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A thoroughly modern pigeonnier

Peter Bowman and his wife Ros replaced an old concrete structure over the well in their garden with what could be France’s most modern pigeonnier

Mr Bowman is a civil engineer used to building roads and bridges, as well as renovating their French house which they bought 30 years ago.

He was determined the structure would last as long as the medieval and post-Revolution pigeonniers in the surrounding countryside.

Many in the Tarn have a hexagonal structure, which is what they decided to build – little expecting when work started in 2013 it would take seven years.

“I drew up plans and sent them off to the various administrative bodies, with the whole thing in brick initially, because I thought that would fit in with local building materials.

“The architect at the department put me right and said that while brick was used for pigeonniers in towns, in the countryside they almost always had a stone base, covered in crépi, with bricks on top.”

This meant the columns holding up the structure could now be built out of concrete blocks, making sure there was plenty of steel reinforcing.

The arches could also benefit from steel reinforcement.

“I probably went over the top with the reinforcing but when you are used to building large structures which have to stay up, it’s second nature,” Mr Bowman said.

Stainless steel supports, made to order, and thick bolts did the trick.

The top part of the structure has an oak frame, with brick walls. The oak was seasoned for three years after being bought to limit its movement once in place.

A neighbour helped with the roof tiles. The hexagonal shape of the roof meant there was a lot of cutting. All this was done in April, May and June, before holiday visitors put an end to building until September and October, when the Bowmans head back to the UK.

'As the project went on, my wife was convinced that I had gone mad'

“Now it’s finished, she is very pleased. I am too: it is probably the only pigeonnier in the area which will have a good chance of surviving an earthquake.”

Grandchildren were able to sleep in the 12.6m2 structure this summer and he said his wife finds it ideal for yoga.

He added that the only visitors who will not be welcome are pigeons – “noisy, smelly, dusty birds”. The entrances to the pigeonnier seen on the photo are just painted on.

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