From Les Fragnes to Le Fragne

The other day we went on a bike ride from our home, Les Fragnes, to a hamlet called Le Fragne in next-door département Indre. From the plural to the singular.

Fragne is a version of the French word frêne, which means ash tree. Whilst there are indeed a few small ash trees in one of the patches of woodland on our property, we didn’t notice the one at Le Fragne after which the place was named. However, we did notice this.

What an intriguing gateway. The wired-on cockle shell possibly signifies some association with St Jacques de Compostelle (Santiago de Compostella) whose various pilgrimage routes run through France to Spain. And the sideways horseshoes, or at least the C-like one, hint at a Christian significance. Most people are aware of the debate about which way up a horseshoe should go to bring you luck – ends pointing down or upwards. Either way is considered lucky, depending on where you live. I’d been brought up with the ends pointing up belief, so when we came to Ireland and saw some upside-down ones over doorways, I was horrified. Such positioning, however, is done so that luck will fall out of the horseshoe onto whoever passes beneath it. So long as the horseshoe is firmly attached, that is, otherwise you could get a very unlucky clunk on the head!

In case you’ve ever wondered, horseshoes are considered lucky possibly because they’re made of iron, which resists fire and is very strong. It thus seems like something that might protect you. Another reason stems from the legend of St Dunstan and the Devil. St Dunstan, a blacksmith, was able to whack a horseshoe onto one of the Devil’s hooves. The pain was so great the Devil begged St Dunstan to remove it, which he did but only once he had Satan’s promise that he’d never harm anyone who had a horseshoe on the outside of their house.

I imagine there are probably many lieu-dits, homesteads, named Les Fragnes in France. There is only one large commune of that name in France, or rather used to be. On 1 January 2016, the same day the new super-regions came into force, Les Fragnes merged with another commune and has become Fragnes-La-Loyère. This Fragnes is in Burgundy.

We knew about this former Les Fragnes because one group of our anglers went there instead of here. We got a phone call early one Saturday afternoon from them, saying they’d been driving through Les Fragnes but couldn’t see our lake anywhere. This was baffling. If someone had been driving around our farm, we’d have definitely noticed them and we hadn’t seen a thing.

We were, and still are although less commonly, used to people getting lost trying to find us. The middle of nowhere can be a tricky place to find. One brand of satnavs would regularly dump anglers at the water tower a few kms away that we can see on the western skyline, claiming that this point marked the edge of civilisation as we know it and that this was the closest it could get them to our lakes. We provide detailed printable instructions, complete with photos, to help anglers find us but most prefer to trust their GPS devices with varying degrees of success.

To return to that original group of lost anglers. We desperately tried to work out where they were and asked about other landmarks they could see. Eventually they said they’d just driven past three grain silos. Aha, we knew where they were now. Along the D2 from us is a clutch of three small such silos that are only manned and used in the summer months when harvest is underway. Chris set off their in the car to find them while I stayed by the phone. There was, however, no sign of anyone there. Chris did a circuit round the local villages but couldn’t spot a van with UK plates and puzzled occupants anywhere, so came back. After a couple more perplexed phone calls, with the lads convinced that they were at Les Fragnes and us certain that they weren’t, they realised that they weren’t in Creuse at all. They were in Burgundy, at this other, much larger Les Fragnes. It was a few more hours before they turned up chez nous!

Our bike ride to our sort-of-namesake Le Fragne was enjoyable, if hilly. Near to the hamlet of Le Fragne is the Colline de Fragne (colline = hill), where I’d taken the kids for a walk one weekend during our early days here when Chris was still working in Ireland. We weren’t massively impressed with the walk, I seem to remember, although we should have been as this hill marks the highest point in Indre. Chris and I were very aware of the gradient in the area, as one always is when cyclilng.

So yet another interesting, and healthy, outing on our bikes.