Central Brittany Journal – September 2009 On and Off the Beaten Track 21 On & Off the Beaten Track Léhon—Gateway to the Rance valley W e stumbled on Léhon while cycling along the Ille & Rance canal to the fortress city of Dinan.
Emerging from the tree-lined towpath onto a little communal road, the skyline was suddenly dominated by the ruins of an imposing fortress crouching on a rocky outcrop which rises steeply from the river.
Closer investigation revealed a charming old town—one of Brittany’s 21 Petites Cités de Caractère—and the 12th century abbey of St.
Magloire, abandoned at the Revolution, but now beautifully restored.
The town nestles in the wooded Rance valley to the south of Dinan.
Indeed, approaching from the north you would think yourself in a suburb, while from the south you have the impression of being quite remote.
There has been a river crossing there since Roman times: a ford for around a thousand years, followed by a succession of bridges, ﬁrst in wood and later in stone.
The present single-track incumbent is a pleasing double arch, one broad, to accommodate canal trafﬁc, and the other narrow.
Its weathered appearance belies its relative youth, since it was rebuilt in 1946 following the German retreat in 1944.
Monks established a community at Léhon as early as the mid-9th century, and during the 10th century the ﬁrst fortiﬁcations, a timber palisade and bailey, were constructed.
The ﬁrst stone castle was started early in the 11th century and was designed to protect both monastery and river crossing, as well as the little town that had begun to grow up around the monastic foundation.
Henry II of England laid siege to Léhon in 1168, but was unable to take it (unsurprisingly in the era before gunpowder), so he sacked the surrounding countryside instead.
Under the peace treaty agreed with France the following year, the original castle was pulled down and it was to be another 100 years before it was rebuilt by Rolland de Dinan.
It is the remains of his work you see today, when you have sweated your way up the long, steep rampart to the gates.
In 2003, the municipality embarked on a three year project to restore parts of the castle, notably the towers— the arrow slits are a delight for children—and the 360° view from the walls is magniﬁcent.
Seen from the Rance, abbey, church, town and castle create a truly romantic setting, much loved by artists since the 19th century, and a delightful place to which to escape. How to get there From the south take the D766 for Dinan and St.
You can also go to the centre of Dinan and follow the signs to approach from the north.
Better still, park near the Rance and then approach on foot or bike following GR 34 C.
The former abbey church is open all year, as is the castle to which entry is free, but access to the abbey and museum is by appointment only between September and June.
For further information, contact the Mairie at Léhon on 02 96 87 40 40, or the tourist ofﬁce at Dinan on 02 96 87 69 76, or go to http://mairie.pagesproorange.fr/lehon-22/ Richard Grifﬁths. Can you recommend a place on or off the beaten track? richardgrifﬁths@gmail.com Central Brittany Journal – September 2009 22 Spanish Mustangs Spanish Mustangs come to Brittany Meet the Horse that helped shape America! Rowan and Mark Stanford moved with their Spanish Mustangs to Bulat Pestivien in the Cotes d’Armor in December 2007 with the hope of being able to reintroduce the famous Spanish Mustang Breed into Europe. — Roman Brittany In Roman times there was a well-maintained network of roads criss-crossing the Breton peninsula something that has not been matched to this day. PORTUS NAMETUM (Nantes) one for the cities on the north coast and the other for cities on the south coast.
This cumbersome arrangement does not meet the needs of modern industries, which depend upon short supply chains and good logistics for their success.
It is more than likely that if the transport system of Western Brittany had been properly planned, then, by now, the region would have experienced an economic boom caused by businesses moving into the area to take advantage of its favourable geographic location ie on mainland Europe, but close to the UK, and relatively close to the USA, and its mild climate and fantastic beaches.
However, an idea that is perhaps even more intriguing is that it may be a blessing that Western Brittany managed to escape the attention of the central planners.
Areas that have experienced economic booms have found that once the process begins, modern transportation systems take on a life of their own, and soon start to dominate rather than facilitate life in the area that they are supposed to serve: the more money that people earn, the more they exert their right to own vehicles (and to use them), and, as a result trafﬁc levels start to increase and increase without any apparent limit.
In most successful, urban environments, trafﬁc is now cited as the greatest cause of stress, and the greatest threat to a reasonable quality of life.
Ironically, the desire to get away from trafﬁc is one of the most powerful factors that motivates people to move from busy cities to places like Central Brittany: a fact which raises serious questions for the best way forward for transport provision in the region. Eco Transport City planners around the world are aware, to a greater or lesser extent, that trafﬁc is becoming a very serious problem, and a range of innovative measures have been introduced in an attempt to improve the quality of city life – bicycle lanes, congestion charges, improved bus services, new tram lines, pedestrian zones, trafﬁc calming measures, etc.
Unfortunately, however, none of these things can change the underlying fact that every single thing that people in a city need for their daily lives – food, drink, clothes, building materials, fuel, and almost everything else – has to be transported in, and all the waste material that they produce has to be transported out, which, in the modern world, means big roads, a lot of lorries, and thousands of vans.
What is interesting about transport in rural areas, is that they are not saddled with any comparable insurmountable problem.
The Breton countryside, for example, has supported a larger population www.thecbj.com Central Brittany Journal – September 2009 30 Transport in the past than the total number of people who live here today, without the beneﬁt of any modern transportation whatsoever.
If it has been achieved in the past, there is no reason why it cannot be achieved again, and in theory at least, there is no reason why Central Brittany should not have a carbon-neutral, pollution-free, people-friendly transport system.
We are free to look at all the various transport options that exist in the world today, and to make rational decisions about what changes could be made that would actually improve the quality of life in the towns and villages of Central Brittany.
In terms of the impact on the environment, walking is by far the best way of getting around, followed by horse-drawn transport, then bicycles, then public transport, then private cars, and probably worst of all, by air transport.
One simple thing that could be done is to encourage different forms of transport in proportion to their position on this scale of eco-friendliness.
Of amalgamating small ﬁelds to make large ones.
It ought not to be too difﬁcult, however, for communes to restore these paths, and to improve some of them slightly so that they can be used by people with pushchairs or wheelchairs.
If such an initiative was linked to an extension of the excellent auto-entrepreneur programme, it might be possible to encourage farmers and smallholders to start regular village markets that people could get to on foot, thereby greatly cutting down the number of journeys made in cars.
People could also use the paths to get to school, as they did in the old days. Walking: For several thousand years prior to the late 1900s, Central Brittany was graced with an intricate network of paths (known in Breton as ar wennogen) that more or less linked everywhere with everywhere else.
These paths fell into disuse in the 1970s and many have been lost in the process Lannion Horse transport: One of the main reasons why horses have fallen into disuse as a means of transport, is not because they are inefﬁcient, slow, or unpopular, but because it is simply no fun taking any form of horse-drawn transport onto a road that is used by cars and lorries.
There are, in fact, thousands of people who would be only too happy to use this form of transport if they were given even the slightest encouragement by the authorities.
There is therefore an obvious need for routes reserved for horse-drawn vehicles, so that people can use them in safety without their animals being frightened by fast-moving, trafﬁc. Paimpol — Carhaix Loudiac Douarnenez QUIMPER Pontl’Abbé Rosporden Pontivy RENNES Ploërmel Concarneau Quimperlé Hennebont Messac Railway lines built in Brittany between 1855 and 1905 l’Ouest Railway Company Double-track lines Single-track lines Narrow-Gauge lines Paris – Orléans Railway Company Double-track lines Single-track lines LORIENT Auray Châteaubriant Questembert VANNES Quiberon Guérande Pontchâteau Savenay Redon Le Croisic St-Nazaire NANTES Central Brittany Journal – September 2009 Transport 31 Bicycles: Cyclists tend to be more tolerant of motor vehicles than are horses, but, even so, it is not fair that bicycles should be expected to share the road with vehicles which pose a signiﬁcant risk to their lives and health.
Many more people would cycle the few miles to their nearest town if they had access to a bicycle route where they felt safe.
One idea that has been suggested is that Central Brittany’s old narrowgauge railway network could be redeveloped into a system of cycle routes.
Public Transport and Taxis: The traditional problems associated with public transport in rural areas are cost and inﬂexibility.
Both of these could be solved by a combination of an innovative use of modern technology and new regulations.
For instance, local authorities could set up websites where people could log in their transport requests: buses and taxi ﬁrms could respond with offers of appropriate pickup times, drop-off points and costs, and everything could be arranged online on a day-to-day basis.
Also, if regulations were changed, anyone with a car could offer a lift-sharing or local taxi service, as and when they had time available.
It is possible to imagine that such a system could quickly give rise to an efﬁcient, community-oriented transport system with a much lower level of private car ownership, and considerable savings for everyone. — Central Brittany Journal – September 2009 Classiﬁed 45 Building & Property Services continued from page 42 M.
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