Tag Archives: Peace Factory

It’s finally finished!

5 Sep

We don’t really believe it but the reed bed sewage system is finally finished. At the end of July we had a visit from the company who’d designed the system. They requested that we make a few changes to the layout of the vertical bed. This entailed moving the dispersers, raising the separator and reinforcing and raising the grill that stops people and animals from coming into contact with the effluent.

Trish, I and Dylan, a volunteer from Missoula, Montana, USA, worked during August to carry out the work. We also tried out two ways to cap the edge of the bed – roof tiles and stones. It was decided that the tiles looked nicer. We had a stock of old roof tiles in the old factory. The only problem was that to get to them we had to go under a huge beam supporting the floor above and this beam had broken in two!

So we then remembered seeing four new metal props which had been stored under the terrace of the Old House. Provenance unknown but they did the job. The beam can’t fall any further but will need specialist help to push it back into place and brace it.

Here is Dylan working in the sh*t!

We had to carry out a number of adjustments in order to meet the specifications of the system’s designer. Now these are finished, we are waiting for a visit from the SPANC (Le Service Publique d’Assainissement Non-Collectif). SPANC is the public body in France that controls the design and implementation of sewage treatment systems that are not connected to the public sewer. If they are satisfied then they will issue an approval notice which we can present to the Town Hall.

This has been a major project here. Over the last three years I have gained a lot of knowledge (perhaps too much knowledge!) on how sewage is treated. We looked into pumping stations which could deliver our waste up to the public system, which was 300 metres up our track, and 30 metres higher. This was discarded as too costly even though a sewage pipe had been installed under the track when the renovations were carried out some 15 years ago. We then investigated micro-systems, both above and underground, but the logistics of installing a large plastic structure were interesting and the running costs were also a factor, as the systems need electricity and emptying annually. It was finally decided to install a reed bed system (phytoépuration in French).Here is a shot of the finished system. I promise this is the last you’ll here about this subject for a while!

For us, it’s been a major project. Trish and I organised the work, most of which was carried out by a working party of 26 volunteers over six days at the end of April. They dug out the 25 tonnes of soil to make the lower bed, filled 500 sandbags to create the upper bed, laid the liners in each (three for each bed), installed the drainage pipes and vents, hand shovelled 42 tonnes of stones, gravel and sand into the two beds. This required a lot of coordination and arranging and fetching of supplies – all conducted in French.

Then over the next four months we procured hundreds of plants (some bought, some dug up from waterside locations and some propagated). All were planted by Trish and our volunteer Dylan, who is in his final year studying for a degree in ecology. Another team of volunteers, attending a six day course here on living NVC, demolished the old sewage pipes and installed the new delivery pipes and diverter system. Finally we built a protection grill to keep people and animals away from the effluent, mounted a capping of roof tiles, experimented with covering the sand bags in mud (work in progress here), and tweaked the layout of the delivery pipes and dispersers.

Finally I am pleased to report that the system is working! It coped with over 70 people who attended a 10 day course here in August. The water discharging into the river is clear and we now have an ecological and natural system for treating the sewage here at the Peace Factory.

If you want to know more about the NVC courses go to our website. If you’d like to know about volunteering here, go to our volunteer website.

Thanks for reading.

We’ve been ever so busy

7 Jun

Apologies for not having blogged for a while. We have been ever so busy. Most of Richard’s time has been spent working for his two clients in the UK and in project managing the building of the accommodation at the Peace Factory.

In the meantime, Trish has been heavily involved in managing the volunteers and in looking after the garden.

How time flies when you’re having fun!

20140607-211939-76779746.jpg Here Trish is discussing the next project with one of the volunteers.

20140607-212112-76872913.jpgDamien has constructed a screen which will hide one end of the garden office.

20140607-212244-76964635.jpg Richard’s sister Sally visited us for a week with her husband Gordon.

We also had a visit from Irene, who spent a long weekend with us.

So it’s all hands to the pump here at the Peace Factory! We will be visiting relatives in Manchester and Essex and friends in Kent from 18 to 30 June. We hope to see some of you then.

Spring is here at the Peace Factory in France

26 Mar

Spring is here. The birds are singing, flowers and trees are sprouting. And everyone is looking cheerfully at the garden.

We have much to do. The greenhouse needs glazing. The organic manure has to be bought and trailored from the farm about an hour away. Then it has to be dug in before the organic seeds can be planted.

If anyone fancies a few weeks free accommodation in this lovely part of France, in return for two hours a day voluntary work in the garden, then please do get in touch via the website.


Christmas Greetings

18 Dec

We are almost there. More than half our house contents are now stored at the Peace Factory, together with the Smart car. We are living in our house in Kent at present with minimal furniture and kitchen utensils. We are planning to let our house as we could not sell it over the late summer. We have had five people interested in renting since it went on the market two weeks ago. We hope that we will get someone to sign up and move in by the end of January 2013.

We plan to move ourselves and Nettles with the remainder of our belongings to France near the end of January. We hope that many of you will come and visit us over there in the Peace Factory. There are cheap flights from Stansted to Carcassonne and from Gatwick to Toulouse. Montolieu is situated just 20 minutes drive from Carcassonne and one hour from Toulouse. There are cheap flights also from Liverpool to Carcassonne on Thursdays and Sundays.

We are taking over Louise’s apartment and she is having one built for herself above ours. There is room for around 15 apartments in the factory and these will be built over a period of time as people require them. There is also what we call the Little House which is currently used for volunteers to stay in. It consists of a mezzanine floor with 5 bedrooms (one double and four singles) and a communal ground floor with a dining and lounge area and a kitchen. Our apartment has two bedrooms with en-suite showers with a lounge between them. There is also a large room which consists of a lounge area, a dining area and a kitchen. We have a back door which leads out onto a terrace garden and a communal toilet at the back of the lounge. The main entrance is through the training centre at present.

The village of Montolieu is situated in the foothills of the Black Mountain and is called the ‘La Village du Livres’ as it has many small book shops. To see a little more about the area and what we are doing there, have a look at the website http://www.peacefactory.fr and look at the volunteering page then click on the link which says ‘For more detailed information on volunteering see here’. You can also Google Montolieu and take a walk down the streets. We hope to see you there one day.

St John Ambulance has now confirmed the date I can retire is 21 December 2012 so I will not have to return to work in January. Hooray!

Journey home

11 Dec

We got up really early on Monday morning; about 3:30am. We had intended to leave at 5, but as we were both awake, we decided to go. The van was all ready with empty trailer attached so we went for it.

We wondered whether having no load would make much of a difference on the return journey. Coming down, the gross weight was 5.88 tonnes – we knew this because all freight vehicle are weighed before embarkation. We found that we could go a bit faster, up to 110 kph (20 kph over the limit) and that we didn’t slow down so much for hills but the diesel consumption was about the same at 27 mpg, which isn’t bad for a 2.8 litre commercial van with six speed gearbox.

The autoroutes were pretty clear as far as Paris. Progress was helped by using the Telépeage system which is a small transponder that you show through the windscreen and the tolls are charged to your account. On some toll plazas you can drive through at up to 30 kph!

We only stopped for diesel twice and filled up with coffee and rolls! We made it round the west side of Paris using local rounds and the Peripherique. I noticed even Parisians were giving us a wide berth as we were quite long (over 24ft and we needed some room to turn at the tight intersections). Only one person tried to edge in between the van and the trailer!!

We got to Calais ferry terminal at 5pm so we had travelled 650 miles in 13 hours. We got on the 6pm ferry and were back in Maidstone at 7:15pm.

Mission accomplished! We had moved 3.6 tonnes of household goods and Smart car to the south of France.

Van unloaded

9 Dec

Opened up the van rear doors – carefully (as I wasn’t there when it was loaded)! Everything packed in tightly and nothing moved or broken during the trip. Hurray – 650 miles and no casualties!

All our stuff is now stored in a nice, dry garage, to await the arrival of Mrs Romain who will supervise the fitting out of our apartment in January.


Arrival at 0330

8 Dec

We finally arrived at the Peace Factory at 0330 this morning after a 14 hour non-stop journey from Calais.

The photo below shows the van and trailer on which site SMARTIE our Smart Car!