Time to explore: La Rochefoucauld

Less than 30 minutes along the D10 is the pretty town of La Rochefoucauld. It is home to a fabulous chateau, some lovely restaurants and a selection of small shops (pharmacy, bakery, butchers, gift shops, antiques shop, etc.). As part of our research for guests, we took an official tour of the chateau and then wandered around the many family rooms, the original kitchens and the underground grotto at a more leisurely pace. Photos of the current family were casually placed on tables and made the place come alive; cleverly connecting the ancient past to the present time.

Grassy lawns surround the chateau and make an ideal spot for a picnic. Since this was our first time in La Rochefoucauld we chose to have lunch at an open air restaurant at the base of the chateau called Chez Steph. It specialises in Limousin beef; the steak did not disappoint. All in all, a lovely day out and one I would definitely recommend as part of a stay at Le Manoir Saint Gervais. SCH

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Early summer blooms

Since arriving in France there has been a steady display of flowers in the garden. The month of April gave us beautiful magnolia blooms, scented lilac flowers (pink and purple) as well as peonies and tall blue iris – all of which have made excellent cut flowers for the entrance hall, kitchen, study and bedrooms.

But it’s the roses that have taken centre stage, flowering continually with the help of regular deadheading. There are older and newer varieties in the garden: bush roses, climbing roses and tea roses. Most are red but there are a couple of pink, white and yellow rose bushes at the back and side of the house.

I was told that plants that grow well in England do very well in this region but I wasn’t quite prepared for how well. Everything seems bigger, lusher and faster growing which is quite an exciting prospect for the cutting and kitchen gardens to come. SCH


Compost bins from used wooden pallets

We finally decided on a site for the new compost bins at Le Manoir Saint Gervais: alongside a boundary wall that gets equal sun and shade throughout the day. It will be easy enough to reach while been relatively hidden from the main part of the garden. Longer-term we hope to plant a line of vines to divide the ‘working’ part of the garden from the main grassed area.

Neighbours renovating a barn across the road very kindly provided five wooden pallets otherwise destined for the local tip. These were large, solid pallets ideal for creating two side-by-side compost bins. First we placed two against the wall ensuring adequate ventilation before adding a central divide and two ends. Next we tied all of the wooden pieces together with plastic-coated garden wire before moving the contents of a temporary compost heap to the left hand ‘bin’.

We have a small lidded compost bin in the kitchen which we have been filling religiously with vegetable peelings, egg shells, old cut flowers, etc. – basically anything that can be composted. The plan is to empty it into the new compost bin every couple of days along with any soft foliage from the garden (i.e. leafy and not too woody). In a few months time, when that bin is full, I will cover it with dark plastic sheeting and leave the worms to work their magic. By spring next year we will have fantastic home-made compost ready for digging into the vegetable, herb and flower beds. SCH

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Tray bake trials: Dutch apple cake

This week I tried out a great new recipe for Dutch apple cake. The recipe came from a fantastic baker and friend, Stevie, who used to make these bite-sized morsels for us when we were teenagers – they were always a big hit!


– 8 oz self raising flour

– 4 oz margarine

– 8 oz caster sugar

– 2 oz sultanas

– 1 egg

– 1/4 pint of milk

– 1 medium cooking apple (peeled and diced)

– Pinch of salt

– Glace icing to decorate


1. Rub together margarine and flour

2. Add the sugar, sultanas and apple

3. Add the egg to the milk and whisk

4. Add egg/milk mixture to the margarine/flour/sugar mixture and mix together well

5. Turn into a 7″ by 11″ lined tin/tray

6. Bake in a preheated over at 180 degrees

7. Turn out and cool

9. Cut into squares or fingers and drizzle with glade icing

The cakes were simple to make and very morish. I can see these being a perfect way to use up apples from the garden at the end of the growing season. SCH

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