Les Cascades du Herisson

If you like waterfalls, you’ll love the Cascades du Herisson. Jura is a region that is particularly well endowed with natural beauty, but before getting as far as the waterfalls, before getting as far even as the woodland surrounding the area, what we noticed was the parking. It was free. Free parking, alongside a free tourist attraction: Who could have thought such a thing possible?

The waterfalls themselves were lovely. They ranged from the large:

Cascades du Herisson

To the small:

Small WaterfallAnd the whole area was glorious, with rivers meandering through sun streaked forest and paths that were for the most part dry and well maintained.


We only got to see a fraction of the area. The paths wind round for several kilometers, and our children are not the best at uncomplainingly walking for miles. Miss 13 was the most keen. She loves water and waterfalls and would happily have kept on walking a bit longer to get to see just one more. The other two would be more likely to carry on if there was an ice cream shop just round the next bend, and as we couldn’t promise that we didn’t draw it out too long. We want them to have good memories of the place, and not just recall their weary legs.

I did wish we had taken a picnic, but we are quite an introverted family, and we would have probably spent an extra hour finding a space sufficiently far away from any other family to enjoy the surroundings as we ate, and there had been serious rain the week before we arrived to there weren’t many completely dry spots to sit, so perhaps we did right not to.

Our overall verdict is that it was a lovely start to our holiday, and you couldn’t do much better finding a glorious landscape to explore.




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Les Vacances

We have been on holiday! Two weeks ago today we were just settling into the first of our three stops on our French break. We had a really early start, getting up at 4am to head off for  the ferry, then a long drive at through France, almost over to Switzerland. We stayed at a campsite called La Pergola, which is situated on the beautiful Lac de Chalan. I will pick up the tale tomorrow, and you will be able to join us as I relive the holiday day by day. I promise to almost get things in the right order, and nearly remember what we did each day. Right now, however, I am off to sleep…

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Synthetic Phonics

Mr 6 loves his bedtime story. During the school year, five days out of seven he has a book from school to read. On the other two days we have tended to read books that are beyond his ability so that he still gets read to rather than having to do all the work himself. He has progressed really well through the school reading scheme and is keeping up with what he ought to be reading. He can read some quite tricky words and all is well. He even passed the imaginary words test with flying colours.

Since the summer holidays started we have been reading more of his own books, and concentrating on the ones which he has to read himself so that come the Autumn he has not lost any ground. Yesterday he was obviously feeling lazy and picked ‘Pat Naps’ as his book. Those of you familiar with synthetic phonics, particularly those who have been through the jolly phonics system, might have clicked that that is one of the very first books a child ‘should’ read. The first sounds to be taught are S A T I P and N. This book contains only those letters and no page is more difficult to read than the title page. Mr 6 first read it about a year and a half ago.

Fine, I thought, let him read what he wants. He read the easy book. It was an eye opener. He reads the books at his official level quite fluently, but picking up this one he was straight back to P-A-T Pat! N-A-P-S Naps! It is as if his brain sees the more complex words as ones to be read, but the simple ones, the ones he first met, as a series of sounds to be decoded then blended. It is now a bit of a worry to me that learning using synthetic phonics might have done him more harm than good.

I am always a bit concerned when the powers that be decide that one method of teaching is the best and therefore only one to be used. Anyone who has more than one child knows that the only certain thing is that no two children, genetic similarity and upbringing notwithstanding, are the same. That makes me worry when all a teacher’s experience and knowledge is considered nothing and orders flow from above as to how every child in the country should be taught.

I can believe that synthetic phonics works, and works well, for a large proportion of children. I can also believe that some children learn better in other ways, and the focus on synthetic phonics to the exclusion of all else may cause problems for those children. Luckily I know that reading at home and being aware of where those issues are will help to get round them. Tomorrow night we will probably be reading about Sam’s Pot.

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As of today, we have a teenager in the house. Luckily, this particular teenager did not want to be on Facebook and Twitter the moment she was allowed to, but has restricted herself to going on the Minecraft servers she has been hearing about for so long.

We did not have a big party or other event. She wanted a quiet, relaxed day with plenty of computer time. One thing we did have to do, purely because of the fact I can’t fit it in any other time, was go shopping for her new school uniform. There are middle schools in this area, which cover years 6 to 8, so unlike most of the rest of the country the kids don’t go to high school until they are 13. Actually, Worcestershire is as close to the NZ system as I have come across in this country.

Having emptied our wallets in the school shop and the shoe shop and the sports shop, and having dodged showers and squinted into the sunlight, we came back home.

In the afternoon we had reason to be glad we had got the shopping done in the morning. The skies darkened, the thunder rumbled and the wind whipped up. I went and stood outside the back door for a moment or two, feeling the disquiet in the weather. I suddenly decided that I felt quite uncomfortable being outside in the open and nipped back inside. Moments later, the most intense hail storm I have ever seen began. They weren’t the biggest stones I’ve ever seen – they were about marble sized, but they came down so heavily the air was white. Funnily enough, it exactly marked the hour that Alena was born, thirteen years ago.

Hail StormMr 6 was quite delighted by it. He has decided that it wasn’t a hail storm, but a rattle storm, and thinks it was incredibly cool that we had ice on the ground in the middle of summer.

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Up The Garden Path

The builders of our house put in a path from the back door to the back gate. Now for most people, a single line of slabs might be quite sufficient. We discovered that when we are carrying the shopping from the car and one child is trying to overtake and another is charging along on their scooter, one line of slabs is not sufficient. We also had a bit of a puddle problem. Every time it rained a puddle formed halfway along the path – another reason to want a bit more walking room. So I made some.

Path MakingWe have a wider path! It is nice to feel you have a little bit of space when walking along, and even nicer to be gradually getting rid of the ‘new build garden’ feeling. Mr 6 is not quite so impressed because stones are not the perfect scooting surface. I however am thrilled that the semi permanent puddle is no more. We have had some really heavy rain recently, and the improved drainage because of the stone borders means that the path has stayed clear.

Win – win!

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Magnolia No More

Round here at least, all new houses come in the same shade of magnolia. It is the safe colour. The colour that anything goes with. That, of course, makes it the most boring colour possible to have on your walls.

We finally have one room which is not magnolia! Miss 11 has quite a definite vision of how she wants her room to look, so she, by virtue of knowing what she wants, is the first to get it. Yesterday we painted her room. We being mostly me with Miss 11 and Miss 12 learning that painting a wall is only fun for the first five minutes or so.

What do you think?

Panted BedroomThe colour is Tropez Blue, and it creates a lovely backdrop to the pink accessories which came from her colour scheme at our last house which was a combination of shocking pink and even more shocking pink.

Tropez Blue Room

The next step is to paint all the wooden furniture black, and then to hang all her pictures and photos to get rid of the bare look. That should probably keep me busy through next week end and beyond. After that, Miss 11 must learn to keep it a bit tidier than she has been used to up until now!

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All Things Wild

I went to a birthday party for a six year old yesterday. It was at All Things Wild, which is at the Domestic Fowl Trust in Honeybourne. It is a great place for a party, particularly when the sun is shining. We were incredibly lucky yesterday, that despite the occasional heavy shower, including a thunder storm at 6am which woke us up, the afternoon was hot and sunny and dry. Perfect to get out and see the animals.

Master 6 had a lovely time, and now wants to have his birthday party at the same place. I was a little surprised because he has never been particularly interested in living things, but perhaps he is exiting the pirate phase now, and is expanding his interests beyond his current range. He did seem to like looking at all the animals.

The peacocks wanted to stay in the shade,

Peacocksbut the pony was happy to come and say hello.

PonyThere was one thing which really tempted me. See this little fella:

ChickThis chick was for sale along with thirty or so other cute little bundles of feather. I could easily have gathered up handfuls of them to take home. While the kids were stroking rabbits and guinea pigs and goats, I was imagining having a garden full of chickens again. Unfortunately all the chicks here were unsexed so you’d just have to wait and see whether they laid or crowed, and there’s  no way I would pay £10 per chick unless I was sure it was female. Also Mr PC would not be impressed if I brought home chicks, and Princess would just consider them to be dinner. My rural idyll with chickens and muddy boots by the back door will just have to stay in my imagination. It’s probably better that way – I can imagine the weather always nice!

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