In the Bocage

Bright pink spindle capsules (c) Duncan Hutt

A lane in the Bocage (c) Duncan Hutt

Parts of the Normandy countryside are defined by tiny fields reached along sunken trackways. As with all such pastoral landscapes it is in decline, fields are amalgamated and the lanes abandoned; useless to the modern scale of farm machinery. Still some sections remain and it is like stepping back in time. These areas proved to be a major problem following the Normandy landings, as the plethora of hedges and lanes made it easy for the enemy to melt away and reappear at another location. Even in the peaceful surroundings of today it is easy to see how one could evade discovery with relative ease.

Speckled wood (c) Duncan Hutt

These lanes and hedges provide a wonderful network for wildlife to thrive and move, they are a mesh of what used to be termed wildlife corridors (before conservation moved to look at a bigger scale) and the traditional management of the hedgerows and trees also helps in providing a continuity of habitat. A damp autumn is not the best time to appreciate the wildlife found here though in the warmth of the November sun a speckled wood basked and a hornet hunted around, perhaps for a place to spend the winter.

Sloes (c) Duncan Hutt

This year’s berry crop is poor but there were a few sloes to be seen and a number of fungi sprouting from the hedge banks, often marking the location of an old tree stump as in the case of the wonderfully descriptive beefsteak fungus (Fistulina hepatica) found on the remains of an old oak. The hedges are dominated by hazel, straight stems forming the tunnel top along the deep lanes. Occasionally another bush or tree makes a striking appearance as in the case of the bright red seed pods of the spindle (Euonymus europaeus) that occur now and again along the way.

Beefsteak fungus (c) Duncan Hutt


About thehutts

The Hutt Family from Northumberland
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4 Responses to In the Bocage

  1. vivinfrance says:

    A lovely account of the bocage. A significant factor in the system is legislation that requires these hedgerows to be cut every 7-10 years, effectively coppicing, them so there is a rolling renewal of the cover. Shade trees must be left at specified intervals. That said, to walk these lanes you are best equipped with a pair of secateurs for the brambles. The advent of hobby quad-bikes has done a lot damage to some of these green ways, making them impassable to walkers in the wet seasons.

    Yesterday, driving along the valley road, I was startled when a muntjak deer sprang from the hedgerow and dashed across in front of me. Two more deer thought better of following, but looking back from further along, all 3 deer were together again in the field on the other side of the road.

  2. cecilia says:

    Is this where you live? What a stunning area.. such bounty in the wild.. I am glad I popped over.. c

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