Cotentin. They want to preserve this small century-old port in the hollow of a cliff, threatened

Cotentin. They want to preserve this small century-old port in the hollow of a cliff, threatened
Cotentin. They want to preserve this small century-old port in the hollow of a cliff, threatened

By

Solène Lavenu

Published on May 13, 2024 at 6:16 a.m.

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It is nestled in the hollow of the cliff. Few know him, yet he is a hundred years old. He even welcomed stars as the Old Fisherman’s boatthe famous face of coffee packets of the same name.

THE port of Houguetlocated in La Hague (Manche), in the delegated commune of Herqueville, is today the subject of a municipal decree. It is henceforth impossible to access. As in Vauville, a few kilometers away, sections of cliffs fell after the heavy rain of Winter. Some cabins were splashed with earth, and the path to access them completely disappeared.

Who was the Old Fisherman?

His head is more famous than his name. Charles Brumant is the one we call the Old Fisherman. His weathered face and famous beard were first popularized by the artist Lucien Goubert. But it is above all because he became the face of the café “Le Vieux Pêcheur” that his face is familiar to us. The man was a fisherman from Herqueville. He was born in Harfleur in 1858 and died in Gréville-Hague in 1943. At twelve years old, he boarded a Norwegian boat. At 80, he was still fishing. But his boat had arrived in Herqueville, where Charles Brumant had family.
In the Hague, the fisherman finds a clientele. Among them, there is the painter Lucien Goubert, responsible, in the early 1930s, for the poster for the Cherbourg exhibition fair. Although he didn’t think directly of his fisherman, Lucien Goubert ended up taking inspiration from him after the idea was suggested to him by the photographer Gustave Bazire. The latter then painted the weathered features of Charles Brumant based on one of his photographs. It is glory, especially for the painter. A little for its model. In 1933, during the inauguration of the Cherbourg maritime station, he was chosen to present the keys to the new building to the President of the Republic Albert Lebrun. A brief notoriety before returning to his life as a fisherman, in Herqueville. He is also buried there.

The hazards of the earth

But whatever, the lucky eleven have their boat parked in this hold hope to continue using it. “The port has existed since the 1900s. So landslides, there have been some, there will be more,” breathes Maurice Lemarinel. At 92 years old, he was the President of the association of the users from the port of Houguet. There is still his boat.

The association is the one that maintains the place. So after the new landslide, all the members went directly back to work : the eleven users who have their boat in the hold, helped by a few friends Or family members, cleared the following days. Maurice Lemarinel redid the steps to descend the cliff, helped by the president of the association.

There have already been several passages that have disappeared. We rebuild them.

Members of the association

Every year, they spend several days maintaining their little corner of paradise. ” There sea can damage the premises. We made chores out of it, and some hell of a meal. We have some memories at the port of Houguet”, remember Maurice and his wife.

A small port, a great story told to date

1900
While there is no official construction date, the port of Houguet saw the light of day in the 1900s. “A port was planned but it did not work, and it was built elsewhere. But a few fishermen continued to set up their boats,” says Maurice. At 92 years old, he was not yet born, but passionate about the place, he went to read the history in the archives of the Manoir du Tourp. It seems that he was very active at the time of tobacco smuggling with the Channel Island of Alderney.
1940
The Germans set fire to the fishermen’s boats at Port du Houguet. “They wanted to avoid going to sea, so they didn’t give any gifts. Only Charles Brumant’s boat would have been spared. She was put on dry land. All the others were burned, and we could no longer access the Port du Houguet at all. Soldiers were watching,” explains the nonagenarian.
1957
The hold was abandoned. But Maurice buys a boat with his wedding money. He decides to put it at Houguet. “The dike had been badly damaged by the storms,” he remembers. I had to pass, my boat on my back, over a passage barely a meter wide. Another fisherman was coming, a guy from Jobourg. But he didn’t necessarily stay all the time. He was sailing between Houguet and Gravelette. » Maurice loves his little port, and leaves his boat there whatever the weather. He asks to build a small cabin there to store his equipment. “I was told: “Okay, but it must be removable”. This is how I made the first cabin in the port of Houguet,” he explains.
In the following years, new fishermen joined Mauritius. “There are some who came, but left just as quickly. The path is steep to get there,” smiles the nonagenarian.
1960
“At the time of the big project, some of the mayor’s friends asked to build a cabin. They used concrete, and even made a terrace. Faced with this construction site, the mayor was very annoyed. » It was at this time that the Houguet port users association was created.
1975
“We rebuilt the hold. It was quite a project. I was not in the area, but my wife was there. The municipality paid, but it was the association that carried out the work. The sand was brought to the top of the cliff, and the concrete was made there. Through a gutter system, it was transported to the bottom,” explains Maurice Lemarinel. “One day,” continues Christiane, his wife, “the one who was turning the concrete with the tractor used the wrong pedal. The tractor fell off the cliff. Fortunately, he had time to jump, and no one below was injured. I remember the cloud of dust it created! »
2000s
“The coastline started to give us trouble, it wanted to raze everything. But the then mayor turned a deaf ear. The municipality has always wanted to keep this heritage. So, the cliff crumbles from time to time, but that’s nature. In the 67 years that I have had my boat there, the landscape has not changed! The hold even protects the cliff. »

Without them, the port is doomed to disappear

So, for them and for all users, there is no question that thehistoryfrom the port of Houguet stops. Not recognized by the littoralhe has always been supported by the municipality. “When we made the hold in 1975 there were even subsidiesof the Department”, explain everyone.

There municipality financeport users are getting down to work.

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It’s steep, access is difficult, so companies don’t want to intervene at the bottom. But we always managed to do it. With a pickaxe and a shovel, we maintain our hold!

Maurice Lemarinel

But it became Harder and harder . With the landslides, the public serviceswant to open the umbrellas. This historic hold could be doomed to disappear. A heartbreak for everyone and especially for Maurice. The port of Houguet is in his blood and hung in his dining room.

Two paintings sit on the wall: one of the port in the 1930s. The other is a photograph of Houguet, but in the last decade. For this place, he even found himself at court.

A love story

“When the path collapsed, we redid it. And we ended up in court. The president of the association then the mayor then one business who helped us do the work… It’s crazy, we’re just redoing what’s been there for many years. We have ten places, and all we ask is that we be forgotten as has always been the case,” he whispers.

So, the userscould continue their fishing, but above all continue the atypical story of this hold. Of those who make the wealth of La Hague and our heritage. Because to have your boat there, you have to love the place.

You have to go back up your fishing trail on foot, going up the cliff. We have seen fishermen who wanted a place and who abandon it because it is too hard!

Maurice Lemarinel

So who could believe that these fishermen are there to damage and not preserve the places?

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