with Tim and Chris Parker
Les Cabanes de Mataporc : from Laroque des Albères
A 2h 30m – 3hrs circular walk up the hills with 350 metres of ascent, which is nearly all in the first half of the walk.
Well signed route with yellow way marks. Very interesting visits to these old shelters for the “bergers” who looked after their animals in the hills.
Access: map IGN 1:25000 Banyuls, Col de Perthus, Cote Vermeille 2549OT
Start of walk: Cross the narrow main street; continue straight on past the Cafe des Artistes on your left, the Carignan wine bar on your right, uphill past the Salle des Fetes, to the main doors of the church. Turn left into Rue de L’Eglise, which soon becomes a footpath. Pass Le Moulin de la Pave – an interesting old mill with a plaque telling of its history. Behind the mill is La Fontaine des Oiseaux/ Font des Ocells.
Continue alongside a canalisation. Turn right at the T junction. Reach small reservoir and plan of local walks.
Take the direction Les Cabanes (left). The wide track bends left before a renovated Mas (on right). Continue to junction of pistes, noting on your way a yellow spot/sign to Fontaine Malzac on left.
Turn right onto piste DFCI 12 past the Cork oaks junction with the DFCI 11. The cork oaks are marked with the year in which they were cut and the initials of the owner.
Turn left onto DFCI 11, soon passing a green water cistern on right. After 20 metres, take footpath on right signed “ les Cabanes”. The path rises quite steeply through the forest of oak and chestnuts. Eventually reach a line of fencing. Follow fencing to right and then left to arrive at a piste. (approx 50 mins – 1 hour to this point). The view of the coastal plain now opens up.
Continue on through a gate and take path rising to right of piste. Going higher, look out for yellow spot on a rock (left), indicating a cross engraved in the rock. Cross a little stream: notice on the right evidence of terracing from the working of the hills over 60 years ago.
Soon reach a path on your right signed to the first 2 Cabanes. Turn right onto the path and right again to reach them. The structures are fascinating and use the large rocks as one side to the buildings, then timber and rocks to shape them.
Descend to main path you left for the visit and soon take path on left, to an old cortal (ranch?). There is a great viewpoint from rocks behind the building. Come back from the edge! – pick up path going steeply downhill beside the cortal. Turn right at the bottom and continue to 3rd and 4th Cabanes.
Meaning “forest of pigs”, pigs from the village and surrounding farmhouses were brought here to graze acorns and beechnuts, accompanied by a ‘pigherder’ who sheltered in the ‘cabanes’.
These dry stone huts of different shapes date back to the 19th century and were linked to agricultural or coal mining activities. Land was allocated to locals, allotment-style, many of who cultivated the land, building shelters to protect themselves from the elements. The last cultivated plots were abandoned at the end of the Second World War.
The 4th Cabane has no roof but has a cheminée and some old pans etc with a notice “Propriete prive”! Also find a stone table (ideal for picnic) and small fountain.
Follow path to a sharp right turn. Turn right, uphill to return to main track which you left to visit the cortal.
Retrace route down to gate on piste. Turn left and follow piste all the way to the intersection with the piste from Col de L’Ullat. Take this (on right) and keep going down, ignoring the DFCI 11 (on right) and the first piste you walked along (on left) to reach the ruins of an old Mas. Near the Mas take the path to the right between 2 high walls. Turn left and look down onto the mimosa orchards – beautiful in Jan/Feb.
The path reaches a tarmac road. Turn right then quickly find “Los Disputes” on the left. Take this path back into Laroque – and no arguing on the way!!