Thursday, 12 July 2012

Going Batty

June 8th.
After a night camped in the middle of the Foret de Retz, I set off again along a woodland ride.  But what on earth was the significance of the top symbol on the first sign I came to?
All became clear when a few miles further on I came to this charming little forester's cottage on the Route du Faite above Bonneuil-en-Valois which was not all it seemed to be  ...
 ....On closer inspection it turned out to be a nursery for horseshoe bats, which take up residence from May to August to give birth and raise their offspring.
The female usually has one pup which will be independent within six to seven weeks.  During winter the bats hibernate in dark places such as caves, mines and cellars..
 
From the Foret de Retz I rode across a couple of miles of farmland to enter the Foret de Compeigne, another large forest and former royal hunting ground. Like the Foret de Retz, it is criss-crossed with wide rides and trails.   Main intersections are marked by unique vintage signposts such as this Carrel Girardin looking towards Compeigne in the far distance ..... 
Before the days of Satnav it appears French royalty were continually getting lost in the thick forest. This included the future Philip II of France who nearly came to grief in its depths as a young teenager. So in 1852 these signposts (designed by Jean-Jacques Maire Huv) were commissioned and erected.   In spite of this the empress Eugenie still managed to get lost on a stroll in the woods, so Napoleon III had red lines marked on them to indicate the direction of the Chateau de Compiegne.  
With maps and signposts I happily had no such problems with navigation, and the signs were conveniently designed to be at the height of a person on horseback!    I was also able to follow the well marked GR124...
The Foret de Compiegne is also notable as the location of the signing of the armistice between the Allies and Germany which ended World War I. This took place on November 11th 1918 near the little village of Rethondes, deep in the forest but away from my more southerly route.
 
Crossing the Oise at Lacroix-St-Ouen....
 
I will have to come back nearer Christmas time - huge clumps of mistletoe on trees near Armancourt..
 
Evening rain clouds near Grandfresnoy.......
..where we made camp near a field of barley... 
 

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