Sunday, November 7, 2010

Soulcem Valley

The Soulcem Valley, in the Ariege, is an impressive 'U' shaped valley carved by a glacier during the last ice age 10,000 years ago. The flat, fertile valley floor has been the high, summer pasture for sheep, cattle and Merens horses for centuries.

 The yearly movement of animals to the higher, richer pasture in summer, is called 'la transhumance' in French. The term derives from the Latin trans 'across' and humus 'ground'. Although less important now than in the past with the decline of agriculture, there are farmers who still move their animals to the higher Soulcem Valley each June, the animals staying until October .

The large number (15 or so) of dry stone shelters with a turf roof, or orris, is evidence of the importance of the valley as summer pasture in the past.

It is in these very simple shelters that the shepherds would have stayed, amongst the animals, to watch over them. The Orris de Carla, just above the lake created by the Soulcem dam, were used as recently as 1968. Two modern shelters have been built for the use of the shepherds now.

My last visit to the valley was at the height of summer and it was crowded with people. This time there was no one and I had the whole valley to myself. I made my way up the valley on one side of the river, ascended to the Médécourbe Lake and then returned the other side of the river.

High above the lake is the Pic Médécourbe which is unusual in that it is where the borders of  France, Spain and Andorra meet. On the summit it would be possible to hop in and out of the three countries. Today the summit  was out of the question with the snow cover. An idea for next summer!     

No comments:

Post a Comment