Foodie delights

Trip Start Nov 27, 2009
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
EcoVallee Yurt Camp

Flag of France  , Aquitaine,
Sunday, September 26, 2010

Stay in a yurt for free* 
*But only if you're prepared to wake up at a reasonable time of day and work surprisingly hard, digging, weeding, pushing wheelbarrows, making paths, clearing woodland to encourage healthy growth, fencing, yurt platform building and doing some of the other jobs that need doing over the autumn and winter months

So said the advert, and we said yes please! Subsequently we've just spent two fantastic weeks at Ecovallee with Alex, Clare and their two children, staying in a rather plush yurt in the woods and helping with some of the aforementioned projects as well as enjoying ourselves immensely.

We were in the Dordogne region, famous for pre-historic cave dwellings, a big river and lots of chateaux (we'd visited some of the region earlier this year as we headed back north). Our stay at Ecovallee meant staying in yurts rather than caves but we were still on the side of a steep hill!  The cycle ride down to the Dordogne was fast and fun but the return journey took twice the time and was more than a little exhausting although good for the thighs.
Mmmm, bacon butties, roast pork and rabbit stew. Alex and Clare were new Helpx hosts without any reviews so we weren't quite sure what we were jumping in to but we were welcomed and extremely well fed in exchange for the "physical work" we signed up for.  However, the generosity and kitchen skills of our hosts combined with our gluttony has not resulted in a lean physique. Hard work and lots of great grub. Ah, such is the existence of the Help-ex helper.        
After each fantastic dinner (and a few beers), we would walk down through the woods of hornbeam, pedunculate oak, hawthorn and sweet chestnut (wonderful hot burning wood, the lot of it!) to our luxurious yurt situated on the edge of the hill. 

 After the dark of the woods, the moon would light up the valley where the pigs, horse and chickens roam.  With an outdoor kitchen and table on one side of our 18ft yurt and a compost loo on the other, and glorious views across the valley, we were thoroughly spoiled!

Our time with Alex and Clare involved us helping erect an 18ft yurt for the family to join onto the one they live in. The ground work was eating up a lot of time; digging out the clay hillside to create a pitch as well as digging a drainage trench. When we'd dug the recycled concrete blocks into the clay soil and packed round them, we thought we'd finished with the earthworks. Obviously, once under the yurt, the ground wouldn't get wet but an ill-timed thunderstorm precipitated subsidence and the following morning saw us relevelling the blocks and finding wedges to level the joists rather than dig out the blocks. With the lattice of joists constructed, the floorboards were laid, an edging of wood was added to prevent the superstructure from slipping off and finally the yurt frame and canvas was taken down and the family yurt moved onto its new pitch. Clare is an excellent seamstress and will make another yurt cover and the old pitch will have a dome dwelling too. Click on the picture on the right to see the progress.

This was our first HelpX with a family who had children, and so alongside working we also got to play Power Rangers, bounce on the trampoline, watch India (9yrs) play football matches, and chuck the smaller one, Finn (4yrs), in the air... a lot. Good fun!

Just after the cold weather arrived Clare installed a very cute woodburner in our yurt, handmade by a chap in England called Windy Smithy. It made our temporary home extremely snug and cosy, as well as a source of amusement for nomenclature! 



One day's work was late in starting when we all downed tools and grabbed a cup of tea to watch a very talented tree surgeon, suspended on ropes, piece by piece dismantle the very trees he was sat in!  

 They were two enormous ash trees, one live and one dead, which were seriously threatening to flatten an electricity pylon, a small house and a lovely LDV campervan parked in the drive the next time the wind got up some speed. From a piece of the live ash tree, Alex carved an espresso spoon (aka tiny tea spoon, salt spoon, mustard spoon, or anything else useful), whilst Laura produced two others from inside some hazel stems we had in the van. Later it was commented that our hosts needed a long wooden spoon for stirring jam, so Alex made a 2ft hazel spoon with crazy bends courtesy of the way the wood split.  Might have been a little bit longer than anticipated, but at least it will keep the jam stirrer away from spitting sugar! 


The woodland around our yurt was totally alive with birdlife, mammals, and insects that kept Laura busy for the entire two weeks.  
Stealing off with our host's stepladder, she spent several evenings rather uncomfortably perched up high, binoculars in hand, with a good view of the meadow and horse field as dusk fell. She was rewarded for her patience by being allowed to watch foxes and muntjac deer cautiously wander out from the woodland fringe into the field to browse the land and forage. She only wandered back up for dinner when the light had faded so much she could have mistaken big clumps of grass for a cute little deer (yes, that happened).

All in all, another totally fantastic volunteering experience, and we feel we've made some great new friends in the process. Next, we're off to the hamlet of Ruffepeyre a little south and east of Lalinde. There's a chap there wanting help with the restoration of a thirteenth century monastic farm.... 
Check out Ecovallee at

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Alexxx on

Superb photos. Excellent words. Fantastic two weeks.

mum on

Amazing photos!! Laura, there is no mistaking who your Dad is when you look at the photo of you and the enormous beetroot!!!!!! Continue to have the most wonderful time. Big hugs to you both and lots of love x x

Philip on

No need to explain why your neck hurts next time you see me Laura. I know why, I've seen the photos!!!! Continue having a fantastic time. Regards to you both Philip

Carol and Roy on

It looks like you continue to enjoy the outdoor life. I am quite jealous(Carol). Love reading your news , will print out for B 2 Bs. Love Carol and Roy. xx

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