Limogne, land of springs, pigeonniers and truffles

Metal pipe leading to drinking trough with old stone walls

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so we are always glad to imitate our friends A and R, who are seasoned walkers. They are so seasoned that some of their hikes are probably beyond us, but they recently took a walk from Limogne-en-Quercy in the Lot, which looked within our capabilities.

Since the weather was improving and likely to be too hot later in the week, we had firmly decided to walk on Monday, come what may. A good 10 km walk over fairly flat terrain would stretch our out-of-practice legs. As it happens, the weather was perfect: sunny spells but not blisteringly hot. And not wet underfoot, either.

We packed our picnic and set off for the market town of Limogne, situated on the causse (plateau) to which it gives its name. Limogne has a good Sunday market and a small truffle market in season. It also has a high concentration of dolmens and other prehistoric remains plus an ample share of more recent petit patrimoine.

Botanical trail

A feature of any walk we do is that we always have difficulty finding the start. This was no exception, and we went 200 m in the wrong direction before realising our mistake. Once back on the right route, we walked along a grassy track bordered by dry stone walls that is a sentier botanique (botanical trail).

Plants, trees and shrubs, some of them specific to the causse, are marked out with signs giving the botanical and common name. We were interested to note a number of species that don’t appear round by us, even though we are only 25 km away. For example, I have never seen the Cornus mas (Cornelian cherry) below in our area. The wild boar had been feasting on the berries, judging by the colour of the droppings on the path.

Cornus mas bush with red berries

Fountains and lavoirs

A distinguishing feature of this walk is the number of sources (springs) that have been tapped and used to collect fresh water or channelled into lavoirs (washing places). On the arid causse, finding water was always difficult. No water, no habitation. Some places have an underlying layer of clay, the legacy of a sea that covered the area many millions of years ago. This traps the water not far below ground level.

Another feature is the number of pigeonniers (dovecots) in this area. Arriving at the hamlet of Mas de Charrou, we found two good examples of the round pigeonniers typical of the causse.

Stone dovecot in SW France
Stone dovecot in SW France


La fontaine de Buzou (typically, we almost missed it), is downhill a little further on from a primitive cross.

Old stone cross

This is a lavoir papillon (butterfly) typical of the causse, with V-shaped stones. Lavoirs were built and in active use from the late 18th century to around 1950, when the advent of the washing machine rendered them redundant. This one also has a mechanical pump (not shown) for pumping water up into a trough for the livestock.

Stones by a lavoir or washing place

Pond surrounded by stone walls in SW France


We tramped on through another hamlet, where someone’s collection of cats watched us from the bolet (covered balcony).

Pottery cats on a balcony in SW France

The temperature was rising, and I wouldn’t have wanted it to have been any hotter (I am not complaining after the dismal weather we’ve had). We found a shady, grassy spot along a path to sit and consume our picnic, which was very welcome by that time.

At the end of that path, we had reached the walk’s highest point, also that of the commune of Limogne at 402 m. Here, the remains of a windmill stood, so hidden in the undergrowth that we couldn’t access it. At one time, no doubt, far fewer trees existed up there. Most of those there now are less than 100 years old. The mill was in the perfect spot to catch the westerly wind.

Ruins of old stone windmill in SW France

La fontaine de Malecargue

From that point, the path headed back towards Limogne, passing by la fontaine de Malecargue. This is a deep water source with steps down to it. It also has a pumping mechanism, of great interest to the SF, who is an engineer by training. No doubt this was also used as a lavoir, but it lacks the “butterfly” stones around it. We noticed lots of little goldfish milling about in the water. You can just see some in the shot below.

Pond surrounded by stone walls with old metal pump, SW France
Metal water pump in SW France


The path continues straight on for several kilometres towards Limogne. The fields are peppered with cazelles (free-standing stone shepherds’ huts) and gariottes (ditto, but usually built into a wall). They were so numerous that I stopped snapping them after a while. Here’s one for your delectation.

Stone shepherd's hut Causse de Limogne France

Truffle farming

Another feature of the causse is the existence of truffles. Lalbenque, which boasts the largest truffle market in the region, is not far away. These mysterious fungi have always resisted cultivation on a commercial scale, hence their stratospheric price. In addition, climate change and alterations in land use have increased their rarity. However, under certain conditions they can be encouraged to grow, although it’s still hit and miss. We passed what we were convinced is a newly planted truffière (truffle plantation) with stripling truffle oaks.

Truffle plantation Limogne France

A very satisfying walk with plenty to see.

If you’d like to do this walk, you’ll find it here. The website lists a range of walks around the Lot département.

A few words of advice:

  • You can park in front of la Maison des Associations. We didn’t realise this, so we parked another 300 m further back in the centre of Limogne.
  • The description given is vague at times, which is why we missed the start. Follow the sentier botanique behind the school and you’ll be on the right track. The route is marked with yellow waymarking, sometimes well hidden. You’d be advised to take the IGN blue carte de randonnée for Limogne-en-Quercy (2139E) in addition.
  • There’s a reasonable amount of shade, but it can get very hot on the causse in the summer. I wouldn’t undertake this walk if hot weather is forecast. Walking time is about 3 hours. We took longer because of photo and lunch stops.

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10 comments

  1. This strange period we have been living through has made us all appreciate treasures closer to home, like your lovely walk. Your cat photo is stunningly quirky!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s very true that we see things in a new light when our horizons retract. I must admit, though, that I am beginning to have itchy feet. Yes, the cats were a surprise!

      Like

    • There are certainly many lovely walks in our area, although sometimes they are a well-kept secret! Travel is so difficult at the moment. Let’s hope things ease up next year.

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  2. What an interesting walk. I love walking on the causses with so many interesting old buildings and dolmens. On one of our walks last year the focus was on the dolmens around Miers. I also discovered the cornelian cherry on that walk. In springtime it is covered in yellow blossom that looks beautiful against the drystone walls. Our walking has been curbed recently by the awful rain and then a health problem. Hopefully it will be sorted soon. Meanwhile I shall walk vicariously with you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I shouldn’t write replies at nearly midnight! It was February THIS year that we walked around the dolmens at Miers and I identified the cornelian cherry with my handy app. And I am very comforted that experienced walkers like yourselves have trouble finding the starting points sometimes…I thought it was just us! Anyway, thank you for the link and nightie night!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ha, ha! I am not fit for anything after 10 pm.

        I must get the plant identification app, now that I have a smartphone for the first time ever. I’ve even started to take photos with it, since my superannuated camera isn’t so good now.

        I’m glad we’re not the only ones that get lost at the start of walks. Sometimes the descriptions assume it’s self-evident, but not to us it isn’t!

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    • The causses are full of fascinating old buildings. The advantage of walking is that you get to see them in places where taking the car would be either impossible or intrusive.

      The cornus mas is lovely in early spring; not unlike mimosa, but not such a bright yellow. I had never seen the berries before, presumably because it’s usually too hot to walk in August. It doesn’t seem to grow in our area.

      I hope your health problem is sorted out soon. We haven’t walked as much as usual this year, mostly because of the weather.

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  3. That looked like a great walk. Quite envious as we do less walking while we’re on the boat in summer. Looking forward to lots of autumn walks soon.

    Particularly liked the cats!
    MJ

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I can imagine that you must do less walking while on the boat. However, autumn is really the best time for walking, since it’s still warm but not too hot. Mind you, it’s rarely been too hot this summer, except for yesterday!

      Take care.

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