A Hike on the Causse & the Compostela
Today was a hiking day so after breakfast we set off for our morning hike which was going to be along the cliff edge above the Lot river and over the Causse. On our drives to and from the Métairie Basse farmhouse we had noticed a primitive signpost on the road-side. It simply said ‘Dolmen’ and pointed along a track.
We thought we’d have a look so we parked opposite and started walking down the undulating trail. After a couple of kilometres we started to lose heart. Where was it? We hunted around for a bit to no avail. The map of course was back in the minibus. After aimlessly wandering about for a whie we returned the way we had come. At the road we saw a Shepherd and his flock of black-eyed sheep. When asked he seemed to suggest that it was some way off. Oh well.
Back in the minibus we continued along the road and down to the Lot valley, berfore turning off under the disused railway to find the trail-head. I’ve walked this particular trail many times so I wasn’t worried about the aimlessness of this walk. Unfortunately the weather was against us and it was misty & foggy. The clouds looked ominous.
A stiff uphill walk of twenty minutes through the mossy woods up a trail guarded by tumble-down walls brought us out onto a cliff overlooking the river valley far below. It was a pity the views were impeded by the poor visibility.
We pressed on along a muddy track by the cliff edge. It’s narrow and slippery and can be dangerous. We were careful. When the trail forked we took the branch that would take us over the causse rather than down into the valley.
At this point we saw a collection of Cazelles, which are dry-stone building which the shepherds used to use for sheltering sheep. We had a quick look inside to see if any bats were about. They weren’t. The trail continued through the long grass until it popped out by a run-down farmhouse and a small track. We saw another Cazelle. This one was covered in green moss.
We pressed on in the damp air and made our way past several simple stiles until we reached the road. The drizzle started, but we carried on. We past a house with a garden containing a home-made dolmen and cazelle and still carried on as the rain started to fall. Undeterred we persisted, but evetually we had to stop and shelter under a tree as the rain came down.
After a brief discussion I sent a message to Steve and arranged a rendezvous. We retreated to the house with the dolmen and Steve was soon there to pick up some sodden walkers.
We decided a cafe and a hot chocolate would be a good idea so we returned to the Lot valley and drove upstream to Carsac. I was tempted to try the railway museum but it looked shut & miserable so we parked in the small town and found a cafe. Hot drinks all round.
The rain was still falling, but only lightly, so after that so we hopped back in the minibus and drove over to the Célé valley to make an attempt on an afternoon walk.
At Marcilhac we decided to have a picnic in the rain and used the tailgate of the minibus. It worked fine and much to our surprise the weather improved and we decided an afternoon walk was possible. A short drive up the valley to Espagnaac took us up to the trailhead and we were soon out on the GR651 long-distance trail. This is the Santiago de Compostela or Way of St. James, a pilgrimage trail that leads all the way to Spain. We were only going to walk as far as St. Sulpice, but we were going to hike along a part of the trail called the ‘English Way’.
We set off up the hill past a few houses and saw the sign that told us we only had 1236 kilometres to go to complete the pilgrimage. The climb took us up through some woods and then out on the road. It still climbed until eventually we were walking high above the valley.
At a group of houses we got slightly diverted by following a path to some wells. These turned out to be small ponds but the view over the valley made it clear we were going in completely the wrong direction. We returned to the houses and took the othe fork. Soon we were out on the ‘English Trail’ which wends its way underneath a buttress cliff. We are still high above the river though.
In time we passed beneath the ‘English Chateau’ which is some fortifications built into the cliff with three arched window. I believe these are the remains of an English garrison from the 100 Years War of the 14th and 15th Century.
The narrow trail traced the cliff closely until we came to the ‘English Gate’ a beautifully arched gateway in the middle of nowhere. Their is a story here, but no-one knows it. I take a photograph of the family here and then insist on having a photograph taken of myself. Nine years ago was the last time I walked this trail on a day when we couldn’t paddle the river as the levels were too high. I was with my Father that day and we had a great day on the trail. I took a photo of him stood in this very same gateway.
The trail continued up and down until we eventually came to Brengues. We decided to soldier on and climbed out of the hamlet back up the cliffs and up to the causse. The trail took us on quite a diversion on the the top, before, in the end, after a coule of hours we began the descent into St. Sulpice. Steve was there to collect some tired hikers (that’s me) and he whizzed us off back to the farm for a rest.
We were going out this evening for dinner. It would give our hosts a rest. We drove down to the Pizza Restaurant in the Lot valley called L’Oilo. We took a table outside and ordered some drinks. When they arrived the waiter spilt the whole lot over the table. Oops. We changed table so he could clear up. No worries. The pizzas did eventually arrive and they were great. In spite of the mishap we had a great evening.