Once upon a time when we first came to France it was sunny all day long with not a cloud in the sky. Is this all a dream?
This year we are still waiting for summer to start. With the recent weeks of cool weather and copious rain the grass is lush, the cows are hidden amongst the buttercups and the wildflowers are prolific.
The meadows above Cortambert
This morning we went for a walk up to Notre Dame des Roches and along the faitral, the path through the woods above Cortambert. Some deer were walking just ahead of us, their hoofprints fresh in the mud.
Claire is our expert in botany and along the way we kept stopping to examine the wildflowers and discuss their culinery and medicinal properties. I was prompted to look up further information when I got home. For example I had known sticky willy (cleavers) only as a nuisance in the garden. It makes your hands sore and sticks to your clothes. But like many wild plants you can eat it or make a tisane. It will act as a sedative. You can roast the berries as a coffee substitute. As a poultice it will help burns or stings. The Greeks used it to strain milk and it’s good to stuff mattresses as it doesn’t go too saggy. The roots will make a red dye. You can’t get more versatile than that.
Stopping to examine the wild plants
Without Claire I wouldn’t have seen the Herb-Robert, a sort of wild geranium, or the early purple orchid and the honeysuckle. Or learned how to identify wild flowers according to their arrangement of leaves. Or the ones to eat in salads. Or discover the white flowers people used to dry to use in scented sachets like lavender.
The wild garlic was plentiful, like a white carpet under the trees. And we didn’t need to be told about the wild asparagus. We picked enough to make an entrée for tonight’s dinner!
We’ve started preparing for the Randonnée des Roses which is to be held on Sunday 2nd June. There will be three routes of 8.7km, 15km and 25km which start from the foyer rural in Cortambert and head towards Donzy.
The men prepare the panneaux.....
Today’s jobs included preparing a couple of colourful doors that had been decorated for the Cluny 2010 celebrations. They are to be erected at each end of the commune in order to display information about future events, including the Randonnée des Roses. In addition we took all the direction posts out of storage and while the men did the woodworking the ladies were busy decorating them with roses.
while the ladies paint roses
The only thing we need now is to organise some good weather. But whether the weather be good or whether the weather be bad you can be guaranteed good company, excellent refreshments and some stunning views over the countryside.
Today was VE Day, the second of the four jours de fête in May. As it is Ascension Day tomorrow many people manage to make the whole week a holiday.
At the memorial for VE Day
To commemorate VE Day the good folk of Cortambert met at the memorial for a service with the Maire and the pompiers. All were invited back to the Mairie for the vin de l’amitié and some excellent cake, the French savoury kind with ham and olives.
We didn’t stay long though as we were due at the stables at Laizé to help judge the cross country competition. The concours complet is like a three day event with showjumping, dressage and cross country.
The weather was a little unsettled, hot and sunny one minute, cloudy and humid the next with a few spots of rain inbetween. Our friend Axelle came prepared for whatever the weather might be.
Ready for the cold, the rain and the sun
We were posted to watch two obstacles. One was called the Coffin which was a jump down into a dip where there was something akin to an open grave. After this was a steep slope out with a fence at the top. The other jump was the Toboggan which was an obstacle at the top of a steep rise.
Approaching the Coffin
The judging was easy, the afternoon peaceful and a perfect day finished off with a meal with our pony club friends and our instructors in the clubhouse. This time not typical French food like in Lyon on Sunday but a very welcome chilli con carne!
The popular Cortambert randonnée will take place this year on June 2nd . The walkers will have a choice of three circuits, 8.7km, 15km or 25km. Everyone starts from the foyer rural in Cortambert and heads towards Donzy. After the refreshment station at Donzy the long circuit veers off for a 10km boucle up the Mont de Mandé to the Telecom tower. Chris, having devised the circuits for the randonnée, wanted to check this part of the 25km route so we were all invited to join him for a Sunday morning ramble.
Setting off from Donzy
It was quite a long ascent from Donzy up to the forest. Along the way we enjoyed spectacular views over the countryside. The paths were bordered by wild flowers, wild garlic and masses of cowsips, and we noted that the lily of the valley was looking to flower for 1st May, the Fête du Muguet. Jean-Louis was collecting the flowerbuds of brambles. You dry them and when you have a sore throat you can use them to make a soothing tisane.
At the top of Mont Mandé
Deep in the woods we came across La Pierre de l’Ecorcherie. This is a sort of stone passageway made of different sized blocks, about 4m in length. It is near la Pierre de l’Haut Temps which resembles an altar. No-one seems to know for sure the origins of these stones. Perhaps they were left by the Druids from early Roman times? Or maybe they were the hiding place of the Ecorcheries, or skinners, ruffians of the 15th century who had a sinister reputation for bloody deeds….
La Pierre de l’Ecorcherie
As we started the walk we were lucky enough to see a long cavalcade of vintage cars passing Donzy. It was part of an annual rally of 200 classic cars which sets off from Paris and travels around the French countryside, ending up at Magny Cours on 24th April.
An endless stream of old French cars
Everybody enjoyed the walk this morning and here’s hoping that the weather will be fine for the Cortambert Randonnée on 2nd June.