It was essential I was able to get down to Frelon Cottage this Autumn.

Not because I needed a break, but as when we left in August I left the freezer and water still on. Also the lawn which had no irrigation due to the spring lockdown had died fully in parts and the wildflower area which had established to a certain extent, needed maintenance.

With all this in mind, I had been in contact with my friends in France and had been watching the news regarding Covid and any associated travel restrictions. I sensed things were closing in so travelled down despite a forecast of five wet days from seven. I did not realise just how close things were to closing in completely.

Arriving at dusk in torrential rain I was keen to jump out and see my new roof on the ‘The Cave’, but as I did so, something not quite right caught my eye. A pile of rocks, rubble and timber was stacked against by chalk piers and strewn down my steps into the garden.


The neighbours above us are renovating a barn as a holiday home. On a whim, Ousmane took the roof of their piggery, a fatal error as these buildings are of chalk boulders are stuck together with nothing more than clay. When this gets wet, by a roof failure or removal, they collapse (as I found out with The Cave). This building with no roof had collapsed, I think, in this downpour, along one side into my garden.

The next day after moving a couple tonnes of rocks, I started on my other task to protect the house from the wet this winter, rubbing down and repainting the shutters of the windward side of the house.

Rainy day shutter workshop

Back in 2016 I decided that the subtle green originally chosen for external woodwork was too pale and repainted with a bright Provincal blue. This turned out to be a mistake as it is, on reflection, too brash for this region of France, so as they needed painting again, Cooking Apple Green it is.

In between coats of paint and torrential showers, I began the process of scarifying and reseeding the lawn, strimming and weeding the wildflowers and helping Sam with stripping off the Ping Pong barn roof (unlike the neighbours, we are rebuilding immediately, rather than leaving it for two years and letting it collapse. Saying that, on stripping the roof I realised that if it had been left for a few months more it would have collapsed!)

Very rotten

By the end of the week all tasks were completed and I realised just how close I was to being totally closed out, as France introduced a new period of Confinement and I have now returned to the prospect of a lockdown in UK.

So no more visits this year and next year who knows?

Rebuilt ready for tiles

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