a change in landscape
September 1, 2012
After many trips to Aix to see special people and enjoy the town, it was welcome to view and be involved in the surrounding landscape at close quarters. Previously on the trips from Languedoc to this part of Provence, I’ve just had the tantalising glimpse of Mte Saint-Victoire whilst whizzing down the last part of La Provençale – elegant name for a motorway. The muggy afternoon prompted the short trip to Le Tholonet, below the mountain which figures in Cézanne’s work. The white limestone of the summit contrasts with the red clay on the lower level.
Le Tholonet sits within the area of Réserve Naturelle. Rangers block off certain parts of the twiggy wooded areas at this time of the year as forest fires can ignite without warning. Fastigiate cypress punctuate against the rounded forms of the pines – the look of Provence – vineyards and fields of wildflowers also form part of the landscape.
L’Arc et La Cause are the two rivers which wend their way through the Haute Vallée de l’Arc. Streams cascade down and bubble over the rock formations on their way to feed into the rivers creating a cool atmosphere. Also a wet and slippery playground . . . .
. . . hardly a soul here. Plenty of space for all on a week day afternoon.
Holm and turkey oaks form the scrubby layer under the pines. Gorse, broom and rosemary figure too but at this time of year it’s predominately a green landscape with just the herb layer of grasses and thyme browning off.
Back in Languedoc, the agricultural feel dominates. There is heavy tall woodland here too – all holm oak – denser and rougher than in Provence. Some olive groves contribute to the look of the landscape but to a lesser degree. The olive has given way to the vine. The vehicles – tractors and white vans – are more noticeable in the vineyards now denoting final tweaking in the last few weeks before the vendange.
Clematis flammula and oaty grasses greet me again on the verges of the tracks around the village. Love it.
I’m amazed the earth hereabouts
lets me breathe its atmosphere,
that the voices I hear
permit me to listen.
When a word soars: such a flight
through these distances,
you’d need the voce of a nightingale
to take its measure. Jo Shapcott Born Off