26 March 2015 – A walk from La Tamarissiere by the Canal du Midi and the Hérault

Seaside

The highlight of this walk, for those interested in birds, was the sight of four Black Winged Stilts feeding on the marshes. These beautifully elegant birds have just arrived back from Africa to breed. We also saw a flock of Mediterranean Gulls on the estuary. These gulls, although not rare, are often confused with the very common Black Headed Gull. The former has a really velvety looking jet black head during the breeding season, whereas the head of the Black Headed Gull is actually dark brown.

Starting at La Tamerissiere, we walked along the beach to the channel cutting across into the sea just before Vias. We continued along to the Canal du Midi

Canal du Midi

A sunny spot for lunch…

Picnic spot
After lunch we followed some rather muddy paths

Muddy

returning to the Hérault river, which we followed until it got to the sea.

Hérault

Leader: Ben
Distance: 8.5 km
Thanks to Ben for the comments and to Mike for the photos

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19 March 2015 – From Rabieux to St Guiraud

St Guiraud

Contributed by Ben

We walked up to and along the ridge that starts at Rabieux, passes by le Rocher de la Vierge and eventually up to le plateau. This is one of many migratory routes taken by raptors coming up from Africa. The views were fabulous but we only saw three birds of prey, one of which was definitely identified as a short toed eagle, or snake eagle because that’s what they eat. In French, circaete jean-le-blanc.

rIimage1

On the way down to St Guiraud we came across a tunnel in the hillside buried in the vegetation. Some of us, Les adventurers seen in the photo, plus Dee, decided to take the short cut back through the tunnel….. the two parties actually arrived back at Rabieux at exactly the same time! Quel talent!

group
There is a lime kiln and a limestone quarry, now abandoned, just near the entrance of the tunnel through the mountain. I presume this was used to transport the lime to the other side where the access was less precipitous.

Note: The ascent can be challenging, so having reached the top there are 2 options – either to return directly down the ridge or to explore the ridge and return via another track.

12 March 2015 – Walk around the red earth near St.Jean de la Blaquière

ruffes

Pam organised this Thursday’s walk for us. The walk was led by Philippe Martin and we walked together with the St Etienne walking group. We walked around the red earth (ruffes) near St Jean de la Blaquiere and he told us about the geology of the area, the plants and the animals who live there. We started with a group of around 20 people

Philippe had warned us the walk had two difficult parts in it, which we soon found out! But after he told us a women of 85 had climbed that hill recently, we were all convinced we were able to give it a try. We all made it, but my legs – and probably other peoples’ legs too – , were a bit shaky afterwards.

The area we walked in was beautiful and Philippe told us some interesting things about its history. A long time ago (some 450 millions of years ago) the climate here was hot and dry. And burned the soil, which gave it the special red colour.

The next two photos show us the difficult part of the walk. We had to climb a steep hill on a loose surface. But on hands and foot we all made it to the top of the hill.

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Before the climb.

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After the climb.

Philippe left our group now and then to search for special plants or animals. He even found a scorpion, which he caught by the tail, so that the scorpion could not sting him.

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On the way back we walked through the bushes with a beautiful view into the hills of the area around St.Jean de la Blaquière.

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Around half past one we were back at the cars. It was a nice, sometimes rather difficult, walk.

A Wednesday walk in the last of the snow

In the snow

Some of the Thursday walkers had an extra treat – a great day out on Mont Aigoual with Julien from Escapeo, our friendly and knowledgeable guide. He showed us how to read animal footprints in the snow, and told us lots about the landscape and the history of the area.

peopleJulien

In the morning we walked through the woods (not enough snow for snowshoeing) and picnicked in a ruined abbey.
Abbey

In the afternoon we drove to the extremely windy summit of Mont Aigoual, with views in all directions.

Snowy slope
from the top

We are all looking forward to another trip next year, when we hope there will be more snow!

26 February 2015 From Octon to Notre Dame de Roubignac

Tree
Starting from Octon, we followed the yellow waymarks out of the village and past the post office, with a slow gradual climb to the top of the hill. We continued along a track passing the Ruines de Louzieres. Some walkers thought they could hear strange noises…
Chateau

At the half way point we reached the Chapelle of Notre Dame de Roubignac.
Chapelle
The Chapelle was open so we could view the inside, and the choristers amongst us could test the acoustics (more strange noises?)
Chapelle

After a short stop we continued along the track and then headed down quite a difficult and rocky path which crossed the ravine
rive
and climbed fairly steeply up the other side.
Uphill

We turned left at the top to follow a slow descending track back to Octon,

Track dpwn

with views of the ruines from a distance.
Chateau

And Notre Dame de Roubignac protected us all.
Cross

Distance: 8 km
Time: 3 hours
Thanks to Mike and Véronique for the photos and commentary.