In pursuit of pointlessness

Nicola Craine, 02 July, 2018
Gates come in many different shapes and sizes, but they all share one common purpose: to act as a barrier. That is, at least most of them do! Here, Inntraveller Nicola Craine shares some of the most curious and pointless gates she has encountered on her travels...

Social media is not without its drawbacks but it’s a great way to share photos with family and friends. Stunning scenery and spectacular views are all well and good, but it’s also fun to capture some of the more obscure aspects of the great outdoors.

In the spirit of randomness, it’s become somewhat of a tradition for my husband and me to swap photos of 'gates of pointlessness' with our good friends, Gail and Andy, who live in Provence for part of the year. In fact, it was they who first coined the phrase when they stumbled upon this fine example, while walking among the vineyards. Was there ever a fence here? Where has it gone? Why leave the gate? What’s the point? So many questions; few answers; much intrigue.

Further explorations have revealed an abundance of portes inutiles en Provence, such as this rather grand entrance to… Well, we’re not quite sure where.

Such is Gail and Andy’s dedication to the cause that they’re always on the lookout for gates of pointlessness, wherever they may roam. While walking in Madeira, they encountered this rusty portão inútil. Although somewhat past its best, it does offer a tremendous view of the surrounding hillsides and the valley below.

Inspired by our friends’ photos, my husband and I began tracking down gates of pointlessness closer to home in Yorkshire. Imagine our delight when we discovered this one just down the road from our house! A little local research suggests that we’re not the only ones to be intrigued by this lonely little gate, perched on the banks of Meanwood Beck in Leeds. Rumour has it that there used to be a bridge attached, linking the grounds of Meanwoodside (once owned by the family of Captain Oates) and The Hollies. Originally private estates, both were subsequently acquired by Leeds City Council and turned into popular public parks, offering a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.

Moving on to the most extreme gate of pointlessness that I think we’ve ever come across. Situated near the pretty village of Danby in the North Yorkshire Moors National Park, the gate itself has long gone but the weathered posts remain. At least, I assume that’s what they are but maybe they’re actually mystical, Neolithic standing stones with a story to tell…

From one extreme to another… Here’s a majestic porte inutile that caught our attention while cycling from Paris to London along the Avenue Verte. Situated in the spa town of Forges-les-Eaux in Normandy, this striking structure originally formed the façade of a 17th-century convent chapel in Gisors, some 50 kilometres away. Sadly, the chapel was largely destroyed by a World War II bomb but, miraculously, the Porte de Gisors survived intact. It was purchased by the owner of the casino at Forges-les-Eaux during the 1950s, with the aim of recreating un certain décor historique. So, a porte that at first glance may seem pointless, can actually turn out to be very educational.

After a while, and almost without realising, we began to widen the scope of our quest for pointlessness. Back on the North Yorkshire Moors, we were somewhat flummoxed by this 'stile of pointlessness', but we felt compelled to use it anyway, since they’d gone to the trouble of building it.

However, this one in Arkengarthdale proved a step too far; we declined to squeeze through the gap for fear of sending the rest of the dry stone wall crashing to the ground.

Some may say that the French adopt a laissez-faire approach to health and safety. This ornate escalier de secours inutile, spotted by Gail and Andy en Provence, does little to dispel this stereotypical view. As Gail pointed out, in case of emergency, it’d be tricky to decide whether to stay or go; burns or broken bones? Still, it’s a très stylish escalier de secours and that’s what really counts, n’est-ce pas?

Continuing the unhealthy-and-downright-dangerous theme, our ramble on the Sorrento Peninsula in Italy was rudely interrupted by this strada inutile. Warning signs and/or safety barriers are clearly deemed unnecessary when you’re used to living dangerously in the shadow of Vesuvius. Neapolitans are said to have a live-for-the-moment mentality, after all.

Later on during the same holiday, we found ourselves embracing this carefree attitude. Having taken a bus up to the Vesuvius crater, we (rather foolishly) decided to forego our return ticket, instead opting to walk back down to Ercolano. After negotiating stray dogs and widespread fly-tipping on the lower slopes of Vesuvius, we spotted this rather forlorn Tour d’Eiffel inutile  in the grounds of an abandoned roadside restaurant. Pretty pointless even before it toppled over, I think you’ll agree.

At first glance, these wicker chairs in the shade of a Puglian olive tree looked most inviting. An ideal picnic spot – or so we thought…

On a more positive note, however, we’d discovered another category to add to our repertoire of pointlessness – the sedia inutile.

And so to our most recent finding… At the end of our wonderful Inntravel cycling holiday in Puglia and Basilicata, we spent a couple of extra nights in Bari, from where we took a train down the coast to Polignano a Mare. Leaving the pretty centro storico behind, we strolled along the lungomare towards the more functional, less picturesque part of town. There, in front of a rusty garage door, was an abandoned sedia inutile – in this case, not quite living up to its name and enjoying a new sense of purpose. After all, they do say that cats sleep anywhere – any table, any chair.
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