I have a few months to watch Spring unfold in the high mountains, the wooded hills and high pastures of the Ariège around Ax-les-Thermes in the heart of the Pyrenees. The land is wild and the few roads follow the narrow, river valleys. The Château de Lordat is perched on a small hill and is one of the mediaeval Cathar castles and tells of the long history of the Ariège. The beautiful but hardy Gascon cattle and small Mérens horses speak of a rich agricultural tradition; the equally tough Ariègeoises farm the pastures, hunt the forests with hounds and fish the rivers.
The early spring flowers are appearing; buzzards mew, woodpeckers drum and thrushes sing from the endless forests of oak and beech, cirl buntings call around the small villages. The first lacewing sits on a rock in one of the many fast flowing streams; this is the habitat of the rare Pyrenean desman; the French name, le rat trompette, describes it perfectly. This ancient mammal is part of the rich biodiversity of this immense landscape; exploring what is just a small section of this great mountain chain is a wonderful prospect.