I dared for you! On the occasion of the Halloween celebrations, we wanted to be scared. So I tested a walk like no other, off the beaten track, in the magnificent and wild Aubépin valley, between Saint-Front and Laussonne. A valley considered mysterious, cursed or even evil for centuries, because of a dark history. It was at the beginning of the XNUMXth century...

A mysterious walk, off the beaten track, to the Perbet mill

It must be said that this deep valley and its wild nature tend to stimulate the imagination... Renowned for being the seat of all kinds of apparitions: white lady, goblins and other fairies. It is another demonstration which in the region still marks the spirits: that of the Devil.

It was November 27, 1902. As 3 peasants, returning from the Laussonne market, were passing near the Moulin de Perbet on the Aubépin, the nearby stream, they heard cries of terror coming from the small water mill. On the spot, what was their surprise to see the two daughters of the miller Etienne Joubert, Marie and Philomène, their eyes rolled back, sometimes thrown into the air, sometimes pulled to the ground by an invisible force... All around them, dishes were shattered, furniture was overturned, the elements were unleashed. Even the cows in the barn, completely panicked, were going out of control. The Devil seemed to have taken over the souls of the two little girls aged 14 and 12. Stunned, the 3 farmers, meanwhile, did not fail to tell everything about the unrealistic scene they had just witnessed, as soon as they returned to Saint-Front.

Distraught, the miller, although not a believer, appealed to the priests of Laussonne and Saint-Front for an exorcism. In vain. The phenomena continued… The Aubépin valley did not regain its calm until the following year, in the spring of 1903, thanks to the prayers and the astonishing ritual of exorcism of Abbé Besset de Saint-Front, as well as at the departure of the two little girls for Paris, fleeing the valley and the Devil with her.

Marie and Philomène then returned to Haute-Loire several times during their lives, but never set foot in the mill again. Place of their worst memories… All their life, they claimed to have been victims of paranormal phenomena. Only gossips, more Cartesian, preferred to believe in a set-up by the father of the family, an inveterate gambler and in debt, to make the mill and his farm unsaleable, with the complicity of his daughters.

An exotic walk in the company of Guide Nature Randonnee instructors

Time having transformed this story into a myth and nature having since regained its rights in the Aubépin valley, no one will ever know the true story of the Joubert family and the Perbet mill. But the legend lives on... Adding an undeniable charm to the walk around the Perbet mill.

“The Vallée de l'Aubépin is a whole atmosphere. It's so wild. There is no habitation for several kilometers of river. No telephone service either. Even the rare trails disappear into the local vegetation…”, describes Jean-François Berton, native son and mountain guide with Guide Nature Randonnée. I've always felt something special about it…” But nothing negative. He even admits that he likes to recharge his batteries there regularly. “When I have walkers who give me carte blanche on the route, I like to take them to the Perbet mill. I make them do a loop over the day, passing through Moudeyres and the Fraisse plateau. »
Courageous but not reckless, I too preferred to surround myself with guides to descend into the strange Aubépin valley. They are Alexandre and Boris, two other monitors of Hiking Nature Guide who accompanied me. The opportunity to learn more about the history of the place and the valley.

Easily accessible, just park in the hamlet of Astiers, commune of Laussonne. We then go up in the direction of the forest where the road quickly turns into a path, before descending into the steep and granite valley. Suddenly, the landscapes change… As we walk, the mysterious past of the valley seems to resurface. The fall colors adding a part of mystery…
In the Aubépin Valley, once full of life and rich with 27 water mills, nature has now reasserted itself. Difficult to imagine the Devil in the beauty of the landscapes which surround us. Only the sounds of the stream, the wind and the trees shedding their leaves disturb the surrounding calm. Through the woods, we follow the Aubépin which accompanies us with its soft music of the water. Here and there, small waterfalls come to accelerate the rhythm, until in front of us, the old mill takes shape. Or at least, what's left of it... Fortunately, a plaque offered by the association APNE (Heritage, Nature and Environment Association) recalling "the facts as extraordinary as they are terrifying" of the haunted house of the Perbet mill, indicates that we we are in the right place.

But the low sun, the joyful sound of water and the warm colors of the neighboring forest add to these ruins, at first sight sinister, a little taste of adventure. We then cross the Hawthorn from stone to stone to visit the remains of the old buildings… It is only an old mill, as if lost at the end of the world. Only the imposing and old millstone bears witness to its prolific past, transforming grains of rye and wheat into flour. Strangely, although mysterious, the valley seems to us just as refreshing, calm and relaxing today. And in the absence of networks, even the telephones leave us alone...

4 accessible and family hikes to do around the Aubépin valley

Do you prefer the comfort of hiking trails to discover the Aubépin valley and its surroundings? No problem ! Real marked PR criss-cross the valley and plateaus through the rich landscapes of the Mézenc. Here are four of our selection!

PR 592 Aubépin Valley

An easy hike of only 40 minutes to do with the family. A quiet stroll near the village of Moudeyres and its Ferme des Frères Perrel, which sets off to discover the upper Aubépin valley and the marvelous Souteyros waterfall.

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The PR 482 Circuit of the cittern

Just as easy although a little longer (11,5 km for 3h10 of walking) is a botanist's delight! In summer, many protected species from the Mézenc massif grow there. A flora as rich as it is rare.

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The PR 590 The Fraisse plateau

With its 11 km, 3 hours of walking and 297 m of elevation is a bit more difficult, although still very accessible. To dare to take it, however, is to make an appointment with a grandiose 360° view from the plateau, with the whole of Velay on one side and the peak of the department, the Mézenc massif, on the other.

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The PR 080 The oratory of Saint-Roch

It warms the thighs a bit with its 363 m of elevation gain, 10,8 km and 2 hours of walking. However, he sets out to discover the riches of the small heritage of Laussonne and its surroundings: banal oven, assembly, bachat (watering trough), cross, shoeing loom… here are the typical decorations of the hamlets crossed by this hike. The icing on the cake: the oratory of Saint-Roch and its well-known spring for curing eye ailments. On good terms…

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