Trials and Tiles

Trying to mop up the water pouring into a dormitory in November 2014

We first visited Les Courmettes in the summer of 2008, shortly after A Rocha had taken it over; the crying need was for major refurbishment of the main house. This is a big building which, if it hadn’t exactly been neglected for the best part of a century, hadn’t exactly been lovingly cared for either. When we returned to stay in 2014 not a great deal had changed and that need was even more pressing. The great obstacle to any refurbishment however was, quite simply, the roof. After all there was no point in repainting walls and renovating woodwork when, come the next downpour, the rain would rush in through the roof which, for the most part consisted of a single layer of aged tiles. Equally, and rather embarrassingly for an environmental organisation, the nature of the roof made the pursuit of energy conservation a rather pointless exercise: heat simply disappeared into the air through a thousand cracks. And to make the fairly obvious point, re-roofing a large, ageing building at 800 plus metres on a fairly remote mountain is not something that you can do bit by bit as the fancy takes you. Reroofing, by its very nature, needs to be done speedily.

New roof on the main building and copper guttering

Nevertheless, in the last four years Jean-François and the team have laboured hard to obtain the funding for a major roof refurbishment and finally this year, in the slack season before the weddings and conferences start, the re-roofing was started and achieved.

We hadn’t been up to Courmettes before Christmas so when Chris had to go up for a geology meeting we were eager to see how the re-roofing work had progressed. We reported in a blog at the end of January that work had begun on the main roof and we were delighted to see that not only had this been finished but the replacement of the roof over the dormitory wing was almost complete. The work is not simply been re-tiling, insulation has been laid down, new skylights fitted and, thanks to a certain kind donor, distinctly elegant copper guttering fitted.

Coupled with the roofing project has been the refurbishment of bedrooms and given that, as ever, funding is in short supply, the challenge here has been to use creativity and paint to achieve maximum effect at minimum cost. As anyone who has stayed at Courmettes over the last few years will remember, another area that needed improvement was the showers and toilets, and we are glad to report that there has been considerable progress here.

It’s been tremendously encouraging to see what once seemed insuperable obstacles overcome. Yes there is still a lot of work to be done but we and the team give thanks to God and grateful donors for making it all possible. It’s been particularly appropriate as 2018 marks the centenary of Courmettes being bought for the Protestant church in France: something that will be celebrated later in the year.

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