Saturday, 29 May 2010

Walks and wildlife in the Languedoc

The region known as the Languedoc was incorporated into France during the 13th Century although it had existed as a political region long before that. Because of its language it continued to be administered largely independently for many years after its incorporation. Although now firmly a part of France there is still a strong feeling of being different, but none more so than in the department of the Pyrenees-Orientals, where there is a very strong feeling of being Catalan.

The Languedoc is a region of incomparable natural features, stretching from the Garonne to the Rhone. For a long time the Languedoc felt over awed, under the influence of its more affluent neighbour - Provence, but with increased interest in it's better

quality wines and tourism, not to mention the influx of new residents since the inception of the European Community. The Languedoc is now becoming one of the fastest growing regions of France, and full of confidence.

In the north are the rounded green hills of the Auvergne. With the coming of snow this all changes and becomes a region frequented by cross-country skiers searching for peace and isolation.

Traveling south brings you to the deep valleys of the Tarn, before rising up again on to the plateau of the Larzac, a largely inhospitable and rocky landscape, devoid of water, cold in the winter but baked by the summer sun.

The Larzac leads east towards the Cevennes a region of rugged mountains and river gorges that hold raging torrents during times of rain. Many caves and underground rivers are to be found in the area. The slopes of the mountains are covered in Pine, beech and chestnut trees and is an area which until recently was inaccessible.

Before getting to the Mediterranean plain we pass through the Garrigues, limestone hills, burnt white with the sun, whose slopes are covered in lush aromatic plants such as thyme, rosemary and broom. There are often olive and almond trees and low French oak completes the vegetation. Sandwiched between the Garrigues and the Mediterranean coast with its long golden beaches is the Coastal Plain. Covered almost in its entirety by vines, it produces a third of all the wine in France.

This is a land popular with hunters. Talk of the garrigue (the natural low undergrowth of the midi) and we think of the one thing most visitors associate with the heat of the summer - les Cigales (cicadas).

These insects live in larvae form 40cm below ground for 4 years and then fight their way to the surface when the ground warms. At this stage they are at their most vulnerable. After hatching they can be seen clinging to the bark of trees or walls, to dry from their initial pale green colour, to eventual dark brown. Their ear splitting call is the distinctive sound of the South during the summer months. After four or five weeks of life they die, but not before laying about 400 eggs.

The area of Garrigue has reduced over the years because of cultivation, but there still remain several large unspoilt areas where the scent of the gorse and natural herbs such as Rosemary, Thyme and Fennel can at times be almost overpowering.

Birds and butterflies of various species find this sort of terrain particularly inviting. Despite the story that most birds passing over the Mediterranean countries have been eradicated by shooting, they are still plentiful in the Languedoc, and it is still possible to see eagles soaring overhead.

Other common birds are swifts, black redstarts who give a red flash of their tail when they take off in flight, the multi coloured bee-eaters, hoopoes with their large crest, owls and often partridges, seen running in the undergrowth.



Interesting selection of photos to peruse:


Lamalou-les-Bains
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Lamalou-les-Bains 
Photos taken in or near to the town where we now live in the South of France.
Languedoc Towns and Villages
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Languedoc Towns and Villages  
Photos, and photo essays showing some of the towns and villages in this part of France.
Languedoc Landscapes
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Languedoc Landscapes 
Some photos illustrating the beauty and the drama of the Languedoc landscape.
Monochrome images
Monochrome images 
The photos in this folder are experimental attempts to produce effective black and white images from digital photos.
Languedoc Plants
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Languedoc Plants 
Flowers, trees and other plants photographed in Languedoc
Languedoc Wildlife
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Languedoc Wildlife 
Mammals, Insects, Reptiles and other creatures photographed in Languedoc
Birds
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Birds  
Photos of birds visiting the bird feeder at Lamalou. Also some from a little further afield.
Grotte de Clamouse
Grotte de Clamouse 
Some photographs taken inside the amazing caves at the Grotte de Clamouse. This cave has some very fine examples of Aragonite crystals (Rock flowers).
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Enjoy a romp around the Aude, Languedoc

This Aude Languedoc property site is designed to give extra credibilty to buy property and find property for sale in the Aude, Languedoc as a holiday home or main residence.

There is detailed information on all you need to know about buying property in France and especially in the Aude,Languedoc. This can be found on http://www.languedoc-property-site.com

If you come to the Aude to buy Property, and need a Gite to stay in, have a look here:
http://www.find-gite-aude.com

Happy romp!!

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