WALK THE REGION WITH LEIGH AND MERRY FOSTER
Map IGN 1:25000 Banyuls/Col de Perthus/CoteVermeille (GPS) 2549 OT
This is a short walk up and down the valley of Lavall (Lavail) near Sorède, tiny hamlet with delightful little church and traditional ‘Festa Major’ with sardane every November.
The walk can be wonderfully peaceful, allowing you to lose yourself in the cork oak forests as you follow the little picturesque river up over the rocks, waterfalls, gorges and even secret swimming pools for the hardy!
Getting there :
Hidden at the bottom of the Valley of Lavail, the river Massane winds its way down through dense vegetation. Many little rock pools await the curious walker, and in late summer a cool picnic in the shade of the Oaks can be a real treat.
Depending on recent rains the river can be mild or a powerful torrent, but in early autumn, it is normally a quiet place of beautiful contemplation. Drive up from the D11 Sorede-Argelès road to La Vall, and park in the car park just beyond the little hamlet. This is where you begin and end the walk at 500420 E 4706140 N.
The trail is well marked with yellow paint strokes, although following the river is just as easy. The walking is not difficult, and since simply goes up the valley and back it can be as short as you like.
If you go all the way to the head of the valley it is only about 2km each way and around 100 m climb overall. It can be done in about an hour, but if you want to make the most of the scenery you should allow two.
The Walk :
Leave the car park and head east, following the track about 300 meters to the only tricky point where you encounter a gated private property and have to go right to circle around it.
As you continue up the valley you catch glimpses of the Tour De Massane on top of the hills to the left.
In a couple of places there are signposts with footpaths heading up to the Tour but on this occasion you can, like us, take the easy option and stay in the picturesque valley.
To the right the hills rise up steeply all the way to Neoulous.
The rock pools and waterfalls are home to many frogs, tadpoles and dragonflies, and lizards skitter over the rocks at the sides. While we were walking up the valley in October we had the bizarre experience of meeting the cows coming down from the hills, (no cowherd anywhere to be seen) presumably for the winter, stopping for a quick drink from the river on the way. All the gently tinkling cowbells gave the walk a distinctly alpine flavour.
In the earth on either side of the path we saw evidence of Sangliers rooting about for tasty nibbles, and in fact a hunting party was out and about on the day we were there.
The walk ends in the hills with an impressive rock escarpment at the Collet del Tueler, surrounded by wooded hills on all sides (501150 E 4704700 N).
For those who prefer a leisurely stroll, once you have reached the place where the path starts to become much steeper you can simply retrace your steps. On the left as you come back down the valley you may see the rather strange rock formation in the picture in the photo!
If you are particularly energetic and keen to continue on a long, steep hike, you can fork right at the top of the valley where the Massane curls up to the left, and climb all the way to the Puig dels Quatre Termes, and from there either head back down to the Vallée Heureuse, or continue on the GR10 to Neoulous.
Most people will be glad to know this is not obligatory, and a pleasant morning or afternoon in Lavall can be very enjoyable.