The area surrounding Peyriac-de-Mer is a hill walker’s paradise. Our aire in the grounds of Stade Municipal d’Alès de Boscaud, the village rugby and tennis club, is a stone’s throw away from the start of the nearest trail.
Abbie and I explore a new route most days. A rough track covered by loose rocks ascends steeply from the nearby lagoon through marquis scrub and under wind-bent pine. On a calm day, I can hear the distant murmur of heavy traffic on the coast’s arterial A9. Calm days are rare. This is an area renowned for its wind.
As we thread our way ever upwards, the air is filled with the scent of the rosemary shrubs we brush as we pass. We rarely see a single soul on our evening walks. In an area as beautiful as this in England, regardless of the time of day or year, the hills would be alive with booted ramblers enjoying nature’s closeness. In the sparsely populated Languedoc-Roussillon area of southern France, hill walkers don’t have to share the rugged landscape.
Fewer people mean more wildlife, including the much-maligned sanglier, France’s wild boar. Hides used by gun-toting hunters are common on the high peaks. The wild boar is a timid creature. An occasional gun-shot pig has been known to gore an intrepid hunter, but who can blame him?
Sightings are rare, but they’re there, hiding in the shadows. There are an estimated 1,000,000 sanglier in France, mostly grouped in the centre and south of the country. Neither Cynthia nor I have seen one yet. One night our sleep was disturbed by periods of spine-tingling squealing coming from a nearby copse. The sound unnerved Florence so much that she ate a floor mat.
Peyriac’s hills appear to have a healthy population. I shared a trail briefly last night with a series of large cloven hoof prints pressed deep into the wet mud. Abbie’s sensitive nose worked overtime, snuffling a strong scent in the undergrowth. I searched for a pair of piggy eyes watching me from the shelter of a thick stand of rosemary. I saw nothing.
The rocky hills above Peyriac-de-Mer offer unlimited tranquil walks, providing you avoid sanglier hell-bent on teaching pig eating hunters a long overdue lesson.