Banne, a village in the southern part of the Ardèche department is known principally for the Fort, sitting on a rocky platform overlooking the plains of Jales, and for the history of coal mining. This walk starts in Banne but visits 2 other curiosities that are less well known.
The plateau des Gras
The Gras (or Grads) plateau is an area of limestone tablelands at altitudes of around 250 m located between Les Vans and Aubenas. The terrain of these highlands consists alternately of:
rocky flatlands with very little topsoil and garrigue type vegetation or
blockfields strewn with boulders standing up to 3 m high in random and chaotic positions intermixed with scrub evergreen oak and box trees.
This loop starts from a parking spot on the D33a and passes by the Montpaon castrum, a ruined medieval church called St Peire d’Entremont and the St-Jean chapel.
What to see
The castrum has been the object of archeological digs and remains an active research site belonging to the Bouches du Rhone department. Various sources indicate the main period of occupation around the 11th-13th century, but it is safe to assume that the site would have been used as a lookout position from earliest times. The site overlooks the western end of the Alpilles hills and is in visual contact with the chateau at Les Baux de Provence. Continue reading “The Mont Paon Castrum”
Barre-des-Cévennes sits under a rocky outcrop (possibly the origin of the name) on the major drainage divide between the Mediteranean and the Atlantic. At the start of the walk, on leaving the village, the Atlantic waters are on the right where the Malzac stream is visible in the picturesque valley below. On the left, but less visible far below, are the headwaters of one of the Gardon river branches in the Vallée Française. This walk clings to the side of the Can Noire plateau before reaching the Col des Faisses and then runs parallel to the old royal highway now known as the “Corniche des Cévennes”. About one kilometre further on, views over the Tarnon valley to the imposing cliff faces of Causse Méjan start to appear. Continue reading “From Barre to Col du Rey”
Hiking distance : 9, 10, 15, 11 and 10 km ; Hiking time : 3 to 4 1/2 hours
Just north-west of Alès, these five different walking routes explore the ruins and visible remains of the “plans inclinés”, a nineteenth century mountain rail transport system built to move coal from the remote Broussous valley to a railhead in La Levade. The network was operated between 1859 and 1867, just 8 short years before being abandoned (and then swiftly dismantled) in favour of conventional rail transport. (read about the system here.) The area covered by these walks includes the Broussos valley, the mountain pass at Portes, the Pereyrols ridge above La Vernarède, the Pinèdes valley and the Luminières valley. Continue reading “Exploring the “plans inclinés””
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