Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Our Loc Envel walk - by Lesley and Denise

Photos above thanks to Dick Westcott

What more perfect way could there be to spend a sunny autumn afternoon than to walk through a beech wood, luminous under a glowing sun that reflects on the golden trees wetted earlier by a seasonal downpour. Crisp fallen leaves tracing a footpath of gold as they rustle beneath your feet. All this, great company, homemade fruitcake, and chocolate brownies….. As we drove through hail and rain under purple black clouds, nothing seemed less likely.
The first surprise came as we drove into the car park at Loc Envel, the smallest village in Cotes d’Armor boasting a population of just seventy. We expected to be two of just half a dozen brave or foolish souls who would even contemplate an afternoon’s country walking in such appalling weather. However, we were just two of twenty four enthusiastic walkers and four dogs. What’s more, the sun was shining!
We set off along a tree-lined footpath to our
first interesting pause - the Chateau de Coat Noz (Wood of the Night). Built in the 19th century, this magnificent building, now derelict, gave the impression of being very much older. Wendy, a treasure chest of the most fascinating historical information, told us that the chateau was a gift from Sir Robert Mond, a nickel magnet, to his wife, a miller’s daughter from Belle-Isle-en-Terre.
Lady Mond was evidently a ‘swinger’ of her time and loved to party. After a spell in Paris and a brief marriage, she returned and settled down here with Sir Robert. Looking at this lovely building, one can imagine the ‘Beautiful People’ draped around the ancient stone staircases, now entangled with brambles, sipping champagne and dancing the night away. Today, it was a huge flock of rooks that provided the ‘music’ and irridescent pigeons that looked down upon us from the glassless windows high above our heads.
We then followed a botanical trail of trees and plants marked with plaques giving their names and further information on the species. A huge sculpture of a Fly Agaric toadstool stood in all its red and white spotted glory in the middle of a clearing to the left of the path.
We continued up the other side of the Guic valley, then down to the river, where there stood an old water mill, now serving very well as somebody’s dream home. Wendy told us that in its hey day the mill served both as a saw mill and a flour mill. It also supplied enough electricity for every home in the village to run a 25 watt light bulb. A
very timely downpour brought us to a halt on the riverside path under the shelter of golden branches, where we were treated to a welcome drink of apple juice and a slice of Sue’s delicious home made cake.
Refreshed, we wound our way along the babbling river that tumbled around rocks and boulders, flanked on either side by coppered ferns. We crossed the river and took a path leading upwards past a fontaine, faced by three menhirs. We eventually came to a clearing where there stands a stone oratory dating from 1892, with a statue of St. Sebastian. This provided a great backdrop for today’s group photograph.
The final part of our walk back to the village, took us along a stretch of footpath lined on either side by huge moss covered stones that resembled giant green fluffy cushions. These, along with some magnificent boulders of quartz, formed part of an old wall, giving the footpath the same look as the old drovers’ roads in England. On returning to the village, there was one final treat in store - the 16th century church overlooking the little bourg in its care, three huge bronze bells visible in the open bell tower. What a stunning interior awaited us! The carved wood rood screen is exceptional. Indeed, the entire decoration inside this church is a credit to the skills and craftsmanship of carpenters and wood sculptors from centuries past. The domed gothic ceiling is entirely of wood, giving the impression of an upturned boat, and everywhere on the ceiling are polychrome sculptures of saints, angels, and dragons.
Driving back home under purple black clouds and through torrential rain and hail it seemed almost like a fantasy that the sun had shone down on us for the almost all of our afternoon’s walk. They say that the sun shines on the righteous. That may or may not be true. However, one thing’s certain, we had just spent a near perfect afternoon in some very good company - dogs included - and there were chocolate brownies!

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