Monday, July 6, 2009

Snakes alive.............................

Having grown up on a farm in central Africa I have had many close encounters with snakes. I had not given a thought to the fact that there would be snakes in France, silly I know as I am well aware that there are snakes of some sort everywhere.
This property has been very neglected and we have spent a lot of time moving rocks and generally tidying up. We did not manage to move all the big rocks left on the side of the garden as we are only renting and it would be a big task. The property next door is once again extremely overgrown and full of nettles and brambles and rubbish, something quite unusual in France as far as I can see. Not worth getting involved with this area either, however whilst washing my hands in the bathroom late this afternoon I spotted Mischka (that darn cat again!!!) acting very strangely near the pile of rocks. I went rushing outside and saw one of my neighbour's kitties rushing into the undergrowth, started to turn away and realised that there was an angry snake slithering over the rocks with Mischka all ready to investigate once again. Grabbed the brat cat and shut him inside but returned to discover the snake had disappeared, hopefully far away.
I have no idea about venomous snakes in Europe and immediately consulted good old Google. There are some very informative articles, apparently there are only two types of venomous snakes in this part of France. Snakes with round pupils (would I ask a snake to let me examine his eyes!) are non venomous! In the event of being bitten by a snake there were the usual sensible instructions to drive yourself to the nearest hospital but not to try and catch or kill the snake as you could just as well end with a second bite but anyway you would not die immediately!!! One article mentioned the fact that if you do find 'le serpant' be very careful who you tell, as your French neighbours are likely to demolish stone walls to find the culprit whilst warning you of the dangers of the countryside at the same time. Hopefully we will have no more encounters with snakes in this garden but I am now much more aware!
On Saturday morning when I went to hang out the washing I discovered that something had been making a large hole in the side of an old apple tree. As you can see from the pictures there are large pieces of wood on the ground around the tree, have not seen any squirrels here so can only assume that it is a bird. The tree is very old and it appears that there are ants in the wood.

On Sunday we took our picnic lunch to the Abbey of Bon Repos situated in the heart of a forest along the Nantes Brest canal. By 1960 this Cistercian Abbey was a total ruin but is slowly being restored. A market is held there each Sunday with crafts, fresh vegetables and food and there are several restaurants and small shops. A very beautiful place to spend the day with lots of space for picnics.
The map I had acquired from the tourist bureau showed a neolithic burial chamber not too far away so we decided to visit this on our way back home. The road led us through the forest, under a very lovely old viaduct and next to a stream. Finding a sign a the side of the road, we parked the car and set off up the winding and very steep path literally up the side of a mountain. There are lots of hiking trails around and this one indicated that it was a 14km walk to somewhere but no other mention of the burial chamber. It was a hot day and we climbed and climbed eventually reaching the top to find an amazing view of the surrounding countryside and lots of large rocks. As the picture on the map showed something that looked like a miniature Stonehenge we were a little confused and disappointed. We decided that we would return to the car and as it was quite steep we carefully made our way down. Not far from the bottom I happened to glance sideways and discovered the burial chamber right next to me, could have saved us a long and hot walk if I had spotted it on the way up! After my previous visit to a dolmen which was neat and had an informative sign explaining the structure, I was sad to find this one neglected and almost hidden in the long grass. Until next time............

Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves. ~John Muir

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