Sorting through my photos just now, I was reminded that my second choice for a tree to follow was an oak in a field adjacent to La Fosse which has been damaged by a couple of lightening strikes and is gradually reaching the end of its life.
A misty Sée river valley, winter sunset and an oak that has literally been through the wars… or at least WWII
Some winter evenings – and mornings – if the climatic conditions are right, sea mists swirl up the Sée valley straight from the bay of le Mont-St-Michel about 30 kms (20 miles) to the west and the villages of Juvigny-le-Tertre on the opposite ridge and Chérencé-le-Roussel down in the valley vanish into the haze. Take a deep breath as the mist steals up the fields towards La Fosse and you can distinctly taste the salty, mineral-y tang of the sea on your tongue.
This tree was almost my Tree Following choice but the disadvantage is its location in a neighbour’s field. He often grazes sheep or young cattle in the field during the year and I wouldn’t want to disturb them by making regular treks over to examine the oak.
Gorgeous Normandy cattle – they’re a breed as well as a region. They’re robust, hardy animals and multi-purpose as they’re good for both milk and meat
Also, it has to be said, Sylvain – if he saw me – would probably think I was completely bonkers; enough people already think I’m odd as they pass by and see me peering into trees, down into verges, photographing ivy covered tree stumps (insects) or screeching to a halt in the car in my continuing and so far unsuccessful quest to photograph closeup either a buzzard on a telegraph pole or a kestrel hovering over a field edge.
I mentioned the second world war. I should explain that while the date in everyone’s mind is 6th June, 1944 because that is D-Day in Normandy, D-Day was very much only the start – the vital start – of the battle of Normandy with the eventual liberation of France and the other occupied lands of western Europe.
Perriers-en-Beauficel itself wasn’t liberated for further two months. The Allies, fighting their way down the peninsula from the direction of Cherbourg, Caen and inland from the coast enabled this village to be free again on 11th August, 1944.
There were recorded, intense battles around La Fosse for four days prior to Perriers-en-Beauficel being liberated on 11th August, 1944. The level of fighting in this area was brought home to us when we were having drainage trenches dug back in 2005 and the digger unearthed a cache of tracer ammunition which had been in the ground for the previous 60 years.
WWII ammunition unearthed during the restoration of La Fosse, Perriers-en-Beauficel, in 2005
The authorities are used to WWII ordnance being found across this region – indeed, local legend is that there is a lost and so far undiscovered arms cache somewhere on the back road to Chérencé-le-Roussel. The local authorities do the rounds every so often and collect all the latest discoveries that are often unearthed during ploughing.
We were a little nervous about our discovery and stored it under cover at the edge of our field as far from the house as possible until it could be collected. Eventually, our Maire (mayor) turned up, peered at our find, chuckled knowingly… and casually popped the box into the back of his car. We watched him in awe as he bumped off up the drive with a cheerful wave. Sooner him than us. I read a few months later of a maire further south who had a similar insouciant, devil-may-care attitude to the old shell he heaved into his hatchback. Unfortunately it was the last bit of attitude he displayed as the shell exploded.
The storms in January this year had unexpected consequences when 80+ WWII shells were found on a beach in Brittany.
But… back to the start and the point of this post… that blighted oak tree, which is probably not long (comparitively) for this world, must have seen a heck of a lot over its life.