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Wednesday, 30 November 2016

MoHo Trip No. 4: Loire Valley, Part 1

When my brother was staying with us in the early summer we took advantage to get away in the moho together. My bro hasn't seen a lot of France outside of some major cities which he's visited for rugby matches, and of course the Alps/Jura where we used to live. K and I visited the Loire Valley about 20 years ago so we were all happy to get out of Brittany and go somewhere else for a change. It's just about do-able for a short break (we had three nights) but as we soon realised, you really need at least a week, if not more, to see the area properly. It's full of interesting places, quite aside from all the chateaux!

Our first port of call was outside of the Loire Valley or the Touraine as it's known in France, but sort of on the way. My brother had done a bit of research and came up with a Japanese garden that sounded interesting. Well interesting it certainly was and I would never have known of its existence if he hadn't mentioned it. I'm talking about the Parc Oriental de Maulévrier which is just outside of Cholet, between Nantes and Saumur.

I won't go into all its history as that is covered in English on their website (and in more detail in French), but suffice to say it is the usual case of a beautiful garden falling into disrepair after the war, and being brought back to life by careful renovation work in more recent decades, following original plans and photos. The town council own the park now which is separate from the chateau, Chateau Colbert, which is privately owned. The gardens were inspired by the Edo period in Japanese history and this has been recognised by visiting Japanese horticultural professors. It is now apparently the largest Japanese themed garden in Europe.

We spent a really enjoyable afternoon here - whether you are into gardening/gardens or not, just come for a walk - and bring your camera!! Here are some of the many photos that I took.

Chateau Colbert (what a view they have.....)

Cloud pruning, as you will see in the following photos, was everywhere. I absolutely love it, though did wonder how on earth they managed to prune the many trees that jutted out over the lake!

The Pagoda

Khmer Temple

OK so how do they prune these trees then?! They must have scaffolding out over the water once or twice a year.

The bridge must be one of the most photographed parts of the garden, along with the pagoda.

A mallard having a preen of its beautiful feathers for the camera.

The far end of the lake.

From the far end are wonderful views back over the lake and the Chateau.

The planting was special with amazing maples - I fell in love with this tree and its seed pods (I don't know what it is, either maple or sycamore).

Of course there was a building with bonsai trees on display. There's a Salon de Thé and a boutique here too.

I didn't see many butterflies but in the sensory garden at the far end of the lake I came across these Meadow Browns.

The walk back on the other side of the lake - cloud pruning (if that is what it is called here) is still in evidence on these low lying shrubs. I love this style too but it must be oh so labour intensive.

The small purple tree here is 'my' Forest Pansy! I've never seen this tree planted anywhere else other than my garden and another in Rosie's, a fellow blogger's, garden in Scotland. Not very Japanese as I know it comes from N. America! It's Cercis canadensis 'Forest Pansy' to give it its full name, known to N. Americans as the Eastern Redbud tree.

So that concludes the tour, but as I haven't any pictures of Mary Moho, here's one from home of K taking clothes on board. Well, it is a Moho trip after all....

More to come from the Loire Valley trip! 

Friday, 4 November 2016

October roundup and who's been wallowing in my pond mud?

I am back from a week spent with my Mum in not so sunny Somerset, one of the reasons I've been quiet since my last post. More about that further on because I want to show pics I've taken throughout the month in some vague order. I have only taken photos on my phone as I wasn't really in the mood for shooting anything much in my garden for the gazillionth time, so these are just a few things that I found or that happened along the way. 

Andrea the hen 'helping' after I'd just weeded the tubs. I am down to only two hens now as the one who had scaly leg mite died, poor thing. I'm not replacing them and guess what, we just had to BUY some eggs!!! Both hens are now in full moult so have stopped laying.

And here she is pecking at maggots from the bag of bird peanuts that we found wriggling. It really annoys me when that happens as they are really expensive to buy and aren't always available, hence us usually buying several bags at a time. The hens weren't interested in eating the peanuts though, but luckily (or not) we had a nighttime visitor a few nights ago who came and scoffed them up. K spotted a fox one night just after he'd put the outside light on looking for Harry who hadn't come in. He thought it was Harry for a moment until he realised Harry didn't have such big ears and a pointy face. I'm wary about a fox getting into the garden and fear for the cats as well as the ducks, but as it happened dear Harry was safe as he'd got himself locked in the barn for the night! It was pretty cool seeing the fox though.

I spotted this Small Heath butterfly roosting on the Golden Rod at about 5pm one evening, long before we changed the clocks.

I also found this huge Fox Moth caterpillar. You can see from the photo with my hand just how big it is.

And now, something very interesting - another thing that's both exciting to see but also makes me wary about such a thing getting into the garden. This is up the far end of the pond where the stream comes in and the shallowest area of lake, so it dries up when the pond level is very low (it's down about 4 foot or more right now). Well now, what might have caused this? There was a trail of deep footprints and a big area that had been wallowed in. We conclude it must have been a wild boar, because the footprints are cloven and have sunk in very deeply compared to the other pawprints around it.

It might be best if you click on this photo to view it larger, as you can see coarse hair marks in the mud, just like a wild boar had been lying against it.

Again, if you look closer at the next photo you can see pawprints which at the time I thought either dog or fox, and now that we know that a fox got in, I'm guessing they must be fox tracks. The wild boar's tracks are much deeper. 

We realised that we never repaired a hole in the fence where the fence crosses the stream, so that has now been rectified (although the fox was spotted after that was done, so must be getting in through one of the holes where the cats get out. We can't repair every bit of damaged fence wire under the hedge.)

Our 'tree man' has just been to give a quote for felling more overcrowded trees and thinks he may be able to remove the stand of alders that fell over into the pond earlier in the year. Part of it is still in water, the rest in mud too squidgy to walk on and I have no idea how deep that mud is as I don't want to lose my wellies! I guess planks to stand on is the way to go. 

Piccy of the cats, though no Hallie. The lawn is how we found it when we came back from hols after it had finally rained - very blotchy. We're still awaiting the autumn rains.

Back to England, I had a lovely time, a lot of it spent eating all my favourite things! I love clotted cream and having a cream tea was so good I had to take a photo of it. K stayed at home looking after the menagerie and I flew over and my brother picked me up from Southampton airport. Sadly Flybe only use the Exeter route for a few months in the summer now and in fact there are no flights to Southampton during winter anymore. I came home on the last flight of the year. Both flights were full by the way. Conclude from that what you will.

It was gloomy most days but I did a bit of gardening for Mum and got out for a nice long walk with the husband of a friend of my Mum with his dog, which was great as it was a round trip walk that otherwise I would never have known existed. We saw dozens of pheasants. Here is a pic from the top of Mum's garden with the neighbour's Sumac tree looking really colourful.

On the way home I had a good view and the sun came out as soon as we hit France (of course!) so I took a load of photos as we were coming in to land. Love these old prop planes!

And then it was back to collecting yet more walnuts to add to the pile, and yet more huge windfall apples. I intend to stew up a load of apples and freeze them as apple sauce.

I did take a few photos of the garden with my phone. My Forest Pansy has been looking great all October, but we just had a proper white frost the other day so tons of leaves have dropped off the trees now.

And here's the pond showing how low it is, with the fallen tree just visible at the far end.

I've not been terribly in the mood for blogging - think I'm suffering from blog writer's block. It doesn't help that the depression is lurking now the gloomy weather is back, although it's mostly kept at bay by my medication. So if my posts are sporadic then that will be why. I have recently had a CT scan for my twice annual check up and everything was fine, so that's one year clear of cancer now! And I don't have a hernia which I thought I had. I do have a bulge which is why I thought I had one, but the scan just shows fat..... :-)