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Opening the Well

Updated: Nov 19, 2021

The arrival of Di and John has heralded a new phase in life at Le Prieure. We now have a social life! Initially A and I bbq’ed on a heavy breeze block affair with a chimney. On first viewing the house, my initial thought was that the monstrous thing was the first object that was to go. The beautiful evenings though (when the French have been in coats and winter boots and us in cotton tops and flip flops!) have drawn us to the bbq and the large amounts of old wood I’ve been cutting down have proven ideal. On several occasions we lit the bbq using dried up moss and old pinecones. With no charcoal we cooked our delicious Toulouse sausages and chicken over the embers, along with peppers, aubergine and onions. The arrival of John and Di stepped the affair up a notch and we purchased charcoal and added prawns to the menu, along with some tasty salads. I get the feeling we are thought of as being mad, eating outside in April, but it was 80° F on Sunday and, still on an English metronome, we have to make the most of every minute of sunshine!

The interior of l’Atelier is very dark and quite cold (it does help to turn the heating on!) and when there are blue skies and sunshine outside, it seems a great shame to be in. The cool interior will, no doubt come into its own in the summer. In the meantime, A sits under the large veranda doing her revision and I seek shelter there when I need a rest from the gardening. At the moment, there being no cushions, we have made a Heath Robinson affair of folded sleeping blankets we found in a cupboard. Comfortable, but not quite the aesthetic I’m looking for in the long run!

In the meantime, we have had a lovely curry night at D and J’s, where we met English neighbours who have come out for the Easter holiday. Also out is A, preceding his wife. He is keen on dry stone walling, but so far has been roped in to cut up a neighbour’s large tree which blew down in a storm and subsequently, to help me open up the well.

Opening the well

The latter was covered in ivy, honeysuckle and tiles and is next to a large pile of grass clippings and the remains of previous laurel prunings. I’ve been warned of the various types of snakes that are wont to live in such piles. The Emmaus trip procured a pair of wellies for three euros, which made me feel safer tackling the area than the open backed shoes I had been wearing, but opening the well alone didn’t appeal. The unknown depth and the general atmosphere of overgrown wilderness (and the potential for snakes in the undergrowth) led me to seek the assistance of my new neighbours. Armed with a ball of string and a weight, they valiantly set forth, only to have to return home in search of a hacksaw when, ivy, honeysuckle and tiles removed, we discovered a stout metal lid held closed with an old and rusty padlock. Duly removed and the seized hinges persuaded to move, the water could be seen glinting darkly somewhere in the depths of the amazingly well preserved walls.

A shocking 100ft drop!

Lowering the weight, firmly attached to the string, it dropped down and down and down, until eventually the sting ran out and J attached the end of a ball of whipping twine he had also thoughtfully brought. That ran and ran until finally he hit water. The measurement marked, he continued playing out the twine until eventually the weight hit the bottom. Drawing it back up, the string and twine was laid out on the grass and measured. 19m until the water and then 11m of water! The whole exercise was undertaken because Lidl has a pump for sale, but the drop for the hose had a maximum depth of 4m. So worthwhile the effort as it saved me 65 euros. I suspect the pump needed will have to be pretty sturdy and will way out cost the 65 euros. As we get dry summers, the well water will be really useful. French houses are on meters and the idea of using our own water for the garden is ideal. What I really need is some wonderful Victorian invention, like the uphill mechanical water lift that works on balance. Or a slave to turn the well handle!!

Leaving the lid unlocked was rather scary, with an almost 100 foot drop available to anyone nosy enough to come in and avail themselves of the fall, so I headed off into town and got a new padlock. With some relief, it was replaced. Now I just have to rebuild and re tile the roof, most of which is lying in the bushes behind the well. The whole structure looks much better since being cleared of ivy, muck, weeds and stray plants. Now we just have to remove years of grass cuttings and dead laurel branches. That is a job to tackle on my return visit, when my god daughter’s brother is going to come out and give me a hand with tackling the high hedges and the oversized compost heaps.

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