Marches of Brittany, old and new (3/4)

Travelling onwards, the forest opens up and gorse grows between the trees. Those – birch and maritime pines – become fewer and fewer, then disappear. This is another marginal landscape – the landes. The word is usually translated by moor, but picture yourself instead a forest of gorse.

The Lande de Rennes, near Campénéac, is a sea of gorse. Each branch swaying in the wind is a wave. The dull green is covered with beautiful yellow flowers. Their colour is my favourite nuance of yellow, warm with not a hint of orange. In the sunset, they glow. Their coconut smell, at the height of the day, wafts around you, almost too sweet. A yellowhammer sings from the top of a bush – is this camouflage after all?

As you walk into the gorse, they engulf you into their spiky maze. You have to pick a track; the maps are useless. As well as the general direction you try to follow, you have to consider carefully: does this look actively used, passable all the way through to somewhere? Or will it dwindle and narrow, turn into a fox or a rabbit trail, ultimately leading you to an impenetrable wall of thorns? Unlike even brambles, nobody can pass through gorse without some kind of machete. You quickly loose all sense of direction. Only in the midst of the forest of gorse do you see there is some heather, and broom too. Sometimes the granite comes up to the surface, and the green, purple, red mosses and lichens remind me of a rock-pool.

A huge granite cross on the top of an outcrop is a salutatory landmark. God, gorse and granite. This is Brittany.

As I reach the south eastern coast of Brittany, I see another nuance of the marches…

Published by languagesandlights

Solitary vagabond, philosopher, writer, poet, teacher

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