I am a big fan of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, we have various River Cottage cook books and love to watch him on TV - although I have to admit I did find the shots of him last Christmas in his dressing gown and boxers a little off-putting! It is thanks to Hugh and his Chicken Out Campaign that we now only buy free range chicken and maybe one day I’ll even get to dine in one of the River Cottage Canteens. One of the many things Hugh has pioneered in the UK is the Landshare Project - the matching of people who have land they are not using with those in the area who would love a bit of soil to toil. Well just call me the Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall of Loubillé! I may not have the hair, but I do grow my own veg, keep my own animals for food and have now matched my first Landshare couples.

When our neighbours Pierrette and Dominique were on holiday they kindly left me the keys to their potager so I could help myself to their figs. I noticed that about half of their land has been left uncultivated and is now covered in weeds. Pierrette is a self-confessed non-gardener, but Dominique happily spends his weekends growing salads, brassicas, leeks and herbs. He is in his 70’s and is not as steady on his feet as he used to be, so is unable to manage the plot like he once did. Some of our English friends in the village have been on the look out for some land so they can follow the mighty Hugh and grow more veg than their little kitchen garden allows. When I mentioned this to Pierrette and Dominique and asked how they would feel if Steve and Pat cleared and planted in the garden they weren’t using they were delighted. The land, a secure walled garden, a short walk from the house was originally her Father’s potager and the thought that it could one day become as productive as it was made her very happy. She mentioned how difficult it was these days to find someone willing to do the clearing and weeding it required. We had a meet together at the garden, with me acting as interpreter, although Dominique speaks some English and Pierrette is easy to understand so I am sure the main problem for Steve and Pat is likely to be with the weeds not the conversation. Both couples seemed as enthusiastic as each other, with Dominique showing Steve his collection of sturdy old tools and telling him to help himself to whatever and to consider himself to be ‘Chez Vous’, at home.

I feel we (the younger generations and the non native newcomers) have a lot to learn from Pierrette and Dominique’s generation. They have been working this soil all their lives providing food for their families and keeping fit and active in the process. It would be a shame to loose this knowledge. I know Steve feels the same way and is looking forward to spending his weekends alongside Dominique, picking up a few tips, and sharing a beer or two along the way.

Thanks Jennifer, I am quite pleased and Steve and Pat have been making the most of the fine weather getting to grips with the weeds.

What a fantastic story! Gave me a warm glow to read it, so I’m sure you must feel as pleased as punch! I sure it’ll work out brilliantly for both couples. Fantastic!