Sports and Activities
The stunning and varied scenery, with endless paths and tracks, attracts walkers, cyclists and horse riders, whilst climbers are drawn here by the vast areas of limestone cliffs with all levels of difficulty and protection. Fliers of all persuasions, paraglider, hang glider, sailplane and microlight pilots come here for the combination of the fantastic climate, abundant airstrips and airports, together with wonderful, yet accessible mountains.
There are some fantastic walking and biking routes, either in the hills and forests behind the house, or more gentle routes, winding between villages, along lanes and tracks on the flatter valley bottom. By travelling quietly through the countryside, you are most likely to catch a glimpse of deer or wild boar, which abound in the area. The more adventurous can visit the Ecrins or Alps to the North and East, in search of wolves and Marmottes.
Some local ski resorts have summer access, that is the lifts open for parts of the day or on some days of the week for the benefit of walkers and cyclists
You will find the area completely welcoming walkers – a refreshing change to the UK. You are free to walk or cycle on all routes unless otherwise indicated, and there are hundreds of kilometres of signed routes in the area to help you on your way, not just the PR and GR routes. France is very much geared up to the needs of walkers and cyclists and tries very hard to cater to their needs.
The huge area of forest and mountain directly behind the house has a network of paths and tracks. There are wooden sign posts at many of the path junctions, which are a great help to navigation. The signs often give walking time to the next feature or destination in the direction you are going. The times given (unlike those given in UK guides) are walking times assuming a brisk pace with no prolonged stops. If you enjoy a more relaxed pace, with the odd pause for photography, looking at flowers, or a picnic, it is important to add on time to the estimate as appropriate
The local mountain bike tracks (over 1000km of marked trails in the local Vallée de Buech area alone) are generally graded from green to black in much the same way as ski runs. Green are ideal for family outings, blue for competent riders, whilst reds are classed “sportif”. Blacks are reserved for the super fit, or the super crazy! Several long distance Mountain Bike routes also pass close to the house.
Some of the local ski resorts are open in the summer and cater for the serious and less serious downhillers with tracks and paths as well as the pistes to cycle down, this is also a great way to get high early in the day without the hard work and to explore more remote areas by bike.
Bike hire - we have a couple of basic bikes that guests can hire; better specification bikes for hire are available at Sisteron or the Plan d’eau approx 15 mins away
In 2003, 2004 2005 2006 2007 & 2009 the Tour de France visited the area with an overnight stop on Bastille day at Gap in 2003, the Etap de Tour was also based here in 2006. In 2010 the tour will again overnight at Gap on Bastille day (14th July) and hopefully the town of Gap will again come alive with an amazing party and fireworks as in 2006. The tour will restart from Sisteron on July 15th with the possibility of the riders passing in front of the house! We are also only some 50km from the foot of Mont Ventoux. However for those with slightly less ambitious aspirations the Buech and Durance valleys offer excellent quiet routes for cycling on the flat whilst there are a number of lesser Cols and climbs in the hills around. Our particular favourites are the 85km circular run from the house to Sederon and Sisteron via the Meouge gorge and Jabron valley, and the Col St Jean route via Orpierre and Barret sur Meouge.
People come to this area to enjoy all types of air sport. Laragne-Chabre mountain 7km away is a mecca for hang-glider and paraglider pilots. For those who would like to experience the freedom of flight, we can organise a tandem paraglider flight with a local professional instructor. For qualified pilots we organise holidays in conjunction with a number of U.K. schools for low airtime pilots and those wishing to develop their flying skills.
The meteorology of the region, claimed to have over 300 flyable days a year, also attracts glider (sailplane) pilots from all over Europe who use this valley as a launch point to then fly into the high Alps and even further afield – there are at least six glider airfields within a half hour drive most of which have dual gliders for those wishing to experience the sport they also run training courses, we can even organise a day’s gliding with the current world record
At Tallard airfield all types of powered flying can be experienced – with sightseeing flights by helicopter, microlight or aeroplane. Tallard is also a freefall parachuting centre – you will see parachutists descending on most fine days and yes tandem freefall jumps and parachuting courses are available for the
Climbing and via Ferrata
In climbing circles, the village and cliffs of Orpierre, some 20 km from here are known as one of the premier sports climbing sites in France. It is famous for the dramatic setting and huge number of protected climbs of all levels. The climbing guide (multi-lingual, including English) also includes the lesser known, but equally excellent cliffs of Savournon, Sigottier and Chateauneuf-de-Chabre (just 4 km up the road). Additionally we are just 25km from the cliffs at Ceuse.
Guiding and instruction are available, as are organised day and half day excursions with local instructors at Orpierre for adults and children alike.
There are three Via Ferrata in the area, which give those with less climbing experience a chance to enjoy a long, exposed route with full protection. Via Ferrata equipment is available for hire at the site at La Motte de Caire, although the services of a guide and a head for heights is strongly recommended if you do not have much previous climbing or Via Ferrata experience.
There are riding stables in two local villages, which offers both pony riding for children and a selection of longer treks, for all levels of rider, additionally there are several other bases in the neighbourhood from which to undertake more adventurous treks or routes.
Although we are some distance from the ski stations, if you want to combine a relaxing winter holiday with a few days skiing, we are ideally placed. The nearest resorts are Joue du Loup, (linked with Superdévoluy) and Ceuse 2000, both 45 minutes away. We often go a little further to the slopes of Pra Loup, which link to Col d’Allos. There are quite a few other stations where you can be on the slopes in less than an hour and a half drive - Les Orres, Orciéres-Merlette, Réallon, and St Jean Montclair to name but a few. They tend to be dominated by local French skiers and make a refreshing change from the overcrowded and better known Northern Alp resorts. Outwith the school holiday periods there are generally no lift queues and being geared to the French market, prices of passes and in the local restaurants are very reasonble.
The Hautes Alps has lots of water sports action – based mainly on the Serre Poncon reservoir, or the Ubaye and Durance rivers, both about an hour away.
The sports on offer include sailing, canoeing, windsurfing and kite-surfing on the lake, and kayaking, canoeing, hydro-speed and white-water rafting on the rivers. It is possible to hire equipment and lessons or guides as appropriate for all these sports. The strict regulation of guiding in France ensures that instructors and guides are well qualified and experienced and that safety
Many other smaller rivers are used for canyoning which can generally be adapted to cater for all levels of enthusiasm.
One of the local swimming reservoirs (about 15 minutes away ) has pedalos and water pedal-bikes (they need to be seen to be believed!) for the less ambitious and for families.
The spectacular Verdon Gorge just over an hour away offers canoe, pedalo and sailing boat hire on the lake at the base of the gorge and it is possible to paddle
The Monte Carlo rally usually passes through Sisteron in late January, in 2004 & 2006 it used Tallard airfield as a base, it is followed of course by the Monte Carlo historic rally a week or two later which features cars which have previously competed in the main event. There are also several modern and historic rallies passing through the area during the year.
For those with more modest aspirations there are several local carting or karting tracks as well as quad bike circuits. Quads, scooters, motorbikes and mopeds can also be hired locally.
Other Activities and Interests
The area is also renowned for its quality of light and clean air and therefore known as a particularly fine location for photographic or painting holidays. The subject matter is limitless from dramatic landscape to the colourful contrasts of lavender fields and sunflower crops and the charm of old villages and their inhabitants.
In spring in particular the area is home to migratory bird species including the Harriers often seen around the house at this time of year. As well as the array of longer term visitors from Grebe to Kites, are the more permanent but no less interesting resident species. Nearby are the recently augmented Vulture colonies where successive re-introductions and breeding programs have lead to a now healthy population.