The larch tree, endemic to Europe
An endemic species in Europe, this conifer grows well in sunny mountain areas. It can reach 1000 year in age and it does not suffer from major problems with insects.However, the larch tortrix does cause it damage: the caterpillar eats shoots and causes the needles to go yellow and fall prematurely; the larch then looks like a dead tree in the midst of summer. While the best trunks are selected for felling, the undergrowth is used for pasture by the herds which congregate in the light shade it provides.
A companion to the larch in high-altitude terrain, the Swiss pine is the symbol of the plant world’s victory over the mineral world. Here it reaches the southern and western limits of its domain, which explains why it is so rare.
This stocky tree of 1000 years old, which flowers for the first time when it is 60-70 and then every 6-10 years. The nutcracker, a noisy and careful bird, loves to eat its seeds.
The forest of Ratery
For centuries, the territory of the Haut Verdon valley supported the needs of a large rural population. Trees were cut down to supply wood for heating and for building houses as fires were a regular occurrence.
With the ground being trampled, boulders removed, and in the absence of sufficient vegetation cover, erosion by mountain stream became terrible. In the 19th century, awareness of the problem grew and at the end of the century, replanting of trees began in at Ratery. Today, it is a “remarkable forest station, which tree lovers come to visit from miles away”.
Contrasting forest floors
Different side of the same mountain
Walk along the road for about a hundred metres before taking a path to the left (gate). Ratery Fountain is a refreshing place to stop for a picnic in the summer warmth.
In summer, it is delightful to ride a mountain bike through the forest (onsite rental possible).
Quicker walkers should be able to reach the site in 1 hour from Colmars by taking the marked path (GR52A) which goes from Fort de Savoie carpark.
The path passes close to an old house followed by abandoned fields which have today been taken over by larch trees. Shortly afterwards, the Ratery forest track begins, through a beautiful forest of larch interspersed by the squat, dark green silhouettes of a few Swiss pines. A network of cross-country skiing trails has recently been created; check the sign at the start of the trail in order to head directly towards Ratery Fountain. The wooden huts and benches in the clearing are the remainders of intense forestry activity.
Take the departmental hiking blueprint path on the left, indicated with red and yellow markers.
Through the pine and spruce forest, it heads downwards towards the Clignon ravine, which you cross via two footbridges, then continues up the southern face, joining up with the Cirque de l'Encombrette path.
Follow the same route for the return journey, although you can turn the walk into a circuit: at the fork in the path, take the left fork to get to the hamlet of Clignon-Haut, then Clignon-Bas and finally Colmars; this last stage is on a tarmacked road.
Access and parking
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