The heart of the Corbières
It is to the tune of this Occitan hymn that our voyage almost comes to a close... by going up into the heart of the Corbières. This highly rugged relief, surrounded by garrigues and pine woods, is an ideal playground for hikers and experienced mountain bikers... and this sea of vineyards that is always present, strewn with picturesque villages here and there... in the summertime, you’ll be under the impression that time stands still.
Take those marked trails that lead you Around the heart of the Corbières and discover all the treasures and secrets this scenery hides from view. Our region waits to be explored whether by hike or by bike. But the best way to traverse it has to be the ancestral way, by pack saddle donkey. In Fontjoncouse, at the Asinerie des Corbières, you can rent a donkey to cross the garrigue paths with your children.
If you are keen on geology and would like to know more about the odd syncline of Albas, we suggest you take the Sentier du Géologue (‘Geologist’s hike’) in search of the first inhabitants of the Corbières… the dinosaurs, who lived here close to 70 million years ago. The heart of the Corbières is Mediterranean: the scorching summer heat makes the cicadae and the crickets sing. This territory is in fact extremely fragile, something you should keep in mind while you are out and about in the countryside. These forests and garrigues are home to a great number of protected bird species (Natura 2000). You can find out more about them by taking the Cirque de Viviès (lien fiche randonnée site PTCM) hike in Saint-Laurent-de-la-Cabrerisse.
Last but not least, rendez-vous in Lézignan-Corbières. The overall impression we get from this territory is that of a tranquil plain which benefits from a constant flow of waves emanating from a sea of vineyards, braving a lonely hill abandoned to the garrigue or the pine wood here and there. This side of the Corbières rises to an average of 200-300m. Still, do not be fooled by the tranquil character of this landscape. It remains vigorous and is filled with limestone ridges (La Roquelongue, the thrust slice of Montbrun-Escales which is the final geological jolt of the Corbières) or massive hills and hillocks (Boutenac, Fontfroide massif, a choice spot where the Mediterranean forest has been able to develop in all its glory: there is an assembly of holm and pubescent oaks and pines... and on the very particular lands of the Boutenac terroir, the result of a reafforestation project comprising maritime, Scots and black pine. These can be explored by way of two hikes: La pinède and the Circuit des Combes par la chapelle (Trail through the coombs and by the chapel).
For this forest is not a primary one. It is the result of several reafforestation projects and is littered with undergrowth, garrigues and maquis, proof that nature always reclaims its rights after human degradation.
Walking around on the lands of the Corbières or just placing a map of part of the territory on a table means taking a trip back in time and exploring human activity and the relations between man and nature, and this will automatically trigger your imagination. And if you have some knowledge of the Occitan language, you’ll own an extra key to the understanding of the territory.
Let’s take a random look at a regional map: Pech de la Bade (Oc : Puèg de la Bada ; high hill) La Frau (la frau : the ravine) ; La Jasse (la jaça : the sheepfarm) : L’Estagnol (l’estanhòl : the small lagoon) : Laygalous (l’aigalós : the humid spot) ; Bentafarino (Venta farina : a spot exposed to the winds ; la Soulane (la solana : a hillside exposed to the sun) ; la Roumanissièro (la romanissièra : a spot planted with rosemary) ; Pradals (pradals : the meadows) ; la Bouissière (la boissièra : a spot planted with box trees) ; Malpas (mal pas : a difficult passage) ; la Turasse (la turrassa : a big clump of earth) ; la Gleizette (la gleiseta : the little church) ; Ginestiès (ginestièr : spot planted with broom) ; Pas d’Endiale (pas d’endiala : difficult sinuous passage) ; Garrabous (garrabós : a spot with wild rose bushes), etc.