Temporary break in service

My computer threw a wobbly yesterday and reset itself up with factory settings. I would not alow backup of any programes, photos, documents etc which was on there.  So I cannot download any photos  from my camera onto the computer and canot then prepare them for placing on a blog.


When I return to GB in 2 weeks time I will no doubt be able to sort things out.



Hairy caterpillar… Gypsy moth


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Well I think its a Gipsy moth but I am not 100% sure. Gipsy moth caterpillar5This one was crawling across our patio table, so no clues as to what food plant I found it on, unless it likes tomato and endive salad, mixed charcuterie, fresh bread and a glass of 1664.  Probably not.

I put him on a nearby Hazel bush and took his photo.

A word of warning the hairs of some caterpillars can cause skin irritations so best not to play with them, but I am fairly thick skinned so just moving it from table to hazel bush was fairly risk free.

There is a web site which might help you identify caterpillars and it is http://www.mothscount.org/uploads/caterpillar%20lft.pdf

Poitou-Charentes wildflower of the month August 2014 Toadflax


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Toadflax, which in French is called Linaire commune, is flowering well this month and you will often see it growing by the roadside. The photos I have taken for this blog came from some plants that were growing up through a hedge and as a result the plants had reached a height of about 200cm which is quite tall. Often they are between 50 to 100 cm tall. Toadflax4It is related to the garden flower Antirrhinum which has the ‘bunny’ shaped flowers which open when you  squeeze them. The point behind this shape of flower is that  it takes quite a strong insect like a bumble bee to push between the upper and lower lips of the flower in order to enter it, thus gaining access to the nectar within……. ‘Do you have a nectar card?’ …. ‘NO,  leave me alone.  I do not wish to be sucked into your organisation’….. Sorry I’m off on a rant again. Anyway the large bees gain entry and in so doing they get covered with pollen which they then transfer to the next flower they visit.Toadflax3

It is called Toadflax because it’s leaves are very similar to the leaves of Flax. When Linnaeus gave it it’s scientific name he called it Linaria which is derived from Linum which is Flax. The toad bit probably comes from the acrid bitter milky juice that comes from the plant if you damage it or break it. Toads produce a milky acid tasting liquid from their warts if they are bitten or roughly handled and this is a protection against animals like foxes or dogs that might otherwise eat them.

Toadflax is very widely distributed. It occurs all across Europe, across Siberia and even as far as China. It also extends down into northern Asia. It does prefer  a light well-drained alkaline or chalky soil.  Where I photographed it there was also  some Travellers Joy  (or Old Mans Beard) growing. This is a wild clematis which is very indicative of alkaline conditions.

Like most plants it has been used in the past for various things. The yellow flowers have been used as a dye and  it has also been used for medicinal purposes. The leaves were cooked up with lard and then the mixture stained to produce a green ointment which was used on piles and also on sores and ulcers. Whether it did any good is debatable – probably a bit of lard without any Toadflax would have been just as good.Toadflax5

The Toadflax Brocade moth caterpillar feeds on the Toadflax plant.  I spotted a caterpillar on one of  the plants I was photographing. To see what the moth looks like and find out a bit more about it click on this link.  http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?bf=2223

For other flowers of the month click the link below. Previously  August  flowers of the month have been Wild Chicory (Chicorum intybus) 2012 and  Hemp Agrinomy (Eupatorium cannabinium)2013


To identify other flowers from this region click…



BBQ time is here again.


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Back in Poitou-Charentes in just a few days now and looking forward to some good BBQ food, but I might get my son to cook it as he is a professional chef and is used to the heat of the kitchen. I will supervise from the shade with a cold beer in hand.  langoustines1


These Langoustines look like a good choice to kick off with.

The East Anglian Field Study Centre


My old web site still exists. Recently I was providing an ecology course for some students in Norfolk and their teacher told me that she got all the students to have a look through my web site before they came on the course. centre%20drawing%20AThis confused me somewhat because the Field centre has been closed for over ten years. I assumed that the web site no longer existed as I do not pay to keep up the domain name and also do not pay anyone to host it.

The domain name is slightly different to what it used to be, it was http://www.field-centre.com or http://www.field-centre.co.uk but now it is http://www.field-centre.ndo.co.uk So what is ndo? anyway the site is still there and it is quite large and its what I used to do, so if you are interested have a look.

Click East Anglian Field study Centre and you can see it. The look is very old fashioned now, how web sites have changed in the 20 years since I made that one.


Poitou-Charentes wild flower of the month July 2014 Spreading Bellfower


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OK better late than never, but I’ve been very busy…..sorry.

I have chosen Spreading Bellflower (Campanula patula).  I like to pick a flower which you might well have noticed as you are driving about or walking. Not a flower which you might have to hunt for, ie a flower which  is going to announce its presence to you and this one fits that brief. Driving along you will see patches of this purple/blue flower in the hedgerows, it is not particularly fond of shady areas so you are most likely to see it in more open countryside.

Spreading Bellflower (Campanula patula) June/July

Spreading Bellflower (Campanula patula) June/July

For other flowers of the month click the link below, previously in July the flowes of the month has been Field Bindweed (Columbine arvensis)


To identify other flowers from this region click…



England Italy


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They say every cloud has a silver lining.silver lining1

Well the one in this photo does but it is hard to see where England 1 Italy 2 has a silver lining.

The boys will be home soon.


Updated on 25/06/2014  They are coming home today…… and lots of people will discuss what went wrong and then it will die down and in 4 years time we can do it all again, if we qualify.


La Cotinière; Isle d’Oléron


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 Poitou-Charentes has a great coast line with some wonderful destinations, but for those of us who live on the eastern side of the region it is a long haul over to the coast. Over the years the roads have improved and we no longer have to trail round St Jean d’Angely and there is a short stretch of motorway which enables you to avoid Tonnay Charente.  The use of the sat nav has arguably made the route more straightforward. Ours will save us 5 miles by cutting across from Sauze Vaussais to Aunlay, thus avoiding the aromas of Melle. However it is a wonder to me that in Chef Boutonne, a commune little bigger than a village, the sat nav makes takes a route through involving a seemingly endless series of right and left turns. Nevertheless with all the improvements in navigation and roads we can now get to our nearest bit of coast in about two hours at Fouras.  We have visited many times over the years and like it very much for a number of reasons, See my blog……http://poitoucharentesinphotos.wordpress.com/2012/07/17/fouras/

If you want to explore a bit further afield, then to do it in a day involves quite a lot of driving. I like Ile d’Oleron. I prefer it to Ile de Re partly because the bridge is free and partly because I feel that on the Ile de Re they are bicycle friendly to the point of being car unfriendly. whereas on Ile d’Oleron I think they have the balance right. This week we went to La Cotiniere, and so as to avoid the drive there and back in one day we booked into a hotel for the night.

La Cotiniere1 I would highly recommend the Hotel de la Plage.  It is about 7 minutes walk from the harbour and town area – although it took us 10 minutes to walk in as I am suffering from a torn calf muscle due to an over exuberant game of squash a few weeks ago. The hotel is modern, charming and clean, and the rooms are fine. The hosts are very friendly, breakfast was excellent, with a decent choice and there is a nice clean swimming pool with loungers all round in the garden which also offers table tennis and table football -and to top it all it is only 30 seconds walk to the beach which is, or was when we were there, virtually deserted and long and sandy.  The price is very reasonable so give it a go! There are several other attractive looking hotels nearby. Click here for the Hotel de la Plage web site, and here is a photo I took of the front which is not terribly inspired – it’s the inside of the hotel and its grounds which are its best feature.La Cotiniere2

Continue reading

Restaurant reviews in Poitou-Charentes


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Over 20 restaurants in the Poitou-Charentes region have been subjected to our personal scrutiny. We are working our way through them but its taking time.

Our most recent review was of an excellent restaurant in Lussac les Chateaux. Les Orangeries, Lussac5


To access the reviews click http://poitoucharentesinphotos.wordpress.com/restaurant-reviews/

Or to go directly to the most recent review of Les Orangeries click http://poitoucharentesinphotos.wordpress.com/restaurant-reviews/les-orangeries/

Next stop La Cotiniere,  Ile d’Oleron


Super regions of France….. Poitou-Charentes, Aquitaine ??


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There seems to be a growing consensus that if there are to be super regions then the most sensible combination in this area would be to unite Poitou-Charentes with Aquitaine. It was more or less the area controlled by Eleanor of Aquitaine and she did quite a good job of managing it back in those far more turbulent feudal days.

This was the area of her control . Its in green, and she along with the King also had control of Great Britain, I am not proposing that!Aquitaine map


Here are the figures regarding area and populations of the present regions and how it would work out if they were put together as the 3 regions proposedby Francoise Hollande or the two regions of Aquitaine and Poitou-Charentes.

Poitou-Charentes, Population  is 1,722,000 and area is 25,809 Km2

Centre is Population 2,538,000 area is 39,151 Km2

Limousin is Population 750,000 and area 16, 942Km2

Aquitaine is Population 3,150,890 and area 41,308Km2

OK now for the combined totals

Poitou-Charentes/Centre/Limousin would become population 6,010,000 and area 81,902 Km2

Poitou-Charentes/Aquitaine would become population 4,872,890 and area 67,117 km2

I think the combination of Poitou-Charentes with Centre and Limousin is not natural, it covers too diverse an area, it is too big  in population and area. A much better solution would be to link Poitou-Charentes with Aquitaine. Size wise it works much better, at the moment Aquitaine is being left on its own, which they might like but in terms of population it would leave them half the size of a combined Poitou-Charente, Centre, Limousin. So where is the logic in that?

The new area would probably have Bordeaux as its administrative centre and Poitiers might not like that, nor indeed Segolene Royal.

also of interest might be http://poitoucharentesinphotos.wordpress.com/2012/05/28/english-possessions-in-france/

and                          http://poitoucharentesinphotos.wordpress.com/2013/10/27/eleanor-of-aquitaine-almost-queen-of-england/



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