This entry is pure self indulgence, so feel free to scroll past unless, like me, you have a thing for walls.
For starters, and what prompts the photos, is just the love of the colours and textures, I want to interpret them in knitting or quilting. I am also fascinated by the little ecosystems of flora and fauna within the walls – the stone walls which divided most properties in Connecticut where I grew up, roughly made of granite boulders piled up as best could, were heaven sent homes for chipmunks and snakes and often covered in thick moss, as they were in deep woods, at least on our property.
Here in the vineyards, the walls are mostly dry stone walls, beautifully fitted together. Only the more recent repairs or replacements use a bit of cement between layers, the older ones now have lichens, drifted soil and plants to help hold them together. Being out in blazing sun and heat they are home to little lizards – and probably other things I haven’t seen yet (and may not bear thinking about!).
But I also love walls for the metaphors to which they lend themselves, the ideas of protection, defense, secretiveness. Think of Errol Flynn, single handedly holding off dozens of bad guys, and how could he? Because he usually manoeuvred so he had a wall at his back for defense. If he was fighting with his mates, they usually fought back to back, to provide that same wall-like protection and defense for their backs. Think of the pathos of Andromache on the walls of Troy saying good bye to Hector knowing he wouldn’t return again from the battle, begging him one last time to stay, addressing him as her “strong husband” and the word for strong (θαλερος) is the same one used repeatedly throughout the Iliad to describe the walls of Troy themselves, so conveying that idea that he is her defence, her protection, and without him she will be … defenceless. Think of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden – the magic could only have happened because the garden was entirely enclosed and hidden behind walls.
I also like them because so often they are so beautiful, and like William Morris I find it very satisfying when utility possesses beauty too.
Enough… a tour of some of my favourite walls here in the Côte d’Or:
This one along one side of the Rue Curley, which leads out of Gevrey Chambertin up to the Clos des Ruchottes, wonderful lush house leeks amongst other things:
Or the one around the Clos des Ruchottes, a wonderful massive solid thing, which actually ends just out of sight on the left hand side. The wall to the right (note the stone-tiled roof!) continues unbroken up the hill, and meets the massive rear retaining wall, probably eight to ten foot high solid concrete, above which is a road and the forest. If you have ever tasted Ruchottes Chambertin – I’ve had Christophe Roumier’s 1999 and 1995 – you would understand the desire for such solid defenses! Sublime. Definitely a treasure to be guarded and strongly defended.
The wall at Les Avaux, here in Beaune, I’ve previously posted a photo of the archway to this vineyard, this is the interior wall to the left of the arch – wonderful patchwork of textures with all the repairs, and the tree proved stronger than the wall, apparently. Don’t mess with mother nature!
Walking from Beaune up over the shoulder of the hill towards Pommard, another wall seriously opposed to folks wanting to sit down. I love how the old vine stumps are almost indistinguishable from the stones.
For a different mood, this is the north wall enclosing the Parc de la Bouzaize. To walk out of Beaune to the west, towards Les Teurons, one way is out the Rue Faubourg de St. Martin, with this wall on your left, and the high decaying-stuccoed wall of the Domaine Voiret on your right. This road is entirely shaded by trees from the park, so good moss…
And finally this one – very different, absolutely modern, about seven or eight feet high, and rather gorgeous, the picture doesn’t do full justice to the tawny rosy colour of the stone. The magic of this one is its secrecy – all this artistry for something deeply buried in a thicket between vineyards and not visible unless like me you stumble into it. I had clambered up to the top of quite a steep vineyard, and didn’t really want to walk all the way back down to the road to continue south into the next one. But the next vineyard was at a considerably higher level, above an old dry stone wall – very like the ones above. So I kept walking up into the thicket, hoping maybe the levels of the two vineyards would converge and I could climb or step over the wall between. Instead, the difference in levels got greater – and the wall had been repaired with this magnificent piece of work. Off to the right I found a narrow break in the modern wall which incorporated an older stone stairway, which took me up to the level of the next vineyard. From there I had to do some more bushwhacking through thicket before I came out into the vineyard. Looking back from either vineyard, you would never have known there was a wall, a drop, anything. Magic.