jeudi, septembre 3

Vespa Velutina


We saw an unusual hornet feeding on an apple half we'd left outside the front door. A large wasp flew by and it immediately flew up, grabbed it, pinned it to the floor, stung it to death then flew off with it it's jaws. Not uncommon behaviour for a hornet but this one certainly seemed aggressive ....turns out this is Vespa Veluti the asiatic hornet which has been responsible for a spate of human deaths across France since it arrived in 2004. We got rid of the apple!

samedi, août 29

Susie away

Susie decided to head off to Mont Valier with Sandrine, Saskia and Sophie. As it was a girls only trip I stayed home and got on with maintenance. We had finished the terracing the day before, so next was some tree felling and hedge laying next to the barn.


A large oak in front of the barn had been a worry so it had to go, as did couple of a field maples. This opened up the views to south hugely. Some hedge laying along the chemin and felling an overstood coppice of hazel completed the transformattion.



The three terrace field below the woodshed was also in desperate need of scything it took another day and several evening of burning the cut brambles, grass and saplings.



Finally the field in front of the house which Saskia's horse and companions have been grazing also needed topping...a long hot dusty day ensued. I managed to get the tractor grounded on an old chestnut stump that I missed in the long grass, but I eventually managed to free it with the chainsaw.




vendredi, août 28

A trip over the Port d'Aula


After our trekking trip, Susie was keen to test her mountain fitness with a trip to Mont Valier and back in the same day. We set off early on a (too) light breakfast and in made our way from the Col de Pause to the Port d'Aula. Even at 8.30 it was clear it was going to be a scorcher. We watched the bergers move their sheep and a couple of Patou a little below the col.


As normal we saw no-one once we were through the Port d'Aula, but their was plenty of wildlife...literally dozens of peregrines, vultures (even a bearded vulture), marmots and isards.



The avalanches of the last few years have really taken it toll on the little path leading along the Spanish slopes and virtually nothing exists for much of the way and Susie found stretches quite vertiginous. We lunched on the Col de Tinderelle but had already decided that we wouldn't head to Valier. There were too many animals to photograph and the heat was energy sapping.



On the way back we were treated to a rare display as a stampede of about 15-20 merens charged past the weather station, crossed in front of us and plonged into the lake, where there were already a herd of cows and sheep. For about 5 mins they stamped and splashed and drank until they had had their fill.

jeudi, août 20

Neouvielle and Ordesa trip

Ordesa and Anisclo

After our trip to the Neouvielle (see below) we headed through the tunnel de Biesla and into Spain. After a night in cheap hotel we followed the spectacular one way canyon road to reach the lower reaches of the Anisclo Canyon at San Urbez. Without rucksacks, only our cameras and a little water, we zoomed up the valley. the forecast had been for poor weather but it never materialised. We took hundred of photos and little before La Ripareta we turned around and headed down.




We'd booked a hotel in Torla for Tuesday night and in the morning caught an early bus into the Ordesa canyons. We'd decided to follow the Faja de Pelay which traverses the canyons at mid-height (I'd done this before about 15 years ago). To reach the start there's a steep 600m climb. Susie and I were feeling fit and I set a good pace. We reached the top without a halt and without being overtaken in a little over 40mins...Susie loved it!


From here the path follows a fantastic route with ever changing views above and below. Because we'd started early, we had it virtually to ourselves (until we reached the hoards who marched up the path on the canyon bottom at Rincon de Soaso). About half way along we spotted a small herd of isard on cliffs above us and saw vultures and swifts in the void below us.

Telephoto view of the Breche de Roland


Looking down the canyon and trying to be Ansell Adams!

Looking across to the other side of the canyon


Rinson de Soaso, the head of the canyon before the climb to the Goriz refuge


We had lunch at waterfall called the Cola de Caballo. Here we had to decide whether to climb to the top of the canyons and follow the very long route back along the rim, or descend along the valley floor. We chose the latter and it was packed! Since I last followed path maybe 20 years ago, it seems to have been turned into track most of the way and even concreted in the upper reaches. It's been done to prevent erosion and there are signs at regular intervals asking visitors to stay on the path...but for me it takes away much of the wilderness feeling and I was very glad we followed the Faja de Pelay in the morning.


Cascada del estrecho

We were back at our car by 4.00 and decided to head for home. After our speedy ascent Susie is keen to climb Mont valier again but this time in a single day.

Neouvielle

We headed for the Neouvielle on Saturday afternoon in poor weather knowing that Sunday and Monday would be sunny. I'd reserved a room at the hotel/refuge beside Lac Oredon, but somehow I got confused and thought it was beside the higher Lac d'Aubert. So we arrived at Lac Oredon where you must park and caught the last bus up to Lac d'Aubert where we realised our mistake. We had planned to camp the next night, so fortunately we had our tent, sleeping bags and enough food for an extra night under canvas.

We found a place away from the path near the Lac d'Aumar and at 7.00pm (the earliest time allowed for wild camping in the Pyrenees) and just before a rain storm, we pitched out little tent, cooked our food and tucked into a bottle of red (a glass of which I managed to spill in the tent!). An hour or so later and there was a visit from a Ranger. He politely told us that within the confines of the Neouvielle Naturel Park, wild camping was only allowed in designated areas, so we would have to pack up our tent and descend to below Lac d'Aubert - the nearest bivouac spot. A bit of a pain but 45 minutes later we were re-established.

It was a surprisingly cold night with a heavy frost but the morning was crystal clear and by 9.00 we were on our way to the Hourquette d'Aubert (2498m), our first pass of the day.


The Neouvielle is truly magical and the views of lakes and mountains were superb. Our packs were heavy but we soon made the col. More lakes lay ahead as we descended towards the Tourmalet with Pic du Midi de Bigorre ahead of us.


It was glorious sunny day and after lunch we decided to change our route slightly and head over the col de Tracens (2463m).

A rock sea lay between us and the Lac Nere, but after this the way became easier with a steep final haul to the col.


A second well deserved lunch on the col...


..and a new more open landscape lay ahead of us with the Lacs de Madamete in the distance.


After a spot of sunbathing at the Lake we headed on and eventually chose to wild camp beside the Lac d'Agalops (we were now outside the Naturel Park).


It was a warmer night with a few light showers. Earlier morning cloud quickly cleared as we climbed towards the Hourquette Nere (2465m).


On the other side of the col the clouds were still swirling and slowly clearing and we spent a good half and hour trying to capture the rapidly changing view with out cameras...magical!



We descended as far as the the Laquets de Port Bielh, where he had to make decision on the route, either drop into the next valley and visit Lacs de Bastan, or descend more directly to the Lac de l'Oule. The weather was beginning to close in so we chose the latter descending through the pine forest of the "Sapinere de Bastan".


After lunch at the lake we had the steep 450m climb to the Col d'Estoudou. We were soon in the clouds and it seemed like we would never reach the col. At last we arrived just as the heavy rain began and equally steep descent to the car at the Lac d'Oredon was rather slippery. 

mardi, août 11

Espaliers

Ceps and Chicken of the woods on the menu for the last few days...

Susie and I have been busy terracing the vegetable garden for the last couple of days...heavy work but just one more terrace to go. Not enough stone to make the terrace walls traditionally so we've improved with corrugated iron and acacia posts.

Lovely weather for the last few days, off to see Alun and Breezy today.

jeudi, août 6