I went on another wonderful hike last weekend around Amblie in the Calvados Department. The walk has the special name of “randonnée sur les pas des carriers et des meuniers” (which means walking in the footsteps of the quarry-workers and millers) and is tied with the rich history of this area’s occupants. The hike begins from the picnic area in Pierrepont, a small community that belongs to the larger Lantheuil and follows the small river called La Thue. The waterway opens up a bit to create two large ponds shaded by towering willow trees, probably created in the 18th century by the owners of the nearby château. The Château de Pierrepont, built in the 18th century, was the home of the family of Michel Guillaume Jean de Crèvecœur, famous for his “Letters from an American Farmer” (1792). The book was also the first literary success by an American author in Europe and turned Crèvecœur into a celebrated figure. The architecture of the château is typical of the Enlightenment with respect to its symmetry and rectangular pediment as well as the main portal area which is has three openings, as was customary in the 18th century. The farm, the grange and the pressoir portions of the property can be rented out as holiday homes. Not far away is the Église de la Sainte-Trinité de Pierrepont which dates from the 11th century. The south wall still bears eight typical Romanesque corbels, affixed to a checkerboard frieze. The lintel of one of the bay windows is decorated with animals that seem to be biting their tails. The west portal serves as the main entrance to the nave and is also Romanesque in style. The bell gable is from the 17th century and separates the nave from the choir. A single bell cast in 1868 replaces the two original bells. A sundial is set on a flat buttress on the southern side of the church, receives maximum sun throughout the day. In the churchyard stands a Pieta cast created by J. Sanson in 1869. After leaving the church, I realized that I was going the wrong way and following the trail in a backwards manner. I quickly turned around and went back to my starting point where I found my way again. The trail took me through several fields, some of which were lined with red poppies. It was a bit of a treat to be able to taste a little of the local produce as I walked. In one field I tried some fava beans, also known as fèves—they were almost ripe and ready to be harvested. There were many wheat and grain fields as well. I took some grains and rubbed away the chaff just so I could taste the seeds. I’ve no idea what this grain is supposed to be—it was perfectly cut and set out in straight rows to dry. Many parts of the trail were lined with cherry trees with the sweetest, ripest fruit you can imagine. I just reached up and grabbed a handful to snack on while I walked. It’s a shame I can’t get these in the grocery store—the ones in Leclerc have no taste at all. In Amblie Les Planches I was supposed to see the château but it was on private property and behind a stone wall so all I could see was the main gate, the side buildings and the facade behind a large tree. Eventually, I arrived in Colombiers-sur-Seulles where I crossed the River Thue once again in order to visit the Église Saint-Vigor. Unfortunately, it was closed. It is dedicated to Saint-Vigor, and evangelist and Bishop of Bayeux during the 6th century. The construction of the church dates back to the late 11th century but has been heavily restored during the 19th. The bell tower however dates from the middle of the 12th century and rests aside from the northern wall near the choir. It is one of the finest examples of Romanesqeue architecture in Calvados. The bas-relief above the main door depicts the story of Saint-Vigor and how he imprisoned the dragon who was terrorizing the people of Cerisy. He tied his stole around the neck of the dragon and brought him to submission. The victory of Catholicism over paganism ? Strangely enough, he didn’t kill the dragon. He instead instructs his young companion, Theudimier to lead the dragon away to the sea. Corbels on either side of the church are faces of animals or human grotesques.
There is even one making an obscene gesture by bending over and showing his anus ! What's that all about ! Near the church is a lavoir, a public place for doing washing, which was built in 1864. An 18th century baker's oven was found during renovation work in 1996. It was restored thanks to the town council. It must have been in operation during the time of the seigneurs (lords) of Colombiers. In feudal times, the baker's oven was one of the installations owned by the seigneur, which inhabitants of the lord's domain could use in return for a due. The tithe farm known as the ferme de la dîme, was a dependency of the domain of Colombiers-sur-Seulles. The farm and its buildings span the 17th and 18th centuries but were heavily modified during the 19th and 20th. It is along the rue du Bout du Bas which could be renamed to Thread Street in memory of the numerous lace-makers who used to live there. Lace-making had been a common source of additional income since the Middle Ages. The château de la famille Archard de Bonvouloir is the most impressive of the fine homes one sees along the hike.
It was built in the late 17th century and is surrounded by a large park and even has its own chapel. The building features a central pavillion topped by a triangular pediment flanked by another building on the right. It belongs to the descendants of one of the companions of William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings. During World War II the house served as a camp to the thousands of victims and wounded from the bombed out city of Caen.Finally, I reached the town of Amblie proper which is one of those distinguished quaint towns located along the Thue River known for its old mills.
The mills no longer work today and their wheels are all missing but they are really something to see nonetheless. Most of them have been transformed into homes. The large houses are built from Caen limestone which is a sort of self-cleaning stone keeping everything looking new and bright. Just past the town hall (and past several more beautiful stone homes and old farms) are the stairs leading up to the Église Saint-Pierre. Unfortunately it wasn't open but that's okay, I took the time to just sit down and rest for a while underneath the shade of the cedar tree. The western façade is from the thirteenth century and appears to be the oldest part of the chruch remaining.
In the 19th century a bell tower replaced a 16th century pinnacle which established an arch separating the choir from the nave. It was one of the nicest walks I've been on in a long time. The last part of the walk takes you past some trees ripe with plums. Once again, I couldn't help but reach up and help myslef !