Melles, situated at 722 m of altitude, is a typical Pyrenean mountain village, at the entrance to the Val d’Aran. The Garonne and Ger rivers are the main water courses which run through the vilage.
A little bit of history…
At the Spanish border (Val d’Aran), Melles was once a small mining site (the opening of the mines of Melles goes back to the 17th century), which produced pyrite, galena: essentially sulphides of iron.
Called the mines of Pala Bidaou, these were only accessible and exploitable in summer because they are located at more than 1,500 meters of altitude. The ore had to come down by mule convoy to the facilities in the valley, which was quite dangerous. The forge that used snow melt water (mechanisms operated by mills, washing, etc.) also worked for only a few months a year.
Many of Melles inhabitants worked in these mines and it is therefore not uncommon to find a pick axe or a miner’s lamp in local attics… The mines were however quite small and they only lasted for a short time. Today the deposits are exhausted.
There are several mines near Melles:
- Palancach or Mouras
- Pont de Rouèu
- Sixsoyer or “mail de cristal”
Many other mining sites, both French and Spanish, now abandoned, existed in this region of the Pyrenees.
In the Val d’Aran, in Bossost, not far from Melles, it is now possible to visit the Victoria mines. Did you know that it is to the mountain of La Pez, that Spanish owes the name of the pencil or “Lapiz”, because the early pencils were often made with lead.
It was at Melles that “Giva” and “Melba” the bears, were released on May 16 and June 6, 1996 and on May 2, 1997 the bear “Pyros” was released. These bears, of Slovenian origin, were released into the Melo forest the day after their capture.
On August 8, 2001, at the site of the release, a commemorative stone was inaugurated.
To see, to do
- Cascade and tower of Sérial
- Commemorative stone to the reintroduced bears
- Pyrenean botanical garden: “A fleur de Montagne”, open from April to September
- Walking trails: GR10 which starts from Labach de Melles (for the fit walker!) via the Pic du Crabère (2,629 m), the cabane d’Uls annd the col d’Aoueran.