Wednesday, 31 August 2022


Sorghum is a crop that may not be familiar to many people, but with the increasingly dry summers, that is going to change.

Seventeen of the 25 species of Sorghum are native to the north of Australia, plus you will see one species which has naturalised and one which is widely cultivated. Here in France the cultivated species, S. bicolor, has been regularly grown for a decade or so, but with the drought, farmers are looking at it more keenly. Cultivated sorghum has been developed into two main types, one grown for the grain, one grown for the forage. The one grown for grain is known as Milo, the one used for forage is known as Sweet Sorghum.

Speargrass Sorghum ingrans, Northern Territory, Australia. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Speargrass Sorghum ingrans, a wild native grass in the Northern Territory, Australia.

Cultivated sorghum comes from Africa originally, and grows well in conditions where water is short and temperatures are high. Climate change means that farmers in France are experiencing less rain, more sun and higher temperatures. They are having to adapt. With summers that are drier and drier, or at least, hotter and hotter, sorghum, with its ability to survive with less water than maize or sunflower, is being considered by more and more farmers, and is already well established in the south-west.

Black soil plains, Darling Downs, Queensland, Australia. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
The black soil plains of the Darling Downs, Queensland, Australia, where sorghum is widely grown.

Sorghum offers an alternative crop to maize or sunflowers in the rotation for wheat, barley and canola, and perhaps best of all, requires almost no treatments. Weeds need to be controlled, and a bit of fertilizer added, but there is no need for insecticides or fungicides. 

Fodder sorghum, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Fodder sorghum being grown in the Vienne Valley.

The grains can be used to make gluten free flour. As a fodder plant it is used in pig and poultry feed.

Sorghum, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Sorghum near Le Grand Pressigny, October 2019.

Sales of sorghum seed increased by 60% in 2020, and with 122 000 hectares planted to sorghum, France is the second biggest producer in Europe after Russia.

Sorghum, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Sorghum being grown in the Manse Valley near the Chateau de Montgoger, October 2020.

Some of the big agricultural cooperatives, such as Euralis, have been promoting sorghum since the 1980s, recognising how well adapted to climate change it is. They recognise the security it gives the producers and the benefit of another crop in rotation. It is not affected by bad weather or pests, and the market is widespread and varied. For livestock farmers it is a way of ensuring adequate forage.

Tuesday, 30 August 2022

How Low is the Loire?

The Loire River is at record low levels for this time of year, and nearly at an all time record low, due to a summer long drought in much of Europe. But there are reports and photos doing the rounds which are claiming the river has dried up completely. This is not true. The dramatic photo which is being used to illustrate this claim was taken at the Ile Batailleuse, a large island in the river between Angers and Nantes, to the west of us and closer to the Atlantic. Crucially the photo only shows one channel of the Loire, with barely a trickle of water flowing through it. The other channel however, out of shot to the right, on the other side of the island, has water. The river at this point looks low, but it is quite normal for certain channels to dry up in the summer. The Loire is a naturally very shallow, gravelly river, with many sandbanks.

Loire River, Amboise, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
17 June, Amboise.

Nevertheless, the drought and the low level of the Loire is worrying. I've seen reports that at Langeais you can walk across it on foot, and as one heads west the secondary channels are drying up even more dramatically than usual. One especially worrying problem is the increase in the water temperature. This has implications for freshwater organisms and biodiversity, and also for the nuclear power stations which need to use the river water for cooling, then discharge it back into the Loire. At Avoine the water is first cycled through a series of greenhouses where particularly delicious and expensive tomatoes are grown all year round. And after the heatwave of 2003 the nuclear plant was adapted so that it functions with river water intake temperatures of up to 37C. I don't know what measures the Belleville plant (between Nevers and Orléans) and Saint Laurent des Eaux have taken to ensure they are not taking in or releasing water that is too hot.

Loire River, Amboise, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
30 July, Amboise.

The drying up of the river is due to two factors: lack of rain over winter, and the drought since the beginning of summer has only aggravated the situation. July was the driest month on record since 1959.

Loire River, Cour sur Loire, Loir et Cher, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
21 May, Cour sur Loire.

The water levels have been declared a crisis, as the flow has gone below 43 cubic metres per second and is expected to reach as low as 38 cubic metres per second in the autumn. Even in 2003 and 2019, two years with remarkably low levels of water, the flow never reached such a low measurement.

Loire River, Cour sur Loire, Loir et Cher, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
21 May, Cour sur Loire.

Water restrictions will be even more stringent, and more or less the only use allowed is the supply of drinking water for people and animals.

Monday, 29 August 2022

How Are Farmers are Coping in the Drought in the Loire Valley?

Local goats cheese producers are struggling to feed their herds. In order to retain their AOC certification for specific cheeses produced in specific locations they need to feed the goats with locally produced hay. 

Dairy goats, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Dairy goats.

A herd of five hundred goats will eat 900 kilograms of hay per day plus a bit of silage. This year farmers have only been able to cut half the quantity of hay that they would normally be able to produce. They are using stocks from last year, but if 2023 isn't a normal year they will not be able to replenish their stocks.

Dairy goats, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Dairy goats.

In the heat the goats suffer from a lack of appetite so they eat less and produce less milk. Normally each goat gives 3.5 litres of milk per day. At the moment the average is barely 3 litres per goat per day. 

Canola crop, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Canola crop in the Claise Valley in April.

Farmers report that their winter cereal harvest (that's wheat, barley, and canola) was 30 percent down. The spring sunflower yield will be 50 percent of normal and they are expecting maize to be 70 percent of normal. Many farmers do not irrigate as they have calcareous clay soils that don't require it (they may look dry on the surface, but retain a lot of water in the soil). Last year there was a bumper crop, this year over all will be just over half of last year. Rainfall has been half that required. Many farmers have come to the conclusion that maize is too water greedy to continue with in the Loire Valley.

Sunflowers, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Sunflowers in the Claise Valley.

Some farmers are struggling to work out from the officially issued regulations if they are still allowed to irrigate. Those farmers who have their own dams can still irrigate, which the general public doesn't always realise. 

Barley crop, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Barley crop in the Vienne Valley.

Four hundred of the 1500 cereal growers in Indre et Loire irrigate as normal practice. There are 240 other farms which irrigate, mainly for growing forage (for example, dairy farmers, but market gardens and nurseries are also included in this category of farms not primarily growing cereals). 

Dry dam (étang), Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Dry dam (étang).

Only seed maize needs to be irrigated now, this late in the season. That's a hundred farms in a total of 3000 farms of all categories in the Touraine. Farmers take the view that it is not the current irrigation that is causing a lack of water, it is the lack of rain in September 2021.

Irrigation of wheat, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Wheat being irrigated in late March in the Creuse Valley, where the soil is sandy.


Saturday, 27 August 2022

Dark Green Fritillary Butterfly


Dark Green Fritillary Argynnis aglaja on Carduus defloratus, Hautes-Pyrenees, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Dark Green Fritillary Argynnis aglaja (Fr. le Grand nacré) butterfly on the thistle Carduus defloratus (Fr. Chardon à pédoncules nus) in a mountain valley. The thistle is rare and endemic.

The Dark Green Fritillary is a medium large butterfly that gets its name from the patch of olive green on the underside of the hind wing. They are on the wing from June to August and the caterpillars eat violets. It occurs over the whole of mainland France, but these were photographed in July in the Hautes-Pyrénées.

Dark Green Fritillary Argynnis aglaja on Scabious, Hautes-Pyrenees, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Dark Green Fritillary butterfly Argynnis aglaja (Fr. le Grand nacré) nectaring on Scabious sp in a mountain valley.

The thistle Carduus defloratus is restricted to alpine areas and flowers in the summer.

Friday, 26 August 2022

Oak Galls

At the moment there are lots of oak galls visible in the Touraine Val de Loire.

Oak artichoke gall, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Oak artichoke gall.

Oak Artichoke galls are caused by the cynipid wasp Andricus fecundator laying its eggs in oak shoots. The plant reacts by forming a growth around the 'invader', which in this case resembles a miniature artichoke flower.

Spangle and Cherry galls on Oak, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Spangle  and Cherry galls.

The little ones are called Spangle Galls, and are made by the tiny wasp Neuroterus quercusbaccarum. In French they are called les galles-lentilles, which I think is even better than spangles! They do look very like lentils. The big bobbly ones are called Cherry Galls and they are made by the equally inconspicuous wasp Cynips quercusfolii. In French they are les Galles-cerises du chêne.

Thursday, 25 August 2022

The World War II Memorial at Ecueille

On the side of the town hall in Ecueillé is a memorial plaque for those villagers who were killed in World War II. It depicts a woman described as holding a 'palm' leaf (I suspect it is an olive branch). It is dedicated to a specific date, 25 August 1944. It lists 23 army officers, civilians, men and women, who all died in August 1944, between 10 August and 30 August, at Ecueillé, Heugnes and Chateauroux. Two of them were honoured with military awards.

Alexandre Hall was born in Pau and was an officer in the 8th Cuiraissiers, a tank regiment. He was twenty years old when he was killed.

WWII memorial, Ecueillé, Indre, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.


Georges Pierre was born in Ablon-sur-Seine and was a Resistance fighter in the FFI group Maquis Carol. He was 19 years old when he was killed. He is believed to be one of the many young men who joined the Resistance and went into hiding rather that submit to the German conscription of forced labour.

Joseph Renahy was born in Vesoul (Haute-Saone) and joined the ORA, the original Resistance set up in 1943 when the Germans invaded the 'free zone'. Later the ORA operated in conjunction with the FFI and he was a member of the Brigade Charles Martel, under Colonel Chomel. He was mortally wounded at Ecueillé during a skirmish with the retreating Germans and died later in hospital in Chateauroux. He was 21 years old.

WWII memorial, Ecueillé, Indre, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.


Michel de Villemarest was a Resistance fighter who died in Chateauroux. Nothing else is known about him, but the date and place of his death suggests his story is similar to Joseph Renahy's.

Albert Laurent was an officer in the FFI, in the Maquis de l'Indre. He was born in Cherbourg and was killed when the tank he was in was incinerated by an anti-tank mortar at Heugnes. He was 23 years old and was awarded the Croix de Guerre.

Leopold Linares was an officer in a Supply Division. He came from Paunat in the Dordogne, was married and 39 years old. He was killed alongside Albert Laurent when their tank caught fire and was awarded a posthumous Légion d'Honneur.

Onésime Adam was a local man, born at Déols, and the driver of the tank that was set on fire. He was 34 years old, and technically a civilian at the time.

Paul Baron was an FFI Resistance fighter with the Maquis de l'Indre, and one of the five victims of the attack on the tank at Heugnes. He was born in Marseille and was 20 years old.

Charles Fernandez was a civilian, and there is no further information about him.

René (or Roland) Lamipault was a civilian working for the Supply Division. He was one of the victims of the skirmish at Heugnes and was 42 years old, married with two children.

Bernard Salmont was an FFI Resistance fighter who died of his wounds in the cottage hospital at Ecueillé. He was born in Paris and 20 years old, studying to be a doctor and had been educated in London.

Maurice Gauvin was from Ecueillé and a member of the FFI Maquis Carol. He was caught by the enemy returning home and executed by shooting.  

Pierre Jollet was a civilian but there is no detail of how he was killed except that it was as a result of the War.

Likewise Roland Jollet, Léopold Niquet, Robert Reuillon, Pierre Rozienko, Mme Aubé-Fournier, Mme Jollet-Lanchais, Mme Jollet-Reimbert, Mme Morin-Foulon, Jeanne Niquet and Marcel Montel.

The story of the Battle of Ecueillé is told on the county fire service website [link] which I have translated below.

Far from the major centers and communication routes, Ecueillé had not suffered particularly during the painful years of the German occupation. Only the removal of 59 prisoners to foreign parts plunged many families into bitterness for four years.

The proximity of the German camp de la Pyramide had also forced, by prefectural decree, some of the locals to experience the occupation up close and personal.

It was a little later, during the period of July-August 1944, in the fight for the liberation of France, that the region of Ecueillé was to experience some atrocious hours.

On July 29, two Wehrmacht soldiers who had been peacefully eating lunch were attacked, wounded and taken prisoner by a maquis (Resistance) group that was not from the area.

The day of August 10 and the following day were full of heightened and mixed emotions for the population. While the roads were criss-crossed by German convoys heading north, spreading terror and death in the villages and countryside, the groups of French Forces in the Interior were fulfilling their mission: to delay the enemy, inflict losses and disrupt them.

On Friday 25 August 1944 well-equipped French troops made a dramatic entry into Ecueillé. They consisted of the 1st Cavalry Squadron that had joined the Resistance as an entire unit from August 8th. Their strength of 250 men, well trained and keen, could be considered as a shock element. Alas, the day was to end tragically with a terrible battle that brought death, fire and ruin to this small town, which had been spared by the War until then.

Around 10:00 pm a German convoy returned to the area. The French opened fire on the convoy which, as was seen after the fight, included :

        1 light armoured car
        6 trucks with cannon trailers
        6 x 88 mm anti-tank guns.

Their guns went into action and fired in retaliation on the houses around the square, breaking through the facades and blowing up the houses. The battle was terrible and intense during the first two hours.

The firemen, helped by the men of the squadron, got the municipal fire pump up and running in difficult conditions. It was highly dangerous, with bullets and shells whistling past on both sides. The shrapnel prevented anyone from approaching and intervention against the fires was difficult. Reinforcements were requested.

Around 3:00 am, the firemen of Levroux and Buzançais arrived and attacked the fire with those of Ecueillé as well as ambulances to take care of the injured. A dozen houses, among which the town hall, were on fire. Fifty metres from the fighting, the firemen and the Red Cross transported the dead and wounded.

The ambulances from Châteauroux, which arrived around 6:00 am, made a first trip with the most seriously wounded on stretchers.

In total, a hundred firemen assisted by the men of the squadron would participate in the rescue and fire extinguishing operations.

In the morning, the last German survivors (about 40) were taken by the French troops.

The enemy had lost: 17 dead, 19 missing in the burned houses, 40 prisoners. 

On the French side, the losses were as follows: 7 civilians killed, 4 civilians wounded, 4 soldiers killed.

Eleven houses were totally destroyed, including the town hall, and about twenty buildings were seriously damaged.

Earlier on the same day, General de Gaulle delivered his famous speech in Paris " Paris broken, Paris outraged, but Paris liberated... ".
August 26, 1944 Triumphal descent of General de Gaulle, from the Place de l'Étoile to Notre-Dame de Paris.

Wednesday, 24 August 2022

The Carved Stone Dogs of Loches

Carved stone dog, Logis Royal de Loches, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

 These wonderfully characterful statues of hunting dogs line the entrance to the Logis Royal in Loches.

Carved stone dog, Logis Royal de Loches, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

They are representations of 15th century hunting dogs of the sort used to chase or bring game down and stand as a testiment to the Valois kings love of hunting.

Carved stone dog, Logis Royal de Loches, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

Carved stone dog, Logis Royal de Loches, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

Carved stone dog, Logis Royal de Loches, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

Carved stone dog, Logis Royal de Loches, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

Carved stone dog, Logis Royal de Loches, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

Carved stone dog, Logis Royal de Loches, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

Tuesday, 23 August 2022

I had no idea

so I had to look it up


The Limousin ostensions are a religious and popular tradition dating back to the end of the 10th century. They take place in twenty communes including Limoges and other localities, fifteen of which are in the Haute-Vienne, but also in Charente, Creuse and Vienne. They are held every seven years, with the last edition in 2016.

The Limousin septennial ostensions are now on UNESCO's Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, after this ritual practice was inscribed on the Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage in France.

The legend fixes the origin of this religious festival to the year 994, when Limousin, like a great part of Aquitaine, was in the grips of the "mal des ardents", or ergotism, an epidemic which starts at the end of the harvest. This intoxication is caused by the consumption of rye bread contaminated by a parasitic fungus, the ergot of rye. It causes a sensation of excruciating burning and hallucination (hence the name "ardent", from the Latin ardere, to burn), seizures and painful spasms, diarrhea, paresthesias, itching, headaches, nausea and vomiting. Patients also have hallucinations similar in every way to those triggered by LSD, and psychiatric disorders such as mania or psychosis.

In 994, this disease was seen as a punishment from God. In Limoges, the sick, who had come to implore divine protection, crowded into the churches. Faced with the extent of the tragedy, Bishop Hilduin and his brother Geoffroy, abbot of Saint-Martial, decided to organize a large gathering around the relics of several Limousin saints.

Ambassadors were sent throughout Aquitaine to invite the archbishops of Bordeaux and Bourges, the bishops of Clermont, Le Puy, Saintes, Périgueux, Angoulême and Poitiers, to meet in council in Limoges. On November 12, 994, after three days of prayer and fasting, the body of Saint Martial, the first of the bishops of Limoges and protector of the city, was lifted from his tomb, placed in a golden shrine, and carried in a procession from the Basilica of the Savior (today's Place de la République) to Mount Jovis (montis Gaudii), outside the walls. This hill bears this name which means Mount of Joy since that time. Today, it is located in the city of Limoges, in the Montjovis district.

The procession was led by all the prelates, the monks of the abbey of Saint-Martial, and William IV, Duke of Aquitaine, followed by many pilgrims. A huge crowd crowded along the route, gradually joined by groups of monks carrying relics from Figeac, Chambon, Salagnac, and many other parishes. Arrived on the hill dominating the city, the relics of the Limousin saints are offered to the veneration of the population in distress. This mass event was the very first ostension (a term that originates from the Latin verb ostendere, which means to show, or expose, and which was first used by Bernard Itier, monk librarian of Saint-Martial Abbey, in 1211). On December 4, when the body of Saint Martial was brought back to his tomb, the epidemic had stopped. The chronicles of the time mention more than seven thousand cures.

Nowadays, the Limousin Ostensions are events of patrimonial, social and tourist interest, which, as the interest that the Church continues to carry to it, keep a strong religious dimension. The organization of these events mobilizes the public actors, the associative world and many private individuals. The last septennial ostensions, the 72nd of the name, took place from February to October 2016. The next ones will take place in 2023.

The septennial Ostensions begin in Limoges, with the "ceremony of recognition of the chiefs ". The shrine of Saint Martial is opened jointly by the mayor of the city, the bishop, the parish priest of Saint-Michel-des-Lions and the first bayle of the great brotherhood of Saint Martial. In a second time, the heads of Saint Loup and Saint Aurélien are taken out of their shrine. A torchlight procession then stretches to the cathedral of Saint Stephen.

The following Sunday, the Primate of Gaules and Archbishop of Lyon celebrated an opening mass. The Limousin ostensions are framed by the raising and lowering of the amaranth and white flag at the top of the church of Saint-Michel-des-Lions.

Translates by DeepL from

Monday, 22 August 2022

Housing 'Our' Ukrainians


View from an apartment, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
The view from an apartment being renovated for one of 'our' Ukrainian families.

Every week more Ukrainians arrive in the Sud Touraine, and the Association d'Accueil et Accompagnement des Refugiés de Sud Touraine (AARST), which I am on the committee of, is becoming more and more adept at solving their housing and other problems. Luckily, in France, the right to decent accommodation is taken very seriously indeed.

Team of volunteers renovating an apartment for Ukrainian refugees, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Some of the renovating team.

We have three main solutions on the go at the moment. One is that we've partnered with a marvellous organisation called Ficosil, who take on cases where would be tenants might otherwise struggle to find accommodation. They in turn are partnered with Val Touraine Habitat, the largest private-public provider of social housing in the county. Their usual clients are those with mental health or addiction issues or other social disadvantages such as significant debt or problems paying their bills, and they are amazing. Very unusually for France they are willing to work across county (département) boundries, despite being funded by our county of Indre et Loire. We are so close to Vienne though that it makes sense to be able to offer accommodation in that county too. Ficosil's social worker Matt takes care of all the paperwork, negotiating with private and private-public partnership landlords and dealing with other administrative matters such as State rent assistance, as well as utilities connections. Ficosil acts as guarantor and pays the deposit. 

Essential renovating supplies, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Essential supplies for renovating.

Increasingly the Ukrainians are finding jobs and are becoming independent enough to be paying their own rent. In this case we make sure they are helped with the administrative process of claiming rent assistance and AARST may assist with utilities connection and bill paying. 

Multi-tasking whilst renovating, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Multi-tasking -- on the phone and sanding windows.

Then we have Ukrainians staying in private properties that have been offered for free by generous landlords. These places are understood to be short term solutions, but with no hard and fast rules about when they must be vacated. Sometimes these are properties which are for sale, but have been on the market for a long time. AARST arranges utilities connections and pays the quarterly bills. 

Discussing renovation of apartment for Ukrainian refugees, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Christiane and Christophe discussing progress.

Nearly six months into the war we are now working on getting some of our earlier arrivals into some better accommodation. So last Thursday I joined a volunteer team from AARST who cleaned and renovated a two bedroom apartment that has been empty for a while. It is owned by a local shop owner and is situated in a housing development known as the Cité de Tilleuls. There are five blocks of apartments, about 40 dwellings in all. They were originally built to house workers from the Dennery furniture factory just a few minutes walk from the estate, but Dennery closed in 2001 and many of the apartments are empty now.

Bedroom being renovated for Ukrainian refugees, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
One of the bedrooms.

The work was overseen by Christophe, who is very organised, energetic, kind and professional. By the end of the day we had prepared all the walls and windows for painting the next day. The Ukrainian Mum who will be moving in got to choose some new wallpaper for a feature wall in the sitting room. She said she was amazed at how much work we had got done in just one day. Her little daughter is thrilled and has been showing people which one will be her room. When they first arrived they were allocated a studio apartment in a building on the market square. Then they got the opportunity to move into the one bedroom apartment next door. Now they will have a two bedroom apartment in a block of six, and be that bit more independent.

Plasterer working in a bathroom being renovated for Ukrainian refugees. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Plasterer working in the bathroom.

AARST is funded by small ad hoc grants from local authorities and by donations from private benefactors. Any donation more than €30 is tax deductible in France. If you would like to support our work, please contact me by email (link in the right side bar) or message me on Facebook. I can then give you the bank details for AARST and our treasurer Gérald's contact details so you can make a donation.

Young women volunteers stripping wallpaper in an apartment for Ukrainian refugees, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Young women volunteers stripping wallpaper.

Saturday, 20 August 2022


Monkshood Aconitum napellus, Col de Tentes, Hautes-Pyrénées, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

Monkshood Aconitum napellus (Fr. Aconit napel) is a plant you will encounter wild at high elevations in the Pyrénées in many locations in late summer. You may also have grown it in your garden or received it in a floral arrangement.

Monkshood Aconitum napellus, Col de Tentes, Hautes-Pyrénées, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

It's a lovely plant, but one to be wary of. All parts of the plant contain a toxin which is very easily absorbed through the skin, so it is inadvisable to touch it unless gloved up, and be careful not to brush against it even. The toxin causes nerve damage, starting with numbness at the point of contact, and can lead to multiple organ failure and death. Tradtionally it was used to poison wolves.

Monkshood Aconitum napellus, Col de Tentes, Hautes-Pyrénées, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

I photographed these Monkshood plants on the Col de Tentes, near Gavarnie in the Hautes-Pyrénées in July.

Friday, 19 August 2022

Gunned Down in the Forest

Every year on 20 August there is a memorial service for a group of men who were shot in the forest at a place called Kerleroulx. The memorial on the side of the road lists three men, Fernand Lussault, Prosper Douard and Raymond Le Pautremat, but there was a fourth man who was shot too. The three on the memorial were killed by the Nazis, but local farmer Emile Guidoux, who tried to come to their aid, was wounded and survived.

Forest ride, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
The forest allée where the men were shot.

 Kerleroulx is a chateau farming estate between Manthelan and Loches which German troops burned down on 20 August 1944 in one of the first skirmishes in the battle to liberate Loches. The Germans were coming from Manthelan, on their way to Loches. 

Resistance memorial, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
The memorial on the side of the D760.

Prosper Douard was from Esvres sur Indre and worked as a gamekeeper and forester on the Kerleroulx estate. Raymond le Pautremat was from Morbihan, working as a farm labourer at Kerleroulx and probably there as a means of hiding out and avoiding conscription as forced labour for the Germans.

The town of Loches had been liberated, but four days later, on 20 August, the Germans launched a counter offensive to retake the town because of its strategic importance to the German retreat south of the Loire. They arrived at Kerleroulx at 5am, arresting Emile Guidoux, the farm manager, and two of his workers, Raymond le Pautremat and Fernand Lussault, who were accused of shooting at the German soldiers. They were taken about forty metres from the chateau, along with Douard, then marched to a forest allée. After about sixty metres the Germans opened fire and cut the French men down. Douard, le Pautremat and Lussault were killed but Guidoux, hit by several bullets but only wounded, managed to escape to a neighbouring farm, where some farm labourers succeeded in hiding him from the Germans.


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.

We are also on Instagram, so check us out to see a regularly updated selection of our very best photos. 

Thursday, 18 August 2022

From Descartes to Tournon.

Not a philosophy post, a cycling post.

To justify buying The Vicar I have had to use it (him/her, as you wish). We have a fairly level bike path that runs through town, so most of my activity has been restricted to that, and the roads it runs parallel to. This is my cycling record for the past 10 days:

On Sunday I rode from Preuilly towards Paris along the voie verte. The train from Preuilly used to go to Port a Piles, then to Tours and subsequently to Paris, these days the bike path which now uses the trackbed stops at Descartes.

Yesterday I rode in the other direction, to Tournon St Martin. From there the train used to continue on to le Blanc. There is a bike path that goes to le Blanc, but there is a break in the path of about 5km where you have to go back onto the open roads. One day I will do it, but yesterday wasn't the day for it.

So the map of my last two rides looks like this:

And that average speed of 9.9km/h for yesterday? That's because I fogot to turn my watch off while I was at the swimming pool. Otherwise the figure is 20.0 km/h Average Moving Speed

Wednesday, 17 August 2022

A New Spot in Town

I can't believe we haven't blogged about this before, nor that we have no more photos of it:

Late last year we began to hear rumours that a new venture was going to be opening in town - a bar was going to be using the old lavoir on the river under the plane trees. It was a rumour from a reliable source, but we weren't too sure how sucessful it would be.

It turns out - very. It's a great spot, the food and drinks are resonably priced, and they have live music at the weekend. A lot of people use it as a regular meeting spot, and it always seems to be buzzing whenever I cycle past or we are at the swimming pool.

It is a mark of how busy and disrupted this year has been that we have only been there together once

"le Lavoir Guinguette"

Tuesday, 16 August 2022

Eating at the top of the Pyrenees

The past two years we have eaten at a number of mountain refuges and restaurants that probably started as mountain refuges. Here's a rundown:

The first we ate at was last year at the refuge at lac d'Ilheou. They have a road (OK - track) they can drive up to get supplies in, but no internet or phone signal. That means they can serve a well cooked omlette served with a tomato salad for 7€, and drinks by the can for 3€, but not take credit card. Cash is needed. The second we ate at - also last year - was the Lac de Gaube, which we wrote about here. They also have a track, so they can drive in supplies and do a proper three course lunch.

This year we were more adventurous, and ate at two refuges which had signs saying that they had no facilities to deal with rubbish, and everything on site was delivered by helicopter. The first was at Refuge Oulettes de Gaube where we were lucky enough to get the last two picnic boxes, even though we were very late for lunch (15:15) and we hadn't placed an order. We had tried to, but either we had an old phone number or the phone wasn't working. The lunch wasn't spectacular - rice salad, a couple of pieces of cake, but it was fuel, and the view more than made up for it. We didnt order beer, even though they fly in kegs of a local artsan brew to serve on tap.

The refuge is protected from wind coming up the valley by being buried in a rock outcrop

Two days later we ate at the Refuge d'Estom. We had started our walk a couple of hours ealier than on the previous walk, so we arrived for lunch more or less at the same time as every other slow walker. It was a really good luch, too, a planche of mixed charcuterie, smoked fish rillettes, and cheese.

Once we work out how to make bookings and arrive at lunchtime we will dine at more refuges. They are without doubt dining experiences, and the people who run them work really hard under quite trying conditions. There's no electricity except for what they can capture from the sun, and having to fly in everything (although I am guessing that someone occasionally does the 15km return walk to get stuff as well) must make it a logistical challenge.

Saturday, 13 August 2022


Yesterday we retrieved Célestine from the gearbox whisperer. We went out relatively early because the weather forecast was for a scorcher. Needless to say, by the time we got to the gearbox whisperer's house, taken Célestine for a test drive, and had a polite cup of coffee, it was midday.

She was running well, if a little warm - unusual for Célestine, her running temperature is normally about 70°C, but she was showing above 80°C for the first 10km. Then, within the space of 2km, the temperature went off the gauge, at least 120°C.  I pulled over to be greeted by the sound of a kettle boiling.

Trying to cool down a boiling car in a cark park with no shade.

Susan had gone on ahead, in the Cactus, so I rang her, asked her to buy radiator liquid and return, which she duly did.

After a sufficient period of cooling I poured liquid in to Célestine, turned the engine on and topped her up. We drove to Garage Caillet in Bléré, by which time the gauge had returned to 110°C.

The garage are holding her there until we get a cooler day (Tuesday or Wednesday next week, hopefully) and we will go and retrieve her. With any luck the remedy will be flushing out the radiator and engine and descaling her, but it could be we'll need a new water pump and/or radiator.

Sighs all rounds...

Friday, 12 August 2022

About Cauterets

Cauterets has a very long history, stretching back to the Neolithic. There are supposedly many stone circles and dolmens in the area, although we have never seen them (or found them on a map). Later, the Romans identified the hot springs and built baths, traces of which have been found on terraces near the town.

The town didn't really gain popularity until the 18th century, when reliably passable roads were built, and people returned to take the waters. This reached its peak in the 19th century, when some of the spa buildings that can still be seen around the area were built, as well as the casino that now houses the cinema, a bar and the municipal swimming pool. The town was connected by electric train to the national network in 1899, and a couple of years before that a tramway had been built from Cauterets up the valley to the spa at La Raillère.

The tram station at Cauterets, built by the Eiffel company.

The tram station at Cauterets, built by the Eiffel company

The area was a great favorite of the Romantics. The mountains and wild nature attracted a number of wealthy (and very interesting) adventurers, who came to conquer nature whilst admiring and no doubt getting a frisson from how terrible (in the old sense of the word) it all was.

After the spa and taking the waters boom of the 19th century faded, Cauterets began to sink into obscurity. There were ski clubs started, but many of the winter sports tourists headed instead to the more fashionable Alps. Plans for hydro-electric dams in the valley were defeated in the 1950s, and this led to the declaration of the Pyrenees National Park in 1967. The railway from Lourdes had closed in 1949 and the tramway to La Raillère closed in 1970, but by then a cable car from the centre of town to the Cirque du Lys had been built and the tourists were starting to return.

The cable car to the Cirque du Lys starts close to the centre of town.

Not that life has been consistantly easy since then. In 2013 the road towards Lourdes (and the town's connection to the outside world) were washed away in a flood that also destroyed a number of  buildings in town. This resulted in the "laces" which can be seen at 3:50 in the video we took last year. The road was damaged again earlier this year, once again isolating the town, and also destroying telephone and internet connections. Our host Celine said it was slightly difficult - but rather nice.

Wednesday, 10 August 2022


If you had looked really closely at the background of last Thursday's photo (but why would you?) you would have noticed something a little odd. We certainly didn't notice it at the time.

In fact, it wasn't until the next day, as Susan and I were making our way to the station to leave Lyon, that I realised there was a bit of a commotion drifiting across the river. We couldn't quite work out what it was about, but there was what sounded like quite a heated discussion mixed in with machinery of some kind - we couldn't see anything anwhere you would expect to see people discussing things.

And then we lifted our eyes:

It looks like they are drilling holes in the cliff face to insert some sort of reinforcing, probably steel rods, to stabilise the rocks. The building below is the offices of the canal company. We have seen similar work done in caves, and the results of this sort of activity in rock faces above mountain roads, and we have even seen similar rods being used to hold up the cliffs of the Cité Royale in Loches, but we have never watched it being done in the middle of a big city.

Tuesday, 9 August 2022


It's just that the moon happened to be in the right place. The photo was taken in Lyon, 4 weeks ago.

It's amazing... In some ways Lyon feels like it was longer ago than 4 weeks, but in others it feels so recent. I suppose it's because we have been so busy and done so much lately that time has felt really random.

Monday, 8 August 2022

Brocante Time

Last Saturday was Preuilly's brocante.

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, Translation of brocante – French–English dictionary:
brocante noun  [ feminine ] /bʀɔkɑ̃t/ (activité commerciale) vente d’objets anciens : secondhand goods trade.

According to Susan, Brocante = junk. We don't ever buy stuff at the brocante, and you can tell how interested we are by the fact that it would appear from our photo index that we didn't go last year. In fact we did go, but I remember saying to Susan "we can't blog that, I didn't take a photo".

This year we went after swimming to buy lunch, which was very well organised, and quite good value. Two sausages and chips (fries) for 6€. If you look carefully you can see Susan lining up for lunch (with The Vicar in the forground).

While waiting for lunch I recalled that 16 years ago we picnicked on the banks of the Claise prior to signing for our house. You can read about that event here.