Saturday, 31 October 2009

Lichen covered log

Lichen covered log in the Forêt des Écrivains-Combattants

There is a forest about ten minutes drive from us dedicated to writers and poets that lost their lives during World War I. While walking the dog there I found this lichen covered log and thought it would make a good photo.

Friday, 30 October 2009

Val de Vernazobre

Early autumn colours in the Val de Vernazobre

I'm just back from a 15Km walk with Mostyn and Button around the Val de Vernazobre near Le Bousquet d'Orb. The autumn coulours are just starting to come into the trees. Chesnuts and Beech are turning but the Oaks are still green as, of course, are the Holm Oaks and Conifers. The weather is still glorious, 21°C today.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Autumn, Vines

Vines near Berlou

The grape harvest has been over for some weeks now and the vines are just beginning to take on their autumn colours. The colours will become more vibrant over coming weeks before they lose their leaves completely and the process of pruning for next year's harvest begins. These vines produce grapes for the Saint Chinian AOC wines from Berlou.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Autumn, Sweet Chestnuts

Sweet Chestnuts

In October and early November in this part of France many people gather Sweet Chestnuts. The hills around Lamalou-les-Bains are cloaked in forests. The main trees present are Evergreen (Holm) Oak, Sweet Chestnut, Beech and, on the higher hills, conifers. The Sweet Chestnut was an important crop up until the start of the XXc and was the main staple food of many of the people of the area. Wheat doesn't grow well here and chestnut flour was used to make bread. Chestnuts were harvested and dried in purpose built drying houses known as Secadous. The dried chestnuts were then ground to make flour. Most of the large chestnut plantations are now somewhat derelict but the remains of the secadous are encountered from time to time while out walking the forests.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Les Thermes, Lamalou-les-Bains

The entrance to Les Thermes

Lamalou owes its existence to the thermal springs found here. The healing properties of the waters were known back in the XVIIc but the town became established as a fashionable spa in the late 1800s when several famous people started to visit for "La Cure", including the renowned novellist, Alphonse Daudet. Specific treatments are now given for a range of illnesses and conditions including rheumatic pain, neurological problems (e.g. Parkinson's) and trauma. The main source for the water emerges from a fault line at a temperature of 52ºC. It is rich in magnesium and potassium as well as traces of many other minerals.
The entrance is decorated with Egyptian style scenes created by the artist Dominique-Henri Mongeois in 1998.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Lamalou's Casino

The Casino at Lamalou-les-Bains

In 1907 the French Government enacted a law that allowed any spa town to have a casino, and here is ours. The casino stands in a small park along with a bandstand, restaurant, bar, theatre and Lamalou's own small cinema. In the summer season free "animations" (entertainments) are held in front of the casino including opera, rock-bands, variety shows and even Paris Folies!

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Saturday Post

Old Postbox, Villecelle

An old postbox, still in use, in the village of Villecelle near Lamalou-les-Bains. 

Friday, 23 October 2009

Strawberry tree

Strawberry Tree fruits and flowers

The Strawberry Tree (Arbutus unedo) is a native shrub of the Mediterranean area. The fruits resemble strawberries in appearence but not in taste. Some people like them - I don't! The fruits are made into a preserve in this area of France, which I don't like either! Surprisingly, the Strawberry Tree is a member of the Ericaceae and is a member of the heather family.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Le Caroux from Vieussan

Le Caroux (Cebenna) with cloud blanket

The mountain of Le Caroux, about 12Kms from Lamalou-les-Bains, forms a 1000m high plateau. Great for walking and a haunt of the re-introduced Corsican Wild Sheep, Le Mouflon.

According to legend, Cebenna, a beautiful and powerful daughter of the Titans, fell passionately in love, but was abandoned by her lover and fell into despair. Distraught, she climbed into the highlands of Languedoc and lay down on Le Caroux to die. Touched by this devotion, the gods of nature turned her body to stone to lie there for eternity. Cebenna gave her name to the Cévennes. You can see her profile in the photo, head to the left. After yesterday's rains she lies covered by a blanket of cloud.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Bitoulet in spate

The swollen Bitoulet stream in Lamalou-les-Bains

The Bitoulet is normally only a trickle by late summer/autumn but after a night and morning of near continuous rain it is flowing strongly. Through much of the town the Bitoulet is canalised into a concrete channel with a 30cm trough in the centre and the stream stays in this trough except when in spate.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Clouds in the north

Taken from the Forêt des Écrivains-Combattants near to Lamalou-les-Bains the view to the Cevennes in the north shows a cloudy day with rain in the air.

View towards the Cévennes from the Forêt des Écrivains-Combattants

Monday, 19 October 2009

Les Thermes, Lamalou-les-Bains

This bust of Professeur Joseph Grasset (a benefactor of the Themal Spa at Lamalou-les-Bains) stands at the bottom of the Square Grasset just below the main Spa building. Lamalou-les-Bains has many hospitals and treatment places for various conditions. The main spa building, "Les Thermes", provides treatments based around the hot spa waters (52ºC).

Bust of Professeur Joseph Grasset

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Gorges d'Héric

The beautiful Gorges d'Héric leads down from the Caroux and Espinouse plateaux to carry its fast flowing stream to the river Orb. This very attractive beauty spot is only 10 Kms from our home.

Looking south down the Gorges d'Héric

Friday, 16 October 2009

Pont Carrel, Lamalou-les-Bains

Pont Carrel at the turning into the town

This viaduct used to carry the Bédarieux-Mazamet railway line until it was closed in the 1960s. The wooden sculptures on the bridge are sometimes called the Lamalou lesbians (anag)!

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Parc de l'Usclade

Parc de l'Usclade, Lamalou-les-Bains

The small park in Lamalou at the beginning of autumn.

Below are a few more related photos.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Crested Tit at our bird feeders

Crested Tit

During the autumn and winter we get quite a variety of birds at our bird feeders. This species is one of the most endearing. The Crested Tit is restricted to the pinewoods in Scotland but also lives in deciduous woods in France.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

The ruins of the Château de Malavieille

The ruined Château de Malavieille

I'm just back from a 12Km walk round the commune of Mérifons in the Salagou valley. The midpoint of the walk is the château ruins in the photo. Mérifons is a tiny rural commune about 20Km from Lamalou. The ruined château is very atmospheric, particularly in stormy conditions!

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Another sunny day!

Panoramic view from Capimont (click on the image for a more detailed view)

The photo shows the view from the top of Capimont, the hill opposite our house. I'm just back from a walk there with our dog, Button. I've named a few of the places visible from the viewpoint but you'll need to view the full size photo to read the names!

The weather has been exceptionally good this summer and autumn. We have had only a handful of days with any rain and most days have been hot and sunny.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Just the beginning!

View of Lamalou-les-Bains from St-Michel-de-Mercoirol

Hi everyone. This is my first attempt at a blog. Over the coming weeks I'll be adding regular photos of the surrounding countryside, wildlife and events. I'll also add a few comments and thoughts.
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