The first thing we hear on waking early on the farm is a cockerel greeting the dawn. Fair enough – it is a poultry farm. That makes two bird awakenings in a row – I like it. The cuckoo in Nonancourt was the better. We had a muddy pack up of electricity cables and used the water from the aquaroll to refill the tank. We would be arriving at the fermette in the afternoon so we were less fussy than typically about packing up – apart from wiping the mud off things. I can see it is quite a discipline if you are travelling for a length of time. A cheery wave good bye from the farmer’s wife – it was actually quite a nice stay and we would come back again in the dry.
The route today takes us across country firstly to the amazing pimple on the landscape that is the famous white wine producing town of Sancerre, and then on familiar roads once more to the fermette. We’re on nice little yellow roads now. Neil has become a cruise control junkie while on the dual carriageways and is slow to relinquish the habit on roads with bends and towns and hills. I request some braking on long downhill slopes: cruise control does not apply the brakes, just stops applying the accelerator, so the van does gather pace as we descend!
It’s easy to pick a destination and then just drive until you get there. It’s better to identify interesting or pleasant spots along the way to stop for a break. Why is it hard to stop once you are rolling? Force of habit telling you that it is only getting to the destination that matters? Sometimes that is true, but, doing what we are doing and driving only one or two hours a day, that is not so. We will still arrive in good time to get a pitch. There is a lake in a forest on our route so we turn off and park in the shade to eat cheese pasties and tomatoes.
We pull into St Franchy and clearly there has been some rain here too. One possible plan had been to empty the barn and keep Portia in there between trips. Much carting of ten year’s junk from one outbuilding to another later and we measured up – oh no! The barn looks huge with its forty foot high beamed roof space: it is wide enough, the door is probably high enough but it is not long enough by about a foot:-( The doors have to be opened by pushing them inwards a bit to unlatch them before opening fully outwards, meaning we lose about a metre. Without the bike rack we would be just about OK. So that plan was abandoned and Portia would just have to pull up on the grass in front of the barn. It’s on a slight grassy slope. It had been very wet. Portia carved some nice muddy grooves in the grass and refused to get her front wheels off the road. It’s only a lane really and very narrow, but the farmer comes up twice a day in her tractor, or occasionally with some other large piece of farm machinery that lives in the barn at the end of the lane, so we have to leave it completely clear. Rolling back down the slope I park her on the flatter verge 20 metres down the road. We will just have to wait for the ground to dry out before we try again. The weather obliges, the sun starts shining, and a couple of days later all is well – Portia is parked in front of the barn and Neil is eating his lunch in the shade of the (slightly pruned) apple tree.
- Packing up in the wet and mud
- have cloths and things dedicated to dirty stuff so cables can be wiped
- supermarket bags-for-life are brilliant, they are big enough to bung things in easily. Don’t bother to buy specialist bags for packing things in tightly and neatly (like our bag that theoretically takes 25 metres of cable!).
- It is hard to readjust from the “two-week holiday” frame of mind. Take some time to look at the pleasing places along the way – enjoy all the journey.
- the best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley*. Have a fallback plan in case your barn is the wrong size.
*Tae a Moose, Robert Burns, 1785
**Oil painting of cockerel by our neighbour Evlin.