Here in the Limousin…

Time passes all to easily here in the Limousin. The countryside is wonderful.  Not in a breathtaking sort of way as in the Western Highlands and Skye, but in a relaxing way.  I remember reading that focusing on distant landscape objects relaxes the eye-muscles and hence relaxes the body……. ‘I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills’.

And here the ever-present woodland of oak, chestnut and silver birch threaded through with silver jewels of the many lakes: and there in the far distance a background of more wooded hills, fading into blueness with groups of trees and tiny buildings outlined on their crests.  Charming.

Not every day is sunny, but many are.  On a sunny day like today, the dawn began with oranges and blues lighting up the clouds from below, as the sun gradually rose over the horizon.  Phoebe gains in strength and energy every day and our walks (well her walks and my rides) become longer.  We are still sticking to the cycleway as it is so perfect for us.  She hasn’t had the confidence to explore the acres of open woodland alongside the trail, but races back and forth along the leaf strewn swathe at the sides.  And has discovered how to carry sticks, though she rushes back and forth so fast I cannot easily catch photographs.

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This morning we were out early; the frosts still on the ground, and the grey mists lying trapped between the trees bordering the courses of the streams and rivers; and the sweet, earthy smell of the decaying chestnut leaves.  When I first arrived there was just a narrow strip of tarmac of the cycleway showing amongst the leaves, which I assumed the cyclists and walkers had kept clear by passing and re-passing, But today the whole of the path from end to end had been swept – can you imagine that happening in Britain.  We can’t even keep the leaves off the main-line railways tracks.

Before long we met Jean-Claude  (who lodges with Andree next door) returning from his early morning hunt – gun broken over his arm and with his Brittany Spaniel still working the woods beside him.  I managed Bonjour, and then had to mime as to whether his hunt had been successful.  Smilingly he produced a hen pheasant from one of the deep pockets in his coat. I was lost for any more French other than délicieuse – and a waving Jean-Claude returned home with his prize whilst we carried on..

I have fitted Phoebe with a set of bells to her collar like Jean-Claude’s dog.  It makes it so much easier to keep track of where she is and what she is doing, and is a pleasant accompaniment to our explorations.  We passed silent, thick-set Limousin horned cattle,  staring curiously through the misty woodland, and a few horses.  A builder was working in the distance on a barn, and the muffled echo of his hammering rang out through the silence.  Jays cried from the thicker parts of the woods, and, as most other mornings, we saw the resident buzzard sweep from tree to tree as we passed by his territory.  Plus the smell of woodsmoke when one passed a silent cottage made some lovely memories for the mind’s eye.

There are many things I have found to like about France other than its slightly old-fashioned ways and beautiful scenery. Obviously the food is wonderful, and the pace of life relaxing, but then other silly little things – like the way milk comes in milk-bottle shaped bottles.  Not wobbly plastic handled containers or awkward cardboard cartons, but something you can get your hand round and which pours easily.  I had forgotten the pleasure of pouring milk from a bottle.

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In the afternoon we walked in the opposite direction on the cycleway.  Still beautifully quiet and wooded, but this time with more lakes closer to the path.

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And several fields of goats, the ones nearest to the path with signs not to feed them.  I like that.  An area with so many goats that it is worth commercially producing signs telling you not to feed them.  A couple of the nannies looked EXCEEDINGLY fat, but I don’t think it was over-feeding, and I before I leave there will be kids.  I wonder whether they allow them to stay with the nannies or not?

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As we returned home, late in the afternoon silence, several times I could hear rustling amount the leaves, and thinking it was a wood mouse I stopped to see.  And this is what appeared after a few minutes of watching.

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Mid December and a lizard out sunning itself !

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