Posts Tagged ‘Basque country’

The return of the wolf to France: what shepherds say

Monday, June 1st, 2020
Wolf at La Maison des Loups, Orlu, Ariège

Wolf at La Maison des Loups, Orlu, Ariège


The reintroduction of wolves changes the behaviour of herbivores, killing the weakest and sickest. The healthy ones move to safer zones. The landscape evolves. So what would happen if wolves returned to Britain? Putting aside the ecological interest, what would be their impact on the profession most affected, sheep farming? How would shepherds cope?

All you need in order to protect a flock of sheep is a livestock guardian dog (LGD). The shepherd must keep the flock together during the day, and round the sheep up into a pen at night. That’s the theory. So how does this work in practice here in France where we have gone from no wolves in 1992 to 530 today?

I’ve interviewed many farmers about rewilding. When it comes to wolves, unsurprisingly most don’t want them. But there are nuances: here are three opinions.

Matilde is from a sheep-farming family in the Alps and has learnt how to cope. Olivier, also from a pastoral background, lives in the Massif Central. He has no sympathy for rewilding. Maxime is a newcomer to the Pyrenees and to sheep farming. He is quite happy with the return of bears but doesn’t see a place for wolves. (more…)

A new way of walking in the Pyrenees. On the Senda de Camille

Sunday, August 20th, 2017
Lescun with Pic d'Ansabère in the background

Lescun with Pic d’Ansabère in the background


Do you prefer walking in a straight line or going round in circles? Until recently most of the long-distance treks in the Pyrenees were linear. The big three, the Pyrenean Way (GR10), the Spanish Senda Pirenaica (GR11) and the Pyrenean Haute Route (HRP), which have been around for over 30 years, all stretch from coast to coast. Then came other trails like the Cathar Trail and the Chemin des Bonshommes. All linear trails, at least in principle.

But if you wanted to walk in circles, ending up where you started, you more-or-less had to plan it yourself. In recent years this has changed. The FFRP (French Ramblers Association) has brought out a guide to circular cross-frontier walks in the eastern Pyrenees (Ariège, Pyrénées-Orientales). And Brian Johnson is working on a guide to circular walks for Cicerone.

But perhaps the most interesting initiatives have come from Spain.

They are all circular walks with nights in staffed hostels. Most importantly they offer central booking facilities. You also get a dedicated map (1:25,000) and a souvenir tee-shirt.

I’ve just come back from walking the Senda de Camille with two friends. It was great!


My Senda de Camille. Click to see on Wikiloc

My Senda de Camille. Click to see on Wikiloc


21st-century Pyrenees (iv): Farming methods

Thursday, April 7th, 2016

It seems to me that selling direct to the consumer, which has developed enormously in Britain in the last few years, has yet to have a significant impact in the Pyrenees. But there are changes to be seen.


If the cows won’t go to the milking shed then the shed will have to go to them

If the cows won’t go to the milking shed then the shed will have to go to them


I came across this mobile milking shed near the Col de Pause in Ariège. The farmer explained that, as the season advances, the cows move higher up the hill in search of fresh grass. Instead of bringing them all the way down to the farm for milking, he moves the milking shed progressively higher.


Walking the Pyrenees: the French GR 10 or the Spanish GR 11?

Friday, September 5th, 2014
GR11: flowering pastures above Estos; in the background the Maladeta massif

GR11: flowering pastures above Estos; in the background the Maladeta massifmassif de la Maladeta


I’ve now walked the Pyrenees from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean twice. First on the north side, then on the south. Having written about the first trek (If You Only Walk Long Enough: Exploring the Pyrenees), I’m trying to put my thoughts together for my book on the southern option, the GR 11. [Update 2016. Book now published as Footprints on the Mountains: The News from the Pyrenees]

So what are the differences for a walker between the GR10 and the GR11?


map of GR10

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