I'm working on the forest chapter of my new book, which looks at the symbolism and emotional experience of landscape as well as the history of Brittany through its terrain. The forest theme ties up with work I have in hand for other audiences later in the year so it seemed a good place to start. The beginning of a book is always tough for me, but the great chronological and geographical range here offers plenty of ways in. I often walk in the forest at Cranou or Huelgoat, lately with ideas positively dripping off the trees everywhere I look. This helps to convince me I'm doing the right thing.
The text will look at forest clearance, particularly during the Age of Saints and the later Cistercian initiative in the unusual quevaise system in western Brittany, as well as forest exploitation and production from sabots to timber for the navy at Brest. The forest as a place of concealment will include detail of salt smuggling on the eastern border of Brittany and resistance activity in WWII.
The Foret de Paimpont, more commonly known these days as the Brocéliande of Arthurian legend, takes us into the imaginative world of the forest and its association with enchantment and transformation. The striking symbol of the Golden Tree there is a recent memorial to the forest's power of regeneration after a series of terrible fires in modern times. The shape of the tree echoes the stag's horns in the Arthurian-themed church at Tréhorenteuc.