It’s the season where everything seems to want to come inside for the winter, particularly daddy-long-legs, not, as you would have hoped les papas-jambes-longs but les tipules. We have at least three or four come in of an evening for a dance about the living room. I don’t know why they creep me out more than spiders – maybe the spindly legs and unpredictable moth-like dancing.
It’s definitely autumn, though temperatures are still up into the high twenties. It’s not quite fire time yet! It’s also rained for the first time in weeks, properly, although it didn’t last the day out.
Yesterday, we went for a walk to discover the grotte where the Agris helmet was discovered. The Agris helmet was mainly discovered by an archaeological dig in 1981 – quite amazing since it’s from the 4th Century BC – and is made of bronze with gold leaf.
It’s quite something! Anyway, I had heard a rumour from Grumpy (I’m not being mean – he has a sign outside his house that says ‘Grumpy’s Den’ – so it’s an appropriate nickname) that if you went up the road to Chasseneuil from Agris, at death-by-roundabout (drive as fast as you can onto this roundabout for kicks and fun if you live in rural France, just to see if you can cause a fatal collision with an unsuspecting foreign motorist who is under the assumption that you give way to stuff) you could go to the Grotte des Perrats, which is a cave off the dried-up Bellonne river bed (not the Tardoire as it seems to suggest everywhere else) so we set out in pursuit.
Jake likes to think he is mini-Indiana-Jones, so he was up for it. He likes the idea of finding treasure (though it’s illegal to look for it in France, even on your own land, unless you have a permit!) and there’s none of this ‘it’s half yours’ malarky you get in England where farmers find stashes worth millions. You hand it over to the authorities and then they put it in a faraway museum and give you a copy to stick in the local town hall.
I kind of half-followed Grumpy’s directions – park at the riverbed, look for a turning to the left – but ended up parking quite some way away. We wandered around the forest for a bit, picking up bags of sweet chestnuts – getting prickled by brambles for our foraging.
This, I suspect, is the autumn the poets write about. Not that damp, misty, kind-of-colder-than-summer-and-a-little-bit-more-rainy weather of Manchester. Not that freezing-cold-but-blue-almost-winter-weather that we sometimes get, where I need to put on my down jacket. Lovely, warm, clear, bright weather perfect for long countryside walks.
It was still t-shirt walking weather. The leaves are kind of turning brown and dropping their seeds. Lots of acorns and chestnuts, sycamore leaves and cones everywhere.
There were mushrooms, too. Not lots, but a few. The problem is it’s hard to tell which are edible. I suspect the ones that are there are ones people have left, so I’m not bothering eating them. Then there were some that were bright yellow, and something tells me bright yellow mushrooms are not so good to eat.
We picked two kilogrammes of fat sweet chestnuts, which I have very little idea of what to make into. I think some marrons glacés, some chestnut purée and some roast chestnuts (which we had last night and were a bit floury and a bit ‘meh’ – although it does make you feel all Dickensian and Christmassy to eat them. I’ve put a kilogramme aside for the winter – roast chestnuts at Christmas and chestnut stuffing for the turkey, chicken or goose.
When we got to the grotte, Jake was mostly disappointed. I think he was very excited about the idea of going in an actual cave and then not being able to was annoying. It was all blocked off and there were ‘chantier’ signs everywhere – although we sneaked in, the cave looked like a real cave-diving expedition kind of a cave.
Still, we wandered back through ancient woodland, all perfectly preserved and easy to navigate, even stumbling across an apple tree, which we helped ourselves to an apple from.