Bioregional culture in French Alps

oldhomesalpsWalking in the French Alps is a good way to practice bioregioning. Among other things, bioregioning is a way of seeing.

The first thing I noticed about being in the Ubaye valley of the Hautes Alpes area was that I was in a “montane” super-region which now encompasses a number of countries including Italy, whose border was only about 20 miles away.

I read an interesting story about how the neighbouring valley was cut in half by the French king deciding to claim one portion of it from Savoie, to whom it previously wholly belonged. The local people got round this by continuing to move their flocks along time-honoured routes, which meant crossing the new border with impunity, since it was so remote. Resilience in action!

The picture is of me walking at 2,00m in a field of yellow rattle early in July. My guidebook told me that 200 years ago people lived here permanently, growing rye and lentils (the distinct “fours” lentils, a regional staple). This was possible because they were on the “adret” or south-facing slope as opposed to the “ubaye” or north-facing one.

Now, of course, such marginal land is long-abandoned, just as in the west Highlands of Scotland where I live. In the background you can see the distinct farm buildings made of stone and “meleze” (larch) – including the rooves, made of large larch shingles. At lower altitudes many such buildings survive in better condition, and some have been restored: reminders of a once-strong bioregional cultural tradition.

About edwardtyler

I live in Kintyre, the long peninsula acting as a natural breakwater for the Firth of Clyde, west of Glasgow. A Permaculture and Transition practitioner, I am working with fellow community activists to co-create a resilient and vibrant local bioregion.

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