A Virtual Walk Around Puylagarde

Château de Puylagarde

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).

Church in Toulongergues

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.

Pigeonnier de Lugan with a curious metal structure on top

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.

You might also like:

Villeneuve d’Aveyron: Ancient Paths and a Historic Gem

Every Château Tells a Story #15: le Château de Puylagarde

Lovely Lavoirs

Copyright © Life on La Lune 2020. All rights reserved.

24 comments

  1. I’ve just subscribed to your blog, and I’m delighted that I came across it. I’m usually in Paris/Southern France twice a year, April/May and September/October. I’m missing Paris and have been spending time meandering through her via photos from both my last trip and previous ones.
    Your blog has opened another area of France to me, and I thank you. I’ll now wander back through previous offerings till your next one arrives.
    Regards
    Shannon

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for commenting and following, Shannon. I hope it won’t be too long before you can get back to France. Next post is due in a couple of hours. In the meantime, there are 675 posts on the blog, but you can always use the search box or the category list to find posts that might interest you. Thanks again for landing on La Lune!

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  2. Thank you for this virtual walk – that was really lovely!! Your countryside is so very different to ours and it’s great to see something different for a change! Stay safe and healthy!

    Liked by 1 person

    • France has such varied countryside, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, I won’t be seeing much of it over the next few weeks 😦 but I’ll try to do some more posts like this one with photos taken a while ago. Take care.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for sharing your lovely walk. What a lovely village. Your words strike chords – the realisation of what the lock-down really means in France, the thought of people stripped of their simple pleasures. Here we are social distancing and the Governor says there are no plans for ‘shelter in place’ for reasons of trying to preserve as much of the economy as he can. But he pleads daily with us all to follow the rules and not flout them. My daughter in London says that people are behaving as though nothing is untoward let alone wrong. I am certain France has it right and though I can feel the hardship through your writing, my hope is that this will prove to be the curve flattener that is so needed. And if we are asked to do the same, so be it. I do wonder what that metal thingy on top of the pigeonnier is, I must say

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    • It did me good to revisit this walk, albeit only virtually. We have a similar knob on our pigeonnier, except it’s in stone. When the person who had the house restored in the seventies visited once, he described it as “une fantaisie du maçon”. It’s not clear what the structure is on the Lugan one.

      I have seen pictures of people in the UK wandering about over the weekend with absolutely no regard for social distancing. Exhortation doesn’t work. In the end, unfortunately, only coercion does. While I abhor any kind of totalitarianism, desperate situations need desperate remedies.

      Take care.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Lovely photos, lovely place.
    The gendarmes ought to patrol around here a bit. I’ve never seen so many promeneurs! Family groups, couples with skis, a cyclist, a runner. They all think the restrictions don’t apply to them…We are three and a half kilometers outside the town so even the 1km allowance is stretching it.

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    • We are so far off the beaten track that we haven’t seen a soul, except for a couple of tractors. People are not taking this seriously enough. They don’t think it can happen to them. I hope good sense will prevail.

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      • It’s the ‘confinement’ part of confinement that they don’t get, that it means not just not going to school or going to work, it also means STAY AT HOME.

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        • Absolutely. If you don’t have to go out, don’t. In country areas there aren’t enough gendarmes to police this. And whatever happened to solidarité? Today, it’s too much chacun pour soi. Take care.

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  5. Well done Vanessa! Jenny was stopped by the Gendarmes on Friday and was told she may not be more than 500 metres from home, not 2 Kilometres as we had understood.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Great to be in France if only vicariously thru your posts! We are stuck in a condo in Toronto with two young children, would love to be in our little house in Dordogne with a terrace and so much countryside to walk. Doesnt look like we will be getting over there this summer at all now. Look forward to your next post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I hope it helps to distract a little. I am somewhat hampered in my choice of topics by not being able to travel anywhere, but it does my creativity good to have to exercise a little ingenuity. Even if you were in France, I’m afraid you wouldn’t be allowed to walk the countryside at the moment. But I can see if would be better than being in an apartment with small children. Bon courage!

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  7. Thanks Vanessa for another lovely post, especially important for those of us who are not in the Tarn-et-Garonne at the moment…and missing it terribly! Is the yellow flowering shrub possibly Witch hazel? Frances and I saw much of it on our February walks around the area. Look after yourselves!

    Liked by 1 person

    • We rather miss Tarn-et-Garonne too right now, being restricted to within 1 km (500 m another commentator says), unless we go shopping in the car. Information from someone who is a botanical expert suggests the shrub might be Corylopsis, or winter hazel. My photo wasn’t very distinct. I will add another shot, taken a few years ago, which is better. I hope you’re both well. Take care.

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