Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Arrangements for Wednesday 3 November.

Peter's birthday curry has been postponerd till Wednesday 10 November.
Arrangements for next Wednesday (3rd). Meet at Jimmy's in Cumnock at 8:30 for a 9:00 start to do Rex's Sanquhar walk (14miles approx.) Early start is due to change of clocks so you lazy b*****s should still get an extra hour in bed.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

20 October The Scaur Water Round Again

Alan, Allan, Davie, Ian, Jimmy, Peter, Rex, Robert & Ronnie

A couple of years back Jimmy made the mistake of mentioning making sloe gin, a comment that resulted in some of the Ooters collecting sloes on the Scaur water walk, making their own distinctive brew and organizing a final competition tasting to see whose was best. (Is there anything that won’t result in an Ooters competition? – Ed) Anyway, the competition seems to have become an annual thing. But it is somehow fixed in the minds of the simple among us that the only place on earth to find sloes is the Scaur Water valley. So this bright autumn day following a night’s frost saw us back in Penpont for another sloe walk.
Now, in keeping with our new philosophy of doing different things or things differently, we opted to do the walk in an anticlockwise direction instead of the usual clockwise and so set off up through the village on Marrburn Road.
We stopped three times even before we had left the village. The first time was to the usual port of call for the convenience of the weak-bladdered. The second was much more interesting. The tree in the garden could be seen from some distance away virtually glowing in the sun. At first we took it to be a rowan with clusters of bright orange berries almost covering the foliage. But closer inspection showed the leaf to be wrong for a rowan; it was more ash-like. Eventually the owner came to tell us it was a sorbus, a relative of the rowan but which one she couldn’t say. She said that it was at its best this year and we had to agree that it was a fine specimen. We thanked her for her time and walked on.
A hundred yards along the road we were stopped for the third time. This time it was to examine a plaque on a cottage wall telling us that Joseph Thomson was born here on 14 February 1848. Now who this Joseph Thomson was we had no idea. It turns out that he explored much of east Africa, establishing a route from Dar es Salam to Lakes Nyasa and Tanganyika. Thomson’s gazelle is named after him. So now we know!
The way out of the village in this direction is upward. For some reason or other the road appears steeper climbing it than it does on the way down and with the pace set by those at the front, it fairly raised the breathing. On the plus side though, it meant that we got all the climbing done on the first mile or so and the pace warmed the bodies against the cool north-westerly wind. A new path was spotted climbing the hillside to the right and it was noted for future reference. But there was no real halt to examine it too carefully. The kestrel was also spotted but again there was no real halt. When Robert and Rex, setting the pace in front, mistook the road at the junction, we felt that this was the opportunity for a break. But no. Peter, kind soul, shouted them back onto the right track and they were off up the right road before the tail-enders got to the junction. There was no halt yet as the leaders pressed on. Along past the sign showing the path to the ‘Roman Bridge’, we marched. No halt to discuss possibilities in this direction. By this time tongues were hanging out for the lack of coffee. But there was still no halt.
Suddenly there was a halt. Just beyond Auchenbainzie the leaders stopped, threw off their rucksacks and sat down for coffee. They had found a spot sheltered from the north wind and thought it would be the ideal place for refreshment. It was a relief to some of us to join them.
It was the north-westerly that kept the air clear and gave us extensive views wherever these could be had. After coffee we walked on. There is a short stretch of this road where the ground slopes away to the east and you can look out over the woods of Drumlanrig, over Nithsdale to the high hills of Durisdeer and the Lowthers. Today, the hills looked clear and close but, though the pace had eased to a comfortable rate, there was still no halt for views and this had to be absorbed on the hoof. Buzzards floated on updrafts over Townhead Woods and these also had to be spotted while walking.
We turned left at Druidhall and came down towards the valley of the Scaur. Holly was in doggie heaven. Pheasants by the dozen clucked and fluttered at our approach. Now Holly found a full wood of clucking, whirring, feathery things that would join in her chasing games. Only the yelps and squeals of delight alerted us to her antics. Now the poor soul was shouted back onto the road to walk beside uninteresting humans that wouldn’t run for the chase.
By this time we were down over the Scaur and heading back down the valley. At this point we stopped to look at the hills of the upper valley – Merkland, Countnam and Cairnkinna – looking very inviting in their autumn browns and yellows under the perfectly blue October sky. A note was made to tackle the round of the upper valley ‘someday’. But today we turned or steps down towards Penpont. Hunger was calling for it was some time since breakfast and the coffee we had earlier was just that. But,
Robert did well. He found us a spot,
Where the air was quite calm and the sun was quite hot,
And the slope of the bank was scooped out like a seat,
Where we could sit down and have something to eat.
So we stopped for lunch, not at our usual place on the bridge over the Bass Burn but on a sheltered wee bank looking down the valley.
The sun was as good as it’s going to get at this time of year and the view was good so we relaxed over lunch, taking time to take in the autumn colour. But that time came again and we moved on. Now we found out why there was such urgency on the steps of the leading bunch; Alan, Rex and Robert had brought tubs for the collecting of sloes for the sloe gin. At the first blackthorn that showed any berries they were doing the gin-makers dance – sloe, sloe pick-pick, sloe. The rest ambled on.
Eventually the berry pickers rejoined the group and we wandered back towards Penpont taking time to visit the slate sculpture - Andy Goldsworthy, I think – and the fisher’s pool in the Scaur on the way past.
It’s a good job the boys got their sloes further up the glen for the bushes where we got them last year were stripped almost bare. Anyway we look forward to sampling the produce.

This was another good day made especially so by the late October sunshine.

We repaired to The Crown in Sanquhar for FRT today and were greeted in the usual welcoming manner by the locals. It’s nice to be recognised in such a way.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

The Ballad of Old Mosset

And at his elbow, Ooter Johnie*
His ancient, trusty, drouthy cronie

*aka faither, keeper of the purse, President of the Society for the Preservation of Crisps, Davie

The Ballad of Old Mosset

Up and out at the crack of dawn
To get the flight to Carcassonne
Hired cars were our travelling mode
Then down the road to Robert’s abode


Whilst Allan toiled at the kitchen sink
And Colin cut up a fusty link
As Johnny poured wi’ a nod and a wink
Davie was shoutin’, ‘Where’s ma drink?’

After the meal it was early to bed
All were tired, it has to be said
Up in the morning and after some talk
Out the door and off for our walk

Roussillon was the choice for today
A guid, long walk, once we found our way
The horse we met was once a winner
Tonight it might be an equine dinner

A coastal walk was termed as easy
But the ups and doons ver’ made us queasy
Rex sped off, was he losing his mojo?
For he left behind Mr Tojo

He wanted so dearly to buy a lunch
But not today with this motley bunch
Let’s have a vote, he wanted to call it
But Johnny didnae open the wallet

After the meal the drink did flow
Inhibitions soon began to go
The songs were sung with lots of passion
Davie’s wine was not on ration

Then he ignored his mighty drouth
And shoved Colin’s organ in his mooth
Much to the surprise of a’ aroon
He gave it a blaw and got a tune

And Colin couldnae hide his pleasure
For he had brought another treasure
Wan mair mouthie in a different key
Whit a duet this would be

As Jimmy recited the ‘Wee Cock Sparra’
Davie did sink, fartha and fartha
He fell asleep after the Lady in Red
Then Robert roused him, twas time for bed

The surprise of the night was Ian Hill
Next time he’ll be the top of the bill
Wi’ songs he learned in the Brigade o’ Boys
And a leg that stomped wi’ hunners o’ noise

Davie came doon, the hour was late
Feeling rough ‘It was something ah ate’
He couldnae remember the night before
His antics would become Ooter folklore

The day was dull wi’ a lot of haar
Davie announced ‘We’re no gaun far!’
We followed the valley of the Castellane
And honoured his plea of ‘Lea’s alane’

Two days after Davie got fu’
Colin took Ronnie up the Canigou
Ronnie was sare but filled wi’ glee
It’s great what you can dae in a 2C.V.

The Col de Mantet was a three star walk
Even Allan, at this, didnae baulk
The weather was super, the views were stunning
The talk was not of Munn and Dunning

Now Johnny is a man of some great power
But couldnae fathom how to get a hot shower
He didnae wash for nearly a week
By that time he was Johnny the Reek

He thought it all was a dastardly plot
And blamed us all for the shower he got
The plan we hatched was, ‘Wait ‘til he’s in’
And then make sure the watter’s freezin’

A nice wee walk to a waterfall
A gorge to be enjoyed by one and all
Then lunch at a café in Verners les Bains
The pizzas were thin and not deep pan

Doon from the abbey big Ron met a pal
Didn’t know her name, but thought it was Sal
She’d been on the climb the other day
Hadn’t managed to make it all the way

The girl from NZ announced with a shrill
Back home you’re a legend for climbing that hill
She hugged and kissed him and tried not to weep
‘Come home with me and service my sheep’

Johnny told Jimmy to look at the burds
He took off his glasses, too silly for words
We looked to the skies, craning our necks
Then Jimmy walked off, forgetting his specs

The Mosset Trophy was keenly contested
The boules were thrown and the skills were tested
But Ian’s practice was seen in his throw
He won it again, two years in a row

Early in the day we left our lair
To make our date with Ryanair
The pilot caused some consternation
‘Welcome to this flight to – our destination’

Safely back home, time to reminisce
Of wonderful walks and taking the piss
Before we break doon and start to sob
We have to say ‘Thank you, oor Bob!’

Scaur Valley 20 Oct 2010

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

13 October Darvel to Loudoun Hill and Back

Distance 15.8 km (the map was prepared earlier (2/12/09))

Alan, Allan, Davie, Jimmy, Johnny, Paul & Robert

After our sojourn in Mosset last week, here we were back in familiar territory. Seven of us gathered at Davie’s place in Darvel – well, eight of us gathered there but Peter was only there for the coffee so that left seven for the walk.
The mid-October weather could have been worse but equally it could have been better. A thin fog hung in the still air and showed no sign of shifting. Everything beyond a couple of hundred metres faded into greyness, a greyness that was to stay for the day. We walked up the south side of the Irvine valley as we have done before many times but it could have been anywhere for all we could see in the fog.
Only one incident is worth recording on this outward leg. As we came down the field-side track towards High Greenbank Farm we came across three men. A younger man was busy digging a hole by hand. A second young fellow leant against a fence post lending advice and the older fellow crouched watching the hole digger. We stopped to pass the time of day. The older fellow, somebody around our own age was the boss. He was also something of a wag. After a few minutes a young lady left a land rover parked up the field and walked down towards us. ‘It’s my granddaughter coming down to see what dirty auld men look like’, said the wag. How well he judged us. After a few more minutes and a few more comments from the wag, we walked on into the fog.
We stopped beyond the Long Cairn for coffee in the hope that the fog might lift and we would get some sort of view from Loudoun Hill. It didn’t and we walked on into it.
We were barely quarter of a mile from the base of the hill when there was a slight clearing in the fog, a clearing that showed us the shadowy base of the hill but still hid the summit in grey clag. Even when we reached The Spirit of Scotland the top was still hidden from us. Still, we climbed into it.
There was some sort of view from the top as the fog continued to rise slowly. Now we could at least see the car park and as far as Loudoun Hill Inn. But anything beyond half a mile was lost to us. We took the peece on the top of the hill.
The return journey on the old railway produced two interesting bits. We reached a high banking over a burn valley. ‘Have you ever been in the tunnel?’ asked Davie. Nobody had, yet only Paul and Jimmy opted to accompany Davie on the adventure. The trio dropped down the banking to the side of the burn and the entrance to a seventy metre long, blue-brick tunnel carrying the burn under the banking. The brick also formed the floor of it. It was tall enough to admit even Paul and broad enough to have dry walking on either side of the burn today. The trio entered and walked carefully, feeling their way in the dark towards the spot of light at the other end. Once through, the return journey was easier for there seemed to be more light-spill in this direction. Into daylight once more, the trio rejoined the old railway and chased after the rest.
The rest of us walked along the railway and waited for the cavers at a seat overlooking the Irvine. A couple of fellows with blue plastic containers were guddling in the waters of the Irvine with what looked like stun-guns. ‘They’re stunning the salmon to strip them of their eggs to be taken to the hatchery’, said Alan our fisherman. We saw no reason to argue with him for he knows things, does Alan. As sat and watched we were re-joined by the cavers. Now, as a group we continued the walk on the old railway back into Darvel.
This was a walk in familiar territory. It’s just a pity that we didn’t get views today. Still, there’s always next time.
The Black Bull in Darvel provided FRT for us today.

29 September – 6 October Annual Mosset Visit

Could I first reassure all our regular readers, Barbara, Susan and the mysterious person from Carterton, Oxfordshire, that we were not lost in the wilderness for all this time; this was in fact the week of our annual outing to Mosset in the south of France. Unfortunately we travelled on Wednesdays hence the absence of reports for the last three weeks. And we travelled at an unearthly hour, 6:30 leaving Prestwick. For people of our vintage this was a bit of a scunner, having to rise in the middle of the night to be at the airport in time. On the plus side, it did allow some of us some time on the other side of the channel to investigate parts of the area we hadn’t seen before.
We flew in to Carcassonne and hired cars at the airport there. It was here that the party split into two – the shoppers shot off down the main drag to Perpignan and the supermarket at Prades while those who had not seen the medieval walled city of Carcassonne did the tourist bit before ambling over to Limaux for lunch and over the Col De Jau to the village. The tourist sarrived as the shoppers were half way through their second??? glass of the day. The tourists felt obliged to join them.
Dinner was followed by a few red wines, quiet conversation and a gradual drifting off to bed at an early hour to make up for the lack of sleep this morning.

Thursday 30 September The High Pastures of the Pic de Roussillon
There is a walk starting from the village that we have done every year we have come here and every year we have lost the path and ended up scrambling over boulders or through stunted thorn bushes and prickly sea hollies. Ouch! This year we were determined to get it right. Anyway, this would give Allan, making his maiden visit to the area, a chance to see what the walking would be like.
Barely had we left the village when we found the horse. It was wandering up the road having clearly broken its tether and made an escape for the day. It was a friendly beast and responded to our attention. But we didn’t quite know what to do with it so we left it to its own devices. It wandered on up the road into the village; we wandered down the road to find the path that would take us up to the high pastures.
The September sun was hot – we were a month earlier on our visit this year – and it was a relief to get into the shade of the stunted oak wood that clothes the slope on this side of the valley. It was cooler but by no means cool and the sweat flowed freely as we climbed gradually through the wood. But the advantage of the dry mountain air was that this evaporated easily and it was no particular discomfort even though it flowed freely.
Somewhere on this section Robert’s artistic flair came to the surface. He found a boulder beside an exposed lump of rock and proceeded to make an installation. ‘Boulder on Rock’ should be an inspiration to all who come this way, until somebody knocks it over. It was good that Robert’s muse struck here for it gave us an opportunity for a breather before tackling the steeper bit of the climb.
Our next rest came at the spot we call Colchicum Corner. We always stop here for coffee and there was no reason we shouldn’t do so today for the sun was hot and Colchicum Corner is just clear of the trees and offers superb views of the Castellaine and Tet Valleys as well as the higher Pyrenees to the east. We sat down, took in the view, pointed out landmarks to Allan and looked for the colchicums that normally flower in profusion here. There were none. Perhaps we were too early in the year for the yellow flowered erygiums still held colour and the trees were still green. But there were no colchicums. What there were though were flies, hundreds of flies. Buzzing flies. Tickling flies. Bloody annoying flies. We sat as long as the flies allowed us but eventually they drove us on. This must have been our shortest stop at Colchicum Corner in all the years we have come here.

We found the path no bother this year, the path that took us round the hillside to the old ruins. Johnny reminded us that this was where we were joined by the two dogs last year. But there were no dogs this year. Not even flies. We walked on feeling somewhat deprived.
There came a bifurcation in the path. Whilst some would have preferred to take the broader path to the right, Robert insisted, with all the self belief of the experienced mountain man, that we take the narrower slightly overgrown path to the left. This self belief was justified when the path broadened out and rejoined the one we had left barely ten minutes before. We had simply taken a short cut over instead of round a slight rise. Now our main path took us in a direct route to the track that skirts Le Pic de Roussillon.
Lunch called and we settled down to a lunch of French bread, paté, camembert, jambon and tomatoes.

The track we followed after lunch was of the forest road type. This crosses the high pasture and skirts the low peak of Roussillon barely a hundred metres to our right and not quite seventy metres above us. Yet in the five years we have come this way, we have never climbed to the top of this peak. This year Rex was keen for the top. Jimmy was keen to join him but the rest of us had had enough climbing for the day and were happy to keep to the road so the party split – the two mountaineers set off through the stunted shrubbery and the rest continued over the high pasture.
Twenty metres through the shrubbery the peak-baggers found a path that contoured gently up towards the Le Pic. The path didn’t quite make the top but a short amble over springy turf saw the pair at the weather station that marks the summit with little extra effort. They were rewarded by a quite remarkable view to the east, over the lower country towards the Mediterranean.
Meanwhile the roadsters had made good progress along the track admiring the views westward towards the Col de Jau and the higher Pyrenees. Below lay the farm which usually has horses in the surrounding field. But today there were no horses. Nor were there any when we came down to the lower farm. There was a suspicion that they were already on somebody’s plate.
The trees before the lower farm was where we were joined by the two peak-baggers and the group stayed as one for the rest of the walk.
The afternoon sun was hot and we were quite happy to stop at our usual rocky outcrop and laze for a while. Then we continued the descent leaving the road occasionally to cut corners and came down to the television mast above the village. While some kept to the road from here, the more foolhardy took the steeper, more direct route to the village, coming down the rough path through jaggy, scratchy scrub.
This is a superb walk and was made even more so today by the presence of so many butterflies of so many different species. And the mysterious beetle-like insect with the long ting-like tail. Then there were the two birds – large pale grey falcons which the birders decided might be Gyr Falcons. The nature lovers were in their element today.

Friday 1 October A short coastal walk – Banyuls-sur-Mer to Collioure
Davie had the perfect antidote for the long walk of yesterday; he would take us down to the coast for a short, easy coastal walk. We were all quite happy to have an easy day and when the morning light showed an overcast sky and wet roads, we quickly agreed to his suggestion.
The logistics of the linear walk were overcome by driving to Banyuls, dropping passengers, driving back to Collioure, leaving one car there and driving back to the start of the walk. Well done, the organisers.
The wee shingly beach that we started from was at the end of an enclosed bay. While we could see the path rise slightly round the headland to the north, this gave us no indication of the up and down nature of the walk to come so we set off along the shingle with thoughts of an easy day ahead.
Rex had other ideas. Whether it was something he had for breakfast or something he thought he might have for lunch, we don’t know. But he set off up that path like an Olympic sprinter leaving the rest trailing behind with tongues hanging out. Every time the tail-enders caught sight of him, he was off again. This set the tone for the walk – heaven help those who stopped for any reason.
If the pace was fast, the terrain didn’t help. It was not the easy walk Davie suggested. Sure, there was a path, a dry path and well gravelled but the nature of the coast here is such that wee gravel-beached coves are separated by high scrubby headlands. We climbed round the first headland only to see the path rise even higher to a point well above sea level. Then it dropped quite dramatically onto a beach of another wee bay. Then it climbed. Then it dropped. Then it ...........
By the time we had climbed to the top of the umpteenth headland we could see the lighthouse of Cap Bear standing high above the Med. ‘An ideal place for lunch’, said Davie. So down we went again, back down to sea level and another wee beach with houses then up we came again, up to the lighthouse of Cap Bear We sat down on the walls of a German gun emplacement from the last war and had a well deserved lunch. And the sun came out.
After lunch, Rex had recovered his sanity, the up and down part of the walk was behind us and the going was now on tarmac; the walking was much easier. We blethered our way down the road towards Port Vendres. That’s when Ian and Ronnie were discovered missing. They had stopped to examine one of the German gun posts and were left behind, even at our new slow pace. We stopped to wait for them to catch up. They were seen on a path below our road heading down towards the sea. ‘That’s no’ where they want to go. That path rins oot at a cliff’, said Robert and hailed the wayward two. They retraced their steps and eventually joined us where we waited at a bend in the road overlooking Port Vendres.
We stopped again, this time it was beside a frame showing one of the views that Charles Rennie Mackintosh painted during his time here. We were now on the Rennie Mackintosh trail. Some debate ensued as to whether there were two towers guarding the port entrance in Macintosh’s time or did he move the single one from the other side of the bay to balance his picture. The debate remains undecided.
Port Vendres is the commercial port of the three towns we would visit today. The commercial port is to the south of the bay and the marina full of yachts to the north. It was in a cafe overlooking the marina that we stopped for coffee.
Davie had a plan. We would now climb high above the town to an old fort on the hill and then drop down into Collioure. With the coffee coursing through the veins, we accepted his suggestion. But the caffeine hit didn’t last too long and by the time we had climbed steeply to the top of the town and found the track to the fort, the coffee had worn off. Another track looked as though it would take us down directly to Collioure and, much to Davie’s disgust, we turned down this. It took us to the road between the two town and we stuck to this to come down into Collioure from the south.
This was a harder ‘easy coastal walk’ than we expected but it was another good one.

That night we were joined by Colin, a friend of Ronnie. He brought with him sausages, sparkling wine and a selection of moothies (harmonicas for the ill informed). The wine flowed freely and the moothies did their job. ‘The nicht drave on wi’ sangs and clatter’ and a thoroughly enjoyable evening was had.

Saturday 2 October Castellane Valley Walk – A Local Walk Due to Overindulgence Last Night
The morning dawned dreich with an overcast sky and a clag dropping from the Canigou. A thick haar rolled up the valley of the Castellane. After our jollities last night and the approaching clag, it was decided that we would definitely have an easy walk today.
We left the house and walked down the east side of the valley and into the fog that would stay with us for the day. This fog would hide any distant prospects indeed block any views beyond a couple of hundred metres. The only things to lighten the day and relive hangovers was the blethers of the Ooters, the ‘cracking’ of jays in the oak wood and the occasional views of the birds flitting from tree to tree. After a while we left tarmac and took a path rising gradually to the old ruined fort above the gorge of the Castellane..
Normally from here there is a superb view of the gorge of the Castellane and the spa of Molitg Le Bains but the fog did its best to hide this and it was only a shadow of the view that we had today. But we spent some time there anyway, some just to enjoy the experience and some to recover from the excess of last night.
We dropped off the heights of the fort and into the gorge then climbed through the grounds of the spa to the road for Molitg Village. At the same cafe as last year, we stopped for a refreshing (and recuperative) beer.
From Molitg we followed the ‘canal’ back to Mosset. The fog was still down when we came back to the house.

Sunday 3 October Les Trois Etoiles from Col de Mantet
A much brighter day dawned brighter in more than one sense of the word. The sun shone on the Canigou and the prospect of a superb day lifted the spirits. Colin was for the Canigou and while this was tempting for more than one of us, it was only Ronnie who joined him, the rest of us accepting Robert’s suggestion of an ‘easy’ hill walk.
The last time we were on the Col de Mantet the sky was overcast and the wind fierce and biting cold. (We didn’t know it at the time but it was bringing the first snows of the winter with it.) Today was a complete and pleasant contrast. The sun shone and the air was still and warm. Even before we had left the col, the nature lovers were in raptures. A Griffin Vulture came in sight, wings outstretched to catch the thermals. This was then attacked by a reddish brown falcon – a Lanner Falcon according to the birders. If this was what today’s walk had to offer then we looked forward to it with relish.
The walking was just as easy as Robert said it would be. The path skirted the hillside, climbing gradually. As the stunted scrubby woodland gave way we had views to the north and east. At one point we looked down on the narrow, twisting, winding road that climbed from the valley at Vernet le Bain to our col at around 1750m (5690ft). Most of the time we looked across the valley to the wooded slopes beyond for more distant prospects were as yet hidden by the ridges of our present mountain. A profusion of wildflowers, some still holding colour, decked each side of the path and multi-coloured butterflies flitted among them seeking out remaining nectar. Dozens more of the mysterious beetle-like creature we saw on Roussillon crawled on the path as it wound its way across and upward. This was a very pleasant part of the walk
The path rose slightly and topped out on to a grassy plateau. Now the views really did open out for us. To the south lay the peaks beyond the col; to the east a high pasture resembling the Roussillon one ran northward; and in the north, the high peak of the Canigou rose into the clear blue of the sky. Superb. A few minutes were spent on this plateau taking photographs and generally absorbing the scenery. Jimmy produced his binoculars and we had a closer look at the Canigou. We looked for Ronnie and Colin but, though a few figures could be seen walking round a sort of circular structure on top but no way could they be identified at this distance even with Jimmy’s binoculars.
The path crossed the plateau and rose fairly steeply. But it was a short steep and we topped out at Les Trois Etoiles almost before we knew it.
The place was busy for it was Sunday and a pleasant Sunday forbye. Apart from the young children with their parents who followed us up, there were on the top two families with young children and a group of five adults. Fortunately the top was fairly broad and grassy and there was room to accommodate the hoards. We lay on the short grass and had a long lunch and another look at the Canigou. Down in the valley something red caught the attention. The binoculars showed this to be l’Abbaye St. Martin du Canigou perched on its crag with a tower showing to its left.
Another vulture soared on the thermals thirty metres to our left. Jimmy’s binoculars did the rounds as the bird drifted over our heads and hung effortlessly on the slightest updraft. Then it drifted away and the time came for us to do likewise. But not before we had the official summit photo. The young mother of one of the families obliged us in this, accepting camera after camera. Then, when all cameras had done the rounds we thanked the young woman and started off down the hill.
The walk downhill was every bit as pleasant as the walk uphill. Down to the high plateau we came, stopping very briefly, then on to the narrow mountainside path. Half way down the path we met the horses. A team of four horses was being led by two gypsy-looking men and an equally gypsy-looking woman. The leader of the three asked us where our women were. We feel sure that if we had had women with us he would have made an offer to buy them from us such was his look. However, we had no women and that ended the conversation. We took our several ways, they, upward to les Etoiles and we, downward to the col.
This was another super walk. Well done to Robert for suggesting it. In our opinion Les Trois Etoiles is a five star walk.

Monday 4 October Cascade des Anglais
Old bodies were getting tired. After four days hard walking and copious amounts of red wine old bodies were getting tired. So when Bob suggested another easy gorge walk to a waterfall there were no complaints despite the sun of the morning and the clear air. So we motored to Vernet les Bains and the start of the walk to the Cascade des Anglais.
By its very nature this walk would be devoid of any distant prospects but dramatic rock clefts and high crags would surely make up for this. However, just as we started the walk, we entered a wood and we would be in this for the entire walk. There would be no views of clefts or crags, then. Yet the woodland was delightful with the warm sun shining through the foliage and sparkling on the waters of the burn. The path would follow the burn, rising gently, until we met the falls. There were some glimpses of dramatic rocks rising above us but mainly the interest was in the wood. We ambled up through the wood with the path.
There are two falls. The first took us by surprise. The path came round a rocky outcrop onto a swinging bridge. It was not until we were on the bridge and looked left that we saw the waterfall, not particularly high – twenty feet or so – but dropping like a flow of long hair into the pool below. This is the Cascade St Vincent.
The second, Cascade des Anglais lies some half kilometre further upstream. The path comes into a rock-walled basin with the water falling into the far end, higher than the first and just as spectacular. We stayed there for a wee while scrambling on the rocks, exploring the falls or trying to capture the prize-winning photos. Then we made our way back down the burn side path to Vernet. Enough had been enough for the day.
It was lunchtime when we arrived back in Vernet and, after an unexpected tour of the village streets we found a pavement cafe where we lunched on pizza and beer.

Supplies were running low back at the house so the shoppers were delegated to replenish them and shot off to Super-U. The rest came back to the Têt valley at Villefranche de Conflent. Since neither Colin nor Ian had seen the old walled town, this is where we headed, wandering round the streets and tourist shops. Colin managed to pick up a souvenir for his daughter before taking his leave of us. He headed to Mont Louis and we back to Mosset.

Tuesday 5 October Prades Market/ l’Abbaye St. Martin de Canigou
Tuesday is market day in Prades and we have among us some who enjoy such things. Since this was to be our last day we conceded to their request. This was to be a morning for them followed by a short but steep afternoon walk to l’Abbaye St. Martin de Canigou for the others.
Even for those allergic to such things (it brings them out in a bout of apathy) French markets are an experience. Prades market is no exception with stalls occupying the main square and stretching down all the side streets selling anything from flowers to cheese to clothes to sausages to books and DVDs. It took us a full three quarters of an hour to walk through the stalls from the outskirts of the town to the main square, three quarters of an hour of walking in the sun through the buzz of the market. We were badly in need of refreshment when we reached the cafe in the main square so we sat there and took coffee while watching southern France go about its business.
After coffee we drove through Vernet Les Bains to the village of Casteil. Here we found the steep concrete road that would lift us some thousand feet above the village to the monastery of St. Martin of the Canigu. The climb was hot and we were somewhat relieved when Davie stopped at an outcrop of rock. We followed him as he climbed rock and were rewarded with a superb view down the valley to the hills on the far side of the Tet. The village of Casteil lay below us and the town of Vernet Les Bains lay further down the valley. In the other direction we could see the tower that we saw on Trois Etoile standing high above the other side of the deep valley.
A little further up we came to a chapel of ease beside the road. Some of us would have liked to examine this but lunch was calling and the speedsters were into full stride. We followed on.
We climbed behind the monastery to look down on its red roof. Here we settled down to our now usual lunch of bread, paté, jambon and cheese. And as we sat we were joined by an American couple with a large Bernese Mountain dog. They were from California but had lived in London for a few years. They had first flown to Germany and bought an Audi which they were to drive this through the south of France for three month before it was shipped to California for them. They were taking a long way home from London via the south of France. Wow, what it’s like to have money.
The view from our lunch stop was awe-inspiring. Below sat the monastery perched on its rock above the wooded valley. On the other side of the valley was the tower that we could see from Les Trois Etoiles on Sunday. Behind this rose the high peaks. We were able to pick out Les Trois Etoiles, our highest point of this week. To our right across the gorge a wall of rock rose vertically for a few hundred feet and behind us the gorge ran on deep into the massif that is the Canigu. This is a fabulous place for lunch and we enjoyed being there again.
After lunch the party split into those who would like a steep wooded descent and those who would walk back down the road. Your scribe was in the latter.
We wandered down the road, examined the chapel of ease and passed the viewpoint rocks. This is where Ronnie met an old acquaintance, well somebody he met on the Canigu on Sunday. She was a New Zealander who had cycled with her other half to the high refuge of the Canigu and then walked to the summit. She was walking today but her other half was still cycling. We met him further down.
And it was further down that we saw the birds. Despite protestations, Jimmy was encouraged to view them through his binoculars. So to please Johnny he removed his specs, laid them down and looked for the birds through the binoculars. Then we walked on. We were nearly back at the cars when Jimmy realized that his specs weren’t on his face. He had left them half-way up the mountain. Off he set in search of the missing specs. No luck. He returned empty-handed. Ronnie, ever the helpful Ronnie, said that he would return with Jimmy to look for them. This time they were successful, finding the specs where they had been placed on the wall. Now Jimmy can see again. But has finding his specs this time improved his memory? Watch this space.
Both groups were re-united before the specs searchers returned and as one large group we drove back to Mosset.
That evening we decided the Mosset Trophy. For the second year on the trot it was decided on the Boules and for the second year running it was Ian who emerged triumphant. Well done to the victor.

Wednesday 6 October. Home
The alarm rang at some ungodly hour in the middle of the night; an alarm that was set because we had an early shift this morning. We were to be back in Carcassonne for the ten thirty flight to Prestwick. Somehow we managed it and we will surely recover our missed sleep before Christmas.
This was another successful venture into this wee corner of the world. Thanks should go to Robert for the use of his house again. And thanks to all who made it such a memorable week.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Le Canigou October 2010

The proof!!!! if you really needed any???? And no I am not having a crap!!!!

Mosset 2010

Here are a few pictures to remind you of some of our French adventures. Once again we were lucky with the weather and most of the arrangements worked well. Oh! Guess who won the bowls again ?
As you can see I have not got the hang of putting the pictures on in reverse order.
Day 1 Pic de Roussillon,
Day 2 Coastal Walk,
Day 3 local walk due to consumption on day 2,
Day 4 Les trois Etoiles from the Col de Mantet,
Day 5 Les Cascades des Anglais and
Day 6 all a bit knackered St Martin de Canigou after the market.