After yesterday’s longer ride, today needed to be easier, not least as I wanted to try to tame my lawn with my new mower. So I just did a there-and-back ride to the pretty perched village of Aurel, near Vercheny. (There is another in Vaucluse, which I only discovered last time I went here, and someone told me my photos weren’t of Aurel!) The older of the two churches is properly old (11th and 12th centuries), but, like most French churches I visit, it was closed.
Aurel is certainly worth a visit: nicely restored, and very much has the feeling it’s lived in, unlike some of these perched villages.
As the weather was damp to start with today, and the afternoon not too hot, I headed off after an early lunch for what started as a standard loop to la Charce via the col de Prémol and back via the Roanne Valley. However, my legs felt OK, the wather was lovely, so I extended my loop further south to Remuzat, along the St May gorge, and back via the splendidly-named Villeperdrix. It’s one of the very few roads I’ve never done in this area, and to my amazement, it has a very worthwhile climb and the Col de la Pertie. It turned what might have been a lovely-but-normal ride into something astonishing, not least because of the many vultures at St May. It’s undoubtedly a ride I’ll be wanting to share with friends, when they are able to get here again.
One of my train journeys back from Valence to Paris a couple of years ago was made much more pleasant by spending the time chatting to a Flemish botanist who also happens to love the Drôme – unlike me, it’s not for the magnificent cycling, but the abundance of plant species resulting (not least) from the sympathetic farming practices in the Drôme, along with (of course) the climate and habitats.
Today we renewed our acquaintance, and a walk and a picnic seemed like the perfect way to chat. I took Martin and his wife on a standard walk for me, but, delightfully, Martin gave me a guided tour of the habitats and the plants all along the way, amongst much chatting between the three of us (and a picnic stop with a view). The walk, to Col de Bergu and down through the forest to the Gros Chêne, provided a varied mix of habitats: possibly the highlight was Martin finding a plant he didn’t specifically know! Of course, some seeds were collected, and photos of the delicate pink flower taken (you’ll spot it below).
I’m afraid to say that I’ve retained virtually none of the plant names Martin told me, but it was fascinating to hear so much detail about so many plants. Oh, and by the way, if you read Dutch, and want to plant some trees in your garden, Martin’s your man for choosing your trees, especially if you like some scientific background too!
I’m not really into DIY (‘bricolage’ in French), but having got my books in Devon into some sort of order by constructing some rather nifty bookshelves from scratch, I decided to do the same here in an unused alcove. It turned out to be a little trickier than anticipated (I should have learnt by now that in old houses nothing is straight, vertical, horizontal or parallel), but I put my new electric jigsaw to good use, and with a few trips to the builders’ merchant Morin (in Die), the last of which was this morning, the job is pretty much now complete, with about 2m of solid wood bookshelves for a grand total of about £50. Hurrah!
Anyway, you’re not going to get a photo of my bookshelves, but instead, you can have some photos of Die I took this morning while on my shopping trip, and the reward ride this evening at the conclusion of my little project. Well, how could I resist, when the sun was out?
The weather didn’t look all that promising after breakfast this morning – cloud cover came over, and the Glandasse put on its hat. Normally I’d have hesitated about setting out for a longer ride, but the forecast for both Die and Trièves were confident it was going to be good weather for the whole day, with little wind this morning, so off I went: Col de Grimone, Col de la Croix Haute, the diving off to the east of the main road to see churches in Monestier-du-Percy, le Percy, and Longefonds. The return took me to Clelles station, Chichilianne (ridiculously, the first time I’ve visited this pretty little village under the gaze of Mont Aiguille), then Col de Menée to get me back over the mountains to the Diois. Maybe a fairly ‘standard’ 75-mile ride, but still absolutely stunning. The only complaint would be that none of the churches were open (the four I photographed all have interesting/old exteriors), but I’ll let them off. But it would be nice to look inside one day/
The weather looks good tomorrow for a longer ride, and today’s weather was a bit iffy, with a strong gusty wind, so I did a favourite little local walk up towards le Bichon towards the Glandasse. In the end none of the possible showers arrived, and it’s now a rather beautiful evening. Anyway, it’s a lovely little there-and-back walk, with splendid views as a reward, as well as the scents of wild lavender and thyme, and plenty of wildlife for company.
Another warm one today, and I’d like to finish off putting up some bookshelves, so a loop to Ausson, Recoubeau, Luzerand, Châtillon, St Roman and Laval d’Aix straight after breakfast. After all the wet weather right up to mid-July, it looks like it’s bumper crops all round at the moment. Not that the lavender needs any rain, but it’s certainly put on a good display this year, and I’m so pleased to have been able to see it in person!
I didn’t start out today by planning another lavender fest, but as soon as I started to go up the road towards Jonchères from Luc, I remembered that there have been several new plantings there in the past couple of years, and none of them had yet been harvested. A splendid display, and a lovely ‘standard’ loop to Valdrôme of 60 miles, all before lunch!
This is a significant date for the area – it’s the date in 1944 when the Nazis launched retribution raids on the Maquis on Vercors, razed villages and indiscriminately killed entire families. The memories of it are still alive through children whose parents were involved with the Resistance, many of whom will have taken part in the memorial events today.
It’s still quite hard to square that with the stunning beauty and peacefulness, but I think it’s important to understand the area’s history. It seems a bit trite to add that it was a lovely ride around my standard Col De Rousset, St Agnan, la Chapelle and Vassieux loop… but it was, despite the sad memories the day evokes for so many people. It’s been very touching to read some of the responses on my Facebook Page from people whose parents were involved – it understandably means a lot them still, and that the efforts of that generation should not be forgotten.
It’s definitely warmed up here, so rides are going to be planned around earlier starts to avoid the afternoon heat, or getting up to Vercors where it’s cooler. Anyway, my legs were also still a bit stiff from the walk a couple of days ago, so a shortish (55-mile) regular ride to Beaufort-sur-Gervanne with a short detour to the perched village of Montclar-sur-Gervanne was in order.
Montclar is a very pretty and quiet village, and though it’s not got any refreshment facilities, given that there’s an award-winning bakery with a good coffee machine down in Blacons, just 5km away, that’s not a problem!