As I wrote last week’s blog I spoke about hiding inside sheltering from the wind and how it had already blown down a couple of branches in the orchard and that I hoped we wouldn’t suffer any greater damage. Prophetic words …
While in the UK we missed any disruption from Doris but the storm we were sheltering from at home continued to deteriorate and became the worst storm to be experienced in Brittany since December 1999. While it continued to pass through the whole of France, including winds in excess of 150 kmph on Corsica, it caused a lot of damage and sadly a couple of fatalities. The strongest winds of 193 kmph (120 mph) were recorded at Camaret-sur-Mer on the Crozon peninsular.
The strongest gusts appeared to happen in our vicinity about 7.30am as that is when electricity was lost in Saint Cadou and, David had looked out of the front window about 7.30 when all seemed OK and I looked out of the same window 15 minutes later and saw one of our apple trees down in the orchard.
In the same way as the UK, France name some of their storms and this was christened ‘Zeus’, we don’t think they can start again at A at the beginning of each year as it hasn’t been that stormy! We principally use UK media for our forecasts (it’s an advantage of being just at the bottom of the BBC weather map) and we were surprised that it didn’t get any mention as it came from the north west – apparently it made the UK news after the event. We do use a couple of other websites, one of them French, yet we were completely unprepared for the storm – not that there is a huge amount that can be done to ‘prepare’.
The apple tree falling has actually done us a bit of a favour as we were always going to cut all of them down at some point because they were old and unproductive. As we have created a new flower bed at the base of the tree I did wonder how we were going to eventually fell it without damaging the plants that we are about to grow – so this has helped a lot!
Other than the apple tree and bin lids and furniture covers blowing away, we were fairly lucky not to suffer too much other damage. The Grange, my postbox house and new fence / gate by Granary made it through unscathed pleasingly but we lost all the fences on the north side of Priory and Granary. One was an old fence which had been up for a number of years and was on the list for replacement in the short term (shorter now!) but the other was the one I had built last spring to replace the fence that had blown over in last year’s storm.
Encouragingly it wasn’t actually my fence panels which blew down but the fence posts I had concreted into the ground – evidently not deep enough – which had been blown over to about 15 degrees but I hadn’t planned on 193 kmph winds! They will need re-replacing but probably with something even more robust like concrete foundation and breeze blocks. Add it to the list.
While we suffered a power cut as a result of the storm it doesn’t cause a great deal of pain for us as we have a gas hob to cook and a wood burner to heat the house – even gas ovens if we use the gîtes. Indeed, while we were outside at 7.45 clearing away some of the broken branches, we saw a tree fall onto one of the high tension wires in a nearby field and the wire snap back and fall onto the road. Thankfully that wasn’t our supply (which had already gone) and, again, we were very fortunate as our power was restored at 9.30 pm after only 14 hours off. We know of some who were off 4 days after the storm had passed – I can’t imagine being without internet access and email for that long – would be difficult for the business.
Taking the various dog walks around us it is amazing to see the number of trees which have been toppled – and there is no real pattern to which they are. Some have their trunks snapped, big trunks too, where others have been completely uprooted and felled. Some are on the edge of the forest which you can understand would be exposed, but others are in the middle of large plantations which you would have thought would be fairly sheltered. The road between Saint Cadou and Saint Rivoal was closed for 3 days while they cut up the felled trees.
Last week’s blog also mentioned that I was suffering from a cold which meant I wasn’t keen to go out into the wet and windy weather we had at the start of the week and, other than some initial clearing on Monday, I have left the apple tree where it fell so as not to churn up the sodden lawn.
When the weather, and my cold, had improved we did manage to do the one job that we had wanted to, and which had been hanging over us for a number of months, which was to clear the wood we had felled into our neighbours field. On the 2 dry days we had we managed to move all the chopped wood to the corner and burn the smaller branches and twigs in a HUGE bonfire.
We hadn’t managed to clear the wood before as, other than all of the other jobs on our list, we didn’t have a permanent space to put the wood – which should be about 2 cords of wood for the fire when it is dried in a couple of years and I had wanted to keep as many of the twiggy bits as we could to use for kindling but we had to sacrifice that to the fire. Something else where the Grange will be useful – more progress on that next week as the forecast is so much better.
Finally, last night, we visited the re-opened restaurant, Auberge du Menez, in Saint Rivoal. The restaurant closed under sad circumstances only a few months after we arrived here and has not managed to find a new owner / chef in the last couple of years – until now. We are very keen to have a choice of restaurants around us and it is good to see that a young couple has taken on the Auberge.
Last night’s meal was very nice, good value and the restaurant and bar were busy and had a good atmosphere so it looks positive for the future.