The sun shimmered off the mud flats as we drove along the coast road. The gulls circling and diving, finally landing on the bald stones that lay camouflaged by seaweed, it’s soft ozone smell rising to mingle with the fragrance of sun baked grasses from the fields nearby. Then, there was Talmont, perched high on a rocky outcrop, a twelfth century fortified village sticking out into the bright blue sky.
Parking our car before we got to the ‘Island’ for that is what it seems, we set off on foot to explore. Cars aren’t allowed on Talmont and that in itself makes this a wonderfully peaceful place to be. Even in the height of the tourist season there is tranquility to be found amongst the white washed houses with Charantaise blue or green shutters and doors almost dwarfed by the hollyhocks that wave in the breeze, lanky and colourful, poking from every crevice in the path. Dotting the pale stone work with splodges of scarlet, apricot and fuchsia.
A haven of small restaurants and discreet bars with independent shops selling artisan goods, it remains unspoilt. This is a village that has retained both its character and self respect. The narrow roads wind round the village criss crossing like a child’s meandering maze, until ultimately we arrived at the eleventh century church of St Radegonde.
Regardless of its ornately sculpted entrance and wonderful carvings of animal heads under the roof, this is a startlingly simple place inside. beautiful in it’s restraint. No stained glass windows, gilt or statues of saints, only the smell of the wax and warm glow of the votives gives hint to it’s catholic religion.
The original industry of the village was fishing, which is still a part of the local economy and a curiosity. Small fishing shacks on spindly stilts are spread along the shore. Hanging off each are huge nets spread like waiting arms which will be dropped to scoop up the fish as the tide tumbles in.
Talmont is not a perfectly preserved museum of a village, but a vibrant commercially successful place, that honours it’s heritage and welcomes visitors whilst going about its own business. Safe in the knowledge that it has lasted nine hundred years and will be there unspoilt, for many more.
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