Walk 91: La Roche-Canillac Circular: A French beauty

The ‘Needs to Know’

Distance: Probably only a mile

Time to walk: As long as you like

Difficulty: This is an extremely hilly stroll, but it’s all on hard surfaces

Parking: On street

Public toilets: None

Map of the route: None, but we’ve attached a copy of the village map

This isn’t a walk you’re likely to do unless you’re visiting the Correze area of France & even then you’ll have to go well off the beaten track as this hamlet is tiny. The village is split into two areas…the Roche-Haute built on a plateau & Roche-Basse nestling in the hillside some 50m below

We stayed at our friends lovely house there in May 2017 &, as it’s such a beautiful place, we felt that it would be good to share an early morning stroll with you

Corrèze is one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution on 4th March 1790. It includes part of the former province of Limousin (the Bas-Limousin)

It’s an extremely hilly & wooded area. The railways arrived in 1860, at an opportune moment, directly after phylloxera had destroyed the local wine industry. The new railways enabled the farms in the area surrounding Brive to specialise in fruits & vegetables which they could now transport rapidly to the larger population centres of central & southern France. Locally, the new agriculture triggered the development, in the Brive basin, of related businesses & industries such as the manufacture of jams & liquors, as well as timber/paper-based packaging businesses. It’s also known for walnuts!

The village itself is perched on a hillside & is one of the best places we’ve ever been for star-gazing as there are no street lights. You can clearly see the Milky Way & if you put your hand in front of your face you can’t see it – it’s that dark!

Wild Boar roam in the forests & swifts, eagles, black & red kites, swifts & bats soar overhead

Shall we show you round then?

Let’s Walk!

1. We begin in the tiny square of Place Lafond de Saint Mur…

The square contains one of the several wells that can be found in the village, all of which are still producing water today

2. A few yards down the lane to the right lies the medieval tower…

We walk back down to the square & turn directly across to walk up the extremely steep alley…

3. The village has several of these narrow alleyways which are known as ‘Courrijoux’ that run as shortcuts between various points. Some are overgrown. This one’s Courrijou Saint Maur. We walked up here to do a stint at the boulangerie at 3.30am & don’t think we’ve ever experienced such darkness, although you felt you could almost touch the stars!

4. Finally at the top, stop for a quick breather & then turn left along Rue Lafond de Saint Mur which, although not as steep, is still a stretch on the legs & lungs!

On the right’s another working well…

…& on the left’s Courrijou du Suquet which leads back down the hill & is somewhat overgrown & a lot narrower than the one we’ve just walked up

5. The road bends right & continues to climb past the community garden & Doctor’s Surgery towards Place Saint Maur

Place Saint Maur is the community centre of the village, containing the church, fountain & small marketplace area

6. The Sunday market is more of an opportunity for a social gathering amongst the locals as they pretty much outnumber the stalls that are selling fruit, chickens, cheese & crepes. It’s all very quaint though

The most interesting one is run by Louis the goat man’s wife selling superb 1 day, 3 day & 1 week old goat’s cheese (all unpasteurised!). Louis walks his goats up the lanes to fresh pastures each morning

7. Being a Sunday the church was open so we had a look around…

Most of the locals were sat around the fountain

8. We turn right down Avenue Paul Brodin…

The colourful red & white building on the left’s the village boulangerie, a place we were to become quite familiar with during our stay

As a bread baker we’d always harboured a wish to work in a village bakery &, through our friends, the opportunity arose. The bakery is run by Jean Michel & his wife & serves both the village & surrounding areas which are delivered to

Jean Michel couldn’t speak a word of English & our French is limited. However we found he had a link to Northampton – as a youngster he’d had a bad motorbike accident & had to be ‘rebuilt’ by surgeon Nigel Cobb, who used to be based at Northampton Hospital & who was responsible for rebuilding Barry Sheene

We did a 2 hour stint from 6pm on Thursday night to prepare the brown loaves & Croissant dough. We then returned at 3.30am to bake these & make the baguettes. What a fantastic experience it was

9. Just past the bakery turn left down Rue du Tizaleix. There’s a one bed property for sale on the left – very cheap, but needs a lot of work doing to it

At the end we turn left & then left again to come back alongside the bakery along Rue d’Ambert

10. We turn right at the end to return to Place St Maur, however this time turn right to walk up what appears to be the main street in the village, Rue Saule

The pharmacy on the left made us chuckle as the sign on the door said it was open non stop, but then gave the opening hours as well

The large grey building on the right was once a hotel, L’Auberge Limousine & is currently for sale. It’s currently for sale, but we couldn’t see how the hotel could be a viable business proposition

11. Directly ahead at the top of the hill is the Mairie, the town hall & post office. In a small community like this, it’s best to keep on the right side of the local authorities

If you want to visit the impressive cemetery then continue past the Marie & turn left to find the gates which contain an impressive ‘welcome’

“We have been what you are: you will be what we are”

12. We however turn left into Place de Collonges la Rouge where we find the war memorial…

Keep up the left side of the Place to arrive at Place de la Fontaine which contains the village local store which stocks just about everything you want!

13. Facing the store we turn right & walk down the steep Charriere des Maures…

…turning left at the bottom & then right down Rue du Barry du Bos which is equally steep & will lead up back down to La Roche-Basse

14. If you’re driving in this area you need to exercise care as it’s the land of many hairpins

 The further we get down the hillside the more the wooded mountains come into view &, as it’s early morning, the mist is still hanging hauntingly in the valley

15. At the t-junction we turn left to walk back towards the start of our ramble. There are some stunning views of the hamlet along this stretch

If you want to visit Louis & his goats & maybe buy some cheese, then the path to his abode lies down the hill towards the river. We however carry on as there’s one more village sight that we want to show you…the lavoir

A lavoir (wash-house) is a public place set aside for the washing of clothes. Communal washing places were common in Europe until industrial washing was introduced, & they in turn were replaced by launderettes. The English word is borrowed from the French language

Lavoirs are commonly sited on a spring or beside or set over a river. Many lavoirs are provided with roofs for shelter. With the coming of piped water supplies & modern drainage, lavoirs have been steadily falling into disuse although a number of communities have restored ancient lavoirs, some of which date back to the 10th century

16. We continue up the lane to return to La Place Lafond de Saint Mur…

So that’s our little tour of a stunning French village, probably one of the quietest & most relaxing places we’ve ever been to & hope to return to soon. If you’ve never been to the Correze then go as there’s many stunning villages like this, plus you’re also close to the Dordogne where there’s even more to experience

Go Walk!