Back-breaking work pays off at chateau

Back-breaking work by volunteers has helped stabilise the crumbling chateau at St Blaise near Nice and, with trees cleared, allowed it to be seen from the village.

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Local group Le Castel did the work and vice-president Dave Taylor-Jones said: “It has sprung out of the forest and become a much more important part of life here.

“The commune bought it from a private owner and financed the shoring up of the tower which had a big fissure.”

A retired structural engineer who has lived in the village for 30 years, Mr Taylor-Jones said: “It has been very exciting to take part. Not everyone has a medieval castle they can help restore and it has been wonderful to work with my friend and neighbour, Christian Canac, the driving force behind the project.”

Mr Taylor-Jones also writes and one of his stories based on the chateau was translated into French and turned into a play, put on in the chateau grounds (see photo right). “Logistically, it was a big challenge to put on a play at a site so remote from access roads and electricity. We had to carry all the props, costumes and sound system 1km from the forest road.”

The story, If Only Stones Could Talk, tells of the ghost of a young man who died in the dungeon and haunts the ruins.

It was played by local theatre group Ni d’Eve, Ni d’Adam. “It was great to see something I’d written come alive by being acted out in the crumbling magnificence of the chateau,” he said.

He has also written a book, Another Side of France, with 22 short stories and essays about life in France.