Secret Provence: Baronnies Regional Park
The Baronnies is a beautiful hidden corner of northern Provence, a secluded and dramatic destination for our unique guided and self guided walking holidays in France. With one foot in Provence and the other in the French Alps, the Baronnies will soon get the recognition it deserves.
In 2012, the Baronnies will form part of a French regional park (Parc Naturel Regional), which designates inhabited rural areas which posses a remarkable cultural and natural heritage. The park’s designation signifies that a 12 year plan will be set in law by the government to ensure coherent and sustainable development for this quiet corner of Provence, as well as bringing notoriety to the region nationally and internationally.
The Baronnies park in southern France will group 130 parishes which have a combined population of 39,000 inhabitants in a total surface area of 2,350km². The Park extends over parts of the departments of Drôme and Hautes Alpes and is situated in the upland region of the western pre-Alps at the junction between two other massifs which have different orientations. To the north the Vercors mountains are aligned north-south, whilst the Provence ridges are aligned east-west.
The built heritage of the area is marked by the medieval period with vestiges of chateaux and towers, Romanesque churches and perched villages. Montbrun les Bains is a classic example and is classed as one of the prettiest villages in France. The park is also a vector for the promotion of activities and leisure. The region is an ideal location for several sports and pastimes, as a result of its preserved environment, clean air and favourable climate. Such activities include climbing, paragliding, walking and cycling. Our French walking holidays in the region concentrate on a particularly wild and hidden corner of the Baronnies in the south eastern corner of the proposed park.
The Baronnies region is a haven for wildlife with an array of birds making use of the crags and hills. Wild orchids, in season adorn the side of the walking trails, which attract an array of beautiful butterflies.
Its moderate altitude and favourable climate means that the Baronnies is home to a large variety of regional agricultural produce, many of which have been given labels as a sign of their quality. Fruit trees that grow in the area include apricots, cherries, apples, almonds and walnuts. The olives of Nyons and the oil they produce have their own appellation. Their is wine labelled Vins des Coteaux des Baronnies, grown in the west of the region. Lamb is also produced locally and goats are kept in mountainous areas, producing two of the well-known cheeses the Banon and Picodon.
The region is perhaps best known for its aromatic and medicinal plants. Thyme grows freely on open hillside along with lavender, which is also cultivated. The beautiful rows of blue flowers provide a stark contrast with the scrub and forest on the ravine covered slopes. Linden trees (or Lime as it is known in the UK) are very common and you’ll see many on our walking holidays in France. Their flowers are used to make a pleasant herbal tea and can be mixed with other plants such as verbina. Linden flowers are used in colds, cough, fever, infections, inflammation, high blood pressure, headache (particularly migraine), as a diuretic (increases urine production), antispasmodic (reduces smooth muscle spasm along the digestive tract), and sedative.
Both our guided walking holiday and our independent walking tour, explore this secret corner of Provence in France, known as the Baronnies, which is well and truely off the tourist routes and which retains an authentic charm and fascination.