Chateaux De Bosmelet, Normandy, France – West Beach, Newhaven, UK
Diep Haven Festival 2018 France / UK
Photography credit: Mac Praed Media, Diep-Haven Festival 2018
‘Avenue’ was created simultaneously in Normandy and on Newhaven’s West Beach along a laser axis between the two countries. The work seeks to explore the historical connection between the French and English landscape through an exchange of local material – chalk – between the two coasts, with each 'avenue' being formed with material displaced from the others coast. The line follows the exact trajectory of the proposed path of the V1 missile route, these doodlebugs were developed and built by the Nazis at Chateau de Bosmelet as part of an uncovered plot to bomb Britain.
Creating avenues of trees is one of the oldest ideas in landscaping. The etymology of avenue originates from the French word ‘Venir’ meaning ‘to come’, it emphasises arrival; a clear route, a path, a trajectory. These lines in the landscape are both static and signal movement, when surveying an avenue your eye travels along its axis from one end to another, there is a start and a finishing point, in this way it is transportative; a journey from one part of the landscape to another.
Lime trees were used to plant avenues due to their quick growing capabilities but also because of their long life span, the lime trees at Chateaux Bosmelet were planted by the great Le Nôtre’s gardener, Colinet, around 1718 and form the longest avenue in Europe.
This form of landscaping was first devised to frame the landscape in a way that emphasized the prestige and grandeur of man-made architecture. However as a consequence of war and revolution, in many cases the architecture no longer exists, while the avenues remain very much the same as they did hundreds of years ago; lines of trees now ending in space.
There is a long association between war and tree avenues. Across many countries avenues (in particular Limes avenues) have been planted to honour fallen soldiers. In 2016 there was much controversy in Sheffield when the council ordered the 96 Lime trees planted in 1918 to commemorate the soldiers lost in the 1st World War to be cut down.
In a letter home during the 1st World War, the English officer A.D Gillespie proposed an avenue of trees be planted along the Western front in commemoration of the horrors of the Great War, this idea was positively received but never carried out. Gillespie proposed this as both memorial and also pilgrimage, emphasising the idea that an avenue of trees functions both as a physical trace (a monument, a drawing) but also as conduit for movement
‘I wish that when peace comes, our government might combine with the French government to make one long avenue between the lines,’ he wrote. ‘Then I would like to send every man, woman and child in Western Europe on pilgrimage along that via sacra so that they might think and learn what war means from the silent witnesses on either side.’ A.D Gillespie