Thursday, 10 April 2014

A very slippery slope

Sam had kindly taken my skis for a service - the scratches have been filled, bottoms waxed and edges sharpened at PolaireStar near the Funicular and were - in the words of the owner - as good as new.
They felt really fast on the crisp early morning snow, but the sharper edges were helping me grip and, as it got a bit slushy, later in the morning the newly waxed bottoms were faster and easier.
We drove up to Arc 1600, rather than taking the Funicular - it's much more comfortable and convenient and it's free to park in the resort rather than costing you €3 in the Funicular car park. We skied across to Arc 1800 and then up Grizzly and down Foret to 2300 which is open again. I did that run three times. It's a nice wide, open bowl so plenty of opportunity to practise parallel turns. I really enjoyed the day, but the snow was getting really slushy by 1pm, so we called it a day and drove back down, went to the supermarket and had carrot soup for lunch which Margaret had prepared.
The weather has been warm and sunny and the snow line is retreating up the mountains really quickly. Quite a number of runs are already closed and the whole resort will shut down in a couple of weeks.
It was such a nice afternoon that we decided to walk up the mountain to an abandoned village about 400 metres above Villaret. This is called Granville and it sits just above the Church of St Michael, where we've walked a couple of times.
Wild violets (above) and cowslips (below)
It's amazing how the Alps spring into life as the snow retreats. Nature gets a sprint on back home in Cambridgeshire, of course, but up here (where spring comes later and winter earlier) it really does burst forth.
Wild hellebores are almost over (they were growing through the snow in February), but now there are lots of cowslips, wild violets and many more. The grass is growing so quickly that you almost feel you could see it moving and the farmers are getting sheep, cattle and goats out of winter quarters and moving them up the mountains.
Past the turn off for the church (St Michel) up a long, straight path shaded by trees, we were lucky to surprise a marmot (which has probably just come out of hibernation). He ran away alongside the path and then out into the field, where he crouched down very low to watch us go past.
Granville is a sad place. It's at 1470 metres and I'm guessing wasn't ever fully occupied the whole year as it would have been well above the snow line and quite a harsh place in winter. Perhaps some animals were kept up there all year round? The place is now mainly in ruins, although there is one house and a large barn that's still being used. The church is locked and has a severe crack running down its front wall almost unseating the Madonna and child and ending above the door which has been braced to stop the whole thing collapsing.

It would have been nice to have gone inside, but I guess it's not safe. I took the interior picture below with my iPhone pressed against the front window. There are pews, an altar rail and pictures on the wall behind the altar. There are also pictures showing the 12 stations of the cross placed around the church.
Granville is a sad place, but the church is even sadder. I don't have any religion, but I find there's something very depressing about a place of worship that's abandoned. It points to lost faith and a cornerstone being removed that would have once united a community. In the heat of the spring sun, tiny green and brown lizards were running around on the walls and among the stones of the houses where quite a number of people would have lived and worked; trees have already established themselves in the rooms where people once dwelt and summer vegetation is preparing for another year's growth to cover and hide Granville's sadness.
Church at Granville - the two buildings next to it are still being used.

Interior of the church at Granville.