September Supermoon.

Last night was a rare treat for star (and planet) gazers! The ‘September Supermoon’, plus the added bonus of a total lunar eclipse. The weather was just perfect here at Le Chant d’Oiseau, so we took advantage and stayed up really late! In fact, we barely got to bed!

A little explanation: a ‘supermoon’ occurs when the moon, in her orbit around the earth passes at its closest point to us. It appears in the sky slightly larger and very much brighter. The eclipse happens when the sun, the earth and the moon are in perfect alignment, the sun casting the earth’s shadow across the face of the moon. The two do happen separately fairly often, but for them to happen together is pretty rare iIndeed, and it’ll be another 18 years before it happens again!

We watched TV for an hour or so before we wrapped up in warm clothing. Even though the weather has been sunny and warm during the daytime, we knew that the clear skies would bring a chill. The telescope was already out and in situ, along with the DSLR on the tripod, having set them up earlier in the evening, before the light of day faded. We stepped outside, walked across the courtyard and, looking up, we were treated to a celestial smorgasbord. The moon was just as perfect as ever to begin our evening’s skywatching session, turning into a menacing red ember by the end of the night. We followed the trails of the satellites as they zoomed across the sky, reflected by the light of the setting sun, far away, as it fell into the southern hemisphere.

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A long exposure image of ‘The Plough’ revealed other stars around that quite simply couldn’t be seen with the naked eye at this point, the moon was so bright!

Long exposure of The PloughWe zoomed in on Orion later on, and the nebula in particular. Even in black and white through the telescope, it was an awe-inspiring sight. This is where stars are ‘born’, and through the ‘scope looks like a shimmering smoke screen with bursts of brilliant light emitting from within. One of these days I will treat myself to a camera specially for the telescope, and share some of these celestial wonders with you! In the meantime, you’ll have to settle for a timed exposure image of the constellation, rather than the nebula. It’s fascinating to see just how fast we’re spinning, as we record the star ‘trails’ as they cross the viewfinder in such a short time.

OrionEven though we were constantly watching the moon, and getting the telescope back on station, we had a mess around with time-lapse on the Canon DSLR, showing some star trails, and Team Le Chant (yes, there’s really just the two of us), creeping up on the camera!

2All this to a soundtrack of hooting and screeching owls, which were busy hunting by the magnified light of the largest, brightest moon seen in quite some time.


As the evening progressed, we saw the light dim, and the moon shadows fade as the sun, earth and the moon aligned. It was just stunning to compare how, just a short time earlier, we were walking by the light of the moon around the place – no other light source was on, and now it was almost pitch dark, and we could see the stars, the constellations where previously, due to the brightness, we were lucky to pick out the major constellations. Now, the heavens were being revealed in all their magnificent splendour. The Milky Way strode across the night sky, there were a few fleeting, but oh-so-bright shooting stars and we reluctantly turned our attentions back to la lune.

We were treated to a moon drenched in a blood red veil, obscuring the finer details of the lunar surface – even through the powerful 8″ reflector.



At a little after 6am, we called it a night, and retreated to the warmth of the farmhouse, amazed that we’d seen such a memorable celestial event, and happy that we’d been able to capture the moment on camera. These images simply don’t do the night justice, and to really, truly appreciate the tremendous dark skies we have here, I’ve promised myself better eyepieces for the telescope, and to work on my camera techniques, in order to better capture the beauty that’s all too evident above us, when we’re able to witness events such as this, but which we rarely take the time to appreciate.

Until the next time, au revoir…..and do remember to look up from time to time, you now have an idea of what you’re missing!

What’s been happening?

Where to start? That’s the problem! Why not start with the happy stuff?

Ok – in 2015 we celebrated our tenth year here at Le Chant. Ten happy years providing holidays that will (hopefully) be remembered by our guests. Many of whom have become good friends. Many of whom booked to come and share in the fun & festivities here with us this August. What a crazy fortnight that was….

More of that in a separate post, I think!

More happy news – I know I mentioned in a recent(!) ‘blog that our eldest was to be married here at Le Chant in the late summer of 2014. That was a magical day for all of us as a family. Our newly created barn was dressed up for the occasion, as were we all, and we celebrated in style.

Yet more happy news – our eldest and his (by now) wife, Jenna, gave us our first grandaughter in March this year. Ella Louise was born in Devon, lived for a short time in Cornwall, and is now happily settled up in Yorkshire! She’s only 6 months old, but is already a well-travelled Little Miss! She even came to France to see Grandma & Grandad, and we’re eagerly awaiting them announcing when they’re coming to visit again.

More happy news? Our beautiful daughter and her partner, Steve, gave us our second grandaughter in April! Wow! What a month we had. Capucine is doted on by all and just last weekend had the reception for her bapteme here at Le Chant!

Have you had enough yet? No? Ok – well, this one’s a mixture of happy and sad. Niall, our youngest, and his girlfriend, Emma, decided that they’d have more of a chance at getting on in life back in the UK than they would here in France, and so we were sad to see them leave for Devon a few weeks ago. But, Niall’s landed a great job with a small roofing company close to their new home and they’re both happy. You can only watch them grow, and do what makes them happy, can’t you?

More good news? Oh go on then – a couple who’ve stayed with us a few times before have asked if we’d host their wedding here next year. We accepted in a heartbeat, and we’re now on a countdown to July 2016, when we get to show everyone just what makes this a very special place, again.

So, despite the best intentions of some – we’re still here! We’re as happy as ever, and the business is going from strength to strength. Le Chant d’Oiseau has never looked better, and we’re constantly working very hard to improve what we offer to our guests. I guess that’s why our merry band of returnees is growing faster than ever?

If you want to book, you’d better do it soon. You only have to look at the bookings we already have for next year to see that it’s going to be another brilliant season!

Right – it’s time to show you a few pictures!

It’s nice to be back, I do hope you’ll stick around and watch us grow into the next ten years. Please do feel free to comment, and….

Until the next time – au revoir!

A fresh start.

It appears that either my Little ‘friend’ is on holiday, and without the required wifi access with which to post his hate, or he’s been rumbled by his wife, Mags, after she discovered our facebook page, and made the connection between her hateful husband, and the harassment he’s visited upon us for the past 8 years or so. Either way, I’m happy that he’s not been seen since the 6th of September, when he last posted his trite rubbish on his facebook wall.

So, I’ve decided that life’s too short to have my own life ‘stifled’ by this Little ‘man’, and have promised myself that my ‘blogs will be unprotected (if he feels like popping in to make a stupid comment, it’ll only serve to show him for what he is anyway, so what does it matter?), and I’ll try & resurrect my Chantography page too – keeping the page fed with images taken on my (limited) travels around our bit of France.

The ‘blog will be the usual mix of comment and news when and if I have the time to sit down and write, so please bear with me.

This one is really just more of a notice of intention to you all (and to my tame stalker) to be on the lookout for some musings from me in the very near future.

So, in the time-honoured tradtion of my ‘blogs….

Until the next time, au revoir.

Here we are, coming up to the end of another year here at Le Chant d’Oiseau. Next year will be our 9th here, and we’ll have outlasted the previous two incumbents by two years. We safely negotiated the seven year itch, but not without scratching lots!

Sad news came in the form of an email a few days ago from Sue Higgins, to inform us of the sad death of her beloved husband, Terry. Terry & Sue were the first English owners of Le Chant, purchasing in 1990/91. They pretty much laid down the foundations of what Le Chant has now become. They set the tone with neighbours too, becoming great friends with our own good friends, Nicole & Lionel, and la famille Douaire. sue took on the task of teaching Lionel & Nicole’s son, Loic, English on a part-time basis when he fell behaind at school due to illness. We were in turn saved a couple of times by Loic being able to speak our language when we first arrived. That’s a legacy left by Sue & Terry. We in turn have tried to do our bit too, teaching Sylviane’s grandaughter, Julie, the basics of English too, and watching proudly as her own grades improve. terry & Sue came from Yorkshire, and they integrated well into this rural french life. Just this past September, we had a visit from one of thier guests, who has actually been here at some time or another during the last three English owner’s residences. He reminisced about Terry & Sue fondly, and we could relate directly to what he was telling us. Many people who now live in the area stayed here whilst their own house purchases were going through. Some have contacted us to pass on their condolances to Sue. We certainly learned a thing or two from them and they became regular visitors, and good friends to us in our own tenure here at Le Chant. Terry was much loved for his humour and he will be very much missed by all who knew him.

One of the things that Le Chant is known for are the many & varied species of trees that grow here. This in turn attracts a vast array of birds. Many different species (over 70 have been counted on site alone!) make their home here. This year though, out of a need to make safe the campsite for guests, and to improve our own lives here, we decided that some serious culling was necessary. Some 10 trees have been felled, or trimmed in the past couple of weeks, with three more getting the chop tomorrow! We’ve worked hard to re-use much of the timber we’ve gained and we’ll have a few surprises dotted around the site this summer for guests to use! Keep an eye on our facebook page for details and pictures soon!

This year also saw my 50th birthday! Yes, it’s official. Now that I’ve crossed the line, I’m allowed to be ‘officially’ curmudgeonly! So watch out! 😉 The day was just lovely, with a mass of pressies and cards waiting for me with a lunch in Saumur at one of our favourite places, the Pot de Lapin. This was followed by a surprise flight from the aerodrome at Saumur to Mouliherne to overfly our home. It’s actually really difficult to follow a route from the air as everything looks so different! I don’t think we fully appreciate just how heavily forested the area is! Still, we found it and pointed the pilot in the right direction. we flew low enough to wave, and be waved at, by family and campers down below! Some even took pictures of us as we circled!

Other exciting news is that our eldest son, Liam, is due to be married here next year. He and his fiancée, Jenna made a trip over to see us a couple of weeks ago from Cornwall, where they live. we saw vicars, churches, hairdressers, florists and catering people all in the space of a few days. We ate out, we ate in. We drank lots of fizzy wine just for research, you understand? All too quickly, it was time for them to head back home to Kernow, with the promise to return in the New Year. It was just lovely to have our nest full again, with all three of our kids and their lovely partners. Even though it wasn’t for long. The plans for the wedding continue despite the distance (thankyou facebook), and we’re gradually getting more & more excited.

We have so many people that visit us with their bikes, or borrow one from our motley fleet, that we thought it high time that we bought decent biked of our own. So, taking advice from a guest who has subsequently become a great mate, I invested in the first road bike I’ve owned since I was in my teens. Syb was duly presented with a new bike for her birthday too! We kind of decided that we needed to keep fit during the off season, and cycling was a great way to do just that. I’ve loved cycling as a spectator sport for years, and we’ve seen the Tour de France a few times living here. This summer, a stage of the ‘most beautiful race on earth’ passed once more through our home commune of Mouliherne. We had a packed site and gites, so most people found themselves swept along in the excitement of it all, and had the most fantastic time. More on that in a separate ‘highlights of the year’ kind of post!

My bike, ‘Wosie’, has well over 1200kms on her ‘clock’ now, and Syb’s ‘Frankie’ (It’s a Nakamura Valley, hence Frankie) isn’t that far behind. Wosie is a B’Twin Triban 3 from Decathlon. I highly recommend one to anyone thinking of getting back on a bike, or indeed, just starting out. It’s a comfy ride on a well built and sturdy (but not too heavy) frame, especially with upgraded wheels and tyres, as mine has. One of the highlights for me was to ride into Saumur & back one Sunday afternoon, purely on a whim. It was so easy, effortless (he lies). In fact, the outward trek was in fact exactly that. The return, however – well that’s a different story. One again for another ‘blog. But – since then, Wosie, Frankie, Syb & I have become good pals. Our fitness and endurance levels have certainly improved and we’ve lost weight too. Bonus! All we need do now is build on this into 2014, which will see a few more ‘challenges’ realised, I’m sure!

That’s about it for now, apologies for leaving such a long gap between ‘blogs, but as you can possibly tell, we’ve neither been idle, nor unhappy.

Until the next time, au revoir.

With grateful thanks to our good mate Jon at Zonkey, we’re now up & running with the new-look website, on a WordPress theme, with a new host. Hope you like it, and we hope you’ll keep on clicking to see future upgrades we have planned.

In other news, we’ll be back ‘blogging soon – despite the attentions of our Little ‘friend’ – Hello, Terry! 😉

See you all soon!

Here we are, Sunday the 6th May, 2012 and France has voted in a new president. I suppose M. Sarkozy should have seen this one coming a mile away. Never the most popular man among the electorate, he’s systematically shown himself to be arrogant, conceited and perhaps a little power-crazy. He’s used (and abused) the French treasury to give himself and Mme. Sarkozy-Bruni the kind of lifestyle his subjects could only dream of.  France isn’t a rich country. It’s quite a poor one in many ways, still very much reliant on agriculture than big industry, certainly in our part of it in any case.

We’ve seen many local commerces close down because of policies implemented by him and his government. We’ve seen the banks being made to tighten their grip after being bailed out by the Sarkozy administration to the tune of untold millions of euro. Our own bank has gone from being a busy little market town bank, where you dealt with a team of tellers sat behind a non-protected counter, and you passed the time of day whilst they counted your cash, to more of a ‘drop-in centre’ type affair. It now has all the charm of a video hire store. Is this just progress, or is it the bank not being able to afford the kind of service it used to give?

M. Sarkozy famously has a jet that carries him far & wide and at his insistence, it now has a bread oven on board. Yes, a bread oven. It bakes fresh baguettes for our pres. when he’s away from his own local artisan boulanger. One hears these rumours and thinks, “nah…”. But apparently, it’s true, and well-documented in a breakdown of costs I read a short while ago. The upgrades demanded by M. Sarkozy ran into millions of euro.

So. We have a new president. M. François Hollande. What do we know of him? In our own case, not very much, only what we read in the papers, or see what our French friends post about him on facebook. It appears he already earns more than the current, or should I say, most recent incumbent of the Élysée Palace. So he’s effectively taking a paycut. Why, you might ask? Possibly because he’s about to become one of the most powerful men on earth, peut-etre? Possibly because being such a powerful man may just attract a Carla-a-like of his very own? Who can say?

He promises to freeze fuel prices for the next 3 months, which is a good thing. Especially for those of us (which must be the majority of France) that live out in the sticks and rely on our own cars, rather than any hope of a decent public transport network. Let’s see if he changes the much-publicised increase in TVA due here this autumn.

‘Plus ça change plus c’est la même chose’, springs to mind though.

Until the next time, au revoir.

Twice a year I visit the UK to see my family that still live there, in the town I was born, raised, grew up in and started my working life in. Twice a year I get to note the differences between ‘home’ and home. Twice a year I get back ‘home’ with these differences gnawing away at me.
So what are these differences? The biggest, single thing that I’ve noticed is the amount of debris in the streets. That’s what I want to rant about here. Litter not just in the streets, but in the countryside too. Driving through the New Forest, I was absolutely staggered to note just how much rubbish there was strewn around. The ubiquitous New Forest Ponies were grazing at the sides of the roads, little more than country tracks, really, and I couldn’t even begin to count the numbers of plastic pop bottles. Empty crisp packets and plastic wrappers abound. What is that all about? This is a National Treasure, ladies and gentlemen. It’s somewhere to be proud of, to take your kids to, and marvel at the landscape, unchanged in millenia. It isn’t a dumping ground for your unwanted trash. It is a place to be nurtured, looked after and guarded jealously, because there’s nowhere else quite like it.

To take a photo, you have to look through the viewfinder and ‘see’ what else is in the shot. Then you have a choice. You either remove the rubbish strewn around by hand, collecting someone else’s cast-offs, bagging them up to be disposed of in a bin later. Or there’s Photoshop.
I prefer the former.
It wasn’t just the New Forest. Driving on the motorways, I was all too often distracted by the sheer volume of rubbish on the embankments, wondering how on earth it gets there? Do people just throw this stuff out of their car windows as they’re driving merrily along? Do they even stop to think what happens to it? In fact, what DO they think happens to it? Do they imagine an army of elves appearing to ‘magic’ it all away (to the New Forest) in the dead of night? Or, do they just think ‘someone’ else will do their dirty work for them?

Rubbish in the streets

A visitors view of a UK town.

Think about this logically. If everyone did as I do, there’d be a fortune saved on collecting this crap which may then go towards something more useful, like putting more policemen on the beat in your towns, or creating a few more beds in your hospitals. It may even go towards better lighting in areas that are targetted by muggers, thieves and rapists in YOUR towns.

So what is it that I do? it’s simple – I just collect MY rubbish and throw it in the passenger side footwell, or I carry a plastic carrier bag for the purpose and use a bin when I stop. Or, as is more usual, when I get home again, and then put MY rubbish in the bin there.

I suppose one of the problems is that there’s simply not enough bins around, and when there are, they’re already overflowing with human detritus. Packaging is one problem – there’s just too much of it. Less blister packed fast food, and more cellophane please? I know that when our eldest son worked for McDonalds for a short time in his youth, they had a rota for staff to scour the immediate environs for litter bearing their name, and to bag it up and bring it back to the store. That’s nice, and a responsible attitude to take. But what about the millions of fast food outlets in every town and city across the land? What’re they doing?

Another problem, and one I have personal experience of, is terrorism. Yes, terrorism. In many airports and train stations, as well as large shopping centres, you’ll now struggle to find somewhere to drop your litter. Why? because of the ‘threat’ of a bomb being hidden in the bins. It’s true. So, not only do we live in fear of an Islamic backlash on the ‘civilised’ western world, we have to drown in a tidal wave of crap created as a direct result of that fear, because as a society, we’re too scared to install bins on street corners anymore.

Also, there must be armies of men employed by local councils to try and keep the streets clean, yet here in France there’s usually just one or two employed by each commune, and they do litter collection on a very part-time basis. There just isn’t the same amount of it strewn about. Sure, there’s some – especially in the bigger towns, but nothing like the amount I’ve seen in the UK. And, in my opinion, the problem’s becoming worse each time I visit.
It has to start with the parents and the schools. It has to be a mindset instilled in the very young. But before that, we have to change the mindset of the generation that is currently creating the problem. How do we do that? I don’t have a clue – I’m just thankful that my parents taught me the values I grew up with, and passed on to my own kids. They, in turn I’m sure, will pass those values on to their own kids. It’s a start.


Notice in the New Forest.

Until the next time, au revoir.

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