The Mill, Pale Moonlight – click any image for full size
Just as in the physical world, there are certain places in Second Life we’re drawn back to again and again. This might be because the place has special significance, or because it is held by friends or offers a opportunities or photography or simple enjoyment, or because it is like the seasons – constantly changing and renewing.
For me, The Mill encompasses all of the things, and so is a natural choice for semi-regular revisits. Designed by friends Max (Maxie Daviau) and Shakespeare (SkinnyNilla), it is an ever-evolving place, always marvellously landscaped and presented, beautifully photogenic and delightfully restful.
Celebrating spring and summer, this version of The Mill takes us to what might be the Apennine Mountains – perhaps, going on the style of buildings here, the Tuscan–Emilian Apennines. Surrounded by tall, rugged peaks, the rocky dome of a hill (or if you prefer, an island) rises from the waters of (again, depending on your point of view) either a lake within the mountains, or the confluences of rivers running through them.
The majority of this island hill is given over to a farm where grapes and sunflowers are being cultivated. The farmhouse sits at the top of the hill, surrounded by woodland trees, wild grass and the nearest field of sunflowers. It is reached by a meandering track that slowly winds its way up the hill, passing further rows of regimented sunflowers and flat-topped outcrops of rock, content in taking its time to reach the farm, its wandering course encouraging visitors to do the same.
Few of the rocky tables pushing their way clear of the hill’s slope and grass are bare, Instead, each offers a point of interest – a folly, an artist’s studio, a swing beneath an aged, bent tree exerting a tenacious grip on the rock under it. Thus, each becomes a destination in its own right, filled with detail, enticing people to tarry, rather than hurrying onwards.
The track, which runs alongside the landing point, offers a fork which leads around the east shoulder of the hill to a steep slope falling away to the waters below. Here tall beech trees watch over a parade of vines already heavy with ripening grapes while a small summer-house sits close by, atop another outcrop and offering views both inland and out over the water. On the north side of the land, the grassy slopes roll gently down towards the water’s edge, pointing to a café sitting atop a square promontory. Bracketing this and forming the shoreline, is a sandy beach to one side, and a grassy, gravelled bank on the other, connected to the track above by a terraced board walk.
One of the things that repeatedly attracts me to The Mill is the way the landscapes designed by Shakespeare and Max are always beautifully natural. In this design, the blending of grassy slopes, woodland copses, the mix of gentle slopes and rocky outcrops and the way in which the natural contours of the hill are used for buildings and tracks, etc., is a perfect reflection of how such a place would appear in the physical world. Fenced grazing for horses is provided in a natural step in the hill, sheep wander the slopes as they wish; everything is as nature (and human needs) would intend.
There is also an attention to detail here that is exquisite, be it the inclusion of livestock and wildlife, or little touches such as the shaded beehives, the sprinkler feeding the sunflowers and all the little signs of habitation that bring the farm to life, and the little knick-knacks to be found inside the studio, folly and so on. All of this further brings The Mill wonderfully to life.
With plenty of opportunities to simply sit and admire the landscape and enjoy the accompanying sound scape, or to wander through the long grass and between the trunks of beech, oak, pine and birch, The Mill continues to offer something for every lover of nature and much to please the eye and lens of any photographer.
- The Mill (Pale Moonlight, rated Moderate)