Sunday, September 28, 2008

history of brittany course

In line with the association's main aim of making the history of Brittany accessible to anglophones, we are offering a course in 2009 in conjunction with the AIKB in Gouarec. There will be a taster day and then three days studying specific periods, with focus on special topics featuring individuals or themes that give a flavour of their time. There will be oral and written exercises using evidence and visual material. The objectives? To understand more of Brittany's past and present, and to have fun. Details are on the association website now.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Quimper historical walk

Thanks to Karen for this account of our outing
We began our walk around Quimper, one of the oldest Breton cities, at the junction of the rivers Steir and Odet, taking a leisurely stroll along the north bank of the Odet admiring the many Passerelles. We then entered the Cathedrale St Corentin, a beautiful and gothic building constructed between the 13th-16th centuries. The cathedral has wonderful stained glass windows, we also admired the painting of Pere Maunoir being kissed by an angel which enabled him to speak Breton, I am sure many of us were hoping for a similar miracle, but it wasn't to be!! We then walked north and came to part of the old city wall which encloses the 'Jardin de la Retraite', a small garden filled with palms, banana trees and other plants. It was very peaceful and worth a visit. After the tranquility of the garden, we strolled along the bustling streets in Quimper, enjoying the architecture of the old buildings. Many of the shops have wonderful window displays of antiques, gifts, gateaux and chocolate - definitely need to go back and enjoy (and sample!) them at a more leisurely pace! The city has been vulnerable to flooding and some of the buildings close to the river Odet have plaques to indicate the levels to which the water has risen, in the last flood on 13th December 2000. Those of a petit stature should beware as water levels reached over 1.5m in places! We finished our walk by heading West along the South bank of the Odet past the famous Quimper pottery factories (and Biscuiterie!) to the Eglise et Prieure de Locmaria. In contrast to the Catherdral, this earlier building was much plainer, but if anything, more beautiful and atmospheric, definitely, my favourite. (Photo above taken in the cloister there.) Then to the Jardin Medieval next to the church for refreshments. The garden is symbolic of 'Paradis', a series of beds of herbs, fruits canes, arches, rose pergolas, and a fountain, interspersed with benches where you can sit and contemplate. A cup of juice and a delicious slice of bananaless banana cake, and Paradis was complete!

Karen W

Friday, September 19, 2008

Meet the Members (1)

Kay & Steve Attwell (pictured not in Brittany!)

We bought our house in Morlaix, in 2004, after I retired from the Fire Service after 30 years. I worked as a Crew Commander at Sunbury, Esher and Godstone. Kay is a self-employed stone mason and was the first female apprentice to enter the male dominated trade at the tender age of 16. Among her clients are the Duke of Devonshire and The National Trust. My only claim to fame is having played rugby at Twickenham and my Great Aunt is Mabel Lucie Attwell the children's book illustrator.
We chose Brittany for the varied countryside and rugged coastline. Our hobbies are diving and walking so for us it's ideal. We were fortunate enough to meet Wendy (Mewes) at Morlaix market and have enjoyed walking with her ever since. We both appreciate the very sociable outings with Brittany Walks and have discovered many stunning areas of Brittany by joining the guided walks. The homemade cakes are always scrumptious.

Thursday, September 18, 2008


Preparing for our Quimper event next week (Tuesday 23, 2.30pm by Tourist Office) when we will have a guided historical walk around this lovely city, taking in the riverside boulevards, the famous cathedral, bishop's palace, old medieval centre and fortifications, two interesting gardens and the pottery centre at Locmaria, also site of the oldest religious establishment. Quimper with its notable religious traditions, still retains the air of a rural centre, despite being the administrative capital of Finistere, with the green height of Mount Frugy above the city and flowery passerelles spanning the Odet.

Monday, September 15, 2008

green ways

Canals have long provided easy long-distance walking paths across Brittany. Major projects in the last few years have now opened hundreds of kilometres of old railway tracks for walkers and cyclists. Routes from Roscoff to Concarneau and Carhaix to Le-Meen-Le-Grand provide a main axis in the west, with Carhaix taking its traditional place as the centre of a communications network. The concept is admirable, but there are drawbacks and the art of maintaining a balance between development and natural routes is always a fine one. Paths gravelled or even covered with tarmac make for ease of stride but do little to enhance the countryside, and fairly level standard width tracks often lined by tall trees cannot provide quite the same quality of walking experience as the coastal paths or chemins creux and open moorland trails of the infinitely varied Breton countryside. On the other hand, these green ways are a superb resource for straightforward physical exercise and for getting about Brittany, making forages into the wilder surroundings and settlements.
The association is preparing an up-to-date guide to the green ways now available - coming soon on the website (

Thursday, September 11, 2008

day in the life of Brittany Walks

Fairly typical day of association business today: answering email messages from members, making arrangements for the History of Brittany course we are offering in 2009, writing publicity material, preparing the Autumn/Spring programme for printing, listing items for inclusion in the October bulletin, writing out recipes for the booklet we are publishing before Xmas. That was the morning. This afternoon, an exploratory walk to check if a route is suitable for the group for future inclusion in the programme. Yes, it is!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

wild wet walking

The Monts d'Arrée are best seen in wild weather. Yesterday the association outing of 14 courageous individuals braved heavy rain to view the neolithic allée couverte at Mougau Bihan, but chickened out of walking the Korrigan trail on planks through the marshes. We went to my house for coffee instead. Once fortified with cake in traditional Brittany Walks style we ventured out again, having a short walk at Le Relec and visiting the 12th century abbey church before going on to meet Dartmoor ponies on the moorland of the Landes de Cragou. The theme of the day was landscape (landes et tourbières, moor and marsh) and man's earliest traces in this distinctive region, the highest hills in Brittany. We finished at the menhirs of Pont-an-Illis. The name ('the bridge of the church') recalls a legend of St-Conven whose followers attempted to build a church between the two menhirs but found their work destroyed during each night. Finally a statue of the saint was put on an ox cart and the beasts allowed to wander where they would. At the final stopping point, the new church was built. They were clearly patient animals, as the current position of Plougonven indicates.