Saturday, August 25, 2012

Out on the slopes opposite Gamone

For the last few days, I had been intrigued by a golden-hued patch of vegetation located on the slopes opposite Gamone, not far from the vestiges of a winegrower's stone cabin (circled in green).

[Click to see enlarged versions of these photos]

I got dressed up for some outdoor scrambling over the slopes (overalls and solid boots), grabbed my stout chestnut stick and set off up the road with Fitzroy (who soon wandered off on his own into the woods). I discovered rapidly that the golden color was due to dead ferns, parched by the heat.


Here's a view of my house, looking down into Gamone Valley from the spot where the golden ferns are located.


I wandered up to the ruins of the winegrower's cabin.


In its original state, the southern façade of the cabin extended to the spot in the next photo, on the right-hand edge, where you see a cluster of white flowers.


In the background of the above photo, beneath the invading vegetation, you get a glimpse of the rear wall of the cabin, erected against the embankment. Here's a closeup view of that wall, from inside the cabin:


 An edifice of this kind, composed of blocks of limestone, dates surely from the time of the monks.


The French nation seized ecclesiastic properties after the Revolution. Vineyards in the vicinity of Gamone were sold by auction during the period from 1791 to 1793.


As you can see from the starting prices (957 pounds for the property that used to belong to the church at Presles, then 2992 pounds for the pair of properties belonging to a chapel in the church of Pont-en-Royans), the authorities were not giving away these highly-reputed vineyards for next to nothing. They would have been acquired by relatively well-off local citizens. New owners of the Choranche vineyards would have no doubt lived in prosperity for over half a century, up until the scourge of phylloxera destroyed the vineyards entirely. After that, the cabins would have been knocked down, slowly but surely, by wind and snow. Maybe this marked fragment of a broken roof tile might enable me to date the construction of this particular cabin:


A few meters below the ruins of the cabin, I came upon another group of stone blocks that look as if they surrounded a well or maybe the winegrower's outdoor cooking zone.


A finely-cut slab of thick flat stone is lying in the earth. For the moment, I don't understand its role in the structure. Would it have been an element of some kind of a work device used by the winegrower?


I gazed across at the valley of the Bourne, below my house, and tried to imagine a time when this area was covered in grapevines, with scores of workers moving around on the slopes.


On the way back down to the house, I broke off a small branch of pine needles, to bring home.


These pines are just a few hundred meters up from my house, but they are growing at a slightly higher altitude than at Gamone, where I have no such trees. These pine needles were a souvenir of my brief excursion into a remote mountain territory... which I admire daily from my bedroom window.

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