Thursday, October 30, 2014
Sunday, October 26, 2014
My own personal research interest is the bloodthirsty career of Guy Eder de la Fontenelle, a young nobleman who held the island from 1595, and used the Wars of Religion to spread mayhem throughout western Brittany, from his native Cotes d'Armor to this western edge of Finistere, where his most notorious achievements were the destruction of Penmarc'h - burning the population in the church and taking control of 300 ships in the port - and the sacking of Pont Croix. He was pardoned for his crimes or acknowledged for his acts of war, depending on your point of view, and actually officially made governor of Ile Tristan at the end of the war. Accusations of intrigue with the Spaniards made this a short tenure, however, and he was executed in Paris at the ripe old age of 29.
His persona has lived on in the oral tradition, but aside from a short profile published in the 1920s, little serious and un-romantic work appears to have been done on the historical evidence of the life of this extraordinary, excessive personality. Sociopath or product of his times, able to get away with more than most in this far flung corner of France? I've made some effort to go further with research, with little result as yet. On the island today I wanted to get an idea of the strategic positions and the defensibility, as all efforts to dislodge La Fontenelle during his reign of terror proved fruitless. Not sure I made a lot of progress, but it's certainly true to say that the less I can find out about him, the more interesting he becomes.
Tuesday, October 21, 2014
|Eglise de St Trémeur|
The problem for a heritage tour is that whilst some arresting visual evidence of a significant past remains, these scattered nuggets are overwhelmed by the low-rise, dull white modern development that swamps the town even into the central areas. Some fine houses still stand in the rue Brieux and Place de la Mairie, odd traces of aqueduct linger in modern industrial areas and religious architecture offers a few beauties worth walking for, but getting around is generally not easy on the eye and physically constrained by cars everywhere and narrow pavements - many with cars parked on them to obstruct individuals, let alone a meandering group. Today I tried to devise a workable route and wasn't entirely satisifed, but will persevere. I'm going to give it a go with Brittany Walks next month, and the town will figure in a new book I'm probably going to do next year.
Saturday, October 11, 2014
Tuesday, September 30, 2014
I visited the new Maison de la Mine in the small village of Locmaria Berrien on the last day of its summer opening. What admirable energy, goodwill and practical sense have seen the creation of this little museum by the association ASAM! The small but carefully crafted exhibition brings to life the social and economic history of the nearby lead/silver mine in the forest. The mine was once one of the largest in France and there are various visible remains on the ground which always arouse the curiosity of walkers and retired engineers. Now they can stroll or drive up to the village and find out everything about those somewhat sad remains - or better still, go to the exhibition first, in order to understand the context of what can be seen in situ. The guided visit to the display of artefacts, models and documents given by a volunteer when I was there was exceptionally good, and I hope all the immense work of the association will be rewarded with large visitor numbers next year.
Tuesday, September 23, 2014
A walk in the forest concentrates the mind on the changing season and the sounds becoming more evident as fresh energies stir. The shallow rasp of my dog's breath contrasts with the slow, gentle in- and exhalations of the wind, and falling sap dries the rustle of browning leaves and brittle ferns. The post-deluge urgent clamour of water is now hushed to gossipy eddies along the rocky stream beds. Many of the footpaths are sporting wiggly stripes where their topcoat has been stripped by temporary torrents forcing their way downhill.
It's been a wonderful day, and best of all, I can actually see it. After nearly eight months of living in a blurred world, my vision is clear and balance restored, so I am well in tune with this equinox...
Saturday, September 20, 2014
|Old slab bridge on the Queffleuth|
The water-quality of the Queffleuth is high, making it a habitat for otters, trout and salmon, just as it once made the river good for paper-production and the site of many mills. The most interesting feature on the circuit is perhaps the irrigation system once used to keep the Prat ar Gaor (Goats' meadow) well-watered even in times of drought. A mini-barrage and valve system were constructed to feed a bief - a supply channel similar on a smaller scale to the bief de partage of the Nantes-Brest Canal - cut straight to enclose the land and connect the two ends of a wide bend in the main river course. From this trenches were cut across the meadow in the 'fish-bone style' with a central spine and many off-shoots, taking moisture to almost all parts of the pasture land. This skeleton outline is still just visible on the ground.
Apart from historical and natural interest, it's a pretty route, well worth a gentle afternoon stroll. Park in the lay-by just off the D769 at Le Pléen (turning to Pleyber-Christ) and follow well-placed and (for once) consistent green waymarks.