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.
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.
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.
La fontaine de Buzou (typically, we almost missed it), is downhill a little further on from a primitive 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.
We tramped on through another hamlet, where someone’s collection of cats watched us from the bolet (covered balcony).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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