This page shows us at the house and around, to give an idea of what we, at any rate, spend some of our time doing when we are at Le Vieux Mas. There's a picture for each year, going back to when we first bought the house in 1989.
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|Most afternoons in the
summer we visit one river beach or another. There are
many, throughout the area, and so often we'll combine a
walk or a a trip to a market, say, with a swim in the
later afternoon. Here's Alex not swimming in 2014.
landscape is wonderfully varied in the Cévennes, a
result of the complex geology and climate. The famed
ridges and deeply cut valleys of the true Cévennes are formed from schist.
But here is Jamie in 2013, scaling one of the weird limestone rock
formations at Nîmes-le-Vieux on the edge of the Causse Mejean. This
limestone plateau is great for walking and wonderful
for wild flowers in early summer. Of course you can
also do real rock climbing in the area, which now
also has several terrifying-looking via ferrata.
|There are some fantasic
secluded swimming spots in the Cévennes. This was taken in August
2012 at the Cascade de Tapoul, a spot which is
sufficiently remote,even if mentioned in Wild Swimming
France, that I could pretty much guarantee that if you
find it you'll be the only people there. Here, Jamie has
just dived in from beside the waterfall. The water is much
much deeper than it looks!
|We spend a fair amount of time in the Cévennes walking, so here's a picture of Jamie and Alex on a walk in 2011. The area has some fantastic walks, and an increasing network, as the "Petites Randonées" join up with the longer distance routes. This picture was taken at Easter, a great time for walking, alongside early summer and autumn. In fact some of our most memorable walks have been at Christmas, when the air is clear and from the tops you can see to the Alps and to the Mediterranean.|
|Most summers at Le Vieux Mas we do little except relax around the house and visit local river beaches. If we do feel more energetic, a favourite activity is kayaking. Anyone can try this provided they can swim - not that you'll need to but you'll certainly get wet. There are many excellent places nearby and further afield; best are the great gorges of the Tarn, Hérault, and Gardon. The model is that you paddle downstream for a few kilometers and then get collected to return to the start in a minivan. Here's Alex in the Gorges du Tarn in 2010.|
|There are also lots of things to do at the house itself; there are many books, discs and so on, as well as several board games. There's a full-size table football table upstairs and a good table tennis table, though even with orange balls the night-time version can be a bit tricky. Here's Jamie showing off his skills in 2009.|
|The Cévennes is wonderful in the autumn, as some of the "local area" photographs attest. But this picture from October 2008 provides a contrast. It was taken at the top of Mt Aigoual which at 1567 metres has some of the most extreme weather in France, as recorded by a rather grand meteorological station which includes a small museum.|
|This picture was also taken in October; but in 2007. The tree featured is in our garden, and Alex is purportedly picking apples. Mary turns into a kind of earth-mother at this time of year - there are figs, damsons, pears quinces and walnuts available in the garden as well as blackberries and the first chestnuts from the countryside.|
|And here are the boys with Alex's friend Frank, concentrating hard on melting marshmallows on the remnants of a barbecue in 2006. The lower terrace is great for leisurely evening meals, and we often barbecue there. We got a new and better barbecue in 2011 - the one you see here was very much on its last legs.|
|I'm not sure I could say why, but Jaffa Cakes seem to have an important place in the history of Cranston holidays. Of course we picnic a lot when we are there and a ready supply of Jaffa Cakes is important of the beach. Here, in 2005, Jamie and Alex appear to be in a slightly one-sided contemplation of the last one.|
usually go to the many and varied local beaches to swim,
there are relatively few summers when we don't make a trip
to the Mediterranean. A number of attractive towns such as
Aigues Mortes are about two hours drive, as are the main
beaches east of Montpellier, as well as the Camargue.
Here's a 2004 picture, in which Alex appears to have
suffered the usual seaside fate of younger brothers.
|No picture series of our holidays would be complete without a snap of a boy jumping into a river, since it is what they spend a great deal of their time doing. Though the rivers can virtually disappear in places in the summer, there are numerous larger and smaller pools where the river cuts through bare rock, forming well-known (and sometimes not so well-known) swimming (and jumping) spots. The picture shows Jamie at our most local beach in 2003.|
|Unsurprisingly, the adults don't do quite so much jumping around, and here's a typical picture of Mary on the upper terrace on an early September evening in 2002. The terrace is at its best at that time of day, and also in the very early morning when you can listen to the birds and watch the sun rise over Mt Ventoux in the distance.|
|There are numerous Neolithic remains in the Cévennes, including on our local mountain. Slightly further afield there are some groupings of menhirs with nice grassy walks around them. Here are the boys in 2001 seemingly more interested in a food fight than this pierre plantée near St Germain de Calberte.|
|Jamie and Alex pausing on a walk on the garrigue above the Gardon gorges in 2000. Spring is the best time to visit the garrigue, as it can be very hot later in the year, and the wildflowers, such as the pictured rock roses are at their best earlier in the year.|
|It's usually pretty sunny in the Cévennes and a hat can be desirable even out of season. When we're there in high summer we usually spend a part of each day by one of the lovely local rivers. There are many places with rocks and rock pools where there is good swimming for adults and children. Here are the boys in 1999 preparing for Ascot en Cévennes.|
|We spend many days walking in the Cévennes, especially out of high summer. May and June are great times, but then so too are September and October. Here, in 1998, Snoopy appears to be giving Mary and Jamie some much-needed map-reading assistance.|
|Well, who can doubt that mousse au chocolat is so much better than chocolate mousse? Here Alex, aged 14 months in 1997 is enjoying tea on the terrace. It's shaded from late afternoon which in the heat of the summer is more than welcome.|
|There is an excellent baker in Collet de Deze,10 minutes by car down the hill from the house. Unfortunately a bit far for an early morning stroll, but you can always send the children. Collet also has a small supermarket which sells a fair amount of local produce, a couple of bars and restaurants a post office, news agent and a sometimes-open tourist office, as well as most small local shops. (The picture actually shows Jamie in 1996 helping with a picnic on the limestone causse above Florac.)|
|As will be evident we spend a fair amount of time on one of the terraces. Here's Jamie enjoying his tea on a late summer early evening in 1995.|
|When we bought the house all the accommodation was on the ground floor, including an en-suite bathroom with a rather strange sit-up-and-beg bath (now replaced by a shower). Nowadays there is also plenty of space for adults and babies in the large upstairs bathroom, but here's a pretty new Jamie enjoying a bath in the sink (which is still there) in 1994.|
|The Cévennes is wonderful for wildlife, and we rarely go anywhere without taking a pair of binoculars - and this is Alan in 1993. There are many guides etc at the house, including notes compiled by ourselves and visitors over the years. Originally intended for bird-sightings, some very expert visitors have declared butterflies, moths, flowers and most other living things to be honorary birds, and recorded what they saw and heard.|
|We go to Le Vieux Mas often at Christmas and New Year. The weather is usually good: it can be very cold or very mild but is usually dry and sunny, and we have had some great walks at that time of year. Here's us on an early visit in 1992. The table is still the one in use, but most of the rest has been changed over the years; most obviously, the opening up of the space and the installation of a new kitchen.|
|Here's a yet earlier picture, with us entertaining Victor and Johanne Vivian, who helped us to buy the house, in 1991. When we bought the house, the main heating was from the fireplace you see behind us. However this was not original, had very poor air circulation and provided practically no heat. Winters were chilly indeed. There is now a large wood-burner in the sitting room, and electric heaters in all the bedrooms.|
|This must be 1990, I suppose, the year after we bought the house. You could take a very similar photograph today - of the house and upper terrace, that is.|
|No, this is not a trick shot of Le Vieux Mas. It's one of the perhaps only half dozen houses we looked at when buying Le Vieux Mas in 1989. This is one of the ones that got away. A lovely spot but a bit too remote and run-down. If we had bought it, we would not have been able to let it for several years, and we wouldn't have had much holiday in the meantime. We've done a lot of work to Le Vieux Mas over the years, of course, but from the outset we were able to live there and rent it to other adventurous spirits.|