From 18 June, the whole of Year 8 spent a week in Normandy on a cross-curricular study trip, undertaking a series of educational visits and engaging in lessons on fermentation and distillation, a presentation in French, and discussion about the Bayeux Tapestry. There were also opportunities to debate the significance of war cemeteries, create a soundscape informed by ritual and inspired by our visit to Omaha Beach, and start a piece of creative writing reflecting on the D-Day Landings.
At Omaha Beach, we were blessed with glorious sunshine and sparkling sea. Many of us dipped our toes in the water, and seemed happily oblivious to the carnage the beach had once witnessed. However, as we climbed back up to the cemetery in the sapping heat, we began to acutely feel the contrast between the bloodshed of 1944 and the pristine beach we were leaving behind. Back at the top, Jonathan Reading recited Keith Douglas’ poem Vergissmeinnicht and we spent time in quiet reflection before heading off to the German cemetery at La Cambe. Here Cathrine Hogh read Becher’s Deutsche Gräber an der Ostfront, and we noticed the stark differences between the two cemeteries. The discussions later that evening were stimulating, impassioned and thought-provoking.
At Bayeux the students split into groups to do a town trail, clubbed together to buy the most original item they could find in the market, used their French skills to haggle, and wrote a postcard to their French teachers. We enjoyed visiting the tapestry and the associated cinema and exhibition before heading off to the goat’s cheese farm at Mesnil. We clearly had many animal lovers in the cohort this year, as well as some cheese aficionados, so this visit was a surprising triumph!
At Honfleur, following another town trail, Coach A spent time either sketching or taking ‘artistic’ photos of the harbour for the inaugural art competition, before heading off to the cider farm where we saw the distillation of cider into calvados, and enjoyed a lovely countryside walk in the sunshine. Coach B was less fortunate with the weather, alas, and their trip to Honfleur was rained off. Sales of apple juice rocketed, however, in our short time in France!
The group should be commended for their impeccable behaviour throughout, and especially for their sensitivity and decorum on the cemetery visits. Vive la Normandie!