Sunday, 31 March 2019

White Banded Noctuid Moth


Photographed by Susan from Loire Valley Time Travel. https://tourtheloire.com

This strikingly marked large moth, the White Banded Noctuid Moth Donuca orbigera is native to the northern half of Australia. They are about 50 mm from wing tip to wing tip. Underneath they are a rather lovely and unexpected salmon pink. The markings are thought to resemble a large mouthed predator, meant to scare off birds that might eat them. 

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For details of our private guided tours of chateaux, gardens, wineries, markets and more please visit the Loire Valley Time Travel website. We would be delighted to design a tour for you.

Saturday, 30 March 2019

Alpine Pigs


Photographed by Susan from Loire Valley Time Travel. https://tourtheloire.com

We were astonished to come across this piggery (and outdoor pigs!) at 1940 metres on Saaser Alp. 

Photographed by Susan from Loire Valley Time Travel. https://tourtheloire.com


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For details of our private guided tours of chateaux, gardens, wineries, markets and more please visit the Loire Valley Time Travel website. We would be delighted to design a tour for you.

Friday, 29 March 2019

Botany Outing to le Moulin de Malicorne, April 2018


This comes under the heading of 'things we never said' ie these photos are from a botany outing I never got round to blogging about back in the spring of last year. The moulin (mill) is situated in the valley of the Courtineau, between Sainte Maure de Touraine and Saint Epain. It is the home of Gaëlle, her Irish husband Declan and their Golden Retriever, Hacker.

Photographed by Susan from Loire Valley Time Travel. https://tourtheloire.com
Left, Castor Bean Tick Ixodes ricinus (Fr. Tique du mouton) and two Ornate Cow Tick Dermacentor reticulatus, right. The place was crawling with ticks, and at the end of the outing Gaëlle spent some time removing a number from Hacker.

Photographed by Susan from Loire Valley Time Travel. https://tourtheloire.com
 Ramsons Allium ursinum (Fr. Ail des ours). 
I picked a bunch to make my annual batch of wild garlic sauce.

Photographed by Susan from Loire Valley Time Travel. https://tourtheloire.com
Marsh Marigold Caltha palustris (Fr. Caltha des marais).

Photographed by Susan from Loire Valley Time Travel. https://tourtheloire.com
Gaëlle pointing out a rare moss to Chantal and Jean.

Photographed by Susan from Loire Valley Time Travel. https://tourtheloire.com
Sweet Spurge Euphorbia dulcis (Fr. Euphorbe douce).

Photographed by Susan from Loire Valley Time Travel. https://tourtheloire.com
Marie-Claude and Chantal search for lichens.

Photographed by Susan from Loire Valley Time Travel. https://tourtheloire.com
Male Violet Oil Beetle Meloe violaceus (Fr. Méloé violet).

Photographed by Susan from Loire Valley Time Travel. https://tourtheloire.com
Male reed beetle Plateumaris sericea on Ladys Smock Cardamine pratensis 
(Fr. Cardamine des prés).

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For details of our private guided tours of chateaux, gardens, wineries, markets and more please visit the Loire Valley Time Travel website. We would be delighted to design a tour for you.

Thursday, 28 March 2019

Bridge Repairs Over the Cher, Chisseaux to Francueil


The much used bridge over the Cher between Chisseaux and Francueil on the RD 80 near the Chateau of Chenonceau has been closed for repairs since 1 October 2018, and will not reopen until June.

Photographed by Susan from Loire Valley Time Travel. https://tourtheloire.com

The 127 metre long bridge has five cement arches topped with a reinforced concrete deck. Two thousand cars a day cross over it. Although much used by pedestrians and cyclists there was no footpath and even with bollards and a one way system installed it never felt safe. The repair work being undertaken now will take into account the need for improved safe circulation for all users.

The deck and parapets will be demolished. The roadway will be kept at 5.5 metres and the footpaths enlarged to 1.5 metres. The work is estimated to cost 1.8 million euros, entirely financed by the département (county) of Indre et Loire.

Since the catastrophe in Genoa, and the collapse of their bridge last August, a structural survey of the bridges in Indre et Loire has been completed, bringing to light a need for 13 million euros worth of work, which will be scheduled over the next five years.


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For details of our private guided tours of chateaux, gardens, wineries, markets and more please visit the Loire Valley Time Travel website. We would be delighted to design a tour for you.

Wednesday, 27 March 2019

The Needle Dam at Civray de Touraine


A needle dam is a weir made of wooden poles which can be spaced or removed so that more or less water flows. There are several along the Cher, including the most well known, at Civray de Touraine, just downstream from the Chateau of Chenonceau.

Photographed by Susan from Loire Valley Time Travel. https://tourtheloire.com

Historically they are important and are now formally protected (since July 2017), but from a nature conservation point of view are problematic. So a solution will be put in place this year at Civray, with a new channel of the river being dug to take migrating fish and canoeists up and down. The old needle dam will remain in place and perform its traditional function of maintaining a suitable depth of water around the Chateau's foundations, which sit in the river.

Photographed by Susan from Loire Valley Time Travel. https://tourtheloire.com
The lock on the right and the needle dam stretching out across the river.

The needle dams date from the 19th century and there has been at least a decade of wrangling between those who value their heritage and those who want to see migrating fish returning to their ancient freshwater spawning grounds. Anglers, farmers who want to irrigate, boaters and tourist operators are all stakeholders in what happens next, anxious to preserve both heritage and water levels in dry times.

Photographed by Susan from Loire Valley Time Travel. https://tourtheloire.com

Now it seems both sides can be happy, with an ambitious plan to preserve the dam and the aquatic environment. Diggers have started excavating a bypass of 185 metres long, 6 metres deep and 15 metres wide. This new channel will allow migrating fish such as shad, eel or sea lamprey to pass. It will also facilitate the movement of pike, barbels and other fish. Not to mention canoes and kayaks.

Photographed by Susan from Loire Valley Time Travel. https://tourtheloire.com
Spare 'needles'.

In total, €532 000 will be invested, funded 60% by the Loire-Brittany Water Agency and 20% each by Centre-Val de Loire Region and Indre et Loire County. It is the largest project currently being carried out in France on river ecological continuity. Three other projects of the same kind should be completed in a few years at Savonnières, Ballan-Miré and Saint Aignan.

Note: all photos taken by me in August 2017, before work commenced.

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For details of our private guided tours of chateaux, gardens, wineries, markets and more please visit the Loire Valley Time Travel website. We would be delighted to design a tour for you.

Tuesday, 26 March 2019

Inter-Club Walking


At the beginning of the month we decided to participate in the Sunday inter-club walk from Yzeures sur Creuse. Members of the Tournon Saint Martin, Yzeures sur Creuse, Lesigny sur Creuse and Le Grand Pressigny walking clubs met at 9am in Yzeures for coffee and cake. The route was checked and we got in our cars to drive to the starting point. Here are some pictures of the morning's activities and sights. We did 11 km in two and a half hours (including stops).

Photographed by Susan from Loire Valley Time Travel. https://tourtheloire.com
The semi-abandoned industrial complex and hydro-electric plant at Gatineau on the River Creuse near La Roche Posay. The turbine house is end on to us, sitting in the river. The turbines are still in the building and still turn, but only one produces electricity. Behind in the cliff face are workshops, stables and storage rooms. The complex has had a mixed history, including being used to make aeronautical parts (the stability of the conditions inside the troglodyte caves was important for components including bimetal strips).

Photographed by Susan from Loire Valley Time Travel. https://tourtheloire.com
 The weir over the River Creuse at Le Gatineau, near La Roche Posay.
See also my post on the fish ladder here.

Photographed by Susan from Loire Valley Time Travel. https://tourtheloire.com
La Roche Posay, from across the Creuse Valley.

Photographed by Susan from Loire Valley Time Travel. https://tourtheloire.com
Limousin cattle in a farmyard near Yzeures sur Creuse.

Photographed by Susan from Loire Valley Time Travel. https://tourtheloire.com
Refreshments offered at the halfway point -- water, red and rosé wine, broyé (a sort of shortbread), pain d'épice (a sort of ginger cake), apple quarters, prunes, dried apricots and chocolate.

Photographed by Susan from Loire Valley Time Travel. https://tourtheloire.com
 Hissing and honking guard geese.

Photographed by Susan from Loire Valley Time Travel. https://tourtheloire.com
 I was amused by the use of oyster and winkle shells as well as terracotta tile and concrete to fill potholes on a dirt track.

Photographed by Susan from Loire Valley Time Travel. https://tourtheloire.com
Walkers coming up a hill out of the Creuse Valley.

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For details of our private guided tours of chateaux, gardens, wineries, markets and more please visit the Loire Valley Time Travel website. We would be delighted to design a tour for you.

Monday, 25 March 2019

Braised Cabbage and Sausages


Ragout de choux, cooked and photographed by Susan from Loire Valley Time Travel. https://tourtheloire.com

This is a recipe for the middle of winter, when your veg box is full of cabbage and roots. It is basically choucroute garni (dressed sauerkraut) but with slow cooked fresh cabbage rather than fermented.

Prepared and photographed by Susan from Loire Valley Time Travel. https://tourtheloire.com

Ingredients:
A green cabbage, coarsely chopped
2 smoked sausages (eg Montbeliard), cut in half
A 10 cm piece of garlic sausage, cut in two
5 herbed fresh pork sausages, cut in half
4 carrots, scrubbed and thickly sliced
A rutabaga, peeled and cut into chunks
Half a celeriac, peeled and cut into chunks
An onion, chopped
A bouquet garni
A cardamon pod, bruised
4 potatoes, scrubbed and cut into chunks

Method:
  1. Heat the oven to 150C.
  2. Put everything except the potatoes in a very large casserole, add a splash of water.
  3. Cover and cook for an hour and a half.
  4. Stir the casserole, add the potatoes and cook for a further hour and a half.
  5. Stir. Serves 9.
Prepared and photographed by Susan from Loire Valley Time Travel. https://tourtheloire.com

The vegetables for this recipe came from my local organic market garden, Les Jardins Vergers de la Petite Rabaudière, and the recipe was used in mid-December as a suggestion for those customers who subscribe to veggie boxes. The garlic and smoked sausages were purchased at the charcuterie in Preuilly. Some local butchers make herbed fresh pork sausages and all the local supermarket butcheries sell them as a generic product.

Prepared and photographed by Susan from Loire Valley Time Travel. https://tourtheloire.com

On peut trouver cette recette sur mon blog en français, De l'Australie à la Touraine, comme Ragoût de choux.

Prepared and photographed by Susan from Loire Valley Time Travel. https://tourtheloire.com


Cooked and photographed by Susan from Loire Valley Time Travel. https://tourtheloire.com

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For details of our private guided tours of chateaux, gardens, wineries, markets and more please visit the Loire Valley Time Travel website. We would be delighted to design a tour for you.

Sunday, 24 March 2019

Spotted Dove



This Spotted Dove Spilopelia chinensis was photographed near my parents' home, but it is not a species I remember from my youth. It has arrived in the area in the last couple of decades, after I left. It is not native to Australia, but was introduced to Melbourne, far to the south, in the 1860s, thus taking more than a hundred years to travel the nearly 2000 kilometres to my family's garden. It's native range is the Indian Subcontinent and South-east Asia.

Photographed by Susan from Loire Valley Time Travel. https://tourtheloire.com

Photographed by Susan from Loire Valley Time Travel. https://tourtheloire.com

Photographed by Susan from Loire Valley Time Travel. https://tourtheloire.com


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For details of our private guided tours of chateaux, gardens, wineries, markets and more please visit the Loire Valley Time Travel website. We would be delighted to design a tour for you.

Saturday, 23 March 2019

Davos Shooting Club


The Davos Shooting Club at Davos Monstein is rather alarming, as the shooting benches for the 300 metre range are on one side of the main road and railway, and the targets the other side. Check it out on GoogleMaps

Photographed by Susan from Loire Valley Time Travel. https://tourtheloire.com

Everybody shoots in Switzerland and it is taken very seriously. The population is 8.3 million, and they own 2 million guns, but gun crime is extremely rare. Suicides on the other hand are rather high, and most gun deaths in the country are due to people deliberately taking their own lives. Military service is mandatory for men, who are all taught to shoot pistols or rifles. Many men keep their service weapons after they have done their national service stint. 

Most weapons require a licence, with background checks and registration on a local list. Hunting rifles are a notable exception to this. Gun owners also have to pass a test to demonstrate they can use the weapon safely and competently. Anyone with a criminal record or addiction issues is not permitted to own a gun.

Photographed by Susan from Loire Valley Time Travel. https://tourtheloire.com

Guns are generally not kept at home, and it is illegal to carry a weapon on the street. Guns kept at home can be transported to the shooting range by car, but they must be unloaded, and you can't stop off to run an errand or have a coffee.

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For details of our private guided tours of chateaux, gardens, wineries, markets and more please visit the Loire Valley Time Travel website. We would be delighted to design a tour for you.

Friday, 22 March 2019

Fish Brenne


Photographed by Susan from Loire Valley Time Travel. https://tourtheloire.com

Fish Brenne was set up in 2002, in the heart of the Brenne. This important wetland to the east of us is known as le pays des mille étangs, usually translated as 'the land of a thousand lakes', but which is more accurately 'the land of a thousand fish ponds'. In their workshops a small team of 13 people processes locally farmed fresh water fish such as carp, sturgeon, cat fish, pike, zander, perch, trout, eels and tench, as well as salmon. The fish is sold fresh or smoked and transformed into rillettes (a sort of paste) and mousse. For local customers who want to buy direct, the boutique is open Tuesdays to Fridays, and on Thursdays and Fridays offers marine fish as well as the local fresh water fish. 

Beetroot dyed smoked salmon.
Photographed by Susan from Loire Valley Time Travel. https://tourtheloire.com

After beginning by working with specialist grocers and regional products boutiques, a couple of years ago they invested 1.5 million euros to build a facility which mainly focuses on producing an artisanal regional product for the big supermarket chains. They supply SuperU, for example, who chose them because the supermarket's customers are currently demanding distinctive regional products with low food miles. There is a particularly strong demand for smoked fish.

Photographed by Susan from Loire Valley Time Travel. https://tourtheloire.com

Fish Brenne is able to offer a guaranteed minimum price to its suppliers, who all come from within a 100 km radius. In the last two years their production has doubled and today their turnover is 1.8 million euros.

Photographed by Susan from Loire Valley Time Travel. https://tourtheloire.com
Photographed by Susan from Loire Valley Time Travel. https://tourtheloire.com

Photographed by Susan from Loire Valley Time Travel. https://tourtheloire.com

We happened to be passing one Thursday after visiting the dermatologist in Le Blanc, so we called in to buy some goujons of carp. I wouldn't bother to prepare carp myself, but if prepared by professionals like Fish Brenne I'm very happy to cook it and eat it. I was interested that there was a steady stream of clients -- as one client left another arrived, all keen to buy reasonably priced really good quality fish.

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For details of our private guided tours of chateaux, gardens, wineries, markets and more please visit the Loire Valley Time Travel website. We would be delighted to design a tour for you.

Thursday, 21 March 2019

Fish Ladder


Recently we visited the fish ladder in the Creuse at Gatineau, near La Roche Posay.

Photographed by Susan from Loire Valley Time Travel. https://tourtheloire.com
The fish ladder, on the Indre et Loire side of the River Creuse.

It was constructed in the autumn of 2010. The Office Nationale de l'eau et des milieux aquatiques (ONEMA), having carried out a check on the weir, required the owner to install a fish ladder for migrating Atlantic salmon, lamprey, shad, sea trout and eel, and to allow the natural movement of sediment. From its source in the Massif Central, the Creuse runs nearly 300 km to its confluence with the Vienne. The lower section, up to the impassable hydro-electric complex at Eguzon, is potentially accessible to migratory fish. However, this 124 km stretch of river has 31 weirs or dams along its route - one every 4 km on average - that slow or block the flow of migrants.

Photographed by Susan from Loire Valley Time Travel. https://tourtheloire.com

The owner of the abandoned industrial complex on the other side of the river, who is also responsible for the weir, was advised in February 2010 that the work must be completed within 8 months. He still runs one of the hydro-electric turbines on the site under the business name Lumhydro. To force his hand, failure to comply with the obligation to construct the fish ladder would have resulted in the termination of his contract with EDF (Electricité de France) who buy the power the plant generates. He was also threatened with a 100 euros a day fine after the deadline until the work was finished, to help ensure the work was done and finished. The owner was obliged to comply with the ONEMA regulations by law, but was given a grant in order to achieve the work, as he was able to demonstrate his proposed improvements were suitable. The site is one of two top priorities on the Creuse to bring the river management up to modern environmental standards.

Photographed by Susan from Loire Valley Time Travel. https://tourtheloire.com
Fabrice, Edith, Marie-Hélène and a couple of people I don't know checking out the fish ladder.

In French fish ladders are called passes à poissons and this one was constructed by the specialist hydro-engineering company Verchéenne. Fish ladders vary in style depending on the target species and their capabilities (some fish are stronger swimmers or leapers than others and this has to be taken into account). 
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For details of our private guided tours of chateaux, gardens, wineries, markets and more please visit the Loire Valley Time Travel website. We would be delighted to design a tour for you.

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Walking With Giants Around Oyre


The last day of February saw us walking with our local club around Oyré, across the border in Vienne, and clearly Poitevin, not Tourangeau. Here some photos of the afternoon.

Photographed by Susan from Loire Valley Time Travel. https://tourtheloire.com
A view over the countryside near Oyré.

Photographed by Susan from Loire Valley Time Travel. https://tourtheloire.com
We passed an equine pension and said hello to this big mare. 
I reckon she was at least 17 hands high, maybe more.

Photographed by Susan from Loire Valley Time Travel. https://tourtheloire.com
The entrance to the equine pension, with horseshoe knocker plate.

Photographed by Susan from Loire Valley Time Travel. https://tourtheloire.com
A group of wind turbines, ideally placed in agricultural land. 
They were working steadily as it was a windy day, with gusts of up to 45 kilometres per hour.

Photographed by Susan from Loire Valley Time Travel. https://tourtheloire.com
Another view of the wind turbines. I like them, and do not feel they are despoiling the countryside. They were also silent (if they make as much noise as some claim I would have expected to hear them, as I could clearly hear the hunt going on at about the same distance).

Photographed by Susan from Loire Valley Time Travel. https://tourtheloire.com
Giant Silver Grass Miscanthus x giganteus (Fr. Herbe à éléphant), 

This robust grass is grown in France as a biofuel, mulch and animal bedding. It is a sterile hybrid perennial, non-invasive, doesn't need as much water as traditional crops and is not fussy about poor, contaminated or saline soil or cold weather. It is particularly productive in France and much encouraged by agronomists. There is a very thorough discussion of its many benefits (and a few problems) on Wikipedia. The French Wikipedia page, in contrast, whilst positive about the plant, is much more forthcoming about possible negative consequences of its widespread cultivation. In the Brenne particularly there is concern about the crop's potential to drain parcels of land and modify them from the traditional unimproved prairie grassland (the most rapidly disappearing habitat in the area, which the local authorities and conservation organisations are working hard to maintain).

Photographed by Susan from Loire Valley Time Travel. https://tourtheloire.com
Polly the Airedale emerges after a brief dip.

Photographed by Susan from Loire Valley Time Travel. https://tourtheloire.com
Babette and Aline walk under a very unsafe looking tree.

Photographed by Susan from Loire Valley Time Travel. https://tourtheloire.com
A view across Oyré.

Photographed by Susan from Loire Valley Time Travel. https://tourtheloire.com
Oyré is on the border of Poitou and Touraine. 
The roofs on these houses reflect that mixture, with both Poitevin canal and Tourangelle flat tiles.

Photographed by Susan from Loire Valley Time Travel. https://tourtheloire.com
A last wind turbine to see us out.

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For details of our private guided tours of chateaux, gardens, wineries, markets and more please visit the Loire Valley Time Travel website. We would be delighted to design a tour for you.