Our Life in Burgundy

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September 27, 2015

Eventful weekend part II – Walking the ban sacré

Filed under: Events,Places — Tags: , , , — Mary @ 22:52

We learned a lot more about the heritage of the local area when we participated in a 12km walk around part of the ban sacré between Cortambert and Donzy le Pertuis.

In 1095, when the third stage of the building of the Abbey was well advanced, the rapidly increasing numbers of monks found themselves in need of protection from attack and robbery.  Hugues de Semur, the Abbot under Pope Urbain II, decreed that there should be a line drawn around Cluny within which nobody could carry arms. The penalty was excommunication from the church. The boundary followed existing paths and was about 40km in circumference, waymarked by stones carved with the sign of the crossed keys and the arms of the Abbey.

At Notre Dame des Roches


Good views although a bit hazy


It wasn’t just a walk this afternoon. Along the way we had questions to answer about the features we saw. Our score was rather low but we couldn’t compete with the local knowledge (Who built the lavoir? “Oh, that my was grandfather’s brother in law”……).

We looked at the land in a different way. In Roman times (before 550) there were thousands of soldiers camped in Cluny due to its good supply of fresh water. There used to be a dam in the fields above the Chemin du Clou to make a reservoir from which the water was piped to Cluny. The large stones from the dam can still be seen in hedgerows and walls. Water was also run down to the forest between Varanges and Cluny which was divided into plots of 9 square metres. Each soldier was given a plot where they could build a hut.

In sight of Cortambert

Anyway having exercised both the legs and the brain we came back to the foyer rural in Cortambert to have our papers marked and to chat over new wine and cakes.


Very welcome at the end of the afternoon

Many thanks to Cortambert, Donzy and the local Heritage Society for a most interesting afternoon.

Eventful weekend part 1

Filed under: Events,Places — Tags: — Mary @ 20:55

It has been one of those weekends when there are just too many things we wanted to do.

On Saturday morning we managed to watch part of the pony jumping competition in Cluny. Some of the competitors looked only about six years old but they were galloping around a full set of jumps.


A good round

This little girl was so pleased with her clear round. Both children and ponies were immaculately turned out.


Well done!

It was also the Fête de la voie verte which offered all sorts of entertainment and demonstrations at Cormatin and St Gengoux. We called in at St Gengoux to see Il était une fois la gare, an exhibition of old photos which showed what the stations were like before the rails were taken up 25 years ago to make the present day cycle track.


100 years ago…


 and now

In the evening was the Fantastique Picnique in the Abbey grounds in Cluny. This was an event postponed from the summer when storms were forecast (which never actually materialised). Unfortunately the organisers had forgotten that it gets dark early at the end of September and the poor girls from the Haras were performing in the dark. It wasn’t easy to see a black horse with a girl in a black dress.


At least we could see this one

Sunday morning saw us taking trailer loads of hedge cuttings up to the tip. Our garden wall is leaning further and further into the road due to the pressure of roots and earth swollen by the recent rain so it has to be demolished before it falls down. So to this end Chris cut down three fir trees and trimmed the hedge. The walnut tree will be the next to go.


The leaning wall of Varanges

To be continued….

September 20, 2015

Heritage weekend

Filed under: Events,Places — Tags: , , , , — Mary @ 21:31


It’s difficult to chose what to do on the weekend du patrimoine. There are so many guided tours, free entries and access to places that are not normally open to the public.


Ready to start our guided walk

Chris’s first Sunday walk of the season was planned for today and we chose to join a guided walk around Ameugny. Josette took us around the village, pointing out some very old houses. Ameugny is Gallo-Roman and was established before the Francs arrived in 532. The Francs called their settlements names beginning with Cor or Con, meaning ‘of’. Cortevaix, Cortamblein, Confrançon etc. So Cormatin means the village of Martin.


Ameugny has some lovely old houses

The tower of the church, Notre Dame l’Assomption, was built in 1050, 30 years before Cluny Abbey, and the nave was finished in the 12th century.

Inside are some 16th century frescos and a chapel dedicated to the du Blé family who were the lords of Cormatin chateau. There is a plaque in latin describing the death of Lady du Blé of the plague. Her brother had been summoned to see her on her deathbed and a few days later he joined her in the family grave in Ameugny.

16th century frescos

We ended up at the pottery exhibition at Les Communs at Bois Dernier. Céramique en terres de Bourgogne, les richesses du caillou. It was organised by Frère Daniel of Taizé and 20 local potters. All the clay and glazes used were mined locally, different colours from different areas.


Frère Daniel’s work

We met with the President of the St Gengoux tourist office (which also runs the Cormatin office in the summer) and to round off the morning he offered us wine and brioche. A good Burgundian custom.


Chris and Sophie enjoy their wine

The sun came out this afternoon and we headed off for an afternoon of horses. The Haras was presenting demonstrations all afternoon. Laetitia Etta could do absolutely anything with her horses, on horseback or on foot, and she didn’t need the reins for a classy display of dressage.


Laetitia and her horse

At the Equivallée was the last day of the Championship of France showjumping event. So we leaned on the rails and watched some very fine horses and riders competing for the Grand Prix.


The French take their jours du patrimoine very seriously and everyone seems to participate in the events and open days. When we first moved here we didn’t know about the heritage weekend and we wondered why we were the only ones left in the village. Today in Cluny there were more people than I’ve seen all summer.



September 19, 2015

Talking of English painters…..

Filed under: People,Places — Tags: , — Mary @ 22:42

 I’ve often thought it would be a good idea to take up art in our old age, particularly landscape painting as we live in such a beautiful part of the world. So today we joined the artist Patrick Balleriaud to learn how to sketch and use watercolours.

First step – drawing  the horizontals

Patrick moved from Narbonne with Silvyanne his partner to take over the old family farm in Chazelle. Chazelle is both picturesque and full of history. Patrick is busy renovating the ancient farmhouse and has made the stables into a studio. He offers various courses on painting, portraiture and drawing (see www.studioballeriaud.fr).

We took our easels around Chazelle and produced five works of art. I wonder how many times the 11th century church has been sketched?



Learning to frame the picture

  If it’s like a postcard it’s no good. It has to come from here, said Patrick thumping his heart as we painted the river with forests and purple hills in the distance. In the foreground stood the house where an advisor of Louis XIV once lived.


Patrick demonstrates


Chris hard at work sketching an old lean-to

Silvyanne came to see what we were doing

Our next challenge was to paint a pile of logs and various bits of rusty machinery in what was one of the first  hydro-electrically powered cowsheds in Burgundy. A machine was used to pump out the slurry.


 The last work of the day

We had a pleasant day and learned a lot. Silvyanne produced a lovely five course lunch for us and the subjects under discussion included English painters. I’m not sure that includes us just yet!

* Thanks to Silvyanne and Patrick for some of the photos. www.studioballeriaud.fr

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