Walking Cèze Valley's organic hill-sides
When walking southern France's Cèze Valley, you follow the river towards its source and get acquainted with some beautiful countryside on the eastern flank of the Cevennes and Mont Lozere. Late sixties hippies have built alternative lifestyles here, and wooden solar-powered eco-homes inhabit the same valley where many houses are still bereft of running water.
Walking the Ceze Valley offers the chance to immerse yourself in a charming rural world of isolated homesteads and ‘alternative’ farming. Don’t bring your laptop, this is a ‘Broadband-free zone’ and hillwalking paradise. There is, however,at least emergency mobile network coverage. A real chance to get away from it all, hiking south of France style.
As if untouched by time, Walking the Ceze Valley comes with the option to visit the only surviving chestnut-drying house still functioning in France; an organic farm and an organic wine grower of ‘illegal’ Clinton grapes, whose wine still cannot be sold commercially; a water mill being meticulously restored, and search some of France’s purest river waters for crey fish. The imposing Cheylard castle is never far away, keeping a watchful eye from its hilltop vantage point.
Some sixties hippies settled in the area and established alternative lifestyles amidst a movement to re-populate rural villages. You may see their products on sale when walking southern France's innumerable street markets.
2. Model tour: Walking the Cèze Valley
Day 1. Alès.
Arrival in this charming market town in the Cevennes foothills. Check in and pre-tour briefing. Night in Alès.
Day 2. Tour de Castillon. 9 miles-14 kms.
Morning transfer to Besseges. You enjoy an opening hike that takes you into the world of re-populated hamlets, meticulously preserved, with their alternative lifestyles. Night in Besseges.
Day 3. Le Ronc. 7 miles-11kms
A microcosm of Cevennes life is to be found – dolmen, capitelle, grotto, a secluded twelfth century chapel with Roman vestiges (complete with visiting book and annual pilgrimage), along with remains from the regions industrial revolution and mining past - not to mention some outstanding views over the surrounding countryside and the Ceze Valley. Second night in Besseges.
Day 4. La Cham Bonnevaux.10.5 miles-16 kms.
Morning transfer to Aujac. You are higher up today walking some ancient drovers ’ trails and enjoying some fabulous views. You will start by climbing a steep marble-coated path, level off to enjoy the view before plunging into a pine forest, descending into a forgotten hamlet and then, rather unexpectedly, extending yourself once again – but its well worth it - in order to reach the village of Bonneavaux. Is this the smallest town hall in France? Night in Aujac.
Day 5. Aujaguet. 9.5 miles-14 kms.
A memorable walk that takes you across a dam, various bridges, past a water mill, into the water itself (optional swim), through two very different villages, to an organic farm, a recently- restored church and all under the watchful gaze of a most imposing castle; and not necessarily in this order. Second night in Aujac.
Day 6. Bordezac. 8 miles-12 kms.
This route follows the watershed as you descend 700 metres to Bordezac and back to Besseges along the Cevenol and Upper Ceze Valley Grande Routes de Pays. Night in Besseges.
Day 7. End of your walking in France.
Transfer to Ales, au revoir and à bientôt.
You stay in three different places en route. These are your overnight stops: 1. Besseges - three nights; 2. Aujac - two nights; 3. Ales - one night.
Your accommodation is: I. a '3-star standard' character hotel. II. a comfortable & modern 2-star hotel.and III. one of the following:
5. Prices 2012
For a 4-night walking tour in France of the same theme, see Walking France's Forgotten Valley
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