Our home, Villa Roquette, is in a small Mediterranean village surrounded by vineyards. Walking the dogs in the evening we usually wander along small lanes, by river banks, and through the local “Garrigue”, the shrubby dense covering on many of the hillsides.
We give these walks names – “Kingfisher”- “Nightingale” – “Lonesome Pine” – “Pooh Bridge” – “Figtree Lane” – “Oompa Loompa” – “Green Lane” – “Roman Bridge” for example.
Most of the year I scrump fruit along the roads, grapes, figs, pomegranates, blackberries, quince, wild asparagus and edible snails (but I do not collect the snails as cleaning them is such a faff) – there are hundreds of other edible plants but I don’t know these well so, to avoid killing off our guests I leave them. I also tend to ignore the nut trees as many seem to be bitter almonds and getting the rascals out of their shells is frustrating.
The figs are fascinating, I have found every fig tree has a different flavour, often the smallest green ones are the sweetest, so far I have identified 17 completely different varieties on my walks, yesterday I found sweet bright green and dark black figs, fully ripened, on the same tree.
In the fields there are many abandoned buildings, some were old houses for people, others agricultural huts, probably for shepherds and for the harvesters and workers to use – today, with the monoculture of vines and automated harvesting, these just fall into decay, but being made with thick stone walls, some of them centuries old, they will take many many years to disappear. I like to think of furtive lovers using them on warm summer evenings.
As the days get shorter, the setting sun brings the Pyrenees mountains, to the South East, into strong relief and I can see them clearly from some of the walks – in the evening the mountains covered with snow seem only a couple of fields way, this is our border with Spain, so from some of the walks I can see another country over 100 miles away. There is no pollution and moderate humidity in this region, so the air is often crystal clear. Sunsets can be dramatic, is is as if nature was using photoshop.
I rarely carry my cameras on the walks, preferring simply to be alive in the scenery, but I am thinking I should record some of the old roads and buildings before they go and to hold some of the light more closely to share. I am only working with old analogue cameras now, so it will be a slow process – I am sure they will wait.