Walking though the earth’s strata / Balade au cœur des strates terrestres

ravins de Corboeuf, Rosières, Hute-Loire, Auvergne, France, géologie, argile, badlands

Light in nature creates the movement of colours.

Robert Delaunay

Unexpected. Unique. Unbelievable.

Nestled among thickly wooded hills and rolling pastures near Rosières, Haute-Loire, France, the extraordinary ravins de Corbœuf display multiple layers of barren clay whose colours change endlessly with the light and the weather.

Some 40 million years ago the current Emblavez lowlands were entirely flooded, and the surrounding granite mountains, much taller. Overtime, the rocks were slowly eroded away, and accumulated at the bottom of this huge lake, forming a 50-metre thick layer of sediment. Once the lake drained, the combined action of the river flow and run-off rainwater gouged and sculpted this stupendous landscape of tormented ravines, sharp ridges and multicoloured clay strata.

A geological anomaly designated as ‘badlands’ by scientists, and nicknamed the ‘French Colorado’.

‘Is this a painting, or is it real?’ Jedi questioned as we paused at the first vantage point over the site. Mermaid reached out with her arm, in an attempt to touch the imaginary canvas.

When I tried to explain briefly the geology of the place, Jedi could hardly believe that an immense lake used to cover the entire area. 


La lumière dans la nature crée le mouvement des couleurs.

Robert Delaunay*

Inattendu. Invraisemblable. Unique.

Blottis entre des collines boisées et des champs vallonnés près de Rosières, en Haute-Loire, les extraordinaires ravins de Corbœuf révèlent leurs multiples couches d’argiles multicolores, dont les tons changent sans cesse au fil de la lumière et des conditions météorologiques.

 Il y a quelque 40 millions d’années, l’actuel bassin de l’Emblavez était noyé sous un lac immense. Sous l’effet de l’érosion, le granite environnant se déposa en sédiments au fond du lac, sur près de 50 mètres d’épaisseur.

Après l’assèchement du lac, le petit ruisseau la Suissesse et les eaux de ruissellement creusèrent et sculptèrent cet étonnant paysage d’entailles tortueuses, de crêtes aiguës et de strates d’argiles versicolores.

Une curiosité géologique dénommée badlands, et surnommée le “Colorado auvergnat”.

“Attends, mais c’est un tableau !” s’exclama Jedi à l’approche du premier point de vue sur les ravins. Sirène tendit le bras comme pour toucher la toile imaginaire. 

Quand je tentai de leur expliquer en quelques mots la géologie de ce site exceptionnel, Jedi eut bien du mal à croire que le ravin était jadis sous l’eau.

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Leaving the former railway bridge, the route first follows the ravine from afar, its coloured clay layers visible through the bare tree branches, sometimes bathed in a beam of sunlight breaking through the thick clouds.


Après avoir laissé le viaduc de la voie verte, le sentier longe d’abord le ravin de loin ; les strates d’argile colorée, parfois éclairées d’un rayon de soleil entre les nuages, étaient visibles à travers les branches nues des arbres. 

ravins de Corboeuf, Rosières, Hute-Loire, Auvergne, France, géologie, argile, badlands

Camouflage

At the heritage hamlet of Chastel, the trail meets a minor road, before following the upper edge of the ravin through fields and forests. At the end of a steep side path, the tortuous slopes of the ravin, cut through by deep gashes, revealed at our feet an alien landscape, with its palette of otherworldly colours. 


Au hameau de Chastel, le sentier rejoint une route, avant de suivre le rebord supérieur du ravin. Au détour d’une sente escarpée, les multiples pentes striées du ravin, entaillés de ravines étroites, révélèrent à nos pieds un paysage extraterrestre, avec sa palette de couleurs fantasmagoriques. 

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Soon after setting off, the acorns started throwing stones into the stream from the top of the railway bridge, and I took three photos. An orange warning message flashed on my camera’s rear screen – no memory card!

As a result, all the photos in this post were taken with Brian’s iPhone. Not bad, eh? And if there aren’t many shots of the acorns, this is simply because they move too fast for even the smartest of smartphones.


Peu après le départ, comme les graines de chêne jetaient des petits cailloux dans le ruisseau du haut du viaduc, je pris trois photos. Un voyant orange clignotait sur l’écran de mon appareil : pas de carte mémoire ! 

Toutes les photos de cet article ont donc été prises avec l’iPhone de Brian. Pas mal, hein ? Et s’il n’y a guère d’images des graines de chêne, c’est parce qu’ils bougent trop vite même pour le plus malin des smartphones.

Visitor information

Starting from the Respirando information display in Rosières, near the police station (gendarmerie), the PR634 route is a 3.5km loop. The trail head is at the start of the Via Fluvia greenway, past the bike hire cabin. You will then walk up to Chastel, where you will walk on the road for a few hundred metres. The trail then cuts through fields and woodland again, following the upper edge of the ravin, with many stunning viewpoints along the way. The route back towards Rosières then follows a wide farm track, and a minor road, all the way to the starting point.

*Robert Delaunay (1885-1941) was a French painter famous for his innovative use of colour, and a pioneer of abstract art.

Getting there

From the centre of Rosières, take the D7 road to Yssingeaux. Just before getting out of town, turn right towards the police station (gendarmerie), following the signpost Circuit des Paysages. There is ample, free parking behind the Respirando shelter.

En savoir plus

Chamina, Haute-Loire, pédestre, sentiers, randonnée, Velay, Mézenc, Meygal, Haut-Allier, à pied, marcheC’est en feuilletant l’excellent guide de randonnée Haute-Loire – Les 30 plus beaux sentiers (Chamina Edition), acheté à la fin de notre été en France, que j’ai repéré cette balade méconnue. 

Au départ du point d’information Respirando de Rosières, près de la gendarmerie, l’itinéraire PR634 fait une boucle de 3,5 km. Le début emprunte une section de la voie verte Via Fluvia, au-delà du chalet de location de vélos. Puis le sentier rallie le hameau de Chastel, où il rejoint la route pour quelques centaines de mètres. Il coupe ensuite à travers bois et champs, avec de nombreux points de vue stupéfiants au fil du chemin comme il contourne le haut du ravin. Le retour au point de départ à Rosières se fait par un large sentier, puis par la route.

A défaut de guide, le topo détaillé de cette randonnée est disponible sur AltitudeRando, et auprès des offices de tourisme locaux : Entre Loire et Volcans, Tourisme en Haute-Loire, ou encore Auvergne Tourisme.

*Robert Delaunay (1885-1941), pionnier de l’art abstrait, était un peintre français connu pour son utilisation novatrice de la couleur.

S’y rendre

Du centre de Rosières, empruntez la D7 en direction d’Yssingeaux. Avant la sortie du village, tournez à droite pour la gendarmerie au panneau Circuit des Paysages. Stationnement gratuit derrière le point d’information Respirando.

 

 Diary of an imperfect mumCountry KidsTammymumUntold Morselsethannevelyn.com#CheckOutThatViewTravel Loving Family

Lou Messugo

ThroughMyLens by Mersad Donko

62 Responses to “Walking though the earth’s strata / Balade au cœur des strates terrestres

  • Wow, the pictures of this place are amazing! I had no idea there was anything like this in France!

    • Neither did I! I grew up half an hour from this site, and I never knew it existed until last week.
      Thank you for stopping by 🙂

  • Absolument incroyable! I never knew these landscapes existed in France let alone the world. The turquoise stripes across the ridges of those hills/mountains are amazing. We have a couple of 3 year olds. Do you think they could manage this walk? I’d love to see these views for my own eyes. Thanks for sharing with us on #farawayfiles

    • Incroyable indeed! 😉 Thank you so much commenting Katy!
      Your 3 year olds will probably be fine, it’s an easy walk. My four are good little walkers now, but they all managed no problem, and the youngest is only 3.5. The oldest found it fascinating – the next day while driving around, he spotted much smaller clay patches on the hillsides.
      Thank you for hosting #farawayfiles 🙂

  • Wow! Absolutely beautiful!! I never realized France had something like this! Would love to walk around this! #FarawayFiles

    • Stunning, isn’t it? Yet it seems most locals don’t even know this is on their doorstep.
      Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

  • fascinating place! #farawayfiles
    Tanja (the Red phone box travels) recently posted…My English bucket list

  • WOW! Stunning pictures! So many beautiful places out there isn’t there! Thanks for sharing… #throughmylens
    Selina recently posted…The Quirky Lightning Ridge!

    • Thank you Selina! That’s right, you needn’t look far to find stunning places… Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  • Breathtaking, thanks so much for sharing! #ablogginggoodtime

  • What a totally amazing place to explore. I’ve never seen rock quite like that #CountryKids
    Mary @ Over 40 and a Mum to One recently posted…Project 365 2017 Week 6-7

    • It was a first for me too! Totally unbelievable colours, like walking through one of those US canyons. Thanks for your comment!

  • This really is stunning, Annette! What an incredible walk to do with kids – mine would be thrilled with this. Those colours are just extraordinary – very painterly, so I appreciate the Delaunay reference, although I prefer Sonia’s work. Thanks so much for sharing this on #FarawayFiles

    • Thank you so much Clare! It was indeed a fabulous place to explore with the kids. I was going to use the quote and so was delighted to find out that Delaunay was a French artist, although I must admit I don’t know his work, or Sonia’s.
      Thank you for hosting #FarawayFiles – I shall link up again in the future 😉

  • Wow that’s beautiful what a stunning place! I’ll have to add this to a must see! ‪Thank you for linking up to the #familyfunlinky‬
    Karen | TwoTinyHands recently posted…Happy Days #46 – A Tornado Came Through

    • Very happy that my post makes you want to see this place for your own eyes – it is truly special! Thanks for hosting #FamilyFun!

  • The colours on those rocks are quite amazing. Thank you for the quick geology lesson to explain their formation. I can only imagine that in real life these would be even more impressive than they look here and your i phone photos are pretty incredible. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come out without my memory card or battery in my camera.

    Thank you for sharing such a wonderful looking trail on #CountryKids
    Fiona -Coombe Mill recently posted…Uncovering Kantia the local retreat from Athens

    • Hi Fiona, I often forget to put a charged battery in my camera, but leaving the memory card in the laptop was a first for me!
      This area of France remains off the beaten track, as least with foreign tourists, but with its volcanic history, it is absolutely fascinating. Can’t recommend it highly enough!

  • WOW – it looks so perfect it almost looks unreal! Its incredible, the views WOW. Great photos and looks like a fantastic adventure.

    Coming over from #CountryKids 🙂
    Sonia recently posted…#SilentSunday 19 February 2017

    • It does look unreal, doesn’t it? It is so unexpected, totally breathtaking. Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  • This is incredible!! I had never heard of this before and it looks amazing. Beautiful pictures (even from an iPhone ;)) . Thanks for sharing! #farawayfiles

  • I love this. In the States – I have seen many places that have evolved over time to expose gorgeous layers like this – but they are almost always reds, oranges and russets. I have never seen these gorgeous blues and greens. So beautiful. Happy to have found your blog – thank you for linking up with #FarawayFiles – look forward to more contributions! Cheers from Copenhagen, Erin

    • Erin, I have yet to look up pictures of Oregon’s Painted Hills that you mentioned in a tweet. The ravine’s bottom layers are also red and orange, but there is a geological explanation for the blues and greens of the upper layers – as I understand it, this type of clay is called illite (from the US state of Illinois), and it was formed when the local granite slowly turned to clay while under water.
      I am chuffed by the response to this post since linking it up on #FarawayFiles. Thank you for hosting this linky and for the warm welcome 🙂
      Annette

  • Woah! Those colours in the landscape are amazing! I think i’d be stood there transfixed for a very long time 🙂 #countrykidsfun
    Sonia Cave recently posted…Evergreen Science Fun

    • Having to keep an eye on four kids so close to the edge of a cliff didn’t leave much time for standing transfixed, but it was a fabulous place. So happy we went out and explored.

  • Stunning photos. I’ve never heard of this place before. It looks unreal. Nature is a truly amazing thing 🙂

    #countrykids

    • Thank you Heidi! It’s amazing the things you come across sometimes – so happy we took that walk!

  • Wow! Absolutely beautiful and fascinate area!!

  • It looks absolutely stunning, what a magical place. It’s great when you find somewhere so special and so close to where you’re from.
    Lauren recently posted…Comment on Tysoe Windmill Walk by Heidi @him_me_three

    • It is indeed magical! I love discovering new places close to home that even the locals have never seen. Can’t beat that feeling, so special!

  • Hi Annette, at first I thought your photos were ‘paintings’ too. Walking through the ravins de Corbœuf must be an amazing experience and something I would love to do. I keep meaning to get another memory card after having been caught out in the past too. But for photos taken on a phone they are very good.

    #ablogginggoodtime
    Debbie Roberts recently posted…Monday Morning Blog Club 20/02/17

    • Thank you Debbie! Forgetting my memory card was a first for me, but I might buy another just in case…

  • Wow what an awesome looking place! I now have a new location to add to my bucket list.
    Ashley Beolens recently posted…Sheppey Birding

  • Oh wow that is so cool!! Amazing photos and beautiful location!
    Thanks for linking to #ablogginggoodtime

  • This is utterly beautiful! I have never seen anything like it! I am so pinning this for my Travel Bucket List! 🙂 Thank you so much for linking up with us on #FabFridayPost
    Su {Ethan & Evelyn} recently posted…#VicksTricks Challenge

    • Thank you Su! It is fabulous, isn’t it? We often seek out unusual sites in far flung places, but I love the joy you get from finding such a spot on your doorstep. It is something special.
      Thanks for hosting #FabFridayPost 🙂

  • That is some incredible geology you’ve photographed. One to be added to the ever-increasing must-see list! Shame about the camera but those are pretty impressive shots for an iphone. Sounded well worth the visit #CountryKids
    Kids of the Wild recently posted…How To Make A Firepit From A Recycled Washing Machine Drum

    • You have one of those ever-increasing lists too?! It was incredible indeed, in a part of France that is pretty fascinating anyway. Still feel blessed to have seen it, when most people have never heard of it. 🙂

  • Not only is this an incredible place, but it also seems wonderfully untouched by commercial, mainstream tourism (I certainly had never heard of it before, despite visiting this part of France several times). I’m going to have to check this place out before it becomes famous! Thanks for the info and for the beautiful photos!!
    #FarawayFiles & #CountryKids
    Jonny (daisythebus) recently posted…Bourglinster – village of nature, history and culture

    • Jonny,
      If you’ve been in the area several times, then you know that it remains relatively unspoilt. Going back twice a year, it’s a joy to explore my homeplace like a ‘tourist’, discovering sites that the locals don’t know about, or take for granted.
      Now I’m curious about which places you know about in this part of France. 😉

  • What a terrific sight! Doesn’t it make you realise how magnificent the world is? #MondayEscapes
    Tania recently posted…How to cut the cost of travelling (even with 13 kids!)

  • I got rather excited when I saw this as I visited the ravins de Corbœuf a couple of years ago and this is the first post I’ve seen from any other visitor! Your photos are great, a much better colour than mine! #Mondayescapes

    • I am impressed you visited the ravins de Corbœuf – I haven’t yet met, so to speak, anyone who has seen them, let alone a fellow blogger. Did you stay in the area for long? This is where I’m from, you see, so I’m curious 😉

  • Simply stunning! Definitely strong competition for Roussillon… Going to have to add this to my bucket list, thanks for sharing!

    • Are there similar places in the Roussillon area? I don’t really know it. Thanks for commenting! 🙂

  • Amazing! The colors are so unreal. I had no idea this place existed! #allaboutfrance
    Hilary recently posted…Day Trippers: Joshua Tree National Park

  • I am astonished by these formations! So funny you made the mentioned because the word badlands came to mind mind when I saw the first photo. They look like the badlands in the States but the colors are a bit different. This is something I would love to see. #AllAboutFrance
    Ruth recently posted…Champagne: 9 Reasons to Visit this Region in France

    • My hiking guidebook mentioned such badlands in western Canada – it is apparently the official geological term for this type of formation, even in French! Thanks for your comment 🙂

  • Oh my word I can’t believe you took those photos with an iphone they are stunning. What a wonderful place to visit. Thanks for linking up to #MondayEscapes

    • I wasn’t going to not take photos during that walk, so the iPhone it was! Glad the light was good enough to take more than decent shots 🙂

  • Wow this is breaking, what a beautiful place to visit, isn’t nature breathtaking x

  • How come this place is so unknown? It deserves to be incredibly famous but then I’m really really glad it’s not as it’s always extra special to visit somewhere relatively untouched. I would never have said France if I was asked to guess the country, China or Iceland spring to mind, but not France. I love learning about amazing places like this, France never ceases to amaze. Thanks for linking up to #AllAboutFrance
    Phoebe | Lou Messugo recently posted…Free family fun in Nice

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