Not far from my eldest daughter Helen's family home stands one of Europe's most impressive coastal attractions - the ancient island abbey of Mont Saint-Michel. Between two and three million visitors a year attest to its appeal - to the genuinely devout; to painters and photographers; and to many who are taken there as willing, or unwilling, members of coach tours.
Commercialism there is rampant, and, whenever possible, I prefer to spend my time by a huge marshland, Le Marais de Sougeal, upstream from the tourist gatherings along the dawdling Couesnon River which, from where I choose to wander, resembles a great flood plain rather than the true marshy habitats which are more plentiful further south.
I have never met another soul on my mooches there, and so it was again on a fine early October morning when I made my most recent visit.
As usual, before reaching the spacious greenery where horses and cattle mingle, and glancing at the familiar towering poplars which play host to large clumps of mistletoe, I begin to think back to previous visits and some of the surprising encounters which have come my way - Cattle Egrets sticking close to grazing calves and mothers; frogs in crystal-clear ditches; Spotted Flycatchers with newly-fledged young; gorgeous Beautiful Demoiselles at rest; a delightful selection of motionless butterflies, among them Painted Lady and Marbled White; and an unconcerned Muskrat, seemingly seeking a morsel from the track I was following.
Thankfully, even at this time of political turmoil, there are too many good and caring people around to ensure that the only discarded shells in future will be Mother Nature's - on the Normandy beaches and other friendly shores; by the secret anvil of Song Thrushes here and there; and beneath bountiful chestnut trees everywhere!