The Locality Page 2
This 350 foot hill holds one of the South of France's finest archaeological sites. It houses the remains of both a pre-Roman settlement and subsequent Roman remains. Findings cover the period from the 6th Century BC to the first Century AD. The escarpment is just west of Nissan and a two kilometres walk from Colombiers, the small road running parallel to the Canal part of the way. This is well worth a visit for the small museum at the top (just right for a cool drink after the climb) and the excellent views all around, particularly of the Etang du Montardy. This is a popular place with the French and within easy walking distance of the house.
Visit La Maison du Malpas on the road to L'Oppidum in Colombiers to find more historical facts about the area. It is run by the 8 Councils of the Domitian Way Municipalities.
Montardy, one of the two nearest towns/villages to Colombier (the other being Nissan) is built on and behind the hill on the opposite side of the valley from L'oppidum. It is visible for miles because of the tower built on top of the hill. The road to Capestang and the South runs around the base of the hill.
There is an attractive restaurant looking over the Etang du Montardy and the Oppidum near the base of the tower. We’ve had a look but haven’t tried the restaurant yet! The ‘hill’ in Montardy is a maze of small, some one way, streets so it might be wiser to park lower down while you work out the lie of the land!
Etang du Montardy
During Roman Times, there was a stagnant, marshy area in the valley which, it was recognised, caused illness in the area. It was decided to drain the water along various channels out through one main drainage channel and away under the Malpas (hill!) to make the area safer to live in. The drains were set up radially and the segments are still kept that way now. The whole area looking something like a valley wide dart board.
One of the final stumbling blocks that Paul Ricquet had to contend with was enabling the Canal to get past Malpas Hill, some 6 miles from Beziers. He did this by bringing all his men in from projects all around and, in only one week, they built a 160 yd tunnel through the heart of the hill, 10 metres below the highest part, to save the Canal which was in dire financial straights.
The Canal Tunnel (late 1600s) runs under the road from Nissan to the Oppidum but there is another surprise - the tunnel isn't alone!
The main channel to drain the Etang du Montardy (late 1200s - see above) goes under the hill 20 metres below the peak and there is a railway tunnel (1856) that runs between the canal and the drain some 10 metres below the canal!. To cap it all, the Roman Way (Voie Romaine - 118 BC) runs over the top of the hill. Four significant pieces of history in one spot!
Nissan is the next town South East of Colombiers on the opposite side of the N9. It is a pretty town with a large, tree lined Place, a grand Mairie,
an attractive church and some intriguing public loos. It also houses some extra shops and a supermarket.
There are regular flower stalls on the entrance to the town.