dimanche, octobre 19


Another trip to Yarner Woods, this time to try out the new camera. Nice to be able to get up close with stills and video.

Marsh tit


Blue tit

My bird  

samedi, octobre 18


Autumn has arrived and the UK that means stormy wet weather, always a difficult time for me as in the Pyrenees autumn is hot and dry (29 degrees there at the moment). I have a lot of work here presently which is keeping me in the UK a bit longer than usual. Autumn here also means fungus and here are some... 

 Pygmy Brittlestems (psathyrella pygmaea)

...and something to eat - Wood Cauliflower (sparassidaceae)

samedi, octobre 11

New Camera

After the very disappointing pictures of the marten I started looking for a camera with better zoom capabilities and discovered that Olympus had recently introduced the Stylus 1. 

Behind the lens it's very similar to the XZ-2 (the successor to my current camera the XZ-1) but with a built in electronic viewfinder. The lens is a 28-300mm zoom (about 10.5 x magnification) but with a constant f2.8! Not quite as bright as the f1.8 of the XZ-1 but to have f2.8 at 300mm is great. There's also an enhanced 2 x digital zoom on top of the optical zoom and 2 extra programmable buttons and a dial to customise the camera and put functions you use most often at your fingertips. The full HD video is also much improved from my old camera. Sizewise it's a little bigger but still much smaller than an SLR and the lens folds flat. All in all just what I was looking for. 

I sold my old electronic viewfinder and XZ-1 on ebay for a profit and found a secondhand (but unused and stilled boxed) stylus 1 for only a little more than the proceeds! Just started to use it and the results are very promising. (Alas the video has been pixelated by you tube).


Barclay 100

A very tough 100 mile (160km) race through terrain similar to my part of the ariege. Desolée le film n'est que en anglais.

jeudi, octobre 2

Lost knives

A beautiful day today with the temperature in the sun in the low 30's. I was up late and regretted not packing last night for a day on the hill.

Still, this morning I cleared and pointed the drainage channel around the bathroom extension (that's been on my to do list for years).

After a light lunch I realised that I'd lost my opinel knife. I've had it since I was 13. Another smaller opinel I found in the woods here 7-8 years ago, was confiscated on the flight from Bristol because I'd left it in a trouser pocket and it got picked up by airport x ray...so that's 2 opinels in under a week!  I retraced my steps from the last mushroom hunt but couldn't find it - looking for a wooden handled knife in 100,000 square miles of forest, deep in leaf litter, was always gonna be tricky. Next time I'll get one with a red handle.

I continued my walk down to the Moulin d'Aleu, then back up to the village, up to La Rouere, then continued along the chemin after La Rouere until it began to descend to Castet d'Aleu. Here I struck up the ridge until eventually, after much scrambling I reached the other end of the ridge from Joubac. The next 500m were hell - no path and waist deep bracken, bramble and broom in equal measure. I got ripped to shreds in my shorts and three times I startled groups of sleeping wild boar who crashed through the undergrowth all around me in a half-awake frenzy, trying to escape the intruder. Once I made the path the going was easy and I returned home via Joubac and La Bordasse. 600 or 700m of ascent, not bad for an afternoon stroll.

 The forest is carpeted with autumn crocus at the moment

Looking down from the ridge before Joubac to the Arac gorge and the road to Massat


mercredi, octobre 1


With the summer almost over, this morning I cleaned the chimneys. I was most surprised when with all the fine soot came a little 'lump'. Closer inspection and a bit of cleaning and it was a bat. Long since dead and dessicated if not smoked!

Most of the rest of the day was spent moving firewood for the winter. A couple of stere of wood into the woodshed from the field below it - a mixture of walnut and ash from maybe 4 or 5 years ago.

A pleasant 27 degrees today, but still cloudy over the mountains - hope it clears tomorrow, my last full day. A short walk at the end of the afternoon to collect some mushrooms for dinner, then a dash to the garage with the tractor tyres, which were under inflated.

The barn conversion I designed and have been project managing for Gilbert and Nicole Coron in La Trappe is nearing completion - probably another 4 weeks to go.

mardi, septembre 30

Mr Martin

Watched a young male marten at lunchtime for about 20 minutes. Not at all phased by my presence and quite happy crunching on hazelnuts.

Crunching on the hazelnuts

New bench made from off cuts


Nice to see the barn again! Three huge piles of branches to burn (two behind the hedge on the lower side) - probably in the spring.

lundi, septembre 29

Going, going but not quite gone!

Arrived late yesterday and there's a definite autumnal feeling here, with some leaves starting to turn.

After an early morning food shop, I set to work on cutting the hedge which is getting close to the electricity wires. I've laid it quite a few times now and it's so wide and thick, I can barely reach to cut it anymore without a very long bill hook or climbing on top with the chainsaw. It took most of the day to cut 2/3rds of it then rain stopped play, so I headed off to get some 'shrooms.

mardi, septembre 23

Happy Winter from Bjarne Salén on Vimeo.

Winter might be 3 months away but I'm already dreaming of skiing.

vendredi, septembre 19

New House

We've moved out of town - from Totnes to Dartington. The new house is lovely, full of light and backing onto woods. There's a wood burning stove, a good sized garden and friendly neighbours. It's great to be able to step out of the house and into the countryside.

We're all cycling regularly to school, work, shops, etc. which also feels good. I managed to get everyone bikes, lights, locks and mudguards at knock down prices (through a combination of ebay, preloved and the local tip).

Just need to transplant veg from our allotment in the coming weeks.

mercredi, septembre 17

House move

Back to the UK and a busy couple couple of weeks moving house and getting settled. No internet until tomorrow, when normal service will resume!

lundi, septembre 1


Meteo france got it wrong again and the day dawned with dense low cloud. I set off anyway, albeit a little later than planned. The climb upto the Cabane Leziou was extremely wet and by the time I arrived I was soaked below the waist. Occasional breaks in the swirling mists gave me glimpses of the way ahead. The path to Mont Rouch has deteriorated over recent years, avalanches have removed sections of path and the cable protecting the waterslide traverse at the end of the woods, some fallen trees block the path and generally it is more and more overgrown. In the wet conditions I had to exercise extreme care on the slippery rocks and narrow exposed path.

 Looking upto the cirque containing the Cabane Leziou

 A fleeting glimpses of Mont Rouch far overhead

At the cabane, I was met by a marmot, who seemed not at all afraid of me, usually you hear a whistle and see them scampering away into their burrows before you are within 100 meters.

Cabane Leziou

I pressed on for Mont Rouch, longer than I remembered and seeming much steeper in the swirling mists. at the shoulder before the final summit ridge, the deference between the Spanish and French sides of the frontier became clear - the Spanish side was basked in sunshine! I pressed onto the summit (2857m) before deciding to return to the shoulder.

French side in cloud (Pic Maubermé in the distance)

 Spanish side in sun, Ventolau in the distance

The ridge to Ventolau which had been my objective, was much further than I had imagined and I had had enough of the wet slippery rock. The heat on the Spanish side drew me and I decided to explore. I descended steeply to the Mont Roig Refuge passing a couple of shepherds. The hut is much nicer inside than I had imagined. 

 Inside the hut

It was three o'clock and the french side was still deep in cloud, tomorrow's objective (the ridge to Cap de Ruhos) was also in doubt, but I had a plan. I had often thought making a trip to link the Mont Rouch hut with the Cabane de Marterat perhaps over 3 days. Now was my chance to explore. There were two problems: I only had a day and bit to get back to the car, I didn't have a map of the route.

I decided to go for it. I had a rough idea of where I was going. A path descended from the hut heading for Noarre. I knew that it was possible to get to Noarre from the Port de Materat but it was a long way. All I had to do was to try to quit the path and head upto the Estany de Mariola (lake) or Port de Materat long before I was at Noarre. This meant taking the second or third valley descending from the frontier. 

The path was lovely, following a geological fault line down through open mountainside then soon hot pine forest. The mountains of the frontier were soon left behind as I got deeper into Spain passing a pretty cabane (well maintained and open).

As I got lower and lower I began to get a little concerned. I could no longer see the frontier mountains so it became difficult to measure my progress. At last after descending to 1700m I reached a small wooden bridge across a stream descending from the frontier. Either this was coming from the Estany de Mariola or from the Estany del Port below the Port de Materat. I searched both sides of the bridge but couldn't find a path heading up. This was strange as I was sure there was a path descending from the Port de Materat ( I'd followed it 20 years ago with Oliver Woodward when doing this part of the HRP).

I had two choices:

1. Ignore the stream and press onto to the next one (which surely must be from the Port de Materat complete with path), or
2. Follow the stream without any path and so reach the Estany de Mariola (from which I could eventually climb over a shoulder to reach the Port de Materat).

The first choice seemed logical but if this was the valley leading to the Port de Materat afterall and I pressed on, the next valley would take me to Certescan, a very long way from the car and no hope of making it back in time for me flight home! I decided to play it safe and struck off up into the woods trying as best I could to follow the stream. the going was tough with rock outcrops and tangled pines but after 30 mins I reached the treeline. There on the other side of the valley was a path coming from a car park at end of a track emerging from the forest! I headed across and yes this was the road head for the Port de Materat!

In 35 minutes I was at the Estany del Port and 20minutes later at the Port de Materat (2217m).

 Estany del Port with the Port de Materat and France beyond

A few hundred meters below the Port on the french side was the Cabane de Materat. It was 7.00pm and after 11 or 12 miles of walking and nearly 8000ft of ascent I was tired. The sting in the tail was that I had to descend a further 150m to fetch water, then carry it back up to the hut!

 Cabane de Materat

The clouds were still boiling on the French side and after some dinner I soon hit the sack. I had a poor nights sleep and in the morning was on my way by 8.00am. 

After some descent from the cabin, the way home involved climbing once again to reach and cross the Col de Crusous (2217m) steep on both sides. from here I descended to the Mines d'Anglade and then follow the road back to the car, which I reached without incident by 12.00.

Col de Crusous with it's crazy pinnacle

samedi, août 30

Day with the tractor

This morning I took the tractor to some of my land in the woods at Gabach. A couple of big beeches fell there 18 months or more ago and though I logged one, the other has been waiting for me. After cutting, splitting and stacking 60% of it, I headed deeper into the woods to collect some wood I split and stacked a long time ago. Five trips with the tractor and it's safely stacked nearer the road and under cover.

In the afternoon, it was more field topping at first with the scythe, then with the topper and tractor in the field below the woodshed. It's a steep field and I cut about half of the top and bottom tiers...the rest is too steep for the tractor or at least too scary for me on the tractor!

Tonight I'm packing for a two day trip to Mont Rouch, Pic Galena, Ventolau, Montareino and Cap de Ruhos.

jeudi, août 28

Took Susie, Jasper, Ruby and Jordan back to the airport yesterday, I have 5 days here alone. Hope to top all the fields before I leave and get a two day trip into the mountains on the Spanish side of the chain, behind Mont Rouch.

 First field topped, took most of the day and it was a scorcher today.

Another mushroom hunt this evening and found a new area rich in mushrooms not too far away. A wide selection on offer, including some trumpet chanterelles (first time I've found these) and some to avoid!

False death cap

 Slimy beech cap

View of Quélébu from the other side of the valley

mardi, août 26

Tour de Mont Valier

Before Susie and the kids arrived there was just time to finish the cupboards in Jasper and Ruby's bedrooms, build a ski rack and make a knife and spice rack in the kitchen. 

Monday was Philippe and Sophie's wedding and in the evening there was a soirée at Gouteto, interrupted by a massive thunderstorm.

On Wednesday I picked up Susie, Jasper, Ruby and Jordan. An afternoon mushroom hunt took us to Aliot and because of the number of fallen trees blocking the paths we ended up on a rather 'longer then planned' trudge through the forest. Good training for the up coming trek in the mountains and full basket of mushrooms to show for our efforts - horn of plenty, chanterelle, hedgehog of the woods.

 Snack break

The end of the path!

Coral fungus

Chicken of the woods

Saturday we headed off for our three day tour of Mont Valier. Our packs were heavy with tents, sleeping bags and three days of food. Ruby was a bit under the weather with a cold but everyone was determined.

The climb of 3500ft to the lakes at Milouga is steep and unrelenting and an emergency stop for hot chocolate at the Cabin d'Aouen was called for. The clouds stayed just above us as we climbed higher with views to distant peaks.

Finally we reached Milouga and after a short search found a fantastic camping place. The clouds cleared to reveal Mont Valier above us.

At night the sky cleared and the temperature dropped to zero, everyone survived but some were warmer than others!

Jasper, Susie and I were up early and ready to go - not so Ruby and Jordan. Eventually, many hours later (11.00), we started our climb towards the Col de Pecouch 2478m.

Ruby was finding things especially tough and I found myself carrying two packs on the ascent.

Susie crossing the vast granite wilderness above Milouga

 Mont Valier and Valieret

Finally after lunch we reached the Col. I ferried the rucksacks down the exposed first section from the col then we continued down to the Estanous Refuge.

On the Col

 At the Estanous Refuge and a well earned cold drink

We continued down to the Etang Rond for a second night under canvas. The Mosquitos were relentous so an early night for everyone. The temperatures were much warmer and everyone was warm enough.

In the morning, we had to decide weather to continue to the Etang Long and over the Col de Barlonguere or descend via the Riberot. Another late start determined our fate and with the hot weather it was a wise choice as Jasper suffered with little too much of the sun.

 Ruby sets out from our camp at the Etang Rond

We got back at 4.00pm after several dips in the tempting (but cold) waters. It's always good to descend knowing you can eat the remaining of the food you are carrying, without worry that it might be needed later.

Back at the house we all relaxed, basking in the hot evening and watching the falling stars

Today it was a lazy day all round. Susie was sunbathing and baking, the kids playing badminton and I scythed the saplings out the field below the wood shed then went on a mushroom hunt, collecting a basket of horn of plenty. They'll be dried, to join our haul from earlier in the week, then jarred up for casseroles in the winter.