A couple of weeks ago I decided to explore an area of Albères woodland off the main piste, in the hopes of seeing one of the wrynecks that were calling all around but staying frustratingly out of view.
It can also be frustrating trying to find a route through the trees unless you're following a yellow waymarked path. Many tracks, made by boar or cows, lead you in circles or tempt you up this rise and round that corner only to abruptly disappear through an impenetrable mass of gorse.
On this particular day, however, I was fairly optimistic when I went through a makeshift gate in a fence and began a gentle climb up a grassy track that was clearly once designed for use by a vehicle. At a guess, the only people who usually came here were hunters, cowherds and cork harvesters. I was intrigued to see where it might lead.
I was interested to discover that most dead cork oaks had at least one hole, drilled out by a woodpecker.
Not far from the boar wallow again, I stopped and stood quietly. If I couldn't get to a wryneck, perhaps one would come to me? After about fifteen minutes my patience was rewarded when one flew into a big old cork oak not far away and stood still, in full view, for all of five seconds. A record, I reckon, for these woodpeckers.
This might not have been much of a walk in terms of distance, but it wasn't without highlights, and proved that it's worth striking off the beaten track from time to time.