Friday, August 7, 2009

Our Flora and Fauna - Sept 08

A quick post following on from the last - purely for showing some of the flora and fauna around the cottage.

We found the most amazing looking slug - couldn't salt this one!

Then there are these amazing saplings, they grow everywhere, very quickly becoming quite tall trees, with very dense wood. The spines on them vary in size, the younger the tree / sapling, the larger the thorns. I think they are either Honey Locust or False Acacia - but if this is wrong, please tell me what they are - and how I can stop them rooting all over the meadow.

We also have two walnut trees, one is looking a little tired, this summer although it still produced some walnuts, there were hardly any leaves on the tree. The second one is near the drive / house, and looks really healthy. Unfortunately, it has grown at an angle - falling over the drive. It will need taking down I suppose, but it will be a big shame - it looks so lovely:

The drive is flanked by 10 massive spruces - at least I think that is what they are. Which spruce escapes me - they do not seem to fit with any of the ones I have seen online. They have long paper cones and very fine needles. Again, if anyone reading this is able to identify them, that would be great, thankyou:

Dotted through the boundary hedges and along the road side of the drive, there are some chestnut trees, a couple of young ones are at the end of the dive by the 'new' gates:

Growing up the front of the cottage is a grapevine. The front is south facing but not really knowing anything about grapevines, I wonder how it will fare. Time to research methinks! Last September there were a few tiny little grapes, white almost redcurrant size.

We saw this little fella and wondered what he would grow into - Paul described him as a 'loo brush' - you can see why perhaps:

Paul is not too happy about wasps / bees or spiders, so you can guess how he felt when all we could hear of an afternoon in the second week was the buzzing of bees as they swarmed over the ivy flowers surrounding the electricity pole and stone wall at the end of the house. They didnt disturb us at all, they were far too busy to notice we were even there.

All these we saw in Sept 08, it will be interesting to see what we find during our visits over the next twelve months.

First long break - Tidying up!

In September 2008, I had my first 2 week break for several years, where better to spend it than at our lovely little place. Unfortunately Paul was only able to have one week and with Chris' Stag Do on the South West coast of France (surfing) booked for the middle weekend of the holiday, Paul went straight there with everyone, then back to cottage via Angouleme for the second week by rail.

This actually worked out well,as Dad and Sandie came to help me for the first week, driving all the way from Corfu (ferry included) in their great campervan. They arrived only a few hours after me, which was an amazing feat of timing. Dylan, their collie came too and absolutely loved his time at Le Petit Reve. He thought it was rather good fun to wait til we weren't looking and disappear up the drive to learn more about the french countryside!

The following photos of how the cottage looked when I first arrived:

I spent the first few hours sorting out the interior of the cottage, getting it comfortable before the light faded. I had brought down with me my Nan and Grandad's sideboard (huge memories), the petrol lawnmower (an eBay buy and kept me company on the drive down buckled up in the passenger seat!), crockery etc so there was quite a bit to unpack.
By the time Dad and Sandie arrived it looked a little more homely, the only light is from tealights and candles. It was going to be interesting sleeping here on my own for the first time:

Dad and Sandie camped at Barrage Lavaud, a free camping area at the top of the nearest Charente Lake, the reserve end. It is very beautiful there - only 3 miles from us, so really easy to leave the van there and go everywhere in the Volvo.

We spent the first full day at the cottage clearing the ground. Dad had brought his chainsaw and took the bigger branches down of the large Lime that stood nearest the front of the house. It had been pollarded at some stage, but had overgrown and created too much shade, hiding the cherry tree behind and the view. It made a huge difference having the extra light in that area. We also cleared the huge amount of brambles from the same tree all the way to the far hedge:

After breaks, lunch and several blisters later we managed to clear quite a bit of the land alongside the house:

During the second week, Paul and I managed to clear more of the land. Unfortunately until we put in for planning permission and it is granted, we cannot do much to the building - which turned out to be quite frustrating for Paul. Keeping the land 'civilised' around the house I think is important, although we realise that it is an ongoing process until we can pull out all the bramble roots.

I did manage to paint the floor inside, keeping the screed dust down and making it nicer to walk on. We found a door in the 'garage' which seemed to fit the open doorway into the little outhouse, unfortunately it only had one hinge. After finding a matching crude hinge on a trip to Confolens reclamation yard, the door was put in place and kept the draught from coming in from the two outhouses. We also found a pair of fence panel type gates in the garage, these were a bit more difficult - only because of a lack of tools to dig out holes for new posts. But thankfully Paul managed and it was done, literally just before we left for home. The pictures below show the gates and the progress on the land before we left:

It becomes more and more of a wrench to leave this little place - the next visit won't be until spring, although who knows - might make it during the next couple of months perhaps. The house is secure, with the double shutter system and good old fashioned double locks. Can't wait to go back.