Roquefort les Pins has plenty of varied walking trails easily accessible from our front door. Here’s one of our favourites combining forest, open vistas and a little bit of historical interest.
Head out of our lane, turning left into chemin des Pignatons, which becomes chemin du Camouyer. Take the left fork up chemin des Betrands, up a little steep path and left when you get to the road again at chemin du Debram. That’s the “urban” bit of the walk done (although calling Roquefort les Pins urban is somewhat exaggerated, I just mean you’ve finished with streets and houses). Facing you is a wonderful view of the gorges du Loup, the plateau de Caussols and the ever dominant Pic de Courmettes; you can even make out the hilltop village of Gourdon on a clear day. The very last house on the left is called “Panoramic” and it’s superbly well named. This view is breathtaking. Continuing on, go under or around the barrier onto the “Piste du Debram” and from here on it’s all forest track, suitable for mountain bikes (VTT) as well as walking. These tracks are for fire access which is a serious concern in the summer months. Open fires are forbidden from 1st June to 1st October, even smoking is not allowed, as bushfires are such a threat.
The track heads downhill and comes to a junction. Take the right path heading uphill into the forest (signed Circuit du Castellas). As the path levels off there’s a division, take the option for the Terres Blanches (not towards the Castellas). It’s a more interesting route this way. You’ll pass a large water tank on the right and shortly you’ll find yourself in a surprising open area of rounded clipped bushes and neatly cared for stone walls. This is an old Roman site called Camp Tracier but who is responsible for its upkeep nowadays is a mystery. I’ve heard that local horticultural students prune the bushes as practice but I have no idea if this is true and I’ve never seen anyone there, ever!
If you take a quick detour up the Roman-looking paved path to the left you come to an old ruined house. Vegetation is taking over the roof and windows are broken but it’s obvious someone once made an effort to renovate as it has some unusual contemporary features such as huge plate glass windows. It’s in the most spectacular setting with views over the mountains one way and towards to sea the other and I covet it! Truth be told it’s too isolated for me but I do sometimes dream. It is beautiful, particularly surrounded by such well maintained gardens. It’s a mysterious place. But on with the walk….
Back on the main track take the left option at the fire hydrant opposite the terraced garden. In winter you can get a glimpse of the ruined house from here but it’s totally hidden by leaves in summer. The path now steadily goes down hill for quite some time, through the trees and along a ridge with sweeping views across the forest towards the coast on your right-hand side. Once back in the woods you’ll see a path on the right which you ignore but you do take the next on the right signed to les Castellas. This track climbs steeply up to the old ruins through dense vegetation. It is fairly dark and can be slippery. And now you arrive at the second surprise on this walk – the ruins of the medieval site of “roque forte” (strong rock), a defensive outpost that was the original location of Roquefort les Pins. The ruins are protected historical sites and pretty crumbly, but it you climb carefully up to the tower you get a fabulous view down to the Loup river, across the mountains and over to the coast at Villeneuve-Loubet. It’s not hard to imagine why this site never became the centre of the modern town as it’s in such an inhospitable place, isolated and difficult to access, but a perfect lookout for invading hoards I guess. The ruins date from the first half of the 11th century and include the nave of the church of St Michel.
This marks the furthest point of this walk; you now retrace your steps up as far as the fire hydrant where you turn left. The path becomes narrow and passes an open clearing before finally coming out at an enormous fake tree, disguising a mobile phone aerial. Now’s the time to make that call if you want good reception! It’s known as the Playmobil tree n our household for obvious reasons and once you’ve seen it up close you realise you can see it from all over the area. It’s a good landmark when you’re looking at a view from afar and trying to work out where everything lies as it sticks up far above the real trees. That’s it, you’ll find you’ve come to the end of the forest track and shortly you’ll be back on chemin du Debram, back “en ville” in the “urban sprawl” of Roquefort town! Time to return to Lou Messugo the way you came along the named streets. This walk should take about two to two and a half hours of actual walking. How long you take depends on how much time you spend exploring the old house and the historical ruins. Bonne balade!