Gardeners’ World

It’s been a long, wet spring… difficult to get out in the garden and complete annual jobs… but the sun is finally shining and there’s lots to be getting on with.

After two years of clearing, weeding, pruning and planting, the garden is looking beautiful. It’s certainly worth the effort! Whereas last year we had such a dry start to the year and struggling plants, this year everything has benefited from the rainfall and there are so many fresh blooms. The roses are doing particularly well – these were pruned and trained around March time; the blue Irises are numerous and fabulous in the round bed in the driveway; and the new climbers we planted next to the pergola are romping skywards!

Hopefully there will be lots of fresh produce from the potager given the climate: potatoes, lettuce, peppers, tomatoes and courgettes… and cherries, peaches, strawberries, raspberries and blackberries…

If you are lucky enough to come and stay at Le Manoir this summer you can expect lovely fresh flowers in your room and fresh seasonal fruit and vegetables. Just click the reservation button on the homepage! SCH


Folklore festivities: celebrating Les Ostensions

In May, Rochechouart underwent a major transformation in celebration of Les Ostensions: streets were adorned with red and white bunting, creating the feeling that the entire town had been enclosed in a huge circus tent. Shop fronts and street entrances were draped with fresh greenery and decorated with red and white flowers.

The 2016 Ostensions (14-15 May) were the 72nd edition and are an important part of Limousin folklore; they have been on UNESCO’s World Heritage list since 2013. They originated back in 994 AD after a major epidemic swept through the region. Religious leaders gathered in prayer and miraculously the dying ceased. A major procession saw relics carried through the streets and this historic tradition continues today – although these days it only takes place once every seven years.

Local English-language publication, Etcetera, provides a nice write up on the history of this tradition. Click here to read the full article in the May 2016 issue. SCH


Spring lunch for CS H-V

Recently, Le Manoir played host again to Cancer Support Haute-Vienne on the occasion of the association’s Annual General Meeting. It was a lovely day and I prepared and served up a large poached salmon, various salads and three enormous fruit pavlovas! Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and it’s always a great pleasure to support CS H-V as they continue to provide English-language support, by telephone, to people affected by cancer. SCH


Hosting a workshop for local cancer charity: CSF H-V

Throughout the year, a committed group of ‘active listeners’ in our department (Haute-Vienne) provide English-language support – by telephone – to those living with or affected by cancer. The association, Cancer Support France (CSF H-V), is staffed by volunteers and part of a national network in France.

I was recently approached to host a day-long Colour Me Beautiful workshop for 12 volunteers and active members. The purpose was for participants to have a bit of fun as well as gain key insights into wearing good colours – not to mention understand the emotional benefits for patients undergoing cancer treatment. The day was run by Colour Me Beautiful Image Consultant Anne Slater who is based near Bergerac – I served lunch and refreshments!

This is a fantastically well-run association supporting many English speakers affected by cancer in the Haute-Vienne, Correze, Creuse and Indre. For more information on CSF support, membership and local events visit: SCH

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Strictly research: a day out in Brantome

One of my all-time favourite places – Brantome – is under an hour from Le Manoir Saint Gervais. The locals call it the Venice of the Périgord.

It is a great place to visit with friends and family; the town boasts an abbey, caves and picturesque river walks (the town is encircled by water). Why not have lunch while watching tourists navigate the small rapids near the mill in their bright yellow kayaks (first-timers never quite make it down in one go)?! There is also a regular boat trip in the summer months with a French guide.

The shopping isn’t extensive but there are a few choice shops perfect for small gifts (cards, ceramics, vintage signs, soaps, hats, gourmet food, wine, etc.). The tourist office is central and well-stocked with leaflets and posters.

For lunch in August I tried and liked pop-up restaurant: La Guinguette. It can be seen from the cave/abbey side of the river but is accessed from a back street. And don’t forget ice-cream… there is quite a choice. SC

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Le Manoir is sporting a cheerful new look

Years of lichen had taken the sparkle off the exterior of the house but following a special treatment, a wash down and a couple of coats of paint the house is now looking more cheerful.

Scaffolding had to be used to reach the top level and also to remove the upstairs shutters which were rotten and in need of replacement… that’s still a job that needs to be done. The downstairs shutters were fine, though, and after a sand and coat of paint were put back.

The front door is the next job… I just can’t decide on a colour! SCH

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A lazy lunch for charity

In mid-June I attended Cancer Support France’s annual fundraising lunch (Haute-Vienne chapter) in the Salle des Fêtes in Videix.

The event is normally held at the side of the lake at La Chassagne but given the continuing rains it was moved indoors. CSF volunteers served up a veritable feast: pommes boulangère (Baker’s potatoes); BBQ-ed meat; cheese and tarte aux fraises (strawberry tarts). There was a good mix of English and French locals which made for interesting conversation! There is still a real sense of community in France.

I was tasked with making the flower arrangements for the centres of the long tables. I chose soft pink climbing roses, honeysuckle and lavender and placed them in coloured, ceramic yoghurt pots. The flowers were freshly-cut from the garden at Le Manoir Saint Gervais – so pretty! SCH

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A day out in Bordeaux

Bordeaux has been on my list of places to visit for a while now and when I finally got there it didn’t dissapoint. It is everything you imagine a ‘French’ city to be: stunning architecture, cafe culture, chic locals, and fabulous local food. If you like shopping there is a good mix of local, boutique, high street and designer.

From Le Manoir Saint Gervais I headed to Angouleme and took the train to ‘Bordeaux St Jean’ rather than drive the whole way. The thing I like about train travel is you can relax and have that extra glass of rosé at lunchtime! There’s also less stress on the parking front.

On arrival I picked up a one day tram pass for €4.30 and headed straight for Quinconces (on the ‘C’ line) where the newly-renovated Tourism Office offers various pamflets, advice and local tours. Being in the middle of Bordeaux wine county there are a number of half/full day tours to local vineyards too… but not for me this time.

I spent the day exploring the pedestrianised streets, having a very nice lunch right in the heart of things and generally taking in the atmosphere. If my sources are right, Bordeaux is soon to be the capital of our region (when the total number of regions in France is reduced from 22 to around 14 in 2016). It is definitely a great day out and I’m already looking forward to my next visit. SCH


How to make extra-long curtains from two standard pairs

One of the biggest decoration challenges at Le Manoir Saint Gervais has been finding curtains to fit the enormous windows… there are ten of them! The drop (from pole to approx. 5cm from the floor) is 310cm. It would have been possible to buy made-to-measure curtains, however, with ten windows it starts to get a little pricy and I really wanted to make my own!

I looked in local shops and online for fabric but couldn’t see anything that would work. I then found some ready-made vintage floral curtains and thought I would have a go at deconstructing a couple of pairs to recreate the length I needed.

It was a bit of an experiment: I used one long pair and added a second, shorter pair of the same width. Despite a faint seam across the lower half of the curtains (which is difficult to see because I was able to pattern match) I am very pleased with the overall result:


If you would like to do the same, follow the 10 steps below. It took me less than a day to plan, unpick, pin, sew, finish and iron one pair of lined curtains:

You will need:

– 1 pair of the longest curtains you can find (e.g. standard drop of 228cm).

– 1 pair of shorter curtains (e.g. drop of 137cm).

 NB: both pairs should be the same width (e.g. mine were 117cm wide).


Step 1: Work out your measurements: these were mine:

– Total drop needed for both curtain panels: 313cm (310cm plus 3cm for French seam allowance in shorter curtain)

– Longer curtain panels: 228cm (228cm)

– Shorter curtain panels: 85cm (82cm plus 3cm French seam allowance)

Step 2: Shorter curtain panels: keeping the bottom hems of the lining and fabric together, measure up to 85cm and cut off the top part containing the heading tape (cut through both the lining and fabric – you may want to pin it together first to stop it slipping). Note: the hemmed end of the lining will be a little shorter than the fabric.

Step 3: Shorter curtain panels: using a quick unpicker, remove the lining from the fabric; lay aside both pieces.

Step 4: Longer curtain panels: using a quick unpicker, and starting from the hemmed bottom, remove the lining from the fabric for approx. 20cm. Note: you could remove the lining all the way up to the heading tape but I found this was unnecessary.

Step 5: Longer curtain panels (front fabric): using a quick unpicker, unpick the hem and unfold. Now cut along the fold line that formed the original bottom edge of the curtain. Note: your curtain panel should remain the same length, e.g. 228cm long, and will contain the heading tape. The reason for unpicking and cutting away the original hem is to reduce possible bulk when attaching the bottom curtain panel.

Step 6: Using the French seam method (front fabric): place the wrong side of the fabric together and sew 1.5cm from the raw edges. Trim to 0.5cm and finger press/iron the seam.

Step 7: Still working with the same piece of fabric: turn the fabric over so that the right sides of the fabric are now facing each other. Next sew 1.5cm from the edges. You should have a neat seam at the front and a tube at the back of the curtain, which conceals any frayed edges.

Step 8: Now working with the lining: repeat steps 5-7.

Step 9: Side seams: turn the curtain (lining and fabric) inside out and pin both side edges together. Sew along the line of the original seam (approx. 0.5cm from outer edge).

Step 10: Finishing: turn the fabric right side out and finish off each bottom corner (hand stitch or machine stitch on the diagonal). Iron curtains and hang.

This method is much faster than making curtains from scratch (i.e the heading tape is already in place) and can be very economical if you are able to buy ready-made curtains in the sales. For example, the average cost of fabric by the meter is £20 and I would have needed six and a half meters at least, per window (not including the lining or heading tape). By contrast, the total cost of these curtains was just under £45; a saving of £85 per window. SCH