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See how your favourite French village has changed over the years

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
As we're restricted here in France as to how far and for how long we can go out for, the last two weeks have seen us exploring our back-yard like we've never done before.

In part, this is because we can disappear from the eyes of officialdom as we hike up into the forest, and what indeed are the chances of us being seen anyway, that said we're not going out for three to four hours which is what we might usually do if hiking in the Summer or ski touring in the Spring, plus we're staying away from the more obvious routes that we normally do such as up to the Col de Granon.

Our backyard that we refer to are the South Facing slopes, and over the centuries the lower altitudes where at all possible were turned into terraces, and amongst the terraces are the farmhouses where locals moved up to in the summer months from the valley along with their cattle and sheep.

Some of these farmhouses and now inhabited by people self-isolating whilst others have fallen into ruin, and some are awaiting the shepherds that will work with the huge flocks of sheep that come up to pasture in the Summer months.

What I've been intrigued about are the network of paths and tracks that are not on modern maps, and on these modern maps there are still the names of some of the farms.

I then remembered that in the past when I've been into the equivalent of the French OS mapping that you can view your area via a series of maps over the years, and this has shown up many of those paths and buildings as they once were 50 or so years ago, when people were having to work the land far more than they now do.

So this is our backyard (our place is the centre of image)



And our area on a modern map


And then on a map from the 1950's where you can see far more paths and buildings


The aerial maps are just as interesting and as the terraces and farming on the slopes ceased so the forest in some places took over, this is 1950 - 65


And more or less present day


This is the link to the Mapping Service, and obviously you can zoom in far more than the images above.

https://www.geoportail.gouv.fr/carte

and you can select the type of map from the menu in the top left, so you can look at what your favourite French ski resort was like in the 50's.

We're off out for a climb up one of those old paths to Chamean 400m above us as I saw a very old path heading that way yesterday and the map confirmed that there once was one.
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Fascinating. It's amazing how fast the forest can take over again - there's an old village, deserted, village in the Beaufort valley which has become a sort of "living museum", telling the tale of how hard it was to try to make a living from the land on the "wrong" side of the valley.

Next time I'm sitting with my computer and a cup of tea I'll have a look at that link above, and take a look at Les Saisies. Round that way there are very few sheep - almost all cows, and a few goats. And woods full of violets, and banks full of primroses down in the valley - wish I could take a stroll out there, though I can't complain about being on Chichester Harbour!
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
I love all of that sort of stuff-I've bought around 15-20 old postcards online of the Belleville Valley, both St Martin de Belleville and the wider valley. I've framed them in cheap and cheerful box frames bought from Sainsbury's-fascinating and the are now mostly not he walls in our wee ski pad. They cost a few euros each on average. Found a website https://www.delcampe.net/en_GB/collectables/postcards/ where all the postcard collectors sell their wares. With a bit of digging around it's amazing what you can find. I have a couple of our "house" when it was still just a cow shed in a row of 3 sheds and barns in the 1930s.
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Try using openstreetmap maps if you want a complete picture of the paths in your area. IGN (nickname It Goes kNowhere) are notorious for leaving stuff out for various reasons... usually landowners who don't want VTTistes pitching up on their paths.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
@davidof OSM miss out too on many of those paths from the 50's maps.

Since I posted that we tried to find a route to Chameant but undergrowth and the forest beat us but we ended up going to a different hamlet more here https://stylealtitude.com/day-17-18-lockdown-ski-blog-serre-chevalier.html

So still fixated with finding a route I've been into Strava routes using satellite mode and planned a route via the terraces and more open space in the forest, which is superb safe ski touring terrain in Winter when touring is possible on S Facing slopes, see below



And then download and transfer GPX to phone



So plan to do that tomorrow as a speed hike from home
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Weathercam wrote:
@davidof OSM miss out too on many of those paths from the 50's maps.



I guess because the path doesn't exist any more. The barns at Chameant are ruins now, I guess the descendants of the sheep farmers are now boot fitters and ski instructors.

That said, your path appears on the current cadastral plan if you are interested. It runs roughly along this line:-



Last edited by You'll need to Register first of course. on Mon 6-04-20 11:42; edited 1 time in total
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 Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
@Weathercam, Cool place to live, I also am a bit of a Alps map freak, great fun.
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
Well went up there yesterday speed hiking* and there was no path for most of the climb which averaged out at around 25% and what you can't see in the aerial photos of the clearings are the gauze shrubs that proliferated the old terraces making going quite tough especially wearing shorts!

I carried on after the ruins up to a bit of a ridge and it's great safe ski touring terrain.

Afterwards, I exported the gpx and the converted it to kml and imported to Google Earth.



To the left of the picture that's the Col-de-Buffère and the right of picture, the summit that's one of our favourite ski tours, Gardiole above the Col du Granon



*650m in around 45mins
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Weathercam wrote:




*650m in around 45mins


the 1950s map suggests passing to the right of the barns at le Bessey. Did you see these (they seem to be ruins now), you seem off to the left, so maybe you missed the old path?
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@davidof, we tried that path last week and it quickly disappeared, you can see the really old signs nailed to the tree, right of the picture, though hardly surprising as unlike other farms and hamlets up around there, these really are ruins (no way could you ever consider a refurb project up there), and at the ruins there were no obvious paths/trails leading to it, just overgrown terraces.



Other thing is the staggering carnage that the storm winds in January caused to the evergreens as they have such shallow roots, I'd estimate 20% were downed or just broken, like a WW1 battlefield up there.

Exhibit A at least I can go under this, it's the downed ones that create a major obstacle to get over on steep slopes!
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@Weathercam, ok that's very interesting. I guess it only needs a season of disuse for a path to get overgrown. It may be worth inquiring at the Marie when they reopen.
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