Starting at the Chapître of Saint-Paul-de-Fenouillet is the Chemin de la Mine, that takes you up and back to a fascinating piece of Saint Paul’s history: its mining heritage. The 5 km round will take about two hours, with 220 metres of height covered. Walk from St Paul’s landmark Chapître to the town square Place Saint-Pierre, cross the D117 and follow the country road to the bifurcation at the château d’eau, the town’s water tower.
Take the left branch and follow the Rue de Lesquerde uphill, until you come to a crossing, where a steep gravel slope will meander uphill while following electricity poles and lines. Heading passed undulating vineyards and typical Garrigue vegetation with green oaks, juniper, and aromatic herbs such as thyme and rosemary, you will reach height. Enjoy the beautiful vistas across the valley of the Agly river!
When looking towards the mountains, you will surely spot the „tour de guet“, the fire alarm tower used by firefighters in summer, the culminating point of St Paul’s Via Ferrata, and, if you are lucky, some vultures or the circaète Jean-le-Blanc,the short-toed snake eagle.
The Mine in the Woods
When arriving on the former mine site, take some time to look around and explore the tools, machinery, and mine tunnels. Don’t venture to enter the tunnel linking St Paul to Lesquerde – it is not only dangerous, but officially forbidden to enter all old shafts. In war time, however, guerilla and resistance fighters used to hide in the mountain’s labyrinth network.
Once you’ve discovered the site, continue to walk east, following the yellow hiking signs left on trees and rocks. They will lead you to a rather steep descent, which will take you to a gravel road – turn left and follow its gentle curves back to town.
The Area’s Rich Mining History
St Paul boasts a long tradition in mining. Located at the tectonic point, where the European shelf hits the Aftrican Iberian one, the pressure causing occasionally slight earthquakes in the valley combines with heat bring along perfect conditions for the formation of minerals. Thus, granite and veins of felspar and iron ore can be found in the valley’s chalky cliffs.
Traces of important mining activities can also still be found at Planèzes, Rasiguères, Latour-de-France, and Lesquerde.
In 1831, an open-cut mine startet activities on the slopes of the Chaîne de Lesquerde. In 1908, a tunnel was cut, linking the two villages. On May 8, 1933, the mine was nearly fully exploited, and activities nearly fully stopped, with only the exploitation of metal oxides for anti corrosion paint continued until 1950. To take a look at historic mining tools and old maps, please visit the local town museum at the Chapître.