les trois tours

July 1, 2012

The recognised walk  ‘Les Trois Tours’ covers 13 kms of vineyards, woodland, hill contours, hedged lanes and plateau to the west and north west of Faugères. There is the odd glimpse of the tours over tops of holm oaks and through the occasional gap in the vegetation but, it isn’t until one gets within a couple of kilometres, that the ‘goal’ is seen clearly. This is tantalisation in the French manner!!! There is a quick 10 mins walk directly from the heart of the village and there is car access for those less energetic! Perfume from the Bruyères wafts in the air well before the yellow flowering shrubs are seen – more tantalisation! 

Originally, in 16C  there were 3 buildings or towers – the mills used for grinding wheat,when this land was covered with céréales long before vines were planted. Now well restored as a functioning mill with middle building used as living quarters for mill worker and the half tower as a lookout. 

From the half tower, on a clear day it’s possible to see the sea 40 kms away to the south, and the Pyrénees to the southwest, the Caroux to the west, the Cevennes to the north and Agde and Narbonne to the east . . . . 

 . . . .  from the brochure: “The noise is tremendous! It’s almost scary, as we’ve just been told that the roof weighs 7 tonnes , and that to be able to turn the sails in function of the wind direction, the pointed roof is not fixed to the walls!!! The noise comes from all directions… the sails themselves, but also the octagonal axle that taps against a wood carved horses’ head, which shakes free the grain, down between the 700 kilo round stone block, which rotates onto the 1000 kilo “fixed”stone. What a racket… impossible to hear yourself talk! It’s almost a relief when the guide puts the break back on!”

The dry stone walls and their restoration is impressive . . .

 . . . All impressive but this one’s not impressed!

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 the distances,

You’d need the voice of a nightingale

To take its measure  Jo Shapcott   Born Off

Above Lenthéric, there is a knoll that faces due east. It’s a perfect place to scramble up to past the buildings of La Grange  – opera floats out of the windows –  before flopping down in the sparse wildflower layer with many scabious to view the surrounding landscape . . .

. . and on the way back to La Liquière, there’s a very small piece of land belonging to Clos Fantine that seems quite breath-taking in the early evening light. It’s all vines and wine here – very dense and focused on the product –  but also plenty of recognition and allowance for nature. Clematis flammula spreads across any horizontal and vertical surface – flowers like an icy breath – beautiful and undisturbed.

Dipsacus fullonum stretches up through the verge sides and the caper is flowering  – fine straight purple stamens on the flowers – in contrast to the thick, tough and scrambling nature of the plant itself . . .

. .  all to be admired! Also lying back in it all and watching the sky!

At  Le Jardin Sec, the Filippis grow plants that are tolerant to the dry conditions of the Mediterranean basin. Many plants here are native to the area including the grass with wavy florescence, Stipa pennata.

Some landform provides the height for plants that relish even more exposed and drier conditions than those planted and growing on the flat. Sophora japonica ‘Pendula’ cascades over Stipa gigantea and yellow flowering Cistus atriplicifolius. Scabiosa cretica, evergreen and shrubby, billows out in the foreground.

Gravel paths give access through the informal planting. Delicate Gaura, seen in many situations around Languedoc in these months – roundabouts, mass planting, retail parks and town parks and garden – is now springing into life and attracting all insect life.

The silvery foliage of Ballota makes a great contrast to the red leaves on the Cotinus – surprisingly drought tolerant and also seen effectively in landscape plantings – simple and aesthetically pleasing. Favourite of mine,  Bupleurum, lime green and waxy, is flowering on verges and in woodland edges, both above Lenthéric and in Le Jardin Sec. Happy in itself! It’s a dream!

I went outside looking and looking

for a garden and the hill. I have lost

my shadow and my oak and my night sweat.

The field was just mown and the summer

so hot there was no green in it,

layers of russets and yellows,

and I was swelling with mosquito

bites and I was listening to Fado.

The trees around the perimeter

were a block of solid colour,

shockingly uni-green by contrast.

(my stomach fluttered at the sight – and

gut epithelium is five days old at most)

Look further into the stands of trees

and everything changes (my cerebral

and visual cortex is as old as me). The eye

can’t locate an individual shade:

it’s all delicate tips and hints

of green rolling in the wind.

We are moving and I can’t see a thing.  Jo Shapcott Viral landscape

to the water

June 4, 2012

This evening at 9pm the landscape of sea and sky . . . .  the vision nudged into my thoughts while reading this poem.

I was on the land, but the land didn’t belong

to earth any more, was allowed to rest

in floating patches here and there.

The pavement rippled under my shoes.

Everything I could see belonged to water:

Liquid churches, theatres, monuments, houses,

liquid sun and sky. My hands wandered

into water, cupped water. My face turned

towards rainclouds, I could feel the membranes

in my body tremble with the fluid

they contain, and the stately flow of lymph,

the faster pulse of blood, A boat’s engine

vibrated through the land, through waves, through my feet

into my torso. Slow – slowly moving. I stepped on.   Jo Shapcott  La Serenissima

storm clouds gathering

January 29, 2012

The forecast for tomorrow is snow . . . .

the gulls are already getting ‘playful’ together thinking the warm weather means spring is imminent. Spring is for pairing up and nesting .

The childish part of me hopes it’ll snow . . . . if it does, the gulls will get a sharp shock and hunker down to wait for the season to adjust itself.  There’s a touch of blue Quink in the clouds and the sea – powerful layers of disturbance.

The page opens

its dark portrait

of a rectangular mouth

and says believe

in alas. Believe

in mourning and

a proper afterlife

which you will come

to understand once

you strip off, fall in

and swim in ink.   Jo Shapcott   The Black Page

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