I love walking and during the recent lockdowns, it kept me sane, healthy and fit. I take great pleasure from walking almost anywhere. I live in the beautiful Surrey Hills where we are spoilt for scenic walks. We’re not far from London and I enjoy discovering the capital on foot, particularly beside the Thames and along the South Bank. I’ve written often of my love for water and what can be better than walking beside a river, canal or the sea?

Now that we are back in SW France, accompanied by our furry friend, we have changed the style of our walking. Zeph is a typical Border Collie – energetic, obsessive and anxious. He is not a fan of traffic and although we have been working hard to help him overcome his fears, we want to cause him as little stress as possible and aim to take him on peaceful excursions if we can. Even the Canal du Midi towpath that runs past our garden has become a challenge as the diseased plane trees are being cut down. This involves loud noises from chain saws, dumper lorries and other heavy machinery. The infected wood has to be burnt. This is all far too stressful for a young and nervous collie with an excellent memory for anything even vaguely scary. We will just have to hope that his ability to remember won’t last until our next visit!

Luckily there are plenty of other places we can explore. Last weekend we decided to walk around the Saint-Ferréol lake, often signposted as the Bassin de St-Ferréol. It is a man-made reservoir that is an integral part of the Canal du Midi system. It was created in 1672 with the completion of a huge 780m long dam. You can see a small section of the dam in the photo below. It was a beautiful autumn day with blue skies and warm sunshine, ideal for walking.

It is here that the run off from the Montagne Noire was collected to feed the Canal du Midi. La Montagne Noir (the Black Mountain) is so called because of the trees which give it its colour: beech, fir, spruce and chestnut. It stretches for 50 km from North to South and for almost 70 km from East to West.

In the summer the lake is very busy as people can swim, hire pedaloes and enjoy various other water sports. In autumn, there are mainly people walking and we met lots of other dogs. Zeph did go in the water but none of the photos we took are very successful as he didn’t want to keep still!

It took us more than an hour to walk round the lake but we were throwing sticks, talking to fellow dog walkers and giving Zeph time to play with other furry friends!

The building, in the photo below, we walked past on the way back to our car. It is being renovated. I was particularly taken with the shape of the window and the traditional sign.

The final photo below is one I took looking down from the road near to where we parked. You can see more of the pine forests and the beaches. I think the lake looks particularly stunning from this viewpoint.

As always, I’m amazed by the feat of engineering that was necessary to construct the Canal du Midi and its reservoirs.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable walk on a beautiful day and I’m sure its one we’ll do again.