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Churchstoke Hills   4 comments

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Not sure if this collection of high ground has a name (doubtful as hardly anyone seems to have heard of them) so I’m calling them the Churchstoke Hills as that’s where we parked for the walk.

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They are fairly prominent on the skyline from the Stiperstones and Long Mynd and look good on the map so worth a trip out to try and fashion some kind of circular walk

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Heading out on some fairly vague paths, our first target was Todleth Hill. The path skirted across the slopes but we were on access land so we walked top to the top. A very fine top with expansive views across Shropshire and Welsh borders

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The paths were thin and little overgrown in places but easy enough to follow to our next target of Roundton Hill.  It’s small, perfectly formed and brutally steep

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For such a diminutive hill it packs a punch of crags and steep slopes and takes a bit of puff to reach its summit

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Excellent views from the top made it worth the effort

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A panorama shot looking at the rest of our route

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Our next target was the highest point in the “range” of Corndon Hill. Only 500m high it’s lower than both the Stiperstones and Long Mynd but as its steep all round it has higher feel both looking from a distance and when you’re on it

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We had a brief stop on the lower slopes as we could see a nasty looking shower heading in which duly hit us for our walk across the top.

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Lots of paths on the open access land and some sensational views across the surrounding hills and over to the Cheshire plain. A bit wet but a price worth paying for the clear air and sunny spells you get between showers on days like these

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It rained for longer than we’d either liked or thought, probably the best part of an hour so we didn’t linger on the summit

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We quickly dropped down to the lower paths and noted that the hill of Lan Fawr just off the right of way was also on access land and looked rather good so we went to the top

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Despite the very obvious storms still scudding across the borders we caught a lucky break and had a late lunch on the top in glorious bright sunshine

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We found a spot looking out to the west and could pick out most of the main summits in Snowdonia (that weren’t obscured by rain storms)

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There were dark clouds moving across the horizon and not wanting to push our luck decided to head down

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The views were still magnificent and a stretch of green grassy path studded with gnarled tress was especially stunning

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This section was just a pleasure, easy angled walking on soft grassy paths with expansive views and most of the route to ourselves

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We caught another couple of brief showers and I managed to fall a5rse over t1t off a stile into a field but otherwise an uneventful return the car

 

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A respectable 8 miles  and well over 2000 feet of ascent for such small hills

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I’ve had designs on a walk in these hills for a few years now and never quite made the effort to actually make it happen. It rewarded the effort

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Having made the route up as we went along it became a fine circuit that I’m sure will become a regular outing such was the quality

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Sometimes its Just About Getting Out   10 comments

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A short post and a few photos from a walk up Ysgyryd Fawr several weeks back after we’d returned from France.

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It had everything I dislike about walking in August. The air was still, it was overcast, humid, and the bracken was smothering the hillsides. The flies were a nuisance.

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We sweated our way to the top, feasting on flies as we went

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We were glad of a breeze on the summit ridge to cool us down a bit and a blow the flies back to where they came from

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We watched a guy flying a small model plane on the summit to keep us entertained

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And some brighter interludes before we headed down. Not the absolute most enjoyable walk I’ve taken this year but better than sitting at home

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Sometimes its just about getting out……

Posted September 18, 2018 by surfnslide in Brecon Beacons, Wales, Walking

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Road Trip – Tarn Gorge Swimming   13 comments

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I saved the last post with memories of what for me were the highlights of the trip. We went out and saw some amazing places but the heart of the trip were the rivers and the fun we had in them, jumping, diving, swimming floating and fish spotting.

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A compilation of photos and a video/photo slideshow to share that fun

 

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DB Jr jumps from below the mushroom rock, our favourite spot

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Floating down the river towards said spot

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A late evening of fun and frolics

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DB Sr showing his skills and form.

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TBF enjoys some lazy river floating.

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A few underwater pictures of the local fish on one of my snorkelling expeditions

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And one final shot of the spot where we spent many happy hours

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And that was the end of our trip. We drove home on a wet and windy day, stopping off at a very nice campsite in Normandy before a trouble free tunnel crossing this time and an utterly desperate drive back home (think almost 7 hours to do a journey that should have taken 4!) – never drive anywhere in the UK on a Friday. A truly memorable trip shared with great friends young and old. Here’s hoping we can do it all again in a couple of years time 🙂

Road Trip – Tarn Trips Part Two   11 comments

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Another day out and further afield this time to visit what was one of the real highlights of the trip. To get there a drive along the gorge to La Malene first.

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We’d kayaked this stretch of river a few days before

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Out of the gorge on a seriously steep, narrow and hairpin-bendy road with spectacular views

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Over the Causse Mejean to the pretty town of Meyrueis

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We stopped off at this small chapel (un-named on my map) which had views over the town and the upper reaches of the Jonte Gorge

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And on to our destination for the day, the Grottes de Dargilan. The entrance and picnic area is perched high above the gorge with fine views

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We enjoyed a splendid if rather rushed picnic lunch before the main event and a trip underground.

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I’ve been down most of the show caves in the UK and they are all good but this was the first time I’ve been in to one of the French ones. What can I say except this one was utterly magnificent and like nothing I’ve ever seen before

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The sheer scale, size and complexity of the features are jaw-dropping. My photos came out ok but even though I’m quite pleased with them, it doesn’t even come close to doing the cave justice

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There are two well known caves in the area. We chose this one as it looked more natural and understated than the other option. I don’t know how good the alternative was but it would have to have been sensational to better this one

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As we walked through the first section  of cave, the large chaos room, there were weird shapes everywhere.

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The thing that struck me was there were smaller features that were pretty much ignored, almost forming handrails and the like that in British cave would have been a highlighted feature. Here these smaller features were not good enough to compete

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The cave was discovered by accident by a shepherd chasing a fox into a cave. His discovery terrified him, thinking he was seeing ghosts and phantoms. The cave was fully explored and its wonder developed for the public by the famous geographer, caver and climber EA Martel

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I can only imagine what it must have been like for those first explorers to train their lights on the cave walls and see this astonishing array of features for the first time. Stalagmites, stalactites, columns flow stones all looking like candle wax, melted chocolate or candy or whatever else springs to mind

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We were wowed for around 15-20 minutes when the guide said we were about to descend deep in to the cave to see the most impressive features. “This isn’t the best bit?” we all thought!!

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We passed this feature looking like a piece of bacon and down into the depths

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There was a wall maybe 100 feet long by around 50 feet high that was just pouring with calcite features

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It was jaw dropping and hard to take in

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This was my favourite feature, looking like some kind of alien monster. Sometimes you had to remind yourself that this is all natural

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The iron oxide in the water gives the cave its mostly deep reds and browns of colour

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This is the bell tower again maybe 60-70 feet high in a room where there was very little bare rock. Everything was covered in calcite deposit features of all shapes and sizes

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Sometimes it seems like a fairytale, other times in different light like a nightmare vision. You choose.

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Probably the only downside is having seen this place, a visit to a UK cave would be seriously underwhelming

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I just couldn’t get over how many, how big, how varied and how intricate all these features are

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It was slightly disappointing that the tour was only in French and I lost the print out they gave us that describes all the features, many with names. However the tour was very understated just a guide and some simple lighting. The cave was so utterly magnificent that it didn’t need anything more. It was a huge highlight of the trip and considering just what a natural wonder it was worth every Euro (it wasn’t especially expensive at a tenner each). A memorable hour

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On returning to the outside world we took a stroll above the gorge in warm, sorry, hot sun

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In its own way just as magnificent.

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As an extra treat the vultures that call the Jonte Gorge home were gliding around us and resting on the cliffs

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This is the best close up I got (apologies for the intervening branch)

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To finish the day we dropped down to the base of the gorge and spent another half hour watching the vultures from a roadside cafe

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An absolutely superb day out and natural wonder that will live a very long time in my memory

Road Trip – Tarn Trips Part One   8 comments

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We did manage to tear ourselves away from the pleasures of the river by the campsite and en-kayak as it were. To be honest it was really too hot to be doing any kind of dedicated exploring but we thought driving to the top of the gorge and then walking back down (collecting the car later) might be bearable.

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Mark and TBH needed to take DB Jr to hospital to check whether he had an ear infection (he hadn’t, just too much jumping in the water likely) so we took the rest of the kids up to the Point Sublime view-point with a view to walking back to the campsite from there. The site is round about in the middle of the photo below

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It’s a superb viewpoint but it was a bit hot and hazy. We should really have made some effort to come up first thing in the morning when the skies are clearer and many mornings had mist filling the gorge

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It was a very steep and narrow path, dropping pretty much straight down, 400m into the gorge

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Even walking downhill in temperatures in the mid-30’s is a hot and sweaty business but all the kids seemed to enjoy the walk

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Some of the rock towers and cliffs are spectacular

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We walked along the road back to the campsite watching a bungee jumper do their thing from a platform high above the river (wish I’d taken some photos or video, the nearest I’ll ever get to trying it!). We stopped at this view from the mushroom rock beneath which was our favoured jumping spot. The campsite beach is a few hundred yards upstream

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This is the view back up to said mushroom rock from the river

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Glad we went out but after all that exercise an afternoon of river lazing followed.

On a later day we had an afternoon of torrential thunderstorms and drove through one to the village of St Enemie. It’s a beautiful spot on a sunny day and even on a cloudy wet day its a fine place to spend an hour wandering its narrow streets

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As with all the villages in this part of France there is a collection of stunning buildings to gawk at which we did (as well as some impromptu shopping by others)

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It passed a few hours while the rains cleared and normal weather service resumed

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On our return we found disaster had struck and the storms had totalled our toilet tent. In truth it was a cheap and frankly shoddy piece of camping crap. However using it made TBF very happy (her words not mine) to the point she preferred it to a real toilet

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She was devastated to see it fall to ruin and the toilet looked a bit sad and lonely without its cover. It made us laugh when thinking of the image had the tent blown down while TBF was sitting in residence as it were

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Further disaster was discovered much later when I realised that my interpretation of the phrase “close all the tent windows” wasn’t the same as TJF. She took that to mean shutting the inner tent and leaving the main window wide open – in a torrential downpour! Luckily most of the water was trapped between the layers of the main tent so I could scoop it out. Enough still got through to soak the mattress to the point where I could submerge my hand in water by pushing down on it. Kids can be really dumb sometimes 🙂

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Another spectacularly good day out to a local highlight to come in the next post

Road Trip – Tarn Gorge Kayak Trip   10 comments

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The highlight of any stay in the Tarn Gorge is a trip down the river in a kayak. Many stretches are not easily accessible from the road, especially the narrowest section so a kayak is the best way to see it as well as being a huge amount of fun.

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Unlike the Dordogne the Tarn is shallower and much faster flowing with several small rapids. Nothing difficult but it does add to the excitement

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This time we let the kids loose in their own one person kayaks and it was a huge success. Most kids do some form of kayaking on school trips and they were all totally competent in navigating the river

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They took the mick out of some the adults less than impressive skills but again all in good spirit and many laughs ensued

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It was a stunning sunny day and the views in the gorge were sensational

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Our friend J clearly having a great time – shame about that hat!

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After navigating the weir, rapids and bridge through La Malene it was time for a stop and a swim. We found one of the best swimming spots of the whole holiday. A deep and large pool with rocks for jumping

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Its only really accessible by kayak and we made the most of it

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The DBs show off their jumping prowess

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As does C albeit from a lower perch

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Others just enjoyed a swim in cold clear waters. A splendid spot

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Time to move on and more paddling fun

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The kids decided they were skilled enough to actually stand up in the kayaks. Here is TJF, the DBs and C.

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I also showed them how to raft up and encouraged them to them walk along the line of kayaks without falling in

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While others watched on and avoided such childish antics

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Into the narrows or Les Detroits to give them their proper name

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An amazing section where the walls of the gorge narrow in to around 100 feet

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We found a beach to pull over and spent another happy half hour exploring and swimming

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The kids found a rock in the deeper water that provided a good deal of entertainment

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How many people can you get on one small rock in a fast flowing river

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We stopped off for lunch at the campsite (one of the advantages of the route) before paddling a short way past to the finish

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Over all too soon and I think most of us would have happily carried on further if we could have (the gorge is blocked by a chaos of boulders a mile or so further on)

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We stopped for another bout of swimming and play before heading back to the campsite

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Another grand day out and highlight of what was becoming a classic holiday

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These river kayak trips are a real feature of any holiday in this part of France and I was glad to be able to share this with our friends and see them enjoying it as much as I’ve done in the past

Road Trip – Tarn Gorge Camping   6 comments

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Time to move on, pastures new and all that. After a thoroughly enjoyable week in the Dordogne we changed venues and headed off to our second (or third if you count North Wales) location. My mind was a bit torn as to whether we should just have stayed in one place as we’d really settled in to our home on the campsite and moving of course wastes a day of travelling. Once we’d made the move I was glad we had as the new location was just as good and whilst it was another riverside location it was of a very different character.

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A much shorter drive this time through some very pleasant and quiet countryside of France until we crested a rise and the majestic and deep Tarn Gorge opened up before us. After the fun of a drive down the 10 or so zig zags to the bottom we booked into our second home at the excellent campsite, La Blaquiere.

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A bit of research had found us another cracking spot. Three pitches together and although we were not right by the river, the site is tucked right in the heart of the narrowest part of the gorge and only 4 rows wide so we were a matter of a minute from the water. The facilities were excellent and the staff welcoming and friendly. Highly recommended and like our choice the previous week I can’t imagine visiting the area and staying somewhere else.

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A few photos of the immediate area surrounding the site (a post of the water-based fun to come later). This was our pitch under the cool shady trees. I’d been worried that as the base of the gorge is over 1000 feet and the gorge itself narrow that it might be a little cool, especially if we lost the sun early. In fact the weather was so hot and we had the sun on the site almost all day the shade of the trees was very welcome

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The campsite beach first thing in the morning. I often went for a pre-breakfast swim while it was quiet and deserted. The campsite its relatively small so the beach and swimming area were never crowded (other than dodging the bustle of hire kayaks in the middle of the day)

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The site had an onsite restaurant that was really very good – one of the best burgers I’ve had anywhere. We ate out on our first and last night

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The first night was chaotically busy as they had a local band playing who were actually pretty good in an eclectic sort of way. As you can see it was late and very dark by the time we ate but the atmosphere was pleasant and fun and we had a great evening

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We had a couple of stormy afternoons and evenings with some dramatic cloud effects that enhanced the beauty of the gorge

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The site also did regular food nights, very handy as shopping is limited (the gorge is quite remote by French standards) and I’m lazy. Pizzas and Chicken featured regularly but one night there was a local team making fresh sausage and Ailigot, a sort of cheesy mash that’s being mixed here. Both sausages and mash were delicious

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On our last night we took an expedition up the river by foot, wading across the river as we went. Primarily to take a look at an on old village across the river that’s been turned into holiday homes

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The views were spectacular looking towards the narrowest part of the gorge

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There was much debate as to which location was the better of the two. The Dordogne has the river and huge amounts of interesting stuff (villages, gardens, caves, castles) but my heart belongs more to the dramatic rock of the Tarn Gorge and its superb river

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The inhabitants/guests of the village seemed a little protective of their patch so we consoled ourselves with sneaking around the edges like naughty children (well most of us were children or adults who behave like them)

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When it was time to turn around most of the kids decided they could swim back even though the water was far too shallow to do so

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They seemed to have fun anyway and the rest of just enjoyed the walk/wade and the surroundings

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Despite all the interesting stuff we did, sometimes its just the simple pleasure of leisurely stroll along/in the river from the site that generates some of the best memories

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A superb location as a base for another week of fun and adventures and just like our previous site we immediately felt right at home and settled into happy routines of swimming, relaxing and eating with the odd trip out

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More Tarn Gorge fun to come

Posted September 6, 2018 by surfnslide in France, Tarn Gorge

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