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Our Grand Design in Montemboeuf, Charente, France


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Time to discuss the landscaping! – Temps de discuter de l’aménagement paysager!

Al and Tom discuss our landscape plans

Al and Tom discuss our landscape plans

As mentioned in our previous post our brother-in-law, Al, joined us for a few days in our lovely gite near Salles Lavalette in Poitou Charentes. As a Landscape Architect, we decided that he would be an ideal person to help us with our landscape plans.  A lot of our discussions were around designing the entrance and approach to the house.  We felt that this was important for a number of reasons, including the fact that once we have a habitable building on site, we need to give it some protection and security.  However, it is not something that we can rush either because it is the first thing that people will see as the approach the house.

We discussed a number of options and had a couple of site visits and I think that we all have a similar idea as to what is needed an as to what will work.  Tom and Al also visited a few garden centres near Angoulême to get an idea of what is available (plants, stone, aggregate etc) and the costs involved.  As there is a Pépinières in Montemboeuf, we hope that we will be able to buy some plants from them as well.  We are quite a long way off from planting, but the design stage is in full swing!

Al is now planning to come back to us with a few ideas.  Once we have these we will post them here and on our Design page.


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Water tight and air tight by Christmas! – Hors d’eau et hors d’ait avent Noel

Circuit des Remparts, Angoulême

Circuit des Remparts, Angoulême

It has been a busy couple of days over here in the Charente, we have met with our builder, Stuart and also Claude from Marandat to confirm final designs and details for the build.  Tom did make a few final changes to the designs, but we both think that these changes have improved the design and make for a better overall and workable layout. And yes, the 10cm rise int he roof height is still there – woooo!

Thursday 18th September was a very big day because this was when we signed the contract with Marandat and handed them a big cheque (scary). Thankfully, overnight the lovely people of Scotland decided to stay with the UK, which resulted in a spike in the pound-euro exchange rate (along with diggers, something else I have become quite interested in). This meant the cost of our build became a little bit more affordable. It is amazing what a few cents on the pound can make!  To celebrate the signing, we took a trip to Super U and bought some champers.  We’ll be drinking it with Al, when he comes over later this week.

We have also been in contact with the various utilities companies in France, SAUR for water and EDrF for electricity.  We are also meeting a man about drainage (exciting times).  Luckily we have mains drainage so no fosse septic  needed.  So far the only evidence that we have seen that the utilities companies are doing anything are a few spray paint marks on the road.  If the companies are anything like they are in the UK, we could be waiting a while!

After the signing of the contract, we made a final visit to the plot with Stuart to confirm the location of the house.  He hopes to start in the next couple of weeks.  Once he has finished, hopefully by late October/early November, the timber frame can go up.  The terms of the contract with Marandat state that the house should be water and tight by Christmas, this means our house will have doors, windows and a roof (my garden shed is bigger than this).  Once we all get back from the Christmas break, they will start on the internal works, such as stairs and walls.

It was then time for a bit of a holiday.  We first headed towards Cognac to stay with our friends at Maison Maurice for a couple of days, before heading to our gite near Salle-Lavelette.  On the way we managed a trip to Angoulême to experience the circuit de remparts.  Although there wasn’t any racing while we were there, we saw plenty of fantastic cars on the way there and parked all round the town.  It is definitely something that we would both like to visit and experience again.

Tomorrow, it is back to work.  Our brother-in-law Al is a Landscape Architect, with his own Leeds based practice, Laand. He is coming over to visit the plot.  He will be doing the garden designs for us, so needs to see the site to get an idea of the work involved. There is quite a lot of land so he will have plenty to work with.  Although as it is a sloping site, he will have a few obstacles to overcome.

Still, lots of exciting times to come!

New French words I have learnt  (I will expand on this as the weeks go by);

Hors d’eau – Water tight
Hors d’ait – Air tight

La poute – beam
Poussez les dents – teeth coming through!
Baies coulissantes – Siding doors
Casque de chantier – hard hat.
Sous-sol – basement
La Renouée du Japon – Japanese knotweed


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Our first site visit – notre première visite au chantier

Molly checking the sign is in its proper form!

Molly checking the sign is in its proper form!

Nous sommes en France!

Today, Tom, Molly and I paid our first visit to the site since the ‘ouverture du chantier‘.  Even though it doesn’t look like much at the moment, this was a very exciting step in the whole process.  We were also able to meet our builder, Stuart, on site to discuss the setting out of the house to make sure the foundations are put in the correct place.  Although we do have a rough idea, these can not be finalised until we have the drawings from Marandat – our timber frame company.  After having had a meeting with Claude today, we hope that Stuart will have this drawing by the end of the week and then Stuart can start the works!

After visiting the site, we took a trip to see our timber frame company to go through their quote and to get an idea as to when they can start on site.  It all looks possible for them to start in November, as long as Tom and I can be decisive about the designs and the type of windows we want.  There is far more to choice of windows than just their alignment, we have to decide colour, opening style, finishes as well as deciding the sort of shutters we want – I never imagined I would take so much interest in a window.  If the choice of windows is difficult, I dread to think how we will be on kitchens and bathrooms!  Luckily, Tom and I seem to like the same windows so the choice is not as bad as it might be!

A few other design decisions were made today and I am happy to say that we have (and this is very important), agreed to raise the roof by 10cm!  Wow, you might think, but this is a very significant design decision that I (no, seriously I did) pushed for.  It means that we don’t have to trim the bedroom door frame in one corner.  It would have been one of those things that niggled at me in my old age. Oh no, I am turning in to Tom…..!

 

New French words I have learnt  (I will expand on this as the weeks go by);

La poute – beam
Poussez les dents – teeth coming through!

Baies coulissantes – Siding doors
Casque de chantier – Hard hat.
Sous-sol – basement
La Renouée du Japon – Japanese knotweed


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The builders have started on site – Les constructeurs ont commencé sur le site

Building access on to the site

Building access on to the site

I never thought i’d be so excited by a picture of a digger, but I am.  The picture above shows a digger on our site, starting work on the access road.  Stuart from SLM Construction kindly sent these through so that we could see his progress.  It night not look like much at the moment, but it is the first sign that we have that work has started and that we really are building a house!  The building of the foundations should take about 6 weeks and then the timber frame can start – just as long as we finalise the designs!  We will be signing the contract with Marandat next week, so we need to stop tinkering soon!

The sign to the left of the picture must be displayed as part of the planning process and is therefore a legal requirement.  Unfortunately, for the first two months that it is displayed our planning permission can be contested by third parties.  Hopefully, this will not happen, but I will have my fingers crossed until mid-November! The photo of the sign is just as important as seeing the digger.  If we did not have this sign in place, and the proper form, potential opponents would have the right to contest the planning decision.  The obligation to prove that the notice was placed on the site in a correct manner, and for a sufficiently long duration, lies with Tom and I  – so hooray for the photo as proof.

The new driveway looking    north

The new driveway looking north

We wrote to Grand Designs about our project but unfortunately they are only covering projects in the UK.  They only ever did one season of Grand Designs Abroad and I think they should think about doing another one!

Now that we’ve started on site, more posts and photos should appear, keep you eye, we’ll keep you updated as much as possible!

 

New French words I have learnt  (I will expand on this as the weeks go by);

Baies coulissantes – Siding doors

Casque de chantier – Hard hat.
Sous-sol – basement
La Renouée du Japon – Japanese knotweed