Sunday, 27 December 2015

Our Christmas Day canal walk above Ceret

A small irrigation canal, cut into the rocks above Ceret, has
It's still autumn in Ceret 
provided public water to the town for centuries. It is more of a Spanish-style levada than an English-style canal. In places the canal is probably only about six inches deep and maybe a foot across, however it was important for public fountains and crop irrigation across Reynes, Ceret, Maurillas and St Jean Pla De Corts. Understandably, in times of drought, making sure each town received its fair share of water was a fraught business and conflicts often ensued. Population increase and agricultural development wager needs overtook the limited levada supply in the 1800s so a much larger canal was built from Le Tech at Amelie Les Bains in the 1860s and our walk began near part of this. However, the little old canal still flows and following part of its journey certainly made for a very pretty walk.

An early signposted diversion took us through mostly
The waterfall,
partly hidden behind a rock ledge 
autumnal woods to visit the waterfall. We didn't expect much of a spectacle at this time of year - there hasn't been any  significant rainfall for ages - however the tumbling water was still a pretty impressive sight. Getting close involves rock scrambling which I didn't fancy so early on in the day so this photo makes the waterfall appear smaller than it really is. It's just far away (as Father Ted said to Dougal)!

Despite the ground being carpeted with fallen leaves and nuts, we were amazed to see Spring indicators too. More mimosa was in full bloom and two trees were absolutely dripping with yellow catkins!

We both appreciated walking the narrow woodland paths, even though most of the first hour was uphill with varying degrees of steepness. We had passed maybe a half dozen people also walking to the waterfall and back, but once we returned to our canal route, we seemed to have the world to ourselves for the rest of the day.

Lunch was a slice of Boterkoek each whilst perched on the
Mas Blasi emblem 
roadside by the very grand entrance to the Mas Blasi estate. Their gate emblem was a leaping boar and we had seen lots of evidence that wild boar had been rooting around in search of food.

Shortly after Mas Blasi our path plunged downhill to spend several minutes passing alongside cherry orchards. It must be absolutely beautiful here in the real Springtime when all these trees are in blossom. Apparently Ceret was the first place in France to begin growing cherry trees and the town got its name from their French name, 'cerise'.

For a short distance, the levada hugs closely to the rock and
our path wasn't much wider alongside it. There were a couple of precarious looking concrete slab bridges to cross too, but they seemed sturdy enough as I dashed over them. The photo here shows Dave about to cross one and you can see how the hillside has fallen away underneath the bridge.

Further down the hill, the levada is a sunken trough across the woodland floor. It's raised moss-covered sides stood out against the fallen leaves and made for a very pretty view, but I imagine that continuously having to clear he water's path in olden days must have been a nightmare!

The canal 
Our whole walk took us about four hours and, if you would like to try the route too, it is number six in the free Little Guide Of Hiking book from Le Boulou tourist office. Our final descent back into Ceret took us past the Capuchin Convent, built in 1581 and abandoned after the French Revolution. I loved its gateway, which was about all that we could really see, and also the improvised wooden gateway (pictured below) which we had seen a few minutes earlier and which I don't think is connected to the convent.

Capuchin convent 
Improvised gateway 

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