Over the last few days, we have been investigating the costs of timber, boards and other construction materials for various projects planned at La Biochère.  We’ve visited the local saw mill at St Peirre-sur-Orthe, a number of bricolages and then yesterday, looked in at the Brico Depot at Alençon.  Prices varied greatly and while we would love to have supported the local mill, we couldn’t really ignore a saving of over 3000 Euros!

A stressful few hours

And so, Brico Depot it was.  Unfortunately, after telling us we could buy everything we wanted with free delivery, when we came to order and pay, we were told that the delivery service had been suspended!  We were then told it was best to place the order on line and we could hire one of their vans or we could hire a van from elsewhere, which ever was more convenient.  It was annoying, to say the least but we duly went home (a 40 minute drive away) to make the order on line, only to find that most of the big items we wanted (tongue and groove panelling, floor boards, insulated plasterboard) couldn’t be ordered online because they were on promotion!  Grrrr!!!  In the end, Edward managed to ring the shop and explain what had happened and they advised that they would make the order up and it would be ready for collection today…..  The next thing to do was to hire a van….. We’ve hired from Super U before and been happy with the process, so thought we’d use them again – easier said than done!! The van we needed was unavailable from our local stores and it was looking more uncertain that we would be able to collect our goods after all…. However, a few fraught minutes later and we found what we were looking for at the store in Conlie, about a half hour’s drive away.  Phew!

So, today, we were up early and headed over to Conlie to collect the van.  We were both quite excited about it all because the materials are going to be used in the soon-to-be started building of my studio, a storage shed, a summer house and fencing for the veranda.  I’m particularly excited about the studio, of course, but the storage shed is also going to be an important move forward as it will help us to clear the study so that can be used more easily and be a more practical space instead of being chock full of things that don’t need to be in there but which need dry storage.

So far, so good, the drive over was uneventful and the van was waiting for us with minimal fuss with form-filling.  Edward drove.  It was a beautiful morning, clear blue skies and warm.  We went cross-country to reach the main road leading to Alençon – we found ourselves in unfamiliar but very pretty territory, certainly somewhere we’d like to explore further when we have more time 🙂  It wasn’t without some stress though – some of the roads were narrow and the lorries coming from the other direction all seemed to be coming towards us extremely fast and in the middle of the road – it was a relief to reach the main road to Alençon, despite Edward’s good driving….

We arrived in good time at Brico Depot, only to be told that they hadn’t collected our order together!  There had been some miscommunication on their side apparently, so while Edward went to start loading up the van, with a very helpful forklift driver, I went inside the store to collect 26 packs of the tongue and groove, just to make sure we didn’t miss out on the special offer!  The trolley was so heavy after I’d loaded it, I had to ask for help to push it down to the checkout – it took two lads to move it!!!

Meanwhile, back in the exterior yard, Edward and his helper were making good headway with loading the van….

Nearly loaded!

Nearly loaded!

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We were finally loaded up and ready to go by 11.30 am…

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Back on our familiar roads and loaded with everything we’d planned for, at a good price (!), we started to relax a little.  At Le Gué Ory, we decided to stop for a coffee….

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Before getting back in the van, we went for a short walk to look at the River Sarthe, flowing just beyond the coffee shop.  And here we saw the unmistakable blue flash of a kingfisher!  Magical – it flew down the river towards us before alighting a willow in the bank. It skipped to a nearby bush then dived for a fish in the shallows….  Sadly, no photos but sometimes it’s good to just ‘see’…..

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Back home and after a cup of tea, we started the job of unloading the van – neither of us were looking forward to it!  But once the van was backed into the barn (it only just fit), it went quite smoothly….

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It was hard work and it was a relief when it was done – what a hoard!!  Twenty-six 13′ x 4″ x 4″, fifty 13′ x 3″ x 3″, thirty 8′ x 4′ insulated plaster boards, sixty-three 7′ x 2′ floor boards, and twenty-six packs of tongue and groove….

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Mid-afternoon and we’d done – time to take the van back to Conlie.

No real dramas getting it back.  We didn’t realise we had to wash it before handing back the keys, so Edward had to use the jet wash in the supermarket service station (it cost 1 Euro to clean a Luton-type van!), then our deposits were returned and a bonus 10 Euro refund because we didn’t use the full 150 km we’d originally estimated!

A calm late afternoon

As we had finished the unloading earlier than we had anticipated, we had decided to bring the cameras with us and after returning the van, thought we’d head back to the river at Le Gué Ory to see if we could spot the Kingfisher again.  For the second time today, we travelled across country, along unfamiliar roads.  It was very relaxing and something we haven’t done for quite some time – we always used to enjoy a drive out on a magical mystery tour!

The scenery, as always around here, was beautiful – rolling hills, wooded areas and lots of patchwork farmland.  It’s very rural.  Our first stop came when we spotted an imposing building , tucked beyond a lovely beech driveway….

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Next to this was a field of sunflowers, all finished flowering by now and the seeds clearly visible and ready for harvest….

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Certainly some inspiration there for some printmaking!

Further along our drive, we passed the odd house and farm before coming across another field of sunflowers that was being harvested – we’re not sure if they have been grown for oil or for fodder, like the maize….

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We followed the road around, coming across open vistas aplenty.  The hedgerows are now starting to take on autumn colours…..

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These had the leaves and fruits of elder berry but looked more like herbaceous plants than shrubs…

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We just had to stop to pick up this beauty – dropped from a dead pine tree in the verge….

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And then we crossed a bridge over this river….

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We just had to stop and take in the scene.  We followed a little track that took us down to the water’s edge and from where we could see the bridge….

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It was so peaceful watching birds flying up and down, seeing fish rising in the calmer, deeper water and listening to the gentle flow of the river as it trickled over rocks and stones near the bridge.  Back onto the bridge itself, we took in more of the scenery and noticed on the other side there was another stream joining the main river…

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While up behind the stand of poplars, another imposing building stood, just out of sight of curious tourists!

As we looked again on the other side of the bridge, we caught sight of yet another Kingfisher – amazing to see 2 in one day and at different locations!  It literally flew under the bridge as we looked over the top!

Just before we headed back to the car, I spotted something in the side of the road – on closer inspection we found it was a bat – poor little thing must have hit a vehicle or something as it searched for food.  It looked perfect, perhaps just asleep….

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We brought it home to add to our collection of natural curios…..

By now, time was moving on and we still hadn’t reached the river at Le Gué Ory!  We weren’t far away, so once we arrived at the adjacent village of Souges le Ganelon, we bought some sandwiches and drink for our tea and had a little picnic by the River Sarthe, once we eventually reached it!  It was a lovely area but we found it quite noisy from ‘rush hour’ traffic – nothing like what we’d expect in England, but enough to break the peace and tranquillity of a river scene.  Still, we enjoyed it, watching the river flow by and the dappled sunlight on the overhanging trees and beautiful reflections in the water…

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We  weren’t lucky enough to see the kingfisher again but when I looked down after finishing my baguette sandwich, it was a pleasant surprise to see the crumbs were being taken away by a line of ants!  Now that’s recycling at it’s best! A perfect end to a day full of contrasts and surprises. ♥

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