Medieval garden

“A garden enclosed is my sister, my spouse, a garden enclosed, a fountain sealed up.”
(Song of Solomon)

By the Middle Age, the science of harnessing the curative essence of ‘simple’ plants had reached its prime. The knowledge of which plant healed a particular ill, where it grew, its preparation and application was carried by Healers, Monks and Hospitallers across Europe. Many common medicinal plants could be gathered from meadows, forests and the immediate environment. Those that were more rare, or that came from foreign soils were cultivated in the Medieval garden.

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The Medieval garden was organised in harmony with Christian religious symbolism, and social and cultural custom. It was orderly as plants were placed in accordance to their species; the orchard, bouquet flowers, herbs, vegetables and healing plants. Many of these plants were cultivated in small fenced or hedged plots in a grid formation. Two paths cross sectioned the garden forming the cross of Christ. Often a water well, both useful and symbolic of eternal life was positioned at their intersection. The tree of knowledge held a prominent place, and all this enclosed within a rectangular or square perimeter that represented the Bride of Christ, or the womb of Mary, inspired of the ‘Song of Solomon’. In all, the Medieval garden served food, water, healing and a place of contemplation

A garden such as this once grew in La Commanderie de Sallebruneau, built by the Knights of The Order of Templar, sometime in the thirteenth century, later becoming The Hospitaliere de St-Jean de Jérusalem. Through several centuries, the soldier Monks offered protection, respite and healing to the pilgrims that walked ‘Le chemin de Jaçques Compostella’.

Today a simple garden has been re-established next to the ruined Commanderie. Healing plants and herbs are cultivated to show and educate visitors.

White stonecap-leaves and stems can be applied externally to reduce inflammations, particularly recommended for haemorrhoids.
The leaves and stems of the White stonecap were applied externally to reduce inflammations, particularly recommended for haemorrhoids.

 

One of its common names-Donkeys herb, prescribed to stimulate the heart.
The tall Acanthe, or one of its common names, Donkeys herb, was prescribed as a heart stimulant.

 

Wild fennel- given as a tea, tincture or food flaouring, treats indegestion, colic,flatulence, reduces fever and pain, antidepressant, stimuates milk flow in nursing women.
Tea of Wild Fennel seed treated indigestion, colic, flatulence, also reduced fever and pain, was an antidepressant, and even stimulated milk flow in nursing women.

During our visit this day, a sad slug eaten plant caught our interest. It was the Mandrake. We learned that its roots resemble the human form, sometimes male, or female, and is the part of the plant used in medicinal treatment. Its anesthetic and soporific properties meant that it was ideal for surgeries, for example dental. But it became a poison that led to delirium and madness if over prescribed. It was considered an aphrodisiac and a charm for aiding women to become pregnant. Its associations with witchcraft led to its use being forbidden by the Church.

The gardener at the Commanderie told us that someone had presented her with four seeds from the fruit of a mature Mandrake plant, that she had successfully nurtured one to leaf, and was waiting patiently for its flowering.

Mandrake.

It was such pleasure to wander around a Medieval garden that contains herbs and simples, with their odours and colours, exploring and learning a little about the ancient art and science of using medicinal plants. And with no effort I fell under the spell of its history, and charm.

T’was a Pilgrim passed by,
body fatigued, administered,
with Plantain for blisters,
while, requesting,
Gods love, and a bed.

I referenced Wikipedia for some information and illustration, and the website of l’Association Recherches Archéologiques Gironde.

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Potters Market

The Potter

The elements of nature and literature inspire me. I am compelled to perpetual study of attitude and movement in life forms. My imagination extends through my fingers, or the tool in my hand, which molds the medium. Tints of tree bark, lost feathers and lichen, colour and deepen my mood. And my spirit breathes life into my creation. My universe takes shape and gives birth. I am the Potter.

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Castelmoron d’Albret is the prettiest village for a Potters Market each June.

Pottery next door to the Pottery shop.
Pottery next door to the Pottery shop.
Pottery in the Park.
Pottery in the Park.
Pottery workshop for children.
Pottery workshop for children.
Under the Market hall.
Pottery under the Market hall.

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Poterie d’Albret is the only business in this small village, and the Potter is the man responsible for organising Le Marché des Potiers, bringing ceramists together to expose, and customers to enjoy and buy.

Where the Roses grow

Everyone must love Roses, for they grow everywhere; in villages, gardens and even vineyards..

Our very own Rose bush is tall and round. She has a thick trunk and a broken branch, but she produces a spectacular show of thousands of pink Roses every summer. Maybe it has something to do with the old pigsty nearby..

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Bringing colour in the village..

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Rambling in a back garden..

Blooming alongside the river Dropt, where the old watermill stands..

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And there are still a few old vineyards where we see evidence of a former custom, which was to plant a Rose bush at the end of each row of vines. It looks very pretty, but in fact served an essential cause. Being susceptible to mildew, the Rose gave an early warning of the disease in the vineyard, so prompting the viticulturer to act quickly, and protect the vine with a copper treatment.

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Rose sonnet

 I wander aimlessly
through monochrome
when suddenly I glimpse
a fiery glow,

Your light penetrates
in burning stimuli
your warming rays to me
a path is drawn,

To touch compels me
closer to your satin petals
feels like soft skin,

My face bends o’r yours
nuances of fruit orchards
inhaled pleasures mine.

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Cornflowers, Daisies and Poppies

Rippling grasses tickle,
A breath of air caresses,
Unseen crickets call,
In swaying white daisies,
And I’m chasing meadow butterflies,
Just to catch a dream.

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Gather poppy petals,
Cloth of scarlet silk,
Delicately stitched,
Black threaded garment,
To wrap in love,
Remembered.

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Once upon a time Cornflowers, Daisies and Poppies fluttered in the fields like the tricolours of France. But the Cornflowers have all gone.

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Old postcard.

‘Les Bleuets’ was the nickname given to the young soldiers conscripted in the lead up to the Second Battle of Ainse, World War 1, who were wearing the new blue uniform. It became a name used frequently in propaganda songs and poems, and conjured images of blue cornflowers, that continued to grow and bloom in devastated battlefields.

“These here, these little ‘Bleuets’
these Bleuets the colour of the sky,
Are beautiful, gay, stylish,
Because they are not afraid.

Merrily, go forward,
Go on, my friends, so long!
Good luck for you, little ‘blues’
Little ‘bleuets’, you are our heros.
(Alphonse Bourgoin 1916)

Head nurse Lenhardt created a blue cornflower badge in tissue paper, to raise income for the rehabilitating soldiers she cared for, and by the 1920s, ‘Les Bleuets’ badge had became a national symbol.

Referenced Wikipedia for information and poem.

Le Sud Express : Lisbon to Paris

There was an excited buzz in our corner of L’Entre Deux Mers one morning, when the local newspaper announced that a sleeping car that once belonged to the The International Company of Sleeping Cars and The Great European Express was parked for a few nights just outside Sauveterre de Guyenne, only a few kilometres from home.International Carriage Beds and the Great Europeen Express. This crest is valued at 20,000 euros.

Thanks to the enthusiasm and generosity of the owner of an old wood yard, many curious locals were able to visit, and spend time exploring the inside of the carriage, take photos, and ask questions of a local railtrain enthusiast.

We learned that this particular sleeping car was made in the late nineteen fifties for one of ten trains made to run on the Sud Express between Lisbon and Paris. Only three of these trains are left, and this car is destined for restoration in a workshop in Clermont Ferrand, to eventually be exposed in a railtrain museum in Moulhouse.

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A little history

It was Georges Nagelmackers who created the most legendary mode of transport that has serviced travellers throughout Europe, Siberia and Asia, for well over a hundred years. His inspiration came from witnessing  the Pullman night trains in North America. He envisaged the same for Europe, a service that was fast and comfortable for business men and travellers across the countries of Europe. On his return to Belgium he founded The International Bed Cars Company (Compagnie International des Wagon-Lits) in 1874. Ten years later came The Great Europeen Express (Le Grand Express Européen), followed by the Sud Express, the Nord Express, the Orient Express, and the Trans Siberian, and so the legend unfolded..

I invite you to climb on board and explore a sleeping car of Le Sud Express..

“Letter to Adéle from Victor Hugo”. (a rough translation)

“It takes little effort to see that the Iron Horse is a true beast. We hear his sigh at rest, his moan on departure, his gasps on route; he sweats, he trembles, he whistles, he blows, he throws sooty dust all along the way and urinates boiling water, a great racket comes constantly from his wheels, or feet if you wish, and his breath goes over our heads in beautiful clouds of white smoke that disperse through the trees alongside the route.”

Referenced Wikipedia

Rues et Ruelles : Streets and Alleys

The village has not changed that much since 1265, when she was founded by Éléanor de Provence, Queen consort of Henry III of England, also Duke of Aquitaine, in south west France.

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The escarpment on which she was built, and the fortified walls still enclose her to one side, while offering views over the Dropt river, and valley. But the towered gateways have disappeared, and the straight roads are now paved, and lined with cars.

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The wood timbered market hall has been replaced by a magnificent nineteenth century cast iron and glass structure. But the arched arcades still run around the squares perimeter, and are still busy with merchants and customers.

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The Hotel de Ville occupies the same place on the square, proudly protecting the ‘Esclapot Charter’, a precious document detailing the architectural plans, and building regulations of the new village.

The tall Church dominates a corner near the square, although never as important as commerce, continues her duty to ring hourly, for evening Angélus, and Sunday Mass.

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The alleys sculpt corners between streets and houses, where cats loiter, flowers grow in pots, and open doors and windows cast light into dark back rooms.

The safe mount, from the latin Mons securus, or Monségur to the inhabitants, is an old soul, surviving the times with character and charm. A Bastide (fortified) village of streets and alleys for everyone to explore.

Le Tilleul : The Lime

The Lime tree is a dozen decades old. Despite being lopsided and unelegant, he is a popular fellow for he gives shelter to the flowers that grow at his feet, a place for the birds to perch, and the spider to weave..

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Wonderful web of spiders grace,
Sparkles reflective colours of life,
Crafted crystalline light.

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Mid April and a very special visitor arrives, the exotic Huppé. I dream of Africa when I see his dusky pink colour, and zebra stripped wing. His closed crest and curved beak remind me of a pick axe, and he uses his beak just so as he digs for bugs in the soil. From time to time his crest flares open like a fan. His name ‘Huppé’ means ‘crested’, and the locals call him ‘Hoopou’ as does the english language, mimicking his call.

The most lovable characteristic of the Huppé, is the comportment of his young. Each chick in turn presents himself at the entrance of the nest. When he recieves his portion of food, he returns to the back of the queue to wait until he moves to the front again for his next meal. A more civilised creature there could not be.

Here the Huppé is perched in the Lime, while a Bullfinch flits from branch to branch in an agitated manner, clearly protecting his nest.

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Under shade of Lime,
A pungent odour rises,
Tis Springs herb,
Wild garlic.

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As leaves unfurl, I feel,
The Limes promise,
A somnolent Summer shade.