After the steep ascent and even steeper, slippery descent of our walk around Vaillac we unanimously decided to try a flatter walk next time. The weather the following week was unsettled and ‘I’m only the chauffeur’ felt a bit poorly after his second vaccination so it was two week later that we set off for Labastide-Murat, the departure point of the promenade de Roy (I still have no idea why that name unless Roy was instrumental in suggesting it).
We used to go through Labastide-Murat en route for Cahors on our holidays here before the autoroute opened nearby. A pretty town surrounded by farmland although still on the Causse, just, and now edged by the A20. We parked in the place opposite the mairie and I was struck by the hubbub of building work going on. In fact, building work and its associated noise would be the motif of the day.
The first part of the walk follows the GR46 as it passes through the town. I like walking on a GR trail marked by its distinctive red and white balises, not that I could ever contemplate walking the entire length of one. That would involve several days if not weeks! But I assume these paths have been trodden for generations, long before they became mapped and numbered. I like the notion that I am treading an ancient way, long before mechanised transport came along.
We swung right by a stone cross after skirting yet another building site and dropped down a steep but short stony path before joining a small road. There was a path indicating Goudou, a hamlet we would pass through later but that was not our direction at this point in the walk. Facing us was one of the ubiquitous Causse ponds with a stone wall on three sides. To my astonishment it was full of goldfish! Green water with lots of redgold bodies appearing to be sunbathing just below the surface. They sank as our shadows crossed the water but a few came back for a photo..
We continued along the road passing raw looking new houses, one of them resembling a factory unit rather than a home. Glorious countryside around it but just a few tiny windows. Another one further on looked as if it had been designed by the same architect..
Then we moved on to a track between hedges gently descending. Away to our left and ahead I could hear more building noise and that beeping you get when a lorry is backing up.
I remembered from my researching in Google earth that the aire on the motorway, Les jardins du Causse, wasn’t far away. As we got to the bottom of a slope a lavoir appeared on our left and beyond it a pretty fishing lake. Up on the hill and intruding on my photos was that aire and its attendant building noise!
The banks around the plan d’eau were manicured with benches and picnic tables. A spot to return to for our picnic? Maybe the building work would stop for lunch?
We carried on past the water and continued on the GR with the verges full of cowslips. The French call them cuckoo as they arrive at the same time as the bird. We were yet to hear our first one of the year (actually during the next week’s walk!)
I spotted a sign saying we were on the Compostela route. note to self to check later…
Another lavoir beside the track with its water filled with a thick and verdant weed…not what you’d want to wash your clothes in. Did the water run faster into the basin back in the day or was it someone’s job to keep the weed out?
We left the GR at a junction with a signpost that named it the fountain of Goudou. I pondered it was a long way to bring your washing especially as the track then climbed all the way to the village. Imagine humping your wet washing all that way?
We were walking between pastures with views opening up to the right and behind us across the Causse to the west. The noise of the aire had faded and birdsong had taken over. I bent down with my app to identify some thick tulip type leaves and was told it was death heads scabious…a bit disappointing!
Goudou was appearing ahead, a hamlet that straddles the main road into Labastide-Murat. As we crossed carefully the church loomed above us on its slope.
This was meant to be the biscuit break as a small carpark had a bench and a picnic table. Unfortunately the biscuits were back in the car. We slurped water instead.
My mother could never walk past a church without peeping inside and I’ve inherited that curiosity. My eye was taken immediately by a rather gory window behind the altar. I thought of St George slaying his dragon but the body on the floor was human. This needed some online research as there was nothing in the fiche to enlighten the reader. (It was only later I spotted the head being brandished!)
There were some lovely old buildings around the church which I assume is why we were instructed to walk right round it and back down to the road.
A few paces down and a left turn onto a narrow tarmacced track between two houses. Further on this became grassy and was the narrowest path thus far. I’d opted for trainers rather than walking boots and, so far, the ‘facile’ on the fiche was spot on. More cowslips and pastures…
A gentle slope upwards until we reached a t-junction. Around here there was meant to be a ruined windmill but I could see no sign of one but there was a pretty view back to Goudou..
This was another walk down and then up which brought the windmill into view on our left. Well, it made sense it would be on a hilltop! It didn’t look too ruined but had lost its sails. There is another windmill on the southern edge of Labastide-Murat that was turned into a pigeonnier at some point in its history. Maybe this one too? It appeared to be on private land so no chance for a closer look.
Back onto the main road at the bottom of the track turning left and a short walk, keeping close to the side as traffic whizzed past, up to the lotissement of Labarte where we crossed and headed into the fields again.
As we walked an even narrower path between small bushes and saplings just beginning to leaf I realised we were on the path that we’d seen next to the goldfish pond…and so we were.
Back up the short stony path, past the building site, dodging a reversing digger, and back to the car.
We decided that the church car park had been a tad gloomy and that the plan d’eau was a better option for lunch. There was a parked car at the far end but all the picnic tables were empty and the noise from the aire mercifully absent.
After lunch I wandered along the edge of the weedy water near the lavoir and was surprised by a sudden plop. At first I assumed a fish jumping but then realized as I walked further that frogs were leaping from the bank and into the water. I managed to get a photo of several basking on the stone of the sluice and later investigation seems to suggest they were male toads waiting on the waterside in order to mate.
I left them to it!
Now some background on that window.
The church is dedicated to Saint John the Baptist and has existed since the 14th century despite ravages of the 100 years war when the village was deserted. It was repopulated with the ‘accensement collective’ of the baron of our very own Castelnau Bretenoux in 1457. There was further pillaging and rebuilding until, during WW2 the cure of Labastide-Murat, Abbe Levet decided to completely refurbish the church at Goudou. He commissioned the window ‘La Decollation de Saint Jean Baptiste’ from his friend, Georges Emile Labacq, 1876-1950, a Belgian painter staying at Gourdon who loved the area. Francis Chigot, 1879-1960, a glass worker, in Limoges created the work and it was inaugurated in August 1941 but only after some colours had been changed plus some details such as the ‘biceps’ of the executioner that Labacq wasn’t happy about.
It was only later that I realised the window had been caught in my photo of the entrance ..
So a wonderful footnote to our walk. They should rewrite the fiche!