This looks like wild jungle but it’s actually an old industrial site.
We swam in this pool created by a stream running down a steep ravine in the schist hills of the Cevennes south of the Lozere limestone plateau. It’s in St Andeol De Clergemont, allegedly France’s smallest Commune. It’s sparsely populated now, a mixture of second homers, hippies and small-holders.
Before World War II this stream used to help power a mill that ground the chestnuts that fill these woods. They were planted systematically on specially built terraces. Narrow water channels called ‘baels’ were hewn out of the rock to feed spring water into reservoirs to power the wheels. Now all that industrial architecture is covered in lush green, like a vanished Aztec kingdom.
Just above this pool was an exquisite stone arched bridge that used to carry mules across the crevice from the mill to the road that led down to Collet De Deze and the main route out of the hills and on to the Rhone Valley.
It felt like bathing in a set from Lord of the Rings, but actually it was a ruined agricultural factory.