A coal mining valley

Hiking distance : 10.6 km km ; Hiking time : 03:00
former mine workshops : Pourcharesses
former mine workshops : Pourcharesses

La Vernarède was a coal mining town in the second half of the 19th century and is now a sleepy village at the bottom of a deep valley below the Portes castle. In a companion article, I provide the background to a remarkable coal transport system called “les plans inclinés” that started in La Vernarède and transported coal over 2 mountain passes and an intervening valley to a railhead at La Levade. In this article, I describe a pleasant walk through the Vernarède valley in September where we spotted a number of interesting trees and plants and a few vestiges of the coal mining past. Continue reading “A coal mining valley”

Mas de l’Ancienne Église

Hiking distance : 16,6 km ; Hiking time : 04:30
Belvezet, ruined church
Belvezet, ruined church

This easy loop starts from the town hall in Aigaliers and goes through some surprising countryside between the towns of Aigaliers and Belvezet.

On leaving Aigaliers, you get a fine view of the hamlet of Foussargues which you will also traverse later on. Then follows a walk up a narrow “combe” until reaching a high point and a right turn to head down to the Mas de l’Ancienne Église in Belvezet. While the normal meaning of “mas” in this area is “old – large – farmhouse”, in this case, “mas” refers to the hamlet itself, no doubt begun as a group of buildings around the original farmhouse.

In this hamlet, there is indeed an old church which has been left to fall into ruins until recently (the pictures here date from 2008). By 2012, the structure was threatening to collapse. Then around 2015 the Belvezet town council obtained financial assistance and decided to renovate the old church for use as a town meeting room and cultural centre.
Continue reading “Mas de l’Ancienne Église”

Liaucous and the Tarn Gorge

Hiking distance : 15.7 km ; Hiking time : 05:00
Cliffs in the Tarn gorge / falaises des Gorges du Tarn
Cliffs in the Tarn gorge / falaises des Gorges du Tarn

This hike starts in Liaucous just downstream from the end of the famous Tarn gorge. Why here ? Because its a good spot to start a loop taking in the Sauveterre Causse and a part of the right bank of the Tarn gorge including a visit to two semi-troglodyte villages stuck high up on the gorge cliffs. There are a couple different ways to attack this circuit.

Counter-clockwise : Start from Liaucous, head east along the Tarn Valley slopes and loop north into the gorge itself. This direction brings you to the semi troglodyte villages before turning left and climbing to the Sauveterre Causse plateau. From there, itùs an easy walk back along the Causse until you get to the Liaucous cliffs overlooking the village. There are a couple paths down through these cliffs. The westernmost one that runs near the “via ferrata” is hard on the knees with a lot of steep drops. The second option, not easy to find from the Causse since it is not waymarked, stays further east before coming down an easier but longer trail through the cliffs.

Clockwise : Start from Liaucous and climb through the cliffs preferring the eastern most route. On reaching the Causse plateau, navigate more or less due north through the scrubby forest and grassland until reaching a wide gravel track. From there follow the way markings to and past Vors (take a short detour to get a view of the Millau Viaduct), past a fresh water spring, a (not very mysterious) grotto and on to the lip of the Tarn gorge. From there follow the way markings downhill from ~ alt 900 m to a trail at ~ alt 600 running along the gorge wall and leading to the 2 semi troglodyte villages. This last section of the trail was recently rerouted due to erosion on the older sections. Continue reading “Liaucous and the Tarn Gorge”

The upper Dourbie river

Hiking distance : 16.5 km ; Hiking time : 05:00

The Dourbie river starts on the Lingas, a mountain region just south of Mount Aigoual and flows generally east to join the Tarn in the town of Millau. Along the varied river course, the Dourbie flows through green mountain valleys and deep limestone canyons. This hike sticks to the mountain valley and starts in St-Jean-du-Bruel, runs up the right bank of the Dourbie, crossing near Tayrac and returning to St-Jean on the left bank. In the springtime, this is a very picturesque circuit in an even more picturesque region. This time we don’t visit the canyons which are further downstream. Continue reading “The upper Dourbie river”