Category: blog

It’s A bit Brrrrisk!!!

When Dad said that winter was slipping into spring early this year he certainly wasn’t expecting this, two weeks of very cold weather, down to -16°C for long periods!

Luckily no major damage to report on the island but we did lose nearly all of our stored pumpkins and squashes along with the remains of the potatoes, and the onions have certainly been frozen despite it all being stored underneath straw in the barn.  Even the brassicas in the garden took a hammering, but our loss is the pigs gain!

In this kind of cold weather a lot of time is spent just keeping things ticking over, looking after the animals and keeping the home fires burning. 

The chickens refused to come out of their house for about four days and the sheep couldn’t wait to get back into theirs at the end of each day queuing up at gate in the field to come back under cover.  It’s all good fun for the kids though (old and young!), with snowball fights and sledging. Adam even managed to get onto his skis and ski down to the village, much to the amusement of all the locals!


Luckily we still have plenty of projects to be getting on with, building the new Bodger’s Yurt in the barn and a composting toilet in the cart shed. They will be transported to their respective plinths in the woods at a later date.

Wendy and I decided that this was as good an opportunity as any to take a couple of days off and head to Paris over the valentines day period.  We caught an early TGV from Angouleme and arrived in Paris a couple of hours later .  We walked for miles and miles and I have to say I was very impressed – the architecture and stonework is très magnifique and they haven’t spoiled the centre with modern, high rise buildings.  The last time I was in Paris was in 1989 and since then they seem to have dealt with the dog shit problem and even the waiters seemed pleasant, polite and helpful!

We stayed the night in Montmartre which was lovely and the following day we continued our tour on foot.  It was interesting to wander around the almost village-like area amongst all of the street artists, and one of the characaturists there stopped me to say that I had the perfect look for the work of a cartoonist – I didn’t know whether to be flattered or offended!  Having notched up lots more miles and most of the sights, we caught the TGV home – it was a fast, comfortable and trouble free journey and we arrived in Angouleme when we were supposed to!

We now seem to be in the midst of a thaw so hopefully we can get down to the willow and start coppicing with avengence, there’s lots to catch up on before the daffs come out!

Best Wishes, Matt

Grandpa’s Guest Blog

We asked Matt’s dad (otherwise known as “Le Grand Poire”) to do a blog whilst he stayed with us in January to mark his 80th birthday – so here it is!

Grandpa’s Chez Devalon Blog, January 2012

Oh the joys of the Mystery Tour! I was supposed to be in Buxton – the only place in Britain north of the Arctic Circle – instead here I am, having been taken on to the sunny Dordogne. Oh Mr. Porter….. thank you for that! It was my eightieth birthday that provoked this happiness. My scheming wife Peta and wicked daughter-in-law, Wendy are the ones I have to thank for organising this joyous deception. Between them they engineered things so that I’d spend my birthday, 5th January, please note, in the ample bosom of my family.

On arrival here I was greeted warmly by Matthew and Wendy and my grandsons: Oliver, Adam and Harry. Also offering me a moist nose and welcoming meow were Tache the dog and Mimi the little black cat. Peta and I have been taking Tache for a walk each morning since our arrival. We follow the narrow road which winds between field and woods. Often we meet no-one on our two mile round trip. Sometimes a deer emerges from the woods and runs across the fields to seek fresh cover. There is plentiful birdsong to fill the air with music as we go on our way. At the moment the fields are either ploughed ready for spring sowing or green with winter wheat. As we go through woodland areas, enticing paths open up through the trees. One would like to explore but in doing so would probably fall over and cause the family trouble getting me out again. Ah, what it is to have grown old, and almost sensible.

One’s days are passed very pleasantly. There is mooching about to be done around the small estate. There are the sheep to observe, who repay the observation with dour looks of their own. There are the musical pigs to be enjoyed as they snort and grunt between bouts of truffle hunting in their extensive quarters under the trees, and there are the hens to be seen going about their daily routine. The vegetable garden and polytunnel are there to be admired, so far the growth is largely of brassicas, but more planting will happen as winter slips into spring – which it seems to be doing early this year.

During our present stay we have had several fine days with golden sunshine chasing away the valley mists. By lunchtime it has often been warm enough to eat outside – a delightful gift to those of us Northern-dwellers who have been trapped in gloom for most of the winter.

The afternoons present abundant opportunities for action if one is so inclined – or inaction if one prefers that! My favorite Spanish festival has increasingly become the Siesta. Nothing better than a rest with a good book I say (I know there are dozens of good books available here because I’ve brought most of them here myself!).

The evenings are perhaps the jewels of the Chez Devalon days. We assemble at the table to eat the delicious meals provided by Wendy. There are usually cheering quantities of wine or beer to wash down the nourishing victuals. Afterwards there is chat and occasionally music and song to enjoy, guitars, mouth organs, drums and even a clarinet can magically appear to add variety to the celebration.

Sadly tomorrow is our last day, the time when my glorious mystery trip will come to an end. It’s onto the Wednesday Ryanair flight from Limoges and back to Blighty. It would be boohoo time for me were it not for the fact that, God giving me the legs, I shall return to these blessed parts soon.

Best wishes, Grandpa David

It’s blowing a hooley!

Blimey!! It’s blowing an absolute hooley out there this morning, very strong, gusty winds with squally showers. This is weather that causes structural damage, the kind of wind that produces some amazing sounds and that you have to lean into to make any forward progress.

All of the animals were reluctant to be leaving their respective shelters as I went around feeding this morning. Luckily no damage on the island yet (I had to fix one of the poly-tunnel doors) but this kind of weather reminds me never to be too complacent when it comes to the power of nature.

Whilst travelling with my surfboard as a feckless youth I learned very quickly how insignificant we are when we find ourselves in extreme conditions, in my case big, big seas in Hawaii, Australia and Indonesia and days like this reaffirm those lessons learned for which I am always grateful. Having said all of that, today I will be working in the kitchen fitting new fire bricks into our beloved old rayburn and drinking tea, this is what happens when you reach your mid forties!

Since my last blog we’ve managed to dismantle all of the yurts and pack them away in the barn for the winter (on a day like today it’s comforting to know that they’re in there). I stayed a couple of nights in one of the (non-insulated) yurts earlier this month (December) without resorting to the onesy for warmth, it has been a particularly beautiful and very mild autumn.

Chris and I have coppiced all of the wood we’ll need for the hobbity kitchen down at the bodgers yurt and work is well underway now. Ideas are developing organically as we move through the project which is the way I like to do things. Sadly Chris has left to go back to England and pursue a career as a tree surgeon, he will be missed especially at beer o’clock time! There are so many things to thank him for, he is truly one of life’s “diamond geezers”, many many thanks Chris.

Well I must go now, my Christmas present has just arrived in the back of a van, it’s a tractor mounted woodchipper which will enable us to turn any waste wood from yurt building into mulches for the kitchen garden and pathways. I can’t wait to go and put it all together, it’s like meccano but on a bigger scale, the only difference between men and boys is the price of their toys! The rayburn will have to wait.

All the best, Matt

Autumn on The Island

Well here goes, from this day forward I will no longer be a blogging virgin! Since Wendy’s blog last month I have made the new bathroom weatherproof, so that the building is water tight and hence safe and I have now put that project on the back burner – it will be a useful wet weather job for January or February.

     The Island

     All dug out and levelled

The leaves on the trees have begun to change colour or are falling off and the sap is down in the chestnut coppice so we can start cutting again. The ram is working hard to entertain all of the ewes (a male perspective of course) and I’ve just run out of the house to see the cranes flying south in the most beautiful triangular formations, an awesome sight that never fails to impress.

We have now started on the new yurt unit down in our small wood (the Bodger’s Yurt) which we will have ready for July next year. The good news is that our friend Chris from the UK has come over to help with the initial stage of the structure so I am delighted to welcome him onto “the island” again. We have cleared away a lot of the dead wood and brash and levelled a small area where the new kitchen will be built. We hope to complete the structure and make it weather-proof  before the end of the month and certainly before the winter weather sets in. As far as the design goes for the kitchen, it will basically be a roundhouse with reciprocal roof (Tony Wrench style) which we will then quirkify by adding outriggers and then semi burying it as much as we dare! We’ll post more on all of that in a later blog.

     Chris watching over ‘the burn’

Chris and I are just off into the chestnut coppice to cut all of the timber necessary for the new kitchen, we’re planning a BBQ lunch in the woods with our own lamb and veg and we might even gather a few mushroom on the boundaries and cook it all with our own charcoal, can’t be bad!! Oh my god, I’m fantasizing about lunch, I must be turning into a Frenchman!

     Perfect charcoal

I think that’s enough for my first attempt at blogging. Hopefully there will be regular updates on developments over the winter, particularly if it’s raining or cold outside!


A Blog at Last!

Well finally, as our season draws to a close, I have found a moment to sit down and write our first blog !  For many a month I have wondered what to write in our first entry but it’s been little more than a cursory thought as there is always so much going on in our manic lives!  So, what better time to start than now as things come to a close, other of course than when I should have done it, at the beginning of the season when we launched our website!

Anyway, our last two lots of guests are here, enjoying the most amazing October weather, day long sunshine matched with temperatures in the early thirties, the folks down at La Cabushe even told us they’d had to kick off their duvet last night! It really has been exceptional!

    Sunflowers at the Grand Abri

Well we’ve had a fantastic time over the summer, we’ve met some great people and made lots of new friends and all the feedback has been very positive, with lots of people telling us that we have created something very special here at Chez Devalon.  I certainly hope that over the coming years many of them will do as promised and return to stay again and witness the developments that we have bashed on about!  But don’t expect them all at once, it may take a while before you can take your turn on the bike, which is powering the washing machine with your clothes in it, whilst your partner is wallowing in the plunge pool!  And these amazing barriques (see below) may one day be converted into a two-man sauna and a hot-tub but not for next year as we are going to be really busy getting the third yurt unit ready with a hobbit-house style kitchen, all hidden away in our woods but you’ll hear much more about that in future postings.

     The House and Gite at Chez Devalon

This year in the middle of July we got our new yurt, the Petit Abri, up and running (see the photos below) – the idea of this new yurt is that it forms a double yurt, and is rented out only with La Grande Abri so that friends can “glamp” together.  Two yurts for two couples who want to share their holiday and can cook and have the odd drink together on the terrace yet still have the privacy of their own yurt.

    The Petit Abri

     The Eco Bathroom in the making