Back to Bach

October was one of the best we have ever had here, making a welcome counterpoint to the desperately awful September. Chilly starts were followed by warm sunshine and cobalt blue skies, which offset the turning leaves. The meagre rainfall meant it was dry underfoot, and so this happy combination of circumstances encouraged us to don our walking boots. Our recent walks have taken us into the Lot, where walking trails abound.

On a radiant Sunday a fortnight ago, we decided on a walk around the village of Bach on the Causse de Limogne, about which I have written before. The walk had the advantage of being almost completely flat, although we aren’t averse to steep slopes.

A very long history

It started at a local attraction, les Phosphatières du Cloup d’Aural. This is the site of a former phosphate mine, which once riddled the area, until cheaper sources of fertiliser came to light. The former mineshafts form a unique ecosystem and are rich in fossils.

This area boasts a valuable geological legacy, since a tropical sea covered it 170 million years ago, laying down the limestone bedrock. Information panels lining the route are a feature of the walk.

They start with the Earth’s creation four billion years ago and end with the emergence of homo sapiens at the conclusion of the walk. For every two metres, you move forward 1 million years, apparently, and as evolution speeds up, the panels are set at closer intervals. By the time we got to the end, we were stopping every few metres to read them.

The radiant weather had also brought out the hunters. Wherever we went, they came too, until we finally shook them off almost halfway round. Given recent incidents with accidental shootings, we kept up a stilted conversation in loud voices. I have no desire to be mistaken for a wild boar. And I consider I have an equal right to the peaceful enjoyment of the countryside without being at risk.

Importance of water

First stop was le lavoir d’Escabasse. This washing place was created in the 18th century, and the accompanying pond, le Lac de Saint-Namphaise, was excavated from solid rock.

The covered lavoir with its papillon (butterfly) washing stones is a typical example on the causse. Unfortunately, the Mairie has had to affix a notice dissuading people from throwing stones into the pond.

Following the path down a slope, we came to two wells, also excavated in the bedrock. The first, which is an uneven six-sided structure, is known as ‘le puits des Romains’, although the Romans had nothing to do with its construction. A Roman road from Cahors to Rodez passed close by, and tradition erroneously has it that a structure near a Roman road must be Roman.

This one is more of a cistern than a well, with a depth of 15 metres, of which the water constitutes 8 metres. Since this was probably the lowest part of the commune, there may have been some system to channel the run-off from the slope into the well.  

Here again, the Mairie has been obliged to erect a sign exhorting people not to throw stones into it, for fear of damaging the security netting. Several large rocks were balanced on the mesh, which just goes to show how foolish some people can be.

A second, round well sits about 50 metres away. Since the causse is notoriously dry and lacking in streams, they would have been an essential utility.

Plant identifier

From there, we entered woodland and walked along a broad track between rough stone walls. Here, I made a discovery. I knew that certain trees with coppery foliage in autumn were a kind of maple, but I wanted the precise name.

Out came my newly downloaded app, PlantNet. You take a shot of the plant in question, link it to the app, and it shows you similar images with the details. Thus I learned that the tree is an Erable de Montpellier, a Montpellier maple. Brilliant. There’s a similar app called BirdNET, which identifies birds from their song. [Thanks to friend R for the latter.]

Bach: loaves and truffles

We forged on to the village of Bach, home to a rather good restaurant serving traditional dishes.

Popular hostelry in Bach

Bach is a stop on one of the pilgrimage routes of Saint-Jacques de Compostelle. Not only was there a handily situated picnic table for our lunch but, joy of joys, a proper loo and running water.

A little further on, we came upon two loaves of bread balanced on this gate. It’s nice that you can still trust people not to pinch your bread delivery in these rural areas.  

The remainder of the walk passed through farmland on tracks bordered by the occasional house. We were struck by how remote some of them seemed. Wells and former fountains were dotted about, testifying to the importance of capturing water in this arid land.

We also saw what we concluded were newly planted truffières (truffle oak plantations). Bach is situated between Lalbenque, which has the biggest truffle market in the region, and Limogne, which has the smallest. Truffles are becoming rarer as land use and the climate change, and they have always defied attempts to cultivate them on a large commercial scale. Even so, given the prices they can fetch, it is clearly worth investing in the oak plantations.

This walk is about 9 km altogether. You can find the details on the Cahors/Vallée du Lot website. Scroll down to ‘Randonnées dans le Parc Naturel Régional des Causses du Quercy’ and then look for Bach – Les Phosphatières du Cloup d’Aural. The link takes you to a pdf file in French, but it’s pretty easy to follow.  

Next Sunday, look out for another interview with a lady who came a very long way to live and work in our part of France for a spell.

Stay well. Covid numbers are going up here again, unfortunately.

Copyright © Life on La Lune 2021. All rights reserved.

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14 comments

  1. Have only recently discovered Life on la Lune, despite living in the area for a few years, and am finding it very interesting with useful info on walks and places to visit. You mention the papillon washing stones on the walk around Bach but the best bit to me is the fact they were made like that so that two people (undoubtedly women) could chat while washing. Also, re your walk round Puylagarde – I think you are right that the tree with yellow blossom is cornus mas. I was so taken with it in the wild, I bought one to plant on the edge of our garden but I was unfortunately away when it needed water.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for reading! I’m pleased you’re finding it interesting. I agree about the lavoirs being the place where women could congregate and swap news and gossip. You might have found a much earlier post I wrote about lavoirs generally, in which I said that despite the lack of modern amenities, like washing machines, the lavoirs performed a social function that has now disappeared. Sorry to hear about your cornus mas. They are so attractive in late winter/early spring – like mimosa but not so in your face.

      I won’t ask whereabouts you are, since no doubt you wouldn’t want to reveal that info online. I’m sure you’ll agree this is a lovely area to live in, with plenty to see.

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  2. I couldn’t resist sending you a photo’ of the lovely field maple
    opposite our house.  I’ve heard them called ‘Erable du Causse’ (in the
    local variant of occitan, ‘agast’ – pronounced, it seems, ‘agaahr’).

    I took the Historic Farm Buildings Group to the Phosphatières & to those
    water-features in the warm-up day before the Conference kicked off in
    2019.  So much evidence of pre-mechanisation & before ‘eau de javel’ (as
    they called mains water).

    Thanks for all your blog features.    .    .    .    .    . Fleur & Francis

    Francis Kelly
    Lieu-dit Richard
    46310 Uzech-les-Oules
    Lot. France.
    tel. 05 81 70 12 23
    mob. 06 22 41 45 01

    Liked by 1 person

    • Did you try to post the photo here or did you email it? Either way, I don’t see it. Thanks for the Occitan name of the tree. I hadn’t come across that.

      The Phosphatières are interesting. There is little trace of the mines now, although the Causse was absolutely riddled with them in the late 19th century. It was a very short-lived industry here.

      I am waiting to find out more about the second well/citerne from someone who has promised to supply information.

      As you will have gathered, we still haven’t made it to Les Arques yet. It may have to be spring now…

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  3. Vanessa,
    Thoroughly enjoyed reading your latest post and particularly liked the pictures of the brilliant blue skies and the one of the bread delivery lodged in the wooden fence is a cracker.
    Best wishes
    Stuart

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Stuart. The sky really was incredibly blue that day. I love the idea of leaving the bread delivery on the gate, but I’m surprised the village dogs haven’t discovered it yet! Hope all is well with you.

      Like

  4. I heard three or four shots on Saturday echoing across our valley. I hate that we are scared walking in the countryside throughout hunting season. Sadly, the movement to exclude Sunday from hunting seems to have lost momentum. Thank you for the description of the phosphate visit, I’ve often wondered about it. Maybe when it’s warmer!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I saw somewhere else a suggestion to contact one’s Mairie to find out which days the hunt is authorised in the commune. It is a bit of a shame that one is forced to circumscribe one’s own plans, though.

      The phosphatière is very interesting and worth seeing. I think it is now closed for the winter, but will no doubt open again around Easter, which is late next year. They also have a rather complicated system of visits, depending on whether you are an individual or a group booking. Good idea to check their website if you plan to go. http://phosphatieres.com/horaires-et-tarifs/

      Liked by 1 person

  5. What a great walk. Made me want to get my walking boots on and find it – despite the hunters. They were awful here last November, felt very threatened in so many of our favourite walks, but for some reason they are quieter this year. Maybe there is nothing left to shoot, we certainly haven’t seen any deer since we’ve been back. I shall look out for that maple, we want more trees to buy and plant over our winter. And looking forward to next interview!
    MJ

    Liked by 1 person

    • There are some lovely walks up there on the causse and plenty to see. It’s a pity about the hunters. We actually met one who was hunting alone and he said, “I’m not going over there until they’ve left.” But I think that was more because he didn’t want his dogs to get mixed up with theirs. I have to say the hunters were unfailingly polite when we came across them, but that didn’t remove the fear of a stray bullet, hence our inconsequential chatter in loud voices!

      The maple in question grows wild locally, so I imagine it is indigenous. The foliage is wonderful in the autumn. We too want to plant more trees, and this is the time of year.

      Like

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