Tuesday, 12 April 2011

A walk in the Roanne Valley

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Sunday was not a day for working on a computer.  It seemed to be the first day of summer.  The modest Roanne River is one of those exciting mountain torrents running in a magnificent gorge, much of it through pine forest, and always sparkling and crashing on its rocky bed.  The Roanne drains a thinly populated basin of tortured geology;  a paradise for flora and fauna, challenging for mankind.

Last time we were in this valley, ten years ago, we camped near Les Reynauds and woke up to the spectacle of a pair of Golden Eagles warming themselves at the top of the cliffs in the early morning sun.  No eagles this time.  We started further down the valley at St. Benoit-en-Diois.  The light was totally wrong for a shot of the strange little village church, an architectural curiosity for this region.  On the other side of the river we climbed through the vineyards towards the crest of the valley.

Old vines pruned, ready for the new season's wines.

The second week in April and at the top of the Serre Bauchard approaching 1000m overlooking St. Benoit and the Roanne it was a brilliant summer day about 27C.  

View from Serre Bauchard over St. Benoit and the bends of the Roanne towards the Trois Becs in the distance.

After a relatively modest winter, Spring arrived early.

Blackthorn, sloe, Prunus Spinosa, in clumps beside the path.

The footpath joined the road again at Rimon, a sun-baked hamlet at siesta time.

But, at over 1 000m in its relative isolation, it might be a hard place to pass the winter.

Ancient stable door in aged larch to the lower storey of a house in Rimon where the livestock traditionally lived in winter.

From Rimon, a beautifully constructed but decaying mule track leads back down the 6km to St. Benoit.  For us, a wonderful walk through the forest though perhaps before the days of roads and cars the 650m descent and the climb back up to Rimon might have been less alluring.  We arrived at St. Benoit with the sun full on the portico of its extraordinary little church.

The church at St. Benoit-en-Diois.  It is like nothing else in the region and is a classified monument.  Someone must know its history but we have been unable to find out much about it.  To us it strongly resembles Corsica's Pisan church architecture but we have no idea why this should be.  We'll keep trying to discover its history.

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