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.

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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.

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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..

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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.

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‘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!

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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!

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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After – near Capestang

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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?

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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

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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

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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!

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

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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.

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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.

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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’

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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.

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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!

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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….

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You have reached your destination

Except we hadn’t.  Last week it was a case of a walk that seemed be non existent, this week it was a whole village!

I had looked at a little etang online and when researching information about it found a walk that passed by it.  Google earth revealed a decent parking place next to the village church so having printed off the fiche for the walk it was all systems go.  My meteo said some showers, his said no rain so off we went.  Northwards this time into the Correze.   I thought it was a bit odd that after passing Tulle we were on a road that I knew was on the northern side of the A89 autoroute but decided the bigger road was better than wiggling along those twisty lanes ‘i’m only the chauffeur’ doesn’t enjoy.   At any moment I expected the GPS, usually a lover of goat tracks, to take us down a right turn.  But that didn’t happen.  On the main road in the middle of Gare du Correze our gps announced we had ‘arrived at our destination’.  ‘No, we bloody haven’t’, I retorted.  Lou checked the address he had entered which was indeed Saint Priest de Gimel but we weren’t in it.

Fortunately, on checking with the map and proving that the village was clearly marked south of the autoroute, we found we were near the D26 which should deliver us to the correct place.  Of course, there is always trial and error.  Not least when you are presented with a fork in the road that has both possibilities carrying the same road number!  A short backtrack once I recognised we were on a part of the walk and once past the etang (thank goodness) we drove up a hill, around a bend and there was the tiny church on our right.

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We parked up and tried to ignore the menacing black clouds coming from the direction we hoped to walk.  Sensible shoes and raincoats we decided.   I was very pleased to find a notice board with the name of the walk and the start of the yellow balise that would lead us around the five kilometres to come

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The usual faff as forgotten bits are retrieved and then we began.  The route was ‘sur la route’ until we got to the etang.   The small hill we had just driven up, in fact.   The Correze is logging country and we walked down between huge stacks of logs smelling gorgeous.  Around them the grass verges were full of wild flowers.  After our dried up straw like roadsides back home it was refreshing to see.  As was the rain that started to fall!

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By the time we reached the edge of the etang de Caux the rain had stopped, and so did we to enjoy the tranquil view of the water.  Its owner clearly enjoyed it too, to the extent of slapping up a wire fence and three signs with various interdictions…no camper vans , no entry etc.

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We took the hint and moved on.  My researches had revealed this would be a walk on farm tracks, no slithering over rocky, plum smeared narrow paths between fields, and so it was.   We walked up towards the plateau de Caux as my fiche told me. The etang could just be seen between the trees behind and below us.

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The landscape was a mixture of woodland and fields with rocks and heathers beside the track as we climbed higher.

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Finally the track flattened out with views of woodland and we came into s tiny hamlet. Caux, I believe.  The first people we’d seen were chatting outside a house and waved us to the right as we searched in vain for a yellow balise.

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With a bonjour and a merci we walked down past a precarious old barn and noticed a tiny yellow splash on one of its stones.  Now we were on a main road and heading uphill…again.   Himself wasn’t convinced we were going in the right direction but this bit I had seen several times on Google earth so strode forth! IMG_20200803_123526-01

Leaving Caux behind us we clung to the verge (more flowers) as the few cars that passed us drove at speed.  The Correze has abandoned the experiment with a limit of 80kph and so you can whizz’ along at 90kph.  Walkers beware!

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Soon we reached the right turn for Vieillascaux.  Thank goodness for the yellow balise on the road sign as Lou was convinced I was leading him on a wild goose chase.  This road led us down, at first, past broom bushes and ripening blackberries

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and then up to a farm.  Another prominent yellow splash pointed us around the farmyard.

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By now himself was striding away as usual.  I was bonjour-ed by a young girl as I took a photo of her father’s (?) sign of protest about wind farms

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I took several shots here as I love a cluttered farmyard and this one was pretty full of diverse objects.  In contrast there were some very neat piles of wood, ready cut for the winter stove and weighted down with bits of the ubiquitous corrugated iron and large stones.  A nearby logpile smelled wonderful

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I knew from Google earth and my fiche that this track would eventually take us back to the church from where we started so I let Lou go ahead as I strolled along enjoying the sights and smells.  The track alternated between tarmac and rough stony earth and at one point there was a wonderful perfume but I couldn’t identify from what.  We were at the highest point of the walk and there was a warm breeze blowing and some blue sky appearing.   Good to be alive kind of walking.

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A helicopter suddenly clattered away to my left.  Possibly monitoring forest fires?  This is the dangerous time of year with high temperatures, random winds and careless humans.  The path undulated and wandered between fields and woodland.

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The woods were made up of several different deciduous species, some of which I even recognised.

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Suddenly on my right a vista opened up with misty mountains in the far distance.  I wished I had a compass so I could work out later with the map which ones they were.

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We seemed to be in the final descent which was into a beech wood.

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I love beech woods.  They remind me of life back in the UK when I would pick bunches of leaves to steep in glycerine for winter displays.  Around our village there are similar trees that confused me until a friend told me they are hornbeam.

The last part of the walk brought us back to the village through a farm.  Possibly not a working one given the state of its buildings?

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Once beautiful but needing repair.  The immediate village, or hamlet, consists of this farm, three houses, a cross and a church.

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There was a group of fat yew trees around the cross and I wondered if they signified the presence of a former graveyard but no amount of internet searching has revealed any information about the village or its church.

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The church was locked and appears to be  missing a bell or two.  Its war memorial set into the church wall seems sadly neglected.

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But someone must live here as a van turned up with a cherry picker on top and two workers emerged and seemed to be busy with internet cables as we were changing our shoes.

Lunch was on our minds and we hoped the small, possible parking space next to the etang would still be free.  It was.

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We ignored the wire fence and enjoyed the calm and the fact it had stayed dry after that first shower.

As to the mystery of the whereabouts of the real Saint Priest de Gimel?  Well, we know it exists, we’ve been there…and, by proxy, so have you!

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Le fraysse

It was meant to be a short walk followed by lunch and then, if we felt up to it, the rest of the walk.

It didn’t happen like that.

Firstly, the meteo told us it was going to be the hottest day of the year so far. Hmm, just the first part of the walk then.  Secondly, when we arrived in Lissac, the departure point for this walk around the commune of Lissac et Mouret, there was no sign of ‘our’ walk on the information board outside the mairie.

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There were four other walks, one of which bore the same name as the walk on the ‘fiche’ I was holding in my hand.  No matter. The le fraysse walk on the notice board said it was facile, 6.5 km long and would take one hour and thirty-five minutes. Perfect.  Just the right amount of walking to bring us back for lunch before the real heat of the day kicked in.

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You can tell my nature tends to the optimistic!  We got ourselves sorted, lots of water, sticks (thank heaven) and the copies of the map I had made.  But I left the route of ‘my’ fraysse in the car.  Bad move.

The blue balise was easy to find and we started to trudge up a steep hill away from the crossroads.  Halfway up there was an expletive from the other half and back he went for his camera, forgotten and still in the car.  I continued and dallied at the top taking photos of wayside flowers and a pretty view with a cross.

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Up here we were amongst the older houses of the commune and there were lots of picturesque barns and drystone walls.  We were to become well acquainted with them over the next ten minutes or so.  The blue balises were still evident but kept sending us into front gardens or down grassy tracks to wire fences.

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As we found ourselves having gone in a complete circle I made an executive decision.  That trudge up the hill was also the first part of ‘my’ yellow route.  Let’s follow that one and hope for more success.  A fabulous kite flew low overhead and it seemed a good omen.

So off we went, comforted by the sight of a yellow balise painted on a telegraph pole. The track led down and I could remember the first bit of the instructions telling me that the road would become a grassy track and then a road again.  And it did, so I was reassured that these yellow balises were ‘my’ yellow balises.

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At the end of this first part we came back to the main road and were directed across it to a narrow low bridge crossing the Drauzou river.

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I was amused by a ‘no swimming’ sign. The depth was just about sufficient for a paddle.

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A young chap with his shoes off, deep in a book with headphones on, was sitting on the bank. There was a nice shady place just past him that might do for our lunch spot.

We turned right under the trees and I began to look out for the moulin de la fraysse but it was completely hidden although we could hear water tumbling over something, either a weir or the remains of its waterwheel.  The path led us to our left and up between two fields.  Up being the operative word.  We had walked up, down and along one side of the river and the river was in a valley so common sense told us the other side of the valley would have to be climbed too.  And climb we did

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Looking back down…there was a lot more climbing to be done!

The path was easy to follow but upwards all the time. As we got to the edge of the woodland above the fields I pleaded for a stop to catch my breath.

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Now the path ran along to our right.  I was glad of our sticks which could hold back the brambles that tried to catch us and steady myself as we crossed large slabs of stone.  This would be treacherous after rain, I decided, especially as the ground was littered with squashed wild plums.  We came to a troop of sheep all huddled together in the shade of a tree.  ‘I bet the ones in the middle are hot’, said Lou and laughed as he pointed out some more shade further along with not a sheep taking advantage of it.  Sheep being sheep? I replied

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Further on, still going up, we passed a tinkling ‘font’ on our right and a hamlet on our left.  We were coming to Labadie, according to our map copies.

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We left the brambles and squashed plums and walked (puffed) up a grassy slope towards a beautifully restored old house.  From there we took the track on our left that linked the hamlet to le Causse St Denis.  The clue is in the name.  All our local causses are reached by climbing steep hills!

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The road was still climbing but eventually it began to flatten.   There was a turning on our right which, happily, our yellow balise  ignored.  The Pech de Saubie.  I have never found a satisfactory translation for pech but peak seems about right!

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Now the track was obviously going down gently through woodland.  It was very pleasant and I was glad of my overly large floppy sunhat with its deep brim as the sun was hot and I was wondering if ‘Mr Mcgregor’s stomach was rumbling as it was well past one o’clock by now and he is franglofied enough to eat at midday normally.

Where the track joined the main road he was all for turning left and following it to Lissac but the yellow sign was saying go right.   I suggested that, maybe, we had  followed the yellow this far so why not give it a chance as it was sure to turn left soon and, hopefully,  be more pleasant that walking beside the traffic in the sun.  Sure enough, after a few metres there was the yellow bar on the back of a stop sign for a turning on our left.  Further on at a fork between two roads in front of us there was a track leading away down the hillside.  This isn’t on the map.  I’ve looked.  But there was a yellow sign on a telegraph pole!  By now I had decided that ‘my’ le fraysse  route was not a commune inspired walk.  I had found it on the Figeac tourist site.  Curious that the commune hadn’t thought to add it to their notice board though.  Fit of pique?

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Before plunging us back into woodland we had a lovely view across the Drauzou valley we had just crossed.  It looks shallow but my knees could tell you different.

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There goes Lou.  He is shouting plums!  The path got narrower and steeper and there were squashed plums again.  We passed a couple of clusters of lovely old buildings  where lanes came up from the main road and one had a magnificent covered well.

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A dog behind a wire fence growled at me while I took pictures of a pretty wall.

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As we slithered down the slope to the main road I noticed a portion of dry stone wall. Put there to hold the hillside back from the road below many years ago?

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Once on the main road it was a only a short walk across the Drauzou again, not such a pretty bridge, and into the town.  a left turn, up another steep slope(!), past the church and behind the mairie and back to the car parked next to the cemetery.

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The car temperature read 47 degrees!  And that hour and a half of walking had been two and half hours of walking.  I needed my coffee!  After drinking tepid water off we went to see if we could park in the shade by the pretty bridge.  Sadly, the young lad was now stretched out asleep in ‘our’ spot.

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Undeterred we turned for home.  We knew of a couple of shady laybys set back from the road.  So that’s where we ate lunch and i finally got my capuccino, in the shade of ‘les tilleuls’.   We scorned the grass below the grove of lime trees, just in case, and set up our table and chairs behind the car.  A little later a van pulled up in front of our car and let out a dog.  The dog promptly used the grass.   We were glad to be sat where we were.   We were too knackered to move anyway!

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On top of the Xaintrie

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Another lake, another swimmer.  But technically, this isn’t a lake or etang. It is a plan d’eau.  Plan d’eau is a catch all term for a stretch of water used for leisure activities such as the river Cele at Marcilhac.  The nearest one to our village is where the Cere widens and curves just before a small wier.  A beach of sorts has formed on the outer side of the bend and is used by a nearby campsite.  The one at Auriac  looks like the manmade variety and we could see a rather plain embankment whose sole purpose appeared to be to hold the water back or in.

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But I’m ahead of myself.  Today’s trip started with a visit to the Puy de Bassin a few kilometres down the road from this particular plan d’eau.  We had driven to Argentat taking the route of two weeks ago, the ‘fish farm road’ but from Argentat had taken the road northeast up across the Xaintrie, the old name for the area.  Typically, the gps had ideas of its own about the route it should offer us and left the main road at St Privat and proceeded to take us down narrower and narrower roads until we had barely enough space to negotiate our way around occasional cyclists and even rarer oncoming cars.  Mind you, the road from Darazac and through the forest Duzejouls was beautiful and when we drove past about five or six huge log stacks the car filled with the smell of resin.

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‘i’m only the chauffeur’ hadn’t been able to find the Puy de Bassin, my intended first stop, on the car gps so we came to the plan d’eau at Auriac first.  We drove on Into the tiny village full of slate roofed house and a slightly forbidding church and took the road for the Puy.   As I had hoped the turning for it led to a decent tarmac road albeit narrow that took us to a parking area.  Getting out of the car we could hear a humming noise and soon realised there was an enormous phone aerial nearby.  Well, it is advertised as the highest point of the Xaintrie.

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There were several information boards telling us about the flora and fauna. Otters (?) and booted eagles. And a sign for a six kilometre walk.  Lou perked up at the thought while I didn’t. Well, not today anyway.  Another time perhaps?

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A wide track led up through the pine trees to a green space with a chapelle and a statue of the virgin Mary on a very tall column.  There was also a rectangular stone thingy and an old fashioned camera set up pointing at the scene.

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One of these edifices marks the green meridian which cuts through Paris.  We cross it on visits to Aurillac (spelt differently!) and Puy Mary.  I’ve read that to celebrate the millennium events were held in towns and villages along it.

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(I wondered if the English translation was a touch of local French pique, letting les Brittaniques know they weren’t best pleased to lose out to Greenwich!)

We took photographs but couldn’t see the view as, despite being at the highest point, the surrounding forest blocked out everything.  The chapelle was unlocked so we were able to go inside and look at the stained glass and memorial to the fallen of the two world wars.  ‘Mort for la France’, this phrase is intoned at armistice ceremonies all over France after each name of the fallen for the particular community is read out.  So always poignant to come across those words, especially in a beautiful place on a peaceful day.  A group of children had clattered around the chapelle as we had arrived but only tried the door.  Perhaps they should have been encouraged to go in and reflect.

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There were none of the advertised picnic tables and with the six kilometre walk put off for another day it was back to the car under the humming aerial and back to Auriac.

Earlier we had driven past what we thought was a parking area for the plan d’eau but it turned out to be for the Sothys gardens nearby.   Luckily there was some flattish land just above the water on our left so we drive onto it and parked.  A bit anxious about the legality of that but the plan d’eau was just below us so we wouldn’t be far away if a jobsworth turned up and wanted order us off!

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Picking our way carefully down the bank we found a bench perfectly placed for our picnic lunch.  So beer out, himself, cappuccino made, myself, we relaxed and enjoyed the view.  The swimmer made a circumnavigation and then seemed to disappear.  We hoped he’d made it to the far side from where we could hear excited children playing in the water.

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Lunch finished and the sun getting hotter as our shady patch wasn’t that shady anymore we decided to walk around the plan d’eau.  I had read online there were ‘bornes’ placed along the walk with relevant information.  It was thanks to one that I learned that there was a source that ran into the water.  source always sounds so romantic but this appreared to be a ditch watched over by a few cows.  Most if the others were pretty faded but we could just make out that we were passing a very old oak and later a very old chestnut.

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The squeals and screeches were coming from children messing about with canoes next to a pontoon and some in the water by the “beach’.  We spotted the official car park.  Up this end there the obligatory commune tennis court and boule pitch as well as crazy golf.  There was the municipal campsite which looked very inviting under its shady trees.  One to remember for when times improve?

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Benches and picnic tables were placed around and about and there was a holiday atmosphere as we passed groups also picnicking, sunbathing or fishing.  All the things you envisage at a plan d’eau but surprisingly restful due to not being overcrowded despite it being mid July and school holidays.

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Back at ‘our’ bench it was time to turn for home and pick our own route rather than  that of our goat track loving gps.  St Privat here we come, the less windy way!

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Canal des Moines

Before we left the UK and retired to France my best friend and I decided to extend our regular lunch dates to include local places of interest that either neither of us or just one of us had visited.  I remember she took me to Brookwood cemetery which may sound gloomy but, as she promised, is a beautiful place full of flowering  rhododendrons if you go at the right time and is a very peaceful place for quiet reflection and long walks

Somewhere neither of us had visited was Farnborough Abbey despite knowing of its existence. This was quite ridiculous as both of us must have driven past it hundreds of times as it is on the main road less than three miles from the village where we had both lived for thirty years. (I say village because it had been back in the early 70s when we both moved there)  The abbey was founded by the Empress Eugenie in the late 1800s as a place for contemplation but also as a final resting place for her husband Napoleon the third.  So a French connection.  We enjoyed our visit and I treasure a tiny silver pill box I bought as a souvenir of our day.

Similarly, over here we have an abbey a bit further away than three miles but still one that I have known about but never visited.  Its most famous attraction is the canal des Moines, an amazing feat of 12th century engineering built to bring fresh water from the river Coiroux to the abbey.  A distance of around two kilometres.  Although founded near a spring the abbey required more water than the source could provide so a real case of necessity being the mother of invention.

With the one hour away driving rule this was a perfect choice.  We drove past the signpost for the abbey every time we went to Malemort on shopping or medical exoedition.  The gps was switched on in case there was a quicker way and, sure enough, it took us up a road we didn’t know which wound along a hillside looking down on a pretty valley.  Aubazine sits on a hilltop amongst other hilltops.

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There weren’t many places to park, holiday makers?  ‘I’m only the chauffeur’ expertly slotted us into a space I wouldn’t have dreamed of trying, not far from the abbey.

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Across the road behind us was s sign for the start of the canal so we joined a few other tourists walking in the same direction but at a distance as the new reality advises.

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The start of the walk was a steep climb up a village street.  I hoped this wasn’t indicative of what was to come!  As we climbed higher we could hear the sound of water rushing over stones and there was the canal, tumbling down the rocks and into the valley below.  I said we’d been climbing!

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Up some steps, across a main road, past a lavoir and up another steep street.  But, at the top, the proper start of the walk.  There was a large information board and a smaller one reminding you of the dangers to come!

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We had been warned.  The walk was now flat with the canal moving gently on our left and a fabulous view of the thickly wooded hills on our right, between the trees growing on a very steep slope.  Not a place to bring the grandson…yet! IMG_20200713_113705-01

Soon we were out in the sunshine with the rockface now on our left and an even more dangerous looking drop on our right.  The praise in all the publicity for the rigorous hard work of the monks was becoming apparent the further we walked.

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The path is well maintained and easy to follow.  There are a few places where you have to clamber over a rocky outcrop but there are handrails to hang on to.  Of course, out came the hand gel after each rail grab and I was very concerned by a chap I nicknamed the heavy breather who persisted in stopping behind me to catch his breath.  I moved quickly away and hoped my ridiculously big floppy sunhat was giving sufficient droplet protection!IMG_20200713_115225-01

At one point there were metal hooks in the rockface and I remembered seeing a climbing logo on the map.  Abseiling too?

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We carried on with the sound of the river now below us amongst the trees.  Finally, we caught sight of the water glistening as it rushed over the rocks. A little further on there was a path down to a wooden bridge over the torrent.  Some children were enjoying that!

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Now we were almost at the point where the canal joined the river.  There was a sluice gate set between the rocks and an anxious step over the flow took you across to a place where you could see the river coiroux cascading down a waterful deep under the trees.

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At this point we wondered whether to follow the footpath up to the calvaire and the point de vue.  There was a washed out yellow balise on a tree trunk but the path didn’t look very inviting as it curved its way up the deeply shaded hillside with many tree roots looking ready to trip over the unwary walker.   As we were not in walking boots we decided to give it a miss and return the only way possible…the way we had come.

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The return always seems much faster than the outward journey and, thankfully, I’d lost my heavy breathing shadow.  More photos, bien sur.  And time to take the one that is on all the postcards of this walk.

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Is this the corbelling the publicity talks about? In which case we’re walking over the void!  We were blessed with fabulous weather and it was clear the holiday season was getting going.  Further picnics may need to be taken on randonnees rather than tourist hot spots as infection rates are already on the rise again.

Back at the car lots of hand gel and thoughts of coffee.  Luckily we were parked on the road we needed to take out of town.  I had spent ages on Google earth looking for likely picnic spots, preferably near water and had even thought we may end up in a layby, albiet pretty, with a former railway building on it, on our route home.  Finally I found a tiny etang and street view showed me it had a sign indicating its existence and google earth had followed the approach road as far as a big parking sign.  So, hopefully, a legitimate place to picnic.  Then the evening before the picnic I remembered that I had recently bought an ign map of the area.  There was ‘my’ etang and, oh joy, an aire de repos icon.

A short drive along a windy (aren’t they all) road with views of more wooded hills and valleys and then the sharp left turn for the etang des saules, the willows pond.

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There was the carpark as expected with just two cars.  We parked in the shade overlooking the pond.

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There were several rods around the pool and fishermen at both  ends.   We set up camp in the shade  above and where we wouldn’t disturb the fish.  We relaxed and watched the dragonflies and a lone duck, the only one to break the peace and quiet.

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After lunch we wandered around the etang (I tried the toilets indicated on a sign but the door was locked!) and, of course, I chatted up one of the fishermen to find out what lived in the water.

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He told me carp and pike but you could only take one of each home with you.  Half-day and whole day permits could be bought at the mairie of the commune, no licence required.  He spoke a little English when he heard my accent and as we left told us to ‘stay in France, ignore the Brexit!’.  We intend too, we told him.

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Picnic maker and researcher!

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‘i’m only the chauffeur’ and parking expert. (He didn’t like the other photo)

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Across the border…

Maybe because I was born under the sign of pisces I love being beside the water be it river, lake or sea.  Having grown up under two hours away from family favourite beaches in the county that includes most of the Cinque ports it was perhaps odd that we retired to a landlocked department of France.  But our commune is bisected by the Cere river and the Dordogne lies just over the hill behind the house.  So still a lot of water about for this fishy soul to enjoy.   Both the Cere and the Dordogne are home to ‘barrages’, an important source of hydro electricity.  These help control the flow of what were once very dangerous rivers which could flood towns along the banks in times of heavy rain or melt water from the Auvergne from whence they both spring.  In a civil defence exercise undertaken by our canton a few years ago we were told to be prepared for a disaster.  On the allotted day we had a call from two councillors who announced solemnly that the big dam at Bort les Orgues on the Dordogne had burst and we had four hours to evacuate.  In reality I’m not sure if four hours would be sufficient for the people ‘of the valley’ as our dance teacher refers to us, to grab precious possessions and head for the hills.  Narrow country roads and a weight of fleeing traffic may mean we’d be safer sitting on the house roof and taking our chances!

Anyway, in the context of the picnic days out and the charm of sitting beside the Cele on two occasions meant I set about exploring the lakes of Correze, a department known for its thick forests and multiplicity of rivers and lakes and that starts on the edge of our commune at the top of that hill.  I began by searching the department’s tourism site which listed lacs et etangs (ponds).  Then it was google earth to see where one could park …or not, and if there was any shade, a priority in July and August.

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I came up with two possibilities, Etang de Ruffaud and Etang de Laborde.  Laborde looked the more intimate of the two and offered parking closer to the shore.  There was information about both of them on various fishing sites but a photograph of people playing on the little beach of Laborde as opposed to a footnote about swimming being forbidden at Ruffaud swung it towards the smaller pond.  Google maps showed a route we knew well towards Tulle and then hang a right across country just south of Saint Fortunade.  Further websearching revealed another possibility that was probably more interesting scenery wise.  Get ourselves to Argentat and then follow the eastern side of the Dordogne up to the Barrage de Chastang, over it and then across in a westerly direction to La Roche Canillac, the nearest village to the etang.

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So that is what we did…or nearly didn’t do!  We each have our own pet weather forecasters.  We had woken up to wall to wall grey as himself calls it and although my forecast said sun by eleven o’clock, his said no sun until two in the afternoon and the possibility of some light rain.  Decisions, decisions!  In the end we decided to go. This hour from home idea means we could come back without regrets if it all went belly up.   The road ‘past the fish farm’ is a favourite of the cycling son and i could see why.  It winds through the woods, past said fish farm in its delightful little combe, and then up into the high pastures and the village of Mercoeur.  After a few kilometres of flattish land the road swoops down into the valley just along from Argentat.  The town is unremarkable but is visited for its stunning quayside lined with picturesque houses.  All our visitors get taken there to wander and eat the fabulous icecream on offer!

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The road along the Dordogne was new to us and not very busy.  It wound around through trees with tantalising views of the river all the way.  We passed the Barrage de Argentat, a rather ugly interruption of the bucolic landscape and then came to the Barrage de Chastang.

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It was an awesome site and my photograph doesn’t give a sense of how tiny you felt standing below it knowing about the weight of water and power behind it.   Lou asked if i wanted to stop on the way over to take another shot but I didn’t.  Travelling over dams makes me feel anxious and those expanses of still deep water always seem to me to smack of something sinister.  So a quick shot from the car window!

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The road on the other side was narrower and twistier than I had expected but not busy which was a relief as I was on the river side of the car as we climbed steadily upwards next to an ever increasing drop to the water but with stunning views glimpsed between the trees.  As we neared La Roche Canillac i got a bit confused and therefore not very good with road directions.  I knew there was a lower Roche and an upper Roche and it seemed silly to climb to the upper Roche when we would have to come down again.  ‘I’m only the chauffeur’ mutters about twisty roads!  Happily just when we thought we had taken the wrong road a village sign informed us we were in La Roche Canillac and at the next t-junction there was a sign for the etang.

Down the hill, a turning on the right and we had arrived.  And the sun had come out.  There was a large grassy car park with just one car but no shade so I directed Lou around the etang to a track under the trees.  He was a bit uncomfy about parking there but as there was no one around and no traffic on the track I assured him we would be ok for now…at least until we had a coffee.   Table and chairs set up, coffee made, we sat and enjoyed the view despite a rather chilly breeze coming off the water.

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A lady cyclist arrived, leaned her bike against a nearby tree, stripped off and slipped into the water.   Brrrrr.  We watched as she did a slow lap of ‘our’ end of the etang.  There was a line of buoys which we assumed demarcated the swimming zone.  When she climbed out just below us a conversation started.  She told us it wasn’t that cold and she was used to it.  She swam every morning and evening and ‘it is my element’.  She went on to explain the etang is privately owned but allows the public to use it.  A fishing association manages the sale of permits from the boathouse we could see and it would be open in the afternoon as a buvette.

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Then she went off to sit in the sun to dry off.  We decided that a move into the sun would be preferable for our lunch and so we adjourned to the grassy bank next to the boathouse.  By now there were some other swimmers enjoying the water and it was very pleasant to sit in the sun under some very tall pine trees enjoying the relaxed atmosphere.

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Despite the sunshine (brownie points to my meteofrance app) the breeze was still fresh so, after lunch and a pause we decided to walk around the pond or as far as was possible.  Our local informer had told us the track where we had been parked originally became very wet further on because of the logging lorries.  So we made for the other side where another logging track meant it was an easy walk and I soon lost Lou as I stopped to take photos.

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It was lovely strolling along next to the water and exciting to see waterlilies blooming.  Beside the track were young chestnut saplings and beneath the mostly pine trees not much scrub.  Clearly well managed woodland which is important given the incidence of forest fires in the area.

 

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Around the top of the etang the track left the waterside for a short distance but we soon saw where to find it again, negotiating a large tree trunk obviously placed to dissuade quad bikes and the like,  I imagine.  Here the track was grassy in places and very damp but passable.

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IMG_20200706_132459-01We were soon back at our coffee stop and ready to start for home.  Back in the car a decision to return via Saint Fortunade was made as the roads were straighter.  A peaceful place to visit again but I think I’ll pass on the swimming!

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This time… Marcilhac sur Cele

Marcilhac sur Cele was so pretty we were always going to go back.

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In the interim I did my much loved researching online to find out more about the Abbaye Saint Pierre.  Founded in the ninth century by Benedictine monks from Moisssac, by the 12th century it had become rich and powerful and even tried to take Rocamadour into its possessions. When the hundred years war ravaged the area it was destroyed by the English troops.  Rebuilding work in the 15th century came to nothing as the Protestants burnt it down during the French wars of religion. After that the reformation and French revolution finished any influence it might have had.  Nowadays there is fund raising to restore as much as possible with the village cure even persuaded to do a parachute jump! A secondhand organ was found and donated by Craggvale parish in Manchester.

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There is an emotional comment about the English making restitution for the damage done in the Hundred Years War on the Abbey website.  We used to hear a lots of comments about that war and wonder how deep that scar goes locally!  All these events mean the abbey is an amalgam of its history, some of it standing as picturesque and formidable ruins and a lofty interior containing that organ.

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We drove across the causse once more, poppies still there amongst the fields where haymaking was finally happening now the weather had dried up.  Down into the gorge of the Cele with its breathtaking limestone cliffs and into the village ‘place’.

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Not many cars parked which was a relief as the school holidays were approaching but the confusion of deconfinement meant many children had never actually gone back.

I led Lou along the riverbank and showed him the archway we had to duck through to arrive behind the abbey (the result of a swift recce the last time we were this way).

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At this point we lost each other.  It is ever thus.  Cameras in hand we wander about taking photos, nosing around in corners and then happening upon each other eventually.  The village is much tinier than I had expected but a positive jewel containing some beautiful old buildings aside from the abbey.  I couldn’t find any brochures about the place as the tourist office was shut.

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The tourist office!

I was keen to know if it was ever flooded as the buildings go right down to the river.  Plus did the abbey control the salt route as several had along the Dordogne in medieval times when salt was an expensive item?  Marcilhac is on the Santiago de Compostela route but then so many villages lay claim to that in this area I tend to think it is a tourism ploy rather than a reality.  Even Gagnac has the familiar scallop shells pasted on lamp posts etc to show the ‘way’, a detour to Rocamadour from Figeac.

Back at the car the picnic was unloaded but not the table and chairs as we had noticed picnic tables next to the plan d’eau.  Lou went to bag a table while I visited the epicerie for some postcards. I found some fabulous cherries for sale too….dessert!

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There was a gang of lads with canoes and a radio on the grass by the water but not too loud so the peaceful atmosphere was maintained.  An ouvrier was eating his packed lunch at the next table and wished us bon appetit.   Lou’s beer had been remembered so all was good.  Over lunch we watched the world go by and listened to the frogs…again and the Abbey clock sounding the quarters.

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“I wouldn’t fancy swimming in that’, said Lou, nodding at the slowly moving and very green water.  I had to agree it didn’t look inviting but the setting is fabulous. The village and its riverbank are dwarfed by the towering limestone cliffs that rise up on the far side.

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Lunch over, rested and curiosity satisfied…for now, we made for home.  But first we crossed the river just beyond the village and followed the road we had noticed that ran at the bottom of that towering ‘falaise’.  It took us back past the village (but no suitable place for a photo) and then up into the forest of Marcilhac.  Eventually we circled back to Saint Sulpice, a village clinging to the vertiginous hillside.  We took the road up and out of the village and eventually came to a ‘point de vue’.  Photos were taken, poppies included!

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