Village de Poul Fetan

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Poul Fetan is in a delightful setting on the cliff high above the Blavet valley, between Hennebont and Baud. Fortunately it is well signed as it is reached along a maze of small roads. The village was lived in until 1970 and has now been restored as a typical example of a working 19thC hamlet. There is a daily tour in French at 11am. In the afternoon costumed interpreters are around demonstrating some of the traditional activities.

The small settlement of stone houses with thatched roofs dates from the 16thC. Iris are grown n top of the thatch. This is traditional as it helps protect the ridge and prevents water seepage. The hamlet is surrounded by woodland and fields. The hamlet contained a bakery and tavern but no church. The houses have been restored. One contains the small, shop which has a basic range of gifts, post cards, cider and home baked bread. One is a working pottery. The others contain exhibitions on cider making, spinning flax or wool, ironing and traditional clothes.

It is a short walk to the hamlet past fields with a horse gin and the cottage gardens with traditional vegetables.

One house has been furnished as in the 18thC. It has a beaten earth floor made from a mix of earth, clay, ashes and water which was compacted by people trampling it down in their clogs. All the villagers would have joined in to help with this.

The circular tower contains the spiral staircase which leads to the storage area above, where buckwheat, oats, rye and hay were stored. Wood for cooking was stored under the stairs.

Inside there is a large fire place which provided heat and some light as well as being used for cooking. Niches beside the chimney were used to store salt. Milk would be left in front of the fire to curdle to be eaten with potatoes. Ashes were kept for bleaching the laundry and making soap. Sausages would be left to hang in the smoke.

In winter the cows would have shared the ground floor, separated from the living quarters by a wooden fence and would also have provided heat. There are recesses alcoves in one wall which were used as nesting boxes by the hens

There are two box beds. The parents would have slept in the one nearest the fire. The children bed was close to the animals. Up to 4 children might sleep in the same bed. The mattress was made of sheets of course linen sewn together and filled with oat husk. They were replaced each year after threshing. Between the beds is a large grandfather clock. There was a plain wooden table, chairs and a large linen cupboard. This would contain piles of sheets and was kept locked as the mistress of the house might keep any spare money stored beneath the sheets. If visitors came the doors would be partly opened to show off the linen as the more sheets one had the more well off you were.

There is a large stone trough at the side by the door which provided water and could be used to keep butter cool. It may also have been used as a salting tub for the pig. The pig would be killed in winter and the meat had to last all year. Above it are stone shelves.

Meals were either gruels made of buckwheat, oats or millet or vegetable soups with a piece of pork on Sundays. Fridays were meatless days with buckwheat pancakes. Milk, buttermilk and cider were drunk. Rye bread was baked three times a month in the communal bread ovens.

Butter, eggs, milk and poultry were the only sources of money from the farm.

Each family would keep a few sheep for their fleece. After shearing in the spring, the fleece was washed, carded before spinning. Flax was grown and there were three large pools below the lavoir where the harvested flax could be soaked (retted) to help break down the stems and release the fibres.

Down the track from the hamlet is the large lavoir (washing pool). Sheets and linens would be washed twice a year in Spring and Autumn. It could take several days. Laundry was soaked for 24 hours in a big bucket with hot water and sifted ashes and stirred well. The next day the laundry would be taken to the lavoir in a wheelbarrow. Every woman had her own place at the lavoir. The laundry would be scrubbed with soap beaten, wrung out and left to dry on the grass. (The wood stumps beside the lavoir are modern, for spectators to sit on during demonstrations.)

There are a couple of way marked walks which take you past the pigsties and through the fields with nice views of the valley.

This was a well worthwhile visit. We didn’t bother with the guided tour (which was busy). We were given a detailed information sheet in English with our ticket. We were also given a passport giving reduced entry to other sites in Morbihan.


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