Sad but true. Two of out of three of our beloved chickens are dead – having only had them for a few weeks.
Whilst visiting the Tour at Fa, three hunters dogs broke into the pottage chicken run. Anika’s chicken, Bluttit, stood no chance. Being a Pekin bantan she is slow on the ground and can not fly. The dogs ate all of her. Bianca Castafiori had her stomach opened. Anika buried her under a willow tree.
Rest in peace Bianca Castafiori.
The farmer, Torine, came for his three dogs the net day. His insurance will pay out he said. He had little remorse to share. Little surprise – his favourite sport is hunting with his dogs. ‘They are clever,’ he explained, ‘always escaping’. We are worried now for what will happen when we get replacement chickens and when lambing season starts.
Torine is very friendly. Few words to spare but a firm handshake and a kind smile behind a grizzly unshaven face. Each time he has come for his dogs he has carried the scent of booze and fags. Alot of booze and fags. Torine is the chap that a few years ago held his family hostage at gunpoint. He is a hunter.
Whilst on the subject of odd local characters. I have some more information on that deserted hamlet. I hear that there were three occupants. The lady that had a tragic end in the snow. Her brother. Her husband. All from a distant past generation, they feared both the sun and people, preferring to remain holed up in their houses even when a visitor were to stand outside for 10 minutes (The property is now most certainly abandoned, I did not notice any curtain twitch). Her brother, or husband, or both, served some prison time. Always being desperately poor, they cooked up a plan to bump off a neighbor. The lady seduced the unknowing victim into entering the house, then Wham! A visitor one day spotted the deceased victims legs dangling down from an unused chimney and reported the find to the police. I guess little valleys are full of such tales.
On a brighter note, here are some pics of Anika on her way to school. Mara volunteers there now.
Here is an interesting landmark. We pass it on every trip to Esperaza, for the Sunday market. The Tour Visigoth of Fa. It is a short detour off the main Cahalbre-Esperaza road, through the sleepy village of Fa and up the hill behind. A stop for lunch at the fabulous Cafe de Fa would only enhance the outing (the actual walk around the tower is gonna take 10 minutes max).
It is called the Visigoth tower. Perhaps it gets its name due to it sharing its distinctly plain architecture with other Visigoth buildings left behind when their kingdom disappeared in the early medieval period. Around the tower are crumbling foundations, evidence of more than just a tour. There is a well preserved balistraria (arrow slit window) – part of the defense. On the east side there is what could be the well. The tower itself has a new entrance (a hole knocked through at ground level). The original entrance was higher up, reached by a wooden staircase. If attacked they could burn the stairs and hold out till a relief force came.
Inside the Tour is empty. The wooden floors have long since rotted away and at some point the Mairie capped it with a flat concrete roof to hold the structure together.
The Tour is remarkably similar to the architecture of the crumbling Chateaux at Renne-le-Chateaux, also believed to be Visigoth. Renne-le-Chateaux was a regional stronghold of the Visigoth. Another tower, Chateaux Blanchfort
is claimed to also be Visigoth, though its tour would have been much narrower. The Visigoth are a Germanic tribe. Their activities here date back to 418 AD when the weakened Roman Empire granted them lands in Gallia Aquitania as part of a pacification strategy. A string of military fortifications suggests that they were frequently at war. Or else they had something to hide. Some suggest that after the sacking of Rome, they carried out with them a great treasure. The Ark of the Covenant. The Grail. The Book of Love. The Visigoth (King Alaric – of whom a mountain near here is named after) eventually lost out to the Franks. Clovis I, the founder of the Merovingian dynasty. The Merovingian line famously never gut their fire red hair. Some popular authors claim that the Merovingian line is of sacred blood. Traced back to Jesus.
There is a direct line of sight from the tower to the Visigoth city at Renne as well as the chateaux Coustousa beside Cardou – which links with Blanchfort as well.
Moving on from the colourful fancies of history, the village of Fa is itself very old. Roman or earlier. The word Fa means either ‘Fairy World’ or ‘Watch’. Most likely Watch. The tower stands on the site of an old Roman shrine. But who knows. Perhaps if you ascend the tower hill on an auspicious night under a full moon you may stepo through the cloud that separates us from Fairyland. I heard that there are Roman villa remains on the western side of the village but I have not found them yet.
More fun for the kids was the old tractor abandoned under the tower.
There is an easy path to the tower. We chose the hawthorn and bramble route.
I can now confirm that [*******] is abandoned. It is very rare to find an entire hamlet abandoned in Aude. Everything has been snapped up. So what a find!
Last autumn some shepherds came through Les T. with their ox cart and donkeys in tow. They mentioned that they had spent two nights grazing in what appeared to them to be an abandoned farm. So finally I got round to checking it out.
Access is down a long slippery road. The condition is not great. The dirt has been washed away by repeated rain storms. Certainly one would get cut off every time it snows. The electric wire is down. Pulled to the ground by an enormous branch.
There are several houses (kind of more like hovels) in a row. All falling down. In true old fashioned style the toilet is outside (and has been fitted with double glazing – the only upgrade noticeable on site). Opposite is a row of out-houses. There are a further several stone barns. There are also gardens (long since overgrown) at various levels on the steep sloping hill. A spring still has running water filling a stone trough.
The grounds have an overgrown orchard and there are several pasture fields. Further down there are fir and pine, planted for timber. The farm itself is blessed with several gigantic old oaks – a rarity as most have been cut for fire wood in the early part of the twentieth century.
What I know about the original inhabitants is that they were old, salt of the earth types. Near true peasants. As they owned their own land they are not strictly peasants but close enough. What happened to them? Where did they go? Tractors, farm equipment, tools, all lie idly in the fields, gradually disappearing under the encroaching bramble.
One story I heard regarding the ancient matriarch, is that several years ago she came trudging over the hill to Les Tougnets to visit friends. She kept to the forest path (the old pilgrims foot path that starts in Amsterdam and ends in Santiago de Compostela). It was a snowy evening when she set off back to the farm. She never made it. Search parties were dispatched but no one could find a trace of her until Spring when the snow began to melt. She had fallen down a deep, snow filled gully where she perished, perfectly preserved in the ice.
So, if anyone is interested – I think this site would make a fantastic community project. It has everything ready to move forwards.
nifty toilet setup
plenty of materials
And splendid views of the Pyrenees…