A few minutes walk away, through a gate and into the forest,
past the large basin that was once used to grow cress, following
the river downstream, there lies a hidden walled garden.
Now tangled and overgrown, it is reputed that the terrace was
once cultivated by republican soldiers, who paused and set up
camp while passing through the region. Its wild cherry trees
broken, yet still producing enough for the birds, it is a calm
haven when winds whip through the valley. The river passes
through a narrow channel of stone – worn smooth with time –
and cascades all the way to a secluded gorge, where it joins
the river that passes on the other side of the belvédère.
Armed with secateurs, I cleared a track – which I do each year –
allowing passage through the dense blackberry, fragon (false
holly) and nettles. Sheltered, yet exposed to the sun, the gorge
is filled with lavender growing in crevices, thyme in full flower
and an assortment of daisies and slender-stemmed wildflowers.
The river is crystal clear this year as rains continue to feed it;
icy cool as it crashes down the mountain to the many tree-lined
pools below – past stone terraces that endure, a marvel of construction,
and part of the forgotten history that dates back to the heyday of
the mas when the land was arranged for cultivation, the giant
boulders manoeuvred into place as retaining walls strengthened the
It is possible to disturb sanglier (wild pigs) and birds fly low,
tucking their wings as they skip along the river’s edge. Basking on
the warm flat rocks, time draws to a standstill in this ‘amphitheatre’
filled with the sound of rushing waters, and birdsong, as it emerges
from the depths of the forest.