Monday, 10 February 2020

10/02/2020 A day out in the Charente.

This post is also copied to my Photodairydps.

Leaving home we headed out on an empty road towards Saint Claud...

Saint Claud.This road used to be the main N141 trunk road before the bypass came!

Soon all these trees will be sprouting; the only green at present is the ivy which is taking over.

Through the village of Grand Madieu.

The narrow roads of Champagne Mouton.

We crossed over the L'Or (gold) river.

Through the village of Benest where we saw this 2CV minus a wheel...

and at the war memorial, we turned here towards Chatain on the D4

Hmmm, somewhat narrow streets in Chatain; we just managed to get out of the way for the truck to come through...

To drive past the church of Saint-Pierre.

Over the 17th century vaulted arch bridge called Pont de Chatain that crosses the Charente river..

The beautiful avenue of trees that should have taken us to Charroux; somehow the satnav missed the village going this way, but we discovered it on our way back home!

Finally the sign to Saint Romain, our destination. There is another of the same name 4 miles away, so it's confusing!

 The church in Saint Romain...

and the restaurant - Bouton D'Or, with its baguette machine outside for the convenience of local residents.

Inside the restaurant.  We were early, so I managed this photo before any more arrivals.  We actually had a bit of a floor show later with a gentleman on the piano, and presumably, it was his wife singing along!

We started out with soup, not a very interesting photo, followed by this charcuterie, and of course French bread...

The main course was sausage, meatballs and haricot casserole; it was very tasty but did not make a very good photo.  Then came the famous French cheese board with dried fruit, nuts, chutney and jam. Delicious.

Dessert was a crepe with some fruit, flavoured with cognac.  Not forgetting the bottle of red wine that came with the meal.  All followed by an espresso coffee.
A bargain at only €16.50 each for the lot!

Returning home, we went through the town of Charroux which we somehow missed on the route going !!
The colour of this photo was very odd so I decided that black and white would be better.
You can see part of the ancient covered market on the right, and beyond it is the Charlemagne tower, the remains of the ruined Charroux abbey. You can read about it HERE.

The beautiful covered market. 

and finally you can see just how much rain we have had, by this shot of flooded fields.


See also my

 Bird blog

and my Photodairy where this will also be published


Monday, 25 November 2019

Part One of our trip to South Africa.

We have been back home for the last 10 days, but neither of us feels perfectly well and do forgive me if blogs are slow for a while, as I'm short of the energy needed to go through the many hundreds of photos that I took! HOWEVER, this malaise takes nothing away and did not detract at all from the fabulous welcomes, entertainment and trips organised by our generous hosts, Steve and Cathy, Patrick and Christelle and Gordon and Julie! We really enjoyed seeing them again and joining in with the arrangements. It was to be a truly memorable and varied holiday!

We arrived in Johannesburg on Friday 11 October. Our health problems emerged a few days later in the most unusually cold weather in RSA, which was generally the pattern for all but a couple of days in the Kruger Park, when the temperature rose to 46C; talk about extremes!  Airconditioning is always a concern for us both, and the long flights can be draining on the system.  Three flights going there and three coming home, plus a 9-hour wait in Gatwick to board the final leg between Gatwick and Bordeaux. This was perhaps a "too ambitious" schedule and age is not on our side!

  I didn't take a lot of photos in Johannesburg, as my telephoto lens was playing up! Thanks to an internet search and to Cathy for ferrying us, we managed to get an identical second-hand replacement in a nearby mall. It later proved not to be in perfect shape, but I think I have some reasonable photos to show you over the next few weeks!

Flying from Bordeaux to Gatwick on 10 October.  We then had to bus to Heathrow with all our suitcases!! No luggage transfers by the airline!

Arrival in Johannesburg on 11 October - wonderful Jacaranda trees!

In our friends' garden; some strelitzia flowers.

A distant shot of what I know as a Grey lourie - it seems now that the common name is simply the Go-Away bird due to its call. (Corythaixoides concolor).

Laughing dove (Spilopelia senegalensis).

 Common bulbul or Black-eyed bulbul (Pycnonotus barbatus).

Hadeda ibis (Bostrychia hagedash), They are very noisy and had a liking for the friends' cottage where we were sleeping.  Not only with their call, but they seemed to enjoy jumping up and down on the tin roof (not this one!) as well!!

Our friends, Cathy and Steve's cat Leo.  He is a Main Coon, apparently the largest of the domestic cat breeds.  At just 5 months, he already weighs in at 9 kg!  So beautiful and with a fabulous temperament.

We took a trip to Steve's workshop to see what he was working on.  This is his race car, a Porsche 910, and.....

and he painstakingly restores other sports cars.  This looks like an interesting project with plenty of work to do!

Finally, more jacaranda trees! We caught them almost in full flower and before the heavy summer showers could drive the petals to the ground!

On Monday 14th, we flew to Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape, where Nigel was the first one to feel unwell and he spent the first two days there in bed!

This is a copy from my post on My photodiary. I will be posting the rest of this holiday on that blog as it really has nothing to do with my Life in the Charente.  Please make a note of the above link if you want to see my other photos which are mostly African Wildlife.  Thanks for following. Diane

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Sunday, 3 March 2019

Recycling in Charente

Rather a different subject for this latest blog, but one which has become important to us all! The Charente department (county) has two household waste treatment facilities, one for refuse and one for recycled material. We thought a visit to the nearby recycling facility would be an educational experience, so we got ourselves included in one of the regular organised tours a few days back to see an example of how  France approaches this critical service.

The facility is run by Calitom, a quasi-governmental body. This site was developed on part of an old military base and it was completed in 2015, using the latest available technology in its design. A  high level of automation and mechanisation is involved; there seemed to be surprisingly few people working there! The building also incorporates very "green" principles,  innovative electricity generation and sedum (plant) roof coverings being two examples.

A model of the recycling complex, which processes about 40,000 tonnes of material every year. This does not include glass, which is collected separately everywhere in France. Large green plastic collection bins for glass, regularly emptied, are scattered throughout villages and towns; many large supermarkets have them too. There are about 1050 in the Charente and the public appear very committed to using them!
The principle used by Calitom is that the householder is given no responsibility for any kind of recycle sorting, beyond the decision whether the material is recyclable or not. In the UK, for example, the householder is required to sort and this appears to cause cross-contamination problems when the sorting is not done correctly.

Unsorted recycled material is collected from householders in free yellow (recyclable!) plastic bags every 2 weeks on a house-by-house basis. The lorries bring the bags to this enormous unloading area; they discharge them through the big roller shutter doors you can see at the back.

A rubber tracked mini-shovel (you can just see the bucket in the last photo) scoops the bags up and loads them into the hopper above. This is the last of the quieter part of the process and the guided tour passed us into the noisy conveyor hall. Visitors are provided with wi-fi type headphones which both mask the background din and allow one to hear the guide's commentary!

The first part of the material sort is by size, using a big revolving cylindrical sieve called a trommel, in which items drop out through varying size holes as it rotates; the smallest items drop out first, although some of these, like corks, cannot be recycled and have to be rejected.

Once sorted by the trommel, the material drops on to a variety of other conveyors.

This is an inclined vibrating conveyor referred to in the blue sign below. The photo had to be taken from an awkward angle; the belt is rising from left to right and the shot is taken from above. The grey tube is a handrail over which I was leaning!

This sign describes the process of a sloping vibrating conveyor, on which lighter flat plastic is carried towards the top before being diverted to other belts, while heavier plastic containers are shaken to the foot of the conveyor and diverted there.

This is a belt manned by people (!), who were manually separating plastic and paper "families" (see photo below). Plastic sheet is transferred by the sorters via chutes to other belts, leaving only cardboard and paper on this belt, as can be seen here.

The sign informs us about optical sorting of plastic and paper, once these "families" have been separated. Sensors detect the different compositions of clear and coloured polythene, paper, cardboard, and magazines, etc and they are separated by means of jets of air, which are used to blow selected items on to different belts for further sorting.

 In case you were wondering about metals, this sign explains that iron and steel detected on the conveyor are removed by magnet, while non-ferrous metals are isolated by a device called Foucault's current (eddy current), which is apparently a kind of magnetic field!

A top to bottom view of the facility showing its substantial height.

Sorting belts for newspapers and magazines. This was taken during a 15 minute workers' rest break! Photography of the workers themselves was, understandably, not allowed.

A row of bins for sundry items which shouldn't have been put in the "yellow bag" system, like batteries and electrical items for example, but which nevertheless have value and which would be recycled to appropriate places via these bins.

Bales of correctly recovered paper, plastic, etc awaiting removal to stacks in an outside yard, from where they are loaded on lorries for transport elsewhere. Each bale weighs about one tonne.

A display board showing the impressive variety of material which can be processed in this facility. As of this year, even aluminium foil and small jar tops of steel and aluminium can now be recycled, as you can see in the photo. We enjoyed the tour and benefitted from the visual experience and the commentary and explanations from the guide. If you can find a tour like this in your area, we suggest it would be worth going along!

My thanks to Nigel for the write up here, while the photos are mine.


See also my photodiarydps

and my bird blog

Monday, 21 January 2019

Devizes tour Part II

A few more of the historic buildings to be seen in Devizes. I apologise in advance for the length of this blog, but I did not want to stretch to a third post!
House of the 18th century surgeon Joseph Needham, who lived and worked in Devizes. A grand and ornate facade- he must have made some money!


Landsdowne House is now a highly prestigious Grade II* listed office building in the centre of Devizes. The frontage was rebuilt in about 1809.

*As stated in the last post, Grade II listing of a property means, in effect, that owners are not allowed, under planning regulations, to make any alterations to either the structure or the interior fittings, save only for safety renovations and damage repairs.


The Brittox is the main pedestrianised shopping area of Devizes. The Brittox itself runs from left to right in this photo,  with Little Brittox ahead.

Fountain in the market square, dedicated to Thomas Sotheron Estcourt - a former town MP and holder of high government office- see below.


The iconic red public telephone kiosk, designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, is a familiar sight on the streets of the United Kingdom. There are still a few working boxes around, despite the fact the most people now carry a mobile phone! Behind it is another icon, the British red pillar (mail) box. In 1853 the first pillar box in the United Kingdom was installed at Botchergate, Carlisle in the north of England.

St Andrews Church is a Methodist church in Devizes ...

See above.

A pedestrian passage with the church of St Johns and St Marys at the end...

The churches of Devizes St. John and St. Mary have an inextricably linked history, as they have always had a single rector, despite the fact that the two churches have separate incomes and separate parish officers.
In 1906, the rector at that time, J. G. Watson, tried to separate the parishes, but he wasn't successful!
It is probable that  St John's and St Mary's were built as a pair by Bishop Roger between 1120 and 1135, to serve the populations in the different parts of the town.

As above - another view!

St Johns Court, the building on the right on the passage above, is a former medieval hall.


A very old "half-timbered" building right opposite the church. 

Devizes castle - private property and difficult to get photos of!

The first castle on this site was built in 1080 by Osmund, Bishop of Salisbury. but was burnt down in 1113! It was rebuilt in stone by Roger, Bishop of Salisbury, by 1120. He occupied it during the reigns of King Henry I and later King Stephen. Roger's allegiance to Stephen proved to be a mistake and the castle was taken and retaken in subsequent fighting! It remained Crown property and was used as a prison by Henry II and Henry III. It went on to become the property of Catherine of Aragon, the first wife of Henry VIII.

The building is now divided into two dwellings in private ownership and is not open to the public. Must be draughty in the winter!

The Market Cross was designed by Benjamin Wyatt and was given by Lord Sidmouth. It is well worth a close examination for there is a plaque that bears a chilling account of the sudden end of Ruth Pierce of Potterne in 1753. On being accused of theft, Ruth protested her innocence and called on God to strike her dead if she were telling a lie. It seems the Almighty took her at her word and the stolen money was found in her dead hand.

The famous statue of Ceres, the Roman Goddess of the harvest, adorns the Corn Exchange and keeps vigil over the Market Place. Opened in 1857, the Corn Exchange was originally a covered market where cereals were traded.

The Bear hotel, an original 16th century Coaching Inn boasting beams of plenty and an abundance of original features

The Old Town Hall is a Grade II* listed building. Formerly the Cheese Hall, this building was used as a Town Hall during the building of the present Town Hall and is now occupied by a bank.


Devizes Town Hall is a Thomas Baldwin designed building constructed between 1806 and 1808.


The Shambles - a walk-through covered market.

Inside the Shambles on a quiet day.

A leafy walkway I found where I managed to get the photos of the castle.

The Devizes War Memorial.


See also photodiarydps

and my bird blog