Today is traditionally Blue Monday, Lundi Bleu – yes, it is in France, too. This is held to be the most depressing day of the year, when Christmas is a distant memory, the weather is usually rotten, and people have already reneged on their New Year resolutions. But a sky like this lifts the morale. It really was that blue. Okay, it was yesterday, but today is following suit. To celebrate the transformation in the weather, we decided to stretch our legs on a new walk.
Crisp weather for a walk
It does the spirit good to get away from the incessant rain and mud. The weather is now chilly with crisp, frosty mornings followed by improbably blue skies and sunshine. Despite the minus 6C we recorded this morning, the sun already has some warmth in it. This is how the winter should be. The evenings are noticeably drawing out, too.
We have discovered really nice walks around Limogne-en-Quercy, a small market town on the causse. It hosts a good Sunday market all year round and a tiny truffle market in the winter.
Yesterday’s walk was short, around 5-6 km, but it made a great post-prandial promenade, starting in the town, where I managed to park in the only patch of shade in the gigantic empty car park. In summer, that would be the most coveted space, not so much in winter.
A growing pest
First up, on the outskirts of Limogne, the lavoir or washing place, where the women came to rinse the clothing they had washed at home. The stone papillons (lit. butterflies) are a common sight in lavoirs on the causse. In front is a large pond, le lac du mas de Bassoul, its waters swelled by the recent rains.
As we looked at the lavoir, we became aware of a creature sunning itself outside the little house in the middle of the pond. I couldn’t get a good close-up with the mobile (note to self: buy a new camera battery), but I’m pretty sure this was a coypu (ragondin in French). I’m also sure that the coypu had taken possession of the little house and evicted the rightful tenants, the ducks. It seemed unconcerned by our presence.
Although it looked like a nice, cuddly animal, coypu are in fact a pest around here. Introduced to Europe around 200 years ago, they are manageable in small numbers, but their population has exploded in places. They cause considerable damage to crops and river banks, and they can displace the indigenous wildlife. They also have fearsome incisors, so you wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of one. I hope the ducks managed to find somewhere safe to roost before the pond froze again.
We turned off the road up to the hamlet of Sol de Fraysse. Here, we found another lavoir with a single papillon, the pond frozen over completely this time. A boy wished us a polite “Bonjour” and then proceeded to lob rocks onto the ice to try to break it. I daresay I would have done the same at his age. I still stamp on icy puddles.
At the top of the hill, we found what we first thought was an orientation table, since there’s a terrific 360-degree view. In fact, this is an astronomical observation site. The board comprised a moveable disk that you can align according to the time of night and the month to identify the constellations. Apologies for our reflections. In full sun, I couldn’t get a better shot.
Limogne is in the Parc naturel régional Causses du Quercy, one of the least light-polluted areas in France. On a clear night, the view of the heavens is unimpeded by human light sources. Limogne, in company with other local villages, is designated a “village étoilé” (lit. starry village) for its efforts to reduce light pollution.
Signs of past times
Passing yet another lavoir, in which grew frozen bullrushes, we continued along ancient paths bordered by dry stone walls. Heaps of stone or crumbling house walls testified to the higher population and greater agricultural activity here at one time. Few flowers bloom at this time of year, but we saw plenty of feathery Old Man’s Beard (Clematis vitalba). I’ve never looked closely at it before, but the seeds are rather like star anise.
The fine weather had brought out other walkers, and we greeted each other cheerily, from a distance, of course. Fortunately, there were no hunters in the area. We encountered them on our drive home instead. Patches of hoar frost persisted where the sun had not penetrated. I was glad of my woolly hat, but I had left my gloves in the car. The SF did gallantly offer me his, but my hands had warmed up by that time.
The final sight was a former windmill minus its sails. As usual, it was constructed at one of the higher points in the neighbourhood to catch the prevailing westerly. We were pleased to see that this one looks quite well maintained.
What I love about these walks is that they take you through hamlets and parts of the countryside that you would never otherwise see. Around Limogne, you come across particularly fine and well-restored houses. At every turn, you find evidence of the way people lived in times past. On the causse, in particular, finding water was a perennial concern, hence the proliferation of lavoirs, cisterns and wells.
You’ll find this and other walks around Limogne listed here. Scroll down to this one, which is le circuit des Soulières. You can also download a PDF file, which contains the description of the walk and a helpful map.
You might like these related posts:
Copyright © Life on La Lune 2022. All rights reserved.