A drive, a walk, a picnic…through mining country

Spring is here and outdoor adventure is back on the menu. Why not pack up a picnic to make Yogi Bear proud, and take a picturesque drive amidst stunning scenery, to the watchtower of Batère, ancient lookout tower, whose sweeping 360 degree view must be one of the best in the P-O.

The drive

Start in Arles sur Tech, head up the Tech valley, and turn right to Corsavy following signs for Batère.

Weave upwards on the D43, through sweet chestnut trees, beech, fir, and micocouliers. If the passengers in the back are feeling a bit green on these gently snakey roads, make a first stop at the 11th century Chapelle Sant Marti de Cortsavi just before Corsavy on the right.

Chapelle Sant Marti de Cortsavi

The Chapelle Sant Marti de Cortsavi is currently being restored (so far a 40 year task) and although a ruin on the inside, some religious icons still nestle inside wall alcoves, amongst the dust of the renovation.

The roof is newly finished by P-O Life advertisers Entreprise Bear!

Not a fan of dusty, ancient chapels? Take a right a little further on, at the entrance to the village and quickly arrive at a sports ground with great views, tables, shady picnic and bbq area; very pleasant just to sit awhile.

Picnic spot before Corsavy

Up through Corsavy, the ruined Tour de Corsavy clearly visible beyond the village. This tour communicated with the Tour de Batère to warn of danger to the Têt valley.


Take a sharp right at the top of the village, direction Batère. The road soon opens out onto magnificent scenery, the ruins of mines dotted around the landscape, where iron ore was once extracted. Some open cast, some with entrances to deep tunnels, all abandoned after centuries of exploitation.

Entrance to mine

Corsavy has an ancient ‘lavoir’ or wash house behind the mairie but if you continue on the road to Montferrer – not our route today – you will see another half a kilometre along the road. This one stands alone because it was for the use of people with tuberculosis.

Continue towards Batère. This is rugged country. Drive slowly and safely, so the driver has a chance to admire the enormous views, and avoid deer, Pyrenean chamois, marmots and other wildlife wandering at liberty.

Drive before chapel

At the Col de la Descarga, today’s destination, there is plenty of parking. This is where your walk begins.

Parking at beginning of walk to Tour de Batère

The walk

From here, you have an easy 2.2 km walk to the Tour de la Batère (and 2.2 km back of course). The route is mainly flat and easy, with the tour visible from afar. The scenery is stunning throughout.

A short, steep climb takes you up to the tour. It’s nothing special to visit, but the views will take your breath away. First to see the sea gets a prize!

Panarama from tour

The picnic

Just about anywhere! The drive up to the col has plenty of places to pull in, providing big rocks for table and chairs….and really you’re spoilt for choice from start to finish. Or leave the work to someone else and book (Sunday) lunch at the refuge!

Sometimes, according to the weather forecast, the Col de la Descarga is closed, but whether by car or on foot, it’s a very short journey when you follow the road round to the left, to the Refuge de Batère. Open every day from 1st April to 5th November this basic former miners’ barracks offers Catalan style menu sourced locally (reservation recommended)…..served up with stunning views.

refuge du batere

We’re coming back down the same we went up today but we really don’t mind because the scenery is even better on the way down, really worth a second look. Belle journée!

Mining history of the P-O

Canigou, sacred mountain of the Catalans, was mined for around 3000 years.

First by the Romans. They dug trenches and galleries at La Batère, and built long roads for easier access to and from Perpignan. The iron ore was transported in carts whose wheels were made with the very iron they mined. The rest was used to forge arms for their vast empire.

When the Romans left, the industry continued in most of the villages of the Conflent: Fillols, Sahorre, Escaro, Baillastavy, Valmanya…

iron mining equipment

Symbol of Catalan resistance during WW2, the village of Valmanya (Great valley in Latin) was totally destroyed by the Germans in August 1944, not long before the liberation, in reprisal against resistance fighters operating in the area .

Villagers who were unable to flee to the safety of the mountains were machine gunned. Captain Julien PANCHOT, later to be brutally tortured and killed, led resistance fighters who sheltered in the nearby mines of La Pinosa and set up the Sainte Jeanne escape route for refugees.

Panchot himself and three others were taken, tortured and shot. Valmanya was razed to the ground.

The tiny village was rebuilt. It is peaceful now but the ruins of the mines can still be seen in the valley.

© L’Indépendent

In 1900, an 8km aerial ropeway was built to transport the ore from the mine at 1255 metres to Arles, and later, the arrival of the railway changed everything.
Forges were built, blacksmiths, metalworkers and skilled artisans moved into the villages, and the region thrived on the iron mined.

Batère finally closed when the stocks of minerals ran out in 1994 and the long aerial ropeway from Batère to Arles, with its huge steel buckets, was demolished in 1995. Today iron is imported into the region from elsewhere.

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