Walks around Caunes

There is a range of marked walks into the foothills of the Montagne Noir starting and ending in Caunes. They range from a short stroll up to the marble quarries (if you elect to drive up the Allées des Carrières and park) to a considerable hike up to the village of Citou and back. Plans of these walks, provided by the local authorities, can be found on a notice board opposite the school and on the edge of the small park beside the river in the centre of Caunes. They are reproduced below for your convenience.

The (not-so) Scarce Swallowtail
The (not-so) Scarce Swallowtail

These paths up into the foothills of the Black Mountains offer panoramic views of Caunes and across the Minervois to the Pyrenees. At the other extreme, wild flowers, birds and butterflies abound in this countryside. In the Spring and early summer wild orchids, minature iris and tiny daffodils, rock roses, herbs and wild asparagus sprawl alongside (and even across) these walking tracks. Bee orchids (an English rarity), for example, are commonly encountered almost before the village has been left behind.

Colourful birds and butterflies (again many rare exotics to British eyes) are encountered around Caunes, and even within the village. As for birds, the splendidly-crested black-and-white Hoopoe has been seen consistently on the walls of Maison du Midi, and the Black Redstart appears most days. Once into the countryside, the European Roller and Bee-eater, both exotic outlyers of their tropical African cousins, are easily spotted if they happen to be around.

A Hummingbird Hawkmoth, Caunes Sept 2009
A Hummingbird Hawkmoth, Caunes Sept 2009

Among the more obvious insects  swallowtail butterflies are common in and around Caunes. One species is a very local and rare British resident, but they readily visits garden flowers in the village and are commonly seen fluttering along the roadsides where they lay eggs on the wild fennel. The highly entertaining humming-bird hawkmoth is also a regular visitor to nectar-rich flowers, and the large and dramatic Emperor moth must live closeby as one was recently snapped sleeping away the daytime sunshine sitting on the drainpipe of the front wall of Maison du Midi.

A sleeping Emperor moth, May 2009
A sleeping Emperor moth, May 2009

The walks all start/end at the cluster of small roads off the Avenue du Minervois just a few minutes up the hill from the houses.

South of Caunes, the walker or jogger can launch into the endless paths that criss-cross the vineyards, or follow the Argent Double watercourse down to Peyriac.

Where the walks begin/end
Where the walks begin/end
A short walk to the marble quarries
A short walk to the marble quarries
A hike up to the plateau of La Matte
A hike up to the plateau of La Matte
Up one side of the Argent Double valley, across, and down the other
Up one side of the Argent Double valley, across, and down the other
The hike to Citou and back
The hike to Citou and back