Walking the GR7

Our usual walk out the back door onto the GR7 and into the hills surrounding Sonnac sur l’Hers. Definitely not the heat of summer but far too hot with jumper and coat. Took the lower route into Chalabre rather than the higher path via Chappelle de Calvaire. Bakers closed – well it was Wednesday. A treat on the way back when two red squirrels launched themselves from the trees onto the track in front of us. I am from Cumbria, one of the last English regions where the reds survive, so very happy to see them here too. Unsure of their fate in the rest of France. Does anyone know?

The foothills of the Pyrenees are rich in nature; birds of prey are a common site, usually in the newly ploughed fields this time of year rather than soaring in the warm air thermals of summer. Nick was once attacked by a buzzard, walking in the higher peaks of the Ariege; he sees menace whilst I see only majesty.

The river was high, no fish spotted. There must be boar in the forests as the hunt still meets every Saturday in Sonnac sur l’Hers and lots of gunshot; is wise to stick to the path on these days. Until I was used to seeing the men gather for the hunt I felt just a bit intimidated by the sight of them in camouflage, huge guns slung across shoulders, dogs snapping at heels. However, everyone is extremely polite – and of course you would expect nothing less in rural France.

It is often very warm during the afternoons, even this time of year. Today I chased the sun around the square, ending up on the steps of the ancient church beside the gite, before it slipped behind the hills. Not a bad place to read your Wilbur Smith novel on a January afternoon, but brace yourself every hour and half hour when the church bells ring out.

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