Le Bois de Rochemave

The tour de France has been taking place this month after being yet another victim of covid-19. After much debate the decision was taken to let it happen but a month later than normal. We are keen followers of the Tour and were chuffed to discover we could watch France 2 direct on our tablet each afternoon. (No telly in the mobile home) Friday’s stage running from Chatel-Guyon to Puy Mary would be coming down the D29 from Tour d’Auvergne down to la Pradelle, the road we had driven up on our exploring drive last Sunday. This was the stage that the cyclist was hoping to witness himself from the side of the road on ‘his’ mountain, Puy Mary.

We knew the roads would be closed in that area and parking would be at a premium. So any walks near Cros and Bagnols (I had several on file) couldn’t be undertaken on that day. There was a 6km walk starting near Cros that looked interesting so we decided to do it on Wednesday when the roads wouldn’t be congested.

As usual, the departure point wasn’t the easiest place to find. I had looked on Google earth at the turning after Cros onto the D613 but as there was no blue line running down that road it was going to be hit and miss. After driving along for several twists and turns we pulled over and looked at the map more closely. There was a tiny turning for a hamlet called Gerbeix just beyond a marked track so we drove back slowly and spotted it on a bend with a useful patch of grass to park on.

There was one of the tourist board signs detailing the route and saying it was easy for mountain bikes. What about two septuagenarians celebrating their wedding anniversary? The ‘denivele positif’ was 235 metres so not as much as the day before.

Before we started we noticed three wooden crosses on the slope behind us but there was no information near them to explain their significance. Something to look up later.

The path started across the road and was a grassy track between hedgerows full of blackberries.

It was sunny and warm and good to be walking in the open after the forest walking of the day before. I had this thought too soon!

We crossed between two farm gates and I noticed blue twine lying across the track. I call this Didier’s string. We have a farmer neighbour who moves his cows occasionally across the main road, under the railway bridge and past the end of our drive. To prevent any of them paying us a visit he ties a length of blue twine from our neighbour’s fence with the other end on a metal pole stuck in the verge. When we see the twine on the ground we know the cows have been on the move.

The path narrowed and we carried on walking between fields and past some very thick oak trees. We speculated on their age.

I noticed holly bushes with a bumper crop of berries and wondered if the old saying is true and we’ll have a hard winter?

Eventually we came to a turn in the path which took us into a wood, the bois de Rochemave, I assume. To start with there was a mixture of fir and beech trees with their leaves beginning to turn and shining in the sunlight.

The fiche of the walk had a profile on it so we knew the middle part of the walk would be uphill and this was it. The first part was particularly steep and I was glad I had two sticks with me to help the poor old knees.

this is looking back down a particularly steep bit!

After that effort it was an easy amble through the pine trees following the blue balises on the trees. There must be other walks taking the same route as we saw orange signs and a flamboyant white slash with a bright red bar in its middle. The same colours as the GR trails but too messy to be one of theirs.

a more restrained version towards the end of our route

At one point our path crossed a deep and muddy rutted track. We had to walk back and forth a bit before spotting ‘our’ blue balise on a tree. If a path is not for you two bars painted in a cross of ‘your’ colour will be displayed so you don’t go wandering off and get lost.

Finally we came out of the pine forest and began walking along between a wood and a rough meadow. We could see what we think were sheep moving among ferns in a field beyond. A dog suddenly barked and howled which made me uneasy. Had the hunting season started? I began to whistle, tunelessly but noisily!

The path started to rise again and there were bigger and bigger slabs of rock under our feet. A tiny lizard darted back and forth startled out of his sunbathing. Down on our left the field had given way to short grassland with a shallow ‘etang’ in its centre.

The sun was hot and I was glad I had borrowed one of Lou’s hats, not a woolly one today! The rock was now evident in big stones beside the path and there were rowan trees too, full of berries, a sign of autumn.

showing the scale of the slabs under our feet
rowan berries

We were reaching the point where the path met the road again and there was a faded information board that needs replacing in order to inform!

We came down behind a little cottage and into the road. On the far side there was a garden full of flowers and a lady digging. We exchanged greetings and she asked how far we had walked. Not far, I replied, guessing our starting point probably wasn’t very far away by road! I complimented her on her lovely dahlias before we moved on.

As I have said before I hate walking on tarmac and we were in for quite a distance before we could turn off. I started to walk on the verge but it was full of flowers which deterred me. All of these walks had been a joy for all the flowers and butterflies we had seen. At the start of this walk we had startled lots of grasshoppers who scattered as we passed.

There was the wonderful sound of cow bells from a field on our left before s turn in the road took us back near the trees and some log piles. While we were on this road a huge lorry and trailer loaded with enormous logs had passed and then repassed empty. We could hear machinery somewhere in the forest so logging was going on.

We joined another road and were slightly mystified by a warning sign as the road we were joining stretched in both directions in a straight line! But, to be fair to the departmental or regional tourist office who, I assume, manage the signposting of these routes, they do a brilliant job. It just makes me smile at the constant use of yellow!

The trudge along the side of the road continued accompanied by all the different colour balises we had encountered all along the walk. Finally we turned off on our left, climbing along a logging track into the forest again. A logging track as evidenced by the litter of broken branches littering our path. Suddenly himself gave a shout. A tiny frog had hopped in front of him.

‘the poisonous frog of Puy de Dome’

I was surprised that a frog could survive in this apparently dry environment. The dreaded poisonous frog ūüźł of Puy de Dome, Lou replied!

From this point we started to descend and I really disliked the next twenty minutes or so of walking. The track was steep which was not a problem on its own but the surface was covered with loose stones of differing sizes which made placing your feet tricky as the ‘cailloux’ skidded away and threatened to twist an ankle. Once more I was glad of my two ‘batons’ as I planted them in front to help keep my balance. It was impossible to take your eyes off the path and I ended up with an aching back from feeling so tense.

Just as I was beginning to get quite stroppy we came to what seemed like the bottom of the valley where a scene of woody devastation was revealed! But the track was less stony, the rock now at the side, huge and mossy.

I was really keen to get back to the car now. My toes were complaining about being thrown against the front of my boots and I was looking forward to taking them off. The path began to rise again through softer woodland. Once more, the fauna showed itself to Lou in the shape of a red squirrel that ran across the path and burrowed itself into the undergrowth before I could get more than a tiny glimpse.

And then we were on the last rise up to the tiny road to Gerbeix and then the grassy slope. I took my boots off and walked the last bit to the car on the scratchy ‘l’herbe’. Bliss!

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Les mines de la guingette (or Mind the gap!)

After nearly being blown away on the plateau de Tauves Lou asked if there was a walk closer to home. There is but it involves a lot of climbing, I replied, and I’m slightly anxious that, once more, there is a part of the walk marked on the fiche that doesn’t have a corresponding path marked on the ign map. Well, that was like yesterday and there was a wide farm track, he replied, so resistance was impossible.

Given the walk started and finished just above the campsite (well, two kilometres away) we didn’t bother with a picnic, deciding to come back for lunch. Not wanting to add four kilometres to a walk that already looked pretty exhausting, (345 metres of climbing, about 1000 feet in old money) we drove up to la guingette, the starting point. There is no carpark near the start of the walk so ‘i’m only the chauffeur’ squeezed us onto the verge and I turned the side mirror flush with the door.

We walked down to the sign for the walk which was next to the war memorial, an odd edifice departing from the norm by having four shell like obelisks (as in military shells) around it which were painted bright blue. Across the road and around the corner past a trickling water pipe that was labelled water non analysed (?) we started the climb next to another memorial.

This one was more specific and commemorated a former Maire of Singles who had been in the resistance but was informed on and arrested. After spending time in a detention centre he was deported to Buchenwald where he died within a year of pleurisy. In the middle of this beautiful countryside there are reminders of the violence and horror that took place just before mine but within Lou’s lifetime. A sobering thought.

The tarmac road gave way to earth and stones and we were trudging up a holloway, the banks level with my eyes but giving glimpses of the beautiful Burande valley.

After a while we came back onto the main road up to Singles. The hillside fell away to our left as we climbed higher. You must be fit to live at this altitude. We wondered about the number of cars parked in every available space and as we walked up past the church we realised there was a funeral taking place. Another sobering reminder of mortality and the need to be grateful for being able to do this kind of activity in freedom and good health.

The road we were on became steps that led up to the mairie. The village sign said Singles was a ‘village fleuri’ and it really is. Beautiful flowers bloomed everywhere. I peeked into the Marie windows at a meeting room. A sign of the times that at every place at the table the ubiquitous bottle of water has been replaced with a bottle of hand gel.

Another turn, up another slope and through more pretty cottages with flower filled gardens. We walked past a barn whose shape I’m beginning to recognise. Very tall with a steep high pitch to the roof. Protection against snow, himself believes.

Now we were walking away from the centre ville between fields where cows lazed and the far hills were hazy in the heat.

As we came to a farm on our right swallows (or maybe, housemartins) swooped and dived and chattered as they briefly came to rest on the telephone wire above our heads. I stood still and enjoyed their frenetic movement knowing I could never capture their excitement in a photograph.

and i couldn’t!

The blue balise, yes, blue today, took us to the right around the farm and its buildings. As i came around the end of the barn I let out a ‘wow’. Suddenly we were looking across the hilltops to the Massif de Sancy.

We had seen it the day before but it had been a constant during the walk. This was a sudden sighting and as we walked further and slightly downhill it was lost from sight again. We were on a farm track now and dropped quickly down into woodland which became denser and with more pine trees. It looped back and forth very pleasantly with dappled sunlight and birds calling to each other.

I noticed lots of beech trees and rescued a tiny sapling from one of the ruts in the track. Naughty but it wouldn’t survive there. Better in a pot at home and cared for!

the Banne d’Ordanche through the trees

The track went down and down … and down, looping around hairpins with broken branches and shifting stones lying in wait for a careless step. It was a lovely walk but ‘we’ll have to climb back up at some point’ I called to himself, always yards in front.

Then the track with its double ruts disappeared on a sharp bend. We could see a path of sorts leading away to our right and could hear a stream tumbling somewhere below us. There were still blue balise on the trees so we were on the right track…except there was no track. And soon, there was barely any path! We could just make out a slightly smoother path across a very steep slope falling away to our left. The next ten minutes were scary. We made it by helping each other out, grabbing at anything that looked a strong enough handhold and not thinking about how to explain to the pompiers exactly where the slope was that one of us had just tumbled down!

Safely across and back on a wider path the blue bars were still taking us to the right although the sound of the stream was to our left now. The fiche showed the path crossing a stream and, then, suddenly, there was a plank bridge over a stream, obviously the one making more noise further down.

Comparing the map to the fiche we were in the no-mans land of the IGN. Not surprising given the state of the path we’d just struggled along! Once, when walking in the Haute Savoie there had been ropes strung along certain dodgy sections of the path. We could have done with a good strong rope back there!

As if to compensate us for our fright, the path now led us under a fallen tree, across the stream again and into a tiny hidden valley of verdant green in full sunshine. After being under the trees for so long it was magical. The water tumbled down some rocks at the far end. ‘Waterfall’ called back himself, ‘Cascade’ I replied, always ready to try and teach him some French!

Now the climbing began. But a decent track along and above the stream which dropped further and further below us as we climbed back under the trees. Big rocks covered in moss lined the track until we started to come out into more open countryside. Grassy verges took the place of the rocks and soon we could see across the fields to our car parked by the road.

As we approached the village there was an information board beside the path telling of the history of la guingette, which means a cafe cum dancehall. When there were gold mines in this area, the workers came to the guingette to relax, the only building at the time, the mid 1700s. Later, more houses were built. The mines carried on for some time but the old galleries and the railway that served them were all drowned when the Dordogne was dammed at Bort les Orgues. This walk was meant to give us a feel of those times but I can’t say they did without knowing more of the history. Did they pan for gold down in that pretty valley?

Back in la guingette the bar/restaurant that bears the same name was shut so no beer and cappuccino for us. We noticed it had a cafe associative sign on the door. This is a movement in the French countryside where volunteers open up defunct bars in their village so that the inhabitants have somewhere they can still meet up for a chat. However, the opening times can be a bit hit and miss for thirsty walkers!

Back to the campsite for lunch and a snooze

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Plateau de Tauves

Nights in the Auvergne can be pretty chilly as we found out the first time we took our new tent to Mandailles St Julien. It was August but so cold at night! We wore sweatshirts and layered loads of stuff over our ‘four seasons’ sleeping bags.

Last Monday morning was almost the same. We woke up inside those same sleeping bags but in a mobile home not under canvas so we could snuggle down warmly. But contemplating a walk meant warmer clothing than we have been used to wearing recently. Picnic sorted and a Google search so I knew exactly what the road layout looked like for the starting point of the walk we set off on a bright but ‘frisquet’ day.

Past Tauves on the D922 and on the opposite side of the road to a cheese farm I told ‘i’m only the chauffeur’. I had seen on Google earth there was a turning with a patch of grass for parking and two picnic tables. It was as spotted and easy to turn off the busy road and park.

the ‘point de depart’

Getting out of the car we were buffeted by the wind. I opted for my padded duckdown jacket and borrowed one of Lou’s woolly hats! This was walking on a plateau after all. There were several yellow sign boards and our walk was featured. Why so much yellow? At least it was a ‘papillon’, butterfly, which made a change.

follow the yellow butterfly

We set off along a cinder track which eventually took us up to a farm past a field of cows, one of whom walked halfway across the field just to inspect us.

Past a lot of pink marshmallow hay bales and then a long drag up to the top of the downland just past a water tank.

The wind blew strongly into our faces but the 360¬į views were worth it, especially of the Massif de Sancy in the distance, even if it was under cloud!

Turning right we were now on the track that featured on the ‘fiche’ of the route but not on the ign map. But exist it does and, to prove it, a car came towards us.

‘i’m only the chauffeur’
the garden gnome look!

Later, it drove back past us…checking us out? The track turned again and we dropped a little bit out of the wind and then followed a narrow lane that twisted and turned, up and down and took us to Vivers.

While walking this part the scenery changed and different views opened up. We passed a very modern house hunkered down into the hillside with three beautiful white horses in a meadow below it.

Just before Vivers we turned for la Ribeyre and Fougeolles. We were walking on tarmac which I don’t enjoy but the scenery made up for it.

At one point a noisy goat brayed at us passing.

At Fougeolles we started to climb again and soon found ourselves back at the farm and passing the nosy cows. Just a walk back along the windy cinder track to the car.

looking back….

The D922 leads to the autoroute and is busy and not conducive to a restoring picnic lunch so we consulted the map and looked for somewhere calmer. Not finding any ‘aire de repos’ symbols nearby on the map, we drove on to La Tour d’Auvergne where two were showing. The first turned out to be on top of a hill. We’d had too much wind to stop there! The second was by the plan d’eau we’d discovered on our Sunday drive so searched for the car park. One near the town still had those campers parked up and there was no sign of picnic tables on the grass below. We could see some campers further around the water so went to find their car park. We found it….full of camper vans as was the ‘aire de camping cars’ beyond it.

waiting for le Tour

Still no tables on the grass under the trees so we parked on the side of the road leading from the car park with a view of the water and finally had lunch!

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Exploring

Sunday was a bit chilly first thing and there was quite a bit of cloud around. Despite that, we sorted out a picnic lunch and debated whether to walk or not. Deciding not, it still seemed a good idea to drive around and get a feel of the area. In my researching I had identified four towns/villages with a two or three nearby walks, more than enough for a six day holiday!

Checking the map I could see we could do a circular drive taking them all in. So we did. First stop was Larodde, a village on top of a hill a few kilometres from the camp site.

‘fin de voyage’, Larodde

From there we took the twisty road south aiming for the village furthest away, Cros. The scenery was stunning and we saw several signs for the ‘retenue’ du Bort. More of that later!

Cros lies on the D29 as do Bagnols and Tauves which made up my four ‘points de depart’. Tauves looked pretty and has a Thursday market advertised at the campsite so that’s a plan for Thursday morning, at least. Bagnols looked busy with people queuing outside an epicerie as we slowed down to check a signpost. I had noticed the D29 led to La Tour d’Auvergne, a place we had visited during our first raquette holiday at La Bourboule, a dreary town as I remembered it but it was a very wet February.

So we drove on to La Tour d’Auvergne and noticed a plan d’eau for the first time. Plus several mock-ups of bicycles on the edge of the main road.

Daylight dawned, the Tour de France is due through here on Friday. The stage that the cycling son had hoped to catch the beginning of at Puy Mary. Later, I discovered that the tour will be driving the same bit of the D29 that we had driven. A chance to see the peleton whizz by?

There were already a sprinkling of camper vans parked up. Waiting for le Tour, Lou summised. Driving back to Tauves we tried to find the starting point of one of my walks. Unfortunately, I had my north and south muddled and we drove a long way in the wrong direction. Tant pis, we studied the map and decided that, rather than go back and eat our picnic at the campsite,we’d follow the ‘retenue de Bort’ sign and hope we’d find a pleasant vantage point above the water. Sadly it was not to be. We followed the signs, through a tiny village called Labessette and down a road with a no through road sign.

eglise de Labessette

Down and down, twist and turn.. and then disappointment. The road ended just above the water but under gloomy trees with a no entry sign to a grassy patch with cars, caravans and boating trailers. With hardly any room to turn, let alone picnic, we drove all the way back up. Imagine driving down there in a camper van we exclaimed. No sign to tell you not to and still the brown signs that denote a place of interest.

a wayside cross

By now we were feeling a bit peckish so we backtracked past Larodde, past the campsite and drove down to Pont Dieu which we’d crossed on our way here the day before and had noticed had a couple of picnic tables under the trees overlooking the water. The space was empty so we parked up and set out our lunch, just a few metres inside Puy de Dome and gazing at the Correze!

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Glamping

It has been a hard year for everyone and I’m sure we’re not the only ones to feel the need for a break. Enjoying camping but not wanting to share the showers and loos we came up with the idea of a chalet or mobilehome on a campsite. We could take all our own kit and lots of cleaning stuff and create our own ‘bubble’, the new buzz word.

I started googling, (try and stop me), and found a campsite in Puy de Dome. If their website was indicative of their organisation it would be very well run. I booked a week in September, our usual big holiday time as it incorporates our wedding anniversary as well as being after all the schools go back..ie calmer. We were offered a five bedroom Malaga, all mod cons including heating. It can be cold at each end of the day in the Auvergne!

Due to covid regulations we couldn’t take possession until 5pm so didn’t need to leave home until after lunch. Needless to say despite lists and lobbing things into spare corners of the car we still managed to forget a few things. The sets of boules and the marmalade for ‘i’m only the chauffeur’.

A short drive, under two hours from home, using the A89 autoroute which had an amazing number of German registered cars going our way. Why? Once back on smaller roads the GPS took us the same route that I had found and scribbled down from Google! Beautiful and forested as we were still in the Correze. Then down and down…and down to the ‘retenue’ (reservoir) of the Dordogne to Pont Dieu, the crossing point into Puy de Dome.

we drove up to look at Singles before checking in

Here at Singles we are north of the barrage at Bort les Orgues, the dam whose held back waters would sweep us away at crouzillou in a disaster scenario. Not much further on and in a beautiful little valley next to the Burande river is le moulin de serre campsite, our home for a week.

Charming patrons and a spotless mobile home facing a petanque pitch (those forgotten boules sets!). Of course, I whirled around with my bleach spray until we smelt like a swimming pool and I was content that we were free of doom virus!

Bread and croissants ordered for the morning, WiFi package purchased, family informed of our safe arrival and we were all set for an apero on our covered terrace in the sunshine. Holidays!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A longer way round

Despite enjoying, or maybe because he enjoyed it, at the end of last week’s walk ‘i’m only the chauffeur’ announced we ought to go for longer ones.¬† Longer but not hillier, I thought to myself.¬† So back to the websites.

We’d already decided to go away for a short holiday, only a couple of hours away and in a department that is still listed as green and, hopefully, will stay that way.¬† I’ve found fourteen walks fairly near to our campsite which should give us plenty of choice.¬† To save on paper and time I decided to stay close to home for our next picnic jaunt.

In the hills above St Cere is the lac du Tolerme.  A reservoir, I have since discovered, created from marshy meadows in 1990 serving the neighbouring communes.   It has a beach and a campsite, a restaurant and a cafe and is popular with dog walkers and the fishing community.

IMG_20200902_101646-01

Himself has walked around it some years ago but I have only stopped by it a couple of times en route to somewhere else.¬† I have never found it particularly appealing but can’t say why.¬† There is always plenty about it in the local paper during the summer when, I imagine, it is popular with holiday makers in the area.

IMG_20200902_094741-01

But, it is close to home and I found a 9km circuit helpfully called¬† called ‘le circuit du lac de tolerme’.¬† It starts in the nearby village of Senaillac Latronquiere, has a little wander around the bourg (village centre) and then heads towards and around the lake before heading into the hills and looping back to the starting point.

IMG_20200831_111113-01

The drive up there is beautiful, especially as you climb out of our valley up towards Estal.¬† The views are across the valleys of the Cere and the Dordogne and as you get higher, the outer hills of the massif Centrale and the limestone causses of Gramat and Martel reveal themselves. What wasn’t so beautiful was the sky!¬† Thick cloud that the newspaper meteo described as menacing which was meant to give way to sunny spells by midday.¬†

We did the wander around the bourg which wasn’t particularly inspiring but clocked up the distance…..

IMG_20200831_111417-01

….there were flowers in the verges and two curious donkeys.

IMG_20200831_111645-01

After pushing our way through thick undergrowth which looked like someone’s front garden but had the obligatory yellow balise, we came back to the main road just down from the car park.¬† Fifty metres further on was the turn for the campsite by the lake, our starting point for the walk around it.

IMG_20200831_134028-01

(A photo from the end of the walk hence Lou walking towards the village!)

We were on a narrow road walking upwards but could see one end of the lake across the fields to out left.

IMG_20200831_114003-01

‘Look at the colour of that sky’, pointed out Lou. ‘I’d rather not’, I replied.¬† Sure enough, by the time we turned down the lane to the campsite it was raining.¬† Stopping under an opportune and sheltering oak tree we broke out the raincoats.

IMG_20200831_114635-01

At this point I was glad that this particular walk had three bailout points that I had noted previously…just in case.¬† At the campsite there was no sign of any yellow balise so we walked around the perimeter hoping to be unobtrusive. Having walked three sides of a square we finally found a gate which opened onto the service road alongside the lake.

IMG_20200831_115339-01

Noting another walk, not a boucle or circuit, we continued down to the lakeside.¬† A large noticeboard informed us of a ‘parcours sante’, a walk or run punctuated with various wooden set ups that require you to do energetic exercises before continuing.¬† We wouldn’t be doing that!¬† It took a few minutes to convince himself that we were walking the lake clockwise whereas previously he had walked anticlockwise.¬† I explained we needed to in order to find the exit point up into the hills for the rest of the circuit.

IMG_20200831_115707-02

IMG_20200831_115903-01

The rain had stopped and after a while the sun began to break through as promised and we could shed the raincoats.

IMG_20200831_120105-01

Apart from one jogger and a few fishermen we had the path to ourselves. The whole place is very well maintained with the equipment “sante’ appearing at regular intervals plus information boards detailing the fauna we might see….we didn’t, although there was a buzzard or kite continuously calling although I didn’t manage to spot it.¬† Further round the shore we began to notice small brown butterflies and, to my delight, some tiny blue ones.

IMG_20200831_121016-01

Rounding the end of the lake we walked along the edge of a marshy area and across the Tolerme stream that feeds into the lake and empties out at the far end to flow towards the Bave, the river that runs through St Cere and on into the Dordogne.

IMG_20200831_121908-01

I began to realise the lake had more inlets that I had imagined.¬† Later, I noticed the circumference was recorded on that ‘sante’ notice board and we would have walked five kilometres on this bit alone.¬† The longer walk had been achieved…just, even if we didn’t head for the hills.

IMG_20200831_124500-01

…looking back the way we had walked….

Eventually we came to the dam at the westerly end.  The path runs along the top of it and it is not an attractive place. But I was interested in the arrangement for dealing with flood waters, however ugly it was!

IMG_20200831_131011

We could see the beach area now and so began the discussion concerning how to continue the circuit.¬† Head for the hills as directed or carry on round until we reached our starting point by the campsite and so back to the ‘point de depart’ by the mairie? A joint preference for the latter.¬† Well, it might rain again!

IMG_20200831_132020-01

The beach looks fun but was deserted.¬† The day before the French ‘rentree’ probably meant parents and children were busy on school preparations.

As we walked past the cafe (closed) and on to the campsite gate we noted several picnic tables under the trees. A good place for lunch but we’d driving back!

IMG_20200831_143330-01

Thoughts of coffee (me) and beer (himself) spurred us on.

IMG_20200831_133333-01

The Tolerme campsites don’t lack for signposts!

Back at the mairie car park I noticed there was a very faded information board about the circuit we had just done.¬† It was the first indication that the fiche in my hand and the yellow balise we had been following were related.¬† Maybe we’ll go back and walk the whole thing on a sunnier day?¬† But maybe not, I still don’t find it very appealing.¬† Desole, lac de Tolerme.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Simply the best…

‘The best walk yet’ announced ‘I’m only the chauffeur’ as we reached the halfway point of last Monday’s walk.¬† It was, indeed, one of the better ones that I have found this summer.

In fact, I have known of this place’s existence for a while.¬† In our gite I have several files. The result of boredom one winter.¬† Fed up with tidying the umpteen brochures for tourist sites in the Lot that collected for the clients to peruse I hit upon putting them into a folder.¬† As we are ‘a cheval’ with the Correze and the Dordogne they soon spawned their own folders.¬† The Chateau de Sedieres is in the Correzian folder.¬† I found it online and thought it might make a good outing on a rainy day.

IMG_20200824_112151-01

Built in the 15th century it has had a chequered past, finishing up as an orphanage that closed in 1904.¬† After some years of abandonment it was bought by the department in the 1960s and since 1974 has been a centre of ‘loisirs’ and cultural events.¬† I knew the chateau itself was closed due to covid and its various summer activities severely curtailed but it has extensive grounds (130 hectares) with several ‘pistes’ for walkers, runners and cyclists.¬† At the fag end of the summer holidays I thought it should be reasonably quiet.

IMG_20200824_112038-01

The map I found online and that was nestling in my pocket was repeated on a big board by the entrance and again at the start of the various walks.¬† Called the ‘circuit des etangs’ it is 5.3km, not to be confused with the other circuit of 15km.

We set off, first walking beside the pretty etang called, unsurprisingly, the etang du chateau..

IMG_20200824_112523-01

Walking up and away from it we came to a gate with a turn marked to the right and we began to doubt our direction.  A family with children had started just ahead of us and had disappeared to our left where cheerful shouts could be heard coming from below.  Both walks used yellow balises and neither of us fancied walking 15km before lunch!  After backtracking we decided to follow it anyway and hoped it would resolve itself.  And, of course, it did.

IMG_20200824_114601-01

‘Saving on paint’ commented Lou.¬† We turned off the gravel track and began walking along a grassy forest one.¬† This walk was described as an easy family walk ie suitable for pushchairs and aged grandparents like us!

IMG_20200824_114604-01

The path led us up and down gently through pine trees.  Suddenly an etang opened up on our left, just as that family erupted from the undergrowth to our right.  This happened a couple of times over the next hour.   We decided they knew the place well and were taking short cuts.  However, they rarely seemed to be near us so we walked alone all the time.  A notice board announced we were passing the etang de Agadis.

IMG_20200824_115003-01

From here the path curved away and up, into more mixed woodland.

IMG_20200824_115228-01

i noticed ‘that’ moss along the bank and, touching it, decided it too was spagnum moss, however, the path was dry.¬† ¬†It was not long after this that himself made his announcement about the merit of the walk.¬† I began to feel a little smug!

After a while, we noticed huge wood piles on a rise away to our right.

IMG_20200824_120451-01

i assumed that the department logs the land to earn money to keep the place running but, later on, we crossed a small road and found an information board detailing why so much land had been cleared.

IMG_20200824_120820-01

IMG_20200824_120915-01

Apparently, continuous dry summers are taking their toll on the bigger pine trees and they are slowly dying.  In particular, a species called Vancouver pine which is especially thirsty.  They are working to eradicate it and replant with a less demanding species.

We walked past banks of blackberries, sadly all shrivelled from the heat, and a few woodland flowers appeared.

IMG_20200824_121054-01

And then we came to the third etang of our circuit.   There were waterlilies, well, more leaves than flowers, and I wondered if the leaves disappear in the colder months.  We had already decided that this would be a lovely place to walk in the winter.  Maybe there are migrating wildfowl that use the abundance of ponds.

IMG_20200824_122245-01

waterlily

I asked a passing cyclist (our first) if this was indeed Etang Neuf.  It was and it was the etang we had driven past on our way into the chateau grounds.

IMG_20200824_122431-01

A lovely spot, with a tiny parking space and picnic table just off the road which we had to cross to continue.

etang neuf

Across the road the woods were darker and we climbed before descending down and down past a marshy area.¬† I lost himself as I stopped to take photos of flowers…and accidently, a wasp!

heatherwasp

The marshy area was fenced off but with a sign explaining why.  I found all these signs very reassuring, that something was actually taking place to safeguard the environment rather than the seeming neglect of the etang de La Champ a few weeks ago.

IMG_20200824_124404-01

At the bottom of the long slope (complaining knees!)  we came out onto a wide open space and the etang de la Prade.

IMG_20200824_125103-01

The yellow balise led us around the left hand side of the water where there was a view of the chateau above the trees at the far end.  Below us on our right was a tiny etang in the middle of that marshy area, still fenced off.

IMG_20200824_125627-01

So now just a walk through the trees along the side of the water.   We noted several picnic tables dotted about.   But as ours was back in the car there was no stopping for lunch.

As we rounded the end of the etang de la Prade, we passed our final and tiniest etang of the circuit, the etang Noir.  i imagine it was created when the high ground we were walking across was built to hold back the waters of its bigger neighbour.

We came up to the gate where we had been so concerned about doing that fifteen kilometre walk…’we’ll do that next time,’ ‘I’m only the chauffeur’ promised!

There were one or two empty picnic tables close to the chateau but in full sun so we picked a shady spot close to the car and relaxed.

IMG_20200824_133608-01

Before we left Clergoux, the nearest town, we checked out another etang close by, the etang de Bos Redon, that could be a future walk ‘n picnic spot.¬† But for now, happy memories of this one!

IMG_20200824_112712-01

IMG_20200824_131118-01

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Light and shadow

We usually take our main summer holiday in September after the ‘rentree’.¬† The days are still warm, the evenings not yet dark and everywhere is a bit calmer.¬† Even with the ever present treat of doom virus we have talked about risking a short break by the Atlantic, maybe in a chalet on a campsite where we can keep our distance but get a sense of holiday freedom.

But…the infection rates are rising rapidly, the cycling son has cancelled a trip over due to the imposition of quarantine by the UK and I have a feeling in my water that soon we may be facing travel restrictions again.

All of which brings me to that Doisneau exhibition in Bram that we hoped to visit on the way home from the aborted birthday trip to Provence.  It is still on, extended until the 13th September but I was worried we might not be able to travel that far by the start of next month.

IMG_20200819_135221-01

So I suggested, firmly, that we should make a date to go.  So we did.  And so we went.

There is limited opening on only three days each week so a Wednesday afternoon it had to be.  The journey takes about three hours and the gallery opens at 2pm.  That meant we could get most of the way there and then stop for lunch.  A picnic, of course.

I googled earthed and found a quiet aire, ie no petrol station, no restaurant etc but with lots of shade.  It was strange to be on an autoroute again, the last time had been in January, taking the family down to Toulouse airport after our Christmas together.

IMG_20200819_125152-01

The aire was busy with groups picnicking at all the available tables.¬† After some reluctant harrumphing from ‘I’m only the chauffeur’ our table and chairs were set up and luncheon was served! The scene under the trees reminded me of the ‘island of la Grande Jatte’. No river but children and dogs moving around under the dappled shade giving an odd pointillism effect to the scene.

We noticed cyclists passing behind a wire fence at the top of the bank across the road and after finishing my lunch I went up to explore.  I had noticed some steps leading up to the fence and found a gate which opened onto the canal side.

IMG_20200819_131025-01

I was delighted.  This section of the autoroute after Toulouse plays cat and mouse with the Canal du Midi, a Unesco world heritage site and one of our favourite places.  We have walked bits of it, both ways, cycled a bit of it, one way, and camped next to it at least four times.  Our last stay was very sad as the full impact of the fatal disease of the plane trees had meant the destruction of the landscape as we had experienced it some years before.

Before – near Capestang

FB_IMG_1598098366897-01

 

After – near Capestang

Screenshot_20200822-162508-01

The only solution is the uprooting of the plane trees and replacing with another variety resistant to the fungi that is slowly destroying them.  By the aire the trees were still in situ but for how long?

IMG_20200819_131031-01

According to a nearby noticeboard there was another motorway aire further on with access to the canal path.  Comfort stop for all those cyclists?

Refreshed and delighted with my canal discovery we set off again for Bram.¬† The plan was to arrive bang on opening time as there was a limit to the number of visitors at any one time.¬† We needn’t have worried.¬† There was only one other person sheltering from the sun under a tree as we all waited for the door to open.¬† Gel, masks and arrows on the floor with detailed instructions from the ticket lady as to how to proceed.

 

IMG_20200819_135806-01

We have visited the les essarts gallery before.  It is run by the municipality and has a reasonable admission price.  The space is cool and well laid out.  Having the place almost to ourselves was a bonus.

IMG_20200819_140543-01

In the first room I was amazed to discover a photo of a shantytown in Paris taken in 1972 in the area where the beautiful Stade de France now proudly stands.   This was a different side to Doisneau, until now the photographer of cheeky schoolboys, holiday snaps and lovers in Paris.  This was Doisneau as social commentator.

IMG_20200819_141422-01

As we took the obligatory lift to the lower level I took my own social comment shot of our difficult times.

IMG_20200819_141856-01

The rest of the exhibition continued in a similar vein.¬† Migrant workers, poverty stricken families, work wearied people posing proudly in their cluttered homes.¬† With no catalogue to refer to (sign of our times) there was no way of telling if these were Doisneau’s work commissions or private interest photographs.

Coming to the end of the exhibition we let ourselves out, as directed,¬† by a side door.¬† No beguiling shop to pass through, no postcards or books to tempt you.¬† The new normal which doesn’t seem normal at all

IMG_20200819_143720-02

So now it was the return journey through the fields of sunflowers, which only seem to be cultivated south of Toulouse,¬† and a ‘gouter’ stop just south of Cahors to finish our leftover sandwiches.

IMG_20200819_162059-01

And home in time for dinner.  I wonder when we will get to travel as far again?

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

chemin de saint-jacques-de-compostelle

After having to share the path at the Canal des Moines with several others we have preferred to walk in places less likely to attract holidaymakers during the school hols. Hence heading for tucked away areas of the Correze recently.

IMG_20200810_112836-01

However, I fancied a return to the Cele valley with its majestic cliffs and pretty villages.¬† ¬†Hunting for walks and in particular ‘boucles’, circular walks, was difficult as a lot of them climb up and down those very cliffs.¬† My knees can’t do downhill and my stamina weakens on the up bit!¬† The French IGN maps have many footpaths marked on them and some march across the landscape, coloured red and carrying numbers.¬† These are the GR, grand randonnee paths.¬† Not circular in character and travelling very long distances.¬† The one that follows the Cele valley is one of the three main Compostelle pilgrim ways across France towards Spain.¬† The Camino de Santiago is the stuff of legend and, since being rediscovered in the twentieth century, subject of many books and television documentaries by various survivors of the journey.¬† We had walked a tiny part of it in Northern Spain a few years ago, following two genuine pilgrims who were carrying the traditional scallop shells on their backpacks.

 

The scallop logo, a golden shell on a blue background, adorns the GR 651 as it follows the meanders of the Cele, coming close to the river between the two villages that make up the commune of Espagnac-Sainte-Eulalie.  Close inspection showed that between the villages the GR looked a simple and doable walk,  an aller/retour as it is called when you walk back the way you came.

IMG_20200820_180256-01

Espagnac has a priory which is open to visitors be they pilgrims or just curious.¬† The village also has several ‘gites d’etape’ for the use of weary pilgrims looking for a bed for the night.¬† Searching on Google earth I saw there was a tiny carpark near the bridge into the village.¬† Hopefully, it wouldn’t be ‘complet’ when we arrived.

IMG_20200817_132348

The drive across the causse was very different from the earlier ones in June.  The fields were dry and yellow and no sign of poppies on the verges.  While descending into the valley I noticed how many of the trees were beginning to change into autumnal colours, brought on early by the high temperatures.

As we approached the turning for the bridge we passed a large group of walkers…oops, going our way?¬† There were just two places left in the car park and ‘I’m only the chauffeur’ neatly slotted us in.¬† So much for avoiding holidaymakers!

IMG_20200817_112917-01

As we walked through the village looking for the exclusive red and white balise of the GR I found a notice board with a village walk that I hadn’t found online. Its last few kilometres followed the same part of the GR that I had chosen. Dommage. But it was eleven kilometres which was a bit of a push before lunch.

The walking group had disappeared so I assumed they were following the village walk.¬† Our planned jaunt was going in the opposite direction so we would probably meet them coming towards us at some point.¬† Let’s hope there would be enough room for social distancing!

IMG_20200817_113453-01

After trudging up a pretty steep hill (I thought this route followed the river) we came to our first red and white waymarker.  Then it was downhill, for quite a long way.  Hmmm, that would mean an uphill finish to our walk.

IMG_20200817_113739-01

This was very confusing.  Uphill and then down on a tarmac surface and no sign of the river.  After a while I glimpsed water away down on our left so we were following the Cele but at a distance.  The trees between us and it were covered in a clinging, dangling type of moss.  Quite spooky.

IMG_20200817_115753-01

Soon, however, fields replaced the woods and there were some grazing donkeys.  The river completely disappeared and we came to the tiny hamlet of Salebio, a pretty collection of houses.

IMG_20200817_120233-01

The house on the left is for sale!

Now we got rid of the road and were walking on grass, much kinder to the feet.  The sun was trying to break through and the path seemed less gloomy.

IMG_20200817_120510-01

Then we were in the trees again and walking on stones and fallen leaves, another sign of autumn.  That odd moss was back on the trees and rocks beside the path.  The river was nearer and suddenly, scarily,  a long way below us which made me think it must be very misty in winter to cause so much dampness.

IMG_20200817_121435-01

IMG_20200817_122002-01

It occurred to me that the moss might be spagnum moss as it was very damp to the touch.  Very useful for lining hanging baskets but I had never thought much about how it grew or where.

There was chalk showing through the moss and undergrowth, reminding us of the cliffs close by.

IMG_20200817_121326-01

We were dropping down again towards the river and we could hear it tumbling, fast and shallow over its gravel bed.  The path crossed a dry stream and came to a junction.  A red bar crossed with a white one told us that was not the turn for us so off to the right and onto the road that led to the bridge and village of Sainte Eulalie.

IMG_20200817_122648-01

Up to the bridge we went to mark the end of our own ‘balade’ and then turned for the ‘retour’.

IMG_20200817_122907-01

IMG_20200817_123042-01

The return always seems much quicker than the outward journey, probably because fewer photos are taken.  Himself had already disappeared around the bend. Hungry?

As we turned onto the path a family came towards us and then another.  Suddenly it was the Canal des Moines all over again.  If they were doing the village Val de Paradis walk they had opted to do it in reverse.

IMG_20200817_124630-01

As we walked back I was reminded of ‘Going on a bear hunt’…’back past the dry stream, stumble trip, stumble trip; back past the mossy mossy walls, slip slop, slip slop; back past that nasty drop to the river ‘mind the edge!’.¬† The retired teacher is never far away!

As we came out of the trees in sight of the little hamlet there was s very strange call from a bird across the valley on the cliff.  No idea what it was so a quick video clip to help with a later online search.

IMG_20200817_125004-01

Past the hamlet we were back on the road and yet another family came towards us.¬† ‘Tous la monde’ shouted the father cheerfully as they passed.¬† In other words, ‘Busy, isn’t it?’¬† Just a bit, I thought.

IMG_20200817_130916-01

Further on I noticed a rare clump of flowers. As I approached five butterflies flew up but quickly settled back down.  I counted three different species.  Poor things must be getting desperate as the August temperatures shrivel everything.

By now the road was going up…and up.¬† But I must be getting slightly fitter as it didn’t seem too bad.

IMG_20200817_131620-01

In fact, the bonus of having climbed up meant there were glimpses of lovely views across the village rooftops to the priory.

IMG_20200817_170613_859

And I noticed a bread oven on the end of a barn

IMG_20200817_131818-01

Of course, had we wanted to visit the priory, which should have been open, it was, in fact, shut…fermeture exceptionelle.¬† ¬†Two of the most frustrating words in the French language!

IMG_20200817_112823-01

Eschewing the strip of shingle below the bridge as a possible picnic spot, not enough shade,¬† we drove downstream to St Sulpice where I had noted an ‘aire de repos’ alongside a canoe embarkation point.¬† Just under a bridge like our first picnic at Monteils nine weeks ago!

IMG_20200817_141849-01

Murphy’s law ensured there was a family firmly ensconced on the only picnic table but with our own in the boot we were soon set up under a handy tree. There was a lot of canoe activity on the river but it soon became clear that the family were not canoeists. Like us, they had simply chosen to picnic by the water.

IMG_20200817_142823-01

They soon packed up and left us to enjoy a quiet pause….until a party of canoeists came chattering and laughing down the river and hauled themselves and their boats onto the bank past the bridge.

IMG_20200817_141813-01

IMG_20200817_141713-01

It was becoming overcast again so time to go.¬† As we drove up the steep hill out of St Sulpice a few drops of rain hit the windscreen.¬† Glad we weren’t in a canoe or still walking the pilgrim trail!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Computer says no!

This Monday the GPS was sulking.¬† It refused to acknowledge the three villages nearest to the etang I had found.¬† Eventually we put in a town further on and hoped we could wing it when we got closer.¬† The etang was part of a 9km walk, one of several ‘fiches’ I had downloaded when researching online.¬† A bit of a push for us nowadays but when I saw the route went around the etang de lachamp I realised we could probably do just that bit.¬† Further googling showed the pond to be popular with walkers and photographers and even had a Facebook page.¬† And there was car parking.

IMG_20200810_112603-01

According to Meteo France last Monday was carrying an orange alert for ‘canicule’, heatwave, so a short walk was a sensible option and it appeared to be mostly under trees so a shady one too.¬† The GPS took us towards Tulle which seemed to be an odd direction as too far east but maybe the roads were less twisty.¬† The winging bit worked, mainly because I had studied Google earth to be able to identify the nearest roundabout and the turning (unobtrusive) for the etang.¬† As we drove down the narrow lane a red squirrel ran into our path and dithered, thus giving us time to identify it and comment how few we see, sadly.¬† A car park appeared on our right but without much shade so ‘I’m only the chauffeur’ pulled over against some overgrown hawthorn bushes just past s hidden no entry sign!

A few people were walking to and from the direction of the water as we sorted ourselves out.¬† At the etang’s edge we read the information board and opted for an anti clockwise perambulation.

IMG_20200810_112833-01

As the track ran under the trees we began to notice several people fishing and some cars drove past to a small picnic area.¬† They knew something we didn’t or a fishermen’s perk?

IMG_20200810_113649-01

A well worn path dived downwards and got narrower as it took us over tree roots close to the water.¬† It was lovely and cool under the trees and I didn’t really need my big sunhat.

IMG_20200810_113759-01

Further on, we moved away from the water and walked through a marshy clearing littered with fallen trees, some not quite fallen and resting on others still upright.  Storm damage or deliberate?

IMG_20200810_114324

At a t-junction of paths we turned left.  I suspect the right turn would have taken us onto the continuation of the 9km route I had rejected.  We were still walking amongst fallen trees and random logs moving away from the etang.

IMG_20200810_114632-02

I was beginning to feel depressed by the apparent neglect of the woodland.¬† Recently, our walks had taken us through beautifully managed forests.¬† I wasn’t wanting manicured nature, just not this sometimes quite savage destruction.

IMG_20200810_115318-01

Another left turn and the water began to reappear.  I could hear a duck away out in the middle near some small, tree covered islands.  Apart from a few small butterflies there was little wildlife and hardly any flowers.  There were two girls walking with dogs ahead of us somewhere so maybe everything was hiding!

IMG_20200810_115517-01

IMG_20200810_115548-01

There were tree roots underfoot again to negotiate but lovely views across the water.

IMG_20200810_120014-01

We caught up the girls and their dogs as they took a short cut across some duckboards.  They told us the path carried on so we did too.  A little further on and we had a duckboard bridge of our own to cross over another marshy place.  Looking at the map there are three tiny and young streams that run into the etang from different directions.

IMG_20200810_120329-01

Now the path widened out with less obvious damage to the trees. Fishing pontoons were set up along the bank and Lou pointed out a large expanse of water lilies.  I noticed the leaves of flag iris near the bank.  It must look lovely in the spring.

IMG_20200810_120846-01

IMG_20200810_121408-01

The girls and their dogs had stopped at another wide picnic area with tables but we pressed on.¬† Soon we were back at the notice boards with their list of ‘interdictions’ and a little story about the etang being the site of a people’s revolution just after the big Parisian one.¬† That would explain why ‘my’ randonnee was called ‘le chemin de la revolte’

IMG_20200810_122404

Another sign told us the etang was managed naturally.  So maybe all that apparent neglect and destruction is all part of some grand plan.  I do hope so.

IMG_20200810_122308-01

Meanwhile Lou had identified a place in the carpark that offered some shade so we quickly moved ourselves and the car to take advantage of it.

There is a pony club alongside the car park so our picnic was eaten surrounded by grazing horses. With no one else around it was very pleasant under our oak tree watching the ponies and wondering what criteria led to them being split up into several paddocks.  The white mare and a delicate foal was pretty obvious!

IMG_20200810_130020-01

IMG_20200810_130038-01

Picnic and pause and then our choice of the way home via St Ferreole and Malemort. More reason for the gps to sulk.

postscript – just a few minutes after we arrived home some friends turned up with Blighty goodies from their recent trip.¬† Branston pickle for him¬† and Tick Tock redbush tea for me.¬† Perfect end to a good day….

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment