2019 was a special one for the Chalet des Anglais. While students from Univ have been visiting this idyllic mountain retreat for more than half a century, this was the first year that Old Members had returned for their own, proper, Chalet trip. We were fortunate to find enough time in the calendar, alongside our New and Balliol College colleagues, to run two four-day trips, while still providing our usual student groups. So, emails were sent out by the Development Office, and we were overwhelmed by the show of interest!
There was some trepidation as Old Members began to arrive – the Chalet has always been a melting pot of all those within the College community, from JCR, WCR, SCR and indeed the Master himself, but would putting generations of Chaletites 50 years apart stretch this to the limit? Happily, all was well, and attendees quickly found themselves back in the norms of Chalet life.
Not a great deal has changed in our little outpost, nestled among the larch-covered slopes of the French Alps. Breakfast is simple, though often enriched by the delivery of fresh pastries, lovingly elevated some 900 metres from the nearest bakery by an early-rising Chaletite. It is pleasing to see our Old Members preserving this tradition as strongly as our first-time students embrace it. The days are dominated by long hikes and reading, and the evenings by communal cooking, dining, and good conversation. The hiking routes remain largely the same, and many Old Members still choose to grab a bracing shower in the icy torrent of the garden’s waterfall.
Some change has happened on the hillside, however. Much to the disappointment of some, wine no longer arrives by the barrel, but by the more familiar bottle, and the kitchen has been upgraded with modern ovens, such that a cake can now be baked in well under three hours. The whiff of phone signal now allows for the looking up of a good clafoutis recipe online, and the electric strimmer makes the cutting of the lawn a much easier endeavour.
There is something special about this simple wooden building in the thin, pure, air of the Haute-Savoie – something that is hard to explain to those who haven’t experienced it themselves. The Chalet is more than just a structure: much like the important buildings in College like Hall, and perhaps Univ North in the future, it brings us together in ways that stimulate discussion, broaden horizons, and forge new friendships. More than ever, that’s reason enough to preserve these institutions, and we very much hope to be welcoming back former Chaletites for years to come.
Dr Jack Matthews (2011, DPhil Geology), Trustee of The Chalet Trust
With thanks to fellow trustees Dr Keith Dorrington, Mary Dunhill Tutorial Fellow in Medicine, and Dr Stephen Golding, Emeritus Fellow (Chair of The Chalet Trust)
Published: 11 August 2020