+44 (0)7831 626 767
By Brian Franklin
During the last week I was back in France with a friend working on our gardens and pool at 'Le Cuvage' in Perreux.
We were lucky to be there during France's transition from 'printemps' to eté (spring and summer) – just beautiful!
Fresh leaves and grasses, the strengthening sun, warmth in the air, and the increasing numbers of 'papillon' and 'libellule' (butterfly and dragonfly) fluttering and flying past.
This was a good time we found to visit 'La Loge' for a bit of a break from our manual labours. 'La Loge' is a simple, but large, pavillon de chasse in the heart of Mont du Forez, in Le Roannais.
I had been before, but my good friend, Dale, had not. I had also only visited the place once in 'hiver' (winter). A superb experience, despite the cold.
But, this time was magnificently different, and even more fun!
We went with a very good French friend, Fabrice, and met up with a french 'chasseur' (hunter), Michel, a new friend who shared ownership of 'la loge'.
This farmhouse-style building is situated in extensive countryside, and at the centre of several, very large ancient, man-made lakes. Basically, a nature reserve in its own right, with an incredible variety of fauna and flora. A private paradise for gamekeeper, huntsman, and naturalist alike. Simply Stunning!
When you enter the basic and masculine 'loge' or 'chasse' it is 'rough and ready', casual to the point of 'primitive', but comfortable, welcoming, and simple. Ideal for the hunter's week-end getaway.
All manner of birds and beasts hanging from ceiling and walls, pictures of country scenery as well as photos championing successful 'kills' – huge, hairy boar, stags, fox, carp, amongst many other trophies of a good day's hunting.
A strange mixture of animal death amongst the 'painfully' majestic beauty of the place. A world of men, isolation, and escape! (women are only allowed on very special occasions!!)
We walked, and walked, and walked by the side of lakes to the sound of 'gargling' frogs, melodic songbirds, and splashing ducks and swans amongst the reeds.
Our eyes bulging with amazement at the size of this incredible domain.Michel continually checked traps for predators, and especially for the infamous 'ragondin' (coypu) which
creates havoc by its burrowing into the bank of the lakes, which then lose water and eventually fish stocks, too, along with the escaping water.
These ' ragondin' are non-native intruders, immigrants from South America, originally imported and naturalised in Europe and North America, held captive and bred for their fur, (no doubt for French 'haute couture' ), but escaped to breed in their thousands in the natural wildernesses of France. Where they now menace the lakes and waterways, and regularly send gamekeepers, and fisherman-hunters like Michel into a paroxysm of anger and fear whilst they fight the battle to preserve the watery habitats of birds, fish, and animals which they enjoy seeing as well as hunting.
The day was very warm, we returned from our wanderings for typically French countryman's 'fayre' of food and wine, with meat barbequed on a fire which was so simply and basically prepared it would hardly have passed a 'Boy Scout' test. It was wonderful!
Good company, good wholesome food, excellent wine, of course, along with much anglais-francais rapport, humour, and conversation.
We rested, we laughed and joked, we then went fishing in the afternoon heat of the day.
We caught fish galore! (I worried about the mosquitoes, which apparently come out in their innumerable flying, biting hordes at late evening, just for me!!)
From maggot to hook, hook to fish, we reeled them in their silvery, slimey dozens, and threw them back again to fight another day. All this, sat amongst the leafy, reedy beauty of a sublime world of nature, and the sun sparkling in the water, as it lowered itself amongst the trees.
Not so much a day for hunting, but a day for discovering the 'soul'. A day which could have been painted, but was impressioned in our memories forever!
Our fishing rods easily collapsed and restored to 'la loge', we tipped over a boat lying upturned amongst the reed beds, and we paddled and drifted through the landscape and out into one of the lakes. We floated like a schoolboy's dream across a liquid paradise, slowly and mesmerisingly in the glinting evening sunlight.
It was a 'fairytale' of an experience, and one which we will never forget.
After we ate our evening meal under the awnings of the 'chasse' we felt replete in body, soul and mind.
We fell into our beds that night and slept like hunters from the past, and our dreams were filled with the wonders of another time, another world.
(look out for more on 'la loge' very soon!)