Wood burners installed we now turned our attention to the landscaping.
The house has a very old Fosse Septique and by some miracle SPANC have not condemned it, but in order to start work on the main area of the garden and save disruption later I have decided to have a new one installed in the Spring.
Fig Tree coming down
The first thing to be done was to remove the huge fig tree in the position of the new tank. This was probably planted in its position to take up the outflow from the existing septic tank as it has grown exponentially since we have started using the house again after it being empty for many years. Typically, the tree is laden with hundreds of near ripe figs for the first time since we have owned the house, but it still needs to go!
Fig tree down, it was then time build the new oak sleeper steps. It is the plan to use the rear entrance to our land to bring in the vehicles so they are not parked directly beside the new terrace. These new steps will link the rear entrance to the new terrace and front of the house.
Bang on time the digger arrived closely followed by 10 tonnes of limestone, so we now had a full two days to build the steps.
This all went to plan and the weather obliged with two sunny clear days. By 4 o’clock on Thursday, after moving tonnes and tonnes of soil and limestone rocks the steps were complete. A retaining wall to be built in the spring at the top of the slope incorporating stone steps will complete the side and allow the gradient at the rear entrance to be reduced allowing us to drive in next summer and park behind the house.
Leaving the house in November is the worst parting, as Christmas means no return for alt lease twelve weeks. Who knows though, perhaps with two functioning wood burners, Christmas may be spent at Frelon Cottage one year!
Looking down from the rear entrance
Phase one complete
This summer Frelon Cottage was the perfect summer holiday cottage. Completed internally save for the fireplaces (more on that later) and with the newly built steps and side terrace it functioned as a home from home for three and half weeks of the beautiful French summer.
Frelon Cottage this summer
To extend the usability of the house into autumn and winter it was planned to install two wood burners on this visit. Also, as preparation for the new septic tank next spring it was planned to take down the outsized fig tree and close the trenches dug two years ago for the new electrical supply and new foul water drainage. Whilst a digger was being hired it would be rude not to carry out some more landscaping! so I had arranged for some oak sleepers to be delivered to the house from a nearby sawmill to create some more steps.
As described in a previous post the large fireplace in the kitchen was one of the things that in an unrenovated state gave me the creeps! Now capped with a rain cowl and a new concrete hearth it was better, but as with most French chimneys, it still leaked when it rained and this brought down soot into the newly decorated kitchen. The plan was to seal the chimneys top and bottom and install flue liners thus making them water tight and hornet proof! A new Franco Belge stove had been brought down on this trip and a vintage Jotul 602 (brought down last summer) were to be fitted in the large openings of the kitchen and upstairs fireplaces.
Preparing the new stone hearth
All went to plan and with relative ease (no building regs in France!) except for a slight miscalculation on the kitchen stove needing a rear exit rather than a top one. This would not normally be a problem , but as with many things, we in England use a different size fittings to the rest of Europe and we could not buy a 125mm tee section to allow this….so next time!
Franco Belge Stove ready to go in
So after two days of creating stone hearths, lining and capping chimneys and coupling flue sections I finally had some radiant heat in the house from the upstairs Jotul. We have used electric convector heaters on Easter visits , but convected warm air is no substitute for the warmth of a wood burner.
Jotul 602 installed
The weather in late October is pleasant, 18-22 degrees and at night it is still not that cold but it was so nice to light and sit in front of real crackling fire once the sun went down!
The first fire upstairs
Madame on the new hearth
Nice and cosy! The fireback will be painted once the lime render is dry!