Saturday, 31 March 2012

Cheeky Black Redstart

Last spring and summer we had a pair of Black Redstarts nesting in a hole in our eaves and I am sure the nest site was used more than once!

During the winter I was looking at another small roof problem with the same area and decided whilst I had the ladder there to block the hole with two pieces of polystyrene. I am not keen on birds nesting in the roofspace.

That was that or so I thought... No, think again...

The cheeky blighters have pecked and pecked and managed to remove all of the polystyrene and made a mess with bits of the stuff all over the front border...

My first reaction was to get the Mousse Expansive and fill the space with that... However when I got the ladder up you could see progress had been made. I had cleared all previous nesting material out...

So for their cheek I will let them have the space again for this year... Come the winter though and the Mousse Expansive will be out...

We also noticed this week another of our hole nesting friends, the blue tits, have started to use one of the three holes I drilled for them in the garden wall. This was a result of them using an existing hole last year which we blogged about here and here... I will be keeping watch on the others to see if they are in use also...

Friday, 30 March 2012

Pimp my poplar!

The fifty six poplars which surround three sides of the garden were getting a bit untidy round the base of the trunks.

When we were out walking at the end of last year we saw these poplars, trimmed round the base and looking so much better than our scruffy ones.

So over the past couple of days Colin has been cutting off the dead branches to tidy things up a bit whilst I took the branches to our bonfire, which has burned now for over 24 hours!

The result was a much neater appearance and more space for the hammock to swing.


Thursday, 29 March 2012

Taupes; Not for the squeamish!

Colin has won another round in the never ending battle against that cunning of creatures, the mole!

The trap was set (above) and within an hour it was triggered, successfully!

The psychology is all wrong... we go to great lengths to repatriate spiders, bees and baby lizards when they stray onto our "patch" but we take great delight in the successfully sprung trap which spells the end of one unlucky mole... But then again, spiders, bees and baby lizards don't tend to make our lawn look like the surface of the moon!

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Rosier "Pierre de Ronsard"

This posting comes courtesy of my brother George and his wife Marj...

Today we bought a climbing rose "Pierre de Ronsard" to grow up the trunk of the pollarded willow

It has been well and truly watered and composted in, so should get off to a flying start.

It has even prompted me to build a little dry stone walling round the base of the tree - just to show off the rose, of course!

In no time at all we hope to see its lovely blooms..

So thank you, George and Marj, and we know you'll understand if we ask.."How do you like the bird-bath?"!

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

First of the swallowtails

Sunday's walk in the Usseau area revealed several "firsts" for this spring.

We spotted two Tiger Swallowtail butterflies (papilio glaucus) as we walked along a grassy banking in full sun. Luckily one landed long enough for Colin to get this shot, taken from a distance..

The start of this year's STERF butterfly atlas project is just around the corner. Next month we will be conducting the first survey of the year near Assay, 13km northwest of Braye.

For anyone wishing to take part in this year's French butterfly survey, information can be found (in French) here
or email:

Monday, 26 March 2012

Tourist Information - Richelieu

For those visitors coming to the area over the Easter holidays and beyond, the Office de Tourisme is now open in its newly refurbished premises in the square, Richelieu.

Unfortunately, in typically French fashion, the website for the Office de tourisme is still showing the old premises!

We anticipate that by the end of the tourist season, this link will be considered for updating.... What's the rush?!

Sunday, 25 March 2012

A Randonée round Usseau

The map in the village square looked straightforward enough...

Ten minutes later we were still looking for the start of the walk....

Wrong way - again!
However, it was worth persevering! We climbed steadily and this gave us some fantastic panoramas

Against the cloudless blue sky the views were spectacular with a stark contrast between the colour of the ploughed land and the vibrant greens of the new crops...

Along the edges of the track there was an abundance of fleur de coucou. Only a week ago we remarked that this was absent in any numbers. What a difference this last week's sunshine has made.

Also in abundance were these tiny violets...

and of course, the lesser celandine - a reliable spring flower if ever there was one.

The circular walk covered just over 4 kilometres and we found it most enjoyable, with lots to see at this time of year. (More of this in another post.)

Colin's sense of direction got us back to Usseau. The walk was waymarked but I got the feeling that times must have been hard in the "sign allocation" department when the walk was mapped out...

Had I been doing the walk alone, I'd still be out there looking for the next red and green marker..... and I may have been some time!

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Auto Bourse de Chatellerault

This morning on our way to do our shopping we called in at the Auto Bourse or car market / exchange.

If you own an old vehicle, with any number of wheels, this is the place to go. If you could not buy the part you wanted there, then I think you would be very unlucky...

It is on over the weekend and well worth a visit especially given the splendid weather.

Was tempted with this one, just the thing for a pair of oldies like us...

.... Yes, Colin, you and who else??!

Friday, 23 March 2012

National Equestrian School, Saumur

When visiting Saumur recently, quite by chance we came upon the National Equestrian Centre which is the home of the Cadre Noir.

Le Cadre Noir de Saumur dates back to 1825 when it provided training to the Officers of the French Cavalry and gets its name from the black uniforms that are still used today.  Since 1830 when the Versailles school closed Saumur has been the sole custodian of the French equestrian tradition.

The buildings were impressive but what really caught our eye was the outdoor equestrian training area

The Cadre Noir de Saumur is visiting London in May, 2012.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Weeping Willows

We have four weeping willows in our garden, three of which have become far too large. Yesterday was the start of a three-year major trimming program.

The first one to be severely pollarded, as shown in yesterdays blog, was the one adjacent to our well. Last year when we pumped the well dry the bottom 2 metres was a complete mat of fine roots. Willows are known for seeking out water this way.

So along came our woodman, M. Bourreau, full of enthusiasm. We would have been left with just a stump had he had his way! Under close supervision he cut just what we wanted and as you could see from yesterdays blog, left us with plenty to clear away.

The work has progressed and we have managed to clear the area and are pleased with the finished result...
Although it looks quite stark at the moment willow grows quite rapidly... This is a branch I trimmed last year at this time. All the thin branches are new growth....
We are expecting our tree to look something like this one,  photographed outside Richelieu camping site, in ?? years time.
The other bonus of course is we get part of our heating for winter 2013/14; that is once we have stacked it up.... or perhaps we should wait until my grandchildren arrive for Easter... Can't beat a bit of child labour!
The second one to face the chop next year at this time is to the left of the house...  you can see light through one of the main branches ....
That is if it stays up for another year!

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Mountain moved...

The work on the mound which we posted about last Friday is now complete, other than for the cosmetic bits.  ....And we're talking industrial strength cosmetics here!

Just to add to the fun, a second project is now well and truly underway.

In fact things moved very quickly this morning... from this:

to this:

in less than an hour - and all before breakfast!

More of this tomorrow; suffice it to say it will be muscle rub and an early night for us tonight!

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Leylandii recycled

We are always on the lookout for ways to use the wood we have stacked up since cutting down the leylandii which used to grow across the front of the house. One idea was to build a bird house.

This started last year, when Colin drilled the first hole into the section of log.....

Then I took over to hollow it out

Over the last couple of days the finishing touches have been added

And today Colin put it in place up one of the poplar trees at the bottom of the garden.

It looks a very secure residence for some lucky little bird

So now we await the first residents.... hopefully!