[ Combes de la Cazine ]

Les Combes de la Cazine

The Cazine brook rises near Noth in the vast lake of the same name. It curves peacefully for roughly ten kilometers in the heart of a gently undulatinglandscape where meadows and wood of leafy trees alternate.

As it approaches Saint-Lèger-Bridereix, the brook crosses a granitic solid mass,south to north, with an altitude approaching 400m. Then it slips between two abruptly narrowing slopes and disappears over a length of less than 1 km.

This surprising coincidence of the rocky relief creates a picturesque landscape which justifies the protection of the Combes under natural title.

Here, the Cazine Valley has an irregular profile, presenting three different landscape environments.

[IGN map]
IGN map showing the pathways in yellow

At the southern entrance to the site, the impressive slopes narrow and become steep and uneven. Then the valley widens gradually. It begins with the a long flood meadow on the left bank at the foot of wooded slopes. It then widens increasingly as it approaches Saint-Léger-Bridereix. Long, narrow alluvial grasslands border the Cazine on the right bank.  Regardless of the width of the valley, each side has distinct characteristics and causes a sharp contrast in the landscape.

The slopes of the right bank are very rugged and steep and overlook the river for about forty meters. Sometimes they are stepped and more or less appear as granite blocks that take a wide variety of shapes, are arranged in multiple ways. Thus, one can distinguish cliffs, stacks, and sometimes twisted staircases overlooking the creek: chaotic rocky outcrops rise on the slopes.

All these rocks are characterised by their pink colour that blends with soft shades of moss green or gray lichens and are strongly marked by sharp contours.

The vegetation of these very steep slopes consists of two plant lines schematically divided into two floors and according to the importance of the presence of the rock: oak, chestnut, beech, hazel and some holly on the foot of the slope, and on the heights, Scots pine and heath heather lining the rocks and sometimes the pine woods. Specifically one can notice the presence of larch and fir trees that stand in the deciduous stratum down the slopes, facing the river rapids, with a length of about 200 m.

The slope of the left bank has less character. The elevation changes are progressive and only rocks dot the slopes. The vegetation, consisting mainly of hazel and oak coppice, is more ordinary and less varied.

Following the riverbed lends a different perspective of the Combes de la Cazine site. On several occasions, the stream changes course to bypass impermeable rock mass, too compact to be cut, fractured or displaced.

The riverbed is narrow but very deep and strewn with rocks whose number varies with the waterscapes. At the entrance of the site, many rocky deposits force the river to divide into an impressive quantity of small fingers. Highly agitated waters give it the air of a torrent. Further downstream, the bed expands slightly and contains less rocks.

The contours of granite boulders are quite sharp despite the action of erosion. They have varied geometric shapes. A legend claims that fairies lived deep in the valleys protected from the rocks. North of the site, a small floodway leads the waters of the Cazine up to a flour mill.

The western slopes of the hills offer a third perspective of the site from a location overlooking the valley from which one can see far. A roadway from Colondannes provides access to this vast plateau promontory.

[Combes de la Cazine]
The Route to the Combes de la Cazine from Colondannes

A heather moor, dotted with rushes and juniper trees, lines the floor where the rock outcrops. This slopes gently down to the break line where different rocky promontories slope allow one to contemplate the valley. The moor is bordered on the south by a hardwood and a large wood of Scots pine which runs down much of the slope.

All this characterises the vegetable range very acidic nature of the basement. This very bright and open space, covered by dense vegetation and clean, strongly reinforces the originality of the site as open moorland also have become rare in Creuse.

Vegetation cover and the prominence of the slopes do not allow a view of the Cazine. However this aspect offers distant views of the wooded walks towards the southwest.

The charm of the site is also due to the diversity of environments that offer pathways. Near the river, a path where the rock outcrops sometimes borders the river in its most lively part. Downstream, it turns into a wide path of undergrowth and deviates from the Cazine for a few tens of meters colonised by thickets to a position overhanging the floodplain by about 100cm. Between rocks, steep passages give a hint of adventurous pathways. In the moor covering the hills, 50 centimetres-wide trails wind in the thick heather carpets. Finally a forest road up to the entrance of the valleys to the heights of the right bank provides yet a different atmosphere.

The woodlands that cover the slopes today replaced a vast moor of heather and gorse, dotted with remarkable juniper and birch. The remaining moor can is a precious resource which demand vigilance if it is to be preserved for the future.

The vast panorama offered from the top of the western slope may be blocked within a few years by the growth of vegetation the height of which height need to be monitored to avoid depriving the site of part of its interest.

At the culmination of the roadway serving the western slope of the heights from Colondannes, a fairly worn information panel introduces visitors to the characteristics of the surrounding environment and the different pathways that serve the site. A new weather resistant panel may contain information about the landscape and the legends of the valley.

An old quarry, located near the town of Saint-Léger-Bridereix, bears witness to a time when rock was mined for local construction. Today this is one again covered by moorland.