14: Queyrières to Puy-en-Velay

Downhill to Puy-en-Velay

 

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:

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https://fr.wikiloc.com/itineraires-randonnee/de-queyrieres-au-puy-en-velay-par-le-gr65-gr430-et-le-raccourci-de-compostelle-40536730

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 the Via Gebennensis comes to an end. It is a transition stage towards the Via Podiensis, which begins in Le Puy-en-Velay. The first part of the stage is still largely confined to the “sucs” of the Velay area, these elegant little rounded volcanoes, which look like large mushrooms in the landscape, these domes where the fir forests climb to the top. In this great descent in the forest towards the plain of St Julien-Chapteuil bloom the rivulets and the mills whose wheels have definitely finished turning. Beyond St Julien-Chapteuil, there is a great transition in the landscape. They are nothing more than small hills, where tall trees are becoming rare. You are gradually approaching civilization in St Germain-Laprade. Then, you leave it for a kind of return to nature. But as soon as you’ll reach the Loire River, you are almost already at the end of the journey. It is then a beautiful walk along the Loire River and its tributary, the Borne River, which meanders until you reach the marvelous rock of Aiguilhe, at the gates of the town.

Difficulty of the course: Slope variations (+240 meters/-738 meters) speaks for a mostly downhill course. It is not a difficult stage, except for pilgrims who do not appreciate steep descents in the forests on narrow pathways. Beyond St-Julien-Chapteuil, there are no more difficulties until St Germain-Laprade. But, there, if you think you are on vacation, think again, because there is still a bump in front of you before reaching the Loire River, where then begins a real, but long, walk towards Le Puy-en-Velay.

Today, the route is clearly to the advantage of the pathways. We have considered the course from Brive-Charensac to Le Puy, as a course on the pathways, even if there are sometimes many passages on narrow tarmac allays:

Paved roads: 9.2 km

Dirt roads: 15.5 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: Nice walk in the “sucs” to a mill lost in the forest.

 

General overview of the difficulties of the route: more than 200 meters of descent, often with marked slopes, sometimes more than 15%.

GR path comes out of Queyrières and descends on the road for a few hundred meters. Today, at least at the start, there is no problem with the direction, GR65 and GR430 tracks being common on the first part of the stage.
Here, you have a very nice perspective on 3 “sucs” which are Mont Chanis, Mont Rouge and Peyre de Bard. Between these last two will slope down the track.
Further down, GR path leaves the paved road to take a fairly stony pathway that slopes down into the ash trees.
The pathway then hesitates a little between the clearings and the undergrowth, where there are always plenty of ash trees, maples and a few pines.
Soon, the pathway joins the first houses of the village of Monedeyres. Here, unusual rural residences, with themes, have been built.
For the first time today, the pathway finds the Sumène brook on its way, which you will have plenty of time to observe on many occasions during the stage.
Monedeyres is a remarkable village, all made of beautiful houses in volcanic stones, with all the tones up to black basalt. The roofs are still covered with phonolite slabs.
Here, you will perhaps meet someone who will tell you the un-Catholic history of the village church. You are in 1862, when the municipality of Queyrières was created. At that time, Monedeyres was already a large village, but there was no church, whereas there was one in Queyrières. Patois was spoken in the two villages, but they were different. And to go to mass in Queyrières, it was not convenient, especially for the elderly to slope up the pathway in clogs, especially during winter. And then, in Queyrières, it was not much better, the church partly falling into ruins. So, the people of Monedeyres decided to build their own church, at their own expense. The construction of the church was completed in 1914. But having a church without a priest was not the solution. They then decided to train their own priest, sending a young man from the village to the seminary. The young man will never finish his studies. And then the bishop was hardly cooperative, not wanting to consecrate the church, the church of Queyrières being sufficient for his taste. There’s definitely politics there. The bishop sent missionaries to say mass, but no titular priest, the church not being consecrated. Thus, the church, never consecrated, was maintained by the villagers. Three meals were organized annually in the pagan church. Failing to serve the good word, people still eat cabbage soup there in September. These stories of rivalry between the two villages inspired Jules Romains, the great local writer, in his book Cromedeyre le Vieil.
At the exit of the village, after a short trip on the road, GR path finds a pathway that descends towards the forest.
The wide pathway descends steeply through ash trees, maples and hornbeam. On your left stands the Suc of Peyre de Bard, on your left the Suc of Mont Rouge.
Then, for a short time, the slope becomes even steeper, at almost 20%, on large stones in the thick vegetation.
After passing a tributary of the Sumène brook, the slope smoothens under the maples and the bouquets of hornbeams.
Here, a clearing in the middle of ash trees, maples.
Just below comes the moment of decision. GR65 and GR430 tracks do not follow the Camino de Compostela. Why? They have another program, encouraging you to discover the old mills, but above all to climb the Suc of la Tortue and visit the basalt organs of the Suc of Chapteuil with its fortress. If you’re not in a rush, go for it. Otherwise, follow the shells of the Camino de Santiago. In fact, there are therefore again three tracks here.

GR65 and GR420 tracks slope up the pathway here towards the road towards the village of La Faye. The Camino de Compostela continues straight on towards the Guérin Moulin (Mill).

Here, the pathway to the mill is very well indicated. Beyond the fork of the tracks, a pathway climbs sharply, for a short passage, in the forest, where stand tall silver fir trees and enormous beeches. Here, it is no longer the complete fir forest, but a more mixed forest.
A barrier marks the top of the climb. The Guérin Mill is just below, accessible by small wooden stairs. The mill was built at the beginning of the XXth century by a miller named Guérin. The mill operated until the 1960s. Today, it is no longer possible to see the mill wheel, its wheat and barley sorters.
But, the site is remarkable. You have to walk on the small canals that brought water from the river to the mill. Here, everything is freshness, serenity, grace.
The pathway begins the descent towards St Julien-Chapteuil under the mill.
Beyond the mill the gurgling of the Sumène brook can be heard and the pathway passes on the other side of the stream near a picnic table.
A small embankment on logs to find a pathway above…

…and the pathway descends towards the stream.

Section 2: In St Julien-Chapteuil, in the homeland of Jules Romains.

 


General overview of the difficulties of the route: nearly 200 meters of descent, with marked slopes near Chapuze

The pathway, quite sloping, descends through the abundant vegetation towards the stream but does not cross it.
Further ahead, you’ll walk a little above the stream in the middle of the big beeches, a few oaks and many spruces.
Shortly after, the pathway climbs and the slope becomes more marked on shales and large lustrous limestone stones.
Further up, the pathway leaves the forest for the undergrowth and the slope is less steep, but the pathway remains quite stony along the small maple trees, the hornbeam shoots and the bushes.
Along the entire climb, magnificent dry-stone walls from another age support the embankment.
Further on, the pathway descends steeply towards La Chapuze in the scattered undergrowth. Remember that you are no longer on the GR65 path, but on the Camino de Compostela. Throughout this route, the Camino de Compostela is very well indicated by the shells because many other tracks, especially by mountain bikers, also run through here.
LThe pathway is most often very stony and the vegetation very present in places. There are also magnificent poplars here.
Further down, the pathway emerges from the undergrowth near the first houses of La Chapuze.
The tar then replaces the dirt and the slope is severe on the heights of the village.
The poplars and ash trees make you hedges of honor and compete in height. You have to look up to find their peak.
The village is very scattered on the top, with some remarkable volcanic stone houses. In the distance, the “suc” of la Tortue appears where GR430 runs.
There is not really a village center.

La Chapuze is known to biographers because it was here that Henri Farigoule was born in 1885, better known as Jules Romains. We owe this author, at the same time poet, novelist, playwright and even scientific researcher at times, a great work, including the little-known epic of the Men of Good Will (27 volumes). But his reputation comes mainly from Knock or The Triumph of Medicine, a play created in Paris in 1923, with no less than Louis Jouvet as director.

A very steep dirt road intersects the bends of the road that crosses the village. On the horizon you may see St Julien-Chapteuil and its bell tower.
Below the village, the road intersects the Sumène stream, which we have followed very often beyond Queyrières.
It is then almost a kilometer on the road, along often recent housing estates, to reach St Julien-Chapteuil.
The paved road arrives at the entrance to the town in the fairly new district of the Croix Blanche.
In front of you stands the large church of the village on the hill..
AAt the entrance to the village, the Camino de Compostela joins GR65 and GR430 tracks which are returning from their short escapade in the “sucs”.Simple, right?
So, let’s find our big Jules at the entrance of the village. Here, no less than three streams flow into the basin and pretty stone bridges provide access to the upper town. Here, everything is for Jules Romains, the local glory rising in Paris, because he never actually lived here. But he liked to come and stay there. The Tourist Office offers a circuit booklet of the author’s favorite places, including his birthplace, the village hotel where he liked to come, the house of friends in the forest of Meygal.
If you have time, you can climb from the stream on the hill, where the old town is located and its magnificent church, built on a steep rock overlooking the valley, which suggests that it was once fortified. Here, at the end of the XIth century, the Benedictines founded a Romanesque abbey. The church was deeply redesigned in the XVIIth century, changing the Romanesque vaults for Gothic vaults. Then, in the XIXth century, a crypt, a presbyter and a bell tower were added, so that apart from a few walls, there is not much left of the original building. Nevertheless, it is no less majestic on its hill.
But, GR65 path (and also the GR430 which follows the same route) does not climb to the center of the village. It just takes a few steps near the trickle of water…
… before reaching a roundabout, at the exit of the village, near the town hall, and fleeing on the sidewalk along the departmental road.
The exit from the village is quite endless, almost a kilometer on the road. Towards the end of the village, the road passes near a supermarket. Let’s say that these high places of civilization are always welcomed with happiness by the pilgrim who walks almost all day outside the world.

Section 3: Undulations between meadows and undergrowth.

 

General overview of the difficulties of the route: breaking-leg course, in undulations, but the slopes do not exceed 15%.

However, after a while, GR path will leave the road for a dirt road.
Here, the landscape has changed. You are far from the magic of the little “sucs” in the forest. These are meadows and hedgerows without much character, always with maples and ash trees.
Then comes the cold banality of the cornfields, too present on the way to Compostela, and the slope becomes a little steeper.
Fortunately, the tall maples and black poplars bring a touch of softness to this austere landscape.
Soon, the pathway arrives at the edge of the Sumène River and crosses it on a hypothetical narrow concrete bridge, without any protection.
Then, the walk becomes more pleasant, not far from the stream, in the shade of large ash trees, maples, with sometimes a hornbeam here and there. In front of you the rock wall of Eynac is growing.
Shortly after, the slope becomes steeper, but reasonable, to reach the hamlet first on a wide dirt road, then on the tarmac.

Here stand wonderful houses where all the variants of volcanic stones compete in happiness, from light trachytes to black basalts. It’s just wonderful what our ancestors knew how to build in the past.
The road runs above the hamlet and descends steeply towards the Sumène brook, which still carries basalt pebbles smoothed over the centuries.
Beyond the bridge, it’s not enthusiasm. You have to follow the paved road that climbs for almost a kilometer, almost straight at a 10%-15% slope. Here, the forest is mixed, with the deciduous trees of the region. The fir trees have given way to the spruces, and then appear the pines.
At the top of the climb, the forest disappears and you can then see the small hills of the Puy-en-Velay basin in front of you.
Then, from a small plateau, the road descends steeply towards the scattered houses of the hamlet of Tournecol.
The water flows here at the fountain, in the volcanic stones, next to a naïve nativity scene.
Further on, the paved road gradually leaves the hamlet, and continues to descend into the meadows.

Section 4: The Gillonay variant and the Via Gebennensis join here.

 

General overview of the difficulties of the route: course without problem, the slopes present are downhill, especially on tarmac

There is still a small sloping section here before the road slopes slightly downhill through the meadows, with occasional maple or ash.
The road then arrives in Marnhac. In front of you opens the Velay, sometimes with small “sucs” which are also called “guards”. On the horizon stands the mountain bar of Velay, where the track to Compostela runs beyond Puy-en-Velay.
The road then crosses a village where the volcanic stones still express themselves vigorously. In all the small villages of the region, there are no more shops, probably for a very long time.
At the exit of the village, a very stony pathway slopes down, steep, to reach an undergrowth where the track crosses Trende brook.
Here runs, a semi-motorway, D150 road. The pathway passes on the other side and climbs shortly to a small hill above.

The pathway then arrives at a place called Le Broussillon. This is where the two GR65s meet, the Gillonay variant (Via Adresca), which comes back from Ardèche, and the traditional Via Gebennensis, which you followed. It is also here that passes GR430 track, the Chemin de St Régis, which you often followed jointly beyond Montfaucon, with some misunderstandings sometimes. We describe the Gillonay variant on the site, and also in a book published on Amazon platform.

A wide dirt road then descends from the small hill towards the plain, parallel to D150 road. The industrial complex is relatively large here, with dozens of small establishments. Until 2013, the big American pharma Merck Sharp and Dhome had a factory. The Fareva group has taken over from the factory to manufacture mainly generics, and today other molecules.

The dirt road then runs along the departmental road before slanting towards St Germain-Laprade.

The road crosses the suburbs and reaches the entrance to the borough (3,500 inhabitants), with all the shops. You are here about ten kilometers to the center of Puy-en-Velay.

Section 5: In front of you flows the Loire River.

 

General overview of the difficulties of the route: course with a small bump.

The modern borough along the road is very unremarkable. But you have to enter the small alleys to taste the charm of the village. The St Germain church is listed as a historical monument. Built in Romanesque style in the XIIth century, it has undergone new additions, especially Gothic, throughout the centuries. The last alterations date from the XXth century, but overall the church is quite beautiful and original with its particular bell tower, with a dark interior, which has a very Romanesque style, as an atmosphere.
Barons have succeeded one another here since the XIIth century. The current castle, nestled at the bottom of a park, is private and cannot be visited.
You have to slope down from the old village, which mixes the old and the modern, to find back GR path on the road that leaves the borough.
At a first roundabout, GR path leaves on a long straight road.
It heads quickly to a place called La Prade, located opposite the large industrial area.
A little further on, the road runs along the neat St Régis cemetery.
This is where GR path leaves for a last little tour in the woods and the countryside before the city. Brives-Charensac, the large suburb of Puy-en-Velay, is nearly 3 kilometers from here.
A pathway slopes up to the hill in the middle of the oaks. There are still rare chestnut trees here, and pines. The view is extended over the industrial zone.
At the top of the hill, the pathway leaves the woods on the Chemin de Doue.

You are here in a universe of “guards”, wooded to their summit, and meadows. At the foot extends Brives-Charensac, and further the city.

 

Here again, it is necessary to be attentive to the hay season, because the trace of the pathway may disappear, and you may think that it is better to go straight. Error! You have to aim for the hedge and slope down along it.
On the way, you come across mainly large oaks and maples.
At the bottom of the descent, the pathway passes near the village of Malescot, and runs back into the undergrowth.
Further afield, a wide pathway slopes gently down along leafy hedges.

Section 6: Walk along the Loire and the Borne Rivers.

 

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

Then, quickly, the paved road appears at the entrance to the borough of Brives-Charensac.
GR path then arrives near the Loire River, again in the noise of civilization.
Here, you can still see traces of the old Pont des Chartreux. What is amazing with the Loire is how quickly the river becomes a big river. The Loire is only born 50 kilometers from here, at Gerbier de Jonc.
GR path crosses the Loire River on Galard Bridge and passes below by the river.
It runs in front of a media library, along a water reservoir.
Further ahead, you’ll walk along the river under a magnificent hedge of large silver maples, which have been planted in large numbers on the banks of the Loire River, and further on also on the Borne River. Swimming is not allowed in the river.
Here it is a quiet walk, used mostly by dog owners. A little further on, a small bridge spans a stream and the pathway runs along a sports area.
Under the maple trees, the pathway leads to the Pont de la Chartreuse. Brives-Charensac is a long history of bridges (in Celtic language, bridge was called Brivas). A long time ago, five bridges spanned the Loire River. But the river is capricious and has experienced many major flood episodes. It has partially destroyed all the bridges over the centuries. Upstream from Galard Bridge, only two arches of the Old Bridge remain. Galard Bridge was built at the end of the XVIIIth century.

As for the Pont de la Chartreuse, it is also quite a story. Probably originally made of wood, from the time of the Celts, it was replaced by a stone bridge by the Romans who installed a kind of toll here to cross the river. Then, the bridge is mentioned at the beginning of the XIIIth century, under the name of “Pont Plancher”, perhaps because the deck was made of wood. The current bridge had to be rebuilt in masonry in the XVth century, originally comprising 5 arches. The capricious Loire amputated an arch in 1790, replaced by an access ramp. The bridge, listed as a historical monument since 1914, is very narrow, only 2 meters wide. You do not circulate there, especially since a flood in 1980 also took access to the other bank.

Here, at Pont de la Chartreuse, you leave the dirt for the tar, but there are still pathways on a tarred strip. Never here, you will walk on real roads. The pathway continues along the Loire River, without it being visible yet.

The coastal pathway soon arrives near the new structures of RN88 road, the main axis which goes from Puy-en-Velay to St Etienne, then to Lyon. If you passed here a few years ago, you will no longer recognize the place. In the past there was great confusion here, with traffic jams. Today, everything runs smoothly.

LThe routre runs along the road complex, passes under a ramp. On the right, flows the Borne, a big river which bypasses the Puy-en-Velay on the heights, to the south of the city.
A little further, the pathway passes on the other side of the national road, while following the Borne River.
Then, it runs under the railway line and continues towards Puy-en-Velay along the Borne River.
Further afield, it transits to the rugby stadium in the region.
On leaving the stadium, GR path runs under a bridge where a boulevard passes, and reaches a park. It is in this region that the hospital and a large shopping center are located.
GR path then crosses the park under the tall trees, before passing to the other side of the Borne River on cement piers.

Borne River is a paradise for fishermen and nature lovers. Wild, it is beautiful in all its excesses, cool in summer, often flooded in autumn, and frozen in winter.

The route then runs up the Ste Marie ford. This time, the Borne River is to the right of the hiker.

Here, the Borne River has a little caprice.

The water turns dark, brown, as a boulevard crosses the other side of the river.

It is then, at a bend in the track, that the image of all the postcards of Le Puy looms, the red statue of Notre Dame de France enthroned on the hill, protecting the city. Below is the bell tower of the cathedral.

So here, to vary a little, the pathway returns to the other side of the Borne River.

At the end of the pathway, on a large square, appears the other marvel of the city, between earth and sky, the rock of St Michel d’Aiguilhe.

Under the willows, plane trees and silver maples, the pathway then runs along the square to arrive at the Pont Tordu.

Here, you are close to the city center. Refer, in the site, to the introduction of the Via Podiensis, to direct you in the city and to find accommodation there.

Lodging






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Next stage: You are in Le Puy. Before continuing further, you can take a look at Via Adresca, the parallel route to Via Gebennensis. This will allow you to make a choice.
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