Earthquake in the forest

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Apart from hunting days,  the forest in which we live is the most peaceful place on earth. But one morning, earlier this week we heard an insistent low  rumbling. Then something seemed to take hold of the house and shake it . Were we about to experience an earthquake? I rushed outside  to see a couple of stones falling from a retaining wall  high above the house. Beyond that wall lies the forestry road that  winds up to the top of the mountain. The mystery was solved. The stones had been dislodged by a giant yellow grader or earth mover that was scraping away the surface of the road while levelling out the potholes  and ruts. Shortly afterwards a giant  roller would follow it, to render our road blissfully flat , for a while at least.

It would be unfair to say that we are not delighted. For the last few months the last stage of our journey home has been tortuous and slow as we wind our car around the potholes, picking out the smoothest path.Of course , as always, we approached our mairie to politely complain. We were reassured that something would be done after the autumn rains. But this is never a  straight forward matter , for although the mairie holds a responsibility towards us and our two neighbours, the responsibility for the road lies witht the 'ONF' the french forestry authority. Clearly negotiating this joint responsibility is slow and tricky, but somehow the road is always mended in the end.

We well remember the very first guests to our gite many years ago. A very pleasant English couple who arrived shaken and bemused. They had driven all the way through France, but I fear the last few minutes of their journey almost made them turn tail. People vary , as does the demeanour of our new arrivals. However they invariably relax , and come to see the road as part of their adventure. Post Brexit , our guests have been  almost exclusively French. 'Pouf' They don't even mention the road.

So, no more  minor earthquakes  for a year or two at least, until the road gets so bad again that we beg for repair? Well, not exactly. For now giant  harvesting machines are climbing up into the forest . Where once we used to witness 'spot felling' where selected pines were cut down by chain saw, 'clear felling ' is now the order of the day.  Great swathes of forest are cut down  using an enormous felling machine that cuts down and strips a giant tree of its branches within seconds. This is followed by another machine which uses its crane to load these processed tree trunks onto an enormous trailer, as easily as a pile of matchsticks. Once the trailer is full they thunder on to deposit the trunks in large stacks by the side of the road where they will be left to lose moisture for a few months. And then the earthquake will return as a giant transporter comes to take them away . These are black Austrian pine trees. Their wood is soft , and so they will be taken to the paper milll for pulping.

Today , peace has returned. No hunters; no road graders; no tree felling. Just the sound of the black wood pecker  calling from the woods.