By Hannah Bunce

On a beautiful, still and hazy August late morning, whilst the village hid from the building heat of the sun, five intrepid explorers excitedly packed rucksacks with swimming kits, a picnic and most importantly some water pistols!

We set off to find Saut de la Brame, a waterfall not 40 minutes drive from our rural base at Dompierre. Deciding to embrace our ‘digital detox’, we dug out the local map and planned our route. The journey was easy, scenic and smooth, heading west to Le Dorat, then northwest towards Thiat on the D4B. Once we got to Thiat, the roads narrowed to country lanes, winding and wending round farmland and ancient rural buildings. We passed a few signs for the area and then found the ample parking area, adjacent to a luscious picnic green, with views of a bulrush-encased pond. We enjoyed our picnic lunch on a bench, under the welcome arbour of a leafy tree. Full of delicious baguette, cheese and strawberries, we gathered our bags and headed off towards the farm buildings to the left, away from the road.

It seemed a fairly popular destination, with a handful of other families and couples walking down and back along the lane.

We walked through the farmland yard and took the path, handily signposted to the Saut de la Brame (left). The path was grassy and led us alongside fields full of Limousin cows and crops and then through a wooded area, ever heading downwards, towards the water. The terrain became more challenging, with nature and entropy exposing roots and stones. We five; two adults, a six, eight and 13 year old were able to traverse the path, holding onto a handy chain where needed. The path was unsuitable for pushchairs and wheelchairs.

Under the canopy of the trees that lined the river Brame, we felt cool and refreshed, escaping the heat of the midday sun. We read the sign detailing that the trees were ancient and protected there. Listening to the sound of the river, flowing ever downwards, we too, followed its lead. Dappled by sunlight, we could not tell if the water, with orangey-red depths, was coloured by minerals or by the sun. We walked a short way along and climbed onto a large rock, to get a closer look at the river and waterfall. It was a beautiful, modest waterfall, tumbling into a larger pool beneath. Sat in the sun, gazing down the river, listening to the sounds of the water and birds above, we relaxed with our surroundings.

Alas, this was not for long, as we were eager to feel the cool waters!

We walked further along, to find a suitable place to enter the water. We scouted out a stepping stone pathway and carefully and oh-so mindfully (for fear of falling in!) balanced our way across. Hiding our picnic in the shade, we changed into our swimming things and armed with water pistols, we began up the river, some of us walking over rocks, others straight into the shallows of the water. Suddenly, the magical blue-turquoise shimmer of translucent wings, and, a dragonfly! Darting amongst us, it landed upon the hand of one of us! Standing so very still, the dragonfly, but centimetres eye to eye with human, steadily and hypnotically, beat its gossamer wings. Minutes passed and just as suddenly, the dragonfly ascended, into the tree above. More dragonflies flew around and in and out of the tree, never landing again on us, but always just in view.

Further on we walked upriver. The next encounter was the slow and crawling motion of not one but two crayfish! Orangey-pink, well-camouflaged in amongst the orangey waters, it continued plodding purposefully down the river.

We played for an hour or more, refilling water pistols, cooling each other down with welcomed (and sometimes not so welcomed!) streams of river water.

We walked further up and saw another family swimming in what appeared to be slightly deeper waters. Pausing on large rocks to bask in the sunshine awhile, we swam up to the waterfall. The river was shallow enough for an adult to stand, yet deep enough to swim. The water was surprisingly cool, and a very enjoyable temperature. After a while swimming, we decided to head back as a few hours had passed and it was much later than we had thought!

We walked back to our belongings, got dressed under shelter of the trees once more and headed back up the path, back over roots and stones, past fields and cows until we were at the farm. Once we walked through the farm, we took a pause by a lily pad pond. We saw a frog. And another. And a few more. Until, we realised, the pond was full of many green, ever-blinking frogs. Frogs in twos, and frogs in mini-baths upon lily pads… Frogs ribbeting and frogs croaking!

Tired, contented and full of the thoughts of all the wonderful wildlife we had just seen up close, we headed back to the car, taking back lanes, drinking in the dipping sunlight; casting its warm glow across hay bales dotted along fields, spotting soaring, swooping birds of prey and back home, to our rural retreat.

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