Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Full of emptiness - Lac de Guerlédan

Abbaye de Bon Repos
Wonderful day, full of interest and excitement. First a visit to the Abbaye de Bon Repos for a meeting about possible exhibition project for next year (on mapping and lines of communication), followed by a good look at the current offering on canals in France (and Brittany in particular). I gave permission for a radio interview I did about the Barrage de Guerlédan to be used in this exhibition via headphones and a listening post: quite a strange and not altogether pleasant experience to hear myself as others hear me.
Decided to take advantage of being in central Brittany to go and see the extraordinary spectacle of Lac de Guerlédan emptied of water for the barrage to be closely inspected and repaired. The ghostly skeletons of former locks and lock-houses are revealed by the drainage, but the most surprising impact is the sheer depth and volume of the Blavet valley at this point.

Lac de Guerlédan
 I actually like the area better without the lake and wish it could stay like that - not a popular opinion, I suspect.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Emotional landscapes

We bring our emotions to nature for many reasons which we consciously acknowledge: looking for beauty to balance pain; for neutrality of context to wrestle with problems, for soothing colours and sounds to alleviate weariness; for a change of scene to give a new perspective; for a situation which relaxes by demanding nothing. In identifying being in landscape as a kind of emotional mirror that offers a supportive reflection, we are not in danger of tumbling headlong into the bog of pathetic fallacy. There is no truer instinct than to respond to the fundamental connection between us and nature – the condition of being alive.

We’re not being taken out of ourselves, not operating as observer, admirer or physical activist, but participating in the greatest whole that exists. Nature is not an external entity. By placing our individual happiness, misery, grief and irresolution into a wider context, we are plugging into shared roots and deriving relief, succour or repose from universal energy. Our private energies are recharged by this merging of life and landscape. The fact is that when the heart is too full for talking to people, places can absorb our positive and negative emotions. Not transference, but osmosis, the flexing of membrane. When ties to other people and our local community fail us, nature offers a different kind of common bond. This one is constant.

Monday, April 06, 2015

A good day's work

Rade de Brest
I spent today checking out and writing up a walk for the new volume of Walking in Finistere (out in spring 2016). When I saw the weather forecast, this public holiday was immediately earmarked for a working day in pleasant surroundings. No amount of poring over maps and researching interesting points along the way can guarantee that a walk will turn out to be suitable for the book, and many days of trial and error are to be expected. Good but not good enough on the ground is a common problem. Today I was lucky. Despite one or two tricky points and some short alternatives needing to be mapped for the highest tides, this one is definitely going in the book.
I deliberately chose a peninsula which has no coastal path, and therefore is inevitably far less walked than the many others on offer in Finistere. It also had a merit of a culminating point in the Rade de Brest which is inaccessible by road - indeed the complete absence of cars and mechnical noise was a major advantage of the whole circuit. Apart from a few family walkers in the hamlets, I saw no-one else on the route. It was three and a half hours of blissful peace and spectacular views. I still feel excited about it now, sitting at my desk in the calm of the evening.

Friday, April 03, 2015

Falling in love again

I've been in Rennes all week. Little leisure time, but did manage to spend a few minutes gazing at one of my favourite constructions in the world, Les Horizons. It's such a happy building, I have to smile every time I look at it.
And it always smiles back...