At the farmer’s table

For the latest organised Saturday walk, the rest of the family having arrived in Quillan, Tomos opted to stay at home with his brothers, leaving me to enjoy a walk in the winter sun, ‘on my own’. It was a little odd, not having my constant companion at my side, but a chance to chat with different people and, sometimes, just to enjoy ambling along on my own, at my own pace, without the need for conversation.

This week’s walk, like the first, was again for Telethon, a big event here with weeks of fundraising events culminating this past weekend with televised coverage, and a full programme of activities from zumba, to vide greniers (a community garage sale) and organised walks. There were two walks of different lengths to choose from, both leaving from the hamlet of farmhouses at Pailheres near Esperaza, known as Les Soubirous.

Several car loads of us left at 1pm from the station car park in Quillan, meeting other walkers at the farm for registration and then the ‘off’. The farm belongs to locals involved in the walking group, and also personal beneficiaries of the Telethon cause in this region – being for research and the establishment of a local factory for the production of medication for the treatment of myopathy.

Most walkers so far on these organised sorties have been of a certain age. This time there were some younger people and a couple of families with young children. One of the trail options was listed as ‘facile‘ (easy) at three hours’ duration; the other ‘tres facile‘ (very easy) at 90 minutes, so both very accessible, though I suspect both options were a little underestimated given the range of age and ability.

Both trails headed off in the same direction, before branching about 250 metres down the country lane. The advanced walkers headed on with a cheery good bye and good luck, while we headed immediately off-road, and struck out across the farmer’s fields towards the signposted hamlet of Les Buffatieres.

The scenery was stunning with vistas over the local vines  to the hills beyond.

Horses and donkeys grazed in the fields. Several dogs accompanied us on the walk – one got lost after he caught the scent of something, got a bit over excited and went a wee bit too far afield. Luckily he came back eventually and before holding the party up too much!

These are isolated little rural back roads. When out walking you come across some funny sights. The locals around here have obviously had some fun with it. There aren’t many neighbours to object.

Just around the corner is the rather more sophisticated renovation of a previous mill. This is probably a bit rural for our liking, but is really quite a divine property as a complete hideaway. And what magnificent, uninterrupted views. It’s not for sale as far as I can tell.

The earth around here is red. It makes for colourful countryside, adding to the wider spectrum of autumn colours, and some persistent shades of green.The walking is easy, so there’s plenty of opportunity to dawdle and drink in the view. I’m bringing up the rear of the pack at this point.

As the sun casts a long late-afternoon shadow, we close the loop of our walk, heading back up through the vines to the farmhouse. This is as steep as the climbing has got. I probably could have brought Nicholas on this one.

Reaching the brow of the hill, back at the road, we are rewarded with a spectacular view over the neighbouring hilltop village of Rennes-le-Chateau across the valley, source for the central premise of Dan Brown’s ‘Da Vinci Code’.

Back at the farm, we have more tangible things to consider, with an impressive afternoon tea spread of farm-fresh produce including black pudding, salami, and unpasteurised cow’s milk. That’s worth walking for!

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