Half-Timbered

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Last summer, travelling through France, I wish I could remember where this was, the first of many half-timbered buildings encountered en route. I love this style of vernacular architecture. They seem so obviously hand-made, constructed from local materials, a natural part of the landscape. More analogue than digital, I started to think of them almost as organic sculptures.

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I think this place was some kind of ornithological study centre, but not open to the public. I wandered around exploring until I was told, nous sommes fermés, we are closed. Ironically, despite the hand-built ethic, these nesting boxes appeared to be prefabricated. A kind of birdhouse apartment block.

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Our first overnight stop was Soulaines-Dhuys, east of Troyes, where we stayed in an old watermill. The village was full of half-timbered buildings and rich in examples of rustic barefoot carpentry.

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We spent our second night close to the Swiss border at Valentigney. As we ate breakfast the next morning we heard a loud cracking sound from the garden and the swoosh of branches falling to ground. Outside we found a half-timbered apple tree, silent now though we were still listening.

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Nearby we found a drawing of a tree where a climber used to be, its echo when torn from the wall.

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Then later, on our return journey, we stopped off at Lac du Der for a walk along its shore.

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And back to a village we’d come through on our way down. I was determined to take a closer look this time round. It was built almost entirely of wood, there were walls of logs everywhere. This particular house was so beautiful, its construction so simple and direct, I was almost inspired to paint again.

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This place was not on the usual tourist circuit. As I walked around with my camera I started dogs barking with every shot I took. Every property was protected either by guard dogs or by guard geese.

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Or by an electric fence. I lowered my arms to line up this photo and my wrists came down on the wire with a surprising shock. The camera bounced out of my hands, electrocuted. I’d overlooked the fence.

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I was a snooper, looking for the overlooked, but I got my comeuppance.

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Then later, I was reminded of drawings our girls had made more than twenty years before.

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Lottie Hamer, Rye, July 1992.

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Maura Hamer, Rye, July 1992.

morris

And then this beautiful half-timbered car waiting on the street.

Frames of reference

4 thoughts on “Half-Timbered”

  1. That’s a working farm and seeing it makes me smile. I envy the hay and firewood, evidence of preparation for winter and the natural cycles of rural life.

    Here if a building that is 100 years old or more, it seems ancient. Not so in Europe of course.

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