Posts Tagged ‘Brittany’

A moped

August 14, 2016

The year is 1974 and the location is Brittany in France. It was the first time I had been to visit our Gallic friends and neighbours and I enjoyed seeing how similar they were to us, yet with many differences to enjoy. In visiting Brittany I probably ought to compare with the west of Ireland rather than the more prosperous south of England. The lifestyle I saw in the parts of Brittany visited was certainly more akin to the west of Ireland.

But youngsters and older people were allowed to ride mopeds which to my eyes were of a fairly primitive kind and here is one from 1974 – forty two years ago.


This little beast is little more than a bicycle relying on pedal power. But that strange front carrier holds a little motor which I believe spins a wheel which rubs against the front wheel of the bike driving it along. It was a simple system which certainly allowed a peddler to let the engine take the strain. I can’t imagine it did much good to the front tyre which must have worn out quickly.

The brake levers seem to be mounted the opposite way round to our UK bikes – but I say ‘vive la difference’.

We can also see that the car behind has the once compulsory (in France) yellow headlamp. Then bike is not equipped with luxuries like lamps.

Interesting – and I never did see anything just like it in the UK.

Quimper Market

August 10, 2016

One of the things you don’t always notice in real time is that ways of life change – people move on. Looking back at older photographs can bring these things to the front.

Yet having said that, I can’t be sure things have moved on. Maybe there are still people selling a few odds and ends at market stalls out in Brittany in France. For it was at Quimper and back in 1974, that I took this photo.


This chap looked so typically Gallic with his beret. I just had to take a snap of him with his box of apples and splendid blooms. I find it hard to imagine that anyone would take such a small collection to a market stall now. Actually, I’d love to be wrong. It would be good to think this less grand scale style of life continued.

I think, though, I captured a little bit of an old France which has gone. This is being written after the awful carnage in Nice – no doubt always a far cry from Brittany, but who can say we live in a better world now?

The village Pump

July 26, 2016

This is an example of me liking simple mechanical devices. There are people who think I’m a computer expert but frankly I’m not. I’m as good as the next person at shutting a computer down and restarting it if it isn’t behaving properly. It usually sorts things out. Back in the 1980s I earned money writing programs and articles for magazines and even appeared on technical help desks at shows. But we are talking about more than thirty years ago and maybe back then I did have expertise.

But my preference has always been for simple mechanical things for I reckon I reasonably fully understand how they work. I like pumps – those village pumps that folks used to have to use to get their water. This one, with me alongside, is actually in Brittany at a lovely place called Camaret.


I suspect this is a lift pump. Your job in pushing the lever down was to reduce the air pressure above the water. Normal air pressure pushed the water up into the space and out of the spout. Such pumps could lift water from a depth of about thirty feet.

It isn’t the prettiest of pumps but it goes to show that I had these interests more than forty years ago for this was in 1974.

A cider press at Breventec

February 22, 2015

Back in 1994 – 21 years ago – we took the family camping in South Brittany. We found a quiet farm camp site at a place called Breventec about seven miles from the coast and something similar to the magnificent standing stones at Carnac.

Breventec had odd bits of old agricultural kit about the place and amongst them was this cider press.


The principle is simple. Apples are placed on the straw held in by the hefty wooden frame. The bit under the metal wheel – it looks a bit like an upside down pallet – is lowered by turning the wheel around. The apples are crushed between the two surfaces.

The straw acts like a filter or sieve. Only juice falls into the trough below from where it can be collected and fermented to produce cider. I’m guessing someone has placed an extension handle on the wheel to enable real pressure to be applied so that every drop of juice is obtained.


Now that was just the kind of device to keep me happy all those years ago.


September 8, 2014

It’s a bit shocking when your records let you down so I’m going to say we went to Chateaulin in 1973 plus or minus a year. We went camping with friends who kindly provided us with a very cheap holiday in Brittany.

We stayed in several locations of which Chateaulin is the best remembered because we settled there for a while.

It’s a pretty place – a small town on the River Aulne which doubles up at this point as the canal between Brest and Nantes, It’s that river/canal that this post is about.

Chateaulin has a lock.


This is a big, broad lock, quite unlike those tiddly 7 feet wide locks on much of the UK network. This could take a large barge carrying a worthwhile load. Having said that, commercial traffic was pretty well absent.

In the UK we expect a nice hefty balance beam, to rest on whilst the lock fills and then to push on at the appropriate time. Over the channel we seemed to get a pole to pull with.


Yes, that’s me pulling on the pole. Just one slip would see me tumbling backwards into the river, beyond.

The paddle gear was quite un-English as well. There are no open cogwheels or rack and pinion. There’s just a covered red box with a rack passing through it.


Of course, we had no windlass so that was left well alone – as it would have been anyway.

The river, alongside, tumbles over a man-made weir.


There’s a sluice to help control water levels in the event of the river being in spate.

The totally up to date Wikipedia records that Chateaulin is a major place in the salmon business. No wonder a fish ladder was provided to enable the salmon, heading upstream to spawn, to overcome the change in levels caused by man’s interference. When the navigation was built, the gentle flow of the river down to the wild Atlantic had to be converted into a series of weirs and locks to maintain a depth of water for boats. But the salmon, which can actually manage prodigious jumps, were not forgotten.


There’s a series of easily managed jumps for salmon, alongside the weir.

All photos were taken on my little Canon demi using Agfachrome 64 slide film.

A bus in Brittany

June 9, 2014

In 2002 we holidayed in Brittany – a delightful area of France which is different from much of the country, not least in having an ancient language which lives on in many place names. It is akin to Cornwall in many ways.

At Plougrescant we came across a very English item – a double decker bus.


This looks to me (and I don’t claim to be an expert) like a Bristol Lodekka, probably with a body by Eastern Coach Works. And as another aside, I recall seeing chassis being driven from Bristol to Lowestoft with drivers, wrapped up against the cold, sitting out in the open. It seemed a strange business to me to drive them 250 miles for the body to be fitted, but that was now it was.

This bus was run by Crosville from new in 1954 until 1971. From there she went to Europe and had several different owners. We saw her during her time with Publibus. And what a fine sight she was, albeit a tad incongruous on the narrow Brittany roads.

The Last of the Past

February 19, 2014

Forty years ago

I find it hard to believe that 1974 was forty years ago. It feels like such a short time ago and I remember it so well. But the maths tells me it really was forty years ago so I have to believe it.

We went to France for a holiday that year. We went with friends who kindly took us. They had a camper van and they loaned us a little tent and having arrived in Cherbourg, we headed off to Brittany.

It was an eye opener for me. I hadn’t realised that this part of France had something akin to a peasant economy at the time. There were sights to be seen that just wouldn’t be seen in my part of England, and probably hadn’t been seen for more than twenty years. Here’s one of them.


I was truly amazed to find a horse doing real farm work. That was something I never saw in my part of England and yet here, little more than 100 miles from England, we were in a world where history was still living. The horse, with its mower, was resting as the farmer raked up the cuttings.

The more peasant like theme continued at market.


This chap sat in the market hall with a few apples for sale. He was every inch the beret wearing Frenchman.

I’m so glad we made that trip for of course, modernisation came. More recent trips to the area have made the area seem more like home. Tractors work the fields and there are far fewer sellers of a few items than once there were. Markets are bigger and brasher.

It was lovely to see the last of the past.

Brittany – Castel Meur

April 16, 2013

This is going to start by being a map recommendation. I certainly don’t go out of my way to endorse products. My wife and I fight very shy of wearing clothes which proclaim who the manufacturer is, sometimes going as far as unpicking embroidered names from second hand clothes. But when it comes to maps, I want the best. In the UK that means Ordnance Survey and I was really lucky that someone I knew made a mistake which ended up with me being given all of the 1:50000 series of maps covering the entire country. They are now quite old and out of date, but so so useful.

But our Ordnance Survey is not matched elsewhere and we have been fairly frequent visitors to France. It’s harder over there – well, nobody has given me maps for the whole country and it is a much bigger area than our little UK. Once in an area, we do our utmost to buy the local maps at a scale of 1:100 000 or about an inch on the map represents about a mile and a half of reality. These are made by a company called IGN (Institiut Géographique National)and give you something like a 100 kilometre square (That’s about 60 miles). Here’s one of them.


I have to say it looks as though we bought this one in England for a pencilled price says £3.50. On this occasion, back in 2002, we knew where we were heading for. That isn’t always the case.

As we can see, the map has a pretty picture – a house weirdly wedged between rocks. Underneath, in tiny writing it tells us this is ‘environs de Tréguier’. Well, being quite close, we had to go and find this strange house.


We weren’t so lucky with the weather as the map photographer But it really is there. It was built in 1861 and was made famous by a postcard although the house is still privately owned. It is sometimes known as Castel Meur.

Being on a map and now well documented on the web, I suppose it isn’t unusual, but it is somewhat off the beaten track and on the other side of the house there is the wild Atlantic Ocean.

It isn’t easy to find! I dare say getting there is easy these days, with sat nav (that’s a technology I haven’t taken to). Otherwise, you’ll certainly need good maps!

Morlaix – 1st August 2002

January 4, 2013

This could be another story of a French bridge, for the railway viaduct at Morlaix is, in my eye, a magnificent structure. It strides across the Brittany town and appears incredibly lofty. Its actual height of 62 metres makes it a mere baby when compared with the Millau Viaduct but then Morlaix dates from the 1860s.

Anyway, I was there on 1st August 2002 and here’s the photo of the viaduct.


But the viaduct lost my attention as my ear heard the distinctive sound of live steam at road level. First one, then a couple and then a whole collection of steam cars drove in to Morlaix and parked up in the town.



All of the cars were British. This one dates from 1909


This one dates from 1910.


A 1911 model.


It was an unexpected and unlooked for pleasure to chat with the enthusiasts who owned or drove these lovely vehicles.

But let’s not ignore Morlaix. It’s a lovely place.