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As the old sign pointing the way up from the main road says, La Pierre aux Neuf Gradins. or the rock with the nine steps, is « Une Enigma Archéologique ». It’s an oddity alright. A slab of rock in the woods where pre-historic folks have caved in nine wide thin steps to get the top where it seems that they also carved in some dents and pools and perhaps a channel or two.
Why they decided to go to that much trouble I have no idea and it seems neither does anyone else. Perhaps they all really enjoyed the view but not the slippery slope, perhaps it was all to support some long-lost complex gubbins where the machinery’s doings required weird slots and rock adjustments, or perhaps they just made it easier for aliens to climb up into their space-ships. And why not? It’s a lovely spot and I suspect it always has been, whether you are sacrificing your annoying neighbours, displaying your prize-winning goats on a podium or just visiting somewhere from afar. It green and calm and restorative. Although maybe not so much if you were, in-fact, one of the annoying neighbours.
You used to have to schlep up from the road on a tiny, steep and often slippery footpath, but you would arrive pretty much directly at the bottom of the steps. Where, likely as not, you’d sit of the lowest one and get your breath back before climbing the remaining flight and exploring the rest of the site. These days there is another way, with a proper free car park, an excellent path complete with woodland walk, a staircase with handrail and what will soon become a green tunnel.
This approaches from the other side past some additional rock formations and eventually to a wide rock incline just below a little cave. The incline is steeper than it looks and can be slippery, but in dry conditions it is easy enough (at least compared to the alternative climb up from the main road). As most places that offer a view, it is certainly up, but the look down is worth the effort.
I really enjoy this place. It’s not often crowded and people don’t tend to stay long. If you find a seat in the dappled shade and sit awhile to enjoy the gentle rustling of the trees and delightful bird song - or the clouds rolling in with thunder and lightening flashes as we did once – it’ll do you good.
I also like to look into the pools. They change throughout the year and do seem to support little ecosystems. Up close the lichen gives them the effect of being miniature dramatic coastlines.
I find them fascinating. There are a wide variety of sizes and shapes and depths, including one that looks a lot like a massive boot print but I think that the larger pools are my favourites.
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