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28 May 2005 @ 12:00 pm
Forêt de Cèdres: In the Shade  
Yesterday's heat and crowd in Avignon made me want to go somewhere quiet and shady. This walk in the Petit Luberon hills, no. 8 in Holiday Walks in Provence, fit the bill perfectly. I opted for the short version, the sentier botanique. Sadly this was my last full day in France. The next day I had to fly home to London.

Place: Forêt de Cèdres, Petit Luberon, Provence, France
Weather: Sunny and hot. The shade was welcome.
Date: May 28, 2005

On the way to the start of the walk near Bonnieux, I passed the village of Lacoste. It looks very picturesque in the morning sunshine but the castle used to be owned by Marquis de Sade. Nowadays it's semi-derelict and owned by Pierre Cardin.

The sentier botanique lived up to its name, even if this field bindweed is a very common flower that I might just as well have found anywhere in Europe.
Update: ericrovve tells me that this isn't the same bindweed found in northern Europe. It's Convolvulus althaeoides, native to the Mediterranean region.

Pink Pea
This pretty, striped, pink pea flower is a bit more exotic. The Latin name is Onobrychis viciifolia. I had never seen it before. It has an English name, sainfoin, that I had never even heard before. Apparently it comes from the French and means "holy hay." The plant was used for feeding livestock but apparently it can also be used to improve soil and control soil erosion because of the long tap root. All in all, it's a very useful, as well as pretty plant.

The extreme range of light levels between sun and shade made it very hard to take decent photos. But even if the technical quality isn't so good, I think you can make out that I had a nice walk in mixed woodland.

A hardy geranium that I also grew in my garden in the UK, Geranium sanguineum, grew wild along the path.

It was too early for strawberries but the flowers are pretty too.

There were fields filled with blue Echium vulgare. It was a sight to behold.

More blue flowers, this one from flax.

A flower meadow on top of the ridge. The flora here on the poor, shallow soil is incredibly rich. I loved the sound of bees and crickets foraging among all the flowers but I didn't manage to make a recording of it, even though I tried.

The views from the top of the ridge are beautiful. Far below me, I could see the river Durrance and ahead there were more ridges and more fragrant meadows full of flowers and busy bees.

This is where I had my lunch and wrote the day's blog entry.

On my way back toward the car I came across common toadflax, Linaria vulgaris. It's one of the most showy wildflowers we have in the UK. In France it has more competition but it still shines. If you think it looks rather a lot like a snapdragon, you'd be right. They both belong to the snapdragon family, Linaria, previously called Antirrhinum.

Conifer Path
The cedars that give this forest its name were sown in the 1860s but large parts of the woods burnt down less than hundred years later. But the forest is regenerating. Here youngish cedars form a scented, shade walk.

Pont Julien
I returned rather earlier than usual to my hotel to pack so I would be ready to leave the next morning right after breakfast. But on the way I stopped at Pont Julien, the Roman bridge across the river Coulon. It is well worth a short detour from the highway.

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