Showing posts with label Bourne. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bourne. Show all posts

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Risky valley of the Bourne

I'm about to talk about a geographical entity, the valley of the River Bourne, which runs below my home place, Gamone. I assume you're at ease using browser keys to move forwards/backwards with respect to my blog. You might click the following photo of a typical corner in our road to see a local map of places I'm about to mention.

As you can see, Gamone lies between Pont-en-Royans and the village of Choranche. Just to the south of these three places, you see the road (in yellow) that leads eastwards to the winter ski resort of Villard-de-Lans. And a thin blue line indicates the River Bourne, which flows just below the road, in an east/west direction. That's to say, Choranche, Gamone and Pont-en-Royans are located on the right bank of the Bourne. As the crow flies, I'm quite close to Villard: some 20 km. It's a delightful little town, with good restaurants and bars. I rarely set foot there, however, because I'm daunted by the narrow mountain road that runs through the Gorges of the Bourne.

During the ski season, particularly of a weekend, hordes of vehicles from the Valence region and the Ardèche department use this itinerary. It's a magnificent scenic road, but there are many places where vehicles have to halt to allow the passage of those traveling in the opposite direction. For me, driving in such circumstances is strictly unpleasant... no doubt because I never got accustomed to this kind of environment when I was younger. So, I stay at home.

For many years, we've been aware that we live alongside a rickety road that's often disturbed by fallen rocks. When I purchased Gamone, in 1993, I proudly informed my family and friends that I had found a rare place devoid of rocks that might fall onto our heads. And that state of affairs remains perfectly true today... as long as I stay at home. If I go out driving, that's another kettle of stonefish.

This morning, we received a surprising publication from the local authorities, revealing the results of a recent study of risky places along the road up to Villard-de-Lans. You might click the photo of work at the level of the home of my great friends Tineke Bot and Serge Bellier to see a graphical outline of these dangerous places, marked in orange or red.

I learn with delight but stupefaction [even though I'm not bothered unduly at a personal level] that the Isère departmental authorities have decided to invest in a huge 14-year project, costing 15 million euros, aimed at saving our roadway along the valley of the Bourne. The only problem is that this road will be closed for five months every year. So, I'm less and less likely to spend sunny afternoons and balmy evenings soaking up the Vercors atmosphere of Villard-de-Lans. What the hell. My Gamone descendants will...

Friday, June 6, 2008

Plug taken out of river

Julie, a kinesiologist at the place in Chatte that I've been attending twice a week for the last two months, happens to be a former junior world champion in rowing, a member of the Romans club on the banks of the Isère. This morning, I asked her: "Have you seen what they've done with your river?"

Yes, she had. A week ago, the electricity authorities manipulated their dams in such a way that the only water flowing into the Isère at the level of the village of St-Nazaire came from the Bourne: the noble little stream that flows through Choranche and Pont-en-Royans. The Bourne is largely a mountain torrent, since its volume depends constantly on what's happening, in the way of rain or snow, up on the Vercors plateau.

At the place in St-Nazaire shown in this photo, there's normally a beautiful lake formed by the confluence of the Bourne and the Isère. Visitors are always stunned by the beauty of the red rocks at the tip of the peninsula, reflected in the green waters. Once upon a time, there was a fluvial port here named Rochebrune [meaning "brown rocks"]. The Chartreux monks used flat boats to bring down iron ore from distant Allevard. From St-Nazaire, these raw materials were transported by donkeys up to furnaces at Bouvantes, operated by the same monks who used to make wine at Gamone.

Julie's rowing boats are not the only grounded vessels. Against the backdrop of the aqueduct at St-Nazaire, the Royans river-boat for tourists looks like a stranded whale. Happily, this weird situation will not last for long: just the time it takes for dam workers to remove logs that have floated into their electricity installations.