View of Andillac from the GR46 in France, photographed by Charles Hawes

A 5 day circular walk in the Tarn and Aveyron region of France: day 5 Castelnau-de-Montmiral to Cordes-sur-Ciel

November 26, 2017 · 13 comments

Date walked: 26th  September 2017

Distance: around 14 miles

Booking company: Sherpa Expeditions. Sherpa made all the hotel and bed and breakfast bookings, arranged transfer of our bags each day between destinations and provided detailed descriptions of each days walk and large-scale map sheets with the routes marked. It all worked perfectly; I highly recommend them.Here is a link to the specific walk we booked.

Maps used: I have also subscribed to the “Outdoors France” app. A years subscription of £19.99 allows you to download 1:25,000 scale  IGN maps (- equivalent to 2.5 inches to a mile). The app then allows chosen routes to be marked up and the phone GPS locates where you are at any time. I did have some problems with the maps when we were walking, though.

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We had stayed last night at the Hotel des Consuls, right in the centre of this pretty village. We were the first down to breakfast and tucked into the fresh pastries which were excellent. The make-your-own coffee machine did alright, too.

It was a dry but misty morning and we set off whilst the market in the square was still setting up.

Market stall in Castelnau-de-Montmiral, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

Returning to the GR46, we left the village and headed north-east, the route taking a little road through open countryside.

GR 46 near Castelnau-de-Montmiral, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

Most of the fields had been cropped and ploughed, but in several were still massed the brown and bowed heads of sunflowers.

Field of sunflowers viewed from the GR46 near Castelnau, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

A source of some speculation as to when they would be cut

Others contained small flocks of damp sheep.

Sheep from the GR46 near le Pouget, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

You have been very sheep-starved this trip

This misty morning was showing off the cobwebs beautifully.

Cobweb by the GR46, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

The trick is to use flash

Our little road became a narrow track at a cross roads, passing though a small woodland by the Russeau de Bauzens stream (it’s rather nice that they name their streams as well as rivers).

Footbridge over Ruisseau de Bauzens, following the GR46, photographed by Charles Hawes

The bridge was referred to in our notes.

Our notes warned us to expect furious barking dogs ahead, but the warning didn’t dispel just how unpleasant it was to be so harangued by a pack of these ugly beasts.

Dogs by the GR46 near Mayragues, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

Horrid bloody things

Over to our left we could see the village of Le Verdier.

View of Vieux from the GR46, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

Leaving the GR 46 as it reached the D15, we opted to take the suggested short cut and made towards the village of Vieux passing a few isolated properties…

House near Vieux, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

Very smart; probably owned by a Brit

… a couple of which had quinces by the road.

Quince near Vieux, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

Lovely things though often affected by blight as this one is

In the middle of a field was a Menhir – or standing stone. 

Menhir near Vieux, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

Shortly after here we crossed the Vere river, though here much smaller than we had seen it earlier in our walk. Next to it a converted mill.

Mill outside Vieux France, photographed by Charles Hawes

Mill outside Vieux France, photographed by Charles Hawes

Vieux had lots to see.  Our notes drew our attention to an old wine press…

Wine Press at Viex, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

….and directed that we should take a short flight of steps…

Vieux, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

.. to the square…

Vieux, France, photographed by Bob Pinder

Thanks to Bob for this pic

….by L’eglise St Eugene (not open).

Door of the L'Eglise St Eugene in Vieux, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

Very lovely door

Here were toilets! Proper French toilets with no seat. (BYO paper).

Toilet in Vieux, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

Well, one gender-neutral one to be precise

We sat in this charming square, having a bite to eat and admiring the C19th sundial on the wall of the Marie.

Sundial on Marie, Vieux, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

We knew that there would be no cafe or bar, so having rested we set off up the hill, passing the cemetery….

Cemetery of L'Eglise St Eugene, Vieux, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

… and at the top pausing to enjoy the best view of the village.

Vieux, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

From Vieux we climbed gently, passing a tractor which had got itself stuck in a ditch…

Nowt we could do to help

..,. to a property called Le Chapitre.

Le Chapitre, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

We left the road here, continuing to climb next to the first vineyard we had encountered in the 5 days we had been walking; wines here come within the Gaillac region.

Vineyard near Vieux, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

No grapes to be seen, though

The vineyards extended to the little village of Andillac.

Andillac, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

We passed by its impressive church…

Church in Andillac, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

… and noted the rather fine pigonnerie in the middle of the vines.

Pigonnerie in Andillac, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

From Andillac we took a small road passing several properties. I was pleased to see that one of them was trying to protect its Box hedge against the Box Tree Caterpillar by hanging out moth traps above them.

Moth trap against Box Tree Csaterpillar near Andillac, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

In the background, signs of other afflicted trees

We passed a couple of linked fishing ponds…

Fishing ponds near the GR46 at La boissiere, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

.. and immediately after there we rejoined the GR46.

The next few miles undulated over open, mostly ploughed,  fields….

View from GR 46 approaching Cordes, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

and through small patches of woodland.

Woodland on the GR46 approaching Cordes, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

Shooting emplacement

It was very easy on the eye countryside…

View from the GR46 appraoching Cordes from the south, photographed by Charles Hawes

…. with some arable fields, some vineyards…..

View from the GR46 approiaching Cordes form the south, photographed by Charles Hawes

… and more large plantations of still-standing sunflowers.

Field of sunflowers photographed from the GR46 approaching Cordes from the south, by Charles Hawes

During our 5 day walk we had seen less than a handful of people at work on the land. Today we saw one chap on a mini-tractor doing something with his young vines.

Vineyard near Cordes, photographed from the GR 46 by Charles Hawes

It wasn’t obvious what he was doing!

After crossing the D33,the path bypasses the village of Amarens, though we did see the pretty church of St Andre which is just below it…..

Church of St Andre near Amarens, France photographed from the GR46 by Charles Hawes

… and a glimpse of a property called La Tourette on the hilltop above us.

La Tourette, near Amarens, photographed from the GR46 by Charles Hawes

Climbing gently again, the path curved round the shoulder of a hill, giving us a view of a rather lovely railway viaduct in the valley below.

Viaduct near Cordes photographed from the GR46 in France by Charles Hawes

On the narrow path, which was now running due east, we encountered more damage to box trees by the caterpillar….Damage to Box trees by caterpillar photographed from the GR46 near Cordes by Charles Hawes

… but, more pleasingly, in the hedgerow, there was also sloe…

Sloe in hedgerow near Cordes sur Ciel, photographed from the GR46 by Charles Hawes

Prunus spinosa

….lots of hips from wild roses and the black berries of Dogwoods.

Common Dogwood: Cornus sanguinea in hedgerow near Cordes, photographed from the GR46 by Charles Hawes

Common Dogwood: Cornus sanguinea

We also encountered (a first for the week), some serious walkers. As we descended the valley side we were greeted (many times) by a group coming in the other direction.

French Walking Group on the GR46 near Cordes sur Ciel, photographed by Charles Hawes

French Walking Group on the GR46 near Cordes sur Ciel, photographed by Charles Hawes

At the bottom of the valley we crossed under a road bridge…

Gr46 approaching Cordes from the south, photographed by Charles Hawes

Pic by Bob – who else?

…. and then a bridge under the railway line we had seen earlier.

Railway Bridge over the GR46 south of Cordes, photographed by Charles Hawes

From the valley bottom we had about a mile to climb  (very slowly – we were flagging) up the other side, followed by a short stretch in a wood before we were were presented with sight of our destination.

View of Cordes from the GR46, photographed by Charles Hawes

Before getting there we had do one more descent to cross a small road at La Plaine before we began to climb again up the steep sides of the hill on which Cordes stands.

But first pics had to be taken. I couldn’t find a suitable place to rest my camera for a selfie of the two of us, so at great expense I called on my friend John Kingdom – a garden blogger and frequent visitor to these pages – to make up for my failings.

Charles Hawes and Bob Pinder on the GR46 near Cordes; photo by John Kingdom

That man is damn clever!

Now here is the moment you have been waiting 5 days for. Somehow from somewhere near here we took a wrong turning. I take full responsibility for this. I was the holder of the notes and I can only think in my giddiness at nearly finishing I thought it was a doddle to find the way into town.  As it happens we found ourselves climbing up through a field, passed a very interesting series of small kilns, to be faced by a high stone wall.

Kilns below Cordes, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

Bob was not impressed but he also found, admittedly submerged in a mass of bramble, some stone steps. With a bit of beating with our sticks, and sustaining only minor cuts and grazes, we were able to scale the wall to find, coming down the hill, a tourist train.

Tourist bus in Cordes sur Cilel, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

It was time for a celebratory drink. We made our way through the town to our hotel via a square with a couple of cafes  and had several refreshing and hideously expensive beers and several plates of salted peanuts. I think we’d earned them don’t you? Salut.

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

julia fogg November 26, 2017 at 8:32 am

In my experience always good to get a little lost – keeps the ego in its place. Very attractive pics.

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Charles November 26, 2017 at 10:23 am

Yes, I’ve very little ego when it comes to walking!

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Emma Jones November 26, 2017 at 9:56 am

I have really enjoyed reading about your French adventures. Great photos.

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Charles November 26, 2017 at 10:22 am

Thanks Emma. Back to the Cambrian Way next. Hoping to have a week in the Alsace in April

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Neil November 26, 2017 at 1:04 pm

Looks like a lovely day to finish your walk. Trust you caught the train into town to finish in style ?
The cobweb, hanging heavy with dew, is a great pic 🙂

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Charles November 26, 2017 at 1:51 pm

It was a great day. Haha, didn’t see where the train stopped. Yes, pleased with the cobweb. Not so much the dog.

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John November 26, 2017 at 1:33 pm

I’m a bit suspicious of that sign saying “drinking water” on the door of the loo. Recycling gone mad? All good things must come to an end and trust you to do so in your normal off-piste style. Thanks for the unexpected credit (you will get my name right, one day 🙂 ). Though great expense? Should I send you a bill or something? We now await Bill’s comment which, no doubt, will fill us in on the missing event of the day (or the day after, who knows?).

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Charles November 26, 2017 at 1:54 pm

Whoops. Have I made a naming blunder? Will check and correct soonest. Am currently in Hay for festival. No, thanks, a bill won’t be necessary. The other Bill is currently in Australia.

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Paul Steer November 26, 2017 at 1:47 pm

How good it would be to live in a place where there was a market selling such local produce – and none of it wrapped in plastic. What a glum place the UK has become in comparison – not the landscape but the way we now mostly have supermarkets even in our rural towns with all their waste and convenience , I think we are poorer for it. Beautiful door and architecture too.

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Charles November 26, 2017 at 1:58 pm

We do have markets with open fruit and veg. Maybe not in the valleys. You must get out more! Glad you like the buildings. Me too.

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Paul Steer November 27, 2017 at 10:12 am

Perhaps it has to do with sensibilities ? Maybe the middle class are scarce in the valleys – but perhaps there is no such sensibility in rural France ? Tesco muscled their way into our village with the promise of jobs and other financial inducements. The work is mainly zero hours flexible contracts. Huge amounts of food is wasted carted out in large vehicles. There has to be a better way. Hay on Wye managed to stave off the invasion mainly because of it’s middle class opposition. It seems the poorest areas have the most to gain for big buisness and loose as far as sustainability is concerned.

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Kev the (half-blind) Yank November 27, 2017 at 12:33 am

What a fantastically glorious walk this was!!! Wow!

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Charles November 27, 2017 at 9:49 am

Nice of you to drop by. Very gentle walk , really. Increasingly suited to my body if not my aspirations.

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Copyright Charles Hawes (2012)