Two walks: the last walks?

This post is really just a chance  to post a few photos from a couple of recent walks, one in the Ariège, and one in the Aude.  Each walk brought out some of the contrasts and similarities between  the two Départements.

The more local walk, near Ventenac last Sunday, was near meadows where cattle grazed, through fields being prepared for sowing feed crops such as maize, and through oak and beech forest.  Though there are villages dotted about, the area is still thinly populated, densely forested.  During the Second World War it provided cover for the Spanish Maquis , scourge of the German army.  With the support of many, but not all locals,  the Maquis came to regard the area as a centre of gravity, from which they emerged to pass soldiers and refugees across the mountains, and to organise acts of resistance to German occupation . You’ll find monuments to their activities, their battles, their acts of martyrdom all over the area.  It’s easy to see how, in this large territory, with under-developed links of communication, the Germans had such difficulties keeping tabs on the Maquis’ whereabouts.

Over in the Aude on Thursday, near Esperaza, we saw no farm animals, but our path took us past vineyards where the vines were being hard-pruned ready for 6 months of vigorous growth and grape production.  Martine, from a wine-producing family, explained some of the different methods of pruning  – and there are dozens.  Older varieties of vine, unsupported by wires, may be pruned with an open centre, so the core looks almost like a bowl.  Other kinds of grape usually require training along wires: all sorts of schools of thought here.  These days, much harvesting is mechanical.  Martine’s family send their grapes to a wine co-operative for processing.  This co-operative sends an oenologist every year to analyse their grapes and those of all the other members of the cooperative.  Then he will book everybody a two-day spot with the mechanical harvester at what he believes to be the optimum moment for their particular harvest.  Few grapes cannot be harvested in this way, but the local Blanquette de Limoux is one.  Its low-growing grapes are unsuited to mechanical methods.  With wine-production the main agricultural industry, the villages here have a properous air to them.

Both walks shared a fair bit up uphill (and therefore downhill) marching.  And in both cases, the rewards were in the views of the distant Pyrenees, still covered in snow.  In the Ariège, you’ll be looking to recognise the peaks of Saint Barthélemy and  Soularac, whereas in the Aude, you’ll have no difficulty in recognising Bugarach looming above the surrounding peaks.

These last walks are bitter-sweet.  We’re enjoying them, but not enjoying the fact that, for the time being, there are (almost) no more to come.

11 thoughts on “Two walks: the last walks?”

  1. I’ve said it before & I’ll say it again, I’m really going to miss your mountain photographs. I’m currently on a mission to prove to Andrew that the Ariege/Aude border is a good place to be. We’ve decided we want to be near a lake so that we can have a little day sailer. I’m in favour of Montbel, he’s favouring the 4 lacs de Lévezou area in Aveyron. He thinks there is more to do there – I need your support!


    1. Sharon, this is a discussion I’d love to have. I can’t comment on the Aveyron: quite simply, I don’t know it. But I do know this patch and as you know we’ve been so happy here. It’s just not the week when I can do justice to the topic, so can we ‘talk’ when back in the UK? We’re in our last full week here now 😦


      1. Don’t worry Margaret – I just won’t give him a map – he’ll have no idea where he is! I really hope the move goes well and look forward to your next instalment.


  2. We will all miss experiencing your beautiful walks. I also wanted to thank you for sharing this transition of yours into another phase of life. Some of us move through periods of change that challenge us emotionally , particularly people like you who have taken a leap and lived an experience many only dream of doing, Your articulations on each step of this process have been meaningful to me and I’ve no doubt to others as well. I am so glad I found you through Renée! I also have no doubt you will be taking us on equally picturesque walks through the English countryside! (And now I must do some reading about the Maquis … you have piqued my interest!)


    1. Watch out for my next post then which will continue the Maquis theme! Thank you for your kind words. I too am glad we ‘met’ through Renée: Please forgive me if I comment little over the next week or two on your enjoyable and often thought-provoking posts… we’re just a litte self-absorbed just now…..


  3. Margaret,
    I have been overwhelmed with a variety of issues – family and work obligations and not been reading and following along like I would prefer. I, too, will miss your walks in the mountains and your fresh pictures of living in France. I vicariously follow along. But, I know you will continue to write about your adventures – English gardens and the hubbub of life and how you make it count. I saw your bookshelves and nearly cried. My late dad was a bibliophile and an entire wall of his home looked like yours. I will be charged with the books when my step-mom is ready. Even though they aren’t my books, I’ll have a difficult time deciding what stays and what goes…. I’ll miss your walks, but I know you will walk somewhere and that will be wonderful. Good luck and safe travels. Clay


    1. I too have given your posts less attention than usual, so we’re quits! Do you know, I still feel OK about the book dispersal? This really surprises me. We still, of course, have rather a lot left. And as to the blog… where next eh? It won’t be ‘Life in Laroque’, but it’ll be, well, something….


  4. I’m not a gypsy fortune teller (or anything like that but being in Ariege (even if only through your wonderful photos) my perceptions make me think you will live in the area again, whatever your plans now. Time for a change, yes (I’m in a similar state although not planning on actually moving house) but don’t expect it to be the last one.
    The work you have done on the house is a gift you leave behind of yourself and no matter who lives there, what you invested of yoursef in the house will always be there.
    I rented a house in Couisa one time and while the house itself was old and lovely, there was a sense of sadness/unhappiness about it while a house I rented three times in Mirepoix always greeted me with subtle joy–and I never met the owner or caretaker so it was the house itself. .
    So let your house know it needs to carry on your work and friendships…stones get used to people coming and going but it doesn’t hurt to let them know how you feel.
    Have a safe trip and be well.


    1. Thank you! Yes, this house has a good feel to it. For our buyer it was a ‘coup de coeur’ too, so I hope he’s as happy as we have been. We’ll be back for sure. But not to live here. I don’t think so anyway. Let’s see what happens…….


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