Monthly Archives: June 2015

Cycling in The Lot Valley.

This is a perfect cycling area – quiet lanes, not  really too many steep gradients, beautiful villages with refreshments and also a  good network of VTT tracks. The tourist information offices have lots of free leaflets and maps – try the ones in Puy L’Eveque and Duravel. There is a particularly good set of routes produced by The Lot tourist board  –  http://www.tourisme-lot.comOver coffee and croissants I pour over the 1 in 25,000 map as I want to explore tracks alongside a large loop in The Lot to the east near Grezels. Choosing an off road bike for practicality I planned quiet lanes over towards the area I was to explore. Memories of cycling through this area on a journey on the Camino to Santiago de Compostela several years ago came flooding back. On that occasion I spent a night in Cahors and cycled alongside The Lot somewhere, tasting the dark red wine of the area for the first time. I remember how the French people heartily welcomed a lone cyclist and how considerate car drivers were as opposed to the UK.

Soon I was on a well signed cycle route through steepish hills amongst the vines and on down towards The Lot. Here I left the road to follow a grassy track alongside the river passing an old mill on a side stream. At a slipway there were plaques showing the heights of ‘recent’ floods, March 1912 appeared the worst.  I’ve seen The Lot in flood and it’s a frightening sight.As I cycled along a green lane by the river I came across the newish tourist passenger boat sailing by,  operating from Puy L’Eveque it seems a fairly tame trip.Much better to hire a canoe from the same people and explore yourself. A little further upstream is one of the canoe launching sites I’ve used in the past below a new wear and lock. I once found it surprisingly hard work getting back to Puy with my young Grandson against a strong headwind, kept getting blown back up the river whenever I stopped paddling for a rest.

The lane left the river through fields of sunflowers which were just coming into bloom. They are a classic summer sight in this region of France.

I pedaled along happily, pleased with my chosen route alongside the river. Even better was my arrival in previously unvisited Pescadoires which turned out to be a delightful hamlet just above the river. In the village square by the 11th century church [with its series of Gargoyles] I had a potted history of the place from a lady out of one of the adjacent houses. She also proudly told me she lived next door to an English family who fly in for short breaks – such is the nature of modern travel. I wonder how many English own houses in the area and how this has affected traditional community life and the prices for the locals. My French wasn’t good enough to delve into those issues.Road cycling took me through Lagardelle as the clock struck 12 – mad dogs and Englishmen….      and on to Grezels. The restaurant La Terrace here had an interesting 18euro lunchtime menu, would return. Again in the village some of the buildings displayed faded old signs from the recent past. These rural places must have been much more vibrant 50years ago.

 

 

 

 

 

Happy with my morning’s cycle I returned home the same way I’d come, this being the soft option rather than a longer loop over steep hills.  Next time!  and in any case I was ready for lunch. The afternoon temperature rose to 34C in the shade, they were harvesting the rapeseed in the adjacent field so the Kites were flying in. As a bonus in the evening we were visited by a deer and her fawn.

 

 

 

 

Long(er) walks in The Lot Valley.

Long is relative, in this heat  20k seems long. These walks take me into a more diverse landscape. Different valleys and ridges are visited from my base without having to use the car. I have several routes which, this fantastic week, have provided top class excursions. A long morning is set aside for exploration and  I’ve returned each time full of admiration for the landscape of the area.

As a good example I leave this morning along easy tracks in the oak forest. Sunday scrambler bikes, much as I shun them, help to keep these ways clear. Very few other people use them. Over a ridge little paths brush through aromatic lavender. This is a splendid spot for a breather and a chance to admire the varied butterflies and watch the buzzards wheeling overhead. I’ve given up trying to get decent photos of either.

Down  into a secluded valley of scattered houses  threaded with quiet lanes [ideal for cycling – see later post] and I’m soon into the little village of Touzac. The cafe is closed today but there is a welcome water tap, as there is in all the hamlets passed today. It’s good to reach the River Lot itself, a grand stretch of water, which here is crossed by an impressive metal bridge.

A scheme is well under way to restore navigation to this once important river by installing a series of locks thus providing for boat trips as a tourist attraction.

There is a gradual climb up a wooded valley and on past hillsides of tidy vineyards.At the top there is a stone cross as this part of the trail is on one of the pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostela, hence the Scallop Shell the symbol of the route.Worth visiting just a short distance off the track is the pretty village of Cavagnac centered round the church.

As you leave the village steeply downhill there are views towards the valley of La Theze and the next village to be visited, ancient Saint-Matin-le-Redon. The cliffs on the right, Montcabrier, have given me good days climbing in the past. The cafe in the village has closed long ago. I love these traditional, but now fading, signs on cafes and shops so evocative of France.

A long ascent over yet another ridge on good paths is made bearable by the shade of the Chestnut trees.

Lanes lead into Duravel giving views across the valley to Vire, numerous family vineyards and the wooded ridges behind with the prominent water tower visible. Duravel has pleasant stone houses and narrow alleys surround the medieval church and is worth exploring. Time for a refreshing drink in the Cafe de la Mairie. It is difficult to find off road walking back to the bridge over The Lot at Vire-sur-Lot and the road is long and hot – better to phone for a friendly pick up.

View over The Lot Valley from Duravel.

View over The Lot Valley from Duravel.

Short walks in The Lot Valley.

All short walks lead to home.  In this heat days drift into one and so do the walks. There are many short circuits from the house. To fit in with gardening, cooking and lounging I can do some before breakfast, some before supper and at this time of year in the late evenings. The bird life is best early but the light is magic in the evenings.

Usually I’m heading up into the woods, which here are mainly dense oak. In the mornings you hear but hardly ever see deer scuttling away. There are few flowers on the forest floor, Scabious and Red Hellibore are probably the commonest.

Wild boar have been especially busy grubbing up the ground this year. They come right down into the garden at night.

Most orchids have died back but in a meadow of poor soil I come across a few Lizard Orchids which I haven’t seen before.

Where forest tracks join roads waste tipping often seems to be a problem – same as in England unfortunately.

Views can be limited until one is on the ridges clear of the trees but then distant vistas open with scant habitations. Lovely old farmsteads, many now holiday homes, dot the valleys and hillsides. Pigeon towers are often a feature, typical of the area, giving both food and fertilizer in the past. Today deep in the woods in a secluded valley I came across an old well, complete with bucket on a cord, I wonder when it was last used? There are ruins hereabouts.

A word of warning – these woods are home to ticks. Tucked in trousers have become de rigueur, trez chic.

BACK IN THE LOT.

Puy L’Eveque on The Lot.

Its great to be back in France. A later plane schedule had us arriving at 17.00 but still time for a cafe au lait in the beautiful village of Issigeac.tmp_SAM_2638-1246733509

A short time later I was having a swim and then enjoying a glass of Cahors red. A deer walks through the garden and a nightingale begins to sing. No plans, perfect.

ANGLEZARKE AMBLE.

Not ‘The Anglezarke Amble’ which is a LDWA organised 24mile challenge walk/run but a pleasant amble around the reservoir with two old friends. This easy walk fitted in with A’s recuperation from knee injury and P was willing to come along for the chat, we go back a long way. The south end of the reservoir was a good meeting place. We all commented on the increased traffic encountered on the journey here, guess that is a fact of the times and that we should think more seriously about using public transport. The paths were dry after the recent fine weather and the day hot and mainly sunny – ideal for ambling.SAM_2635

The reservoir was constructed in the 1859’s to supply water to Liverpool and is part of a chain of reservoirs in the Rivington area. We passed the Tudor style  Waterman’s Cottage built by Liverpool Corporation.

White Coppice is a small hamlet with some fine cottages, now highly prized. It is well known for it’s sloping cricket pitch in an idyllic situation. We sat eating our sandwiches on a bench watching the groundsman fine tune the batting area in readiness for this weekends fixture.

On the return we looked into Lester Mill Quarry once a fairly popular climbing venue, nobody appears to visit now. Some of the longer extreme graded climbs look distinctly uninviting, they were always a bit scary with dubious rock. [the midges were just as dangerous] That is why this quarry was always a poor second to the well used Anglezarke across the road.  Managed to identify one climb we three often did as a warm up – Lester Rib VD on a small buttress at the entrance to the quarry. The quarry was originally worked for paving stones still being walked on in Manchester and Salford. 

Lester Rib.

Lester Rib.

 

A’s knee survived the 6 miles, we considered the extension around Rivington Reservoir but as the heat was so oppressive we opted for a cool pint in the nearby Bay Horse, an old haunt from post Anglezarke climbing evenings.

Getting better – Gouther Crag climbing.

Gouther Crag.

                                                                   Gouther Crag.

June continues. The forecast was even better for Thursday, less wind and cloud with warmer temperatures. I’ve just realised how many of my posts commence with a reference to the weather, how dependent on the forecast are ‘we outdoor types’?  So I couldn’t resist another day in the Lakes whilst the dry weather lasts and found a willing accomplice in Dave. The lanes leading into the secluded Swindale don’t seem to know whether they are in the Lakes or the Dales but were a delight this morning. The limited parking before Truss Gap Farm was even more limited today as major engineering work was being undertaken to improve water catchment in the valley. With help from the workers we squeezed into a space amongst the white vans. A little bridge crossed the stream to a track up the valley but as we packed a digger came along and lifted it up discarding it onto the bank as the river was being diverted. A new way will be found in the future no doubt.

The crag looked scruffy and vegetated on the hillside above and we found the indistinct track steep and strenuous, not encouraging. But all changed when we arrived at the Fang Buttress, there hidden up a gully and just coming into the sunshine was a magnificent wall and an ominous hanging slab.

Fang Buttress.

                                                           Fang Buttress.

I relished  the rough steep rock of Kennel Wall and Dave travelled the amazing situations on The Fang. Lakeland climbing at it’s best.

 

Kennel Wall up the centre crack.

                                  Kennel Wall up the central crack.

 

High on The Fang.

                                                      High on The Fang.

We had time to relax and enjoy the sunshine with views of the valley. No one else appeared. Two routes were enough, we walked down past Truss Buttress with routes for another day and then it was roof down for the drive home.

Truss Buttress.

                                                        Truss Buttress.

Almost Summer – Wallowbarrow Climbing.

This has been a favourite venue of mine for decades. Driving along the narrow lane  brought back memories of days climbing here with many good friends, some sadly no longer with us, camping in the fields below the crag and pints in the Newfield Inn across the river. One is still allowed to park near the characterful farm which over the years has had a varied human and animal population.  Gone are the Nepalese pheasants which used to chase you up the track. I notice there is now a camping barn available.

The morning was overcast and definitely cool, not what we had expected. The short walk up through the trees brought us under the empty West Buttress but we traversed over to the popular East Buttress, round the corner were a cheerful group experiencing multi pitch climbing for the first time.

We shivered our way up the clean  Digitation VS and Trinity Slabs VD [my first lead for two years]. The sun came out later and Paradise VS was obviously more pleasurable. Sitting on the top opens up the views down the valley and behind you the Coniston and Bowfell hills which were now in brighter light. A good end to the day.

Looking up Digitation.

Looking up Digitation.

Looking down Trinity Slabs.

Looking down Trinity Slabs.

Dunnerdale.