La Min-sú de Terrasson


retreat, reflect, refresh

Cycle down the Coly valley

J
ust to the South-west of Terrasson, the Coly stream cuts through steep hills with a remarkable geology: Jurrasic formations to the north and Cretaceous to the south. To the north the hills are forested with pubescent oak (Quercus pubescens), juniper heaths and lean grasslands. To the south chest nuts and beech.

Cycle down the Coly valley from La Cassagne (or Saint Amand de Coly) and visit Coly, Saint Amand de Coly, la Chapelle Mouret, Condat sur Vézère and/or Bouillac, depending on your interest and fitness.


The Coly stream watershed


This small stream (10km from its source till plunging into the Vézère river) drains some 170km2 of undulated forestland, scattered with rich agricultural valleys, grasslands, walnut groves and the occasional hamlet or village.


From its source at the La Douce watermill the Coly drops 40 meters over its 10 kilometer length before it falls into the Vézère at Condat-sur-Vézère. The natural series of cascades has long providing power to a series of mills. The 1889 annals recommend it for its fish; raving about the trout, salmon and chub (Le chevesne, locally know as Le cabot - Squalius cephalus) a kind of carp.

Today fishing is regulated and allowed in season and by permit only. Most common fish species are the minnow (Le vairon), bullhead (Le chabot), gudgeon (Le goujon), brown trout (La truite fario), northern pike (Le brochet). Rare are crayfish and brook lamprey (Le lamproie) a weird primitive 'jawless fish'.

'Water is life', and cycling down the Coly you will be able to enjoy grasslands with Limousine cattle, observe the dragonflies, damselflies and (only in may) mayflies, kingfishers among many kinds of birds, aquatic plants as well as irises, narcissus and orchids on the banks.


Saint Amand de Coly


The village of Saint-Amand-de-Coly is classified as one of 'France's most beautiful villages'. Explore the village and its surroundings on foot, or by renting an 'all terrain bike'.


A little history
According to the legends, sometime halfway the 6th century, during the reign of king Clovis I, a young noble man from the Limousin arrived to accept a monastic life. Amand followed Sore and Cyprien to the Merovingian monastery of Genouillac (now Terrasson) and after a long stay there, the three 'saints to be' decided to separate and live as solitary hermits. Amand found a cave not far from Genouillac in what was to become Saint-Amand-de-Coly.

During his life Amand evangelized the local population whom declared him a saint. After his death a monastery and village grew around his grave. The first known historic document referring to the monastery dates from 1047. Though there is mention of destruction here by Normans in 857, the year the Saint Sore monastery of Terrasson was plundered and raised to the ground. In 1101 it is decided to hand the monastery of Terrasson to the Benedictine order, prompting a core group of the monks to leave for Saint-Amand, where they established a Augustinian order.

We now enter the middle ages with its own wars and ravages. The construction of the outer walls was probably started during the 100 year war, it was during the wars of religion that the protestants sacked the monastery and sought refuge in 1575, when canons had to be brought from Brive to chase them out. Some of the resulting holes in the walls are still visible today. It was during this time the tomb of Saint Amand was destroyed.

The monastery becomes the milking cow of the Sauvebeuf family whom milked it dry for 182 years at the end of which little more then a ruin remained, by 1738 only three monks are left. After the revolution all monasteries were nationalised and sold-off, the village is renamed Amand-le-Vallon. The abbey church became the village church but it not till 1886 some serious restoration work starts.

Sights
With a total depth of 48m, width of 27m and height of 8m the impressive fortified church dominates the village. The construction took most of the 12th century. Based on a Latin cross layout, oriented east-west. The defence walls measure 300m and enclose an area of 5000m2. The church was converted into a fortress but despite its additional defences it remains a beautiful Romanesque church with simple lines and a simple interior. Its defences include very thick walls, exits for archers and several blind staircases.

The historical walk of about 1km starts by exploring the church (1), the guardhouse (2) and the defense walls. It then explores the heritage of the village; the former drying shed for tobacco (3; now community hall), the drying shed for wallnuts (4;now tea room), the 'romanesque house' (5), the village well, the presbytery, the former hospital (6) and its washing area. The walk then provides some good views of the village (7), before returning. Alternatively there is a 2,5km 'nature trail' (8) close to the village.

Hiking and biking
Saint-Amand is the starting point for the following hikes, which also double as 'all terrain bike' (VTT) trails (do not try these on a standard bike). There is an all terrain bike rental (VTT) available in the village.

Hiking trails starting from Saint-Amand
> Boucle Soleil et Ombrage; 4,2km – 1,5h.
> Boucle Bois et Près; 8km – 2,5h.
> Boucle des Rapiettes; 4km – 1h.
> Boucle des Murailles; 6,5km – 2h.
> Boucle Lauzes et Vielles Pierres; 14,2km – 4,5h.
> Boucle Vallées et Côteaux; 16,2km – 5h.
> Boucle Tunnel, Bois et Eaux; 12,5km – 4h.
> Boucle de Château de La Filolie; 16,1km – 5h.
> Boucle Entre Bois et Lauzes; 7,2km – 2h.

La Cassagne


This small commune in a well preserved landscape, has a 14th century church, and 15th century presbytery at its heart. La Cassagne has a 1.7km walk passing the bourg, fields, walnut groves and hamlets. It is also the starting point for a 11,7 km 'Boucle de la source de Coly'.


The small community invites you to explore its natural and cultural heritage. The church of Saint Barthélémy (1) and its presbytery (2) are superb examples of vernacular architecture with their impressive 'lauze' (dry stacked) roofs. The church, presbytery, cemetery cross and the adjacent 'grange' (XIIIth century barn marking the presence of the Knight Templars) are all recognized as historical monuments.

The trail leads you through the walnut-grove passing the walnut drying shed (3) and up to the departmental road. You could cross this road and walk up the to the hamlet of Jarnel (4). The marking in the key-stone over the gate: 1791 PPPP (Pauvre Plaideur Prend Patience) is a reminder of the leading position La Cassagne occupied after the revolution when the population of every 'chef lieu' elected in 'judge of the land' for its own tribunal. Until the creation of the 'Canton de Terrasson' in 1800, the surrounding villages of Archignac, Jayac, Saint Amand de Coly, Saint Geniès, Palin and Ladornac settled their differences here.

The walk however turns left, through the fields in the direction of the former castle. On the doors and windows of the small houses (5) on the right and left you will discover decorative stones that once belonged to the feudal castle. After the revolutions locals were encouraged to bring down these 'symbols of oppression' and serve themselves with whatever they could use. All that remains of the castle are the surrounding walls (with the base of a round tower clearly visible). In place of the castle a 'maison bourgeoise' was constructed in the 1800's (6).

The free standing pigeonnier (pigeon tower) is another beautiful example of vernacular architecture. Dating back to the 12th century you will find it has, halfway-up the side, a 'randière' to prevent small rodents from climbing up the wall to steal pigeons or their eggs. Inside there are 800 'pigeon holes' on 3 levels. Just under the roof (protected from the weather) you can make out some patterns painted in yellow and red, it is thought the whole walls was originally painted, and is still topped with a dry stacked 'lauze' roof.

From here the walk leaves the paved road to follow the old gleigier path (7) (trail that served the hamlets of la Roche, Captus and la Rynie to get to the church). 'Gleigier' in the occitan language signifies 'of the church', along the path you will find 25 different trees and shrubs labeled with their occitan, french and scientific names. The trail passes through more walnut-groves and then steeply up to the hamlet of Genèbre (8).

Here you find the walnut oil mill (with direct sales), and two somewhat enthusiastic dogs. Walk around the buildings and get to the covered 'fontaine' and 'lavoir' (9). This well was enclosed with a little building during the 100 year war and has provided the village with water just until 1981. The adjacent washing area was used by the women of the hamlets to wash cloths and exchange information. From here you walk back to the church...

Currently the source of the Coly is found at the watermill of La Doux close to La Cassagne. Previously it was located close to Saint-Amand-de-Coly. Legend has it a local farmer could just save his life (and that of his oxen) when, whilst he was ploughing a field, the new source opened and started to spray out water.

The 10-meter deep spring has since attracted much attention, between 1965 when the first serious exploration took place and the 1980s when researchers managed to explore the underground river for 3km. In 1991 they passed the 4km mark (which was a world record at the time) and in 2003 they managed to swim 5,88km.

The hike will lead you through forested hills and past the source of the Coly:

Hiking trails starting from La Cassagne
> Boucle de la Source de Coly; 11,7km – 4h.

Condat-sur-Vézère


The Coly stream once powered two watermills in Condat-sur-Vézère before dropping into the Vézère through a little cascade. The village has been home to the Gaulois and the Romans and was a base for the Hospitallers whom left their mark.


The name Condat derives from the gallic word 'condate', meaning 'confluence of two rivers', in this case the Vézère and the Coly. The first writings evoking Condat go back to the Middle Ages. Today the village is known as Condat-sur-Vézère (occitan Condat de Vesera) to avoid confusion as the name is 'Condat' is quite common.

Condat was occupied by the Order of Knights of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem (also known as Knights Hospitalier or Hospitallers for short) from the 12th till the 18th century. After the conquest of Jerusalem in 1099 during the first crusade, the organization became a religious and military order charged with the care and defence of the Holy Land. Pope Clement V dissolved the rival order, the Knights Templar, in 1312 and turned over much of their property to the Hospitallers.

The village was the seat of the principal commandery of the Hospitallers which had authority over a genuine network of commanderies of the Périgord. The commanders had the right on high and low justice and his authority was exercised over the many possessions in Périgord. From 1291 to 1790, thirty commanders succeeded one another in Condat. During the wars of religion the parish of Condat was devastated several times.

The commandery of Condat has conserved the majority of the buildings as they were (re)constructed under the command of François de Touchboeuf Clermont by 1540. The small watermill (1), large watermill with the common bread oven (2) (four banal), the church (3), prison (4), commanders lodge (5), noble house of Verdier (6), remnants of the ancient enclosure wall (7) and fishponds. The Hospitallers exploited the hydrolic power of the Coly through mills to work grain, nuts and hemp though this last 'fulling mill' has today disappeared.

From the Castle of Condat, the 16th century lodge remains and the 14th century prison tower, registered as historical monuments since 1948. The rectangular building has an adjacent square on one side, fishpond and ramparts on the other, and in the opposite corner a 16th century tower. The Romanesque church of Notre-Dame-et-Saint-Jean-Baptiste, dates back to the 12th century with its fortified flat bell tower with four bays, that is accessible through a staircase in the right buttress. The old residences include the noble house of the Verdier and some half-timbered (à colombage) houses (8).

The four banal (commune oven) is a reminder of the restrictions in feudal tenure in France which obliged peasants to use the facilities of their lords, until the 18th century. These included the required use-for-payment of the lord's mill to grind grain, his wine press to make wine, and his oven to bake bread. Both the manorial lord's right to these dues and the banality-dues themselves are called droit de banalité. The object of this right was qualified as 'banal', e.g. the four banal.

La Commanderie, former 13th century safekeeping post of the Knight Hospitallers, is a historic place that nowadays serves day menus inside its dining room with thick walls and vaulted ceiling, or outside in its parkland gardens.

You can walk around Condat in 30 minutes or hike one of the following trails:

Hiking trails starting from Condat-sur-Vézère
> Boucle de la Commanderie; 9km – 3h.
> Boucle du Pech; 2,7km – 1h.
> Boucle de Maurival; 11,6km – 3h.


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