Last Sunday was another perfect day for a little adventure along the water, this time the Rance River over the barrage on the left bank. The blue sky, the green grass and the turquoise of the river were all intense, almost dazzling. It was one of those spring days when one is enchanted by nature’s variety and fecundity. In other words, spring is in full force.
The main objective of our outing was to visit the Chantier de la Passagère (a shipyard near Quelmer, a charming little bourg along the Rance) where an old tug is moored, awaiting refurbishing. Our Breton friend Bernard has told us about the history and bright future of La Mouette (the Seagull), which began its life in Holland and has recently arrived in France to be converted into a green energy commercial ship. A French association that Bernard works with has the ambitious plan to enable low carbon delivery of goods throughout France. La Mouette is the first step towards realizing this goal. The idea is to create a fleet of ships which are powered by wind, with sails and green electricity. Goods will be loaded onto ships, taken to other French ports for unloading and then transported inland by electric or hydrogen powered vehicles. La Mouette is to be the guinea pig for this pioneering operation. Once converted the ship will be taking goods between St. Malo and Dinan along the Rance. Big Plans! Exciting stuff!
The yard, which we had actually visited before, is also a ship graveyard, boats in various stages of decay, lie akimbo here and there, making it a very picturesque but somewhat spooky place.
While we were looking around, we noticed that lots of people were walking past us, ignoring the boats altogether. We realized there was a path leading along the riverbank and since the day was so pleasant, we found a trail head a little further down the road and joined the throng. A Sunday walk after lunch is a French tradition.
The path was quite narrow in many places so we were required to pull over when we met another group traveling in the opposite direction. On the way out the river was on our left. The path followed its sinuous direction. At every turn a beautiful new view.
France has a long history with walking and many of the 180,000 km of trails were made centuries ago when much travel was done on foot. These same trails are very well used and maintained today.
Before entering the copse that made up the greater part of the trail, we walked through a field capped by a border of shrubs, called a bocage. These hedges were the traditional way to divide fields and were ubiquitous all over northern France before the Second World War. I became very interested in them when I learned that the German and American armies destroyed many of them in the pursuit of their fight. As with the many bombarded villages, this decimation caused the complete destruction of a certain way of French rural life. After the war the bocages were not replanted, as agriculture became mechanized. They were no longer practical or desirable. But a bocage is a marvelous thing. It is an protective environment for birds, of course, and it effectively and beautifully separates one space from another. This one had flowering hawthorns and was glorious to behold.
Wild iris and other delights greeted us along the way.
If I could freeze a moment in time and put it in my back pocket for a rainy day, I would definitely choose a spring afternoon just like this one.