Tag Archive for: GR7

Landscape transformed in Languedoc

More photos of the snow in Sonnac sur l’Hers today. The landscape is transformed in the hills south of Carcassonne, we are more used to seas of sunflowers and the vines bowing with the weight of the grape. The zillions of euros spent on high spec insulation for the holiday cottage is paying dividends.

Sonnac sur l’Hers from the GR7

  

 

   

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.

Rambling for softies

The myriad of walking paths within easy reach of our holiday home in the south of France cater for all abilities. The GR7 leads from our back door in Sonnac sur l’Hers; today we drove to a neighbouring town, la Bastide sur l’Hers (10mins) to walk another variation of the GR7, a day’s walk this time. Gently uphill to Chappelle St. Roch, a tiny church perched on the hillside then steady backdown to Laroque-d’Olmes, a large town for these parts. The route is a bit complicated through the town as the GR7 signs disappear but head for the river, don’t cross the bridge which is what you really want to do, follow the road to pick up the GR Pays d’Olmes which leads you along the river bank to Dreuilhe, the loveliest part of the walk in my view. Through forests and a small but crucial detour via Camp Redon will keep you close to the river and deliver you back to la Bastide. A longer excursion is possible at Camp Redon to Lesparrou and Gorges de la Frau (Gorges of Fear) near the source of the river Hers – an intriguing, much bigger walk for another day.

Another hot November day

The work will never get done but is just too lovely to be indoors. Set off for the Col du Bac this morning, another walk from our back door into the hills. A steep climb from Chez Maison Bleue is soon rewarded with spectacular views of the valleys and mountains.

From the back door

It took me around 4hrs to the Col and back, returning via Chalabre. The GR7 signs (red and white stripes) make for easy navigation. Roam as far as you wish among the hills surrounding Sonnac Sur L’Hers; if you like to wander where not many others do, then this region is the one for you.

Well signed routes

Stumbled across this once fine maison, just waiting on some other mad English couple. 

I was beautiful once

 Macabre remains of a previous resident meant I didn’t linger.

Poor thing

 

 

 

Stepping out the back door

19 May
Walked out this evening from our back door onto the path behind the house that is the GR7, one of the long distance walking paths that leads across France to Spain. It reminds me of Laurie Lee, in the book we studied at school, stepping out from Stroud all those years ago in the age before the steam engine. Sonnac Sur L’Hers, in this unspoilt region of the Languedoc, doesn’t seem so far away from those times.
The meadows of wild flowers are stupendous, like nothing you see in England anymore. I can only speculate whether it has anything to do with the farming methods used in the two countries. Certainly from what I have seen in our region, the farms tend to be smaller (often due to succession laws) and the land is less intensively farmed, though of course there is a lot more of it.

Fields behind Chez Maison Bleue

The purest blue cornflowers, dancing in the gently evening breeze of the Aude, and dozens of co-ordinating, miniscule butterflies on the wing. A palette of red poppies, purple orchids (not sure how rare they might be) and yellow cowslips. A steep but short climb from the house is rewarded with sweeping views of the valley and the not too distant, mighty Pyrenees.

Perched on a hill above Chalabre, the Chappelle de Calvaire or the Church of the Calvery is visible, about half an hour from this spot, or a steep walk from Chalabre marked by ancient stations of the cross. We often take this walk into Chalabre and stop for lunch or at least a fancy cake from the boulangerie, you’ve earned it. An easier, flat walk back to the house along the cycle track gathering figs, blackberries and apples as you go, depending on the season.

Chalabre from the Chappelle