Frozen Solid – January 2021

My lake freezes over most Winters and this year is certainly no exception but this is the first time that I have ever looked at it from this angle. I thought I would share these photos with you all as they show up something very interesting.

Here is the whole lake, frozen solid, and covered in a light dusting of snow :

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Now here is the interesting bit, take note of all of those little round circles. On further investigation they have proven to be ground water springs.

The under-ground water is bubbling up and thawing the lake water and it’s surface.

What is interesting about that I can hear some of you asking !!

Well, apparently, the average temperature of underground water is around 10-15 degrees Celsius, and if it comes from really deep down, i.e. 50meters, it can be as much as 25 degrees Celsius.

All of the springs on our property that come up on land normally continue to flow through to May, and even as late as June, no doubt depending on the volume of rain, the temperature, etc.

I must therefore draw the conclusion that if the land based springs are still flowing in June then the lake based ones will be also.

If you are fishing in March or April, or even May, when the lake water temperature is still relatively low then it stands to reason that there must be warm spots where the springs continue to flow.

Now, everyone knows that much of the Big-Carp activity is driven by water temperature, I therefore suspect that the warm spots will directly affect the carp, and or, also affect the food supply that the carp rely on.

I do not know any of this for sure, I am just hypothesising, if there is anyone out there who can advise me correctly I would love to hear from you.

From an anglers perspective, especially one who is always looking for a feature to fish to then it might just be worth taking note of the locations of some of these warm spots and you can try them out if you are coming here in the Spring.

To that end take a look at the following photos.

Swims 1 and 2 :

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Swims 3 and 4 :

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Swims 5 and 6 :

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Please feel free to come back at me on this one as I would be interested to hear other ideas.

Either way, for those of you who are always looking for an edge you have nothing to lose by giving my theory a try.

Be lucky.

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December SITREP – 2020

I am so glad to see the back of 2020 that December has passed in a bit of a blur really.

We have had a period of nothing-weather, some dry but some wet, some cold and some warm, some mega storms but some perfectly tranquil days, but the highlight was Christmas Day, Helen and I were sat in the conservatory opening our presents and it was snowing outside, that made my day !!

I made a very conscious decision this year that I was not going to work from Xmas Eve through to New Year’s Eve, and with the exception of a couple of guilt trips to the gym I have been quite successful.

Although my waistline has paid the price, something that I am sure to regret when everything returns to normal tomorrow.

I was expecting to work New Year’s day because of opening the 2023 calendar at midnight, lots of people had expressed their intent to book for 2023 and I must admit that you did not let me down, in fact it took me through to the 2nd of January to sort out all of the inquiries.

As a result of that herculean effort I can inform you that 2023 is almost fully booked and I only have 8 weeks left.

The plan for December was simple really, if it rained I worked inside, and if it was dry I would work outside.

We had sufficient rain to force me to finish the decorating in the lounge, it is a job that I have been working on piecemeal for more than a year and it was long over due completion.

The problem with it was phycological, the room was like living in a cave and it was all due to the ceiling, it is quite low and the beams were black, combined with typically small windows it was very dark :

In reality I had been putting it off because I was dreading having to paint that ceiling. The big beams are hundreds of years old and would have been treated with tar as a preservative, I don’t know if any of you have had the task of painting one but they take several coats of oil-based paint just to seal the tar in before you can slap on a coat of emulsion.

Several days of moaning and groaning and the job was eventually finished and it has made such a difference, it is one of those things that is “transforming”. The room is now higher, bigger, and brighter, so much so that I wish I had finished it before :

The choice of job outside was easy; trees, trees or trees, cutting them down or cutting them up.

We have already had a few new casualties due to this year’s storms so they have had to be sorted out, and we have at long last made a start on the large section of forest beyond the far bank, the bit that you are looking at when you are fishing.

We have had to hire in some help with this project, one man and the right machine can do in 1 day what it would take 100 men with chainsaws, these next shots show you what has been achieved in one week :

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It looks a bit like a bomb site but it is a lot more organised than it might appear.

This project has been on the “to-do-list” for several years but it was brought to a head a year or so ago when a couple of our giant oak trees ended up falling over into the neighbour’s cow-fields, something had to be done otherwise it was going to be an ongoing problem.

This is going to be an ongoing project I am sure so for now we have ensured that the line between us and the neighbour has been cleared and there will not be any more urgent issues :

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That is most of the firs and all of the smaller deciduous trees down, we are keeping thousands of the baby trees intact so there should be an almost instantaneous regrowth.

The next phase is to get a couple of Bucherons in who will take down all of the big oak trees with chainsaws, then it will be a case of getting it all picked up and moved out to the road where it can all be collected and processed. That requires another man with another machine.

It may take some considerable time but my intention is to create a track through that section of forest for Helen to extend her horse riding routes and for our guests to walk if they wish. It will also form the start of my trim-trail, another part of my master-plan.

Here is a view of the lake that none of you will have seen before :

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January will no doubt continue along the same line as December, and somewhere along that line I must try to find time to further progress my golf course, I will report in at the end of the month and let you know how things are developing.

Till then Helen and I hope that you all have a great start to the New Year and we are looking forward to hosting some of you when the season eventually gets going.

Take care and stay safe.

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2023 Availability Update

The calendar for the 2023 season was opened this morning and as expected I have been inundated with inquiries.

Most people got the period that they were after, several had to settle for their second or even their third options, but, most unfortunately, I have had to disappoint several groups as their preferred dates were already taken.

Assuming that everyone who has reserved a session goes on to confirm their booking that will leave me with just thirteen weeks remaining for the whole of the 2023 season, they are as follows :

April

Fully booked

May

Fully booked

June

The 10th, the 17th and the 24th

July

The 1st, the 22nd and the 29th

August

The 5th and the 26th

September

The 2nd, the 9th, and the 30th

October

The 7th and the 14th

November

Fully booked

If the above dates are not appropriate for you and your group please feel free to share this information with anyone who you think may be interested.

Finally I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a very happy New Year and all the very best of luck for 2021.

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The 2023 Season

Just a reminder that the calendar for the 2023 season will be open from midnight on the 31st of December, that is midnight French time or 11pm UK time on the 31st of December.

Please do not submit your applications before the calendar is open.

All applications must be submitted by e-mail to my main account which is :

moulindegraf@hotmail.co.uk

Please do not submit applications through other social media platforms such as Facebook.

I will deal with each application in turn as they are received by my computer.

If you do have flexibility with dates please list your dates in order of your preference, if I am unable to allocate your first preference I will allocate your second, or third, etc.

If you do want multiple dates or consecutive dates please ensure that you make that clear in your e-mail.

I will reply to all applications before close of play on the 1st of January.

The first date available is week commencing the 1st of April and the final week available is week commencing the 28th of October.

If you do have questions regarding the 2023 season then please feel free to ask them at your earliest convenience.

Meanwhile have a great Xmas and a very happy New Year.

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November SITREP – 2020

The cabins have been closed up, all of the kit has been moved in to dry storage in the barn, and the lake is suddenly looking somewhat lonely, it is always a sad time of the year.

On the plus side the weather has been great, generally dry and sunny, with afternoon temperatures routinely hitting the mid-20s, as a consequence I have got loads done.

Winter made a very sudden arrival on the 1st of December and it was as if someone had flicked a switch, since then it has been cold and wet so it was a very good job that I decided to crack-on with the outside stuff all through November.

The tall, heavily grassed, areas have all been cut back, all of the fallen trees have been reduced to fire wood for the house, over-hanging branches have been removed, in fact the only big job left to do around the lake is strimming the Dam, and I am not looking forward to that :

The good weather just kept on going throughout the month so I decided to take advantage of it and have a concentrated effort at progressing my golf course. Most of you will know that I have the majority of it cut-in and I have been making improvements to it, on and off, for the last couple of years.

Now is the time to start getting serious with it and to start to improve the greens specifically, to that end I have purchased a new toy :

This little beast scarifies and aerates, and when I did the first of my greens I was amazed at how much moss it ripped out, so much so that I had to take it away by the trailer full.

On closer inspection I decided to do the same green again, and then again for the 3rd time. The moss just kept on coming. What I hoped was going to be a concentrated effort for a week or 2 has now become a massive effort which will have to be spread over a month or 2, weather permitting.

Before I started this little exercise I thought that my greens were progressing quite well, I thought that the grass was improving and I could actually putt a ball on them, how wrong I was, I was obviously putting on moss, but now it looks as though they have been destroyed :

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In one way I suppose they have as there is very little grass left, but I will keep them moss free over the winter and then treat them with some feed and weed in the spring followed by a top dressing of best quality grass seed specificaly for bowling greens and putting greens, hopefully by this time next year I should have quality greens to putt on.

Overall the course is taking shape :

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Normally at this time of the year I am making arrangements to net my front stock pond with a view to adding a couple of fresh stockies to the main lake, well this year I have made the decision not to bother, netting that is. I have decided that I am going to find a little time for myself and I am going to fish for them. That will also be spread over the next couple of months so I will keep you posted on my progress.

The long-range weather forecast is not good so I have turned my attention to some inside jobs, I have promised Helen that I will finish decorating our lounge in time for Xmas and once that is done I must take a look at the main bedroom in the Gite, it is in desperate need of a coat of paint.

I will post a December SITREP at some point but it might be a few days late as I will be busy sorting out the 2023 bookings on New Year’s day.

The COVID-19 situation in France is improving all the time so there is light at the end of the tunnel, providing people behave themselves over Xmas and New Year. Fingers crossed it will be taken a little more serious over this holiday period and we will not get a 3rd wave. 1000s have died in France over the last few months and most of that was because everyone insisted on going on their summer holiday in August.

Hopefully travel restrictions will be lifted in time for next season and we look forward to hosting our first groups in March.

Meanwhile have a good Xmas and New Year, and stay safe.

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Availability Update as at 29 November 2020

I am being inundated with inquiries for next season and it appears that it is a consequence of Covid-19 Vaccines being available next year, or so we all hope.

Unfortunately, this potential for freedom is making everyone feel as though everything starts afresh next year and fisheries will be re-opening with a completely free calendar, everyone wants the same weeks with the Easter and May Bank Holiday periods being exceptionally popular.

My other problem is with people who are still expecting the 2023 calendar to open on the 1st of December and are already making inquiries and applications.

As I have previously explained the 2023 calendar will be opened at midnight on the 31st of December/1st of January.

That is midnight my time so that will be 11pm on the 31st of December UK time.

In order to be as fair as possible to everyone, applications for 2023 will be dealt with in the order they are received by my computer, if you do have alternate dates please list them all on the one e-mail in your order of preference, if your first date has already been taken I will automatically deal with your second preference.

Please ensure you submit your 2023 application by e-mail to my main account :

moulindegraf@hotmail.co.uk

Please do not submit them via Facebook or any other form of social media, bookings are only taken via my main e-mail account.

If I do receive any cancellations for next year then I will post them on this site but at the moment availability is as follows :

2021

March the 6th only (first week of the season)

2022

August the 13th

October the 22nd and the 29th (last week of the season)

2023

Dates will be available from midnight on the 31st of December 2020, 11pm UK time.

The season will run from the 1st of April through to the 4th of November.

Please do not submit an application for 2023 on the 1st of December or at any other time before the calendar opens as it will not be valid when the calendar does open on the 1st of January.

I do hope that those of you who are looking for venues next season find somewhere good to go.

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Catch Report Summary – 2020

The first thing to say is ; “What a Bloody Awful Season”.

Good to get that off my chest !!

In an ordinary season I would now be reporting some fantastic results, a combination of effort from around 100 anglers, having caught thousands of big carp, and some amazing stats.

Well, unfortunately, this season’s catch report summary is on a much smaller scale. We have still operated around our usual 32 week season but courtesy of COVID-19 we have only managed to get 11 individual groups of guests on the lake.

As well as a couple of non-angling guests those eleven groups have comprised; 2 groups of 4 anglers, 5 groups of 2 anglers, and 4 groups of 1 angler.

Mmmmmm, can a group of 1 be called a group ?

Either way. That is a grand total of 22 anglers.

Those 22 anglers have caught a total of 336 big carp between them with a combined weight of 11,565.7lb.

That included 169 individual fish with most of those being caught twice, that means that I have over 100 fish that have not been caught at all this season.

I have had several fish caught for the first time since 2018 and there has even been one which was caught for the very first time this season since we stocked it in 2012.

Amazing really.

Those of you blessed with fast brains will have already worked out the averages but for those of you less-blessed, like myself, the calculator tells me that :

The average catch per angler per week was 15.27 fish, and the average weight per fish was 34.42lb.

The good news is that the average catch rate has gone up from just over 12 fish in 2019 to just over 15 in 2020. The bad news is that 15 will be the new target in 2021 for those that want to claim an average week.

The average weight is reduced from just over 38lb in 2019 to 34lb in 2020. There are many reasons for that; one being that we did not get to report on the big spring catches with pre-spawn weight fish, another is that most of the catch reports are post-spawn fish in the summer when they are at their lightest, and also I have four home grown fish in the main lake which have survived the normal cull and they have made multiple showings this season all weighing in at the 18-19lb mark.

See ! Stats ! You can make them say whatever you want really.

One good bit of news is that I can report that no one has dry-netted again this season, although that has been tested once or twice with the smallest catch being 1.

The Top-Rod award for 2020 goes to Andy Kirk with his individual tally of 39 lovely big carp :

The Big-Fish award goes to Steve Poole who landed the best of this year’s sessions at 65lb :

All in all, not a bad season, considering the issues, I suppose it could have been worse!!

Lets hope next season turns out better. So far everyone is reporting that they have found holiday insurance to cover them for cancellations due to COVID so that is good news.

I have 30 groups booked in next season with just a couple of weeks R&R in the middle to give the fish a break, that is considerably more than a normal season so this time next year I should be reporting some massive figures.

I will only be posting once a month throughout the Winter as nothing terribly exciting happens so I will post an update at the end of the month.

Till then take care and stay safe.

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Catch Report – 08 November 2020

A little touch of Winter arrived at Le Moulin this week to coincide with the final session of the season, and although the early mornings were very frosty and a little uncomfortable it was not going to ruin the fishing :

16 Big Carp to 51lb 04oz

What was going to make the fishing very difficult was the sudden appearance of anglers on the bank after this extended period of total silence.

Lee and Martyn settled straight in to swims 5 and 6 because that is where all the fish were, that is also where the fish have been showing for the last several weeks, and the deep water is exactly where you would expect to find the fish at this time of the year as the water temperature starts to drop.

Sounds great in theory but it did not work out like that in practise.

No sooner had the lads set up and got rods in the water the big carp were out of there and they made a bee-line for the other end of the lake.

Because the fishing is normally very light at Le Moulin I warn everyone that they have to keep the bank-side noise to an absolute minimum or the fish will just move away, particularly walking and stamping around, as the big carp feel that as a vibration through the water and they are hard-wired to recognise any vibration as a potential threat to life.

Well this week, after such a long period of total silence around the lake, it was like flicking a switch, and the fish were away.

This resulted in Martyn on swim 6 not having so much as a sniff of a fish for days, and Lee on swim 5 having to run his bait boat all the way down to swim 2 to find any action at all.

Having caught fish from swim 2 (whilst fishing swim 5) Lee decided that it would be easier to get amongst them so he made the move to swim 2, the Lads did not know at the time but this was going to be of benefit to Martyn.

I explained to Martyn that with Lee now causing a disturbance in swim 2 the fish would soon move out and they only had one direction in which to go.

Sure enough, Lee had his first fish almost straight away, that was enough for them and they moved again, this time only as far as swim 4, it was as if they had settled for a middle ground between the 2 anglers.

Lee decided to follow the fish and subsequently moved up to swim 4, the fish now had a choice, they could stay where they were, go back down to the shallows, or they could head for deeper water, luckily for Martyn they chose the latter and suddenly Martyn was in to fish.

The downside for Martyn was that he only had 3 days of his session to go, and it was cold, moral was at a low, and he was suffering from that feeling of being at the wrong end of a bad session. We have all been there when all you want to do is pack up and go home.

Thankfully he is made of stronger stuff, he persevered, and ended up with 6 lovely big carp with his best going to 44lb 08oz :

Lee had certainly chased the fish around and kept them on the move, and thankfully it paid dividends as his catch increased to a total of 10 fish to 51lb 04oz :

This is Titan, our most recent new 50, an absolutely stunning Common. We have not seen Titan since August 2019 when he came out to Ryan who weighed him in at 39lb 08oz, and his previous best was when Geoff caught him in the April of 2019 and weighed him in at 41lb 04oz.

It just goes to show how well they can develop if they have a long rest, 51lb 04oz, stunning !!

The final tally for Lee and Martyn was :

Zero Babies, zero doubles, 1 @ 20lb, 1 @ 24lb, 1 @ 31lb, 2 @ 32lb, 2 @ 33lb, 1 @ 35lb, 1 @ 37lb, 1 @ 39lb, 3 @ 40lb, 1 @ 42lb, 1 @ 44lb, and 1 at 51lb 04oz.

We won’t be seeing the Lads next year as they could not get in but we look forward to seeing them again in 2022.

Next week I will be posting the stats for the whole season as I normally do so if you are interested in that then watch this space.

Until then, take care and stay safe.

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SITREP – 01 November 2020

Nothing good to report I’m afraid, the situation here in France with regards to COVID-19 continues to deteriorate as it does in the UK, but then this was inevitable once everyone decided that it was safe to go outside and mingle.

Helen and I have taken the decision to work from home, I can’t think of a safer place to be.

Despite not having any guests on the lake the work around Le Moulin is relentless so we are cracking on with it as normal and just trying to keep a low profile.

We have moved the horses from their summer pasture up to their winter pasture and we have already managed to get their summer pasture serviced. Not that that amounts to much really, but we have cut-back the hedgerows and chain harrowed the grass which effectively aerates it and spreads the manure and the mole hills, then we over-seeded the bare patches. Now we just leave it to rest through the winter and the grass will make fantastic horse feed again come the spring.

One bonus of having no one around the lake is that I have started the winter maintenance schedule ahead of time. Ordinarily I would not start work on the lake until the middle of November but I have already completed a couple of jobs and it is only the first of the month. You might recognise these :

From this :

To this :

And from this :

To this :

Being able to start early has proven to be a bonus really as we are having to open a month ahead of schedule next season, consequently I am under pressure to get things done a bit quicker than is normal.

This is not something that we planned deliberately but we have tried to accommodate groups who have seen their holidays cancelled this year. Being fully booked we had little option other than extend the season at the beginning and at the end.

I would have started to lower the lake level already but we actually have a couple of anglers on the lake this week. They managed to get out of the UK before the French lock-down came in to effect but they will be the last guests of the season. At least this means that I might have a catch report to write by the end of the week.

I popped out to the Bricomarche on Wednesday for a few bits and bobs to further my DIY projects and I was amazed at the number of UK plated cars in the shop carparks, particularly at the Intermarche, it was the busiest I have seen it since the hight of the Summer.

The number of brit holiday makers was surprising, no doubt they all decided to have one last hurrah for the mid-term school holidays and travel before all of the lockdowns came in to effect.

Technically, if they conform to the new restrictions they will not be able to travel back to the UK but I suppose that the authorities will have little choice but to let them all go home, after all, they did let them in.

The French lockdown is in place until the 1st of December but given the state of the number of new cases and subsequent deaths I have a sneaky feeling that things are going to remain very difficult for some considerable time yet.

Needless to say if there is ever some good news I will let you know, but for now, keep your heads down and stay safe.

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Availability Update – 25 October 2020

No anglers on the lake again this week hence no catch report, and apart from cutting grass and strimming there really is nothing of note to report on, so I have decided to post an availability update.

I posted a COVID-19 Statement a couple of weeks ago and mentioned that I was going to write to everyone with a booking for next season and ask them to confirm their intent to either continue with their booking or to cancel. Well that exercise is now complete and I am pleased to say that I have had replies from over 50% of you and everyone is being very understanding and supportive.

So far there has only been one cancellation but interestingly I am getting numerous comments from people to say that they have managed to update their travel insurance to include cancellations as a result of COVID-19.

I am still waiting on replies from over 40% of next season’s guests so there may be more weeks that become available. If that is the case I will post them on here.

Recently I have been inundated with inquiries for next season, so many that I can only assume that everyone is expecting to be able to travel next year. Time will tell on that.

What is new is the number of inquiries about Xmas and New Year holidays, just to remind everyone we do not open over the winter, it is essential that the fish are allowed to rest, beef-up, and re-condition over the winter in order that they can cope properly with spawning, and the fishing, during the following season.

The following weeks are now available :

2021

March the 6th ( first week of the season )

2022

October the 22nd and the 29th ( last week of the season )

2023

The calendar for 2023 will be opened at midnight on the 31st of December 2020, that is European time, so it will be opened at 2300hours or 11pm on the 31st of December UK time.

Several UK based guests missed out on their preferred dates last year as a result of this confusion.

Remember there is always a rush for places when the calendar opens so to try and be fair to everyone I operate by some very strict rules. They are :

I will only take bookings by e-mail via my main account; moulindegraf@hotmail.co.uk

Any booking inquiries left as comments on my Blog or as comments and messages on my Facebook pages, via the contact form on my web-site, or on any of my alternate e-mail accounts will be dealt with last.

I deal with each e-mail in order that my computer receives them on my main account. Many of them will show the exact same time of being sent but obviously computers can allocate places by the thousandths of a second.

If you have more than one date please list your dates in order of preference, if your first date is not available I will allocate your second or third, etc.

If you want to book 2 weeks or more on either separate or consecutive dates please make that absolutely clear in your e-mail.

E-mails submitted before the correct time will be put to the rear of the queue.

End of Rules.

As is my normal practise I will endeavour to deal with all of your inquiries by close of play on New Year’s Day (hangover permitting) and I will reply to you all on the same day.

All bookings will be held for 7 days allowing time for people to submit booking forms, deposits, etc. Any booking not confirmed within the 7days will be deemed to have been cancelled.

On a more general note, Helen and I officially become Old Age Pensioners in 2022 and 2023 respectively and will be entitled to our pensions, for what they are worth !!!

As a consequence we have made a very conscious decision to slow things down just a little. Obviously the day-to-day work around Le Moulin will have to continue so we have decided to reduce the number of sessions available.

To that end there will only be 20 weeks available for the 2023 season and the same for subsequent seasons.

The season will still operate from the last Saturday in March through to the last Saturday in October, to allow people to pick their preferred dates, but once the first 20 weeks have been taken the calendar will close.

If that is not clear please contact me before the 31st of December with your questions.

If you are not intending to holiday with us in 2023 but you know of someone who might want to please share this information as you wish.

Meanwhile keep your heads down and stay safe.

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Weekly Report – 18 October 2020

Another quiet session around the lake this week without an angler in sight, bit of a shame really as the weather has been half-right and the fish are still very active.

I did end last week’s report with a comment about there still being 3 chances to get some catch reports in before the end of the season, well, talk about “Tempting Fate”, I should have kept schtum ! COVID continues to take it’s toll and another 2 sessions have been cancelled, only one chance left now and that isn’t for another fortnight.

It may well have have been quiet around the lake but that has not been the case around the house:

Our eldest daughter Amy managed to organise a visit for her and Cailen so we have been kept on our toes to say the least. This is them on their way over courtesy of a COVID-friendly Ryanair flight.

We were all a little concerned about them travelling but Amy assured us that everything went very well, there were not many people on board the flight nor around the airports so she said that she felt safer than she would if she was shopping at Tesco.

Most of you will know that nothing stands still around Le Moulin for more than a few seconds and just because our Grandson was visiting we were not going to make any exceptions, the show must go on.

5 minutes after arrival Caillen had a re-introduction to The Boys as they needed their evening walk :

And to the horses as they needed to be moved back to their evening pasture :

Thankfully, Cailen is fearless around animals and they seem to find him fascinating, maybe it is because they don’t get to see any small people and they wonder why he is the size that he is. Either way it is a great combination and it makes life very easy all round.

The following morning he quickly learnt that if you feed animals then there is a by-product which needs sorting out, but once again he was keen to get his hands dirty and do his bit ;

That wheel barrow came in handy more than once, here he is collecting acorns ready to seed an area of fir trees which we are about to have harvested and then re-planted with oak trees.

It is a little project that Helen and I are working on and we are going to try and do it using mother nature alone.

Getting rid of 10 acres of fir tree will also help with the water quality in the lake as the needles that fir trees drop are notoriously acidic and it all leaches down through the soil.

In amongst all of Cailen’s tasks he even found time to help with the final batch of Cider :

It might be a while before I can teach him to drink it but at least now he knows how it is bottled.

The cider processing has gone quite well and I have now have 162 pints of the stuff simmering away, the proof of the pudding will be in the tasting of course so needless to say I am looking forward to that part, roll on Xmas.

Back to total peace and quiet next week and needless to say there will not be a catch report next weekend. Having no anglers to look after I plan to bring some of the annual maintenance forward and make a start on some of the jobs that I would normally leave until November and December.

Helen moved the horses today in to their Winter field so that also means that there are plenty of jobs that need doing around their Summer field.

Decisions ! Decisions !

Till next weekend, be careful and stay safe.

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Weekly Report – 11 October 2020

No anglers on the lake again this week hence there is nothing to say in way of a catch report, so I have decided to provide you with an update on the new Shower Block which will be used in conjunction with our new Drive & Survive package.

The project as a whole is coming on leaps and bounds, much quicker than I intended. The basic rebuild is complete, now it is a case of decorating, tiling, and actually fitting the furniture, etc.

The target completion date is to have it ready for the 1st day of the 2023 season which will probably be the 1st of April, so needless to say I have plenty of time.

I have made a conscious decision to slow this project down though because I still have my outside kitchen/bar to complete before we open for next season and I have also promised Helen that we will start to investigate the rebuild of our kitchen in the main house.

On top of that I still have some outstanding decorating jobs upstairs in the new bathroom which I fitted a couple of years ago and I never did finish decorating the lounge which I started last winter.

So much to do !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Back to the Shower Block.

The last time I reported on this project was at the end of August and effectively it had been reduced to just a shell, everything had been ripped out. Well, I am pleased to say things have moved on considerably.

Firstly the old concrete floor had to come up, in its entirety. It was in an awful state and had been added to several times over the decades giving it 4 different levels, and slopes in all directions.

With the exception of the shower cubicle I wanted the floor to be flat and all of the sewerage, waste water, and water supply pipes were going to go under the floor.

Ripping the old one up was a dirty messy job and we discovered some absolute horrors where people had bodged things over the years, all I can say is “no wonder the toilet didn’t flush properly”.

As usual we try and recycle everything here and the old floor added a lovely layer of hardcore to one of the wetter tracks in the forest.

Once we had got the new pipework in place it was already taking shape, at least it was to me !! In my mind’s-eye I knew where everything had to go.

A couple of tons of concrete later and you would never know the pipes were there :

If you look carefully at that last photograph you will notice the non-flat section of the floor in the right hand corner, the long green thing is actually the drain for what will be an open-plan shower cubicle with just a curtain to protect your modesty.

I could safely bury the water supply pipes in the floor because each individual pipe is plumbed in one single piece with no joints. Next door to the Shower Block is a small wine cellar and all of the power and water has been routed through there for future access and maintenance :

Very smart job !!

That was one of the major jobs finished, the next one was the ceiling.

You may remember that a couple of years ago I replaced the roof, I had to, the old one was rotten and had been leaking for years, consequently the ceiling was in a poor state and it proved to be easier to just rip it down and start again. Also I wanted to fill the void with good insulation, so a new ceiling was a must-have.

In went the insulation and the studding to carry the new boards :

At the same time I could add the stud work for the false wall which would hide the water pipes for the shower and sink, and, most importantly I could run all of the electrics inside the void.

A bit fiddly but it was all worth the effort and the extra expense :

As at today I have got it to a state where it is complete, all bar the finishing. The toilet is temporarily fitted and useable, the sockets are in just in case I need power, the heating is in so I can run that at frost setting throughout the winter and protect everything, and most important of all the new outside tap is fully functional so Helen has her supply for dogs and horses.

At this end I am going to fit some kitchen units with a sink and drainer :

And at this end there will be a bathroom unit on the left for washing and shaving, with a walk-in shower on the right :

You might still need to use your imagination but I am sure you can see where I am going with this, can’t you??

Remember, the Drive & Survive option is already on the web-site and if you are considering a booking for 2023 when the new calendar opens on the 1st of January then you may wish to consider this as an alternative to booking the Gite.

Time to give this project a rest for a while though and hopefully I can get on with a few of those other jobs on my “To-Do-List”.

We were hoping to have a group of 4 on the lake this week but COVID has struck again and their session has been slipped backwards for a week, hopefully they will get out here next Saturday.

We still have the potential to slip in 3 catch reports before the end of the season but a couple of them are looking quite dodgy. The big carp are enjoying the extended rest period and are boshing out everywhere, they are taking advantage of the Autumn sunshine as well as the peace and quiet.

Our daughter Amy and little grandson Cailen are coming over this week so if I have nothing else to report on next weekend I will let you know how their visit went. My latest batch of cider is fermenting away nicely so I might be able to teach Cailen how to do the bottling, never to young to teach them about the finer things in life.

Till next week, keep your heads down, and stay safe.

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Weekly Report – 04 October 2020

Question.

What do you do if you own a Carp Fishery, there are no anglers on the lake, and the weather is the worst you have seen for years ??

Answer.

MAKE CIDER

Sort of easy decision really, what else would I do ?

I have planned to start my cider making for the last couple of years but I have never got the idea off-the-ground other than buying the kit that I need.

Last year I had no fruit due to some exceptionally cold weather during the Spring which killed all the blossom before it could be pollinated.

The year before I did my back in and I couldn’t move a muscle for a couple of months.

But this year I had no excuse and decided that the time was right to give it a go !!

I spent weeks tasting the apples on my trees trying to decide when they would be ripe, and which ones were sweet and which were sour, etc. I have never eaten so many apples, but I had made copious notes about each tree for future use, and I have given them numbers for easy reference.

What I soon appreciated, and was very happy about, was they were not all going to ripen at the same time. God knows what I was going to do with them all if they did.

Tree number 1. Day 1 was spent in just one tree which unfortunately I had to share with hundreds of Hornets which were equally intent on getting their share of the apples. I must confess that I was petrified, I had a vision of me being up my ladder when squadrons of these things decided it was time to take their revenge, and, I would be easy prey to some of them which I swear were as big as sparrows. Well, almost!

I put my big baggy overalls on and some very thick gloves, just to afford me some protection. Four hours later the job was done, and I hadn’t been bothered by a single hornet, if the truth be told they had zero interest in me, all they wanted to do was eat apples.

This was my first batch :

Six crates of juicy apples. How much cider this was going to produce I had no idea but by now I was like a kid in a sweetie shop and I couldn’t wait to find out.

At the start of this exercise an old army anagram popped in to mind : PPPPPP

And of course, as usual, I had already applied it : Planning and Preparation, Prevents, Piss, Poor, Performance.

Being true to that principle I had researched how to make hard cider until I was blue in the face. If there is a YouTube video on this subject I have watched it. I was ready to go, the only question now was : would it work ?

First job is wash them, even birds have to do it somewhere :

Next comes the laborious bit, I know a lot of people do not bother with this but I wanted to be as exact as I could, if I made a batch which went wrong I needed to know that I had followed best practise, so every apple had to be cut in half and the core inspected for maggots before being transferred to the the crusher :

Once crushed they then went in to the press :

Now that press might look little but I assure you, physically, it was bloody hard work, it is a 28 litre press, and every full press of apples produced around 2.5 litres of pure apple juice. Absolutely gorgeous stuff, I am lucky that any of it made it past this stage, I have never licked my fingers so many times before.

Each basket of apples produced around 2 presses, meaning each of my 6 baskets produced around 5 litres of juice, giving me a total of 30 litres for two afternoon’s work.

One afternoon picking them, and one afternoon extracting the juice.

30 litres ! In old money that is 60 pints of cider for 2 afternoons graft.

Fair exchange thinks I.

Those simple maths have proven consistent throughout all of my apples, regardless of type and mix of trees, the first 6 crates actually produced 67 pints.

Armed with all of that knowledge I became much more selective about which apples I took from each tree, obviously concentrating on the cleaner bigger fruit. If I was going to take every apple I would have to buy more equipment and importantly more bottles.

After my concentrated effort this week I now have a micro-brewery on the go :

As I write this I have 40 litres bottled and another 60 litres at various stages of fermentation. I have even started to add different sugars to tweak the taste, so at the moment it is all an experiment in the making.

What I have found fascinating is that the initial test of the pure apple juice has shown a potential alcohol content of around 9 percent so I have been watering it down to reduce it to about 6%.

I intend to leave it to mature to Christmas when I intend to have a taste test of each batch to see if it was all worth the effort. Well someone has to !!

There is only one aspect of this that I thought might present a problem and that is the by-product, crushed dried-out apple. :

Initially I thought that I would just have to waste it up in the woods as a manure, but then I thought about it and decided to see if the deer would eat it, after all they are always eating the apples as a result of the wind-fall.

I put the first few barrows on the edge of the tree line opposite the house, just beyond the pond. I wanted to be able to see what came to the feast.

To my surprise everything did, including the deer. Then one of our neighbours took a load and fed it to her chickens and a goat. So, what about giving it to our horses ?

Needless to say, they love it, so Helen took a load to feed to them and we have even put a load in the freezer to save for a rainy day.

So what I perceived as a potential problem has turned out to be an amazing opportunity for the wild-life.

All I can say now is “Roll on Xmas”. If all tastes as good as I hope it does then you will be able to hear me singing carols this year, and I will be increasing my bottle order for next season.

If it doesn’t then there will be some cider making kit going on e-bay.

I will let you know the end result.

There are no anglers on the lake again this week so next weekend I will give you an update on the new Drive & Survive shower block.

Meanwhile keep your heads down and stay safe.

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COVID-19 Statement – 29 September 2020

Most of you will know Me and Helen personally and therefore know that it is always our intention to do right by our guests, however, COVID-19 has put a whole different spin on life and we find ourselves in a very difficult situation, both personally and financially.

When this so-called pandemic arrived our decision-process was very simple; it was not your fault, it was not our fault, but the reason that our guests could not get here was because the French Government had imposed travel restrictions which made your journey illegal, if not impossible.

Being a French registered business in France we decided that the situation was therefore more our fault than yours. Insurance companies didn’t know where they stood and were trying everything to get out of paying, so we decided to take the full hit financially, to that end we refunded monies and re-scheduled holidays as best we could.

Now the situation is somewhat different as we are open.  Our guests are still not arriving but that is as a direct result of restrictions imposed on them by the UK Government, not the French Government.

Unfortunately, despite the situation no longer being our fault, Helen and I continue to pick-up the whole cost as guests decide not to travel and obviously not to pay.

Despite our Terms and Conditions advising guests to ensure they have insurance in the event of cancellations it would appear that either no one has insurance, or they do not want to claim against it, and simply expect us to refund all costs.  As a consequence, we have become everyone’s insurance policy.

What we do now know, from bitter experience, is that Business Interruption Insurance is not worth the paper it is printed on and it does not cover COVID-19, not now nor in the future.

As you know we are a very small business, what you do not know is that the cost to us has been substantial and amounts to around 75% of our annual income this year, with a further reduction in income for the 2 subsequent seasons as holidays are shunted forward.

Conversely, as a result of your holiday having been booked pre-COVID your insurance would still have been valid and the insurance companies could have taken some of the hit.

We did get Government assistance which was gratefully received but, in its entirety, it actually amounted to little more than 2-weeks’ income.

Obviously figures like this make our family-run business totally unviable.

Needless to say, we cannot continue like this, and it would make financial sense to close the business, reduce the over-heads, and let the fish fend for themselves.

Obviously, that defeats the object of developing the fishery in the first place so we intend to continue as best we can.

In order to keep the business even remotely viable we are having to take a slightly firmer stance with our terms and conditions, and hope that you, via your insurance if appropriate, are willing to take some of the risk.

So, with immediate effect, normal Terms and Conditions will apply:

  1. All future bookings will be confirmed subject to receipt of a completed booking form and a 30% deposit, as all current bookings are.
  2. All deposits are non-refundable unless sufficient notice is provided such that your booking can be re-sold.
  3. All balance payments are to be made when due which is no later than 10 weeks prior to your holiday start-date.
  4. In the event that a balance payment is not received on time the holiday will be considered as having been cancelled by you.
  5. In the event that a holiday is cancelled by you, any deposit paid, or balance payment made, will only be refunded in the event that the holiday is re-sold.
  6. In the event that a holiday is cancelled by us, or as a result of restrictions imposed by the French Government, deposits and balance payments will be refunded, but they will be refunded minus any expenses already incurred by us, namely tax and national insurance contributions already deducted.
  7. If you are unable to travel and proceed with your booked holiday for any reason then the above terms numbered 1 – 6 will apply.

Please be aware that alternate dates for holidays will no longer be offered for the very simple reason that we do not have any alternate dates available, we are full to bursting for the foreseeable future. 

These terms and conditions are not new as they already form a part of the contract between all parties when the original booking form was submitted, they simply clarify our stance regarding future instances involving COVID-19.

We seriously regret being forced in to this position but it is essential if the business is to survive this disease.

We know that some of you will empathise with this stance and will continue with your bookings, but please do check your current status with regards to your insurance.

Equally, we know that some of you will react quite negatively to this stance and will already be ranting about the potential loss of your money.

To those of you who empathise we are glad to have you join us on the remainder of our COVID-19 journey, let’s all hope that the situation improves and neither party ends up out of pocket.

To those of you who consider this stance wholly unreasonable we invite you to cancel your bookings as soon as possible.  The sooner you cancel, the greater the possibility that your holiday can be re-sold.

In the event that your holiday is resold a full refund will be provided.

Please submit all communications regarding this issue in writing via e-mail at :

moulindegraf@hotmail.co.uk

We know that some of you will not get to see this post through social media, so, over the next week or two we intend to write to everyone with an existing booking to ensure that you are all aware of the stance we are being forced to adopt.  At this point we will be asking you all to confirm your intent to either retain your booking given the Terms and Conditions above, or, to cancel.

We suspect that COVID-19 is going to remain a feature in our lives for some considerable time and we will have to learn to roll with the punches but for now we hope that you all remain very careful and stay safe.

Kind regards, Tony and Helen

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Catch Report – 27 September 2020

19 Big Carp to 56lb 08oz

A great week for Alan and Kay from South Wales, considering they were only fishing office-hours then 19 big carp is an even better result than it looks, they dropped half a dozen as well so the headline could have easily read 25.

Once they had unpacked and settled in to the Gite we went for a tour of the lake, Alan had been paying close attention to my recent catch reports and he was keen to see where the fish were.

We found them easy enough, spread all over swims 5 and 6, and they were feasting away on naturals, it is that time of the year when they start packing on the pounds before the Winter sets in.

Alan was aware that the fish have been constantly on the move for the last couple of months, alternating between the deep water swims and the shallow water swims every few days, so he was quite prepared to move around should he need to, but he quite rightly made the decision to start-off in swim 5.

Unfortunately for Alan and Kay’s holiday, but fortunately for the fishing, the weather has changed dramatically this week. We have had rain almost every day and on occasion it has been heavy to torrential.

The unfortunate part was that Alan and Kay had to put up with the rain all week instead of sunbathing like everyone else has been doing this season.

But, the fortunate part was that the rain was sufficient to take the heat out of the shallow water swims and thereby kept the fish in front of Alan and Kay in the deep water on swim 5. Obviously no need to move with the fish.

Alan used a good baiting strategy and fished mainly house boilies and pellet, I think next time he comes he intends to reduce the amount of boilies to allow him to considerably increase the amount of pellet. Either way the combination worked and once again it resulted in some very nice fish.

Some stunning Commons going over 53lb :

And some stunning Mirrors going over 56lb

At this point I must point out that the bigger fish were actually caught by Kay, but all of my photos are of Alan because Alan is the Poser and Kay is the Photographer.

She did take a lot of photos but here is one of her playing a big carp :

And I must say that some of them were quite different, getting up close and personal with a couple of our deer is not the easiest thing to do :

These were munching on the lush grasses 20 feet behind swim 4.

If you are hoping for sunshine then it was a disappointing session weather-wise, but good fishing non the less, the final tally was :

Zero Babies, Zero Doubles, 3 @ 24lb, 1 @ 25lb, 1 @ 26lb, 2 @ 29lb, 1 @ 32lb, 1 @ 33lb, 3 @ 34lb, 1 @ 39lb, 2 @ 40lb, 1 @ 45lb, 1 @ 46lb, 1 @ 53lb, and one at 56lb 08oz.

We will see Alan and Kay again next year when we hope that Alan’s fine-tuned baiting strategy will pay off.

Coronavirus is continuing to impact on people’s ability and willingness to travel so it could be several weeks before we have another catch to report on so next weekend I might provide an update on the progress to the new shower block and maybe my cider making operation which is coming on in leaps and bounds, or should that be buckets and bottles !!

The web-site has been amended to reflect the availability of the new Drive & Survive Package which includes the new Shower Block and a Drive & Survive food option.

If you are intending to book for 2023 when the calendar opens on the 1st of January and your preference is Drive & Survive you might want to log-in and take a look.

Till then, keep your heads down and stay safe.

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