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Posts Tagged ‘nature’

Mummys little beauty.

I’ve been out and about this morning with the camera. It wasn’t exactly as bright & sunny as it has been for the past week or so. Still pretty warm though! A huge thunderstorm raged overhead and I had the idea of taking pics of the dark clouds and poppies in the fields around us. Unfortunately, that didn’t work out too well. It was a ‘flat’ sky, grey and unyeilding. But the lightning was awesome! Then came the rain! Or, should I say deluge? That lasted for an hour or so and meant that our French guests cancelled plans to take their charges into Saumur to ride around ‘en caleche’. A ‘caleche’ is a pony & trap. There’s one in Saumur in the spring/summer that seats around 15 and is pulled by two gorgeous great big horses, a bit like shire horses in the UK. Our guests are all ‘handicappés’ from Normandy, and they’re here for a long weekend to discover the Loire with their two carers, both lovely people. This afternoon though, the weather’s turned around again, the front has passed and it’s bright again, so they’ve all just left for Saumur again to take a promenade en bateau sur la Loire! I hope it stays fine for them.

So, after driving to a local cottage to pick up a set of keys for a friend, I came home via our local plan d’eau in search of a shot. Just rounding the bend before the lake, two very tiny baby deer crossed in front of me, following mum into a field which looked like promising grazing. I pulled the car into a chemin rurale and turned off the engine. The camera already had my 200mm zoom fitted and I set off back up the lane to see if the deer were in fact grazing, and within range of the lens. They were further down the field, just visible to the naked eye, and too far away to get a decent shot from. So, I hopped the fence, and as silently as I could, followed the animals. Once I got down to the opposing fence, mum had disappeared into the forest, barking for her babies to follow. Unfortunately, they were a bit frightened of the fence and the ditch at the bottom, so they stayed on my side of the fence, enabling me to get pretty close to get a couple of nice shots. I didn’t want to frighten the baby unduly, nor did I want to touch it, lest my smell put off mum in any way. But, I was ‘this’ close!

Watching you....

Watching you....

This little baby was scared of me, and even though I was not a threat to it, I sensed mum looking at me from the forest behind me as I snapped away.

Beautiful markings

Beautiful markings

The baby had the most exquisite markings down her back and flanks. She was in a lovely condition, and probably no more than a few weeks old. It’s something that’s never really occurred to me until now that the saying ‘gone to ground’ really does mean just that! As I approached the baby, I could see her getting closer and closer to the ground, laying as flat and as still as she could.

Close up, just lovely.

Close up, just lovely.

Because I didn’t want to disturb her too much, I didn’t stage the shot at all, which is why the grasses ‘intrude’ a little. Just after I took this, she gave quite a loud yelp, obviously letting mum know she was on her way, she sprang up and ran off over the fossé and into the forest cover behind us. An absolutely priceless moment for me, and one that’s set up my weekend quite nicely!

On the other side of the coin though, I had a conversation yesterday with our neighbour, Loic. I knew from chatting to M. Bellanger a few weeks ago that there’d been some damage caused to quite a few poplar saplings in fields around us, belonging to a friend of Le Chant d’Oiseau. These young trees are perhaps 12 feet high or more now and have been in leaf for a few weeks. The leaves are possibly very succulent to vegetarians such as deer, who can reach the lower levels with not too much effort. But, they get a little carried away and snap the trees off at around human chest/neck height in an attempt to reach the leaves further up. We had the gendarmes parked right outside our place last weekend, being shown the damage by M. Bellanger. Loic tells me that there’s perhaps going to be a chasse organised, as over 150 saplings have been damaged to the point of being useless. That’s quite a considerable loss on her investment for Annie, our friend and understandably, she’s looking for solutions to the problem.

It’s just a little hard to swallow though, when you come across something as harmless as the baby I photographed this morning, to realise that they’re seen as a pest, with the potential for untold damage and cost implications for people like Loic & Annie, who earn their living from the land.

Until the next time, au revoir.

TBC

All content © Le Chant d’Oiseau, 2006-2009

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We had an e-mail from a young man recently, traveling through France to Spain. Hitchiking actually. He wanted a quiet spot to rest up for a few days or up to a week, and wanted to know the costs etc. So, I mailed him back with a proposition. Given that the cost of a tent per night in low season isn’t very much, why didn’t he think about perhaps giving us some of his time each day to help us out here with some chores in exchange for a pitch and a few meals? He readily agreed, and when the time came, we picked him up from Saumur and brought him to Le Chant. His degree course dictated that he made his way from Ambleside in the English Lake District (a place we know well) to the area of Bilbao in Northern Spain, for a fortnight of related coursework there from the 1st of May. They’d all been given a month to get there by whatever means. This course is under threat of being removed, along with the very small college/university in Ambleside where it’s taught. It’s a degree course in ‘Outdoor Philosophy’. I know, you’re thinking the same as I initially did when Harry (for that’s his name) told me all about it. “What kind of a bloody idiot course is that then?” Simply put, Harry’s ambition is to teach kids about their surroundings in as natural a way as possible. There are schools in Canada, and indeed in France as it happens where kids do their normal, boring curriculum based studies for say, three days per week. Then, for the remainder of the week, they’re taken to some place, be it a wood, clearing, riverside or lakeside situation to be taught their lessons but with particular relevance to their natural surroundings. By someone like Harry. This gives the kids an insight into how nature works, how it should have our respect, and how we should be protecting it. Now, the qualification Harry gains doesn’t mean he’s qualified ‘properly’ to teach in schools, he’d have to take a Teacher’s Qualification Course for that. But the more I thought about it, the more I think “What a brilliant idea!”

Shouldn’t there be something like this on the curriculum anyway? I’m sure there used to be in the days before Risk Assessments. I always remember our school nature walks down to a local meadow, perhaps 2 miles from the school gates. We’d all troop down there, two-by-two, holding hands, picking up buttercups and holding them under our hand-holding buddies’ chin to see if they liked butter! (The yellow of the flower reflected on the skin was a big yes!)

I’ve seen similar things here in the local villages. One particularly nice sight was a troupe of small children, all dressed up in costume as insects or small animals. They were being led around the village by a volunteer squad of protective teachers and parents. Lovely to see. The gendarmes were also there, to slow down the traffic, and make sure no-one got hurt. Would that happen in the UK? Would the school be charged for the police time? Our local policemen did this as a part of their daily work. De rien!

Anyway, Harry’s possibly now halfway up a mountain in Northern Spain, the second part of his seminar involved spending time alone up there, coming down at the close of play with something they’d made, wrote, painted to represent their time there. I don’t know why, possibly just to make them think about their surroundings, and possibly appreciate them a bit more. A brilliant idea, and one I wish more kids could have access to. So, Harry, if you read this when you return to the beautiful village of Ambleside in the English Lake District, we all hope it went well, good luck and please keep in touch!

Until the next time, au revoir.

TBC

All content © Le Chant d’Oiseau, 2006-2008

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