Tuesday, 21 October 2014

A Grand Afternoon Out

Well today we were going to have an assault on the final patch of brambles but the horrible mizzle has put paid to that.  I think we are having the tail end of the hurricane from Bermuda.

The weekend was a lovely sunny one, and we finally managed to get a trip in to some of the local sites with our neighbours Nelly and Rollande, who split their time between here and Paris. Their house is Rollande's family home, and they spent four years renovating it after he inherited it from his parents.    They don't speak English, so a pair of Brit neighbours with dodgy French can't be the easiest to be friends with but they seem to have taken us completely under their wing.   Rollande and his family lived in our house during the war, when the Germans took over his and it became a hospital for German soldiers, so I think that they are just pleased that someone has taken the house on, to love it and restore it.

Here at Le Meslier we are about 800 feet above sea level, so we are privileged with some stunning views and Nelly and Rollande have been trying to take us to some of the local beauty spots for a couple of weeks, but really needed a clear day.  Sunday was that day.  It started dull and there were some spots of rain in the morning but Rollande was convinced that it would clear up and he was right.

We started at La Grande Cascade, in the neighbouring town of Mortain and walked down the valley to La Petite Cascade at the bottom.  You cannot see any of this from the road, and if it wasn't for the brown tourist signs we wouldn't have know they were there.

The start of  La Grande Cascade

There are no barriers here....Health and Safety
would have a field day!

This is the Laundry where the local women
used to wash the clothes
Bottom of La Grande Cascade, a short walk
on the flat now before the next decent.
The start of La Petite Cascade

Just to the right, this chap wants the quick way
down.  Rather him than me!

Pretty blurred but this tower of granite
stands independently and once had granite
steps going around.

It is all very tranquil at the moment, but I can imagine that in the summer it is heaving with tourists.

The next stop was La Petite Chapelle.  Again, about 800 feet or so above sea level, this was a very strategic point during the war.  The Battle of Normandy, took place here between 6-13 August 1944. The Germans defended this position but helped by the Resistance, it was liberated by the Americans but with massive losses.

La Petite Chappelle.
These are young trees as during the war the
area the woodland was cleared to aid the Germans

Hill 314.
Very important, whoever controlled this hill,
controlled the valley.

This tell the story better than I ever could.

"In hommage to the soldiers of the 35th Infantry Division
'Santa Fe', which from the 10th to 13th August 1944
 managed to free the survivors of the 'lost batallion'
at the cost of heavy losses.
Memorial to the American Fallen

The viewing point here has amazing panoramic views, and on a clear day it is possible to see Mont St Michel, about 40km, in the distance.

Max with Nelly and Rollande at the viewing point.

Trust me, that very tiny smudgy triangle in the distance...
is Mont St Michel!

Hill 314 from the other side

A glorious afternoon was finished off in typical French style with a glass of chilled pear cider.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Autumn is making an appearance.

After a long Indian Summer September, Autumn has started to make itself felt.  The leaves are turning, the apples are ready to be harvested and we are getting the odd day of driving rain, which fades out into that horrible mizzle, which seems to get into your very bones.

Here at Bonkers Farm, we are still trying to do as much outside as we can before the really bad weather sets in.  The assault on the Brambles continues.  I think we are going to be trying to get rid of these for the rest of our lives, but we have managed to clear out the bank by the barn drive and it is amazing just how much ground we claim back.

The piano is the first off.
"Garage Sale" anyone?
Finally our furniture arrived.  If anything was going to advertise that the Brits are here is was the huge Britannia Removal Van!   In fact, a couple who had managed to squeeze by on the day stopped yesterday to say hello as we were clearing the drive.  We do give ourselves some time off and we did get to the Vide Grenier the other Sunday.  We immediately reverted to type, and I bought a French painted stool, that needs upholstering and a quilt and Max bought a Sound System and a pitchfork.  Though if you look at our garage now the furniture has arrived you would be forgiven for asking if we really do need any more stuff!

The Vide Grenier was on one of those horrible mizzle days that I was talking about and it really is a "clear your attic". Held in the streets of one of the nearby village of Vengnon, the locals had literally opened their doors and out up a trestle table. One had opened up as a bar and their front room was full of locals having a beer.  I think if our French had been better we would have joined them.

I was mooching at this stall with the stool, which I knew was being sold by some Brits and Max was browsing a collection of garden tools they had and he just happened to be wearing his "Castles" T-shirt.

Man: "Is that Castles in Christchurch?"
Max: "Yes I worked there for four years."
Man: "Do you know Barney?"

Turns out they are from Southbourne and have had a home here for twenty years!  What are the chances?

Present from my lovely friend Nicola Hancock,
Can't think what she means!
"Pleeeease let me in!"
The cats have all had their various operations and the girls had their stitches out.  All ready for their assault on the local wild life, along with our new family member Bill.  This poor little chap had been hiding under our hedge for the past few days, although looking back we think it could have been longer.  Well it was heartbreaking to hear him, and he kept sitting on the window cill playing with the gang of four through the window.  Of course, it was no time at all before he had weedled his way in and had his own little cushion in the dining room.  We let them all meet a couple of days ago, and apart from a little bit of hissing all seems to have settled down and Bill is now one of the family.  But that is it!  No more cats.

Finally a guest bedroom
Bonkers Farm has also had its first visitor.  There is nothing like the imminent arrival of a visitor for the incentive to sort out the guest bedroom.  Jo Mansfield arrived at Cherbourg and we drove up to collect her.  It was lovely to have someone else see our home.  She said very nice things to our faces......As Jo is a big walker it gave us the opportunity to explore the local walks.

Looking back to the start
Bonkers Farm from the old railway line
The old railway line used to run at the top of the hill.  It stopped being a passenger line in 1938, then took freight three times a week, then finally that was stopped in 1988 and the line was taken up in 1997.  It is now part of a picturesque walk /cycle way that links up with others in the Vire Valley.
The Old Station at
Mortain/Le Neufbourg
From the top of "Bonkers Hill" to the old Mortain/Le Neufbourg station is 7km....and we did there and back!  I think I am even shorter now that I was before.  It certainly is the furthest I have walked for a long time.

German Gun emplacement
Wherever you go in this area there are reminders of the Nazi Occupation and here at a neigbouring barn is the remainder of a German gun emplacement.  It is a perfect location, looking right down over the valley, protecting the area from attack by the Allies.  It is very similar to those found all over the Channel Islands.
Found on our Railway walk.  We THINK
is a white truffle but there is now way we
taking a risk on it!
We know that our neighbour Roland, lived in our house during the war because the Germans took over his, but seeing this brings it home as to how real this all was.

A couple of years back, Max and I were in a show with songs from both World Wars.  One of them was "The Folks That Live Up The Hill".  It is a real dirge, and not a song I enjoyed learning.   Elaine Paige played it on her Sunday programme and Max turned to me and said " I guess we are now the folks that live up the hill!" and I guess we are.

Bonkers Farm at night