I was surprised by a tweet of Joan Capdevila, border commissioner on the Spanish side of the Pyrenees Orientales:
about the restauration of the old and worn bm508 west uphill of Coll d’Eina.
While the cross is still well visible, only the ‘8’ of the number 508 was left recognizable. Enough reason for the commission to superimpose a granite plate.
One can argue if it would have been more elegant to place the granite plate just besides it, so as not to cover the original engraved cross. But I herald the efforts of the cross-border commission to maintain and restore the bordermarkers which are lost or damaged. And this restoration gives a good reason to return to this fabulous border-ridge for my own pictures.
Bm602 can’t be reached by foot. This very last bordercross is hidden in a cave at the Mediterranean coast between Portbou and Cerbère. In 2011 we rented a boat with a boatsman to get there and Serge Poncet peddled with a canoe from Cerbère while the mountaineer Lionel Daudet descended along the steep rockwall to the waterlevel. The cave is in fact a tunnel as the following picture shows.
There has been only one man (Cayetano) who reached the cave by swimming as far as I know. Until now….because Corinne Gourgeonnet and her little son Arthur undertook the same adventure on August 2th 2018. From Portbou they followed the trail along the coast as far as they could and then started swimming.
And that’s not something to consider lightly: it implies swimming 700m to the cave and 700m back. To remind you: Arthur is only 9 years old but – as his mother wrote me – a good swimmer.
And the young Arthur may behold the future of our bordermarker-interest. Corinne is since a few years an impassioned searcher of bordermarkers and Arthur joins her regularly and who knows ….
Arthur is his habitat to be perhaps. Picture taken this spring in the Basque country between bm022 and 023.
In the last weeks Michel Molia (from http://michelmolia.pagesperso-orange.fr/) has done a lot to find the missing submarkers 408III and IV. Without result but by doing so he could eliminate possible locations and narrowing down the terrain for future searches.
The submarkers 408-I to IV were placed in the 1960-ies in a change of the borderline to settle a borderdispute. The numbers III and IV are however unfindable. See this page for background-information.
But Michel is not the only one who has searched the area. Charles and Josette Darrieux undertook tough climbs from the Garonne up to the mountainridge and I myself did a couple of trips in the upper part.
Together we have crossed a large part of the area. Let’s put our gps-tracks together and see what’s left. You can check these tracks on a dynamic map.
In red: Michel’s tracks in the last weeks. In yellow some of my trips and in blue the tracks of the Darrieux. The orientation: up = west
Let’s first zoom in to the lower part where two streams (Ruisseau du Terme and la Goute de Réchèt come together for their final part to the Garonne. This could have been a possible spot for bm408-IV but Michel had already concluded that this is very unlikely considering the steepness of the terrain.
Picture of Michel of the confluence of the two streams. They are small streams as you can see.
This is the upper part with possible locations not far from the Cabane de Hérechet where streams (re)appear and merge.
Zoom-in of the middle part. There are two streams: one which originates above the cabane (it draws its water from) and one which starts to the left of the cabane. Michel supposes that this second one could be the continuation of the stream which springs at bm408-I and supposedly goes underground to reappear here. Hij would like to test that with color-marker like Norbert Casteret did to establish the source of the Garonne.
They merge here into the Gout de Hérechet. Might have been a logical place for a submarker. However: no bordermarker around here.
To finish: the upper part. My own theory focusses on this area but as you can see, it has been searched quite thoroughly. It remains a mystery.
We have discussed this topic a lot of times: how the borderline between bm356 and 360 was meant to be, according to the Treaty of 1862, and how it was reconstructed (wrongly, I think) in the 1950-ies. See the previous post and this one.
(the blue line is the proposed new borderline, to my opinion the one meant in 1862)
In the 1950-ies, all borderpillars in this area had disappeared since long, leaving traces in only some rare cases. Thus the locations of almost every bordermarker (they had to be rebuilt) had to be reconstructed by matching the descriptions and distances in the Treaty with the terrain.
Jean Sermet writes in his “Journal de la restauration de l’abornement de la Haute Garonne” (1957) that the location of bm358 was however indisputable (at its current position) but he gives (in this article) no argument for that. If that location was indisputable, it fixes inevitably the locations of bm357 and 359 because the distances in between are described in the Treaty. But as said, he gives in his “Journal” no proof of his assertion.
We all know that Charles Darrieu is an great admirer of Jean Sermet, defending his work and decisions but always by presenting evidence, see his comments at the previous post. In this case, he has found the following phrase of Jean Sermet in the magazine Pyrénées n°131 – JUIL-SEP 1982 p 238: “Il n’y avait pas d’erreur pour le Cap des Entenés et d’autant moins que l’on y retrouva la base de l’ancienne borne 358 de 1863.” So: the remnants of the old bm358 were still present at that time! And that’s a real ‘smoking gun’ in this discussion.
Nowadays, there are no visible traces of a former bm at the location of bm358 but if it was the case in the 1950-ies, it solves and ends this dispute.
But I’m a bit stubborn and in my opinion my hypothesis fits best in the text of the Treaty of 1862. I haven’t found yet old topographic maps of the first half of the twentieth century or earlier. I think they would give the ultimate answer to this question. Or: the discovery of the original bordercross 359.
Thanks to Michel Molia I discovered something amazing: the borderline between bm356 and 357 and between bm408 and 409 will most probably change.
The INSPIRE-project is a broad international attempt to synchronize geodata in the EU. One part consists of re-measuring and re-establishing the borderlines in bilateral agreement. Narrowing down to the ESFR-border: in 2015 an agreement was reached in the bilateral Commission Mixte d’Abornement in Toulouse.
You can see the result for the Pyrenees on this website showing the map with the borderline agreed-upon and the bordermarkers. The main purpose of the project is explained at this page
and specific to the ESFR-border on this webpage.
We read: “Commission mixte 2015. Une ligne frontière unique, bilatérale et numérique a été validée à la CMA de Toulouse en octobre 2015. Mais elle reste temporaire à proximité des bornes non encore mesurées précisément ainsi que de quelques sites où une mise en évidence contradictoire pourrait être produite.” So the newly measured (digitally) borderline is still provisionary because not all bordermarkers have been precisely measured yet.
There are many details still to study and to discuss here but let’s focus on two very interesting areas
Last year I launched a new hypothesis how the borderline between bm356 and 357 was wrongly re-established in the 1950-ies (see this page). So I was happily surprised that the new borderline is exact as I thought it was meant in the Treaty of 1862 . Finally justice.
I was even more surprised – but less happily – by the new borderline on this steep hillside. I have written about its intriguing story on this page. Conclusion then: the treaty leaves no doubt about the right borderline, the placement of four submarkers by Jean Sermet around 1965 served a diplomatic purpose but changed the borderline wrongly. Problem: no one knows nowadays where that new borderline was because 2 of the 4 submarkers are unfindable.
The CMA has aborted the borderline of Jean Sermet but has now its own diplomatic version somewhere in between the (supposed) Sermet-line and the Treaty-line. But it still violates the Treaty! In this case: justice needs to be done yet.
To finish: the map which Michel Molia received from the IGN when he asked for information with some explanation by some IGN-official.
The explanation (added in black on the map) says that the Treaty was inprecise about where the source of the Ruisseau du Terme was. As said that is not true: in my opinion the text of the Treaty leaves no doubt about the course of the borderline.
I was happy to receive a picture of Carlos and Conchita, showing the plaque of bm481fr being lifted to the surface again. Bm481fr (Bourg-Madame in the Cerdagne) started his life as a large borderstone. It was removed when the road was constructed and replaced by a plaque in the tarmac. In 2012, however, the plaque got covered by a new layer of tarmac. Now it’s visible again.
Watch the changing fate of bm481fr on this page.
I was happy to learn about a new website. Carlos and his wife Conchita informed me that they have recently started their own ‘quest’ for the esfr-bordermarkers. The starting webpage is here (and for the Llivia-bordermarkers this page). Apparently they live in the Cerdagne because their harvest so far is bm444 to 506.
Each day-account is detailed and contains large pictures (with often Conchita standing besides, I think Carlos likes her). There are also embedded maps (I’m jealous about that feature) and elevation charts and a link to their Flickr-albums.
On september 11th, I returned to bm542, starting from the hamlet of Can d’Amunt. It’s one of the most difficult to find bordermarkers along the esfr-borderline. I was impressed how trails and waymarks are getting vaguer and undergrowth becoming denser since I visited this bm for the first time in 2009, guided by Jean Iglesias. Though there is a direct descent possible from approximately bm541 (I did that last year), I found that route now too difficult because of the undergrowth.
I followed once againg the “route normal” of Jean Iglesias, establishing new waypoints and clearing the trails by cutting them back here & there and placing some cairns. Hoping to facilitate your journey to bm542.
An interesting article about the annual festivities of three villages on either side of Col de Somport. Each year at 17 july they check the bordermarker 305 at Col de Somport (an easy job, I think) as prescribed by the article 9 of the “Traité des limites du 14 avril 1862” and celebrate their crossborder-friendship with gifts and dancing.
I was happy to learn from Charles Darrieu that the famous Bulletin Pyrénées (published by the Musée Pyrénéen in Lourdes) has been digitalized and made available for all of us. There are two links because there are two successive series:
The first one is the “Bulletin Pyrénéen” (1896-1948):
The second one is “Pyrénées” (1950-2004):
Charles is an admirer of the French border-commissioner Jean Sermet (1907-2003) who has written very much about the Pyrenean border and was the ‘leading man’ in many borderrelated issues. He has listed the articles of Sermet in these magazines: 106,104 (1975), 105,106,107,(1976) 109,111,112 (1977), 114,116 (1978), 117,119 (1979), 123 (1980), 130,131,132 (1982), 140 (1984), 183 (1995).