La Chatouillette is always full of surprises … even for me who relishes its land almost every day of my life.

The other morning I discovered an amazing pebble beach on the banks of our river. It had remained almost hidden from view for what must have been decades. It only came upon me when one of our free-range hens got caught in some thick brambles and nettles … a place I’d never ventured to before. To rescue mamma hen I had to bemba … (A Bemba is a sharp African gardening tool, rather like a long matchet) a narrow path through the brambles and there before me was this amazing hidden paradise.

Next day I suggested to Josie that I attempt to clear a route through this seemingly impenetrable natural tangle. She was apprehensive at first but she too became interested at what we might discover.

As I write I’ve completed phase one of this new project. I’ll need to await the arrival of spring to continue on to phase two. Our plan is to create a new secret picnic spot for our family, friends and guests by the beginning of the 2019 autumn season.

Here are some photos of the completed work to date.

Before photo: Behind this barrier of Nature hides the proposed new picnic spot and river-edge pebble beach.

After photo; This is a portion of the same area after one days clearing. The proposed picnic area is to the right of the rear of the photo

Don’t know if any of you have ever encountered Nettle roots that lie hidden under ground? Pulling the Nettle plant out is only the beginning. Suddenly one is confronted with a connected cobweb of never ending roots. Heavy backbreaking work is the only remedy! To compound the problem the adjacent Brambles fight back by ensuring that their tiny thorns penetrate even the thickest gardening gloves. Brambles and Nettles together make threatening foes.

In the middle distance of the photo below you can see Josie’s new veggie patch that we’ve just marked out. This should be ready by next spring. Josie’s excited because her twin sister Ginny has just moved from England and will now be living permanently in France. Ginny will be resident in a village about six k’s from La Chatouillette. The twins will be working this new vegetable venture together and I’ll now have to contend with two ‘Ministers of Home Affairs’!

Some say I’m extremely lucky!

Here’s a different angle of the new clearing. The free-range hens discovered a surprise gourmet paradise. They often follow me into the woods or to the river’s edge when I’m working in those areas. They’re rather like feathered dogs and keep me company in all weathers. They seem to know that with me close by they’ll be safe from the wicked foxes that in the past have sadly devoured a number of their comrades

On day three I finally reached the river’s edge (see photo above). What a relief! The pebble beach can be seen on the opposite bank of the river. This photo was taken just before the start of the winter rains. As I write a portion of the beach is now covered by a torrent of water. Gone are the peaceful flow and the gentle tinkle. Nature will ensure they’ll be back in summer.

A Willow tree, only planted three years ago grew so tall that it blocked Josie’s favourite view from the Gite balcony. She asked me to top the tree. It instantly became two ‘new’ Willow trees. This photo shows one of the ‘new’ Willows planted on an approaching edge of our proposed picnic site. I dug a hole in moist soil – about two and a half feet deep and just planted the treetop into it. This is how we’ve propagated all our La Chatouillette Willows … all from a single mother tree on the Gite side lake edge. We’re hoping that both of these second generation Willows will favour us with new leaves in Spring 2019 … only time will tell.

The home made bench is a temporary feature … a handy place for me to rest my weary bod … a tea break haven, whilst undertaking all the clearing.

We’ll probably make this a permanent seating area. Whilst enjoying a tea break I discovered that the sunsets from this location are magnificent.

Even winter can be both fun and productive in these paradisaical parts … and oh another plus … when working outdoors at this time of the year it’s easier to spot deer in the forest across the river. The dense ground cover has gone to rest until next spring. The natural camouflage no longer inhibits the magic of secretly spying these tentative creatures.

For both new and returning guests and friends and family who we’re looking forward to seeing next season, Josie and I send blessings … enjoy your Festive Season … such a magical time of the year. We’ll raise a Calvados to you all!