dimanche, octobre 4

Hedges and mushrooms

Today dawned clear and I watched the rising sun bathe the mountains in light. 

In the field I also watched a couple of roe stags (a young male still red and a much older three point grey male) sparring. I filmed the exchange and a little later the young male was back again.

I spent until 2pm laying the hedge on the other side of the chemin leading to the barn. 

The next section to the barn is mostly quite dense now so I may just top it rather than lay it, which should be quicker.

After a quick lunch I headed to Oust for some shopping and on the way back stopped in for a long chat with Minsou. When she asked what I was having for tea, I replied chicken and mushrooms. She laughed when I said I hadn't picked them yet, but it only took 15 mins to collect an assortment when I got home!

samedi, octobre 3

Barn progress

A very long day working on the barn. Lintels finally up on the first window and internal reveals done.

Then it was onto the second window which needed the old frame taken out, the cill lowered and width slightly reduced. The old frame was built in and offered support to the walls on either side (dry stone construction, no mortar) so when it came out there was rather a lot of wall to rebuild. All done by 7.30pm.

vendredi, octobre 2

Snow and hedgelaying

After a rain, hail and thunder storm last night, this morning dawned clear with a dusting of snow on Mont Valier...winter is coming.

In the morning more work on the inside of the new window in the barn, its slow work rebuilding the reveals and supports for the lintels, hopefully after tomorrow I will have the interior lintels placed.

The rest of the day was spent hedge laying. First section complete.

There are four huge bonfires of branches piled up and two giant stacks of spars about 3m long. What I've done is about 20% of the total that needs doing. Next I'll tackle the already thinned out section against the garage/woodstore.

mercredi, septembre 30


A light dusting of snow overnight on Mont Rouch

Logging from yesterday almost complete

Today I busy, busy, busy. I started by building the window frame for the first window in the barn. Mortice and tenon joints and a stooled cill. Then I did a bit of thinning out of the hedges in readiness for hedge laying, starting behind the wood store where several ash trees were getting rather close to the H.T. electricity wires.

Then it was down to the barn to install the window frame. I managed to go in from the outside and get the frame in. 

Knocking through proved more difficult, as the stones weren't as well placed for the opening and there were several colapses! Eventually I got a second oak lintel in place, but tomorrow I'll need to get sand and lime and start rebuilding the wall before there are anymore!

A beautiful sunset tonight. Have lit a fire for the first time this evening.

mardi, septembre 29

Gite underway

Back to Quélébu and at last ready to start on the barn transformation into a gite. Autumn is coming and the leaves are just starting to turn and drop their leaves. First up, some photos for Susie of her summer planting...all doing well.

Elsewhere, there are the usual profusion of autumn crocuses and plenty of mushrooms - orange bay bolettes, chanterelles, hedgehog of the woods and horn of plenty.

Before the barn works can start I've been burning 4 out of 5 of the huge bonfires from the tree felling in August and cutting, splitting and stacking the wood. Then the ground floor of the barn was emptied of the thatch (about 120 bundles) and the sheep pens were dismantled. A trip to St Girons to collect the oak for the window and door surrounds, hassle the notaire (still haven't exchanged on Pont after 6 months!) and chase the water board (SMDEA) for a quote.

Weather is warm and sunny but with clouds building every afternoon/evening.

lundi, septembre 7

8 tors

A beautiful day on Sunday, so Susie and I romped around our 8 tors walk (Sheeps Tor, Down Tor, Cramber Tor, Hart Tor, Black Tor, Leeden Tor, Sharpitor, Leather Tor). Susie feeling the extra walking fitness in her legs!

 Leather tor and Sharpitor from Sheeps Tor

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.


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.