Sunday, May 17, 2009

Hacking back the undergrowth on a Sunday morning

Recently, a note was dropped in our mailbox announcing a debroussaillage--a clearing of one of the main local walking and riding trails. Anyone interested in volunteering had to sign up by last Thursday so that the organizers would know how many to expect for lunch. 
  About 15 or 16 of us met up at 8:30 p.m. for coffee and croissants, then headed off in cars to the start of the trail. Electric saws, a wickedly sharp scythe, secateurs and, in my case, small clippers all removed and tidied up errant brambles, weeds and branches. 
   Passing through woods and beside meadows bursting with wild flowers, this is a gorgeous walk. Dense with purple clover, buttercups so glossy they look enamelled, tiny blue flowers, wild pink roses, small wild orchids and tall feathery grasses, these are fields straight from a medieval tapestry. Ivy stems as thick as my wrist clambered up trees. Caterpillars hung from invisible threads. Birds sang their hearts out.
   For the most part, the trail was easy going except for a little stream we had to cross by pole-vaulting. Apart from a break for soft drinks and biscuits, we kept going, until about 12:30 meeting up at 1 p.m. for lunch. 
   Salmon mousse with mayonnaise preceded chicken cooked in a blanquette de Limoux cream sauce, then cheese, then ice cream with strawberries and cream. We drank red wine, and finished with coffee before ambling home for a deep siesta.. 

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