A corner of England with a twist of Tolkien in Second Life

Greenhouse, December 2019 – click and image for full size

Currently in development, and with a planned “official” opening on December 28th, 2019, is a new development occupying the Blake’s Channel regions of Greenhouse (for so long the home of The Greenhouse, one of the oldest and most striking public spaces within the Blake Sea regions and their surrounds), and the neighbouring Mare Nostrum.

The development is the work of friend and artist, Drwyndwn (pronounced DROO-in-doon) Tyne, aka Drw (“Droo”), undertaken in cooperation with the Greenhouse’s creator, Aislin Keynes – who retains a house within Greenhouse – and with neighbour Transparent Banshee, who owns Foliage to the west, home of his Sky Hye Gallery (see: A Sky Hye art gallery in Second Life) and the Foliage air field.

Green house, December 2019

Greenhouse is built along the lines of an English coastal village; and while slightly idealised in places, it is certainly reflective of places that might be found around the coastline of southern England. There’s a small parish church with an accompanying vicarage, a pub very much in keeping with many a small English pub, a memorial to those the village and its surroundings have lost to the two world wars, and a pleasing mix of architectural styles to the houses and shops.

The homes in the village are available for rent, and form a part of the estates operated by Patrick Leavitt (there’s a rental office within the village). These form a mix of houses, cottages, flats and a narrowboat – with the two largest properties also offering region-sized sky platforms for use by their tenants. All of the landlocked homes come with a slip for mooring at the Greenhouse Marina on the east side of the region.

Greenhouse, December 2019

The north end of the village is marked by a large manor house that also sits alongside the Balboa Canal. I’m not sure if this will be a public building or offered for rent (work was still in progress during our visit), but the lands around the village and the marina are all largely public spaces, as are the streets, shops, church and pub in the village – although obviously the rentals are private.

Facing the village from across the marina is Sawson Park, dedicated to the memory of Chad Sawson, the previous owner of the land, who passed away in 2019. This includes a pavilion, formal garden and open meadows backed by a bubbling brook, on the far side of which is the private home of Aislin Keynes, and more meadow lands that extend into Mare Nostrum – of which more in a moment.

Greenhouse, December 2019

Drw has taken a lot of care to create an environment that is entirely natural in look and feel; the village, marina, park and open spaces are all perfectly integrated to offer a contiguous landscape facing Blake’s Channel, and which is carefully screened from the private islands to the north whilst also blending nicely with the Balboa canal and Banshee’s land to the west.

In particular, the position of the Foliage airstrip means that the village potentially offers an ideal home for those who enjoy both sailing and flying – they can make use of a slip at the marina for their boat(s) and hop across to Foliage to rez a ‘plane or helicopter for flying. In this respect, and region boundaries allowing, I wonder if an arched bridge between Greenhouse and Foliage might not be worth considering?

Greenhouse, December 2019

But what of the Tolkien reference in the title of this piece? Well, that brings us to Mare Nostrum. To reach it, take the path through the village from the landing point I’ve given, going first west towards the church, then turning north towards the manor house. You’ll come to a crossroads, the east running path of which is pointed to by a sign indicating the way to Mare Nostrum. This will take you up by path, bridge and stair up into the halls backing both Greenhouse and Mare Nostrum and the woods of En’ Duin Forest (not sure of the derivation here, other that duin is both Sindarin and Quenyan (duinë) for “river” – so (forest) of the river?). Here you’ll come across a twisted trunk of a tree forming an arch over the path, and a sign: Warning. You are about to enter someone else’s dream.

The warning might sound foreboding, but don’t take it to heart. Follow the path on and upwards, and I guarantee that the sight you’ll see will be comparable to the wonder Bilbo Baggins felt on first seeing Imladris, the home of Elrond Half-Elven.

En’ Duin Forest, December 2019

Perched on high cliffs that fall away sharply to the lands and waters below and over which water tumbles in slender curtains, is one of the most Tolkien-esque settings I’ve come across in Second Life. Like Elrond’s Last Homely House East of the Sea, it is both welcoming and yet clearly screened from both land and water to present a hidden realm. Within its buildings, works of men and elves are blended to offer a unique setting, and Tolkien’s writings are given due homage through art on the walls, while the natural gardens and greenswards between the trees give one room to breathe and feel renewed.

Below these high houses is a natural bay, bordered on its western side by a long stone pier. Looking down on it, it is not hard to imagine one of Círdan’s great ships slipping into the bay to moor here, thus linking En’ Duin to Beleriand as well as to Imladris. A graceful bridge connects this pier with a path that runs around an old smithy, now converted for ale and wines (a vineyard lies close by) and which feels almost Hobbitish despite its size, and thence up the hills to join with that leading up to the hillside houses.

En’ Druin Forest, December 2019

Taken as a whole, Drw’s work at Greenhouse and Mare Nostrum is simply gorgeous – and available to everyone to enjoy (just please respect the privacy of those renting in the village!). There is a huge amount to be seen and aprreciated within both regions, as I hope I’ve indicated here, and the En’ Druin Forest offers plenty of scope for fantasy photography. Kudos to both Drw and Patrick for the development of the regions, and for wanting to make them as publicly accessible as possible.

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