Nothing beats a walk in an autumnal forest. Every year, I try to make time for a hike in the woods with the family, to enjoy the wonders of the colour-changing leaves. It can be hard to find broad-leaved trees though, as evergreens and scrubland are the most widespread vegetation in the South of France. Then I discovered this hike of the Boucle de Montbringues at Brenas in the Haut-Languedoc. And now we have a way to revel in autumn in its full glory.
After a long school and work week, our little family needed some fresh air. So, after a bit of research, we drove off to Brenas in the Hérault department. Our goal was to look for chestnuts by walking the trail called the Boucle de Montbringues. After parking our car at the Place de l’Église, we followed the blue signs for the 5.5 kilometre hike. It was only when coming back to the little village that we realised that we had walked the hike the wrong way round! Which explains why we sometimes had trouble finding the signs… So, if you want to walk the circular hike in the proper direction, you should take the first little road to the right after the Mairie, which is the Ancien Chemin de Vernazobres.
November also means hunting season in France. And I have never seen so many hunters at the same time! The ancient, but mostly neglected, chestnut trees around Brenas are apparently the perfect food source for all kinds of wildlife. Including wild boars. Slightly worried, we started our hike. Only after asking some of the hunters if it was safe to go for a walk, did we continue on our way. We were also reassured because it was noon and most of the hunters had stopped for a two-hour lunch. This was the exact duration of our hike. And I was glad we did continue, as only a little time after we left Brenas, we found ourselves in the middle of chestnut trees surrounded by golden yellow leaves.
Although the Cévennes, which are a bit further north, have been the true chestnut country since the year 1000, the area around Brenas didn’t disappoint. The cultivation of chestnuts developed in the 16th century and covered the flanks of the Haut-Languedoc between 300 and 800 meters. One of the hunters mentioned that the chestnut trees belong to a private owner, though. Therefore, we weren’t allowed to bring any chestnuts home. It didn’t matter, as the most beautiful fall foliage surrounded us.
Lac du Salagou
Via a little climb, that gave us the first views of the gorgeous Haut-Languedoc landscape, the road slowly descended to the tiny hamlet of Dio-et-Valquières. From here, the path took a sharp turn upwards and we had to climb a little again. Once arriving at the top, we walked over a lush, green meadow, which gave us a breathtaking panorama over the region. We even spotted the Lac du Salagou in the distance! Keep in mind that if you walk the trail in the right direction, you will start with a climb and have this view at the beginning of your hike. Coming back to Brenas, I could clearly see that the gulp of fresh air had cleared all of our minds and boosted our energy.