110 IPN-type steel beams from an old pastoral park stood terribly bored next to the Bocacers hut on Pla Guillem, in the Canigó massif, the sacred mountain of the Catalans. As the site obtained the label ‘Grand Site of France’ in 2012 and 2018, the elected officials and managers put a lot of effort into the preservation of the landscape. Located at 2300 m altitude, this place is well worth a visit with a fantastic view on the Mediterranean and the Tech and Tet valleys.
Pla Guillem, founding element of the Grand Site de France project
Besides being a geological attraction and one of the emblematic sites of the great Canigó site, Pla Guillem is known to have been the place where an inter-valley trail connecting the thermal resorts of Vernet-les-Bains (Tet valley) with Prats-de-Mollo-La-Preste (Tech Valley) passed.
This stretch, opened in the 1970s, was closed in the 1990s at the initiative of the State, following a citizen mobilization, since the route generated significant damage to the environment. Since then, an extensive ecological restoration and revegetation has been carried out by the Syndicat mixte and the ONF. Despite this work, the scarring left in this fragile high-altitude environment will still take years to heal. This high plateau is now integrated into the classified site of the Canigó massif and into the Prats, Py and Mantet Nature Reserves.
Wonderful synergy and cooperation
As part of the Obsolete Installations campaign, Mountain Wilderness France and Catalunya (celebrating its 30th anniversary this year) have joined forces to organize a technical and practical participatory project to dismantle abandoned agricultural installations on the Pla Guillem site.
On the weekend of September 7th and 8th, some fifty nature-loving volunteers mobilized, including breeders from the Pasquiers Pastoral Land Association, the Prats de Mollo La Preste Nature Reserve, the Haut-Vallespir community, as well as the town hall of Prats de Mollo, the DREAL Occitanie, the AFPGP, the ONF and the Syndicat mixte Canigó Grand Site.
The rehabilitation project of this emblematic site has made it possible to bring together all the local actors (breeders, communities, associations, inhabitants…) on a site where tensions had built up in the past.
Thank you to all those good-willed people who made it possible to remove 4 tons of materials! Indeed, at the end of the day, the 110 beams had left the ground with the help of a crowbar, pickaxe and elbow grease, the cabin had been cleared of its last waste, the ground paved with large stones found on site, and even a coat of paint had been put on to complete the work. This hut is now welcoming to serve as a shelter for the many hikers in the area!
Many thanks also to the muleteers with Violette, Broussaille and Prune for their help. Indeed, the materials were transported on man’s back but also by Claude’s draught mare and Fabien’s mule and mare. With the traditional Catalan grill and perfect weather, this day had the taste of work done. See you next year, on the other side of the border, for a new project to be organised by Mountain Wilderness Catalunya as part of this cross-border exchange supported by the Department of Pyrénées-Orientales and the Generalitat de Catalunya.