Almost exactly a century ago, as the appalling bloodbath of the First World War staggered wearily to its end, the Domaine des Courmettes was bought by a local pastor (with a generous donation from America) for the Protestant Church of France to be used as a place of healing. The last 100 years have seen a turbulent history for the estate, some of which is recounted at this web page, and a lot more (in French) in a fascinating new book available from Courmettes (in which we get a brief mention).
Anyway, as we have mentioned more than once in this blog, it is now doing very well and making a lot of friends in the area. Well over a year ago a decision was taken to make a big effort for the centenary and we were up for all the three days of it last weekend. We’ll cover some of the events next week, but we think it’s important to record here the astonishing amount of work that Jean-François and the permanent team did to prepare for the event. They were aided by numerous volunteers both beforehand and over the weekend.
Four rooms were converted into exhibition spaces, two covering the history of the estate, with its long links with guides, scouts and churches. There was also a fascinating display about the decades in which the house was a sanatorium for tuberculosis sufferers. (Fascinating fact: D. H. Lawrence died of TB in the next sanatorium along in 1930 – if he’d been at Courmettes we might have to have a blue plaque saying that the author of Lady Chatterley’s Lover died here).
Another room had some of Ellen Teurlings’ excellent photographs chronicling a year in the life of Courmettes. The fourth exhibition was of the natural history and science of the site.
In addition to these there were also two new publications. The first, already mentioned, was the history, the second a rather attractive colour book on the geology and natural history of Courmettes in French, which includes a number of Chris’ photos and some text from him. It also has a picture of Alison (at least of her back!) on the front cover.
Last but not least, there were some well organised catering arrangements, including piles of chocolate cookies and two massive paellas.