Getting in touch with my inner French paysanne

Beatswell Wood.

I was walking back from my friend Claire’s through Beatswell Wood the other day when I noticed it.  A fallen branch.  A nicely rotting fallen branch.  Then smaller branches, conveniently broken into wood-burning-stove like lengths.  My inner French peasant knocked urgently at my brain. ‘You can’t leave those!’ she said, in perfect English. ‘Fuel for free!  Whaddya mean you’ve got no bag?  What are arms for?  Get on with it!’

And it’s true.  No self-respecting French country person – man or woman – would think of leaving for a walk without a just-in-case (‘au cas où’) bag.  Here’s an account of what we used to do in France, especially in autumn.

Yesterday we were better prepared.  We both set forth, equipped with large strong bags, just big enough to collect stove-length pieces of wood, or ones dried out enough to break in two.  A stout thick branch each – to be sawn up later – completed our haul.  Kindling sorted.  A day or two’s heat sorted.  Well, you know what they say about wood, and about how it heats you several times?  We aren’t woodcutters.  But we do gather it, then stack it, then burn it.  That’s three times.  That’s good value.

The path to the woods.

Click on any image to see it full size.

Author: margaret21

I'm retired and living in North Yorkshire, where I walk as often as I can, write, volunteer, and travel as often as I can.

22 thoughts on “Getting in touch with my inner French paysanne”

  1. Wow–you have been known to bring in so many treasures! Your accounting of the French hikes amazed me–such bounty. And I can’t help but think that, here in the States, we’d get shot at if we started picking up nuts or mushrooms from someone’s land . . . and it all seems to be someone’s land.


  2. My husband would appreciate the ‘wood warms you several times’ saying, as he’s still sawing and chopping to try to get the woodshed full … we’re a bit behind this year. Love both of these posts and am terribly jealous about those enormous sweet chestnuts you gathered in France, even if they are the ghost of a memory now!

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    1. You should have seen the size of the sacks that some people dragged home! Our enthusiasm was tempered by the knowledge that these chestnuts had to be dealt with. And that’s hard work, as you know.

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  3. We had a friend to stay recently who I made gather all of the pine cones. “they will look nice at Christmas” said he. “Christmas” said I. These are for kindling!

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  4. Do you forage as well? I am always worried about taking any of nature’s bounty lying around in case you’re not allowed to. Hedgerow blackberrying is about as brave as I dare. Beatswell Wood does look a beautiful and richly abundant wood.

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    1. It is a nice wood, but quite small. And foraging? I do blackberries, sloes, mushrooms (only field mushrooms, puffballs and shaggy inkcaps – no confidence beyond these), crabapples, hazelnuts and wild garlic. Oh, and rosehips sometimes. I’ve not been banged up yet.

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      1. I used to collect field mushrooms, but have lost my nerve these days if not absolutely obvious. I see issue of legality is concerned with ‘intended use’ and any local bye laws. I guess ‘enforcers’ are more active in areas where a lot of people forage.

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      2. I am sure in your part of the world there’s plenty of space and opportunity and less of the chance of overkill, and no need for ‘enforcers’! However, I will visit you . . . if . . . 😉

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      1. oh yeah – thanks for asking – I just don’t ‘get into it when I haven’t got enough time to really care about what I read and may want to comment to!’

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  5. I love that wood gathering tale…. My father used to go with us children to the forest to ‘pick out’ a Christmas tree. I remember that one year when I was an adult my parents had particularly beautiful fir branches for decoration. When I asked my dad where they’d come from he calmly told me that after that terrible storm they had (we visited Switzerland from England and the storm was Lothar), whole trees and huge branches were just lying there and blocking the roads (which was true), so he happened to pass by with a huge sacklinnen bag, a hand-saw and helped with the cleaning up by taking the best branches home….. When you buy them in the shops, they would have been worth a fortune! Gorgeous with cones and everything, fresh and smelly from the woods!
    At my grandparents on my mum’s side he often split large wooden bits from their land for feeding the old-fashioned oven. He was never too lazy or too grand to do the hard work too so I guess whatever he could ‘gather’ he had the right to…. I went after the ivy for the flower posies and advent decorations and now I have so much growing on our land that I know I will dream of it until my last day when I will have to go searching and hunting for it again after we’ll leave here.

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