We travelled to France in mid-December. We have a small village house in the foothills of the Pyrenees in a mediaeval village called Chalabre and intended to be back by mid-January. When they announced lockdown in the UK, we decided to stay as three of us working from our flat in London would have tested any family unit.
We call it ‘the hidden France’ as the spectacular natural resources in this area remain relatively unknown. Every day here is a mini adventure if you enjoy nature. The Pyrenees are the wildflower meadows of Europe and with wildness comes a proliferation of bugs and insect life. Three rivers meet in our village – the Blau, the Chalabriel and the River L’Hers and the village is surrounded by ruins of Cathar castles – the remnants from the Albigensian Crusades in the thirteenth century and long challenging walks to the pogs they were originally built on. It has an ancient and rich feel to the area.
Without the clutter and clatter of London and space to think, the working day flew by. My spacious slightly bohemian office has a view of the Pyrenees and a shrine-like area to Lola as well as a yoga mat permanently on the floor to try and combat the 8 hours at a desk bum and back. I’d never spent such a length of time in France and I was curious to see what the mundane would look and feel like. I loved the slow rhythm of morning yoga space to work, a walk at lunch, no clutter and a village full of friendly faces. My regular runs took the same route as many of our lunchtime walks behind the house around the Lac de Chalabre and over the little river Chalabreil. I learnt the name of every wildflower and Plum paddled in the streams and pools.
I could spend hours looking at all the buildings. Chalabre, once a prosperous town, had fared badly since the war although was now having life breathed back into it from the various renovations taking place and innovative new businesses thriving in the area such as Yobaba Lounge, Maison Ila, Alli Suddaby PT, Brasserie Quercorb, Lesparrou Retreats and Adventures and Bespoked.
I also found I had the courage and energy to drive my business in a direction that I felt more reflected our values, passion and expertise. We are just about to embark on a re-brand of Zambuni to reflect where we are and what we are doing now to include a focus on sustainability and the environment, embracing the outdoors lifestyle – fly fishing, wild swimming, wild food, creating standalone events and festivals and collaborating with businesses and initiatives who care and strive for positive change on the individual and the world.
Every weekend is a mini-adventure. France has wonderful walking trails and we explored new routes from the map each Saturday and Sunday. Plum, our miniature wire-haired dachshund fully approved.
My favourite place to walk is around Roquefixade. Half an hour away, in the Ariege department, the ruin of Chateau de Roquefixade is built on a cliff overlooking the village. Records of the castle go back to 1180 and it was a place of refuge for the cathars in the time of the Albigensian Crusade. There is a myriad of ancient paths around the castle varying in length from 2km to 15km across rocky outcrops and through rich forests and we have walked all of them. The views are spectacular and on a clear day you can see Chateau de Montsegur and the mighty snow-covered peaks of the Pyrenees.
We have returned to the UK to blossom blooming and sunnier days. When the sun is shining, everything feels alive and possible and Spring is a special month as nature explodes with beauty and life. There is a sense of unlocking now and increased freedom. As soon as quarantine is over I’ll be pacing the streets and parks with my new found love of running, thanks to Alli Suddaby inspiring me in the Pyrenees, we’ve booked a local open water induction course and are about to become the proud owners of an American Trader’s Mohawk canoe The diary is filling with fishing days, stays with friends and wonderful work events to plan and look forward to such as the Beginners Saltwater Weekend, The Fish in the Reads Festival on the banks of the River Test and the Orvis Saltwater Fly Fishing Festival 2021. A veritable feast of mini-adventures – Bring it on.