Short walks in a grey month

Sometimes it's hard to see where the path is going...

Sometimes it’s hard to see where the coastal path is going…

We gather the weather over much of western Europe has apparently been colder, wetter and greyer than for a number of years. It certainly has been so with us and that has kept us indoors more than usual. We’ve also had various things on to keep us occupied. So, for instance, all day last Saturday we were on a training course on protecting the vulnerable in a church context (the Church of England is taking this very seriously). We have however managed three walks in the last few weeks. The sunniest was a loop along the coast to the south of Frejus; we have a soft spot for blue skies and blue sea, even if the day wasn’t particularly warm. With coast quiet and deserted, it’s hard to imagine the clutter of sunbathers, swimmers, sailing boats and super-yachts just a few months away.

Coastal path looking north towards Frejus/St Raphael and the Esterel in the background

Coastal path looking north towards Frejus/St Raphael and the Esterel in the background

Another walk was up around the little village of Entrecasteaux, which has a very individualist chateau, a garden that may or may not be by the great landscapist, La Notre, and yes, a cricket team. Even on a winter’s day the chateau is still rather impressive.

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Not far away from us, just south of the autoroute, lies the Plaine des Maures (pronounced ‘moor’) an extraordinary rolling terrain with the thinnest of soil on red sandstones, The plain is fascinating because it has its distinct vegetation, consisting of pines and cork oak, with bushes and herbs such as tree heath and lavender which somehow survive on the very acid soil. Ideally it should be visited when the sun is streaming throught the trees, but even on a dull day it’s an interesting place with a strange character all of its own.

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The Plaine des Maures: Cork oak on the right and tree heath in the foreground.

Somewhat incongruously, in an area that can be very arid, there’s a large artificial lake that you can walk around. We’d love to say that it was full of birdlife, but all we saw were two teal and one great crested grebe.

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The lake with the rugged Massif du Maures in the background

Despite the cloudy weather, and night-time temperatures only a little above freezing, there is a real sense of spring just around the corner. The owners of the vineyards around our village have been busy with pruning ready for the new shoots to start. The vines now look like rather dead stumps but within a few weeks they will start to sprout leaves and spring will be here!

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