Sunday 07 January – 2023:  The Year of the Windy Duck

We hope you all enjoyed your New Year celebrations whatever you were doing and wherever you were celebrating – or just giving it a stiff ignoring!

David and I spent the evening of 31st here with friends and David’s Dad who had stayed over the Christmas period.  Much of it was spent playing pool and babyfoot in the games room stopping briefly to wish everyone a ‘Happy New Year’ as we made it through midnight.

We had friends staying in the gîtes until early yesterday morning, very early in the case of those who had to leave for Switzerland and wanted to make the journey in one day, having had a damp week with us. Indeed, 2024 has begun pretty much how 2023 ended, and seemed to be throughout the entire year, wet and windy.

We did however manage to capitalise on the brief periods of dry weather and went for a number of walks.  On New Year’s Day we visited the Chaos de Mardoul near Brennelis.  This was only our second visit, the first being as part of one of our regular walks in the summer with friends, and it was  a much shorter circuit than we remembered!

That said, it was no disadvantage as we walked with David’s Dad who, after one knee op with one to go, can’t cover the distance he used to.  With all the rain we have here in Brittany recently the chaos was flowing very quickly but thankfully hadn’t overflowed its usual limits.

We maintained our tradition of a New Year’s Day high tea when we came home to eat through some of the Christmas treats and left-overs.  This is a tradition I particularly enjoy!

During the week we did a longer walk with our friends staying in Granary, conveniently amending a walk we had done earlier in the year visiting a number of chapels around the village of Plouyé mostly so we could end up in our favourite pub, Ty Elise.

Other than that we have had a relaxed week.  Unable to do much outside due to the weather and unable to anything inside as we had guests in the accommodation.  So, as previous years, I thought I’d use the first blog of the year to review what we did achieve in 2023.

Unfortunately, looking back, it hasn’t been the most productive of years for project work.  This was not for want of effort on our part, but more because of the weather we have ‘enjoyed’ during the year.

I can’t find, despite searching a lot on line, how 2023 has compared to the average in terms of rainfall but our perception is that it has been far wetter.  You may recall 2022 was drier and hotter than the norm, leading to large brush fires in the Monts D’Arrée, but, other than June and a couple of autumn weeks, last year seemed to be disappointing.

It was more disappointing as we know a number of our summer guests came to this part of France specifically to escape the increasingly unbearable heat of the Mediterranean and the south.  However, despite a disappointing summer, which I hope they understand is beyond our control, we hope that having visited, they will have been won over by the charm of the region and the accommodation at Kergudon will encourage them back 😉!

2023 started wet and, re-reading the blogs I had written throughout the year, we made a slow start on the things we wanted to achieve.

My first ‘major’ project was to build 2 plinths in front of Granary to relocate the olive trees we have had in pots in front of Priory since 2015.  The reason we needed to move these, was we had bought some large yew trees in 2022 but, when they were delivered, they were far larger than advertised so we needed to come up with a ‘Plan B’ to plant them.

The plinths took a little longer to build (see reason above!) but it gave us time to source some alternative, suitably large, pots. Having bought them we were then kindly assisted by our neighbour to help move and plant the yews.  When everything was moved / planted in its new location, we were very pleased.

During the spring we installed an EV charging point in the garage to assist ‘future-proof’ the gîtes adding to the one we had installed behind Granary when we refurbished in 2022.  While not a major task specifically, it was a hard one having to dig a longer than hoped trench from the garage to the house and avoiding the random concrete structures and old sceptic tank we found when digging.

The charging point was installed and operational in the spring but in the cooler autumn months, when demand for power increased due to us and neighbours putting the heating on, it highlighted a wider problem with the electrical infrastructure of the village, although that was assisted by something else beyond our control …

Probably the work that has made the largest visual change to Kergudon was, finally, clearing the old vegetable patch in the back garden, including a ‘temporary’ wood store I had built from old fibre-cement boards in 2016. We had been hoping to do this for a number of years.

We had used the space over the years to ‘store’ wood we had generated when cutting down various trees but over time, it had slowly been reclaimed by nature and much of the wood stored there had started to rot.

It took much longer to clear than hoped, as we tried to salvage as much of the wood as possible so we cut, chopped and split everything recoverable and took everything beyond salvaging to the déchetterie.  That then left us with the breeze block walls that had been built to create the raised veg patch – and which had been built more solidly than any of the internal work by our predecessors!  It meant getting the ‘big guns’ in that made light work of it within an hour.

Once the vegetable patch was cleared we began cutting the trees on the rear talus many of which were self-set sycamores that we could (and should) have removed in our earlier years when they were smaller.

We were assisted in some of this task by one tree, a horse chestnut, being totally rotten on the inside so it fell under its own weight when I’d cut a trunk which was holding the rest up. Thankfully it fell in an ideal position to chop up. Also a couple of the trees had grown with convenient leans or curves that meant felling them neatly into the garden was relatively simple.  The biggest difference to us, and our neighbours, was felling a large, dark, ugly leylandii which was taking all the light and water from the yews and hollies we had planted some years ago to create a hedge.

The reason we needed to clear this area was for a project we started in 2023 but won’t come to fruition until summer this year – the pool.

Planning and preparation for the pool and our application for a building permit took a bit of time in the spring but, once we had identified, met and spoken with the various agencies involved it was amazingly simple and painless with planning permission being granted just 5 weeks after our application.

Despite the volume of rain we have had, the pool build has begun and made reasonable progress.  Because of the scale and investment, it is something that we have contracted out to professionals who have got the walls built and concreted.  We understand they will be back next week after the Christmas break to progress.

The other job we got the professionals in for during the spring was to re-roof our chambre d’hôte (B&B), Stable.

Stable’s roof was original to the building so probably about 150 years old, and hadn’t had much work done since construction.  As a result, it was getting increasingly leaky and the north side had developed a distinct wave as the wooden frame was suffering and the old sky light allowed water in during heavy rainfalls.

Despite making a number of patch repairs, we thought the time had come to do something a bit more permanent and that was to have the whole roof replaced.  That being done, I then replaced the dark and ugly wooden façade with something that was also more watertight and neatly done, and we are very pleased with the finished job.

Knowing that we would have the roof replaced, we felt it best if we also changed the, very out of keeping, white uPVC patio door that had been installed (badly) as the entrance.  We ordered a new door in November 2022 and it was finally available to be fitted in November 2023!

This previously slightly ugly duckling is becoming more of a swan but we have other plans on the list although we’re not sure when they will make it to the top!

I mentioned earlier that one issue we identified with the electrical supply to the village was assisted by something beyond our control, that something was the wind.  This year has been windier than most and we have had more named storms that any year we can recall.  Those that particularly affected us were Noa in April; the remnants of hurricane Lee in September; Babet in October and, the big one, Ciáran overnight of 1 – 2 November.

Ciáran was, we hope, one of the ‘once in a generation’ storms where winds here reached gusts of 140 kmph (87 mph) and caused serious damage to trees and the power lines leading to us being without electricity for 12 days.  Sadly, we lost a couple of large oak trees although, on inspection they were rotten too but perhaps not as rotten as the chestnut which fell, so it was maybe only a matter of time before it came down anyway.

Thankfully we didn’t suffer damage to any properties and, amazingly, the detritus caused by the storm didn’t prevent us being successfully connected to fibre a couple of weeks later.

The end of year brought additional surprises and unplanned work with the failure of the hot water ballon in Granary causing a minor flood, and then identifying there was a leak with the water meter supplying the gîte.  Thankfully we managed to resolve both fairly quickly with the assistance of the Mairie, commune and our friendly sparky so we were able to welcome guests for New Year.

It has been a busy year, although as I started off, perhaps not as productive for some of the major projects we have on our list and we have rolled many over into 2024.  We have, as ever, a full list of things we want to achieve in 2024 and hope that we can be a little more proactive and not have to react to issues caused with things beyond our control!

Obviously, the biggest change of all will be the swimming pool which promises to be amazing when complete which, we hope, will be late May or early June.

Because we don’t know exactly when it will be available to use, we cannot advertise it with the gîtes for summer 2024 so, we hope, that it will be a lovely additional surprise for people who come and stay with us.

The advantage of the pool design we have chosen is that if 2024’s weather is either like 2022 (hot and dry) or 2023 (wetter and breezier), the pool can be used either covered or uncovered and, the plan, is that it will be able to be used all the way up to Christmas and New Year too!

Summer 2024 also marks a milestone in that it will be the 10th summer of lettings at Kergudon under our ownership (our 10th anniversary of living here will be in January 2025) so we are hoping to do something to mark the occasion – although we haven’t decided quite what yet!

I endeavour to blog weekly again with news of our activities (I think I was better last year than 2022) but, that said, for a number of reasons, there may not be a blog for a few weeks now but keep your eyes peeled!

Finally, we hope you all have a happy, healthy and prosperous 2024 and we hope to welcome you to Kergudon sometime in the year.

Best wishes,

Ben and David