Sacré Bleu!


French Drain 001 Wm[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=


Behind the house the Precipitous Bank becomes… well, even more precipitous. Vertical in fact. It is presumably where builders of olde cut into the bank to create an area flat enough to build a house. This is the ditch Mike fell into when he cracked his ribs. It’s also where, until this week, we thought we had a French Drain.

A French Drain is basically a trench filled with gravel or rock containing a perforated pipe. Surplus water seeps through the holes in the pipe and is diverted harmlessly to somewhere else. In our situation the intention is to carry away rainwater running off the roof (thatched cottages have no gutters) or seeping through the soil from the higher level of the bank, thus avoiding a permanent puddle at the base of the house wall.

It’s never worked particularly well. After heavy rain we’ve always had run off down the path on one side of the house. In torrential rain it can become a veritable river. A rather Heath Robinson construction involving lengths of guttering laid on the ground has served up to now. But could we be doing with that for yet another winter? Best get some chaps in to have a look. Sure enough, there’s a pipe in the ditch. But whoever installed it must have had something of a memory lapse. Or perhaps he just didn’t grasp the finer points of French.

The pipe wall was solid. Pas de trous. No holes.

The water has never had anywhere to go. No wonder it didn’t work. And no wonder the back wall of the house has always been damp. Oh là là.


French Drain 002 Wm[2]


Some quick work with a drill was all it took. Some permeable membrane and a covering of chipped stone.

If only every problem was that simple.


French Drain 003 Wm[1]


Très bien.


2017-10-24T19:32:43+00:00September 11th, 2015|Tags: |


  1. Chloris September 11, 2015 at 10:36 am - Reply

    Ouf! Vous faites des choses fantastiques, vous deux! Moi, Je n’ aurais jamais pensé d’ une telle solution.

    • Jessica September 12, 2015 at 6:03 pm - Reply

      Je ne peux pas demander le crédit pour celui-ci. Il permet simplement de savoir un homme qui est très bon avec des drains!
      (Isn’t google translate marvellous 🙂 )

  2. Anne Wheaton September 11, 2015 at 11:10 am - Reply

    Hope you’ve put enough holes all the way round the pipe – mind you, anything has to be better than what you had.

    • Jessica September 12, 2015 at 6:06 pm - Reply

      It was done by the pros so I have to trust their judgement. But we’ve seen how they do it now, it wouldn’t be too difficult to add more holes if needs be, the pipe isn’t that deep. No doubt we’ll find out soon enough!

  3. Christina September 11, 2015 at 11:19 am - Reply

    Life is just one ‘thing’ after another isn’t it? Buying an old house (and maybe a new one for that matter) should come with a warning that anything that has been will have to be redone at a cost of more than if you were doing the same job for the first time – I’m rambling, sorry, you touched a nerve!

    • Jessica September 12, 2015 at 6:15 pm - Reply

      Sorry, I didn’t mean to touch a nerve. But you are right of course. I can cope with things reaching the end of their life and having to be replaced, it’s when something hasn’t been done properly in the first place that really gets my goat.

  4. Mark and Gaz September 11, 2015 at 11:48 am - Reply

    No wonder, it wasn’t so French all this time. It’s definitely French now 🙂

    • Jessica September 12, 2015 at 6:21 pm - Reply

      It certainly is!

  5. Vera September 11, 2015 at 11:50 am - Reply

    Well that was a lucky quick fix, and I bet you are relieved that now the walls of your house stand a chance of drying out.

    • Jessica September 12, 2015 at 6:23 pm - Reply

      Yes indeed. Would be nice if we get a bit of an Indian Summer now to help the process along.

  6. CJ September 11, 2015 at 12:11 pm - Reply

    Magnifique. How satisfying when the solution is that simple. CJ xx

    • Jessica September 12, 2015 at 6:26 pm - Reply

      The drains people had come along with the intention of fitting a whole new run of pipe and digging up the concrete path so, in the end, it was a lot simpler!

  7. Backlane Notebook September 11, 2015 at 2:10 pm - Reply

    I just love it when a problem like this can be resolved by applying a few brain cells and without incurring a huge sum of money. Well done.

    • Jessica September 12, 2015 at 6:31 pm - Reply

      The bill hasn’t come in yet but as time was saved it should be much cheaper than it could have been. I wish all our tradesmen were as reliable as this lot.

  8. thegardeningshoe September 11, 2015 at 2:37 pm - Reply

    Marvellously bilingual post. And we are all now fluent in the language of French drains. Parfait!
    Now I fancy a pudding :-/ Have a great weekend!

    • Jessica September 12, 2015 at 6:37 pm - Reply

      A parfait would be very pleasant indeed. You too Sarah.

  9. Jacqueline September 11, 2015 at 2:38 pm - Reply

    Yay ….. another problem solved !! Owning a house and garden and, particularly an old house, is a minefield of problems isn’t it Jessica ? Still, it’s all sent to try us and keeps our brains ticking over !!! Good job and, hopefully, a much drier Winter. XXXX

    • Jessica September 12, 2015 at 6:40 pm - Reply

      The next job is to get the chimney sorted so we can have open fires again this winter. It should all be very cosy. Just as well if an El Nino cold one is coming..

  10. studiohyde September 11, 2015 at 4:10 pm - Reply

    Excellent, what a result and looks good covered with the chipped stone. I was wondering the other day, how is your Interweb – have you sorted that out successfully yet?

    • Jessica September 12, 2015 at 6:50 pm - Reply

      The phone line has just come back but we’re giving it the weekend before declaring it fixed. There have been false promises before. Almost a month without a phone and two months without reliable internet, it’s been frustrating in the extreme. Big bill for the mobile broadband now too. I do wonder if we wouldn’t be better off with two cans and a bit of string.

  11. CherryPie September 11, 2015 at 5:54 pm - Reply

    That looks like a good job well done 🙂

    • Jessica September 12, 2015 at 6:52 pm - Reply

      Time will tell, or the next rainstorm! Thanks Cherie.

  12. Caro September 11, 2015 at 5:57 pm - Reply

    I’m impressed with your cleverness, knowing about these things. I always used to think I’d love to live in a country cottage but, reading your adventures, I now think fate has stepped in to save me. Lovely that this particular problem has been quickly sorted – Sod’s Law says we’ll have a dry winter now.

    • Jessica September 12, 2015 at 6:58 pm - Reply

      There are suggestions that it will be a colder winter than we’re used to. I hope the forecasters are wrong. It wouldn’t be the first time would it! But it has given us a bit of an incentive to get some of the necessary jobs done. The work never ends, that’s the trouble.

  13. Angie September 11, 2015 at 6:31 pm - Reply

    As they say…….the job’s a good ‘un! The proof will be in the pudding Jessica.

    • Jessica September 12, 2015 at 6:59 pm - Reply

      I hope the pudding’s a good ‘un!

  14. Charlie@Seattle Trekker September 11, 2015 at 6:48 pm - Reply

    I have come to believe that making drainage work is both a science and an art, that requires a dose of good luck. If you have surplus water it is something you have to keep after to make it work…Good luck moving forward with this problem.

    • Jessica September 12, 2015 at 7:04 pm - Reply

      Fortunately we have some very good people working with us to solve it, I’m sure it will be fine now. It’s also cleared the way for us making a start on a new bit of garden. Yay!

  15. Kris P September 11, 2015 at 7:57 pm - Reply

    I feared the worst at the start of your tale, envisioning the need to dig out and replace the pipe at great bodily risk to all involved. I’m glad to learn that the problem had a simpler solution and that you can look forward to fewer river crossings in the coming year.

    • Jessica September 12, 2015 at 7:09 pm - Reply

      It really was a river crossing at times. Followed by many lengths of guttering directing the water away from the house where it then fell off the edge of a precipice to the level below. Proper waterfall.

  16. Joanne September 11, 2015 at 8:04 pm - Reply

    Well that is a simple solution, I started reading with a slight sense of dread! xx

    • Jessica September 12, 2015 at 7:11 pm - Reply

      It’s because you’re in the middle of a renovation yourself… the first inclination is always to expect the worst!

  17. Julie September 11, 2015 at 8:23 pm - Reply

    That sounded like an exam question/answer on water run off and the like. Hopefully no more damp back walls for you!

    • Jessica September 12, 2015 at 7:14 pm - Reply

      And for once the timing was right.. before we start all the decorating.

  18. Diana Studer September 11, 2015 at 10:55 pm - Reply

    We added extra drainage when we were anyway relaying the brick paving.
    Now the rain flows politely away into the garden and our French drain.
    We know it’s there – I saw the man digging to Australia and said stop STOP that’s enough!

    • Jessica September 12, 2015 at 7:20 pm - Reply

      That’s the best time to do it, when you are landscaping.. and not after!

  19. mattb325 September 11, 2015 at 11:10 pm - Reply

    Oh, that’s a scary precipice right at the back wall. Maybe the original layer of the French drain was trying out an osmosis theory!?!

    • Jessica September 12, 2015 at 7:22 pm - Reply

      Well possibly. Terracotta can absorb water that way but I’m not so sure about modern plastic!

  20. homeslip September 11, 2015 at 11:37 pm - Reply

    How satisfying. I think after this you both deserve a good day out.

    • Jessica September 12, 2015 at 7:25 pm - Reply

      What a good idea. We’ve promised ourselves a trip or two this month. Next nice day, the six mile beach walk along Saunton Sands. I still need to do Hauser and Wirth too.

  21. Sam September 12, 2015 at 8:41 am - Reply

    Thank goodness you checked. Glad it’s sorted. Everything, and I mean everything, we checked when we moved to our old house was dodgy and had to be redone at great cost. Christina’s idea is a good one!

    • Jessica September 12, 2015 at 7:34 pm - Reply

      Our previous (very old) cottage was ‘improved’ back in the 60’s and we spent an absolute fortune restoring it to how it would have been originally. Architects and builders will never be short of business will they.

  22. Sue Garrett September 12, 2015 at 9:33 am - Reply

    A unholey mistake

    • Jessica September 12, 2015 at 7:34 pm - Reply

      Good one Sue 🙂

  23. Amy at love made my home September 12, 2015 at 10:57 am - Reply

    Sacre Bleu indeed!!!!!! Good to have it all sorted relatively easily though!!! I hope that things will be less soggy this winter! xx

    • Jessica September 12, 2015 at 8:06 pm - Reply

      It will be good to see the back of the temporary guttering, I kept tripping over it.

  24. Rosemary September 12, 2015 at 11:14 am - Reply

    A thatched cottage in the precipitous countryside of the West Country definitely seems to require the services of a Knight in Shinning Armour – aka Mike to the rescue

    • Jessica September 12, 2015 at 8:09 pm - Reply

      Not Mike this time, but I wish we could find more Knights in Shining Armour. Good tradesmen are like hens’ teeth.

  25. Jo September 12, 2015 at 12:13 pm - Reply

    We laid a French Drain on our last allotment plot as it flooded so badly and it worked really well so I hope you find the same results now that your drain has some holes.

    • Jessica September 12, 2015 at 8:10 pm - Reply

      They should work well and I’m glad yours did. There’s nothing worse than having to work in waterlogged ground.

  26. Em September 12, 2015 at 2:12 pm - Reply

    Ou sont les souris lorsque vous en avez besoin? X

    • Jessica September 12, 2015 at 8:11 pm - Reply


  27. Denise September 12, 2015 at 6:07 pm - Reply

    (sings) ‘There’s some holes in your water pipe, dear Jessica, dear Jessica, there’s some holes in your water pipe, dear Jessica – hurrah!!’

    • Jessica September 12, 2015 at 8:12 pm - Reply

      There’s some holes in my bucket as well, as it happens.

  28. Linda aka Crafty Gardener September 12, 2015 at 6:45 pm - Reply

    Hope that solves the problem.

    • Jessica September 12, 2015 at 8:15 pm - Reply

      Fingers are crossed. Thanks Linda.

  29. Annie Cholewa September 12, 2015 at 10:12 pm - Reply

    Formidable (the French version obviously).

    Sometimes, visiting here, I find myself feeling very glad I have a small and simple garden that requires very little maintenance.

    • Jessica September 14, 2015 at 6:00 pm - Reply

      I think maybe you have the right idea Annie.

  30. Brian Skeys September 12, 2015 at 10:18 pm - Reply

    We put our trust in “Expert” tradespeople and are often let down. (Money down the drain) Good ones are as you say ‘Rare as Hens Teeth’. When you find them they are worth looking after!

    • Jessica September 14, 2015 at 6:04 pm - Reply

      Money down the drain indeed. We are in a run of one thing after another at the moment. It’s a case of wondering what will happen next. At least this is one less thing to worry about. I hope.

  31. Amy September 13, 2015 at 1:37 am - Reply

    Ah, if only…! At our earlier home the problem was reversed. Perforated pipe had been used – not only in the septic leach field where it belonged, but also between the house and the septic holding tank. You can drill holes, but you can’t fill them in…

    • Jessica September 14, 2015 at 6:19 pm - Reply

      Eeek. That is not nice at all. A month or so after we moved in here we had to have the drains unblocked. Unfortunately the whole infrastructure was so decrepit the rods broke through a pipe and turned the lawn into an open sewer. Needless to say drainage was the first job on the list..

  32. Helene September 13, 2015 at 3:12 am - Reply

    Oh, the joys of having a house!
    Mind you, I don’t even own my house and I still have to sort out things like this, from previous tenants and numerous council repair workers’ cheap-fix work.
    The house I moved to in May is only a 39 year old bungalow, but the Victorian house I lived in before was in a far better state both inside and outside! I don’t think I have revealed all the secrets and things that needs doing yet here, I am sure there’s more to come.
    I hope your converted drain is behaving well now that it is speaking the right language, seems you will be able to get it tested this week, according to the weather forecast 🙂

    • Jessica September 14, 2015 at 7:07 pm - Reply

      It is getting a good test today!
      I hope you get things sorted in the bungalow Helene and before winter too. You’ll turn it into a very comfortable home, if your last one is anything to go by.

  33. Cathy September 13, 2015 at 9:33 pm - Reply

    Vraiment très bien!

    • Jessica September 14, 2015 at 7:09 pm - Reply

      Even my spam is coming in in French now… lol!

  34. bittster September 14, 2015 at 12:46 am - Reply

    This almost makes you look forward to the next deluge…. almost 🙂
    The plastic pipe looks relatively new. You would think they would have known better at that point… or at least realized relatively quickly it was installed incorrectly!

    • Jessica September 14, 2015 at 7:20 pm - Reply

      Judgement Day is upon us already.. it is hurling it down out there!

  35. Rosie September 14, 2015 at 7:38 pm - Reply

    Merveilleuse! Could do with one of those round here today to sort out our poor garden drainage 🙂

    • Jessica September 14, 2015 at 9:27 pm - Reply

      It’s been terrible weather hasn’t it. Cats and dogs!

  36. Linda B. September 15, 2015 at 5:13 am - Reply

    How nice when the solution to a problem also looks good.

    • Jessica September 15, 2015 at 8:44 am - Reply

      It looks very good. A bit like a dry stream bed, although we need to get a few more stones if we can successfully match the colour. Thanks Linda.

  37. frayed at the edge September 15, 2015 at 8:47 am - Reply

    Glad the solution turned out to be relatively straightforward!

    • Jessica September 15, 2015 at 7:59 pm - Reply

      24 hours of rain and, so far, it’s looking good.

  38. Janet/Plantaliscious September 15, 2015 at 6:56 pm - Reply

    Mais qui, tres, tres bien! Sorry, couldn’t be arsed to do the accents… But probably just as well you had it looked at, I can only imagine the effect of years of damp if left alone sans holes…

    • Jessica September 15, 2015 at 9:43 pm - Reply

      Doesn’t bear thinking about does it. Now that’s done we can press ahead with other work which will also help to protect and strengthen the structure. There are no short cuts with an old building.

  39. hb September 17, 2015 at 8:53 pm - Reply

    If it is working after 24 hours of rain, then…it is working. Vache sacrée!

    I’ll try to imagine 24 hours of rain, but having difficulty.

    • Jessica September 17, 2015 at 9:26 pm - Reply

      I wonder if there is an island somewhere between you and me where the climate is absolutely perfect? It would be nice to think so. Maybe there was once, but so many people moved there it sunk. Wasn’t it called Atlantis?

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