Odon de Conteville
Odon, also named Odo, de Conteville is a prime example of a warrior bishop and a man who chose to live dangerously in a ceaseless search for power and riches. He was appointed Bishop of Bayeux in 1049 by his half brother William. Although fighting bravely at Hastings for which William rewarded him with more than 400 English lordships this immense power and wealth failed to meet his ambitions. What drove him? A member of the College of Heralds in the 19th century described him thus - “Ambitious, arrogant, rapacious, turbulent, tyrannical, ungrateful and licentious this bold bad man appears to have been destitute of every virtue”. Such qualities, if they are an accurate description of Odo’s persona, ensured he would be a source of much trouble to his contemporaries.
He first seized lordships belonging to the Archbishopric of Canterbury requiring the intervention of William I who ruled in favour of the Archbishop. In spite of this setback he continued to support his half-brother by suppressing many regional disputes. William entrusted the government of England to Odo when he had to return to Normandy to deal with several insurrections. Odo availed himself of every opportunity to amass wealth by robbing the churches of revenue, land and religious treasures. On William’s return to England Odo was arrested and imprisoned in Rouen until the death of William in 1087.
He next conspired against William Rufus and eventually broke into open rebellion. The rebellion was suppressed, Odo was stripped of his titles and wealth and sent to govern Normandy, now in a state of lawlessness. There he became involved in numerous battles for power between William Rufus and his brother Robert. Contemporary accounts record many barbaric acts carried out by Odo during these campaigns.
His last act was to join the Crusade of 1096 but he got only as far as Palermo where he died in February 1097. Odo seems to have had no redeeming qualities except that he may have been responsible for commissioning the Bayeux Tapestry. But learned scholars also dispute this!
Park and Wildlife
Normandy in France is a superb vacation destination, combining beautiful countryside, stunning beaches, a rich and varied history and excellent food. Normandy holidays, because of this variety, cater for all tastes.
The chateau is located in a regional park of Normandy named “Le Parc naturel regional des Marais du Contentin et du Bessin”. The regional park, well known for its fishing, is a vast marshland in Normandy criss-crossed by several major rivers and countless smaller streams and canals. It is an area of great natural beauty and tranquility. The chateau lies between 2 major Normandy rivers, the Vire and the l’Elle - both with excellent fishing - and has stunning views across the marshes in all directions. The property is not over looked by any other habitations so you are guaranteed privacy. In addition the closest main road is approximately 2 kms away and thus the Chateau de Neuilly la Foret lies undisturbed by frequent road traffic.
The regional park is rich in wildlife, in particular bird life. Herons, Storks, Buzzards, Owls and many other species abound. With so much water, both hunting and fishing are major recreational pastimes in the area. Both coarse and game fishing are available. The abundance of water also gives great clarity and light to the surrounding country, adding to its beauty but also creating a good environment for painters.
There are many local public footpaths in the regional park taking in areas of the wild marshes but also allowing walkers to discover many of the great historical buildings and settlements in the surrounding Normandy countryside. Holiday makers will find this part of France both beautiful and stimulating.
Wildlife in and around Chateau Neuilly
For the amateur naturalist a stroll around the Chateau grounds will bring possible encounters with otters, water rats, foxes, barn owls, buzzards, herons, mice, frogs, grass snakes and much more. This summer there were swallows nesting near the front door, a buzzard nesting in a tree by the main drive, barn owls nesting in the Chapel, whilst otters had made the mill pond their home.
Other species spotted in the immediate vicinity include European Storks, White Egrets, Black Grouse, Harriers, Kestrels and lots of wild fowl.
It is highly recommended that visitors bring a set of binoculars. We would also appreciate any reports of interesting sightings.