Tuesday, 28 September 2010

ABC Wednesday - Kerguéhennec

The beautiful château Kerguéhennec built in 1710 with different owners either side of the French Revolution, lies 20 miles north of Vannes in the department of Morbihan.  It is open in the Summer, the ground floor and kitchens show it as it would have been at its height, I especially liked the three bell pushes on the snooker table.  On the top floor is a changing contemporary art exhibition.  It is set in hundreds of acres of countryside laid out like a British Country House (jardin anglais) with two large lakes, woodland walks, bike tracks and an arboretum. So lots to see and do, or you could just lie down and relax, no entrance fee, 
Mimi by Markus Raetz
put your hands behind the head and gaze into the deep blue sky

Perhaps take a stroll round the lake where apart from grebe and dragonflies you might find unexpected things
floating in the middle like Marta Pan's Parcours flottant Number 2.

But one of the things that mesmerised me was my countryman Richard Long, famous for his walking or landscape art who here has 'A Circle in Brittany'( Un Cercle en Bretagne).
A close up view.  The rock is schiste, slate like but with high mineral content formed originally from clays and muds and become a crystalline foliated metamorphic rock. This rock was used in Brittany 6000 years ago for the many structures of prehistory that fill every corner of this part of the country, it looks marvellous in a  barrow grave. It is the intensity of  colour that Richard Long has managed to find.  How did he do that?  I was looking on the ground when I holidayed there for two weeks and never saw anything this rich a colour, my little pieces I brought back pale in comparison. It has the dates 1986-2007 by the title, some obtained from the area of St Just, which also has some other rather unusual rocks and ancient structures, a labour of love judging by those dates.

The grounds of the château contain many other pieces of contemporary art, it is the biggest sculpture park in France.  
This we could not quite make out as it was at the end of an avenue of trees but became clearer as we approached.  It is called The Seven Colums of  Mallarmé  (Sept Colonnes a Mallarmé).  I will admit my ignorance, I have never read any of his poems or works so I have not a clue what this means.  The columns all look similar but when you look closer they are all different.
As we looked back to the house along the long colonnade of trees. I wondered the significance. Any answers or clues from the well read and knowledgeable out there?
1000 Pots bétonnés une serre ancienne by Jean-Pierre Raynaud
(1000 Cemented Pots in an old greenhouse)
At least you know where you are with pots the colour of earth in a greenhouse, there are a few clues and it is a rather beautiful old structure.
A wonderful place to spend the day, a hidden gem  of paths, trees, lakes and art, but under threat, and in danger of going kaput, one of the three partners does not want to fund any longer.  There is a petition  against closure but in these strange times who knows what will happen to the Domain Kerguéhennec, I hope it is still there next time I go to France.   

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Monday, 27 September 2010

Distant Clouds and Sunshine

Sheep, cloud watching on Steel Fell
When we walked up Steel Fell there was just a fluff of cloud on the tops of the Fairfield Horseshoe which we thought would blow away in the strong wind. It was a cloud of determination for it just deepened and stayed all day.
 Helm Crag looking towards Grasmere
How lucky that we had decided on a walk from Steel Fell round the ridge to Helm Crag which was bathed in sunshine all day.  There are patches of peat on the top of both fells ranging from loamy to waterlogged. My companion, the Mudhound, found  the soggy version on Steel Fell when jumping off a stone to go up a banking and land in deep bog.  Once one leg went in, the there was no choice, the other had to follow.  He is always a useful person to send first for if there is mud he will seek it out, so I don't have to, and take an alternative route.   
Still slightly soggy but drying in the sun. The ridge to Helm Crag is a popular route so there are stones across the worst bits, you just take your chance on Steel fell where there is not such luxury and it is unusual to see more than a couple of people even in high summer.
High Raven Crag and Grasmere below.

The bracken is almost all brown now with just a little remnant of green, coming down from Helm Crag and look back up Far Easdale and the ridge.
To Grasmere calling  in at the Travellers Rest to sit in the sunshine and admire their Virginia Creeper.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Saturday Mix - Vehicle

Left to rust and nettles
 Which will prevail
Only time.

Shannara's Saturday Mix photomeme whose theme this week is - Vehicle

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

ABC Wednesday - Japanese Garden

The start of the entrance path to the Japanese Garden at Tatton Park, Cheshire. 

This garden was the result of a visit to the Anglo-Japanese exhibition at White City, London in 1910 which enthused many for this garden art.  A team of Japanese workers were employed and arrived at Tatton Park with, it is said, Shinto shrines and artefacts from Japan.
There are three main types of Japanese gardens, Hill, Dry (sometimes known as Zen) and Tea. This one is built in the style of a Tea Garden which do not tend to the strict discipline of other two Japanese Gardens but this one of course also has western influences
such as Acers/Maples which possibly do not appear in this type of garden in Japan. The first signs of Autumn had just appeared when we visited on Friday.

Lanterns come in all shapes and sizes and have different functions
some are built to trap as much snow as possible so the scene looks beautiful in the winter. I would imagine the juxtaposition of  lantern and bridge covered in snow, perhaps the water iced over, would be wonderful.

A pond in a Japanese Garden of course always reminds of Basho's famous haiku:

The old pond
A frog jumps in
Sound of Water 

my mind was still
till Basho's frog
made it ripple
(Wm Flygare)

But where does this bridge lead?  In a traditional Tea Garden there would be stepping stones, and it would take you to
 the Tea House.  A stone lantern and a stone basin were placed where guests would purify themselves before participating in the  tea ceremony.  The aim of the Chaniwa (tea garden) designer is to create a feeling of solitude and detachment from the world, the latter being an element of Zen Buddhism.  These type of gardens in Japan are not typically open to the public

which by coincidence is similar to this one. I'm standing at the perimeter, on a rock, on tip toes here.  If we had arrived on a Wednesday or Sunday then there are organised visits and maybe I could have walked over the bridge to the Tea House.

or gazed at the cranes. A bird of happiness and in legend they live to be a 1000 years old, possibly why Japanese poems about them seem to be mainly set in the spring
Shower of white
plum blossoms -
where are the cranes?

But Kobayshi Issa plays on legendary longevity in his haiku

Even tortoise and cranes
meet their fate
autumn evening.

We are having some lovely warm weather at the moment, perfect for visiting gardens and taking walks in the countryside as it turns colour, but despite this I could not resist ending with another of Basho's haiku

Lips too chilled
for prattle -
autumn wind.

Jump over to ABC Wednesday and just see how many words start with J

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Golden Tatton Park

The winds of Autumn and the turning of the leaves start slowly.  A single golden tree stands surrounded by green. Its top branches are bare for there have been strong winds this week.  Today at Tatton Park there was only an intermittent breeze.
Deer keeping a wary eye on photographers as they enjoy the early evening sun.  There has been a deer park here since 1290, created by Royal Charter.  The herds roam the 1,000 acre park and later in the Autumn the stags with their impressive antlers will begin to round up the females and so begins the rutting season.  The stag announces his superiority over other males by bellowing and roaring. If this does not keep away his rivals then there will be clashes of antlers.  However all that will not start until October so all is quiet. 

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

ABC Wednesday - Immaculate

Last November this is the view of Hoad hill, bracken golden brown and a strange structure on the top. Were we heading for the moon or some other interplanetary journey?  No, but there was a mystery inside for this was a repair to the 160 year old monument underneath, so what would the result be.
Nobody had ever seen the Hoad Monument looking so white
it was immaculate. The first part to appear above the scaffolding was the copper roof cap glinting in the sunlight.  Eventually, a couple of months ago the full lighthouse was revealed and on August 22 there was the official reopening, celebrated with incendiary devices, commonly called fireworks, and, nobody wanting to resist a pun, a Hoad down. 
 For the first time in over a decade the inside was open as well. Ever since it was in existence there has been a custodian in charge of opening, starting in 1850 when it was open 6 days a week and shut on Sundays. Now it is open once a week on a Sunday afternoon and on Bank Holidays from Easter to September.  There has been quite a rush for the curious wanting to see what has happened inside.

 There are placards and plasterwork at the bottom, all looking immaculate,  but really what we all want to do is to go to the top. I remember as a child the custodian used to sell sweets, but not today.  So after a wait, todays health and safety demands that only a certain number are allowed up at a time, we go up to the next level
Where we look at the rest of the 112 steps round the side we are going to climb. There is also a display about the history of Hoad whose official name is the John Barrow memorial.  This is a son of Ulverston who lived from 1764-1848,  leaving school to start work at 13, went on a whaling expedition to Greenland at 16, and was attached to the first British Embassy in China from 1792-94, where he learnt Mandarin Chinese and throughout his life had a fascination with China. However 1797 saw him land at the Cape of Good Hope, which had been occupied by the British because revolutionary France had occupied the Netherlands and the British did not want them landing on this strategic location at the tip of Africa.  Barrow married and decided to settle in South Africa but under the Peace of Amiens, the British handed the Cape back (only temporarily as it turned out) so he returned to England in 1804.  He was appointed 2nd Secretary of the Navy, a post he would hold for 40 years, where he sent expeditions into West Africa and also exploration of the Arctic by Ross, Parry and Franklin,who also tried to find the elusive north west passage. Barrow Point and Cape Barrow were named after him. He wrote a history of modern Arctic Voyages of Discovery which was published in 1846.

On his death a public subscription was started in Ulverston and a monument was erected on the hill he loved to walk on as a child. This was in the shape of the Eddystone Lighthouse standing 100 feet tall and inaugurated in 1850 to immortalize his achievements.

History over now, are you impatient to get to the top
Last steps now
And able to look out of the windows, in-between gasps for breath, I like to set a good pace when for some inconceivable reason the entrance gate was opened to me to lead out the half dozen intrepid stair climbers.  This is looking over Ulverston, and Glaxo's pharmaceutical plant to Chapel Island and Morecambe Bay. The view the other way to the Lakeland Hills was hazy and the sun reflected on the windows in the photos.
But not to disappoint here is one of the other directions with kite flyers at the bottom of the monument
The immaculate monument, now like an Ivory Tower, a structure that generations of Ulverstonians see on the horizon when returning from away and know they will soon be home. It has never had a light at the top but it is lit up from the bottom at night and it glows in the night sky.

What a incredible difference to how it was, cracked with water leaking, the structure deteriorating inside and out.
Picture taken February 2009.

Custodians car with 19th Century Photo.

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Tuesday, 7 September 2010

ABC Wednesday - Hydrangea

The white Hydrangea Paniculata 'Phantom'
Today I am going to take you on a Hydrangea Promenade.  A sedate walk and not going into hyper-drive.  What happens when a hydrangea growing enthusiastic talks to a local mayor?  Three kilometres of them by the side of the Lac au Duc in Ploermel, France. Officially opened in the year 2000 the Hortensia Promenade takes in  510 varieties and 4-5000 plants blooming from July to September. The plant originally grew in South East Asia but in the years of the great plant hunters it was brought into Europe and named after a women called Hortensia, lover or friend I am not sure. 
Although the colour range is limited gardeners have introduced subtle changes to shades and shapes to give a diversity of harmonious hues. Here are two pretty lace-cap flowers.
Same theme different result.
 Colours of Hydrangeas are affected by the soil. Acidic soils produce blue flowers.
Neutral soils produce pale cream petals but the white of this one
contrasts with the creamy colour of this one.
Helpfully all the bushes were named on the little wooden sticks, unhelpfully I was too engrossed in a mad camera clicking spree to engage any memory cells.    
However this one had a memorable name 'Pinky Winky' (Hydrangea Paniculata), and to conclude my soil condition list,  alkaline produces pink flowers.
Hydrangea Macrophylla 'Pirouette' with its speckled colouring.  Macrophylla as you can see have showy flower-heads.

I always like to look up flowers meanings in my Victorian Floriography, discovering that it would not have been a hopeful sign to receive any of these flowers and your relationship may have hit a rocky patch.  Hortensia's meaning "you are cold", and Hydrangea's meaning "A boaster. Heartlessness".

I'm no gardener so wondered if the two names were interchangeable but I think that the

common Hydrangea Macraphylla and its mop head flowers are known as Hortensias and the Hydrangea Paniculata are - well, Hydrangeas.  Always useful to know which message is being sent in flowers.

Hop over to ABC Wednesday to see many more words all beginning with the letter H.