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

Friday, 4 January 2019

Spending a few weeks in Devizes in SW England

I apologise for not keeping this blog up to date, but I have been updating the photodiary and my bird blog when I can; you can see the links to both these blogs in the right-hand column of this page.  I had a number of photos of some historic French villages ready to put on here a couple of months back, but my hard drive crashed!! Nothing could be recovered, and although I have the back-up photos, I have not had time to go through them all again!!  Meanwhile, we have a six-week spell in the UK.

Devizes is a vibrant market town with a medieval past, a wealth of history and architectural heritage.

The White Bear is reputed to be the oldest pub in Devizes with a lineage that can be traced back to the first landlord in 1567. It is set close to the market square in the heart of the town. Also close enough to the brewery for their beer to be delivered by the last working horse-drawn dray in the country!
Here it is in action below.



This photo of the Wadworth Brewery dray, is courtesy of a TripAdvisor reviewer. I have taken photos of the horses myself in the past, but all those are in France! The horses and grooms are very early risers and I cannot get out of the house quickly enough in this chilly weather!


Wadworth is a brewery company founded in the town in 1875, still very much in business and probably best known for its 6X beer brand.

The Great Porch House (See below).

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 Bell on the Green pub on the main road towards London, 100 miles (160 km) away.  This pub has very recently been revamped by the owners (Wadworth) and now has large TV screens for watching live sport and two new pool tables. Hopefully, this will be popular with the sports fans!

The old Assize Court, empty for many years and in urgent need of repairs.  The local newspaper reported in November last year that a trust has bought the historic building and launched a major fundraising campaign to raise £10 million  ($13 million) to transform the building into a new museum. Action long overdue!

Church of St. Mary the Virgin, built in the 12th century to serve the new borough of Devizes. It is only open for weddings, funerals and the like these days, and normal services are held at the principal church, St Johns, near the castle.

A hop and a skip away is the Church of St. James, so dedicated in 1505. The church is first mentioned in 1461 as being on "the Green" and was sometimes called the Green Church. It is thought that the church might occupy the site of an earlier, no doubt wooden, hospital chapel, which had gone by 1338. Fighting during the Civil War in the 17th century resulted in cannonball damage to the stonework, the marks of which can still be seen on the tower! The church was rebuilt in 1831-2  to provide more accommodation for the citizens of the growing town, some of the original stone being reused. 

Panelled doors to the building erected in 1785 by John Anstie for the manufacture of woollen cloth. It was one of the first cloth factories in the West of England. The tympanum sculpture above the doors commemorated this and illustrates some of the processes, machines and materials involved. 

Looking down the main street leading into the market square.  Markets are still held every Tuesday and Saturday.

Walking out of Devizes along the Quaker's Way, I could see the Devizes white horse. The most recent of the several white horses in the area, this was carved in 1999, to celebrate the Millennium.


Part of the Caen Hill flight of locks, where the Kennet & Avon climbs a steep hill into Devizes.

More details of this impressive engineering feat accomplished over 200 years ago!

The Kennet & Avon canal system is actually made up of three historic waterways, the Kennet Navigation, the Avon Navigation and the Kennet & Avon canal.  This is a photo of the wharf at Devizes. Note the dog sitting on top of the narrowboat!

A morning shot of the canal, with the mist sitting low.

See also photodiarydps

and my bird blog