Our farmhouse is built on an outcrop surrounded by fields sloping down to the stream in the valley bottom. The outcrop is sandstone covered with clay and in places, including the bank where the swimming pool is sited, the clay is gently on the move back down the valley.
In the nearly three years we have lived here the small already-repaired cracks around the swimming pool pump house have steadily widened and the flagstones have lifted and split apart. The repaired slits in the wall of the raised butterfly border at the far end of the pool have broken open. It is only a matter of time (and probably not a long time) before the pump house slides down the bank into Monsieur F's field. So we decided better to ask Eric to take it down before it falls down.
We expected to find that the foundations were shallow - hence the slippage. But no. Eric and Phoebe battled to dig the pipes and electrics out of deep, robust concrete. The builders of the pool knew what they were up against, but the movement of the clay is inexorable. We considered putting down piles to see if they might hold things steady, but their weight might just give the clay extra momentum. So we're moving the pump house from the far side of the pool to the butterfly border end, where it will be away from the bank.
The pump house was always too small. Tod had to bend awkwardly to turn the stopcocks on and off. He grazed his knuckles against the wall in releasing the clips around the pump. So now we can have a sensible building that he can stand up in.
We also don't have any shade by the pool except for a few umbrellas (which never seem to have their shadows where needed). So now is also a good moment to build a covered shelter, where we can hang a couple of hammocks and have afternoon tea in the shade when the temperature's in the thirties.
We also realised last night that we can change the pool from a chlorine to salt-water system. Great. No need for harsh chemicals anymore.
So for the moment the butterfly border has had to go. The shrubs have been severely pruned, dug up and are sitting in a pile waiting to be transplanted to the long sunny banks down beyond the cottage. I think the butterflies will like it there.
The old pump house in happier times
Cracks in butterfly border wall
The pump house no more
The new foundations
The beginnings of the pump house and the shelter alongside
In the 1970's I lived in Brazil and I wrote home to my mother in the UK every week. Those letters became the story of my life there. In 2007 I moved to south west France. Not quite sure where "home" is, I have no family left in the UK. If I did, these words would be my letters home, capturing the first impressions of my life here, to share, enjoy and perhaps re-read in years to come.