2nd and 4th June 2023
The road to Spain and Andorra from Ax-les-Thermes is a busy, twisting road up a magnificent, mountain valley. Before the turn to Andorra, the main road to Barcelona cuts through a long tunnel which opens into a wide and open valley totally different in character to the steep valleys of the Ariege. This is the eastern end of the Pyrénées-Orientales. The first village out of the tunnel is Porta; here there are some ancient meadows and pastures bordered with stone walls, with a rich flora of damp calcareous grassland.
In early June, we travelled south from Porta to the ancient village of Llo near Saillagouse. There are scrubby hills and an old castle with fine views of the valley to the north; we find a single, very beautiful pasque flower and a large of Duke of Burgundy butterflies. On the road back to Saillagouse, the sloping fields bordering the El Segre river are full of bursting springs that flow down to create calcareous flushes with abundant bistort and meadow cranesbill. Here we made two good finds; a colony of bog fritillary Proclossiana eunomia on the bistort and geranium argus Eumedonia eumedon on the cranesbill. With the abundance of bistort in these fields, we hoped to find violet copper Lycaena helle but to no avail.