Come walk with me in the winter sun

What defines the difference between a British winter and a Pyrenean winter for me is sunshine. Winter here will almost certainly be longer and colder, snow will be more frequent and deeper, but, while Britain can spend weeks under morale-sapping, dank, grey skies, we often enjoy long periods of sunshine. The days are short and the sun is low and weak but the sky is often a deep, vibrant blue that nourishes the spirit.

Of course we still have periods like the last ten days, the snow almost non-stop, the sky so low and so grey that it feels like living in a cave. But today the sky is clear once more and it is time to shake off the potting shed blues.

So, let’s wrap up warmly against the biting northerly wind and take a walk and some photographs. It is still hard going trudging the first 120 metres uphill through the deep snow of the garden, but once on the road it gets easier.

These first two photographs are looking towards the Col de Catchaudégué. I love the shadows in the first picture and the oversailing roof of the hay barn, a typical feature of the barns in our commune.

This field is a favourite of mine, particularly under snow. I like to imagine that I am skiing down from the col, past the first barn, arcing gracefully around the second barn, between the two trees, another turn, a little jump over the stream and a well-executed hockey stop before the wire fence. In my dreams!

Continuing along the road I hear voices from down the bank and see the local agriculteurs tending their sheep and horses. This is the harsh reality of life in the mountains for the locals, trudging across fields in all weathers to bring food to their beasts.

A little further on and another local man is clearing the snow, as he does every day. While the local council snow ploughs clear the main routes our local roads are cleared by a tractor with a snow plough attachment. We are lucky to have this service, we have friends living at a lower altitude than us who still cannot drive their uncleared road.

The driver very kindly slows down and moves over as far as he can to avoid covering me in snow, hitting the far bank in the process and having to reverse out. I forget how the ploughs tend to polish the snow and promptly fall over.

Turning round and heading home I get superb views of la chaîne, the mountain range. The contrast between the soft undulations of the hills and valleys and the angularity of the mountains is so beautiful and a photographer’s dream.

Almost home now. The track across the middle of this picture is our drive and the tree seemingly towering above the mountains is a large ash tree at the bottom of the drive. The ‘clouds’ above the mountains on the right is, in fact, snow being blown off the ridges by the wind.

One final trudge through the deep stuff and it is back home to a warm fire, a cup of green tea and a slice of carrot cake. I hope you enjoyed the walk. And the tree picture? I seem to be seeing bottoms again. This one reminds me of Yogi Bear.

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19 responses to “Come walk with me in the winter sun

  1. Thoroughly enjoyed this blog – you lucky people having such luxury as ‘un chasse-neige’. Here on the lower slopes thick ice covers the lanes – but yes, this stunning scenery and light is a photographer’s dream.

    • Hello, Jane. Thank you for visiting the blog. I realise how lucky we are with the chasse-neige, pretty rare on the little side lanes. Hope you have shot lots of good photos too.

  2. Oh My! That is a lot of snow – but it looks beautiful, clear blue sky, sunshine and snow – quite enchanting!
    I particularly like the third image down.
    K

    • Karen: I was sorry not to have a good telephoto lens to take that shot rather than just the iPhone, so it’s a little low definition but an interesting picture. These people are tough – they don’t have my luxury of waiting until the sun shines to go out.

  3. Gilly that looks so beautiful – easy to say if you are not out in it though. Green tea and carrot cakes sounds just the ticket xx

  4. looks beautiful…..what kind of temperatures do you have ? we are expecting minus 16 at our cabane this weekend.you are lucky to have the small roads cleared.

  5. I am amazed by how much snow you have and the cold temperatures. I enjoyed walking alongside you. For some strange reason, it is a gorgeous, mild winter here on the Canadian plains.

    • Kate, how lovely to hear from you. Europe is in a really cold spell at present. We have been down to -17°C at night, but Eastern Europe having it much worse. Canada needs a year off from time to time, it’s only fair!

  6. Gosh, how pretty. We’ve only had about 2″ of snow all winter – children v. disappointed.

  7. David and Lizzie

    Hi Gillian, brilliant photo’s,excellent write up. Are you really trying to make us homesick? Not bad today,clear skies and only -4.
    Can we come back…….please.
    From dull and dreary England,keep em coming.
    David

    • David: glad you like the photos and sorry to make you envious but it’s all Lizzie’s fault, she’s the one who kept telling me to restart the blog. And, yes, you can come back now – you’ve suffered enough! xxx

  8. My goodness you have some snow! I missed most of the snow during our visit to France. the cold was so intense and the atmospher so dryo I resmebled a prune when I returned to Portugal, where it is very humid.
    Last time we were in France I bought some snow boots -so you can imagine my disappointment when the snow disappeared and was replace by ice and freezing cold mist. brrrr On our previous visit we went to Chatreuse (forgive the spelling) it was wonderful! Unfortunately, as we never had the car with snow tyres on we never made it back there.

    Hey ho. I love France -the scenery is so diverse 🙂

    • PIP: We are in Ariège near the town of St Girons. It’s about 100 km south of Toulouse, close to the mountains and very beautiful. We’ve just had the coldest temperatures and the most snow we have seen since we arrived 5 years ago although nothing compared to the Alps.

      I just read your latest post about your garden. It reads like mine would in June/July! Do you have a winter?

      • This year has been exceptionally warm during the day and also exceptionally cold at night. When we drove down into the village the day we left for France, at 2am in the morning, it was -7C. This is the coldest winter for decades. We are also experienceing drought and just today we were told that farmers are having to slaughter animals as there is no water.

        I’ve never known a winter so diverse. We live close to the sea, so we are fortunate not to get frosts. I was not expecting my veg patch to look like this in Jan/Feb either! I’ve never even tried to grow winter veg before. I doubt though I will grow much in the summer if we have severe drouhgt.

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