End of another summer

The colours have changed in the leaves giving that golden mosaic on the hills. The nights have drawn in and the indoor shower has seen some action. The garden is all set for winter.

We have had an amazing summer with more explores than DIY days. At last the balance has shifted and even the DIY has taken on a more creative bent. The garden has been brilliant with both fruit and veg (even the deer have enjoyed it).

The last thing we did was to make a sign for the Naughty Corner and fit a new door handle made from box wood.

The garden is planted up with garlic and shalots, barn has now been put to bed until the spring and the autumn crocus are out in abundance. Off to Chamonix for the winter to run the chalet. We shall either see you there or we shall be back next year for more adventures.

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Birthday in the Mountains

As is the custom, each year at the end of September we hope to celebrate my birthday by a mountain walk. This time, I had a plan and it involved 3 days of hiking and a couple of nights in a refuge, since it is getting a bit chilly now.

A friend who we met on a previous walk, Sheri suggested that the area above Lac D’Oo is stunning and worth an explore so after getting a map we booked the refuge and headed off for 3 days of fun in the mountains with stunning weather, long days, great views, good scrambles, a lovely refuge with only 6 of us staying there so dorm to ourselves result not having to contend with snorers.

First day was over 2000m of ascent but once we were past the popular Lac D’Oo we hardly saw a soul which was great. I struggled with leg cramps for a couple of hours and meant that progress was slower than planned. Finally got to the refuge at 650pm and told dinner was in 10 minutes! We had a chat with the guardian re a scramble route the next day which is always good to get the local info.

Day 2 was stunning weather again, we wanted to do a scramble ridge up on the Spanish border and to climb Pic de Perdiguere 3222m also hoped to take in another peak Crabioules but looe rock and lack of a rope stopped that POA. Wow what a fab day, scrambling up over a few peaks following the ridge line and amazing views both on the French and Spanish side. Managed to find the path back to the refuge making a lovely loop.

Day 3, birthday day, we decided with the cloud to descend and do a lower summit on the way back to the van. Skies cleared though very quickly until we reached the van and the clouds came in, perfect timing. Had a lovely day on the hill with my hubby could not have been nicer.

All was lovely and then we hit Lac D’oo on a Saturday and it was mobbed hundreds of people trundling!!!!!

Back to the barn with a stop at the auberge, Rene and Anouk had a bottle of pink bubbles in the fridge for me which was very kind and Clive and Peter joined us too so a lovely finale to our 3 days away. It was then back up to the barn, more bubbles, cards, pressies, foie gras, prawns and cheese. A perfect end to 3 birthday bashing days! Thanks Al for sharing with me and making it a very memorable birthday.

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Bumper mushrooms

There was a time when foraging for mushrooms was a little like cruising the isles of the supermarket looking to see what you would find that looks vaguely appetising. You would gather some specimens, some of which you knew and others you would have to look up in the book to establish their worthiness. Now things have changed. Depending on the particular mushroom one fancies one goes to the specific spot where they should be on display. There are always exceptions to the rule. An example being parasol mushrooms which appear in grassland on long hollow stems. A single cap of one can fill a large frying pan. Searching for these is fairly easy as we have taken to standing on the terrace with binoculars. They are sufficiently tall and large you can spot them from about 400m. Invariably you find an additional two or three on route to gather the specimen you have seen.

This either means that we are getting better at identifying the dozen or so varieties we know or that we are learning where they grow locally, or indeed a combination of the above. There are still some mushrooms we would like to be more confident about identifying. The Russula family we see loads of and some are superb for eating, some are not and then some will make you very ill. There seems to me to be so many subtle variations that it could be a game of Russian Roulette and I personally am not a gambling man.

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Hillary and Ralph got married

We were fortunate enough to be invited to their wedding in a field near Manchester. The dates coincided with Dave and Helen from being in the country so we were also lucky to catch up with them too. So Friday night we had dinner with them and Ken in Derbyshire before heading to the wedding.

When I say the bash was in a field, it was a very nice field with a triple teepee style tent decorated in a chic and relaxed way. A double decker bus picked us up from the hotel at noon and took a meandering route to the venue where we took our seats outside for the marriage. The brides entrance was in her type 2 VW camper caning around the field. The ceremony continued in a very simple but personal manner. Before we knew it the bus arrived at half past midnight to cart us back to the hotel. Time just flew with fantastic food and loads of interesting people. The speeches were amazing and we had a brilliant day.

On the Sunday we caught Ken, Dave and Helen again for a walk and pub lunch in the Peak District. Thanks Ken for putting us up again. And thanks Dave and H for making the time to see us and for the sailing news.

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Parasols and Pintxos

Iain, Breezy’s Father, and Jo came to spend 3 nights with us as part of their Southern Europe tour. Iain had not been over here last year and so there were some considerable changes. An indoor shower definitely met with approval as did the flowers and the sedum roof. Jo explored the valley and helped us find some wild mushrooms. Naturally, we had bought some nice wines and planned some special fodder. Unfortunately we have no control over the weather however the sun shone on the last day providing fantastic views of the mountains. We also had a visit to the Museo des Colporteur locally which was fascinating.

The next 3 nights we all headed to San Sebastian for more food and wine with some walking and culture thrown in. Highlights were a pintxos tour and a restaurant recommended by Peter and Alison in the village.

On the way back we called in with a great skiing mate Mat who was staying with his Aunt Rosie.

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Etang Soulcen – Pic de La Rouge – Pic des Lavans

Just us and the tent, plus some fodder, something to cook on, something to sleep in… Parked up at Orris du Carla and headed up the steep track to Etangs de la Gardelle, on to Etang de Canalbonne and up to Port de la Gardelle. Beautiful views of the lakes in both Spain and France and some stunning coudscapes.

Took in the ridge to Pic de la Rouge before dropping down to Lago de Aresi and beyond before ascending to our camp spot at Etang de Port Vell. Yet another solitary camp spot by the lake (if you exclude the issard, horses and sheep).

The next day we got up to Port Vell/Romaset and scrammbled the ridge to Pic des Lavans.

Note – the French and the Spanish probably disagree on an awful lot of things but one thing that they obviously are at odds with is the names and indeed the locations of different peaks on the frontier. In fact Pic des Lavans appears on both the French and Spanish maps but approximately 500m apart. We went up the Spanish version as it was closer.

The descent took us on the HRP route past Orrie de la Soucarrane and Orri de Roumazet and the van (where we left it).

Definitely an area to return to.

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Flamisella Frolics, Fun and “That looks like a path!!!”

Lee and Sooze kindly asked us to join them for 2 days hiking with the tent and with 2 of their lovely friends Sheri (USA) and Michael (Dutch) who live just out of Seix. Great to get some hill time with S&L and also to meet some new like minded buddies in the area too.
Second day definitely made up for the first day!!!

Bit of an epic first day, with thigh high for some, chest high for others bilberry bashing, foothpath finding and boulder hopping up scree slopes…..Anyhow we did finally make it to the Col de L’Aliot from Ossesse via the Cabane de Bon Repos. Good yomping up weather as coolish and at the col, a strong wind. By the time we got to the col too late was the consensus to do a peak that day. There was to be no more “nipping up there!” and we headed down into Spain to a lovely little lake about 300m lower for the night with enough space for 3 tents.

A right veritable feast, onion bhajis, dhal, green thai cuzza with noodles and choccy to end a banquet. A cracking “partager” meal enjoyed by all. Beautiful spot in the sun till 730pm ish and then as soon as the sun went we dived for the tents twas cold especially with the wind.

Next day we opted to climb Pic de Flamisella 2781m dropping packs for the final ascent to make life easier. CRACKING views in every direction and stunning weather.
Plan B came into action for the descent after coming across some gnarly terrain initially not really passable…. so this meant dropping down to Estangy del Port for lunch by the lake. Then a final easy 200m hike up to Col de Marterat before descending down down and down back to Billy Boy. Beers on the way home and all pleasantly tired.

Thanks team Flamisella mucho fun.
Where to next????

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Raiders and Freeloaders

Not a fair title for a post as Freeloaders are uninvited. It is true that we have been having issues with Raiders though. They come at night usually and eat the lettuce hearts, the spinach, the beatroot leaves and worst of all they eat all the growing tips off the raspberry plants. This is very annoying and results in reduced crops. They are however beautiful deer. We have tried pissing along the boundaries but we are informed that human hair does a better job. This we have been gathering, placing in socks and hanging around the most attractive vegetation. We were informed that it may take a couple of years for the warnings to be headed but time we have.

The invited folk were friends. Alison and Peter came up for brunch in the sun and Ian and his cousin Peter stayed the night after dinner on the terrace.

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Path rebuild

A couple of jobs on the MUST do list this summer were to clean the main water buts, well over due and to re do the main path along the main entrance to the barn which has gradually been slipping away as the wood has become more and more rotten. We have been putting both off for a while.

Finally kicked ourselves into action with the water buts as Ian and nephew Peter were over for the night so meant two extra pairs of hands for getting water buts down the hill. Once we got going with the job, not too bad…..

Draining them took several hours with the help of a hose borrowed from Anouk ane Rene, rather a lots of sludge build up to say the least!

Then we lugged them down the hill and then into Billy, one by one down to the village, over the wall by the river so we could borrow a power wash, water and power and get them as clean as possible before back up the hill, and back down with the second one and more of the same. Ian and Peter helped us up the hill with the first one before they headed off home.

After the second one was clean, we had drinks in the bar with Clive and Alison and Peter before back up the hill just before the thunderstorm, perfect timing for not having to go to the river to refill them! A little bit of weather gods on our side there!

2 spangly clean water buts, note to self don’t leave it for 8 years till we do it again!!!!

The other big job involving the dreaded R…O…C…K…S word, it was just a matter of getting going. So we dug up the stones already in place and dug the area out, full of compost from the original barn clear out. That has all gone on to the garden which should help things grow happily. Now the path is totally knackered makes us have to fix it!

Lots of rocks, wood, slabs and heavy lifting. A few half days and it is looking good but Al’s back not good so path laying has a breather till he is 100% again. We are now over half way with it which is fab and most of the really heavy lifting is done. Now just a juggling and a jangling to get slabs levelish and not wobbling et voila!

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Flowers and Foraging

I am amazed at how well the flowers are doing in the garden this year. So excited that another two flower beds are being made. Mushies are not doing so bad also.

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