A couple of days ago I grabbed my camera and drove to a village nearby, determined to take a few photos for the blog with the wonderful light that we have at this time of year. It was truly the most sublime day, with clear skies and a sun hot enough to actually make a difference; it was not quite sunbathing weather but for the depths of winter it was not at all bad. A day when one simply had to be outside to appreciate it. There was no wind, and the the rise of mercury had not been too impressive, just reaching double figures – a mediocre 10˚ Celsius. However, it felt like heaven just to feel the sun on one’s back, and that’s the trick here, even in January. If you can find a sheltered spot you really can sit in a t-shirt and feel the sun providing some vital winter vitamin D, its rays actually have some strength to them.
Anyway, feeling happy for no reason other than because it was the sort of day when it was impossible not to be, I arrived in the little village of St Just. I parked and walked and before I knew it I found myself meandering amongst its tiny back streets.
In these cooler months when the trees have been pollarded and flowers are scarce these villages are no longer picture postcard pretty; instead they have a stark beauty that I find equally mesmerising and with nothing to hide behind one notices things quite invisible the rest of the year.
There is always a church somewhere to be found and in this tiny village it is a huge piece of architecture. Just imagine how long this would have taken to construct 500 years ago. The Eglise Fortifiée de St Just Luzac took over 100 years to build, spanning the 15th and 16th centuries.
Turning my back on the church and looking the other way is this incredible window. So easy to miss. It must date from the same era and undoubtedly was connected to the church in some way.
As I wandered on, shutters caught my attention
and a simple hand-made ‘For Sale’ sign. AV standing for À Vendre.
Narrow paths, little alleys and hidden gems urged me to keep clicking away.
And then I came to this house. I would call it simply handsome. But what struck me most was the stonework on the front, I don’t think I have ever seen this on a house before.
On the way home I crossed the Marais, I’ve always loved this ruin – a little renovation project perhaps? I am sure it is not for sale, but just imagine the possibilities if you had a bottomless wallet! There is even electricity passing by just beside!
I turned off the main road and drove deep into the marshland. There was not another car or person in sight. I found somewhere just off the road where I could leave the car, where it wasn’t too muddy and I wouldn’t get stuck trying to get back on the road and I set off on foot. It was so silent and so peaceful, the only sounds the occasional ripple of water when a coypu swam away, or the flapping of wings as a heron took flight.
I was reminded just how incredible this little slice of paradise is, and what had started out as a quick sortie to take a few photos quickly turned into a wonderful long walk – just me, alone with my thoughts and my camera, and so much wildlife as far as the eye could see. There are many species of waterfowl that over-winter here, and as the Marais stretches for miles, encompassing 16,000 hectares, that means there are a lot of birds. The coast is close by too, and it’s a hive of summer activity which never seems to stretch into the marshlands. The bustling towns of Rochefort and Marennes are on either side, and yet nestled in the middle is this place of protected solitude. When Roddy came to France and found our house with the marais so close by, he knew this would become one of our favourite places to walk and cycle; he knew it was special and he certainly wasn’t wrong.
Then just as I was nearing the car a wedge of swans in flight caught my eye. Incredibly they turned and flew directly over me. I pointed my camera upwards and just snapped, hoping I might capture something.
Then they had passed, heading off for the evening.
A second smaller group quickly passed just in front of me and then they were gone, too. Glancing at my watch I realised I’d spent far longer with my camera than I’d intended; there were jobs at home that would have to be postponed for another day, but it didn’t matter. There’s nothing to compare to quality time like this.