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South of my stamping grounds near the River Orne in Normandy are two rivers that I would like to explore photographically. One is the Mayenne and the other is the Sarthe.
A reasonable forecast coincided with a couple of free days and I drove down to Mayenne, a town that I had been to once, in not very nice weather, and decided that it would be better to photograph it in morning light. With my Fuji kit in its backpack, I headed to the town and determined to put up with a rough night on the quayside car park in a vehicle that has not enough room to stretch out in.
The Mayenne River runs strongly through the town and is canalised (in the 19th century) with 21 unmanned locks as it heads to Laval (the capital of the Mayenne department). Opposite the large car-park, on the other bank of the river is a grand château and a very large church both morning lit with excellent views from the river side and the nearby bridges.
The next town is Laval, once the premier manufacturing town for linen.
Beatrix of Gavere, the wife of Guy IX of Laval in the 13th century, was Flemish and was said to have started an industry of weaving linen some of which was the finest made (royales and demi-Hollande), reserved for royalty and the aristocracy. Lower mortals had to be content with a lower grade linen some of which was made in lower quality mills in Laval and in nearby Mayenne.
After a afternoon looking around Laval, a town I had never been before, I went to the Château that now hosts an interesting art gallery, specialising in naive art, The painter, Douanier (Henri)Rousseau was born in Laval and the gallery houses 3 of his artworks albeit very under lit and difficult to read. Also in the gallery are three works by Youen Durand, exquisitely made three dimensional pieces made from tiny pieces of broken sea shells – well worth the visit to the gallery for these alone. The gallery is housed in several rooms over two floors and is interesting just because of where it is.
I was rewarded for hanging around waiting for the light by the river (sitting on a pontoon style bar nursing a beer and a sandwich) with some early evening light and a view down the river towards the château.
I made a couple of detours by the river on the way back to Mayenne resulting in a shot of a beautiful ivy covered ex-lock-keeper’s cottage.
Sleeping (or rather not sleeping) in the car, I listened to Radio 4 long wave to hear the awful news that the “Little Englanders” had succeeded, resulting in Britain withdrawing from the European Union. Great Britain will loose Scotland and become England and Wales and Europe will be the looser as well as ourselves and the planet, as measures to fight climate change and protect other species will be eroded by our split.
I was slightly cheered by some lovely morning light and some shots of Mayenne from the river.
I drove back past the huge dam with its impressive hydro electric generator and some pretty scenes of the upper Mayenne river, no longer canalised, with just some pretty weirs to hold back water.
If you are near Mayenne, why not visit nearby Lassay-les-Chateaux, an interesting town with a lovely medieval chateau, a lake and a period style garden on several levels with views back to the chateau. The town has a connection with Chretien de Troyes and is said to have been an inspiration for is story and poems about Lancelot of the Lake.
I will try, in the not too distant future, to head down further south where the canalised Mayenne joins the Sarthe and River Oudon eventually flowing into the mighty River Loire.
For more rivers and towns follow this link to my page “Down where the Rivers Are”
And look at the page on Angers and my journey to La Loire, longest of the French rivers.