Trains of thought - second attempt!

12th August 2018

Beauvoir, France

I’m feeling a bit peeved, as I type today’s travelogue, for I have just discovered yesterday’s report has vanished in its entirety into the ether! Where I was located during its compilation had patchy internet connectivity and it would appear that whilst I was trying to despatch it by email the connection wavered and my quite lengthy missive simply vanished - without even ‘wavering’ goodbye! Not a trace of it anywhere - gone!- so I guess I’ll now set about some kind of reconstruction and, hopefully, I’ll be able to recall most of it:

Saturday 11 August

Beauvoir, France

Trains of Thought (again!)

Friday and Friday night’s choice of venue, near Beauvoir turned out to be really quite excellent being as tranquil a monk on Mogadon.

It’s primarily an area of open farmland and the corn harvest appears to be done and dusted with the ground already recultivated and resown. Indeed, the only remaining standing crop at the moment are sunflowers and although they look to be getting quite close to their harvest they are not quite there yet. So, no discernible farming activity taking place just at the moment.

The area is attractive as there are many covets, small patches of woodland and mature hedgerows all laid out and maintained in typical French style for the hunting fraternity. Such a pity, I always think, that landowners so often can only be bothered to set aside and subsequently manage areas specifically for the benefit of wildlife when the motivation to do so is so that humans can slaughter the poor creatures by rifle for ‘sport’!

Anywho, its closed season for hunting at the moment so no hunters about either.

It’s definitely not a tourist area either as there is nothing for them to do here (or, more significantly, nothing for their kids to do here) and nowhere to dock their starship Eurocampers. So, no tourists.

Overall, it seems to be a sizeable area of ground that is, essentially, somewhere between nowhere and nowhere - which means nobody particularly passes through the place either. Finally, it has lots of little lanes, many only partially metalled, that are probably only ever used by hunters.

The culmination of the above means this is currently one very peaceful place and a perfect antidote to the cut and thrust of the coast (and lakes!) just now.

Running roughly north/south through this landscape is a working single track railway line connecting Niort and st Jean d’Angely, which in turn have onward rail connections to other destinations. On Friday I counted half a dozen four carriage passenger trains (three ‘up’ and three ‘down’) gliding near silently and very majestically through the countryside.

These trains are uber 21st century looking is if they have been lifted directly off the pages of a sci-fi comic and make a wonderful juxtaposition to the silhouette of a steam engine (compete with smoke) on triangular road signs which adorn the many un-gated crossings. I can’t help but wonder what today’s ‘yoof’ make of such imagery?!

Amy had a wonderful walk on Saturday morning snuffling through wildlife enclaves and bounding over wide open spaces and whilst she was doing so I found myself musing on this rather charming little rustic railway that serves this very rural community. It wasn’t long before my thoughts turned to the branch line railway network the UK used to enjoy before it was comprehensively vandalised in the early 1960s and how much the old country would benefit if that network were still intact today.

It then occurred to me that if the UK were, today, to invest again in a truly integrated rail network just how much the country could benefit, particularly in the creation of ‘real’ jobs both in it’s creation and subsequent operation.

Just imagine a national network of local branch line stations with frequent, affordable, efficient modern trains that took passengers together with their e-bikes (not forgetting it’s compulsory bell!), pets, luggage and accoutrements (whatever happened to goods vans, anyway?) towards mainline stations for onward connections to anywhere in the UK.

And why stop there? How about the creation of rail-freight hubs to take containerised freight off the roads and bring it right into the heart of any region where the ‘last mile’ of delivery could be undertaken by much smaller commercial vehicles than those which currently dominate the roads?

Perhaps some of you are thinking that I’m living in the past with such notions (for the UK had just such an integrated rail network until the 1960s) and maybe you are right but just consider this. Those who ignore the lessons of history are condemned to live with it’s mistakes - and who amongst us can put their hand on their heart and not say that with the benefit of hindsight the decimation of the UK’s branch line rail network half a century ago and the subsequent abandonment by government of the remaining national railway network has not been a huge mistake?

Assuming this revitalised rail network is to be powered by electricity, the environmental benefits would be enormous, particularly if the UK would invest in tidal power - an expensive, but not impossible, technological nut to crack and once achieved the country would have a world leading technology to sell overseas. An even better world-leading technological nut to crack would be the 365 days/year potential of generating totally clean energy by replicating photosynthesis.

So many exciting possibilities, if only the UK could elect a government with vision rather than snout-in-the-treasury-trough vested self-interest. OK so now I am dreaming, I’d best get back to Saturday’s travelogue!

Into Beauvoir after Amy’s walk to pick up the day’s grub from a very decent and surprisingly competitively priced InterMarche. Their fuel pumps were unmanned due to a “fermeture exceptionnelle’. Closing important offices, generally, with such notices is yet another joyous French national pastime but in this case I’m guessing it's due to the holidays. The pumps do take card payments but, alas, french pumps do not like my plastique Anglais even though it’s a Euro account.

Luckily, we were only travelling a few km into the Foret de Chize which, as I suspected, is a hunters enclave. Deserted due to being out of season and holiday time but all the access roads are designated ‘access by right’ which I think means you can’t drive along them unless you have the right to do so. However, there are many legally accessible places on the perimeters and we soon found an open area with good shade and a breeze with immediate access to the forest:

Google Maps
Latitude : 46.15687 (46° 9′ 24.74″ N)
Longitude : -0.3938 (0° 23′ 37.67″ W)
accuracy of signal : 3 m

Very quiet location, just a family of e-bikers gently going through in the morning, two joggers in the evening and a bloke in a small Jeep at dusk who I think was just having a cheeky look see as I noticed he didn’t put his lights on until he was away from the ‘access by right’ roads.

Slept badly though, perhaps the weather was a bit heavy or maybe I just wasn’t tired.

Sunday 12 August

Long walk through the forest in the cooler air of early morning. Amy put up a deer (no chance!) and then found a lovely smeggy pond to cool off in. Although still early, by the time we got back to the Jeep I was conscious of traffic noise building up on the nearby D road and I fancied it was significantly quieter at Friday’s nearby location so, via Beauvoir for a fresh baguette, here we are again.

And it is quieter too. No road noise at all here and so far today just one passenger train and one freight train.

The weather continues to be a bit on the heavy side so an ideal excuse to not do much. We’ll get up and at ‘em early in the morning and after a walk go find some food, water and diesel and then take the next travel decision from there.

If the heavy weather does continue I can’t help noticing how close to Royan ( ferry/gateway to the northern tip of coastal Aquitaine) we are getting…….

And will there be geckos for lunch?

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