An autumn day searching for the cows

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Bocca d'Antraca, above Tolla, Corse-du-sud

Corsica is not just about getting a suntan on the beach: in the winter the mountains can be harsh and bare.

In early May, the cattle are steered towards the paths leading up to the mountain pastures and little by little, as they find plentiful grass and water, they will spread out on the mountainside where they will spend the summer months. During the autumn, if you're lucky, they will come down of their own accord, spurred on downhill by the lowering temperatures. However, some years, the owner will have to spend many long hours scrambling around the mountain slopes in search of his cattle before he can lead them back down to the milder conditions of the winter pastures.

A shepherd's bothy has been created underneath this enormous block of granite and just by the "front door" there is what, at first sight, I took to be a comfortable armchair but which is more likely to be a little fireplace for cooking.

We found about half the herd, 15 cows with some calves, and the owner will come back another time (armed with some tasty feed pellets) to try to steer them downhill towards the village.

The left-hand view, looking down from the Bocca d'Antraca towards the artificial lake at Tolla and in the far distance the sea, shows the bleak landscape of the mountains in the winter. After our long walk it felt good to warm ourselves at this fire and to tuck into some Corsican charcuterie.