Sunday 17 March – Everybody needs good neighbours

Thankfully, the weather has continued to be kind and, despite the poor forecast and outlook when I wrote last week’s blog, there have been a number of dry days that enabled me to continue some of the work I had begun last week.

That was focussing my attention on the south west corner of the garden, near to our Chambre d’Hôte, Stable.  This involved removing much of the bramble that had taken over in the last couple of years allowing me access to the shrubs to trim those.

These shrubs are also principally hydrangeas but, as there was nothing in this part of the garden when we arrived, these are ones we have planted.  They are ones that had been given to us by our extremely keen gardening neighbours whose own garden has lots of different, and more interesting, varieties of hydrangea which makes a change from the ‘normal’ blue mop heads.

It is also a corner of the garden that I transplanted a couple of plants I dug out of the old tropical bed when I rebuilt that in 2020.  These were a small spotted laurel and a hypericum that would otherwise have both been thrown away.

The hydrangeas and my transplanted laurel and hypericum evidently like the space as they are all thriving but had been overrun with bramble.

It is also the corner of the garden that we stacked the sycamores we had felled in the autumn of 2019 while they seasoned and we found an opportunity to cut them up and a place to store them once logged.  We have not (yet) done this so the bache (cover) we put over to protect them has deteriorated a little and the brambles have taken over too.

Because we hadn’t maintained this corner of the garden properly for a couple of years it was looking a little unloved. Having cut down the sycamores, the stumps had started to coppice and created many more potential trees; the lonicera hedge that was there had grown large and fallen forward encroaching on the shrubs; the bramble had also grown over one of the 2 osmanthus plants which had been planted alongside Stable restricting its growth, while the second had got a little too large.

During the drier days I was able to continue clearing this space, trimming the hydrangeas, reducing the size of the osmanthus which had got a little too large, and clearing the path alongside Stable.

This path currently leads to nowhere and serves no real purpose.  One of our (many) projects on the ‘To Do’ list is to lift and replace the terrace in front and alongside Stable and create a new hidden little space for the B&B behind where guests can sit and relax in private.  This space is currently where most of the bramble grows from so clearing it and giving it a better purpose will be beneficial in many ways.  Sadly, this project is probably still a couple of years away.

I have made good progress but there is more to do and I need to request permission from our neighbours to access the hedge from their side.

Wednesday was a sad day for the village, and less productive for us.  Since we moved to Kergudon our nearest neighbours have been a lovely couple, Henri and François Pouliquen who have been extremely friendly, welcoming and helpful should we need any assistance.

The families of both Henri and François have lived in and around Saint Cadou for generations.  Henri’s father used to be the village boulanger and Henri told me once how, as a boy, he used to deliver his father’s bread to the villagers on his bike.

We also know, well believe, that Henri’s grandmother’s 3 sisters, Francoise Yvinec, Jeannie Pencreac’h and Marguerite Bellec lived in what we now call Kergudon, Priory and Granary respectively.  In a very early conversation with Henri (when our level of French wasn’t great), he gave us a copy of the inhabitants of the village and surrounding hamlets as at 1911 which listed these ladies.

We always meant to sit down with Henri again as the level of our French improved to get a better understanding but sadly never did.  Henri passed away late last week at the age of 88, and we attended his funeral in the church of Saint Cadou.

Sadly, immediately after Henri’s funeral was the funeral of Yvette Le Gall.  Yvette and family has also lived in the village for a long time.  She was the surviving sister of 2 who lived in the farmhouse in the centre of the village and who owned the field directly opposite Kergudon.

Her sister, Marie (Mimi) also knew a lot of the history of Kergudon but we never managed to get that down on paper before she passed away in June 2019.  Hers was the first French funeral we attended, thankfully we hadn’t needed to attend another until last Wednesday.

Back at Kergudon, when the inevitable wet days arrived, I shifted my focus on the first of many internal tasks we want to achieve.  This was to repaint the interior of Stable that we hadn’t needed to do up until this point.

Stable used to be an agricultural building used to house the bull when Kergudon was used as a farm.  When it was converted into accommodation before our arrival it has been given an internal render and painted.  I don’t think the render was a breathable covering and it had been painted in the past with regular emulsion which also doesn’t allow this old stone building to breathe.

As a result, where the moisture wasn’t allowed to evaporate the paint and render were starting to peel and flake off (another reason we want to lift and relay the exterior path to nowhere) and needs some TLC.

I spent many hours scraping the walls removing, hopefully, all of the loose paint and as much of the emulsion as possible.  Then, having done a bit of online research, I have made good in a number of places with some lime mortar / plaster and next week will apply a more appropriate breathable paint to make it look great again for the season.

Today we stayed fairly local for our Sunday stroll and re-visited the Fôret du Cranou, somewhere we have visited often previously – although not for at least 6 months.

I know I sound like a stuck record when I talk of the damage that has been caused locally by Storm Ciáran last November but we weren’t prepared for the scale of the destruction in parts of this forest which looked to be even worse than that in Huelgoat.

It’s difficult to see the scale in these pictures but there were large swathes of the forest where trees had been blown over or just snapped.  We continue to feel that perhaps we were extremely fortunate to have got away with the relatively little amount of damage that we did.

Lots more to achieve in the week which I’ll update next Sunday.