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Report 1981: Megaliths, Parish Closes and Cider - Part 2 Morbihan

By Eleanor from UK, Fall 2011

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Page 22 of 27: Blavet Valley - St Nicholas-des-Eaux and Surrounding Area

photo by MAW

View over St Nicholas-des-Eaux from Site de Castennec

St Nicholas-Des-Eaux is a small town built on the side of the hill overlooking the River Blavet with 18thC shale houses. At beginning of the 20thC it was an important trading port; importing foodstuffs, coal and fertiliser and exporting pit props. Now there is little traffic along the river apart from pleasure boats.

The church is at the top of the hill and is a large building which was completely empty apart from a wooden swirling sculpture (part of the art in churches exhibitions in the area at the time) which filled the church. We found this very intrusive and it meant we couldn’t enjoy the architecture of the church. It also made photography difficult. The church is very plain with lime washed walls and a carved frieze along the top of the walls. It has a splendid west doorway.

About a mile from the town in open countryside is Chapelle St-Nicodème whose elegant, open work spire stands as a landmark for miles. In September 2011 this was undergoing a major restoration project and a notice on the door said the chapel was open daily in August but only on certain days in September. There is a massive fountain by the west door which empties into three pools.

To the south of St Nicholas-des-Eaux reached along a network of minor roads is St-Adrien, a tiny settlement in the middle of the nowhere with a few old houses around the 15thC chapel. This is cross shape with equal size ‘arms’. Inside it felt neglected and unloved, although there was scaffolding up in the nave as repair work was being done on the roof. There are no pews. The walls are lime washed and there are the remains of wall paintings above the south door and on part of the roof. There is a decorative carved frieze round the top of the walls. There are simple stone altars in the north and south aisles with old, simply carved and painted statues. The high altar at the east end is a painted table with little decoration. Outside there is a small calvary and fountain to the south with another small fountain to the north. This is a hidden gem which doesn’t merit a mention in the guide books or on the Internet. It is well worth finding.

Close to St Nicholas-des-Eaux on the main road going west is Site De Castennec, which gets one star in Michelin guide to Brittany (who use a three star rating system) with the comment “this Celtic site became an oppidium and then a fortified Roman camp.” I couldn’t find out any further information on the web.

There is a small car park and a sign to the viewpoint. This is a short walk with a few steps to a viewing platform, high above the river Blavet. There are good views across green pastureland and woodland or, the other way, to St Nicolas-des-Eaux. The river here makes a big loop and the neck of the peninsula is only 100m across at its narrowest point. The peninsula was the site of a fortified Roman town. It is worth stopping for the views.

Continuing on this road, we took the turn for Bieuzy and first left which is signed Chapelle St-Gildas. The road drops steeply down the side of the valley to a small parking area by two old stone houses (a real sun trap). A track drops down to the chapel. This is 15/16thC and built into the side of the massive cliff face we had seen from Site de Castennac. The chapel was built in two separate phases. There is a bell set in the cliff above. Steps lead to a large rock which may have served as an outdoor pulpit. Unfortunately the chapel was closed. There are nice views of the River Blavet and woodland. This is a good spot to drop out.

Melrand is a large and pleasant settlement with old houses around the 1774 church. This was fairly simple inside. The choir is very stylish with pale grey/aqua paneling with gold decoration and paintings in the panels.

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