To the north of Chinon is a broad swathe of forest, some of it dense and almost primeval. The D751 cuts a diagonal path through the centre of it – a straight undulating road with broad grass verges each side – one of the old roads engineered by Napoleon to enable him to march his armies rapidly round the country.
Chinon Forest wove its way into my imagination the first time I saw it. In places the vegetation is so thick that it is impossible to force a way through it. Many of the trees seem to have stood there for centuries, crammed in close together and grown tall so that they fight their way towards the sun.
The best trees haven’t been felled to build the wooden ships that dominated the world in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in the way that English forests were destroyed. The trees in Chinon Forest have grown old and died, fallen against each other or collapsed on to the ground, become covered in creeper such as great clumps of mistletoe and have gently rotted back into the soil to provide the base for new lesser growth.
In my imagination the forest became the location where the duel with deadly cross-bows would take place between my hero and the villain in The Eighth Child. I suggest that, if you are in the area, you visit the place and see if its atmosphere seeps into your imagination as it did into mine.
This is the last blog that I shall do for now about the Chinon area. Next week I am going to pay another visit to Cathar country in the French Pyrenees to update my researches about the region in preparation for the current novel that I am writing and which I think I will call The Treasure House of the Templars. Future blogs will probably return to that mysterious region.