The Villaret Trail

Hiking distance : 5.5 km ; Hiking time : 2

Doorway in Massufret (1769)
The Luech river starts at the foot of the “Signal du Ventalon” (a 1300 m summit in the Bougès range) and runs through a steeply banked upper valley past Vialas and on to Chamborigaud to eventually join the river Cèze. The upper reaches of the river are fairly wild and remote, formerly a land of subsistence agriculture and small scale mining. On this hot morning in August, we decide to walk the 5 or 6 kilometers starting from the Col de la Baraquette (alt 1000m) on the D35 ridge road (La Tavernole to Pont de Montvert). We started the drive in the industrial town of Alès. The road from Alès to the Tavernole intersection is in good shape and fairly interesting passing through old mining villages and near the Portes chateau. The D35, starting at la Tavernole, is an experience however. Too narrow for 2 good sized vehicles to cross, too winding to allow any speed and lots of “vistas” (otherwise known as steep cliffs much too close to the road’s edge).
Continue reading “The Villaret Trail”

Easy walking around Villeneuve-les-Avignon

Hiking distance : km ; Hiking time :

Le prieuré de Villeneuve-lez-Avignon
Villeneuve-les-Avignon is located on the right bank of the Rhone river, right across from Avignon. In 1292, thanks to the politics and land swaps of the time, the position became a post on the frontier of the royal domains of France. To the east, on the left bank of the Rhone, barons and kings pledged allegiance to the Holy Roman Empire, not to France. So in 1292, Philippe-le-Bel, king of France, agreed to the construction of defensive fortifications including the Philippe-le-Bel tower (what else?) and the Saint-André fortress. Not long after, Avignon became the home of the Catholic pope giving the French king even more reason to watch his neigbours. These defensive constructions, preserved to the present day, are landmarks of the modern city and visible from multiple angles along this route.
Continue reading “Easy walking around Villeneuve-les-Avignon”

Ardèche volcanoes

Hiking distance : 15 km ; Hiking time : 5:00
Mount Gerbier de Jonc, well known site near Rieutord

The high plateau in the Ardèche department, north of the upper Ardèche valley is full of examples of ancient volcanic activity. In this case, ancient is relative. These volcanoes are believed to have ceased activity relatively recently on the geological timescale – near the end of the last ice age about 10 to 12,000 years ago. Accordingly, natural erosion has had less time to erase the visible signs of volcanic activity. Interesting geological phenomena are visible in many locations and recognising the substantial interest of this area, UNESCO recently accorded the label of Geopark (see this link in french) to the regional park.

Continue reading “Ardèche volcanoes”

Exploring Aigaliers and surroundings

Hiking distance : 11.6, 9.5, 8.7, 8.2 km ; Hiking time : 3h30, 3h, 3h, 3h

tour d'horloge d'Aigaliers
tour d’horloge d’Aigaliers
Here are 4 trails that explore the landscapes around the village of Aigaliers (located in the Uzège region of the Gard department).

As a guide to the points of interest, there are various pin markers on the accompanying maps. Here is a short outline.

Glass works : In the 17th, 18th and 19th century, the right to manufacture everyday glassware objects was reserved for the local signorial family. In Aigaliers this was probably the D’Aigaliers family. Sand and evergreen oak, which on conversion to charcoal burns very hot, were locally available, so rudimentary glassworks were commonly set up in evergreen oak forests. In Aigaliers, the glass works is located south of Le Chabian. The ruins are not hard to find, and several parts are still standing. The author is not sure when glassmaking ceased, but the Aigaliers glass was somewhat known around the region. There are references to Aigaliers glass in historical sites as far away as Claret in the Herault department.
Continue reading “Exploring Aigaliers and surroundings”