Sunday, 30 September 2012

Tree Top Retreat..

En route back from England yesterday we broke the journey in Cambridge, spending the night with my niece and her family. We had time in the afternoon to visit Anglesey Abbey, a National Trust property with extensive gardens which have recently undergone a make over to encourage younger visitors to take an interest in nature and wildlife.

Walks have been created with children in mind and activity packs can be borrowed from the reception area. Amongst the things we spotted were badger sets...

... and some rather large musical instruments strung between the trees...

But the centre piece was this magnificent tree house....

A notice at the top of the stairs warns...

And you really do feel high up! Here's a shot looking down at Cathy, my niece, from the top platform in the tree canopy.

All the work has certainly paid off. There were plenty of children enjoying these gardens which, until recently, had been the preserve of their parents.

Well done, National Trust. It's a brilliant scheme which will no doubt foster life long interest in some of those children.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Memory Lane

Or "Life before Colin".....

Looking back through my photos, I've come across some of a holiday I took with my friend, Elizabeth, the summer before I met Colin.

We went to stay on Davaar Island off Campletown on the Kintyre Peninsula, in Scotland.

We had a week in Otter Cottage, one of two lighthouse keeper's cottages on the island. At the time the island was uninhabited except for the couple who lived in the keeper's house and were responsible for maintaining the light and the two cottages.

It was a wonderful place to get away from it all. The only access was by foot across the Dhorlin, a narrow shingle causeway exposed at low tide. This meant that the whole week was governed by the tides and we had to allow about 30 minutes for the walk each way across to the mainland.

I had been a little concerned that this restriction might be a hindrance on holiday but if the tides were not favourable then we explored the island and when we could take advantage of a more favourable tide, we enjoyed the walk.

A scramble round the island's shoreline brought us to a cave which has a cave painting, done in secret by an artist from the mainland, of Christ on the cross.

The lighthouse came in useful when the electricity went off: we had a much appreciated flash of light every six seconds...

This is a view of the cottage from the top of the light..

I walked across the Dhorlin late one night to get something I needed from my car on the mainland. It was dusk and I spent some time watching otters playing by the shore, almost forgetting the tide times.

It was going dark when I reached the island and the tide was already coming in at a fast rate. The following winter we heard on the news that Len, the lighthouse 'keeper' had not been so fortunate. He must have been taken ill on the journey and didn't make it to the mainland.  His body was washed ashore on Arran later in the winter.

A very sad reminder of the power of the sea.

I wnet back to the island the following year, but not to stay. By then I had met Colin... and the rest is history!! We have been to the West coast of Scotland together once, because it's an area we both love. Pity it doesn't have quite the same weather as Braye-sous-Faye...

Friday, 28 September 2012

Green Spider

Arachnophobia? then look away now...

You see a variety of insects and spiders in France... Some we like; some we don't... We liked this little fellow, but if we knew more about him perhaps we wouldn't!

Anyone recognise him? And if so, should we be worried??

Thursday, 27 September 2012


Continuing yesterdays theme of things we have not seen before are these two happy chaps... You often see fishermen in France on the banks of any stretch of water.

BUT you rarely see them sat in it...

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Dressed for the occasion!

We photographed these donkeys on our way into St Martin on the Ile de Ré...

Once into the town itself one of the donkeys was on display and he had clearly made an effort to dress for the occasion...

Well we've never seen that before... Pants on a donkey!

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Poplar Trees 2...

We have been contemplating, this week, about the fate of our rather large poplar trees that surround our garden. In April 2011 David calculated the height to be around 23/24 metres.

When we had our french neighbours round, Jean Noel asked if we were going to cut them about halfway up... This started us thinking, especially at this time of year as they do cut out the sun. The other problem is they suck all the water and nutrients out of the garden, BUT according to the locals before the house was built the site was very boggy!!!

When you look at this type of tree it appears to have a limited lifespan... and be prone to various diseases...

The trees will have some value but only as firewood... and some of them will be hard to fell or trim due to their positions...

We feel that the time is approaching where we need to do something... BUT what!!!

You can see our dilemma...

Monday, 24 September 2012

Seeing the light... again...

The second blog we did back in January 2011 was titled in a similar manner, memories! That was about letting our house see the light now we need and additional light fitting for inside the house...


Which one would you choose?

A blaze of colour but nothing here meets our requirements...

Looking at the prices, it may well have to be a UK import...

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Because it was there...

Intrigued  to see this Grasshopper in such a precarious position, we asked him why he had climbed this piece of grass and he retorted " Because it was there and I could do!"

He is after all a Meadow Grasshopper (we think!) and will be a home in the long grass...

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Open Spaces of a Different Kind!

There are wide open spaces .... and there are WIDE OPEN SPACES...

We love the big skies; the peace and tranquility; the open roads, the lack of traffic in rural France... We could go on and on extolling its virtues..

Where we used to live in the northwest of England is the opposite in so many ways but it, too, has its wide open spaces - though with a difference.

To the north of the region is the Lake District National Park, and a bit closer to home is the wilderness of the Forest of Bowland, designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in 1964.

One of our favourite walks within the Forest, is a circuit from Stocks Reservoir, situated at the head of the Hodder Valley.

We have done the walk in all weathers....

.......When snow covers the ground it is a magical place!

The Forest is bounded by the towns of (clockwise from the north) Bentham, Settle, Clitheroe (Colin's home town!), Longridge, Garstang and Lancaster.

Clitheroe Castle dominates the town's skyline
Pendle Hill, of Pendle witches fame, is one of the best known features of the area...
Pendle from the Clitheroe side
It is separated from the main Bowland Fells by the Ribble Valley.
Bridge over the River Ribble
The upland parts of the Forest form an area of barren gritstone fells, deep valleys and peat moorland, with important areas of heather moorland and blanket bog.

Travelling south on the High Bentham to Slaidburn road, with Stocks Reservoir in the distance
Sounds hospitable???

This Sunday my son,  David, is taking part in a 100k cycle ride which takes in the hills of the Forest of Bowland, in aid of the Northwest Air Ambulance, The air ambulance performs a vital service particularly on these fells, as much of the land is not easily reached by road.

Fingers crossed the weather is kind on Sunday. And rather him than me on the long drag up those fells! I certainly think it would be a good deal easier to cycle 100k on the roads and with the gentler climate here in Indre-et-Loire.

That's when the difference really shows. Or maybe I'm getting soft in my old age...

Friday, 21 September 2012

Pont Transbordeur, Rochfort

Being an engineer and loving all things engineered I revelled in our visit to the transporter bridge at Rochfort.

A little of the history and technical detail from (translated)

The transporter bridge of Rochefort or ferry bridge Martrou is the work of the engineer, constructor Ferdinand Arnodin . It was inaugurated on 29  July  1900.

The transporter bridge is a work of art that connects the two banks of the Charente between the towns of Rochefort and Échillais without obstructing navigation. This is one of the last existing bridges ferries France .
This bridge is based on eight masonry piers, with a depth of 19.5 meters on the north shore (Rochefort) and 8.5 meters on the south shore (Échillais), upon which four metal towers 66.25 meters high which are located 2 × 2 on both sides of the Charente. The 'tablier' is 175.50 metres long, peaking at 50 metres above the highest water flows where the slide connects these four towers between them. The space between the batteries is 129 metres and the space from platform to platform of 150 metres .
A gondola at the road allows users to move from one bank to another. It is suspended by cables from the  'tablier' and moves along the rails of the deck of 24 pairs of rollers by means of a cable which is wound and unwound on a winch drum fixed to the floor in machinery which located in the bridge abutment on the Rochefort side. The energy of the winch is supplied by two generators driven by an electric motor (originally a steam engine until 1927).

It is a fantastic piece of engineering...

Although the French are renound for their bridges the concept of the transporter bridge was invented in 1873 by Charles Smith (1844-82) the manager of an engine works in Hartlepool. The UK currently has four remaining, more details about these and Transporter Bridges in general can be found here.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

In an English (well, French) Country Garden

One of our favourite places on the coast is the lovely island, Ile de Ré. The island is home to a profusion of hollyhocks in every shade of pink, peach, primrose, deep reds and coral.

They grow from every conceivable nook and cranny....
 I've long wanted to grow some but, despite the lines in the familiar tune "In an English country garden..." I've not had much success.

I collected some of the seed from Ile de Ré last year and sowed it in trays in the garden. One seedling disappeared but to our surprise, a hollyhock grew up close to the garage entrance. We can only assume that this was the missing seedling, perhaps picked out by a bird and then dropped where it grew and in fact, flourished.

It is a glorious plant and now much taller than I am...

Gladly the other seedlings grew well too, and are now planted out so we have our own "English country garden" and, if I keep up with the seed collecting, a lasting souvenir of Ile de Ré!

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Cathédrale Saint Louis, La Rochelle

In the Cathédrale Saint Louis in La Rochelle are some intricate examples of painted glass, which make an interesting contrast with the rich jewel colours of the stained glass more usually associated with places of worship. We found the more subtle hues and limited colour palette more pleasing to the eye.
 As befits a coastal location, emblems of the sea are evident.
At the time we visited, work was being done on some of the larger windows so we look forward to a return visit to see the results of the work.

The cathedral also contains more 'conventional'stained glass and to see more information and images of the other windows, please see here.