Starry Starry Night – If Only You Could See It

I’d planned to blog about vegetables, since last weekend we went to a rather nice exhibition about vegetables at nearby Bétête, but I’ll save that for another post as I’ve just discovered that tomorrow night, October 10th, is the 7th Jour de la Nuit – Day of the Night – in France.

However, a quick veggie pic to whet your appetites!


So what’s that then? It’s designed to raise public awareness about light pollution. Over the last 10 years the amount of night-time lighting has increased by 30%. There are now around 11 million lights on during a French night, and many of these are badly positioned and pour unnecessary light out into the night sky. Tomorrow night the lights will be turned off in many urban places so that people can get a glimpse of the stars and the moon.

Here at Les Fragnes we’re wonderfully dark at night, although there are a few lights dotted around and a cluster of streetlights burn brightly in Vijon a few hillsides away, which has a tiny, elderly population so it does seem rather pointless to have it all lit up until late at night. Maybe they’ll be turning theirs off for the evening. But we’re lucky in that we can see the night sky in its glory. Many of our angling clients remark on how amazed they are to see such bright stars and even get to see the Milky Way. They bemoan the fact they just can’t see the sky properly back home.

Caiti's super photo of the recent blood moon

Caiti’s super photo of the recent blood moon

Not only is too much light affecting people’s view of the sky, but it’s affecting wildlife too. Certain species of insects that are drawn to the light are becoming endangered as they get caught around the lights by predators or manage to kill themselves flying into them. Migratory birds can be confused the lighting and be temporarily blinded by it and hit obstacles. Bats are deserting cities. And, of course, all that pointless surplus lighting is burning valuable fossil fuels and contributing to climate change.

It seems like a great idea to have a day, or more specifically a night, to bring this often overlooked problem of light pollution to the fore. There are a lot of activities planned in France, although absolutely none at all in the whole of Creuse – no surprise there! I hope they prove to be very popular and have the desired result. Maybe there’ll be a few fewer lights burning every night after tomorrow’s event.

The website has a great photo of night-time France and lots of advice on how we can all reduce our own contributions to the light pollution problem here.

Lavaufranche Commanderie: A Commanding Slice Of History

Every September there’s a Patrimoine – local history – weekend in France. Monuments and museums are open to the public, usually for free, so it’s a great time to go and discover something new.

Yesterday Chris and I visited the Commanderie at Lavaufranche. This historic building, which is as commanding as it sounds, isn’t usually open to the public so this was an opportunity not to be missed. The owner and his family were showing visitors around.

commanderie whole

The Commanderie was founded by the Ordre des Hospitaliers de Saint Jean de Jérusalem. This order grew up to care for the many pilgrims who travelled to Jerusalem. When Christianity became established early on in the 12th century, the order took on a militant aspect. I’ll refer you to Wikipedia for a proper discussion of the Knights Hospitaliers, their history and their function.

commanderie deco corner

The Commaderie was built in the late 12th century, starting with a chapel and a keep. It was considerably extended in the 14th century under the supervision of Commander Jean de Grimeau, with wings and towers added.

commanderie courtyard

The revolution was bad news for the Commanderie. Two of the towers were truncated so that the building looked less seigneurial, and more like a house (albeit a very large one!).

commanderie trunc tower

One tower was dismantled altogether and the stone sold off. You can see its base, all that remains, in the photo above. Half of the chapel was also taken down and the remainder at one point used by a farmer. His cattle rubbing against the walls rubbed off some of the exquisite frescoes that were there!

commanderie chapel1

It was fascinating to see this wonderful old building, even though we only got to peer into the chapel and walk around the exterior. It would have been great to see inside but fair enough, someone lives there and it was nice that they let the public in at all.

commanderie back

I don’t envy the owners the task of keeping this ancient place in good condition. It must be a never-ending and expensive job. It’s the only Commanderie in this part of France, and there aren’t many in the whole of the country.

commanderie carved stone

So I feel very chuffed that I got the chance to see this one at close quarters. A bit too close – I’d stepped up onto the remaining foundation of the tower that was dismantled but was politely asked to please get down! I don’t think my tiny frame will have done any damage to the substantial eight-hundred-year old tower base, and I don’t imagine I was the only visitor over the weekend who hopped onto it to have a look at the hollow it surrounds. At least, I hope I wasn’t! My bad!