One of the privileges of modern life is the accessibility of places far distant. Do we appreciate this? I am not sure, but it is amazing to think that we can get into a car, drive for less than a day then disembark in another country, on the other side of a large body of water.
For the last 10 days we have been staying in the small hamlet of Maintru, near to Neufchatel du Bray. It has been a holiday of family, friends and relaxation. We have been gifted with perfect holiday weather; of balmy days and warm evenings. The children have played tennis, croquet and cricket on the lawn; the adults have walked, photographed and fallen in love with places.
Part the first:
I know that many people have visited Normandy, know of it's gentle countryside and farming communities, however it was very new to me. One of the first things that occurs is that we live on a very crowded island (in the UK); whereas, in France, there is a sense of space, not of crammed together people. Empty roads and lack of traffic is very evident outside the metropolis of the bigger cities.
Walking out on the lanes is a pleasure, meeting mainly with farm vehicles and insects along with the occasional tourist. Roads like these invite you to walk along them, just to find out what is around the next corner...
... over the hill...
...or down in the valleys.
The village, where we were staying, had long given up it's church. Now de-consecrated, it was running to ruin and being swallowed up by nature. One section of the roof had collapsed and the bones of the roof jut out into the air. Looking up you can catch a glimpse of the bell, still hanging but now silent.
The current inhabitants of the space? Spiders, insects, mice and a barn owl. I was lucky enough to catch a glimpse, as it headed out to hunt, as the sky darkened and revealed the milky way in all it's glory. One of the other pleasures of rurality is the lack of light pollution. The owl left a range of evidence of it's presence, small bones all neatly packaged up and feathers groomed and dropped.
The warmth of the summer has encouraged the growth of plants and the proliferation of insects. I spent many happy hours wandering, snapping pictures and trying to identify different flora and fauna. From being very young I have had a fondness for grasshoppers and Normandy didn't disappoint. Moths and butterflies were to be found in abundance and the range and number within half a mile of the house was incredible.
I am not bad at identification, but not confident enough for everything here. On a final note, the grasshopper immediately above here decided it wanted a new life as a hair ornament. It jumped into my hair seconds after I took this picture and, whilst I like grasshoppers, I decided it was not going to catch on as a fashion statement.
Thanks to Tim for his pictures of the house and the chapel.