Monday, 12 January 2015

A visit to Nanteuil-en-Vallée.

The town of Nanteuil-en-Vallée is located in the north of the Charente department. The population fell quite sharply after the losses suffered in the First World War, but subsequently recovered and in 2012 numbered 1452. It has a mixture of house styles, mostly of stone and some half-timbered, all very traditional - dating back at least to the 12th century. A historic and popular area for all kinds of outdoor pursuits!

The maps shows the topography and suggestions for rambles and view points.

The village lavoir, a subject on which I have often written, where in years gone by, the ladies used to meet to do  their washing and exchange gossip.

The thirteenth century Church of St. Jean the Baptist  is open to the public again after ten months of closure. The roof was seriously threatened with collapse and much work has been done. There is still a lot of restoration needed, but costs are high and it will take time. Meanwhile the church is back in use while work continues.
It boasts some wonderful stained glass windows and stone vaulted ceilings.
and this lovely carved entrance door.
The Auberge Le Saint Jean, which was a highly recommended and popular restaurant, has sadly since closed down.  You can see part of the church in the background. Happily, another hostelry still survives in the town, a blessing when so many country restaurants have closed down due to the economic crisis.
Fontaine Saint-Jean.  There are steps inside leading down to the water source, which runs through the town. It is piped from the abbey and appears here and a couple of other places nearby. 
Anne walking through the streets of Nanteuil-en-Vallee, when she visited with us in May last year.
I loved this old picture on one of the walls.
The remains of the 12th century Benedictine Abbey of Notre-Dame de Nanteuil are the main tourist attraction in the village.

Unfortunately it was closed that day and we could not go in to see it!
A narrow village street leading to the Treasury
The plaque recording that this present abbey was built on the site of an earlier, 8th century abbey founded by Charlemagne. At one time a very large abbey, you can now only see the sturdy Treasury building, its walls inset with high arches. Although given this specific name, its use is not actually known!
Little remains of the other main abbey buildings, but there are enough ruins to give one an idea of the original layout, so we are told!

Our last part of the visit was to the arboretum, created by the local authorities for the benefit of residents and visitors. I could have spent more time walking around there, but our schedule didn't permit it!
Ann taking photos in the well-kept gardens.
 The river here is named L'Argentor, a  30km long tributary of the Charente river, formed by the separate streams called L'Argent and L'Or (silver and gold), no doubt a reference to their perceived colours in the sunshine!

See also my daily Photo Diary Here
My Life Before Charente New scanner - New post 20/01/2015

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Wishing everyone happy holidays and all the best for 2015!

We will be away in a few days time to celebrate Christmas in England with my father-in-law. As we are flying, our computers will be staying at home; only the Nexus will be with us for emails, and maybe the odd single photo on the photodiary.  I find  that blogging on this tablet is beyond me, so I will resume early in the New Year!

I have reviewed my diary photos for 2014 and picked a favourite for each month, for this post.  All photos, except a couple which are taken nearby, were taken in our garden.  
18/01/14 Mrs Blackbird taking a bath.

17/02/14 Snowdrops.

08/03/14 Early lamb

12/04/14 La Rochefoucauld château and its reflection in the river.

12/05/14 Iris.

01/06/14 Humming bird hawk moth.

15/07/14 Common swallowtail.

17/08/14 Cat sitting for our neighbour

17/09/14 Black kite.

26/10/14 Cotoneaster and spider web.

11/11/14 Peacock butterfly

08/12/14 Great tit at the window asking for food!

Happy Christmas 

Gesëende Kersfees

Nginifisela inhlanhla ne mpumelelo e nyakeni

Nadolig Llawen

Nollaig Shona Dhuit

Nollaig Chridheil agus Bliadhna Mhath Ur

Buone Feste Natalizie

Feliz Natal

Feliz Navidad!

God Jul and (Och) Ett Gott Nytt Ar

Kung His Hsin Nien bing Chu Shen Tan

 Gun Tso Sun Tan'Gung Haw Sun

 Kung Ho Hsin Hsi. Ching Chi Shen Tan

Shinnen omedeto. Kurisumasu Omedeto
Sawadee Pee Mai

Gajan Kristnaskon

Froehliche Weihnachten

Kala Christouyenna!

Mo'adim Lesimkha. Chena tova.
Keep well everyone and I will be back in 2015!

Also see my daily diary HERE

and My Life Before Charente (updated 30 October 2014) 

Monday, 1 December 2014

Another walk through the fields and woodlands of Vitrac Saint Vincent.

Last Tuesday, our leisure club met in Vitrac Saint Vincent for a short walk along the banks of La Rivaillon, the small stream which runs through the village.   We walked south east along a country path, with the stream on our right, until we turned right to cross it, via an ancient narrow stone footbridge; soon thereafter we climbed uphill and turned right again, to follow a hillside contour, through oak woodland, back to Vitrac.  You can see our route below and read a bit more about Vitrac HERE.

Meeting in Vitrac next to the church.

The route we walked on  each side of the river.

The small village of Vitrac Saint Vincent. The old epicerie (grocery) on the corner has been for sale for several years, as has the little local bar, three doors up the road.  Sad, as it would be a lovely place to go and have a drink!!

La Rivaillon, now somewhat narrower here than it used to be, flowing under the road bridge on the D60.

We walked past the local junior school as we left the village.

Soon we saw this donkey, who greeted me very noisily!!
Walking on past the trees in their autumn colours... 

Our route took us back to a point very close to the stream.  The water level is quite low at the moment, but to see what it looked like in flood in 2011 see HERE

A couple of cows watched us walk by....

and these mushrooms, Gymnopus fusipes, were gathered by one of the walkers with much relish; she was telling us how delicious they are when young and fresh! We are very wary of collecting wild mushrooms, but the French seem to know just what they are doing!

Three huge oak trunks seasoning by the side of the road...

or, as you can see, it really is just a  farm track.

I was fascinated by these unusually shaped berries, but I have no idea what they are.
Thanks to both Nadege and the Fly, I now know this is Euonymus europaeus   commonly known as a spindle tree.  The berries are very toxic.  European spindle wood is very hard, and can be cut to a sharp point; it was used in the past for making wool spindles.

Crossing the river by the ancient stone footbridge.  The ground on either side was pretty wet and muddy, so I ended up with wet socks!

Golden leaves litter the woodland path on our way back to Vitrac....

and in the wood too.

Then the rain started to come down; luckily we both had waterproofs with us!

Despite the rain, it was not a  terribly cold day, so we much enjoyed a very pleasant walk in good company!

Also see my daily diary HERE

and My Life Before Charente (updated 16 October 2014) 

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

A cattle-themed late October walk near Massignac

There was a lot of information provided on signboards along this walk, so I considered splitting it into two blogs for 2 reasons.  Firstly, because a single blog might be too long and secondly, our slow internet connection can't cope with too many photos!  However, I decided that it would spoil the story, so here it is, all in one post. Hopefully it will be of special interest to my French readers, as the signs are understandably French!  I am going to ask Nigel to do a little translation here so my English followers can get the gist of the story.

We started walking from Massignac,  which I have written about Here , Here and Here.  On a lovely sunny and calm day, we arrived at a southern point of the artificial lake named Lac de Mas-Chaban.

Footbridge sited to assist ramblers on  walks around the lake

Where you are welcomed to the start of the "Path of the Cow's Meadow" following the story of la Vache (the cow), in particular, the Limousine breed. The signs are designed as a source of learning, particularly, for the many parties of children who are brought here on school trips.

Sign 1 reads "Good day, I am the beautiful Limousine. Not those which come out of car factories!" and more description extolling the virtues of the breed! The yellow line on the little map marks the pathway of 3,5 km around this part of the lake.

" In times past, my ancestors returned to numerous heavy tasks around the farm" The breed was praised as light, docile, speedy and powerful and over time was selectively bred from the best examples, as cross-breeding was found to be unsuccessful.

"In 1770, there was a meat shortage in Paris and the authorities asked the local offices if they could count on the Limousines to provision the capital after Easter" 

"Bocage means countryside where the fields and meadows are surrounded by trees and hedges." This arrangement provided an essential component in the raising of these cattle.

The gravel pathway winds its way around the perimeter of the lake.

A board about the setting down of genealogical principles for breeding Limousine cattle in the "Herd Book", written in the penultimate decade of the 19th century.

The younger cattle are fed on mother's milk and grass, then slaughtered for veal at around 8-10 months.

Others are weaned and fattened with cereals and sold at around 10-15 months. The meat is young but already mature and tasty.

The male cattle (Limousin - with no "e") are fattened and slaughtered at about 18 months to provide very high quality meat, renowned in the butchery industry.

A board about regulation of the industry and establishment of benchmark labelling for high quality meat production.

We stopped to watch a grey heron fly overhead.

A little game for the childrens' entertainment on the lines of the Rubik cube, where they must correctly match the fore and hind parts of four different breeds of cow farmed locally, with their middles.

The cow as a subject in various forms of human endeavour, literature, poetry, strip cartoons, cinema, song and advertising being listed here.

Small plaques showing Apis, an Egyptian god with a cow's head, cows featured in 17,000 year old Dordogne rock paintings and lastly a Greek scene with a mature Limousin bull.

Nearly back to where we started!

Returning to Massignac and features (above and below) outside a local shop.

Many small villages have such helpful map boards to inform walkers and ramblers of suggested routes, of varying lengths, in the area.

My daily diary can be seen HERE

See also My Life Before Charente (updated 30 October 2014) 
Sorry about the long delay in posts on the above but I will endeavour to keep it up to date more often!