It started innocently enough. Peter, of Languedoc Page fame, casually remarked that there was a ‘ghost town’ near his place. This piqued my curiosity a little bit so I tried to find it on Google Maps. No mention of it there, so I inquired further. The next email I got from him gave me the following directions, “the hill behind the Sommieres roundabout with the railway engines”.
Easy enough, so off I went on a sunny afternoon with no English lessons to run home to. Here are a couple of scenes from the road on my zigzag up to Sommieres.
Following directions, in Sommieres I turned left at the train engines and headed up the only hill I could see. I started riding into an unpromising suburb when I ran across a sign that read ‘Chemin de Montredon’. For those of you who aren’t in France, chemin may be loosely translated as ‘Leave the bicycle behind. This is no place for you!’ But the 2nd part of the equation was too hard to pass up so I followed it. True to its word, this is what my street devolved into.
So I got off and walked, looked around the top of the hill for a bit, rode down the other side, turned around and saw this.
I was pretty certain that little bit of white near the top was my ghost fort, so I turned around again and rode/pushed myself back up, realizing what I had missed the first time…
And then it got rough. Most of the whole site was completely overgrown and there were no real trails to speak of. I ended up ditching my bike and bushwhacking my way around to get these photos.
Obstructive bushiness notwithstanding, this place has a pretty interesting history, if my translation can be trusted. The chateau was the feudal stronghold on a baron (or several) during the 12th century, and while Saint Louis IX was off ransacking the Hold Land they apparently were running wild themselves. Blanche of Castille, Queen mother and former regent, was having nothing of it, and ordered the fort (and others around the area I think) razed and the property seized by the crown.
So the gig was up for those barons, but the life of Montredon went on, as a village popped up around and within its walls. This village survived until the 19th century, when it was finally abandoned.
After this little history lesson I spun my wheels over to Saussines, the pretty village where Peter lives, where I had a nice little tour of the house and was generously force-fed (badly needed) biscuits by his wife, Martine.