Our tiny chateau overlooks the Cotentin marsh, a large nature park that is brimming with birds and all kinds of wildlife. As the seasons change it is like living in two totally different places. In winter the marsh floods, the water reaching almost to the bottom of our garden; it is like having a house by the sea as the winds howl across and lash the trees. Most days some hunters cross the marsh by boat and, as much as I hate it, hunting is a big part of Normandie life - and if I want to live here then it is part and parcel of what goes on and I have to accept it. Sometimes, very late at night, they cross the marsh and do not return until the next morning, often filled with a glass or two of Calvados - which can be quite a giggle as it sometimes results in one of the hunters falling face down in the water as they get out of their small boats!
In the summer, the change is amazing; totally tranquil with nothing but luscious grass swaying in the warm breeze. We watch storks building their nests, herons, egrets, swans, hosts of frogs and there are various other slithery critters which I know are there but perhaps I would rather not see!!! The hunting season is closed at this time and the only people to drive down our lane to our house is the La Poste van and our visitors.
But the last few months has seen a hive of activity with tractors, four wheel drive vehicles, diggers and vans all passing our gateway on to the marsh. We have been able to see the vehicles all parked up in the distance but had no idea what was going on.
Yesterday I asked Gerard, one of the hunters, what was happening and he told me they were renovating their "pavillon" or hunting 'hide'. He said he would collect me and give me a tour of the hide. We had no idea that a 'hide' had been built as the land is quite flat and no buildings could be seen, but it did explain where the hunters were when they stayed overnight in the winter. I have walked the marshes so often I thought I knew it all quite well so why hadn`t I seen it?
A few hours later I was in the garden with a bucket of hot soapy water washing down some old enamels I had bought when a large all-terrain vehicle with a row of flashlights on the roof stopped at our gate - and so our tour began! I can understand why Gerard needs the four wheel drive; my head hit the roof a few times as he sped along over the rough ground oblivious to my fear. I almost wished I had taken the bucket to wear as a crash hat!!!
He stopped in the middle of the marsh and all that was visible was a tiny metal trap door covered in astro turf. As he unlocked the hatch I had visions of old war time air raid shelters and wished I had worn something to protect me from cobwebs and spiders. But I could not have been more wrong. We stepped down into the most luxurious, light underground apartment you have ever seen!!!! Electricity, a new fitted kitchen with an electric hob and extractor fan, a dining table set for six, electric heating and a separate chamber with six plump bunks! It is no wonder so many men disappear onto the marsh at night!!
Sometimes when the renovations here get me down and I feel the need to escape to a little less noise and dust I might just wander over there and warn a few ducks that the hunters are on their way. I might not be the " plat du jour" with the hunters - but I may save a few ducks from becoming just that!
The brocantes this morning were a little threadbare but still some divine trouvailles. I will photograph the hoard in the morning but above is my favourite find of the day................ooooooooooooooh la la!
A demain mes belles.................