Grauland’s Art Park in Second Life

Grauland Falls Art Park, June 2021 – click any image for full size

I first visited Grauland, the Homestead region held by by JimGarand and home (in the sky) to his M-1 Art Pose business in March 2019. At the time, I was immediately struck by its genuine uniqueness, offering an environment that expresses art as a landscape.

Since that time, Jim has continually revised the region on a regular cycle of iterations, some of which have continued that idea of art-as-landscape, others of which might be regarded as more “natural” settings – tropical beaches, oriental gardens, deserts – all of which have been highly engaging and kept me returning to the region to write about many of them.

Grauland Falls Art Park, June 2021
For the iteration I visited in June, Jim has returned the region to what, for me at least, is its roots – a setting in which art plays an important role in expressing the overall landscape.

Rapidly dropping from eastern highlands marked by a high peak and a curtain of cliffs backed by high mountains, the region is immediately visually engaging; the peak giving birth to falls that in turn feed the streams that break up the lowlands as they flow out to the surrounding waters.

Grauland Falls Art Park, June 2021

Rugged and attractive, with western and northern bays watched over by a ranger’s watchtower to the north-west, two tidy woodland areas and a scattering of buildings, the landscape is highly photogenic. However, it is what is to be found within it that captures the eye.

From obelisks through the familiar concrete blocks to statues, tiered gardens and totems, the art to be found throughout the region fits neatly and elegantly into the setting, bringing it naturally to life.

Grauland Falls Art Park, June 2021

As an art park, the setting is laid out as a place one travel to in order to visit: the landing point is presented as a cark park, the road running from it vanishing into a tunnel that appears to pass under the mountains to connect the part with the rest of the world. It sits bounded on two sides by the remnants of what might have once been a complete costal fortification built during the last world war, but which now stand with gaping windows and walls that have in part started to lean somewhat as their foundations have settled.

Forming the entrance to the park, the great blanks walls of this ruin also naturally lend themselves as a part of the park’s artistic statement, providing access to the tiered gardens that form the starting point for explorations.

Grauland Falls Art Park, June 2021

From the gardens with their cobbled paths, visitors can roam where they please – as indicated by the static characters already in the region that add a further sense of it being a a popular place to visit. A  single path does offer a route from the landing point, one that passes over the region’s three bridges – which also very much form part of the art statement. These bridges lead the way to the largest complete building on the region, a boxy unit offered as something of a meeting / relaxing space.

Jim’s designs are always engaging and a pleasure to visit, but I admit to finding this iteration particularly engaging. There’s that sense of returning to the focus of early iterations of the region whilst retaining a completely unique look and feel.

Grauland Falls Art Park, June 2021

With photographic opportunities can be found throughout, and the 3D art elements bringing a richness to the environment that encourages the visitor to remain, explore and appreciate, Grauland Falls Art Park is not to be missed.

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A corner of Cornwall in Second Life

Mousehole, June 2021 – click any image for full size

Tolla Crisp contacted me recently to extend an invitation to visit her new region holding, Mousehole, located to the south of her famous Frogmore, a place I’ve covered numerous times in these pages due to it’s sheer beauty. The two are connected to it via footbridge, with Mousehole expanding on the Cornish theme folded into the current iteration of Frogmore (which you can read about here), making both regions ideal for a joint visit, as well as each one standing on its own.

A Full region using the standard 20K land impact, Mousehole takes its name from the Cornish fishing hamlet of Mousehole (pronounced mzəl, or Porthenys in Cornish), located in the far south-west of the English county, on the shore of Mount’s Bay. Like Frogmore, the overall design is the work of Dandy Warhlol (terry Fotherington), whose hand and eye helps to give that flow of continuity between the two regions.

Mousehole, June 2021

With a population of around 700, Mousehole has a long history as a fishing village that dates back to the 1200s. However, in modern times it is noted more as a visitor / tourist destination and for its many festivals and community events that are held throughout the year.

Whilst taking its name and a lot of its inspiration from the hamlet and Cornwall’s rugged coastline, the design also offers and inland setting that offers a mix of hints of Mousehole village and the wilder aspects of the county. Combined, these give the region a unique look and feel whilst also giving a hint why almost a third of Cornwall’s coast and some of its inland areas are designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (ANOB) – giving them the same status as a national park.

Mousehole, June 2021

The main part of the region is open to the public, encircled by a broad beach broken by rocky outcrops to form smaller coves typical of the kind that might be found along the Cornish coast. Along these sands are places to sit, bars to by found, opportunities for swimming or simply floating on the water.

Sitting within this are two upland areas which might be seen along the upper reaches of Cornwall’s rugged coast around Mount’s Bay, but which equally bring to mind the wilds of Bodmin Moor. Separated by a sandy divide that offers a shortcut between the north and south sides of the island, these two uplands are rich in greenery and home to individual scenes.

Mousehole, June 2021

The larger of the two offers a setting that might have been lifted from the village itself – most notably the famous Mousehole Pub, which shares the hilltop with a stone-built house and a country church. No roads are visible here, however; instead, the buildings stand surrounded by moorland grass grazed upon by donkeys (Cornwall and neighbouring Devon are also noted for their donkeys), with visitors free to wander across the hilltop and perhaps cross the bridge spanning the shallow gorge to touch the second upland.

This smaller hill is home to an abandoned house (I admittedly found the motel sign outside to look and feel out-of-place), its garden overgrown and nature starting to reclaim its interior. Forlorn and decaying, it has the feel of a place that one might come across deep in the Cornish moorlands, once home to a farm or the retreat of a wealthy tin mine owner and his family, now long abandoned and forgotten.

Mousehole, June 2021

Further touches of Mousehole and its surrounds can be found within the region. Just off the southern coast, for example, is an islet that is mindful of the small island of St. Clements sitting just off the entrance to the village’s harbour. Be mindful that the in-world island is actually a private residence, however, so do be wary of trespass.

Also, just off on of the beaches lies the entrance to a cavern. Find your way inside and you’ll discover a little homage to the tale of a hermit who was said to once lived along the coast at Mousehole.

Mousehole, June 2021

Rich in detail and touches – off to the west is a smaller island, home to another little bar and also what might be an abandoned military facility of a kind that can be stumbled across around the English coast – Tolla’s Mousehole is another delight to explore and photograph – and a delight to explore.

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A Hazelnut’s Kingdom in Second Life

Hazelnut’s Kingdom, June 2021 – click any image for full size

Hazelnut’s Kingdom is a 5-region estate held by Noubeil (noubeil Alpha) and landscaped by Dandy Warhlol (terry Fotherington) I was invited to tour some time ago – so my apologies to Noubeil for only now getting to write about it.

Drawing its name from Noubeillane – “Hazelnut” in Occitan – the estate presents a highly immersive interpretation of the Ariège Pyrenees, together with the coast of southern France, that is utterly breath-taking.

Hazelnut’s Kingdom, June 2021

Offered as a public / private estate, the estate can be enjoyed by anyone with a love of nature and natural settings, but those wish to avail themselves of all of its facilities: rezzing rights; the ability to set home within the the estate’s public spaces; the use of group-owned items in the estate (including horses and boats), should consider a visit to the group membership area and pay L$500 to join the estate group.

Some 12 locations are available for rent across the estate, featuring houses that are in keeping with the overall theme. Most are located either on the small islands to the east of the estate, or in the western uplands. They vary in rental price, and at the time of my last visit, all but four were occupied.

Hazelnut’s Kingdom, June 2021

The preferred landing point lies to the south-east, in a corner of the estate’s coastline alongside a small harbour. A greeter will supply various links to places such as the estate’s website and rentals page, etc., while a teleport board offers a quick way of reaching the two major public venues as well as some of the rentals (please be careful with the latter as the properties are likely occupied).

A pair of gates provide access to  north running path that passes behind the local stables to come by way of river, wharves, and trail to the local town, fronted by a golden sanded beach and watched over by a medieval church with a commanding view across the estate’s northern lowlands from its perch up on a headland.

Hazelnut’s Kingdom, June 2021

Here there is much to see, with multiple trails offering routes around the headland and its church or that climb the slopes on which the town has been built and then roll into the lands beyond, with their mix of rocky foothills, sloping fields tumbling stream and waterfront and hillside villages. Backed by high mountains to the west that represent the Pyrenees, this northern aspect of the estate is quintessentially southern France with just a touch of northern Italy – something again totally in keeping with its Occitania roots.

More public spaces are to be found here, including a stage for open-air music performances – music is very much a part of Hazelnut’s Kingdom – and off to the western foothill, the high stone walls and stern towers of a high castle – one of the best integrations of the Fanatik design I’ve seen in a while; so good in fact, that I wouldn’t be surprised if it turned up in one of the many scenic aerial shots that grace television coverage of the Tour de France each year!

Hazelnut’s Kingdom, June 2021

The western highlands also offer a lot to explore, as the trails running to and from the castle and through the woodland below it are only too eager to reveal. Some of the large rental properties are to be found in these uplands, together with high lakes, tumbling streams, a cable ride up to to a high plateau, and even a walk up to snowy uplands – so take a coat and suitable walking gear!

The two most notable public spaces in the estate lie to the south, occupying another flat table of rock, one that rises from the landing point mentioned earlier, and connected to it by a winding path that connects to the great chateau that crowns the rock. This is home to grand rooms and a stables on the lower level and, on the upper, The Queen’s Bar.

Hazelnut’s Kingdom, June 2021

Sitting quite literally below the chateau, and reached via a path that hugs the foot of the plateau and which starts a little set back from the landing point, is The Owl Club, a venue hewn from the living rock, a little Tuscan-style setting located just outside to add some further atmosphere. Also, keep an eye out for the other caverns nearby!

Immersive and photogenic, Hazelnut’s Kingdom is an engaging visit, although time is required to do the estate proper justice. Also, even the depth of detail involved, some adjustment to the viewer will likely be required for those on mid-ot-lower-spec systems.

Hazelnut’s Kingdom, June 2021

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A trip to Cica’s Circus in Second Life

Cica’s Circus

For June, Cica Ghost is offering us all a trip to the circus with her latest installation which opened on Tuesday, June 8th.

Called, appropriately enough, Circus, this is an engaging setting that brings to life all the brightness – and perhaps some of the edge – of its namesake for people to explore.

From the big top to cages to transport animal whilst on the road to the animals themselves – elephants, giraffe, seals, lions, bears – Circus presents all the elements that for so long made circuses a place of wonder for young and old. And not just the circus – rids and other interactive elements aware those who visit, giving the setting a slight funfair lean as well.

Cica’s Circus

Scattered throughout are Cica’s trademark dances lay hidden within various objects awaiting discovery – keep and eye out as well for the gifts that can make the dancing even sillier! Other items, when moused over, offer sit point for those who wish to observe all that is going on. for the more energetic, the trampolines offer the challenge of bouncing in place or trying to time bounces and movement to catapult yourself upwards and back and forth between them.

Of course, circuses can raise feelings of disquiet over the welfare of animals, whilst clowns are not everyone’s cup of tea when it comes to fun. These points are perhaps indirectly alluded to by Cica due to the clowns here keeping themselves to one side of the path through the circus, and the fact that the entire setting sits under a slightly gloomy twilight sky.

Cica’s Circus

But really, Circus is about freedom and escape, a recapturing of childhood innocence and wanting to “run away to the circus”. And in a time when there has been so much gloom and spectres of pandemics and political polarisation and more, taking time to escape is actually not a bad idea. So why not hop along to Cica’s Circus and have a little fun?

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  • Circus by Cica Ghost (Springville, rated Moderate)

The peace and grace of Elvion in Second Life

Elvion, June 2021 – click any image for full size

Elvion, the homestead region design by Bo Zano (BoZanoNL) has always been a place to which I’m drawn. Since its inception and through several iterations, it has presented a haven of natural peace and beauty in Second Life that can smooth both troubled mind and upset heart, and which never fails to offer the eye and camera much to see and appreciate.

As far as I can recall, Bo has tended to keep his designs to the ground level, but with the iteration I visited at the start of June, he’s made use of the space available overhead as well and the ground level environment. The result is a setting of three distinct parts, each complete unto itself whilst also joining naturally with its companions to offer visitors much to see and appreciate – and even more space to reflect.

Elvion, June 2021

The ground level of the region presents a setting that in part echoes past Elvion designs in terms of general landscape and the mix of land and water, but which is nevertheless unique in its presentation, sitting as a small, low-lying island, the partial region surround suggesting it might be part of an small archipelago.

This island, rich in summer greens and the bright colours of wild flowers, is home to the main landing point that sits to the the south-east, watched over by a mature pelican and young goat. Two large buoys are stranded on the shore here, rusting and fading under the Sun. Their position raises the question of whether they might have been deposited by some past storm that tore them from their anchor chains or if they were simply abandoned by human hands, their work out in the channels beyond the island long since finished.

Elvion, June 2021

A path leads the way up from the landing point to where an A-frame house sits as a quiet retreat, places to sit and appreciate the view both on its raised deck and among the flowers growing around it. This house is, together with a small gazebo / pergola sitting closer to the landing point and overlooking the rocky shoreline, pretty much the only sign of human habitation to be found on the island, allowing its rugged beauty to be fully appreciated.

The path from landing point to house will lead visitors past one of the region’s little pug dogs that have in the past been named after either the Three Stooges or members of the Rat Pack (along with other animals found in past Elvion iterations), but who sits unnamed here, keeping an eye on the region’s information givers and pointing the way to the teleport signs.

Elvion, June 2021

Set as a group of wooden signs, these provide access to the two sky settings within the region at the time of my visit.

Touching Forest will carry you to – unsurprisingly – a woodland setting. It’s a place in the blooms of spring and colours of summer that could so easily be pictured as a further part of the island, the A-frame house waiting to rise back into view if you just wandered far enough in the right direction through the surround mist.

Elvion, June 2021

At the same time, however, those surrounding mists, the ruins and the trails winding over the the grass and rocks to a domed stone gazebo and the falls and water that lie beyond it, present the feeling that its is genuinely an altogether different place to the island; somewhere altogether more mystical.

Walking the path from the landing point and its ruins to –  and beyond – the waterfalls and their streams, I felt I was wandering into some corner of Westeros or perhaps a forgotten outlier of Imladris, such is the deep sense of  place bound within the setting that encourages the imagination to take flight.

Elvion, June 2021

Dreamland, the highest of the settings in terms of general elevation offers a similar connection to both forest and the island through its landing point, which sits within a ruined abbey, and the surround rich foliage of trees.

But step beyond the confines of the old walls, and you find you have been transported somewhere entirely different: a place where desert and grasslands intertwine – but whether it is a place where prairie meets dustlands or veldt meets desert’s  edge, is entirely up to you.

Elvion, June 2021

A thatched cottage and nearby windmill give a slight European lean to the setting, but at the same time, were a herd of cattle to come through the scrubby grass, driven by weather-beaten cowpokes, they would be at all out of place.

And certainly, for those with wearable horses, this is a location with more than enough room for riding, whilst those seeking places to sit and reflect, cogitate or enjoy the company of another, there is also plenty here to be found.

Elvion, June 2021

Beautifully conceived and executed, Elvion remains a joy to visit and behold.

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  • Elvion (Quiet, rated Moderate)

A Scottish Bluebell Coast in Second Life

A Touch of Scotland – Bluebell Coast – June 2021

I’ve been a little preoccupied with various things of late, which means some of my blogging has been slipping. I’m not sure when the preoccupations will decrease to a point where I’m back to a more regular cadence of posts (the usual two a day at least), but in the meantime I am still trying to chug along with reports and articles on art and places to visit.

All of which brings me to Bluebell Coast, a Homestead region designed by Christina Riolz (Christina Hammerer) and John Dee Riolz (JohnMcFluff), which takes as its full title: A Touch of Scotland – Bluebell Coast, which the couple describe thus:

The Ayrshire Coastal Path- Be ye Man or Bairn or Wumman, Be ye gaun or be ye comin, For Scotland’s Pride no Scotland’s shame, Gether yer litter and tak it Hame!
A Touch of Scotland – Bluebell Coast – June 2021

In other words, whoever you are, whether you’re coming or going, here’s a part of Scottish pride to be enjoyed and photographed – just make sure you take your litter home with you!

Split by a stream running out to sea from a rocky pool that is  in turn fed by modest falls that drop from an upland area (and which are mirrored on the seawards side, this is region that captures some of the lowland coastal regions of western Scotland, wild and grassy and – here at least – rich in bluebells.

A Touch of Scotland – Bluebell Coast – June 2021

With the main landing point a little off-centre to the region, this is a place that is easy on the eye and easy to explore. dusty paths offering the key routes over the grass. Typical to the Scottish lowlands, this is a place with dry stone walls, the ruins of ancient fortifications and ruins – one of which is suggestive of a former religious centre.

To one corner of the region sits a thatched crofter’s cottage. A nearby tractor suggests it is a working house, but the views across the region offered from from its windows and grounds are picturesque and more than make up for any daily chores the owner(s) may have to perform.

A Touch of Scotland – Bluebell Coast – June 2021

With beaches lying along its borders, this is a haven for wildlife and wildfowl – seals rest from fish hunting, watched over by a pelican, for example; whilst seagulls keep an eye on everything.

Getting around on foot is easy enough, the majority of the land undulating gently but not enough to make walking around tiring. But for those who prefer, horses and bicycles are available, with the horses capable of carrying two. Those of a romantic disposition are also welcome to make use of the many dance systems awaiting discovery, one of which is awaiting discovery within The Cave Inn – which is not your typical pub.

A Touch of Scotland – Bluebell Coast – June 2021

Rich in subtle detail, with plenty of opportunities for photography, A Touch of Scotland – Bluebell Coast makes for an easy, engaging visit.

With thanks to Shawn Shakespeare.

A Touch of Scotland – Bluebell Coast – June 2021

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