May 15, 2012
In Bédarieux, watching the laying of new setts in the streets of the old town and then photographing the work caused some interest and surprise! I like watching organised and efficiently carried out hard landscaping. The more elderly citizens were quite vocal with quite a few ‘Ooh là là’s’ as this upheaval caused disruption to their weekly market shop. I knew the stone wasn’t the usual granite and it looked too pale to be black limestone but was sure it was limestone nonetheless.
Later on, arriving at the Cirque de Mourèze, a few kilometres to the east, I learnt a lot more about limestone – dolomitic stone – set within a natural amphitheatre type landscape.
It’s a huge cavernous area 0f over 340 hectares surrounded by eroded limestone rocks in many strange shapes. The entrance was fairly garden like . . . sheltered and dry conditions . . . sisyrinchium bellum in flower below cistus, coronilla, helianthemums and lonicera periclymenum. Buxus and rosemary and other taller garrigue flora encroached some of the criss crossed path network leaving very slim routes. Very pleasant.
Very pleasant unless, like me, you choose a specific walk from a recognised book of walks. Mmmm – the author is either colour blind or doesn’t know left from right – so 3 hours of walking fairly fast took me to the south not to the north (The Mount Liausson Ridge) perimeter. Maddening when you know that the position of the sun shows you the sensible orientation but the book says the opposite. This is the second hiccup with this book – only one last chance tomorrow – yes, it is a threat, and maybe the bin is the end of this relationship!
It is a dramatic landscape however. Some of the formations are tagged in a literal way such as The Sphinx! Will I bother to answer that riddle – probably, but without a guide-book.
The tree is here, still, in pure stone,
in deep evidence, in solid beauty,
layered, through a hundred million years.
Agate, cornelian, gemstone
transmuted the timber and sap
until damp corruptions
fissured the giant’s trunk
fusing a parallel being:
the living leaves
and when the pillar was overthrown
fire in the forest, blaze of the dust-cloud,
celestial ashes mantled it round,
until time, and the lava, created
this gift, of translucent stone. Pablo Neruda The Tree Is Here, Still, In Pure Stone