About once a month, I re-blog a post from our years in France. Hunting for a Top Theme for Becky, I came upon this one.
April 19th, 2010
Terre Rouge – Ciel Bleu
Whenever we think we’re beginning to know the areas near home quite well, something comes along to surprise us.
Take Couiza, for instance, a town in the Aude that has been the centre point for quite a few of our walks. It can offer, within easy reach of the town, a typical Audois landscape which is almost Tuscan, with rolling hills, vineyards and cypresses. Or craggy, scrubby garrigue, almost Spanish looking. Or there’s le Domaine de l’Eau Salée, where the streams are pink with salt washed from the earth, and have been exploited by man for centuries.
Yesterday, however, we went with le Rando del’Aubo to Terre Rouge, an area near Couiza which astonished us with the rich red colour of the earth which dominated the landscape.
It supports a rich variety of plant life which is just springing into flower: Tiny daffodils, less than 3 inches high, bright yellow potentilla, grape hyacinths. Bluish grasses bind the dry and sometimes sandy earth, and the air is rich with the strong scent of various wild thymes and lavender.
This red earth is all-encompassing. And then suddenly, it stops. And we’re back again among more pallid yellowish soils, enjoying views of the distant Pyrenees, and the mountain which dominates this part of the world, Bugarach.
The walk was on the hottest day of the year so far, with clear, vivid blue sky. We shed jumpers, long trousers, and our pasty winter skin turned the colour of that red earth. There was a wide shallow stream at the village where our walk began and ended, and a few of us enjoyed a paddle. I greatly contributed to the end-of-day bonhomie by toppling in…….
Life in our home has become simpler, pared back to basics. All the things I cheerfully filled every day with – the volunteering; the classes and choir; the must-get-to-the-shops; the to-do list; even seeing friends – have all vanished. Astonishingly, I don’t mind. The one thing that is a constant now is Daily Exercise, as prescribed by the Government: ‘People can leave their homes for exercise once a day’. For Malcolm, it’s a bike ride. For me, it’s a walk.
Denied trips out to the Dales and wild places, I’m exploring our home patch anew- every ginnel, every bridle way, every woodland and farmland path. My Daily Exercise sometimes lasts an hour, more often two or three. I rarely meet a soul. It’s just me, the ground beneath my feet, the sights I observe, the landscape, the cloudscape, the satisfying rhythm of my feet as I pound my chosen path for the day. Every day I choose a slightly different route. Every day things change a little. Buds, once tightly furled are now tender young leaves: new flowers burst into bloom; lambs grow stockier, more playful. I have time to notice these things.
I value these hours. Like everyone else, I want this horrible crisis under control. I want to meet my family and friends again. But when that time comes, I want to continue savouring quiet moments like the ones I’ve enjoyed so much over the last few weeks.
Violets. White ones are commoner round here, but for me, violets have to be -violet.
For me, these are early April’s Top Flowers, and my walks have given me the chance to enjoy them. What have I left out? Wild garlic isn’t flowering yet round here, nor the hedgerow plants.
There across the field is a solitary tree. It’s definitely maintaining its Social Distance. Just as I am on my solitary – but not at all unhappy – walk.
Just like me though, the tree is not really alone. There are trees to the right of it, trees to the left of it, and – zoom – a forest of trees behind it. Perhaps, like me, it’s happy enough with its lot.
And even though it’s distant, I can still get a shot of its topmost branches to send Becky a shot of this Top Tree.
Sunday’s walk, on a cold blustery afternoon, along a too-familiar path, could have been a non-event, a means to burn off a few calories and not much more. Jude’s challenge this week brought me ideas though. ‘Look for texture’, she said, ‘close in on your subject and capture the texture and not the context’. Challenge accepted.
Here we are by the village pond. Here’s Mrs. Mallard. And here are her feathers.
And – a sure sign that spring has sprung – here’s a dandelion.
Off to the track through the fields now. I trudge past the sheep, stolidly munching grass and hay, and spot a rusty old shed at the end of the pasture. Lichen on rust. Perfect.
Well, you can’t wander through the woods without finding a fallen log. And fallen logs mean knots, nooks and crannies, velvety moss. I take a couple of shots.
Oh look. Here’s a muddy bit: and I haven’t got my decent boots on. But oh, look again! Here’s texture a-plenty. A goose-print; a – er – what – squirrel perhaps? print; a different bird print (offers, anyone?); and a dog-print. And finally a cracked-mud print. That was good value.
Any walk in our countryside produces any number of long-established oak trees. So here is some bark – both shots from the same tree.
The last shot of all doesn’t follow the rules. But here’s a farmer doing his Sunday afternoon ploughing. Unturned earth, turned earth, and all being thoroughly investigated by a host of sleek white black-headed gulls. If that isn’t a symphony in textural contrast, I don’t know what is.
And since this is a post for Jo’s Monday Walk too, I’ll just mention that there was tea and Drenched Lemon Cake waiting for me when I got home.
You didn’t need a crystal ball to know that my walk yesterday, reached by car rather than directly from home, might be my last for a while. The thought of impending Lock Down made my hours alone near Masham, walking by the River Ure and through the nature reserve of Marfield Wetlands, special, memorable and something to be savoured, even if it’s not actually a Great Yorkshire Walk.
After a couple of miles there’s some pasture land. Some trees there are dead or dying. Ancient trunks have actually fallen. They were demanding to be centre stage for Jude’s Photo Challenge this week, mixing textures with other colours and patterns.
See? Lichens have cunningly introduced themselves into the regular fissures of a fallen log. Lush young nettles complement the bleached dry bark of a different trunk. Peep though knotted holes to spot the greenery beyond. Wisps of white wool wander across the surface of moss encrusted ancient branches.
Then I met stones, originally smoothed and polished by the River Ure as it hurried and bustled noisily along. Now they’re covered again: not by water, but by springy mosses and young creeping plants, and pert little celandine squeezing between them.
Then though it was time for sheep. Not just sheep, but their lambs, endearingly new-born, in their two-sizes too big overcoats. Who could resist?
Keen not to abandon Jude’s assignment, I found two last shots. A row of fat cattle, chewing away in their barn, contrasted with the diagonal and vertical lines of their shelter. And then a rusted old bit of farming machinery provided a perfect picture frame for a view. A fine use for a bit of tackle that’ll probably be on the scrap heap any day now.
The Wetlands were surprisingly quiet (lunchtime…). But I had a bit of fun with a teasel, getting up close to get a shot of its spiny plump body.
A good walk. Lots of memories to store up for a long, odd summer ahead.