Thursday, 16 April 2009

Slow Walking in the Séronais

There's no denying that the high Pyrénées, just fifteen kilometres or so to the south of Grillou, are spectacular. But as time goes on, and as we get to know it better, we're becoming increasingly besotted with our own small pays, the Séronais - so named because it's the area around La Bastide de Sérou, a small market townlet just to our east. The Séronais is the geographical borderland between the old provinces of Gascony and Languedoc, and its geology, climate and flora are a blend of the two; it's an incredibly green region of rolling foothills, rivers and woodland dotted with a handful of villages, hamlets and old farms, plus a chateau or two, an extraordinary number of small food producers and craftspeople, and a vaguely arty feel. Yes, I know I'm beginning to sound like the regional tourist office, but it really is a place to live the good life, and over two years on I still find it amazing that we had the good fortune to end up living here.

The Séronais is a great place for Slow Walking, too: tracks and paths join the villages, hamlets and farms, or lead at a stiffer gradient up to and around the estives, (high pastureland) where cattle, sheep and horses spend the summer months. A couple of days ago, when the weather was just too good to spend the day as planned demolishing an old shower room, we de-cobwebbed our boots and set off from neighbouring Durban sur Arize, through the village of Montseron and its hamlets, to the old Chateau de St Barthélémy then along the Arize river and back to our starting point.

Durban sits alongside the Arize river, not on the way to anywhere and all the better for it:

As you climb out of the village, the path takes you along a ridge, where views across the Séronais countryside open up, and before long the even more hidden village of Montseron comes into view.

The track continues through a couple of pretty hamlets, then branches off into woodland. At this point, we had some unexpected company:

(Yes, it's a calf. It walked with us for a couple of kilometres). Climbing steadily, the medieval chateau comes into view on a rocky outcrop:

More climbing, then a long, long, rocky path down through the woods to cross the river before climbing again to reach the chateau, and then - yes, descending again back to the river for the last bucolic stretch:

... where the river bank was full of flowers like these oxslip ...

... and these little purple numbers, which are new to me and which I've so far been unable to identify (any ideas, anyone?) ...

... and where I happily wasted many minutes admiring the mating gymnastics of these two orange-tip butterflies, who seemed completely unfazed by my attentions:

Ah, bless.


Lee Sharp said...

Purple ones are Purple Toothwort. A parasitic flower that grows on the roots of (most commonly) hazel. That's how it manages to survive without any leaves to photosynthesise

Kalba Meadows said...

Hi Lee
That's the one! Thanks for that - a new flower to me. I see you're just over the hill to me ... good to 'meet' you!