10: Auberives-sur-Varèze to St Julien-Molin-Molette

Leaving the Rhône valley for the foothills of the Pilat mountain

 

DIDIER HEUMANN, ANDREAS PAPASAVVAS

 

 

We divided the course into several sections to make it easier to see. For each section, the maps show the course, the slopes found on the course, and the state of the roads. The courses were drawn on the “Wikilocs” platform. Today, it is no longer necessary to walk around with detailed maps in your pocket or bag. If you have a mobile phone or tablet, you can easily follow routes live.

For this stage, here is the link:

https://fr.wikiloc.com/itineraires-randonnee/de-auberives-sur-vareze-a-st-julien-molin-molette-par-le-gr65-73677546

It is obviously not the case for all pilgrims to be comfortable with reading GPS and routes on a laptop, and there are still many places in France without an Internet connection. Therefore, you’ll find soon a book on Amazon that deals with this course.

If you only want to consult lodging of the stage, go directly to the bottom of the page.

Today, you are going to travel to the end of this great plain of Bièvre-Valloire, which you have been following for so many days, to join the Rhône River in Chavanay. From there, the landscape changes drastically. You’ll leave the department of Isère for that of the Loire. You’ll leave the plain for the hills, even the small mountains and the puys, which lead you to Le-Puy-en-Velay. In 4 to 5 days, you’ll reach Le Puy, which many pilgrims, the majority of them Europeans and the French in particular, consider to be the real start of the Camino de Santiago! What a simplification! Isn’t this validating this assertion so frenchy that France is the middle of the universe? Moreover, in this regard, on average 150 pilgrims per day leave from Le Puy and sometimes 2,000 arrive in Santiago in Spain. So?

In constructions, the concern for proximity has always been the rule in the choice of building stones. Pilat and Haute-Loire are granite and volcanic bases, and the further you go towards Puy-en-Velay, the more the density of volcanic rocks increases. In the scree especially, but also in the quarries, people therefore directly drew building materials. Here, granite, gneisses and schists were outcropping. There were even a few volcanic rocks, like grayish phonolites, clear trachytes, which look like limestones from a distance, or black basalts. Lauzes have also been widely used, flat slabs ideal for covering roofs, often made from volcanic phonolite, which are easily cut.

Throughout the region, the heritage ensured by the old, and even the recent residences is remarkable. You rarely see these lice that are the new housing estates in the country. Here, the use of granite cut stones gives the facades of the houses an elegant and neat appearance. In this region, the old constructions are distinguished by the great regularity of the size of the blocks of granite stones, most often gray in color. Granite stone walls are most often bound with a lime plaster. When the roofs are not made of lauzes, most often volcanic phonolites, there are red tiles.

Difficulty of the course: Slope variations of the day (+710 meters / -361 meters) do not seem so imposing as that, for a stage of almost 28 kilometers. But don’t be fooled, the first 10 kilometers are flat. It is therefore 710 meters of elevation gain for 15 kilometers in fact, and the route climbs almost all the time, before descending to St Julien-Molin-Molette. Two passages are steeper than the others and then the slopes exceed 15%. These are the climb to La Ribaudy, shortly after Chavanay and above all the very demanding Col de Sainte Blandine climb towards the end of the stage. The descent to St Julien-Molin-Molette also deserves your full attention.

 

In today’s stage, you will walk a little more on the pathways than on the tarmac:

  • Paved roads: 12.7 km
  • Dirt roads: 15.2 km

Sometimes, for reasons of logistics or housing possibilities, these stages mix routes operated on different days, having passed several times on Via Podiensis. From then on, the skies, the rain, or the seasons can vary. But, generally this is not the case, and in fact this does not change the description of the course.

It is very difficult to specify with certainty the incline of the slopes, whatever the system you use.

For “real slopes”, reread the mileage manual on the home page.

Section 1: Two large boroughs not so far from the Rhône River.

 

General overview of the difficulties of the route: course without any difficulty.

Whether you have spent the night in Auberives or have only passed through the chemin des Vignes or gone up the RN7 road, you will arrive at a roundabout, at the exit of the borough, marked by the presence of a wine press.
Here, you are at the end of the Route du Château d’Eau, towards the Chemin de la Pêche.
The road then gradually leaves the suburbs of Auberives and enters the orchards.
You’ll then cross a large area of orchards, where apricot, peach, cherry and apple trees grow. Here, protective nets proliferate, not only to guard against birds, but also against climatic incidents, especially hail.
Here, GR path definitively leaves the suburb of Auberives.
Shortly after, it leaves the tarmac for a wide dirt road that crisscrosses the orchards and heads towards an undergrowth.
It then climbs into a small undergrowth on a dirt road.
After skirting the undergrowth, the pathway finds the orchards back, before joining a small road, not far from Clonas-sur-Varèze.
The road arrives quickly enough on the heights of Clonas.
Further ahead, GR6 path leaves the paved road again for a stretch of countryside above the village.
The pathway then arrives at the bottom of the Chemin de la Côte, in the center of the borough.
Clonas-sur-Varèze is a small borough of 1,500 inhabitants. Here, you still find these houses, including the town hall, made of pebbles from the Bièvre. These constructions will soon disappear from the landscape as the journey continues.

Here are Roman mosaics, in the museum of Villa Lucinius. If you see interest there and you are in the right days and opening hours, stop by.

GR path leaves Clonas down the Route de la Varèze. It is still a paradox. The last two boroughs crossed bear the name of the river, but you will not see it. It passes a little higher, to the north to empty into the Rhône River.

Section 2: Return to the Rhône River.

 

General overview of the difficulties of the route: course without any difficulty.

The road leaves the borough, transits a little in the countryside before joining the D4, a very circulating secondary road.
On the other side of the crossroads, GR path takes the Route de la Gare for a hundred meters.
Here, the course is gymnastic. A pathway then leaves in the grass to join, beyond a small hill, the D37b road, a little less circulating than the previous one.
It then follows the side of the departmental road, passing over the Lyon-Marseille railway line, until it reaches the entrance to St Pierre.
There, the course leaves the departmental road and takes a small road which crosses the village and heads towards St Alban du Rhône, a locality where a nuclear power plant is located. There is nothing very interesting here, following roads and peeking at houses without much character.
Near a park where a beautiful wine press sits, the road descends towards a bridge.
The latter passes on the D37b which is preparing to cross the Rhône River towards Chavanay. A parallel railway line may be disused.
Beyond the bridge, the road crosses the outskirts of St Alban on the Chemin du Ranch.
At the end of the village, a hairpin leads below into the plain on the road to the Vieux Pont.
The road then flattens in the plain, in the middle of the corn, under the high voltage line.
Shortly after, the small road once again finds the D37b road.
Here, a small narrow pathway runs along the road to the river.

Section 3: Beyond the Rhône River, climbing starts.

 

General overview of the difficulties of the route: course without difficulty until Chavanay, then demanding climb towards Ribaudy, with sometimes slopes of almost 20%.

Further ahead, the pathway and the road arrive at the large bridge thrown over the Rhône River.

Here, the majestic Rhône is watching you, undulating at the bottom of the hillsides where the terraces of the vineyards overlook the river. Here, on the vertiginous slopes, syrah and viognier from Côtes Rôties and Condrieu flourish happily, among the best wines on the planet, in white as in red. What happiness! But the route does not pass there. Since your last encounter in St Genix-sur-Giers with the river, the Rhône River has grown somewhat. On the way, ite swallowed the Ain, the Saône, plus a few other more or less substantial streams. It only lacks the Isère, the Drome, the Durance, the Cèze and the Ardèche Rivers to satisfy it a little more.

Below, the nuclear power plant has almost its feet in the water. Admittedly, tsunamis are not legion in France. But a big problem, like an earthquake, could pollute the country for a long time to the Mediterranean Sea.

At the end of the bridge, GR path arrives at a crossroads, which it circumvents by starting on a small road.
A small tunnel then passes under the railway track. But no more passenger trains run here. All the same! Traffic has been removed on the right bank of the Rhône River, a fairly inhabited bank. Figure it out.
In fact, all this detour from the bridge is not to make you walk on the National Road N86, but this road, you cross it here. RN86 road is the very illustrious wine route that goes from Vienne to Valence, passing through Tournon and Tain l’Hermitage. Here, the grands crus are all more famous and celebrated than each other.
Here winds the Valencize River and the course engages under the N86 road at the edge of the small river.
Further afield, a pathway crosses a very pleasant, refreshing park, under the tall trees, with the brook which purrs on the side.
At the end of the park is the Square du 11 Novembre and the ramparts. Here, you are close to the borough (3,000 inhabitants). Of Gallo-Roman origin, Chavanay was the seat of a lordship in the Middle Ages. It has preserved from this time a circular organization, vestiges of towers, and winding streets.

GR path does not go to the center, from which you can see the old town and its church on your right. Many pilgrims stop here, where there are all the shops and also accommodation.

GR path exits through the fortifications and crosses the Valencize River.
Further on, a road climbs above the suburbs. You’ll immediately notice that in the Loire the houses are more opulent than in Isère. The stones reappear in the houses.
GR path follows the road until you find the junction that leads to the Chapelle du Calvaire.
There, a pathway with large, sometimes angular stones climbs through the deciduous undergrowth. The slope here is often more than 20%. Ash trees, oaks, beeches and chestnuts thrive here.
Further up, the slope softens, which no one will complain about, except the great athletes.
Shortly after, the pathway smoothens to the chapel. This early XVIIIth century chapel belonged to the Confrérie des Pénitents Blancs. But the brotherhood was suppressed and the chapel abandoned. Recently, the Friends of the Chapelle du Calvaire undertook the restoration, which was completed in 2008.
From here the view is plunging over Chavanay and the Rhône River. It is without doubt with great nostalgia that pilgrims from Geneva will regretfully leave the river, which has been their companion for almost 10 days.
Beyond the passage to the chapel, the pathway resumes its severe climbing between moor and undergrowth. The oaks like these poor and stony grounds. But, there are also many ash trees, maples and chestnut trees. Soon, you see the first vines.
Further up, the pathway leaves the undergrowth and the pebbles disappear a little from the track, but the slope remains steep in the middle of the vineyard.
You are not far from Condrieu. The winegrowers here therefore produce white wine from the famous Viognier and also red wine from Syrah, similar to St Joseph and Côte-Rôtie. But, there, the ground is more granite and volcanic rocks. Here, it is limestone and shales. The wine is less popular here. Does the soil explain a lot?
At the top of the ridge, the pathway joins a small road in the hamlet of La Ribaudy.

So, a last great greeting full of sweetness and happiness to this beautiful vineyard which dominates the Rhône River.

La Ribaudy has a lot of charm with its beautiful jointed stone houses.
At the exit of the hamlet, a pathway begins a descent into a small dale in the vineyards.
Here, the vines are staged in terraces delimited by low granite walls. The pathway then descends steeply towards an undergrowth.
The descent into the undergrowth, dominated by small beeches, hornbeams, oaks and ashes, is not long until you find the small stream of Mornieux, which does not flow at a high level.
Beyond the stream, the pathway, quite stony, slopes up gently in the undergrowth towards a small plateau.

Section 4: In the undergrowth, vineyards and orchards.

 

General overview of the difficulties of the route: course without any difficulty.

At the end of the wood, the pathway gets to a place called La Grange du Merle.
From here, the orchards, especially apple trees, will dispute the territory with the vines.
At the end of the plateau, the pathway heads to Morzelas, a village of winegrowers and farmers.
Further afield, it slopes up gently in a sort of disorderly moor between the orchards and the vines.
When the pathway reaches the place called Les Combes, you’ll arrive on a small plateau. It should be emphasized here with what thoroughness and detail the track is indicated in this stage. Alas, it won’t last.
The pathway soon intersects a small road and continues on dirt on the high plateau. The Saut de l’Agneau (Leap of the Lamb) is announced a stone’s throw from here. You’ll salivate in advance.
Further up, the pathway continues between the vines and the rare fruit trees.

Right next to it, the pathway gets to a place called Le Saut de l’Agneau, where you do not really understand where the animal could have jumped. Or a very small jump…

And now, the pathway flattens in the dreary plain. On the horizon stand the Monts du Pilat. Behind the mountain is St Etienne.
The crossing of the plain lasts more than a kilometer, before the path begins to slightly slope down to the Mouling stream.
Further on, the pathway descends gently into the undergrowth to cross the stream. Getting a horse through even a trickle of water is not easy.
Then, the pathway slopes up briefly on the other side of the stream. It is always in undergrowth that the pebbles are numerous and that the small oaks proliferate.
Here, the vines have almost disappeared and a wide dirt road leads through meadows and orchards towards the village of Bessey, sometimes with a small clump of trees, especially ash trees.
The pathway alternates between dirt and pebbles, with occasional low walls.
Bessey is the largest village on the route. There is a church in the middle of beautiful stone houses. There is a water point, the only one on the way. Here, you can eat not far from the center of the village, because the other villages do not offer such possibilities.

Here, the beautiful stones burst and breathe everywhere in the village.

Section 5: In the undergrowth and orchards.

 

General overview of the difficulties of the route: course without problem, except for a small bump near the hamlet of Le Buisson.

Beyond the village, the pathway meanders through the orchards, sometimes with a large clump of ash trees.
Throughout the region, crops are rare, with occasional maize crops. There is no wheat there, only apple orchards, rarely peach or apricot trees. The orchards are almost all protected by large curtains.
From one orchard to another, GR path soon reaches a small road in the hamlet of Mas de Goëly.
If the Mas de Goëly is made up of recent housing estates, the village of Goëly, which is adjacent, is still an old stone village. As the pilgrims are few on the way, the small votive pebbles hardly accumulate on the pedestals of the crosses of the way.
In Goëly remains an old wash house, whose water has probably dried up for a long time. Next to it, only the toads are still entitled to stagnant water, because the frogs are disappearing more and more.
At the exit of the village, GR path finds again the dirt and the orchards.
It crosses a small road and begins to climb towards a campsite on the tarmac.
PFurther afield, dirt is back. The climb first takes place in the orchards. Then at the level of the campsite, which seems quite wild, the slope becomes steep in the deciduous undergrowth.
At the exit of the undergrowth, the slope smoothens and GR path joins a small road which leads to Le Buisson hamlet.
Here again beautiful stone houses. In the region, the basic material for rubble is limestone.
Beyond Le Buisson, the road descends again through orchards and meadows.
It quickly reaches the place called Chez Paret, dawdles a little along the low walls in the middle of the ash trees. These trees are kind of the kings of the roadsides here, and fortunately, they haven’t yet been decimated by the bad fungus that causes chalarose, the death of trees, as in many parts of Europe.
Further ahead, GR path leaves Chez Paret by road, then finds a pathway again in the tall grass.
Then, it starts again on a narrow pathway between undergrowth, wild grass and apple trees.

Section 6: From one small hamlet to another between undergrowth and countryside.

 

General overview of the difficulties of the route: course without any problem, before a demanding climb.

Further afield, a pathway, often very stony, meanders through the deciduous undergrowth. Here, next to the ash trees and small hornbeams, you can see a few oaks and even chestnut trees, trees that have become more discreet here. As soon as you climb in altitude, the chestnut trees always tend to dissipate.
After passing the tiny Fayen stream lost in the wild grass, the pathway comes out of the woods on a field of stones. It is clear that here too, the large pebbles of the Bièvre moraines still stand out.
The pathway then crosses the meadows. In front of you, you can see the large village of St Appolinard and its church. Below the track stands a factory belonging to the Justin Bridou brand, built in 1981. This charcuterie packaging plant belongs to the Aoste Group, the leader in French charcuterie, which is part of a large multinational, the Spanish-Mexican Campofrio Food Group. It is quite special to note that the kings of French charcuterie are no longer French. Are all pigs also French? Because this group is spread all over the planet.
Shortly after, the pathway heads to Bazin hamlet.
Further on, the pathway runs back into the undergrowth, along stone walls, in the middle of maples, oaks and ash trees.
In these woods rich in hornbeam shoots, small oaks swarm along the poor land covered with large pebbles. Further, may be, stones were partially removed. y. Here, it is no longer the round pebbles of the Isère, but angular limestone.
At the exit of the undergrowth, here is another washhouse which dies of its beautiful death, at the entrance of the village of Pourzin.
A paved road crosses the village with its beautiful stone houses built to stand the test of time. It must be said that one rarely comes across people in these hamlets and villages, all of which, at first sight, have no centers of social life.
Behind the large stone walls of the village, GR path starts again on the tarmac.
Further ahead, the road heads towards the village of St Appolinard, whose church can be seen behind the orchards, but GR path does not go there.
Then, the road leads to the hamlet of Curtil, where GR path leaves the main road to find itself on a pathway that again runs through undergrowth, in the middle of hardwoods.
The passage through the undergrowth is brief, and you’ll find the tar back at the entrance to the village of Mérigneux.
At the exit of the village, a road begins to climb towards the mountain, with more than 10% slope, but here it is only an appetizer, to whet your appetite..
A little up, GR path leaves the paved road for the dirt, under walnut trees, oaks and ash trees.
The pilgrims who prepare the stages have read that at some point the holidays ended and that they were facing a more difficult passage. It is here for almost a kilometer, with sometimes slopes greater than 25%. At the beginning, the pathway climbs in the grass until you find a small road.
The passage on the road is short, near the place called Les Rôtisses. Here, you’ll see conifers appear in the middle of the deciduous trees.
Further up, the pathway climbs first on the grass in the forest. The slope is already tough, but here still quite reasonable.
Then, the slope steepens seriously under the deciduous trees. Here, the passage is difficult, not only because of the slope, but also because of the state of the pathway where large stones are exposed.

Section 7: Up there, at the Croix de Blandine, before plunging into the valley.

 

General overview of the difficulties of the route: the great difficulty of the route, the climb to the Croix de Ste Blandine sometimes presenting slopes exceeding 20%; the descent to St Julien is not easy either.

Further up, the pathway reaches a clearing where the pines are more present. On the way, a stele announces Santiago to you at 1,600 kilometers. It’s reassuring, when you sweat profusely, isn’t it?
At the top of the tough climb, the pathway gets to the Gîte de Ste Blandine. A deliverance for less sporty pilgrims.

Further afield, the pathway wanders through the meadows, at the edge of the woods until it passes under the Croix de Ste Blandine.

How many pilgrims will make the effort to climb the slope to the cross to take a last look at the Rhone Valley, to see all these orchards covered with hangings that have dotted the track up to here?

Beyond the cross, the pathway meanders a little on the plateau, in the pastures, even descends a little towards the forest.
In the forest of conifers and deciduous trees especially, the pathway nods a little, descends, then climbs in steeper slope.
Further up, the pathway gets to the hamlet of Combe Noire.
Here, the program is simple. You see the village of Chatagnard below. It is a demanding descent, sometimes in the stones, in the undergrowth, at more than 15% over nearly a kilometer.
But, there is a much more relaxing alternative: the road. Admittedly, it also descends, but on a reasonable slope, in the shade of hardwoods, and without stones. We have opted here for this arrangement.

Whatever your choice, you will arrive at the village of Chatagnard, which, by its name, suggests that there are chestnut trees on the way.

Further afield, the road slopes down a little further under the hamlet in the spruces…
…before finding a pathway, the aptly named Chemin de Compostelle, which slopes up the hill.
The pathway turns up into a road that climbs very steeply to a housing estate of recent villas. At this point, you are above St Julien-Molin-Molette.
So, just for the pleasure of your knees and your joints, but it’s the end of the stage, a descent of more than 15% towards the village.

The borough has 1,250 inhabitants, built in a basin through which the Ternay River flows. It has a long history. Its name evokes the mills and the wheels, which are stones to sharpen. The Gauls, then the Romans passed through here. The Romans exploited here the lead mines, rich in the region. Then, time passed and at the beginning of the XVIIth century, industries came to settle in Saint-Julien, in relation with the exploitation of lead, silver and copper mines, and with the spinning of the bristles. At that time, the village was populated by many foreign workers. It is unquestionably the silk industry which was the flagship of the borough. People used Ternay water for spinning, throwing, weaving scarves, printing fabrics. All this disappeared a long time ago, the last factory having closed in the 1970s. But there are still traces in the village of the industry of yesteryear.

On the church square, where beautiful modern fountains are erected, stands the church. This XVIth century church was built in honor of Saint Julien de Brioude. The church is sober, luminous. Its former XVIIth century pulpit is listed as a historical monument. There is also a famous Calvary here, where you will pass tomorrow.

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Next stage : Stage 11: From  St Julien Molin-Molette to Les Sétoux
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