French Sojourn

When we crossed the Channel at the beginning of May we were not quite sure what we would find at our house.  Progress had been made and restorative work continued whilst we were in residence, albeit erratically.  May is a cruel month for people like us, who want to see builders at the house every day.  What with May Day, Ascension Day and Pentecost, the combined number of ‘bank holidays’ the French have, results in only 14 working days in the month!  After an initial few days of rain and cold the weather brightened.  Nick spent many hours working on his potager.  I hemmed all the salon sejour curtains, re-covered sunbed covers, worked a bit of tapestry, read and slept rather a lot.  Indoors we were still restricted to the kitchen, the bedroom and the pool table area.

Nick got a bit of fishing in which did not yield much in terms of white fish, but a few days before we returned he landed 100 mackerel.  After we had set a few aside to grill, he smoked the remainder and we made smoked mackerel pate, or rillettes as the French call it.  We gave fish to our egg lady up the road, and she returned the favour by delivering fresh eggs and, just before we returned to England, one of her chickens to roast.  This we shared with the Dukes and Palmers when we got back to Dorset.

Good things were happening in the garden.  The recent heavy and persistent rains mean that everything is looking lush.  This contrasts to last year when a period of dry weather, which kicked in early April, had caused plants to suffer in our absence.  Then the delphiniums in the circular bed were heavily mildewed.  This time the foliage is tall, green and there are long flower spikes in waiting.  The bee orchid flower spikes were very much in evidence too, and we expect them to be in flower when we return soon.  Nick carefully mowed round the sizeable groups of plants and I addressed the single plants with scissors.  To my great surprise I found a rather large snail aestivating on one of the pergola struts.  My landsnail friends in Conch. Soc. tell me it is Helix lucorum, a Mediterranean species commonly known as the Turkish snail, which seems to be working its way north, as it has been recorded from a site in the London area.  All in all the garden looks well for the erratic attention it has had this year and before we left I took a turn around the garden with my camera.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

630 Miles and 378 Rounds of Sandwiches later…………

…………. Rob, Rosie, John and Felicity completed their south west coastal path trek.  They started from Minehead some time in 2004 and have set aside two weeks a year – give or take- to walk their way round to South Haven Point in Poole Harbour.  Weather-wise the week was pretty filthy, but the group managed to complete their daily targets, with one or two minor modifications, and they somehow avoided getting soaked or blown away.

The achievement is enviable and how I would love to have such a venture under my belt.  I joined them on the final day when we walked from Durlston Head to the finishing post. Whilst on Ballard Down and walking down towards Old Harry and his wife we were treated to a fly past by solitary low-flying RAF aircraft. It made several circuits across to the Needles on the Isle of Wight. Later whilst enjoying an ice cream break the plane made several passes over Studland Bay and then dropped a boat and some parachutists just offshore.

We were met along the way by another friend, Steph, and a bit later by a couple Rob and Rosie met in Mauritius, who are also walking the south west path and have got as far as St Ives.  They produced champagne and chocolate-coated strawberries from a cool box at the finishing line.  The final stretch was made all the more special by the arrival of Ingram children and grandchildren to share the final meters.  Later Nick and I joined the walkers and the Ingram clan for a celebratory dinner at the Knoll House Hotel.

Much as I love to be by the coast I’m unlikely to tackle the full distance of the south west coastal path.  But I am minded to undertake a walking project and the White Horse Way in Wiltshire seems to beckon.  I just need to conjur up some companions…..

This slideshow requires JavaScript.