Mountain Madness



Following her return from the sunshine of Provence, Lady Fortescue survived the severe winter of 1940 in her Sussex cottage only to fall ill with pneumonia the following spring, spending the ensuing heat wave confined to her bed. During the long days of her convalescence she re-lived her happy adventures in France. Recalling the holidays taken with her dearest friend 'Mademoiselle' in the great mountains of Southern France, her mind drifts to their Bergerie perched upon a plateau of the Hautes Alps. Described with her typical charm and joie de vivre, she shares the delights of the Meije, tinted by the sinking sun, the roar of mountain torrents and the fragrance of Alpine flowers through the cool, crystal air.

First published in 1943, 'MOUNTAIN MADNESS'  describes the summers just before the outbreak of WWII. June heralded the arrival of the first fire-flies and the intense heat of the 'Midi' which caused English and American citizens to wilt. Initially camping on a high mountain plateau by a lake, (which the locals and those with powerful binoculars found entertaining), they ventured into the mountains, with a variety of servants, relatives and helpers, or sometimes just alone for up to 2 months to escape.

Map of the Meije area, click to enlarge

Click on the map or use the link 
at the bottom of the page to see area map


The Meije Glacier

The Meije, similar to the photo on the cover of 'Mountain Madness' and that on p.37. The first wooden chalet they stayed in is just visible as a light patch in the trees! Photographed from La Grave


Lac du Pontet

Lac du Pontet

Wild flowers in the mountains

Similar to the photo on p.64, the masses of wild
flowers clearly visible but not giant saxifrage

Antonio's bergerie

Similar to the photo on p.65. Probably Antonio's bergerie
and not the one used by Winifred and Elisabeth Starr

The two bergeries

A similar view with Antonio's bergerie, centre and Winifred's just visible through the trees to the left. The skyline is similar to p.116. The peak in the distance is  'Les Agneaux'

The two bergeries

Another view with Winifred's bergerie in the background

Winifred's bergerie

The rear of Winifred's bergerie and down the valley to La Grave. See photos on p.98, 99, 168

Winifred's bergerie

The bergerie as it is today, they skyline is the same as that on p.169 and chimney and window etc are in all the right places

(The photographs, captions and maps on this page have all been provided by Tony & Margaret Smith from Warwickshire. I am extremely grateful for their permission to reproduce them here.)

Mountain Map

Back Home Up Next

Photographs - Tony & Margaret Smith