In Search of a Druid or a Trout – Revisited

It’s re-post a Golden Oldie from France time.

August 27th, 2012

In search of a druid – or a trout

Mont d’Olmes: local playground for skiers.  You wouldn’t travel any great distance to spend a holiday here, but for locals, it’s the ideal winter sports spot.  It’s a wonderful area for walkers too.  We’ve only just begun to discover the wealth of footpaths, mainly across truly ‘sauvage’ slopes, with views downwards to Montségur, Roquefixade, and northwards almost, it seems, as far as Toulouse.

It’s alright waxing lyrical though.  For many people living in the area many years past, and until the early years of the 20th century, these slopes were the places where they came for long hours each day, working both on the surface and by crawling through narrow airless tunnels, mining talc.

Le lac de Moulzonne glimpsed through the trees at 8.00 a.m.

Talc?  Yes, that stuff you sprinkle on babies’ bottoms.  That stuff those Olympic gymnasts plunge their hands into before taking to an overhead bar.  That stuff that apparently still has many industrial uses, notably in the ceramics industry and for plastics paints and coatings.  This soft soapstone was found here on Mont d’Olmes and is still mined in nearby Luzenac.  Here though, all that is left are the gashes in the mountainside where the workings once were, and a few ancient trucks once used to transport the material down to civilisation.

Come and take the path we took last Sunday.  We walked in more or less a straight line, up and down hill after hill, as the path became increasingly rocky and impassable.

Our reward was the occasional handful of raspberries or bilberries, then a lunchtime picnic by l’étang des Druides.  No, sorry, l’étang des Truites.  Whatever.  Nobody seems to know which name is correct.  Some say the person making the first map of the area misheard and wrote ‘truite’ – trout – instead of ‘druide’.  We saw no trout.  We definitely saw no druids.  But we had a jolly nice picnic.  And I paddled.

And then I ruined a perfectly good day, in which morning chill and mist had given over to hot sunshine, by falling flat against the rocky path, cutting open my face and chipping three teeth.  I hope the druids weren’t lining me up for some kind of sacrifice.

August 2020, PS.  Don’t worry.  I’m fine.  The chipped bits, which were only small, have smoothed down nicely.

Jo’s Monday Walk

48 thoughts on “In Search of a Druid or a Trout – Revisited”

  1. I enjoyed that. I’ve never visited the French Alps. I know the Cher valley better. I’d love to be walking in France right now, and your writing gave me a virtual moment of that, thank you!

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      1. Oh! Of course it is – the clue’s in the name of your blog. I’m really not awake this morning! I haven’t been to the Pyrenees, either. Maybe one day.

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  2. Totally blissful, Margaret! Aside from damage sustained, of course, and what a nightmare mining in those conditions. How lucky we are, in spite of everything. About to sling a few bits in a bag and hit the trail for pastures new so you just caught me. Thank you! A bientot 🙂 🙂

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  3. oh Margaret, thank you for adding the PS…. I sucked in the air reading your accident…. happens so quickly, hurts so much, heals so badly….
    The silver thistle thingie I knew too from my childhood times when going to the mountains. I forgot completely that they should bring good luck, but we said the same! I’m pretty fed up with thistles as they now grow wildly (only weeds survive in the 40+°C we have daily in France) and prick our feet and legs when we walk through our burnt and brown ‘grass’ (prairie!).

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  4. I can imagine druites around and truites within that beautiful pool.

    There’s something very cooling about these photos: pools, mountains, valleys…. I’m glad that no lasting damage was caused by that stumble – also that no truites came to nibble your toes.

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      1. That’s OK, so is everyone else. The lake, which is only fed by a small stream, isn’t a likely home for trouts, and druids aren’t much of a thing in that part of France, So how the lake ended up with either name is a bit of a mystery!

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  5. Do you know, I never knew talc was mined! These townies again, sigh. I do know talcum powder has fallen from favour and I think is banned in all kinds of geriatric care settings because it’s linked with various cancers. Not sure about restrictions on its use in baby care products. These minerals from the deep come at a price, especially for those who mine them. Lovely piece and full of interest. Thanks for re-posting and I’m glad your fall didn’t do lasting damage.

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    1. I know! Yes, babies’ bottoms no longer get talc-ed, but who know they were getting powdered rock face? Best leave the stuff in the ground, eh? And yes, I’m fine. You?

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  6. Margaret, you photos are lovely, especially of the homeward path. I am sure you miss the mountains, but the hills, trails, and paths where you live now are amazing. The key is making the most of what we have, where and when we have it. Take care and stay well.

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    1. We are lucky and it’s taken me till Lockdown to discover every single local pathway – I believe I have now and many of them are wonderful. Yes, and all on our own doorstep! Fortunate indeed!

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      1. At least the lockdown has had one beneficial outcome for you Margaret. I am always amazed at how many people know nothing whatsoever of their local areas. The days of children exploring seems to have passed for so many!

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      2. I know. My husband was chucked out of the door in the morning and not expected back until teatime. I was a London child and that didn’t happen to me, but I still got to know London pretty well.

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  7. Such beautiful scenery hiding the powdery secret! Must have been truly terrible working in those conditions. If I remember the thistle is ‘Cardabelle’ and I was told recently that it is now banned to collect them, but of course, everyone in a lot of these villages still collect them for ‘bonheur’!

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    1. Oh, well done you for superior knowledge on the Cardabelle! I know, I used to be seen as a real misery-guts when I declined to come home from the woods in spring with armsful of wild daffodils, which don’t last long when picked anyway. Leave ’em where they are, eh?

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