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Les Plus Beaux Villages de France: The upper Dordogne, final day – Loubressac to St Cere

January 22, 2017 · 11 comments

For the first time in a weeks walking in the Dordogne we come across the walnuts being harvested.

From the village of  Loubressac we followed the edge of the Parc Des Causses De Quercy to the Plus Beaux Village de France of Autoire, visiting the ancient Chateau des Anglais perched on the side of the valley of the River Bave.  Having witnessed the harvesting of walnuts near Lespinasse the walk passes the Chateau de Montal finishing at Saint Cere.

Date walked: October 15th 2016

Distance: about 11 miles (give or take a bit  – we got lost)

Map of a week walking in the Dordogne

(Today’s walk is the bottom section of the red line between the two black lines)

************

This  self-guided walk was booked through Keith Starr of Dordogne Experience. For every day’s walk we had been supplied with  extracts of the 1:25000 maps with our route highlighted, together with a detailed turn by turn description of the route; our bags were being transferred between hotels.

Our last day of walking. And from the view from my balcony at The Relais de Castelnau it looked likely to be blessed with fine weather.  Shallow mist occupied the Dordogne valley below us….

View from the Relais de Castlenau at Lobressaac, photographed by Charles Hawes

Some people describe this mist as Dragons Breath

…, but as I sipped my cup of ginger green tea (supplied by moi – only once had there been a kettle in the rooms, so I was glad that I had packed my mini travel kettle) the sun came over the horizon and lit up the trees of  its upper slopes.

View from the Relais de Castlenau at Lobressaac, photographed by Charles Hawes

Breakfast was OK – the usual pastries etc and for the first time a (slightly half-hearted) fruit salad.

Our route took us back through the village, where a seat overlooking the valley of La Bave provided a good spot for Bob to take a snap of me (you don’t see nearly enough of me on these walks).

Charles Hawes at Loubressac, France, photographed by Bob Pinder

Nice pic, Bob

A rather chunky  stone cross marked us leaving the village.

Stone cross outside Loubressac, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

Disproportionately large plinth?

We were walking on a limestone plateau just outside the edge of the Parc Naturel Des Causses du Quercy. Limestone is a naturally well jointed stone, making it a convenient building material, so all the field walls and outbuildings made use of it.

Limestone barn and walls outside Loubressac, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

A small stone shelter  was mentioned in Keith’s notes….

Stone shelter outside Loubressac, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

….  and just after this our path passed a small Neolithic Dolmen.

Dolmen near Loubressac, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

Clematis vitalba growing through the trees behind it

I clambered over the wall for a closer look.

Dolmen near Loubressac, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

If it was raining hard this would make a very good shelter

La Ferme de Siran was described  by Keith as “isolated” but he doesn’t mention the flock of  Angora goats (the source of Mohair wool).

Angora goats at Le Ferme de Siran, near Loubressac, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

These were the mostly cuddly of creatures, and very pretty, so I took lots of pictures.

Angora goats at Le Ferme de Siran, near Loubressac, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

 

Angora goats at Le Ferme de Siran, near Loubressac, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

There was another goat of a different family who was very inquisitive.

Goat at Ferme de Siran, Near Loubressac, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

Mildly threatening

As I stopped admiring him he leapt effortlessly  over the fence and began to munch on his owners garden.

Just a few hundred yards from the farm is the hamlet of Siran. It boasts the most fabulous view over the thickly wooded valley of the river Bave.

Wooded valley of River Bave, near Loubressac, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

Needless to say with such dramatic cliffs come warnings.

Warning sign above Bave river valley, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

Would 10 year old be able to read this sign? Would it put them off?

Our route took a cliff-top path to a metal staircase that descended the face of the gorge…..

Staircase near the Chateau des Anglais, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

Careful now

…. to bring us to a ledge with the rock face towering over us.

Limestone cliff near the Chateau des Anglais, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

We passed a group of three climbers who were scaling the cliff. They were French but one chap (whose age became a brief topic of speculation for us) spoke reasonable English so we stopped for a chat. No, not about Brexit.

Just beyond here was a strange building known as the Chateau des Anglais. It seems that this remnant of a much more extensive settlement has little, if anything, to do with the English.

Chateau des Anglais near Siran, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

Described in the link above as a shelter in case of attack, it was difficult to imagine how this narrow stronghold would have been used.

Chateau des Anglais near Siran, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

Pause for another pic of me.

Charles Hawes in the Chateau des Anglais near Siran, France, photographed by Bob Pinder

Such a fine figure of a man

The narrow path that descends the valley side was steep at times ….

Valley of La Bave river, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

….but it was stable and with a good surface……

Valley of La Bave river, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

…. so we were soon at the bottom, facing a choice of routes.

Turning right would have taken us to a waterfall but we decided to crack on to Autoire, in hope of a coffee.

Autoire was the last of the Plus Beaux Villages de France that we would be visiting on this trip. As with all the villages it was a very quiet place, stuffed with many attractive buildings. We passed the Chateau de Lamargue on the way to the small central square.

 Chateau de Lamargue, Autoire, France photographed by Charles Hawes

Strange architecture, this tower on the side of a tower thing

The church of Saint Pierre probably deserved a visit…..

 

Church of Saint Pierre, Autoire, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

… but I forewent the pleasure in favour of a cup of coffee in a small restaurant opposite it. “Non” to requests for pastries. “Non” to crepes.

Keith’s directions out of the village seemed clear enough, following a steep road up the hill.

Autoire, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

But somewhere we went amiss and we took a track that climbed up the valley side, heading back in the direction we had come from.

View over Autoire, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

Towards the top we came across a couple having a picnic who were themselves spectacularly off the route that they had intended to take. We were able to put them right but not able to reconcile any of Keith’s pointers to where we found ourselves, or indeed, feel confident where we were on our map.

Relying on a sense of where we need to get to and our compass we began to explore the paths that headed in roughly the right direction.

Footpath above Autoire, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

We probably spent an hour taking unconfident turns through a labyrinth of paths, passing the odd ruin…..

Ruin from footpath above Autoire, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

I love a ruin

… and at least one farmed boar enclosure….

Enclouse for farmed boar in woods above Autoire, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

They are elusive creatures

…..until we came to a farm and a metalled road.  We were definitely somewhere but not sure where. This road began to descend and we scanned the views for anything that we might relate to our map without much success until we came across a telegraph pole with “Crezou” on it. This was a very good sign as Crezou appeared on Keith’s directions. Humming “We once were lost but now are found”, it was with some relief that we saw ahead the chateau that Keith refers to.

I find in my pictures at this point a rather sweet group of pigs; I have no recollection taking the pic but I offer it anyway as light relief.

Piglets on path near Autoire, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

The chateau Saint Medard de Presque at Crezou was tidy (in the Welsh and English sense).

 

Chateau Saint Medard de Presque at Crezou, near Saint Cere, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

I don’t think it opens to the public, but it is on the tourist map so I could be wrong. I often am.

It had a big barn opposite .

Barn wall odf the Chateau Saint Medard de Presque at Crezou, near Saint Cere, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

I should have taken a closer look at the plaque

Re-united with Keith at direction No.11, we followed the road from the chateau to join the (quite busy) D807.

Approaching the D807 near Saint Cere, photographed by Charles Hawes

Having crossed the D807 and turned uphill to follow it, we gently disputed Kieth’s advice to “almost immediately” fork left onto a little path. It was 200 metres, Keith. Nevertheless a yellow and blue sign in the moss covered wall reassured us that the barely visible steep path  we found on the sharp right hand bend was the right one.

Blue and yellow painted footpath sign on the D807, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

Not sure what Blue and Yellow signify, but Keith told us to look out for it

The path emerged at a hamlet called Lacaze and from there we took another “proper” road down the hill.

Road from Lacaze to Saint Cere, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

At the bottom of the hill we came across something we had not seen all week – people working in the walnut orchards.

One guy had an attachment to a tractor that clasped the trunk of the trees with rubber padded jaws and then shook the tree vigorously for a few seconds. This produced a heavy shower of falling walnuts.

Harvesting the walnuts near Saint-Cere, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

Do watch this little clip I posted on YouTube of it. 

Meanwhile a second guy raced around after him with a sweeper upper that swept the walnuts into the thing, spewing out the leaves and twigs behind him

Harvesting the walnuts near Saint-Cere, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

And here’s a clip of him, too.

I’m sure that this is difficult to understand but I found this really exciting.

Our road flattened out as it headed for St Jean Lespipinasse, passing a rather nice little barn…

Small ruined barn near Saint Jean Lespinasse, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

… some black-eyed-and-eared  sheep…

Sheep near Saint Jean Lespinasse, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

OK, sheep fanciers, what are they called?

…. and a little building that was just too sweet to have been allowed to fall into ruin.

Ruined building near Saint Jean Lespinasse, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

A latter day toll booth?

After passing through the village, ahead of us was a golf course, set off nicely by  the Chateau de Montal.  Our path took the approach road to the Chateau and then skirted around the building, giving us a few glimpses of its beautifully sculpted walls.

Chateau de Montal near Saint Jeasn Lespinasse, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

I sometimes wish I had a better zoom lens on the camera

Over to our left was the main road heading into Saint-Cere but we took a quieter one, running parallel to it. For the first time in the week we had that sense of suburbia. But French suburbia, where local residents were out collecting their own walnuts.

People collecting walnuts near Saint Cere, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

Back breaking work unless you attend pilates classes – or yoga?

On the very edge of the town there was an enormous house that was clearly unoccupied and in a poor state of repair, but which would make a palace of a home for some walnut and foie gras loving Francophile.

Large ruined mansion at Saint Cere, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

Would love to know what that might sell for

A concrete bridge across the river took us into town and a couple of directions from Keith found us the Hotel de France on the far side of the main square.  It was an unassuming place in a quiet street, but we received a warm welcome and our rooms were pleasant and comfortable. The owners were going to be catering for some event at the golf club that night , so we were out on the town. It was  Sunday night and most eating places were closed but we  found a friendly  bar (free nuts with our second beer) with tables outside for a couple of beers and some crib, and settled on a pizza place on the square for supper. It was a good choice. The pizzas were fab.

An early night was required as we needed a taxi at 5am to get us to a nearby train station for our journey home. The hotel owners offered to get up to give us breakfast, which was heroic of them but we were happy to let them sleep in.

So that’s it, folks. I hope you enjoyed the trip – we certainly did.  I would highly recommend Dordogne Experience – we liked their choice of hotels, all the baggage transfers were made without a problem and notwithstanding a couple of glitches the maps and directions guided us well through this easy-to-walk countryside. In fact we think we will be booking with them again for another trip later in the year. Toodle pip.

 

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

David Marsden January 22, 2017 at 7:11 am

Ooh, that pizza looks good and, during my dry January, the glass of wine even better. Lovely post, Charles – great photos, great ruins (I like a ruin too), getting lost (all part and parcel), ingenious walnut-picking machinery (with overhead protection added from experience), mysterious sheep and cute porkers. What more could I ask? I’m off to check the Dordogne Experience website. D

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Charles January 22, 2017 at 3:32 pm

Thank you, kind sir. Should I move into food photography? Mind you, you have to set yourself an eye wateringly expensive kitchen if you do. I recently bought a wide angle lens for my “proper” camera from such a man.

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Ian Thorpe January 22, 2017 at 7:24 am

Thanks for the words and pictures once again. I like the YouTube diversions – like video footnotes in a learned tome!

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Charles January 22, 2017 at 3:34 pm

Thanks Ian. My Wordpress guru, Gary, reckons I could do a neater job of integrating videos. Next time maybe.

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Robert January 22, 2017 at 7:41 am

We’re normally quite forensic about working out how we managed to get lost.(and apportion blame). I don’t remember this having taken place?
Also, it is the photographers’ fate to take lots of good photos but the most memorable one being of a pizza!

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Charles January 22, 2017 at 3:35 pm

Yes, well I think I have given Keith a hard time but in the absence of fault from either of us, who’s left?

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John January 22, 2017 at 10:42 am

Nice end to your journey – the excitement of getting lost! And what with ruins and churches plus sheep and a chap with his vibrator you had a very full day. One small observation, though: the caption for the photo of Bob in the alleyway at Chateau des Anglais seems to have dropped to the photo below it. Don’t know the names of all the sheep but the one standing up front left is called Chloe. 🙂 Thanks for taking us along on your trip with Bob.

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Kev TY January 22, 2017 at 3:12 pm

I think the rest are called… “sheep”. Hahahaha, I make myself laugh! Wonderful walk!! Great photos! Told Grace to check out the goat pictures even before I saw there were pigs and sheep to ooooh & ahhhh about!!!!

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Charles January 22, 2017 at 3:37 pm

There was a real sense of the best bits coming last on this day. Oh, I will look at the caption issue, thanks. I enjoyed the write up of the trip and hope to do another later in the year.

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Anne Wareham January 22, 2017 at 12:24 pm

“Non” to requests for pastries. “Non” to crepes.

Blimey.

Xxxxx

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Charles January 22, 2017 at 3:38 pm

Well it was lunchtime and she had one other customer in.

Reply

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