This last week, I have been out every day, walking with Millie. Not just a little amble along the lane, or up the trails at the back of the house, but good, long walks, exploring some favourite tracks and finding some new ones too.
Although the physiotherapist has said that I can start cycling again, I really still don’t want to head off on my own, and as it’s been so cold, the roads and cycle routes are still treacherous in places, with black ice. Also, I don’t think Andy would forgive me ringing him to say I’ve had another accident … I realise that he has had more than his fair share of those calls from me in the last year!
So the time that I would have normally spent on my bike, I have put on my walking boots and taken to the well-marked tracks and trails, taking the opportunity to explore the area a little bit more.
Of course, Millie hasn’t complained, although after the longest walk (about 13km) she lay down on the kitchen floor and didn’t move again for the rest of the day. I was slightly worried that I may have broken her, but it was short lived, as she was more than happy to head off again the following morning.
Although this week has been bitterly cold, with mid-morning temperatures still well below zero, it has also been particularly beautiful, with bright blue skies, and almost no breeze, making it perfect weather for walking. Even in the shoulder seasons, it can be far too warm to comfortably walk any distance, so this peaceful, and beautiful time of year, is just perfect for grabbing gloves and a scarf, popping on the walking boots, and pottering off in new directions.
The tracks here are so well-marked, with little lines, or junction markings painted on trees, rocks, and telegraph poles, about every 100 metres along the route. There are either the red and white lines showing the routes of the long-distance ‘grandes randonnees’ that pass through the area, or little yellow lines showing the routes of the ‘petites randonnees’, the local footpaths that go from village to village, which are the ones that I have been exploring over the past few days.
In fact I have been looking for so many of the yellow markers over the last few days, that I have often found myself humming ‘Follow the yellow brick road’ as I amble along…. I am just delighted that I haven’t seen another person on the trails, otherwise they may have raised more than an eyebrow at my tuneless rendition.
The week started at Saint Saturnin, walking with a friend, up through the village to the heights above the Chateau. It was a beautiful morning, with a thin layer of mist hanging in the valley, diffusing the light from the milky sun, and softening the view and colours…
The views from the village are always good, but with the winter light and the layer of snow, it was simply beautiful…
Even the morning walks behind the house have taken me further than before, walking through the heavy frosts, that made frozen drops of water on the plants, sparkle like diamonds in the low, early morning sun…
The views across the heavily iced fields,tinted a pale apricot colour, in the first rays of light…
Ridiculous as it may sound, we have never really done any walks from Caseneuve, which is our home village, but sits high above us, about 6km drive by car, so I decided the time had come to put this right and popped into the Mairie to ask if they may have a map of local walking routes. They are always helpful, and moments later, I left, holding a little map, showing the ‘chemins de randonnees sur le plateau de Caseneuve, Saint Martin De Castillon & Viens’.
The map showing all the marked paths on the plateau is published by the Luberon Park Authority and the Vaucluse Department, and I was quickly able to get my bearings, deciding to head along the front edge of the plateau, towards the hilltop village of Saint Martin De Castillon.
With the signposts also marked on the map, the start of the route was easy to find, and Millie and I set off along the road, which quickly became a rough, but easily walk-able path, that followed the contours of the hill through fields and woodland. The little yellow markers were easy to follow, showing where turns should be made and acting as reassurance that I was still on the right route, when the track emerged onto a small road. Here the views really opened out, back across to the white summit of Mont Ventoux….
To the bulk of the Grand Luberon and Mourre Negre rising directly opposite, with its unusually, snow-covered ridge.
The track then left the road again and continued through woodland, with beautiful glimpses through the trees, and across the valley towards Castellet and Auribeau…
Arriving in Saint Martin De Castillon, by the Chapelle Des Penitents, high above the rooftops of the old village that were still covered in snow.
It is a beautiful little village, with incredible views across the valley, and on towards Cereste and the high peaks of the Alpes de Haute Provence….
I perched on a wall, with Millie sitting at my feet, enjoying the sun and deciding on a route back. I considered simply heading back the way I had come, as that would be simple. But it was such a beautiful day, and I had my map, so decided to follow a path, which would take us up behind the villages, higher along the ridge on the way through to Caseneuve.
Just to give myself a little reassurance that I was heading in the right direction, I spent a few minutes comparing the map to Google Maps on my phone, making sure I could see where the path went, so I could check myself as I walked, although I needn’t have worried.
The paths continued to be well marked, as Millie and I walked through an area I haven’t even cycled through before. At times the trails seemed to be ancient paths, formed of old stones that have acted as byways for hundreds of years…
And at other times were simply grass tracks through fields, with the Luberon acting as a constant reminder that we were heading in the right direction.
Thirteen kilometres after leaving Caseneuve, we arrived back at the car, with Millie gratefully jumping into the boot, to enjoy a much-needed sit down.
The little map had been worth its weight in gold, I had found a wonderful circular walk, which had opened my eyes to another little part of the area, and above all I hadn’t got lost once!
So yesterday, I thought I would follow another route and walk from home to Caseneuve. We have always seen the footpath sign from the bridge at the bottom of the road, but have never ventured along it, and I decided that the time had finally come to give it a try, especially as I was now much more confident with the route signing, than perhaps I had been before.
This time the track went up through the woodland opposite our hamlet, and really for the first time, looking across, I could see clearly the lay-out of the houses and understand how the small ridge of land it was built on, offers so much protection from the prevailing winds. We are often shocked to find that by the time we get to the bottom of the hill, we are in a howling gale, when at home the leaves are hardly moving on the trees, and now I see why.
At times, the leaf-covered path criss-crossed the main road up to the village, with its towers and chateau, dominating the skyline above. The little yellow markers, every few metres, keeping me on track.
Turning away at times, from the village, and taking a moment to look back, I had a sense of how far I had climbed, with stunning views over Apt and beyond.
And the well-worn stones of the final part of the old track, as it headed steeply up through fields, to emerge just below the village pottery, again suggested this was an ancient byway, that has been in use for generations.
Arriving in the village, we walked along to the benches, overlooking the view back down the valley, which really is one of ‘those’ views. The entire valley is laid out in front of you, from the old town of Apt, nestled in its little nook, to the furthest point of the Petit Luberon, where it tails away just before Cavaillon….
And the village of Saint Saturnin to the other side, with the windows of Gordes, just flashing in the sunlight, further on again.
When I say it is one of ‘those’ views, I mean it is a view I can sit and watch for hours, always seeing something different, recognising landmarks, and just enjoying the sense of being detached from it all for the time that you are there. It really is one of the best views in the area.
Once again Millie sat at my feet, content to have a little rest, whilst I just enjoyed the sight for a little while longer, munching on a marmalade sandwich I had stuffed into my pocket, before heading out … A little Paddington Bear, just without duffle coat and hat…
Over the last few days the weather really has been perfect for walking, as I certainly wouldn’t want to tackle some of the hills when it is warmer. The clear, winter air makes the most of the views, which sometimes are hidden in the haze of the summer heat, and it has been so incredibly peaceful, with just the birds and occasional deer for company.
I may not be out on the roads on the bike at the moment, and of course I would much rather be exploring and doing these walks with Andy, who unfortunately will be in the UK for a little while yet….
But looking on the bright side, I have so much to show him, when he does get back, and probably by then I will have found some more routes too.