The 6th of December had a rather grey and uninspiring start as we headed off for the annual Association Christmas lunch. However, spirits were quickly raised as members gathered at the very warm and comfortable Auberge de l’Abbaye d’Hambye. Nestling on the banks of the river Sienne, in a wooded setting that serves as a backdrop to the romantic remains of the 12th century Hambye Abbey, you find the Auberge and restaurant located in an elegant stone building. The restaurant is perfect for such an important event in the associations calendar, it is elegant, light, airy and with ample space to comfortably seat the 45 members and guests who attended the lunch.

After a very warm welcome from our President, we took our seats for an aperitif before being served an excellent meal that was very much appreciated by all. The ambiance, food and extremely good service provided by the restaurant team certainly led to a very enjoyable time and this was clearly evident from the level of laughter and general merriment. The happy festive nature of the gathering continued after the meal as the raffle and sale of the table decorations was conducted. A total of 297 euros was raised for the Associations nominated charity Les Sauveteurs en Mer (SNSM.) The very well supported Christmas lunch provided the perfect opportunity for the announcement of the winner of the Associations’ recent photo competition and to give a detailed explanation of the ethos and aims of the competition. Unfortunately the winner was unable to be present but a framed photo of the deserving winner’s picture was displayed.
This was the second time that the association held its Christmas lunch at the Auberge de l’Abbaye and yet again it was a fantastic success and another truly memorable event organised by the committee.

Last walk of the year at St German sur Ay

The final walk of 2019 took place on November 18 on the dunes at St. German sur Ay, enjoyed by twelve people and a number of dogs, after which we all retired (not the dogs), for lunch at the hotel Le Normandy at Lessay. We benefited from very nice weather, blue skies and an absence of clouds, which was a great relief after the long period of overcast skies and rain which we have all endured. This walk was a last minute replacement for the planned walk between Lessay and Périers, which was flooded and impassable in a number of locations. A lot of thanks must go to Louise and Dave for rearranging this replacement walk at very short notice. The revised walk was fantastic and
should be recommended to all, with views over the sea and towards Jersey.

Subterranean Homesick Blues

It was Friday the 15th, but it felt like Friday the 13th as the rain became heavier and we drove down little country lanes looking for “la Igloo“, the restaurant where we were meeting for lunch, before going to our visit to Souterroscope Ardoisières. The water running down the road from the restaurant car park resembled a small river. However, once in-side and divested of waterproofs and umbrellas we were greeted by the owner and his wife and shown to the prepared table. The food was very good and, enjoyed with good company, cheered us up no end.

At Souterroscope Ardoisières, the weather continued to do its worst to dampen our spirits. We donned hard hats and set off, in small groups at 10 min-ute intervals. Every 100 metres, there were stopping points where, in better weather, you would stop to listen to informa-tion about the site and how, over millennia, it had become what it is now. Needless to say, after the first we abandoned the educational spiel to get down to the entrance to the tunnels, where we could get out of the rain.
The tunnel led to caverns, where the miners, starting at the top, had extracted the slate. As one level was removed, they carried on down forming vast caverns. These had been lit and water spouts installed to make a quite dramatic visualisation.

At other caverns, the story of the slate mining was shown in old black and white film, projected on to screens. This gave you the feeling of looking back in time to the same place in a different era.
The last cavern was devoted to exhibits of minerals and semi-precious stones found in the earth (not necessarily on this site).
Back outside, the rain was still falling. All in all, an enjoyable trip.

“You don’t need a weather man to know which way the rain falls”

Book Club goes International

Our book club members were very excited when we were approached with a proposal for a meeting between a book club in Jersey and ourselves.
After a deal of liaising and planning, our Jersey guests arrived on the Saturday afternoon. The evening was kindly hosted at the home of a member of the Coutances-Jersey twinning group.
The evening started with apéros. Then we sat down to a cornucopia of food, punctuated by much talk and laughter as we became acquainted.

Having eaten our fill, it was down to the serious business of dis-cussing the chosen book. This was The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.
As there were fifteen of us, we all had a turn to offer our thoughts on the book. A Feminist book? A book about power? Prophetic? These thoughts and many others were shared before breaking into smaller groups for further discussion. Something I think we all agreed on was that young people should read this as a warning as to their possible future if society is not vigilant. The evening came to a close and the hosts took their guests home with them for a well earned sleep.

Sunday saw us all in La Pergola, on the outskirts of Coutances, enjoying yet more food and conversation before saying “adieu” to our new friends. A provisional date for our visit to Jersey next year has already been suggested, so I think I can safely say that the event was a real success.

October Walk at La Baleine

Twelve intrepid walkers and two dogs set out for the walk at La Baleine. Fortunately the weather was good—it was damp, but didn’t rain! After the walk a good lunch was enjoyed at Hotel de la Gare at Gavray which is one of the Associa-tion’s favourite eating places. Lovely photographs thanks to Jean-Pierre Poullain.

Visit to Ecausseville and Valognes

A large group of members and friends met on a blustery and showery day to visit the gigantic airship Hangar à Dirigeables at Ecausseville. The hangar ‘cathedral’ is the only one of its kind remaining in the world and its size is overwhelming.
A lovely lunch was enjoyed at l’Armanville and in the afternoon we moved on to the Hôtel de Beaumont in the centre of Valognes. From the impressive stone staircase, unique to France, we were guided through the living rooms once completely empty and neglected after the Second World War and now restored and furnished beautifully in the eighteenth cen-tury style. The formal gardens with box parterres were a delight and luckily we managed to avoid the showers. An interesting day was enjoyed by all.


September Walk at Coutainville

The weather forecast was not very good, so we took our raincoats and our waterproof shoes. After some searching we discovered the car park, but no other cars – we wondered if we were in the right place! However, we needn’t have worried because five minutes later more members arrived. Meanwhile though it was already 10.30, but there was no sign of our walk leader? Then suddenly, we discovered some 100 metres further on to where we were there were some other people standing next to their cars. A closer inspection informed us that it was our other walking friends!

Our walk took us past some very large holiday villas, but also some cosy houses surrounded by beautiful trees and flowers. We all enjoyed it….and it stayed dry!! Unbelievably the rain waited until we entered the restaurant!! We all took the starters-buffet and the lunch formule. There was a good ambiance present. Once again it was a success and thanks go to our organiser.

The Liberation of Coutances, 28 July 1944

Several members of the Association attended this International Commemoration in Music on the 21 July in the cathedral at Coutances, which had survived the bombardments of June 1944 almost completely unscathed. This service and concert celebrated the Liberation of Coutances on 28 July 1944, acknowledged the sacrifice of all combatants of the Battle of Normandy and the civilian victims of the bombardment of Coutances and also celebrated the seventy-five years of ensuing peace and harmony between the peoples of Europe.

The service, which included bible readings, was led by le Père Jamelot, rector of the cathedral and Donna Derrick, minister of the Anglican church of La Manche. The concert music chosen included chamber pieces by Edward Elgar and Mendelssohn, arias by Purcell as well as pieces for organ by Jehan Alain and Kurt Weill played by Jean-François Detree. The musicians had been invited by Stewart Miller and included Shu-Wei Tseng, piano, Amélie Mabire, violincello, Anne Tupling, violin and Frances Hook, soprano. The service was concluded by the hauntingly beautiful adagio from the oboe concerto of Alessandro Marcello played by Julie Arnaud, standing in the organ loft.

After the service the portes-drapeaux and congregation proceeded to the memorial garden where the Mayor of Coutances, Monsieur Lamy, gave a speech, acknowledging the debt of gratitude that we all have to those who had made the ultimate sacrifice. Louise laid a wreath on behalf of the Anglophone Association and others paid simple, personal floral tributes some of which were handpicked flowers from individuals’ gardens.

Fête nationale

C’est sous le soleil de Normandie et dans une atmosphère chaleureuse et conviviale que nous avons célébré le 14 juillet chez Louise et Dave en compagnie d’une cinquantaine d’adhérents et quelques invités.

L’apéritif et le cocktail non alcoolisé offerts à l’arrivée a permis à tout le monde de se retrouver ou de faire connaissance.
Le délicieux buffet préparé par les membres du comité était formidable et co-pieux, avec toute une variété de plats pour le plaisir des yeux et des papilles !!!
Bravo encore aux membres du comité pour avoir organisé diverses acti-vités permettant de collecter des fonds pour le SNSM- les Sauveteurs en Mer.
Celles ci étaient :
Pétanque, jeux de coquilles d’huîtres, lotto, ventes de livres/DVD/CD d’occasion, vente aux enchères de 2 T-shirt de la SNSM, carte au trésor et deviner le poids du gâteau fait maison.
Toutes ces activités ont permis de collecter la somme de 345,48€.

Tous nos remerciements et félicitations aux membres du comité pour avoir organisé cette belle journée et surtout nous remercions sincère-ment Dave et Louise pour nous avoir accueillis tous si chaleureusement et amicalement dans leur jardin pour célébrer cet événement dans la joie et la bonne humeur.

Lucky winners

Les gagnants étaient :
Pétanque/boules : Sue et Salomé
Jeu des coquilles d’huîtres : Jerry
La carte au trésor : Andy
Poids du gâteau deviné : Roxanne
1er prix du panier garni : Alan et Sharon


June’s Walk and Picnic in Pirou Forest

A small band of intrepid ramblers gathered early on 27th June in the forest of Pirou for the final walk before the summer break. The walk commenced in the heart of the forest and followed a circuit along forest tracks, passing secluded houses, and visiting a ruined windmill. The forest of Pirou consists of a population of maritime pine trees (Pinus pinaster) with long thick needles and clustered cones, native to the coasts of the Mediterranean and Iberia and a varied moorland environment.

The pine forest is quite dense in places, alternated with cleared areas. In recent years the forest has suffered from fires in the hot summers but it is remarkable how quickly the forest has regenerated. Careful forest management through the use of firewalls and clearings has helped to protect high-value plant and animal species within the forest. The floristic heritage interest focuses on the most open areas where dense populations are rare and / or protected at the national and regional level.

As we headed back to our start point for lunch the day was warming up and on arrival at the picnic area we were glad of the shade provided by the pine trees. The Lunch was a sumptuous affair with everyone sharing their delights. The walk was enjoyed by all and it was a fitting end to the walking group’s season.