Sunday 21 July – Moonraker

My last blog mentioned that I had continued the work to clear the old chicken run at the back of the garden.  That was 2 weeks ago, and while it perhaps hasn’t been the most productive of fortnights, I have completed everything required of that project.

Part of the reason I say it may not have been the most productive, and the reason that I didn’t write a blog last Sunday, was that some of our favourite sporting events were taking place and all came to a climax a week ago.

The first week, when I was manually shifting soil around the chicken run, it remained extremely hot so I got into a pattern of working when it was cool either side of some engaging tennis.  For sofa sports enthusiasts like me, you will know that last Sunday saw the Wimbledon Men’s Single final clash perfectly with the British Grand Prix and the final of the Cricket World Cup held in England with, amazingly, an English team as finalists – for the first time in 27 years.  Normally, with the latter 2 events being televised on pay channels we wouldn’t have had a problem but, this year, as all were available on free-to-air TV we wanted to watch all of all of them!

We ‘solved’ the problem by watching the tennis live, having the cricket text commentary on a computer and recording the Grand Prix to watch later in the day.  What we weren’t to know was that the men’s final was to be the longest in history and the cricket the closest and most exciting match possible.  Worse, all the key moments seemed to happen at exactly the same moment so you couldn’t even easily channel hop.  With the way the cricket played out I am not convinced there wasn’t some involvement of a dodgy Far-Eastern betting syndicate but, amazingly, both in manner and result, England triumphed.

All of this took place on France’s Fête Nationale so sadly it meant that we didn’t get out to any celebrations that night.  We did however go to Sizun’s party the night before and really enjoyed it.  For a small town Sizun does put on a good Fête Nationale party and used the church spire and arch to great effect again making a brilliant fireworks display.

I mentioned that I did manage to complete the clearance of the chicken run and it has made a massive difference to that part of the garden – it even looks bigger.  There were a number of days of manually replacing soil I had used the digger to remove, levelling and raking flat, but it enabled me to take out as many of the roots and rocks as possible so I can eventually mow it.

Our digger has had some reliability issues when I first used it – and these didn’t stop.  One day while using it the track came off the left side so I couldn’t move it.  Having consulted the oracle that is YouTube again, replacing it proved to be pretty straightforward – until I had to tighten the track and then it was obvious we had another issue with a grease seal.

Having discussed with our friend who we co-own the digger with, we thought this was an issue we needed professional help with.  However, another mutual friend told us that, among the many roles he has had, he used to manage a plant hire shop and would be happy to take a look – and he fixed it! Thanks to Frank I was saved many more hours of manual soil shifting and, while frustrating and causing delays, it has meant that I could complete the levelling ably assisted by Mouse!

With the videos in my last blog and this picture from last November, you can just see how the area used to look.

Chicken Run Clearing

Now it looks like this and the hedging plants we planted should grow a little faster.  The next time we get any prolonged rain, which could be weeks, we will sow some grass seed and expand the lawn.

To match the change inside the garden, I have even, finally, gotten around to stripping off all the bramble and weed to one exterior side of the talus and revealed the lovely, original, stone wall.  We don’t want to make it too ‘Disney’ but we think it looks so much better clean and will definitely do so when the hedge is matured.

Of course, having cleared the space we are now filling it up already!  One of the things that we had planned to do is build a serre at the edge so we can cut up and store the numerous piles of firewood we have created around the garden.  While the serre isn’t the most attractive thing, it is better than the weed that was there, and should only be a temporary addition.  The medium (short?) term plan is then to clear the entire length of the back garden as we have done here when the wood is moved.

With all of the work we have been doing we have been accepted as having the Values of the Natural Park of Armorique.  David has been doing a lot of work with some of the tourist offices in the area and approached the mangers of the Natural Park who validate businesses in the park who support and adhere to their ethos.

Our natural park, Parc Naturel Régional D’Armorique, is one of 54 in France but, when created in 1969, was only the second established.  As well as administering the parks their managers encourage those living in the boundaries to follow ecological and sustainable practices.  As a business in the park we were visited and inspected to see how we respect our environment before being discussed among their managers.  Thankfully we were accepted and can now display their logo and receive publicity through their network.

Our final ‘achievement’ if that is the correct term – is that, for the first time since we opened in 2015, all of our accommodation is full but we don’t have any British guests this week.  Being British, we have always found it easier to advertise to the UK market, and have been very fortunate to have welcomed lots of lovely people.  But David has done a lot of work on our website and we have tried other methods to increase our publicity to other European markets.

Perhaps we are having some success as this week we have 2 Belgian families in Priory and Granary; a German couple in Hayloft and a French couple in Stable and we have other weeks this summer which are the same.  Of course, we are delighted to welcome any guests from anywhere but we are very pleased to have reached this milestone.

We have mentioned before that one of the many amazing things about living in such a rural area is that the stars are amazing.  This week, on the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing, we had a fabulous view of the partial lunar eclipse.  My photos didn’t come out so well so I have stolen the moon images from our friend Frank – it’s not just fixing diggers he can do!

The forecast for next week is looking good (but we do desperately need some rain!) so I hope to start filling the serre – and making progress in emptying the garage!

À bientôt.