Come on a virtual promenade with me today. We are no longer allowed to do anything else, except for “short outings” to exercise ourselves within a 1 km radius of the house and then only alone. It’s hard to believe that only a couple of weeks ago, we were walking unrestricted around the countryside. We had no inkling then of what was coming, although maybe we should have done.
We took advantage of fine weather in February to take Sunday walks on new (to us) paths. Here’s one that we did around Puylagarde, the highest village in Tarn-et-Garonne at 425 m above sea level. From that elevated position the views across the rolling countryside are wonderful. In fact, from one place on the road, you can see the Pyrénées in one direction and the Monts du Cantal in the other, provided the atmospheric conditions are right.
When we left our car in the salle des fêtes car park, it was empty. This is significant later on.
Chapelle de Lugan
First stop: la chapelle de Lugan, a lovely little pre-Romanesque chapel built sometime in the 10th century. It is said to be one of the oldest churches in Tarn-et-Garonne. A settlement existed at Lugan well before the church was built, but the inhabitants abandoned the village in the late 13th/early 14th century in favour of Puylagarde. Perhaps it was considered safer and easier to defend.
The chapel has rounded walls, rather like the one in Toulongergues, photo below, about which I wrote a while ago (link below: the post about Villeneuve d’Aveyron).
In the 1380s, the chapel was used as a shelter by routiers, bands of mercenaries, who pillaged the countryside when they weren’t paid. Badly damaged, it was deserted until the 17th century, when it was restored. After the Revolution, it was abandoned again, until a definitive restoration took place in the 19th century, when the nave was extended and a rather lumpy sacristy added at the side. I couldn’t take photos inside, because it was locked like so many such buildings.
Lugan is a peaceful spot. Giant cedars surround the church, soughing gently in the breeze. A lone pigeonnier stands in a field opposite. And a commemorative oak tree marks the bicentenary of Tarn-et-Garonne’s establishment in 1808.
Streams, stone walls and lavoirs
Moving on, we came to this pond, probably artificial, into which flows a stream. It may have been used as a lavoir (washing place) in past times. We turned off the tarmacked road onto a track, which gradually rose and left the stream behind. Black poplars grow along the banks of the brook, covered with green spheres of the mistletoe that is ubiquitous in our area.
A variety of straight and featureless tracks took us through woodland peppered with broken stone walls and abandoned buildings. This reminded us that the area was once more densely populated. The trees that choke the former fields are not more than around 100 years old.
It was too early for the trees to be in leaf, but we saw the bush below with yellow flowers everywhere. It blooms in February and resembles mimosa, although it is neither so abundant nor so brightly coloured. And mimosa doesn’t grow up here. If anyone knows its name, please leave a comment below.
The photo below of the same type of shrub, taken several years ago, is rather clearer. So far I have had suggestions of witch hazel and Corylopsis (winter hazel). Latest suggestion is Cornus mas, also known as Cornelian Cherry and Mimosa de Quercy. Having looked it up, I think that’s what it is. Thanks to Sue C for the answer.
A steep climb led to an abandoned farm. The buildings were still in reasonable condition, but the place was deserted. This barn presumably doubled as a pigeonnier at one point, judging by the holes in the gable end.
Down again, along an incredibly pocked and muddy track, where someone had clearly driven cows recently. We passed the village lavoir, a common sight up here on the causse. Although it’s not far from the centre of Puylagarde, the effort to cart the wet washing up again must have been backbreaking. People were tough then.
A good knees-up
Through the old ruelles (alleyways) of the village and back to the salle des fêtes. It was around 4.30 pm, and the car park was absolutely packed with number plates not only from Tarn-et-Garonne but also from the surrounding départements of Lot and Aveyron.
We had forgotten that the village hall, which is vast, hosts un thé dansant (tea dance) most Sunday afternoons. Music resonated from the building and, while we changed our muddy boots, the van delivering the cakes turned up. I wonder how long it will be before they can resume their weekly knees-up.
I never cease to be thankful that we live in such a lovely area. And I expect we will be even more grateful whenever the current situation ends. In the meantime, I can’t go anywhere, but I will continue to post.
Stay safe. Stay well. And, above all, PLEASE stay at home, if you can.
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