Call of the wild
Emulating the exodus of the first monks from Molesmes in the eleventh century, new monasteries of the Cistercians were always sited in remote wooded valleys alongside or built over fast flowing streams.  It was in this semi-wild environment that the daily liturgy was maintained, and the products of scholarship and the agricultural year bore fruit.  The following word picture sets out the Cistercian landscape of the French monastery of la Grande Trappe that most environmentalists would immediately recognise as their pastoral lodestone of nature conservation.
"In the daylight that followed my arrival, the pale grey Trappe resembled not so much an abbey as a hospital, an asylum or a reformatory. It dwindled off into farm buildings, and came to an end in the fields where thousands of turnips led their secret lives and reared into the air their little frostbitten banners. Among the furrows an image mouldered on its pedestal; and, under a sky of clouded steel, the rooks cawed and wheeled and settled. Across the December landscape, flat and waterlogged with its clumps of drizzling coppice and barren-looking pasture-land, ran a rutted path which disappeared beneath an avenue of elm-trees. Willows, blurred and colourless as the detail of an aquatint, receded in the mist; and, here and there, the pallor of the woods was interrupted by funereal clumps of pine. Isolated monks, all of them hooded and clogged, at work in the fields, ploughing or chopping wood, dotted this sodden panorama and the report of their falling axes reached the ear long seconds after the visual impact. Others were driving slow herds of cattle to graze. Two of them would converse for a few seconds in their extraordinary semaphore, and then 'Viens, la blanche!' or, 'a droite, grosse bete!' would break the silence as a cow or a laggard cart- horse was urged through a gap in a hedge Then the stillness fell once again, and an occasional sequence of gestures was the only discourse between mortals"
Patrick Leigh Fermor (1957)