Thursday, 26 November 2015

Guest Post - Sunken Lanes of Lenault

This post was originally published by Paul Willis (Worthing Wanderer) on his blog and is re-printed here with his permission. 

Eco-Gites of Lenault
"This year we have had holidays that are short but more often as we found in the past that going away for extended periods of time was actually more tiring than relaxing.  We hadn't been on holiday for October half term for a few years and were keen to remedy that so we could enjoy the autumn in all its glory.  Ironically our destination was the same as the last time we went away at this time of year - to Eco-Gites of Lenault in Normandy, just a short distance away from the city of Caen in Calvados. 

Sunken Lane

Despite the fact that this was our third holiday to the gite the one thing we had never really done was gone for a proper walk in the local area and now the children are older we were very keen to put that right.  It was the sort of day that couldn't really make its mind up; with sunshine and cloud in equal measure, but we decided that we could still enjoy the autumn colours whether the sun was shining or not. 

Nature Taking Over

Rosie and Simon from next door kindly supplied the walk leaflet that was handily in English.  We decided upon the one from the pack that we could start from the gite so as not to have to drive.  In order to help out a bit we also took their dog with us, the first time we have ever had a canine companion on one of these blogged walks.  At the back of the grounds of La Causserie (the whole building of the gite and owner's residence next door) we turned left into one of the sunken lanes that the walk is named after.  These pathways I imagine have been here for centuries, allowing access between the small farms in this very rural part of Normandy.  This particular lane seems rather insulated from its surroundings, such was the enclosed nature of it.  There were still blackberries and rosehips fruiting in the hedgerow although the former were surely rather insipid and not worth picking.  The late ones seem to have no flavour - maybe the sun helps them develop that?


Beyond the hedge we could see some maize crops that had not yet been gathered in but otherwise the countryside was ready for the winter as far as crops were concerned.  More of the landscape was pasture and occasionally we saw a field with cows in them.  Dairy farming is more common in Normandy and much of the fresh produce goes into making delicious creamy cheeses (Camembert originates from not far from here).

Autumn Colour

Our path crossed a road and the track kept going in almost a straight line between fields.  Occasionally we got some brilliant views across the surrounding countryside and sometimes we were hemmed in by bushes and trees.  Whichever it was we felt like we had the whole countryside to ourselves as we saw barely anybody about.  Eventually we came to a road but even then our progress was unhindered and we continued onward through an ever narrower lane that became even more enclosed by hedgerows either side. 

Threatening Clouds

Eventually we came to another road and turned left to head towards the small village of Lenault.  By now the sunshine had disappeared entirely and the clouds looked rather threatening for a while.  Our walk along the road was interrupted only once by a car which was a relief.  On the way to the village we passed by a large crucifixion - these are very common in France, especially by road junctions.  This particular one looks well cared for and impressively big.  I am not sure if this is a common style but the cross seemed to be made of concrete and yet was styled to look like a tree?


A little further on and we came to the village itself.  Even by French standards Lenault is very small, with only a small collection of houses and yet it boasts a church and Mairie (what we might refer to as a village hall).  There wasn't any sign of life in the village as we passed through but the sun put in a welcome appearance just as we passed by the church.  This little 16th century church appears to have come through the World Wars unscathed - in fact I am not even sure the armies much bothered with this little corner of Calvados - there isn't really enough here to fight over.  We didn't look inside the church; partly on account of the dog with us and partly because we weren't sure whether it was the done thing to do this in France?

Lenault Church

Once through the village we headed down the most sunken lane of the whole walk - it felt like a tunnel for most of the way down to teh property of Le Hamel.  Here we were greeted by a lot of barking dogs and a fairly dirty look from the owner who clearly did not want his peace disturbed.  We didn't hang around though continuing quickly past this spot as we didn't want the dogs barking for any longer than was necessary.

St Jean-Le-Blanc Spire

As we wandered on views across the area opened up once again and over to our right we could see the distinctive spire of St Jean-Le-Blanc church across the tops of the bown and gold trees of the woods between our position and the village.  The delights of the views didn't last long though as we plunged down into a small valley with a very wet path caused by what looked like a small stream running down the middle.  As we descended down into what felt like a gully a large herd of cows came galloping across the adjacent field to check us out.  When they arrived they seemed friendly enough but I couldn't help wondering what on earth they thought they would find when they arrived?


We reached the small collection of houses called La Saulnerie and took the most delightful lane southwards.  Although bound by trees with little view out the path was particularly attractive and wide enough to suggest that it was once more of a main route than some we had used.  It now hosts the route of the GR221; a long distance path that links Coutances on the coast of the Coentin peninsula with Pont D'Ouilly in the Suisse Normande crossing some of the finest countryside Normandy has to offer.
Almost Back

Eventually we reached the road that we had crossed further north in Lenault and almost double backed on ourselves to reach a small valley.  From here it was back on to our original sunken track back up hill to La Causserie and a welcome cup of tea.  This five mile walk was enough for the girls but by the time we got back the sun was shining quite strongly and I felt like I had only just got going so after a short break I headed out to explore some more.  I think if we are to come back to this place again we may just focus on walking next time.  The countryside is delightful and we were glad that we had some walks that we could take."

Thank you, Paul, for this blog post and we look forward to you coming back so you can do some more of the local routes - there really are so many.  Why don't you come and have a walking holiday in Normandy too?

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Animal Tales - 47 (And Happy 1st Birthday)

Yay - Animal Tales is a year old!!! 

It may sound clichéd but I really cannot believe that the linky has been running a year, nor can I believe that so many people have actually linked up.  Thank you to each and every one of you.  All together now....

Some figures

  • Over the last year we there have been 562 linked posts (excluding mine)
  • The average number linked up per week is 12
  • The most linked up in any one week was 24 (Animal Tales 16)
  • The most read posts were Animal Tales 26 and 39.
  • Bloggers who have linked up have come from 13 different countries
  • We have had posts from fleas and mites up to rhinos and elephants with everything in between .... but FAR TOO FEW HIPPO posts.   (You know I really like hippos, don't you?!)

The link up has welcomed new life to the world and bid the saddest of farewells to others.  I have laughed over posts, cried over others and learnt lots from still more.  So onwards to year 2 .... 
Last week, as ever, there was  a lovely mix of posts.  I always find it hard to pick favourites as I love them all but it was a post written by a dog that had me laughing from beginning to end.  If you have not read Evie's Story from Our French Oasis PLEASE go and read it now.  It is long but I am sure, like me, you will not want it to end!

Evie - the dog with a tale to tell via Our French Oasis

Over to you now. Please add your posts below. The posts can be old or new and as varied as the animals who we share our world with. If you tweet with the hashtag #AnimalTales I'll retweet you. Just give me a nudge if I appear to have forgotten you.

Full details of the linky can be found here but can I remind people of a couple of the "rules":
  • Please can you comment on at least 2 other blogs linked up - that is, after all the whole purpose of joining a linky to find and comment on more blogs and hopefully drive traffic back to your blog.
  • Please can you include my badge (preferably) or a link back to this blog.
  • Pinterest - not a rule but for even greater exposure of your blog post please do join the Animal Tales Pinterest board and pin a picture from your linked posts.
  • Can I remind people not to add sponsored posts or paid-for reviews.  Eco-Gites of Lenault has no advertising on it and I am not comfortable promoting products or companies I know nothing about.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Black Dogs

Over on Facebook a friend has recently nominated me to post 7 pieces of music or poetry in 7 days.  I took her up on the challenge deciding to track down some new poems and in doing so came across this poem and information from The Many Tears Dog Rescue, based in South Wales.

On the page they said that black dogs are harder to home than other colours.  We  may, therefore, have bucked the trend having adopted 3 black labs over the years. All have now passed on to the great playground in the sky, their bodies gone but their memories never fading. For me this poem is particularly poignant and I will admit to shedding a tear when I read it.


A black Lab sits in the corner
A golden Lab lays on the rug
The golden is called to his master
Where he gets a cuddle and hug
The black lab sits there waiting
Will she call my name
Just because I'm older
I want a cuddle the same

The golden lab is aged one year
The black lab is eight
He's faithful, trusting, obedient
they know he won't go past the gate

The golden lab is still a puppy
Frisky, cheeky, sometimes bad,
The black labs sits in the corner
his expression shows he is sad

They used to play with me like that
We would have fun in the park
my owner would throw me a ball
and I would run and bark

Now the black lab sits in the corner
he is fed and watered well
But the owner no longer plays with him
The golden lab's favourite, you can tell.

There was a black dog here before me
I think they called him Joe
One day they drove off with him
and he never came back I know

The say my hair is a nuisance
It's not my fault that I moult
I didn't ask them to buy new carpet
A cream one that matches HER coat

The little black lab in the corner
lays down to rest his head
It's not till 4 hours later
they realized the black lab was dead.

Brenda Brooks

So please, if you are looking to adopt a dog, do not over look the black dogs and do not overlook the older dogs. The deserve our love as much as every other dog.

I dedicate this poem to the black dogs in our lives who all came from rescue centres. To Lady. To Poppy. To Harry. I miss you all xxx


The next Animal Tales post opens on Tuesday November 24th on this blog.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Mouse and Rat Wars, the natural way.

Regular readers of this blog may remember that last year I waged war on the mice who moved into the polytunnel and ate all the mange-tout out broad beans seeds I had sown in there.  I did manage to resow in pots in mouse proof containers but it was not ideal.  Well once again in it the time to sow these seeds but I am hopeful I have found a solution that will allow me to sow straight into the soil without losses.

Beetroot.  No, not the sort in vinegar or even the roots you might grow but beetroot in the form on dehydrated pellets for animal feed, known better in English as sugar beet pellets.  To explain let me take you back a couple of months ...

Earlier in the year a family (or several in fact) of rats took up residence in the feed shed and under the chicken run.  It is well known that if you have farm animals that sooner or later you are very likely to get rats so we were feeling quite pleased we had remained rat free for so long.  Straight away we put spare feed sacks of food into rat proof containers and we set traps but we avoided poison because of the danger to the cats and Saari.  Rats are canny creatures, though and we only trapped a couple before the others just ignored the traps.  When we had rat proofed the feed we had one bag of pellets too many and after a few days of all other food being out of reach they broke into it.   I was furious.  However, over the next few days were found 4 dead rats and by a week later ALL the rats had gone!  What was going on?

I then had a brainwave and remembered Simon saying that there is a form of rat poison available in the UK that kills rats who eat it dry after which it swells inside them and they die.  I did a bit of research and found a couple of references to sugar beet pellets killing rats the same way because, unlike most other creatures who overeat, rats cannot vomit.  It seems, therefore, that the pellets had killed them and apparently the same fate awaits mice if they eat it.

Fast forward to the polytunnel this week and I have sown broad beans ... and placed a bowl of pellets just next to the rows.  Hopefully the sweet taste of the pellets will be preferable to the beans should any mice think that the polytunnel is their very own restaurant.

I'll let you know how I get on!

And as none of this was at all photogenic I'll leave you with a couple of pictures from plants in our front porch taken rather late in the evening.  So far the tender oranges and chillies are quite happy there  but with temperatures due to plummet by the weekend, I may have to move them indoors soon.

Joining in with Annie's How Does Your Garden Grow linky at Fable and Folk ....

Mammsaurus HDYGG

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

21 Ways to make Christmas Sustainable

Normally, we the hour difference between France and England, we record evening programmes to watch later in the week.  However, last Sunday I really wanted to watch the final episode of  Downton Abbey so Simon and I settled watched it live .... you know, without being able to fast forward through the adverts.  Well, I can tell you, that came as a bit of a shock.  You see in France, Christmas does not really get going until December yet here we were, on November 8th, with every single advert Christmas themed.  And not just Christmas themed but big, long, expensively made adverts yelling loudly at us that we'd only have a great Christmas if we spent all our money in their stores and on their products.  One even insisted that our meal would be ruined unless we spent out on a new cooker.  Well, this got me thinking.

Don't get me wrong, if people want to spend loads of money for their friends and family at Christmas that's fine and we need people to spend money to help the economy.  What worries me is the fact that ALL these adverts, without fail, were from the large companies that dominate our high streets and internet at the expense of local, independent and ethical producers.  After all, a local shop is not going to be able to spend  £1m on an advert and a further £6m in advertising slots, is it as I read one chain-store has done?  It's pretty obvious these big, often multinational retailers are pushing to get us to spend our hard earned cash with them but there is another way - a way that ultimately should help the economy even more and that is far more sustainable. So, before you head off up The High Street or online to one of the big retailers whose slick advert you saw on the TV, think about spending your money in places that cannot afford massive advertising budgets in prime time TV but that can help get the economy moving... 

"Think about shopping in local shops, from small producers and those who produce ethical goods.  Think about spend less with the big retailers and think outside of the box a bit"

So here are 21 ideas to help you spread out where you spend your money this Christmas which is that bit more sustainable.*

Food and Drink

Do not automatically head to the local hypermarket this Christmas when there are so many other places you can get your groceries:

  • Local butchers, delis etc. where you'll get great tasting food from people who really care about selling you the best.
  • Farmers' Markets and farm shops sell a wealth of fabulous goodies that you won't find in the big stores just waiting to make your meals this Christmas so much more interesting.
  • Online small producers - why not buy some-one a whole lamb for the freezer or an organic veg box for a year?  Rosewood Farm grassfed beef and lamb would love to supply your Christmas dinner this year.


Everyone loves opening a present so here are some ideas that can help steer you away from the big shops:

  • Support local independent shops
  • Buy from small Etsy stores
  • Buy from self employed crafters who sell their crafts and wares via social media.
  • Support local bookshops - a recent radio programme said these were down to 1000 in the UK, the lowest number since records began, yet slowly new ones are opening and doing well.  You might spend a bit more in a local shop but you won't have the hassle of waiting in for deliveries that don't come or lost items or returns and anyway, time spent browsing in a bookshop is, in my opinion, never time wasted!
  • See if you friends are making anything and buy from them
  • Buy from charity shops - many also sell new goods if you are not happy with second hand.
  • Plants - the gift that keeps on growing. Search out your local nursery and you'll get the best plants for your locality
  • Support local artists by buying their artwork
  • Make presents yourself - home-made preserves, cakes, sweets, fruit vodkas for those handy in the kitchen or what-ever you are good at turning your hand to.  Just don't forget to support local businesses when buying your supplies! 
  • Above all support ethical, fair trade and organic suppliers where possible.

Oh and don't forget the wrapping paper - look for recycled paper or use brown paper and decorate it yourself.  Pinterest is a great source of inspiration for natural embellishments you can add to your wrapped presents which makes the gift even more special.

Non gift presents

Not all presents have to be something tangible in a wrapped box.  How about these ideas?

  • Give a service such as vouchers for car washing, baby sitting etc
  • Lessons - there are just so many things people could learn - riding, ice skating, an instrument etc
  • Buy tickets to your local theatre
  • Support local restaurants and splash out on a posh meal.
  • Sponsor a child, a dolphin, a herd of goats .. . whatever grabs your fancy
  • Give a Kiva loan
  • Give a charity donation
  • Book a holiday with an independent home owner .... I know a nice family owned gite in Normandy ;)

    *A final thought

    As with so many things the answer to sorting out world economic problems is not as simple as just not buying anything from the big suppliers, however unsustainable they might be.   I mentioned earlier about spreading out where you do your shopping because if we all turned our backs on these stores and suppliers we would put an awful lot of people out of work, many who are already at the bottom of the wage pile.  Not just shop workers but also suppliers, transporters and everyone else involved getting your present under your tree.  However, if little by little, we support the small producers we will start to make a difference.  They will do well and will have more money in their pocket to spend with other such producers.  New independent shops will open, providing secure jobs for local people.  You can be part of this change, so this Christmas this is my festive message:

    Enjoy the big adverts but don't not forget that there are plenty of other great places you can spend your money and in doing so you will be helping your local economy and local people.

    You Baby Me Mummy

    Tuesday, 17 November 2015

    Animal Tales 46

    Welcome to Animal Tales, the blog linky that brings together all sorts of animal blog posts from all over the world.  It runs from Tuesday morning thought to Friday night and showcases a wide range of animal related posts.

    Next week we'll have been running  a year, can you believe that?  I'll crunch a few figures before then, if I get the time, but in the meantime I am so pleased to see how International this linky has become.  Last week we had posts from the UK, France, Malaysia, South Africa, Greece, Australia and Russia so thank you everyone for linking up.  Not bad for a linky that is not a Travel one!!

    Saari wants to see the piglets ...

    ... but I am keeping here away in case she upsets Coco so she is trying her best to see them from a distance whilst hoping she will be too camouflaged for Coco, or me, to see her!

    Last week saw a great variety of posts so picking favourites was really hard.  However a post about a testosterone fuelled reindeer called Rudolf who might be on the way to making Bambi caught my eye and who could not chuckle reading a post about horses where one of them is called Sir Pongo Stinky Pants!

    Over to you now. Please add your posts below. The posts can be old or new and as varied as the animals who we share our world with. If you tweet with the hashtag #AnimalTales I'll retweet you. Just give me a nudge if I appear to have forgotten you.

    Full details of the linky can be found here but can I remind people of a couple of the "rules":
    • Please can you comment on at least 2 other blogs linked up - that is, after all the whole purpose of joining a linky to find and comment on more blogs and hopefully drive traffic back to your blog.
    • Please can you include my badge (preferably) or a link back to this blog.
    • Pinterest - not a rule but for even greater exposure of your blog post please do join the Animal Tales Pinterest board and pin a picture from your linked posts.
    • Can I remind people not to add sponsored posts or paid-for reviews.  Eco-Gites of Lenault has no advertising on it and I am not comfortable promoting products or companies I know nothing about.

    Monday, 16 November 2015

    The Piglet Milk Bar is Open

    Visit Eco-Gites of Lenault soon to see these gorgeous piglets.
    Posted by Sue Davis on Thursday, 12 November 2015

    You can also see this video on our Facebook page

    This is my entry for the  #AnimalTales linky which opens tomorrow - November 17th on this blog.


    Thursday, 12 November 2015

    November is still blooming in Normandy

    Autumn's colourful mantle is fast falling from tree to ground but close your eyes and the warmth on your face this week could easily trick you into thinking it was September or May.  Autumn has been very kind to to the flowers this year and there are still plenty to be seen here in Normandy, despite the fact it is now November.

    Pink geranium - Pelagonium spp

    English marigolds - Calendula officinalis

    French marigolds - Tagetes patula

    Fuchsia - Fuchsia magellanica

    Sweet marjoram - Origanum majorana

    White dead nettle - Lamiun album

    There are still vegetables to be harvested, the weeds they are a-growing and I'll need to get the mower out again very soon.  18ºC in November is so warm.  Will we pay for nature's clemency later on?  Interestingly, (well I think so) when we moved here in 2007 we had a very mild, first winter.  All through that autumn and winter a few primroses were in flower down the valley and there were plenty of leaves to be seen.  This year there are none.  No leaves and certainly no flowers.  Does our friend Primula vulgaris know something we don't?  Are we in for a hard winter?  What do you think?

    Mammsaurus HDYGG

    Wednesday, 11 November 2015

    8 reasons to visit Normandy in Winter

    I may have said this before but a holiday is not just for summer.  Winter breaks, and I am not talking skiing, can be just as fun and give you a real boost in the darker time of year.  If you are wondering where to go, then might I suggest Normandy?

    8 Reasons to Visit Normandy in Winter

    Winter walks

    Wrap up warm, done your wellies or walking boots and head out for a winter walk.  A huge network of paths start right from the gite's back gate taking you through stunning countryside whatever the season.  With no leaves on the trees the wildlife can be easier to spot and you may be lucky to catch sight of red squirrels, deer, hares as well as birds a plenty.

    We are also only an hour from the beach if you fancy a seaside stroll to blow away the cobwebs ... maybe you'd even be as brave as the boys and go for a winter dip.  Would you?

    Less crowded tourist sites

    Many of Normandy's main tourist sites are open virtually all year including Mont St Michel, The Bayeux Tapestry, Falaise Castle (closed Jan) and towns such as Honfleur, Deauville and Caen will all be much quieter with fewer tourists around.  I have been to the Tapestry in Bayeux in summer when I queued for a hour to get in and was pushed round at quite a speed by the crowds and then in winter when I walked straight in and could admire the Tapestry at my leisure.  I know which visit I preferred.

    Do always check opening times, though, as a few places close for winter maintenance and many have shorter opening hours.


    Why not visit Normandy for a pre-Christmas break and stock up on French Christmas presents?  You will find delightful markets where you can buy from local artisans and in towns the shops windows are beautifully decorated.  You could take home local cider or Calvados, French cheeses to adorn your festive cheese board and any number of other local food delicacies.

    After Christmas you have the winter sales (soldes d’hiver).  In France shops are legally obliged to runs sales from certain dates and in 2016 they commence at 8am on Wednesday 6th January and last for 6 weeks.  You'll find some fabulous bargains with much stock reduced by 30-50% and often as much as 70%.  Stores are not allowed to bring specific stock on for the sales and so the reductions will be on merchandise that was already for sale in the preceding weeks/months.  It really can be a fabulous tome to pick up some fantastic bargains on everything from clothes to DIY supplies.


    Just because it is winter most restaurants* will still be open and you will have no difficulties getting a reservation at your favourite.  You can also treat yourself a typically French January dessert of a galette des rois.  Traditionally this desert is served on January 6th but it is available to buy all through January and consists of a double payer of buttery puff pastry with a almond paste sandwiched between the two.  

    The reason it is even more special is on account of the small fève hidden inside.  A fève is a broad bean seed which used to be hidden in the galette buthas been replaced by a small figurine nestled in the paste.  Who-ever gets the slice with the fève inside becomes King or Queen for the day and gets to wear the crown that is always supplied with the galette.  Whilst all supermarkets sell these desserts I would recommend paying a bit more and getting one from a local bakery as the quality will be infinitely better.  Our local bakers in the next village (Aux Delices De Saint Pierre) has recently come under new management and their bread and cakes are superb.  I know where I will be buying my galettes des rois this January coming!  Oh and if you are not keen on almonds most places also sell fruit versions.

    *Our local pizzeria in Lenault (yes, we now have a pizzeria in the village called La Table des 2Ifs) is not open in the winter but book yourself a trip here from April onwards and it will be for Saturday evening and Sunday lunchtime pizzas.


    Normandy does not close down for winter and there are still lots of events, exhibitions and festivals taking place.   How about an evening tour of the villages and town taking part in the Christmas illuminations or The Granville Festival in February?  Many towns like Falaise also have pre-Christmas firework displays.

    Cheaper Travel

    If you are travelling to France from the UK then ferry and train prices will be less than in peak summer period.  Don't forget that we have a code to give you 20% off with Brittany Ferries and if you are bring a dog then some of their ferries into Le Havre have dog friendly cabins.  The roads will also be very quiet so you will have no queues going through the tolls.

    Warming wood burner

    With night falling early and after your walk, you have the perfect excuse to curl up in front of the wood burner with your favourite drink.  You can watch a film, play a board game, read a good book (or a really trashy one!) and totally relax .... remember too that with the hour difference between France and the UK if you are used to it falling dark at 4pm, here in Normandy that won't happen until 5pm so you can make that walk a bit longer if you want.


    Yes, you did read that correctly: Piglets.  On Saturday, Coco Chanel, one of our sows, gave birth to 10 adorable piglets and at the moment they are tiny and small enough for me to catch for a stroke.  Our current guests came the same dates last year but they were too early for piglets then.  This time they are so lucky and have had the chance to see them at their most adorable and their 3 year old son is completely captivated with them.  You'll need to get yourself over here quickly if you want to see them at their most cute, though, as they grow so fast!

    If you want to take advantage of a trip to Normandy in Winter, Eco-Gites of Lenault is open all year to warmly welcome guests.  A week will set you back just £350 which for 5 people works out at only £10 per person per night.   For couples we also offer a discount of 15% if only 2 people stay (which can include an infant under 12 months).

    Please click here to visit our website or send us an email for more information by clicking here.

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