The year after my parents moved to France there was a heatwave. It was so unbearably hot that my parents found it hard to take. They decided to buy another property higher up, to have somewhere to go to escape the heat.
Coudons is a hill village, 10km away from Quillan. It's at 870 meters, which may not sound high compared to ski resorts but it makes a big difference to the climate. Here you can see the last of the snow on Madres, the nearest mountain. There are a few bears and many wild boar in the forest that begins here and stretches for thousands of acres, where some in the French Resistance hid.
In this part of France it is very common for people to live in either flats or small terraced houses, with little garden space. In the hill villages there are barns amongst the houses, on the same streets, with the same thick walls and shuttered windows. Families sometimes have an area maybe twice the size of an allotment on the edge of the settlement, or further out, which also belongs to them. They usually grow vegetables on it. In my experience such plots are immaculate, but you never see raised beds, it's always traditional rows. Tradition rules here: they usually plant by the calendar of saints' days, but also taking into account the moon phase. If this sounds odd to you, you should see the quality of the veg it produces! Our house in Coudons is on the edge of the village and we own a small patch of field just next to it. Here is my father strimming it: he did the first circuit and I finished the rest. (Honest!)
Then Ben put up the hammock, and tested it:
The nights are quiet there, except for the sound of tree frogs. We had hoped to get a good view of the stars but the daylight was so long that we were asleep before the stars were fully out.
The next day we went for a walk, up past our neighbour Julien's potatoes. If you compare these with my father's Quillan potatoes, you can see about 3 weeks difference made by the change in altitude. It may sound idyllic here, but it's harsh in the winter.
We passed fields of sheep and cows, and this big hawthorn just finishing flowering. The track is very white, and the ground has a lot of quartz in it.
Then back down to the village: