by Ted and Kate Hiscock
(3.5miles) 2hours walking & 30 mins driving
This walk is a steady climb up an unmetalled forest track to the beautifully restored Chapelle de St. Laurent followed by a loop of footpaths through cork oak woods, taking in 2 ruined Mas before returning to the start. At no time is one more than two km from Chateau Valmy and it’s never too difficult.
Good walking shoes essential.
Leave the D114 at junction 12 and follow signs for 19th century Chateau Valmy,
Pass the turnings on the left for Valmy and continue climbing gently along the lane, which narrows down to pass the large campsite of Les Mimosas and then about 300m further on, the tarmac finishes at a point where three tracks take off.
Park the car in this vicinity (or slightly further up the unmetalled road, there are places to leave the car) and follow the yellow sign on foot to Chapelle St Laurent. It is about 2km and 35 minutes’ climb along a wide track, past a limb on the left where bee hives belonging to St Elme Honey company snuggle amongst the mature lieges (cork oaks) that are now becoming more dense as one penetrates more deeply into the forest.
The occasional glance back reveals Chateau Valmy, as rarely seen with its gables, pinnacles and ornately opulent roof tiles contrasted with the Mediterranean beyond.
The rugged and rocky road winds up firstly along a short isthmus between the natural slopes of the hills and a deeply hewn ancient quarry on the left and climbs on to a junction where the ruins of Mas de la Monja sit on a rocky prominence overlooking Argeles.
The signs here are very clear for Chapelle de St. Laurent but in 500m the small footpath amongst the shrubs to the right is not so obvious and only a yellow X on a tree advising ‘incorrect route’ is the clue.
Suddenly, the wide open track becomes a narrow gently rising footpath over rocks and undulating through the Foret d’Argelès, now densely populated with mature lieges, other oaks and sweet chestnuts.
Frequently, a break in the undergrowth provides superb views out over Argelès and the plain of Roussillon and coast can be appreciated. It does pay to stop along this track and follow the advice given by the frequent ground level tablets advising “Ecouter pour voir” and note the plethora of bird songs.
The Chapelle de St Laurent is beautifully restored by the ‘Association Touristique pour la Sauvegarde des Hermitages d’Argelès-sur-Mer’ [whose Président can be contacted by email Robert.firstname.lastname@example.org].
This is a peacefully discrete site for an ancient chapel nestling amongst mature trees and full credit has to go to the team who have brought it back to life. Sadly, it is usually locked.
It is possible to return the same route from here or descend by the indicated yellow signed alternative.
The rest of our walk continues upwards through the woods, initially on a track very easy to follow and signed towards Mas d’en Pardés but then at about 300m, another easily missed track goes off at right angles on the right and veers away from the main route to ‘Tour de Massane 5km’.
Take this small footpath and once again one is undulating through dense woods of lieges and occasional clusters of mimosas.
Suddenly, a grass clearing appears where tracks from all directions seem to meet; (this in the UK would be called 6-ways!).
Take the 4th track going clockwise and there half-hidden and firstly, clambering over a recently fallen tree, are the ruins of the extensive Mas d’en Pardès sitting on a ridge with spectacular views stretching from Canigou to the Corbieres to Port Argeles.
This must have been a wonderful home at one time and judging by the presence of a bread-oven, (now sadly a collapsing roof), a very self-sufficient small-holding or even possibly an over-night victualling house.
The track down , 6th off the grassy roundabout, is clearly defined by a yellow sign to Mas de la Monja passing again through the forest of lieges, some bearing the scars of a lifetime of bark stripping to make corks for bottles.
This track starts as an easy wide one but then takes off to the right when another narrow tumbling track leads down to Mas Monja. Turn left and regain the original wide track down to the car, where a 2-minute drive to Chateau Valmy can result in a well-earned dégustation of their wines, or a lunch or dinner in perfect surroundings and fine views out over the vines.