Saturday, 27 November 2010

Voie verte explorations

I've mentioned the voie verte that runs from Lavelanet to Mirepoix a few times already. I find the local history of areas such as this fascinating and it was interesting to discover that the railway line was put in in the late 19th century to transport passengers, raw materials (mainly wood) and manufactured goods (textiles and horn combs) from the foothills of the Pyrenees to the major road network further North.

The wood production continues in earnest, but the cloth/textile industry that used to employ thousands of workers in over two hundred factories in this area has declined massively with now just a handful of textile manufacturers remaining. Since the 1940s, the development of the national road network and de-industrialisation resulted in a decline in the use of the railway until December 16th 1973, when a train whistle was heard for the last time on the line. The track lay dormant until 2006 when it was converted into the 38km long pathway or voie verte used by walkers, cyclists and horse riders today.Yesterday, we decided to explore the track on the mountain bikes and set off from Sainte-Colombe sur l'Hers in the Mirepoix direction, not really sure how far we would get. But the track was good, generally hardpack but with some muddy and grassed-over sections plus a couple of tunnels, one of which was a couple of hundred metres long but very poorly lit. We passed the pretty 'bastide' village of Camon....After 20kms we were considering doubling back, but I spotted a church spire in the middle distance which indicated a village/town at which I hoped we could grab a coffee and a bite to eat. It was Mirepoix! We had covered 26kms in 1 1/2 hours which was not bad going. After a quick sandwich, we turned tail and headed back along the track. The ruin of the Chateau de Lagarde was silhouetted against the cold, wintry sky with the snowy mountains in the distanceEverything was feeling good and much to my amazement, we made it back to the car in 3 hrs, despite the everso slight incline on the return leg. I was tired - my body knew it had been riding solidly for 3 hours - but it was a good tiredness. Full stats for the ride are on the usual site. The voie verte has now been ear-marked as a winter bike training route for when the roads are too wet/icy for road biking. It will also make an excellent running route when conditions 'offroad' are too muddy/snowy. There is no excuse for any loss of fitness this winter!

Today, we made a quick trip back to Pissou to collect another carload of wood which should see us through to just before Christmas.

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