|We met the young and lovely Spaceship Mark in bright sunshine at the main car park by the Kermario alignments. His pockets were bulging with detailed maps and a much-loved copy of Burl's 'Megalithic Brittany'. Mark was living and working in a campsite literally just opposite the alignments. Now that would be a great place to have your hols!
The alignments are particularly complete here and consist of some really big, tall stones. We stopped to admire them and to see the Lann Mané dolmen which lies just next to them close to the road.
The alignments are not open for visitors to walk amongst during the summer months so we couldn't actually get in. This didn't spoil my enjoyment at all; a clear view unsullied by visitors was good enough for me.
Breton expert Mark had accompanied Julian on his fact-finding mission for his book 'The Megalithic European' (TME) two years before and from what I could gather Mark had not visited many of the sites we would see today since then. Our first stop was just a 300metre walk away Kerluir dolmen and menhir.
In TME Julian recounts the story of his and Mark's visit to this place and the gorse-diving necessary to reach it. As we approached we saw that a convenient path had been cut through the 'ajonc' to reach it. This disappointed Mark as I think he liked the difficulty/reward thing but pleased me as I am rather susceptible to gorse splinters. Today the gorse was in full bloom and it was like walking through a golden forest which was alive with green- and goldfinches. The dolmen is sweet and small and amazingly the capstone is held up by only two uprights. Exit the gorse and walk 15metres to up close and personal with the porpoise-like Kerluir menhir.
Julian mentions the similarity this stone has to a cetacean's head in his book and he's absolutely right. Weathering has given it a long groove down one side that smiles at you like a dolphin asking for a herring.
From here, Mark pointed out the alignment of these monuments directly between tumulus St Michel in the west and Kercado tumulus to the west.
'Where now, Spaceship Mark?' I asked. 'Up there!' he replied, pointing at Kercado tumulus just a kilometer away.
Kercado tumulus is the oldest monument here, dated at 5,000 'avant J.C'. Seven thousand years old. It was very cool. It's privately owned so visitors have to pay but there was no one in the booth so we just walked right in. Situated at the highest point around, now surrounded by mature woodland full of big pink jays flying around above our heads, this small mound is like nothing I've seen before. It's a mound, (like the one at Arbor Low) with a menhir on top, a stone circle embracing it and a very nice passage and large chamber inside.
We spent some time inside considering the eight great wall slabs and giant capstone with is supported not by the wall slabs, but by corbelling built above the wall slabs. This gives the impression of the capstone floating. Amazing. I loved it here. I'd like to have spent longer but Mark had another seventeen sites to show us yet… Warning: this is a LONG weblog
Just a two minute drive away from Kercado, the Géant de Manio menhir and Manio rectangle lurk in the woods. (I kept thinking of the fruity voice of Jack DeManio who, I think, was a BBC Radio 4 'Today' programme presenter. Whatever happened to him?)
The Géant de Manio is a monster menhir and obviously has very close connections to the Manio rectangle, being only 15 metres apart. I'd never seen a stone rectangle before. It has shortish stones which create a wall effect as they are quite close together. It tapers slightly to one end and there's a theory that perhaps it once enclosed a mound, but it somehow didn't feel right for that. It felt more like a meeting place to me.
We walked back through the woods to wander along the roadside by the nearby Kerlescan alignments. Astonishing stuff.
'Where now, Spaceship Mark?' I asked. 'You can't walk among these alignments' he said 'but we can walk among stones at the Petit Menec alignments.'
Again, just two minutes in the car and we're there. In thick woodland are some much lesser alignments at Petit Menec but I suspect these are not often visited and today we had this wonderful, short woodland walk to ourselves.
Dotted around among the undergrowth are some pretty cool stones. They're not as big as the ones at the main alignments at Kermario and Kerlescan. Mark wondered if this was built as an extension slightly later when many of large stones lying around had already been used at Kermario and Kerlescan. Sounded like a practical, sensible reason to me.
Le Moustoir tumulus is one of the seven Carnac Grand Tumuli, but if you didn't know it was there you may well miss it. It's so big and overgrown that it could easily be mistaken for a natural mound. But this has secrets: secret chambers – one of which you can enter, and secret stones including a gorgeous one on the top that Mark hugged enthusiastically. "It feels just like hugging your mum when you were little", he said.
I tried it. He was right. It had all the right proportions.
This was the perfect place for our picnic. Mark particularly enjoyed the Tunnock's teacakes I'd packed, as these are not available in France. He also told us of his dreams of Branston pickle, Robinson's fruit cordials and other British delights. If you go visit him ask him for his shopping list.
There are two sites at Crucuny, but only one made it into TME. The wrong one in my opinion. Crucuny tumulus is another of seven Carnac Grand Tumuli.
It's got a stone on the top and is horribly overgrown and it's big and impressive but the Crucuny cromlech is really rather thrilling.
It's a wide arc of big stones now forming the boundary between a back garden of a pleasant house and the lane. I liked this a lot and wondered if the house was for sale.
"Where now, Spaceship Mark?" I asked. "How about some dolmens?" he replied. A much longer five minute drive brought us to Dolmens de Mane Kerioned.
Sitting right by the main Roman road this complex of three dolmens has tons to enjoy. One is a classy large allée couverte with four caps still up, later I painted this. Another is rather trashed. The third is still underground bit with the top of its whopping capstone exposed at ground level. Descending the steps into the long passageway you finally reach the very large chamber which is tall enough for me to stand up in. Like an idiot I'd forgotten the torch. I dashed back to the car.
The torch revealed some terrific carvings of wavy and straight lines, crossed lines, triangles, figures and things I didn't recognise or describe.
Just metres away across the Roman road and down a muddy track are the Dolmens de Kerival. This was my first transepted dolmen; four side chambers and an end chamber off a main passage.
Most intriguing. Kerioned and Kerival must have been two parts of the same site at one time, referencing each other in the landscape before being bisected by the road.
Heading back down towards Locmariaquer, a long journey today of – oooh – at least 10 minutes, we passed through the hamlet of Beaumer and spotted the dolmen de Beaumer just standing there rather cutely in the middle of the village. Mark had completely forgotten this one, even though it's ACE.
But in an area so rich in A-list celebrity monuments, it must be easy to forget the lesser ones. I am particularly charmed by urban monuments and a real sucker for dolmens anywhere. So to see this little beauty, pert and lovely, dancing on the village green was a thrill.
Back in the car again for two minutes and up to Mané Roularde allée couverte just at the back of St Trinité sur Mer – the posh, moneyed end of Carnac town where people express their wealth with glamorous marine craft. Mané Roularde's particular feature is that it is a very VERY long allée couverte, perhaps 15 or 20 metres but only four or five feet across down its whole length.
Sadly most of its caps are gone, but I'd now seen enough allée couvertes to imagine what it was like.
"Where now, Spaceship Mark?" I asked. "How about some more dolmens?" he replied. Another three minute trip in the car and we'd found this rather nice pair, the Kerrin dolmens, at the edge of the hamlet of Kerrin at the north end of the Locmariaquer peninsula.
Ruinous, but enchanting and right by the lane side hidden in trees, this was obviously used as a den by small boys in the village. A rough and broken ladder lent against one of the capstones and a small handwritten sign attached to some bailer twine in said 'acces interdit'. Like so many dolmens round here these are forgotten and mostly unvisited (except by small boys playing 'pirates'), overshadowed by their close neighbours, in this case Mané Lud, Table des Marchants, etc. just a kilometer away.
"Where now, Spaceship Mark?" I asked. "Some weird stuff" he said. Another two minute tootle in the car took us the by now familiar car park of Table des Marchants, Er Grah and Grand Menhir Brisé. We walked past them and 100 metres down the lane towards the Locmariaquer cemetery to see the gravestone shaped liked a menhir pictured on page 84 (bottom right) in TME.
I liked the way the Fleuriot family grave referred so directly to the megalithic landscape in which the people interred here lived. Clearly la famille Fleuriot were proud of their ancient heritage and had no problem with combining that with their following of Christ who, let's face it, was a revolutionary socialist and would fit in nicely within mainstream French cultural thinking.
Anyway, round the corner from the cemetery into the village, en route towards the Mané Ruthiel we past this great broken menhir thingy. Unnamed, unmarked on maps, age unknown. 'WTF?' we wondered!
And 150 metres further on, surrounded by lovely houses and flowering trees is Mané Ruthiel. (Julian calls it Mané Rutuel, but I'm following the road sign spelling. I've also read it spelt Mané Rutual in a couple of books. Take yer pick!) This was undoubtedly Moth's favourite.
In my notebook I wrote: 'Wild! Inconceivably big!' It's a very long passage grave (about 20 metres) lined with MASSIVE wall slabs, with lots of mound still left but the most remarkable thing about it is the capstone of the main chamber (which is divvied into two rooms). The capstone is a reused menhir - a GARGANTUAN one!
Just picture the scene: a work gang moves, creates and erects a whopping great menhir. Chief carver has made a nice big human figure on it so the design can be seen from a good distance away. It looks great. But later on head honcho has a better idea. 'I know' il dit, 'let's move that menhir and use it as capstone on my new passage grave.' The work gang finish their pork chops, pick up their levers and off they troop. Moving a 100 ton stone? No problem.
The carved figure now forms the ceiling of the interior chamber but it's so big you can hardly make it out! This was indeed a cracker.
Our next stop was Luffang allée couverte which although it didn't have any capstones was quite intriguing as now it was just a banana-shaped stone-lined trench, about 15 metres along. That banana-shape again. Just like Pierre Plates and Kernours tumulus. Weird.
Very nearby in some woodland are the dolmens. These are not really public access, but we proceeded anyway. The first one Parc Guren I is up an a rise to the left to the track it's tiny entrance gaping like a mouth.
On his previous visit here, it had freaked Mark out and he left in a hurry! This time he was OK with it. He had never visited Parc Guren II and didn't even know where it was. I switched on my megalithic-seeking antenna and went into 'search' mode. I spotted an animal pathway leading up into the dense undergrowth and hacking my way through the gorse located the dolmen in a very sorry state.
Completely overgrown with thick trees and gorse growing through it, it reminded me a lot of the thrilling Treen barrows at Land's End I'd seen a 14 months before. Just like at Treen, I got to work with my knife and hands pulling vegetation out of the way to reveal the small forgotten tomb. Forty-eight hours later I was still pulling splinters out of my hands. But it was worth it. Just to know it hasn't been forgotten.
"Where now, Spaceship Mark?" I asked. The last monument of the day was to be Dolmen de Kerangoff just a few minutes drive away. At the end of a lane in a little hamlet this is yet another of those corking local dolmens that is overlooked by visitors to the area in favour of the larger monuments. This one's capstone had to be supported by an iron girder, but hey, at least it meant someone cared!
Both Moth and Mark had been trapsing around with their tripods all day, so far unused, so this seemed like a great opportunity to take a self-timer group shot of the three of us in front of the dolmen.
(I love cheesy group photos – they seem so awkward and staged at the time, but when you look back on them they're fab!) Of course, I then wanted more. I wanted one of us in front of the Kermario alignments, too. It wasn't far away after all. Nothing is very far away here. In Carnac you're never more than a few hundred metres from the next monument.
The next day was my birthday and we all needed to eat by now so we bowled up at a restaurant in Carnac Plage to dine together and celebrate. After dropping Mark back at his campsite we retired to the Hotel du Tumulus for the night we reflected that Spaceship Mark's extraordinary local knowledge had saved us so much time and enabled us to see more than we could have ever found on our own.
Thank you, Spaceship Mark. It was a great pleasure and a privilege to spend the day with you.
Posted by Jane
24th April 2005ce
Edited 24th November 2005ce
Jane's TMA Blog
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