certain days and is mainly a food pub heavily used by locals.Unfortunately the wifi signal is weak and I’m having to do the blog a day later.