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North Lot from Fajoles in the autumn

bois chauffage
29 November 2017 - A pleasant circular walk through the countryside of North Lot, with nature and archaelogical interest. Well made and marked tracks make this suitable for all types of walker, and it would also be suitable for runners  in all conditions.
Start FAJOLES, 46300 Lot
Distance 7.5km / 4.75 miles
Level Easy with well made paths
Surroundings Countryside and woodland
Facilities No shops or bars on route
Maps/Routes English jpg HERE or French  pdf HERE

Fajoles is a tiny village in North Lot, to the north of Gourdon, to the south west of Souillac and east of the river Dordogne crossing at Groléjac. With a population of little over 200, it can rightfully claim to be a sleepy rural village, although throughout the walk there were constant reminders of a larger rural population which was three times as many around 150 years before.

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Parking behind the church, the only sound in the air of late autumn was the enthusiastic sound of playtime at the village infants school as I made my way round the 11th century church with the well worn masonry around the two doors carrying nearly 1000 years of history.

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The main feature of the village square is a well kept war memorial recording the sacrifices of local people through the two World Wars and, as with all French monuments, a plaque to the memory of those who died in the Algerian war of the early 1960s.

Leaving the square past the mairie, the peace seemed to follow as I headed out of the village before turning towards Buffevent

Passing a walnut grove, the road headed uphill, and across the field the first reminder of the former strength of the French rural community was seen - a once proud farmhouse derelict and crumbling on the hillside.  From the farmhouse however there was a superb view of Fajoles in the misty late November countryside, sitting peacefully among green fields and woodlands, coloured bright rusty brown by the oak trees still bearing leaves.

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Leaving the road for a well made track, before long I was walking through the first of several bits of woodland, with the air busy with bird song as the resident population of small birds were making the most of the limited daylight to gather food, and then a very modern troglodyte mural came into view on the side of a modern bungalow as I came into La Croix du Pech  just a short walk from Gites Fajoles (23SDB), a pair of well modern quality gites each for 8 people, and an ideal base for exploring the north Lot and Dordogne area.

The signing for the path away from La Croix du Pech was not easy, but there is a clear path along a hedge, and the proud traditional house at La Frousse could be seen as a guide for direction.

Meeting the road just before La Frousse, I was able to get a close look at a tobacco drying barn with the crop hanging upside down, and gently airing in the open barn. A gentle squeeze of the leaves left a lovely gentle tobacco aroma on my fingers without the acrid concentrated smell of tobacco prepared for smoking. Around the barn were several abandoned agrcultural bygones, and throughout this part of France any agrimech enthusuiast will find plenty of old tractors and implements with familiar American and British names among them abandoned. A surprise, considering France's strong stance on household waste recycling.

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The road took me down to the D47, and immediately before the bridge over La Relinquiere the path went off beside the stream: Most of the leaves were now in the stream doing their utmost to obstruct the flow of water, but in spring and summer this will doubtless be a very pleasant meander through the woods before reaching a raised section through a wetter part. Reaching this section, the cliff and caves of Le Piage came into view - a sheer rockface with caves at all levels, but sadly a high green fence at the base preventing exploration of the caves. Seating and shelters however betrayed a busier existence for much of the year, with a programme of archaeoligical digs being undertaken each year in the finer months. Although now closed for the winter months, I made a mental note to return to view the artefacts discovered here at the Maison du Piage, just off the square in Fajoles where I started from

grottespiage

I enjoyed a humble lunch here, with the gentle music of the stream and the sounds of small birds going about their business the only sounds breaking the peace. Where were the otters, kingfishers and other wildlife promised on the orientation boards??? With the temperature well down in single figures under a leaden autumn sky it was little wonder they remained elusive - and it was not warm enough to stake out the stream for the time it might take to achieve a tantalising glimpse of the less common wildlife.

Moving on, I immediately encountered the remains of a water mill, with grindstone still in place. With the importance that the French rural lifestyle places on bread and hence flour, it was easy to imagine this as a hive of activity in former years with corn arriving and flour leaving to make the delicious loaves and baguettes.

moulepiage perigourdine

More architecture around the next corner, with a typical Perigourdine style barn and other houses in a similar style around: The sharply sloped long roof with a curve easing the slope towards the bottom, and no sign of the outside stone steps up to the upper level so typical of the Quercy houses not so many miles to the south.

Crossing back over the D47, an easy road took me over open farmland, and down to the old village wash house of La Croix du Pech, just a short walk from Halcyon Leisure's Gites Fajoles.  Sadly redundant, but still maintained as a monument to the bygone rural lifestyle, the crystal clear spring was channelled into a large pool under a shelter with sloped sides and stands offering easy access for those doing their washing - just so much more romantic than showing it into a Bosch, Hotpoint or whatever in a conveniently discreet corner of the house.

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Further along the road, amidst a cluster of tobacco barns and poly tunnels also drying tobacco, the path took me off road again, and around a wood where someone had a dream escape - a caravan just inside the wood well away from houses and prying eyes where the inhavbitants obviously spend time in harmony with their very natural and beautifully preserved surroundings. With a gorgeous wild meadow beyond that promised a plethora of wild flowers and butterflies in the spring and summer it was little wonder I felt an urge within to escape from it all.

The path went into woodland again, and after a sharp right turn I emerged from the woodland in a clearing in which stood at an isolated farm, Le Dendas. The traditional farmstead had an almost fairytale appearance in the woodland clearing, complete with smoke rising from a chimney in the still autumn air. The road and verges were well managed, so  clearly not heading for dereliction in the near future. 

The clear and well made path went off road again through a delightful chestnut woodland for a few hundred metres before emerging beside a traditional well building, although the well seemed long since dry. The path continued to meet the road back to Fajoles where there were stacks of 'bois chauffage' - firewood - neatly piled to season in the air.

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The road took me back to Fajoles, where the next break was in full swing at the school with excited youngsters scampering around the playground and peering through the fence wondering who the stranger striding by might be, and offering cheery 'Bonjour Monsieur's to me.

Le Maison de Piage, unfortunately closed for the winter, was easily located opposite the village square, and beside it an ancient cattle crush which presumably was used for all manner of livestock operations in its working life.

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I arrived back at the car, and sat in the late November sunshine absorbing the countryside in it's autumnal beauty before I gathered my thoughts and headed for a trip along the Dordogne to Bergerac, where Flybe awaited to return me to England the next day.