Galls are really interesting….. yes they are. These ones are called ‘Spangle galls’ and are caused by a wasp called Neuroterus albipesgalls1

They are like a plant cancer, they are caused by an insect laying its egg or eggs inside part of a plant, often the leaf. Then the larva hatches out and lives inside the plant, protected by the plant. But its presence causes the cells of the plant to start multiplying and gradually a  noticeable ‘bump’ appears, this of course provides more protection for the larvae living inside and also food, because the larvae are feeding on the plant cells. The larvae will produce chemicals like plant hormones which stimulate the plant cells to start  multiplying faster than normal.

What is interesting and I think unexplained is that the ‘bump’ is not just any random shape, but develops into a recognizable shape and that different insects will cause different shapes to be formed. Sometimes the insect causing the gall produces quite small and easily overlooked formations and other insect species will produce much larger more noticeable structures. Look closely and you will see that the galls on this Oak leaf are different to the ones in the first photo. These are called Button galls and also caused by a wasp Neuroterus numismalisgalls3

Some plants seem more prone to galls than others. Oaks seem to be hosts to a vast number, but then again Oaks are the home to more species in general than any other tree. One gall that many people are familiar with is the so called pincushions which develop on Dog roses.

Many Oak galls fall off the leaves in the autumn and remain on the forest floor throughout the winter and during this time the larvae turns into a pupae and then in the spring it hatches out and a tiny fly or wasp will emerge from the gall. These adults do not normally live for very long, just long enough to meet a partner and then lay more eggs in next years leaves and so it goes on. in this photo you can see where some of the galls have already fallen off leaving a white scar.galls2

Have a look now on the undersides of Oak leaves and you may well see all sorts of galls. Not just on the leaves, gall can be found on the buds and the seeds even on roots, but probably best not to go digging up the trees.galls8




I have for some time been thinking of investing in the services of a stripper. Yesterday I took the plunge.  I decided to shell out a reasonable amount of cash, there are some advertised on the internet for quite low prices and they do promise the earth but I suspect that what they deliver might be well below expectations. At the other end of the scale you can pay out quite a lot of money but all said and done it is just a stripper, so I decided to go mid range. (Quality and performance) Continue reading

Rallye International de Charentes ; 17th September 2016


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Rallye International de Charentes: 17th September 2016.CarsAngouleme 318The route has been announced and here it is. It is in 4 parts  First of all the early morning section. ( not that early as the participants don’t like to rise too promptly!! ) Continue reading

What’s on in Poitou-Charentes; September 2016


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Well its getting to the back end of the season however for me there is one mega event and that is the weekend at Angouleme. This is a Porsche 911 which is a great car, although I was not so lucky with my second one, so it is unlikely that I will be blessed by a third one, but you never know, and I live in hopes.  230_BBA_5902

Festival Coup de Chauffe; Cognac: 4th to 6th Sept (more)

L’Imprevu Festival Montemboeuf; Montemboeuf: 11th to13th Sept (more)2014 site

Barrobjective photographic exhibition;  Barro: 19th to 27th Sept (more) excellent ….make the effort to visit this.

Remontee de la Seudre; Royan: 12th and 13th Sept ((more)

Le Grand Pavois boat show; La Rochelle: 16th to 21st Sept. (more) Biggest in Europe?

Circuit des Remparts/International Rallye: Angouleme: 18th to 20th  September……   I love it. (more)

Half Marathon; Chasseneuil: 20th Sept (more)

Hedgehogs in Poitou-Charentes.


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This year we have been blessed by the presence of some hedgehogs Erinaceus europaeus in our garden in France.Hedgehogs3

I have seen them on odd occasions several times in the past, but not that often. This year we have had a group of young ones, we have seen up to 3 at one time but as they only showed themselves at night time we are not sure how many were present. I suspect it was more than three, as we could here lots of rustling from other parts of the hedge at the same time as being able to see the one two or three that had emerged from the hedge. Continue reading

Dragonflies and damselflies, in Poitou-Charentes.


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This is not a definitive list at all, it is really just to get you started with the identification of bright coloured buzzy things that you might see at your local plan d’eau or in your garden.

Broad Bellied Chaser

Broad Bellied Chaser

Recently I spent some time sitting by my local lake with my grandchildren and I overheard a lot of English conversations. Sometimes it was about the insects flying over the lake. Sometimes people knew what they were looking at but more often than not they were fairly vague or wrong.

So here we have a basic guide, there are Dragonflies and Damselflies. Fist the dragonflies, these are big or quite big, they are fast and when at rest they have their wings out, more or less at right angles to their body.

The biggest are Hawkers, these have long bodies and fly very fast, often patrolling up and down the same route.

Hawker (laying eggs)

Hawker (laying eggs)

Then we have the Chasers, these have a shorter broader body and are quite big.Dragon and Damsell flies4

The smallest are the Darters, but still bigger than a damselfly. When at rest they will often move their wings so that they point forward and down, but they still stick out quite a bit.Dragon and Damsell flies6

Now onto the Damselflies, these are quite delicate and have long thin bodies and quite narrow wings. They often hover or flutter about, they are not very fast. When at rest they fold their wings up and have them lined up with their body.  Dragon and Damsell flies3

One group the agrions have slightly wider wings but still they fold them up in line with their bodies.Dragon and Damsell flies1

All dragonflies and damselflies have males and females with different colours, often the male is brighter and the female is a more dull colour. When they mate you can see this difference.Dragon and Damsell flies2

There are many different species and different ones will be out at different times of the year. They do not live for one day, as I heard someone tell his daughter, but hey have a relatively short life. The longest part of the life cycle is spent as a nymph in the water and depending on the species and the availability of food this can be anything from, just under a year to as much as three or four years. The bigger the species the longer it takes. When the nymph has fully developed it crawls out of the water, climbs up a reed or twig and hatches out into the adult. If you look carefully around the edge of a lake or pond you can often see the old case of a nymph still attached to a reed from when it hatched out.

So there you have it, If you want to identify which dragonfly or damselfly you have seen then this is a good web address, but be careful as many of the small blue damselflies look very similar. Not all damselflies are blue, some are red and some are green, even metallic green… Good luck.Dragon and Damsell flies5

Aquarium; La Rochelle


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My second visit, but the first was about 20 years ago and I suspect it has changed somewhat over the years.aquarium26

Now it is certainly large and impressive, also fairly busy on the first dull day after a long period of very hot sunshine during the school summer holidays. However it was still good despite the crowds.aquarium11

There are lots of animals to look at and marvel at and also take photos of. Everyone was taking photos, selfies, movies and here are a few of mine.


Sea anemones,aquarium2

Jelly fish,aquarium3

Tarpon,aquarium19and some I do not know the names of,aquarium15and corals,aquarium13a pipe fish,aquarium14Yellow tangs, ( we once had one of these in our sea water tropical aquarium, however on return from a holiday it was gone, but we knew what had happened as the octopus which was also resident in the same aquarium had a distinctly yellow hue.)aquarium9Lion fish,aquarium10and lots of sharks.aquarium12There was also this big chap, a grouper, I think?aquarium6and more corals with various pretty fish,aquarium7and finally this one,aquarium8There were many, many, more, this is reputed to be the biggest aquarium in Europe.

There is an area with tropical plants and here you can see terrapins and piranha fish amongst others.aquarium17

Of course there is the dreaded shop and it had a large number of clown fish which were of great interest to the small children.

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I was more impressed by the large fish structure hanging from the ceiling.aquarium25

If you want to it is a good idea to book in advance, then even on a busy day you can avoid the queues.

What’s on in Poitou-Charentes; August 2016


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th,6th d 7th

August, big holiday month and I will be in France for some of it… lets hope the queue for the ferry is not too long.

So here are some of the events which you might find interesting.


L’Ile aux Livres; Le Bois-plage -en-Re: 5th,6th and 7th  August (more)

Festival de Jazz José Cando; Fouras-les-Bains: 5th to 7th August (more)festival_jazz_fouras_6festival_jazz_fouras_4








Festival de Confolens; Confolens: 10th to 15th August (more)voeuxhaut-745x479

Les Soirees Lyriques de Sanxay; Sanxay: 14th August (more)

Literary festival;Charroux:  In 2015 it was 27th to 29th August, however I think the next is 2017 (more)

Jazz en Re; Isle de Re,  19th to 21st August (more)

Tour de Poitou-Charentes (cycling) 23rd to 26th August (more)

Festival du film Francophone; Angouleme:23rd to 28th August  (more)

Les Choeurs de Feux Angles sur l’Anglin, August 3, (More)  2014 site!!!

Festival du livre Angles sur l’Anglin, August 15 – 17 (More) 2015 site!