Place : Miramas (Bouches du Rhône)
Public : Adults
Warning: involves working at height
Union APARE-CME volunteers have been working for a number of years now to restore and repair various buildings in the leafy gunpowder works grounds. After having restored a wash-house and the Saint Vincent Chapel a few years ago, the focus has turned to restoring the watermills.
You’ll continue the work to safeguard this industrial heritage and pursue restoration work on the upper watermill which is the last in a series of mills that have already been saved. In fact, you can still see the marks from the water wheel which powered all the machinery in the mill building.
Building technique: Masonry and lime wall renders
Accommodation: On-site, in tents. Bring your own tent if you like.
Help out, in turn, with daily tasks (cooking, cleaning). Building work in the mornings, Mon-Fri. Free time in afternoons and weekends, with a choice of group excursions and activities.
Some ideas for excursions: Walks in the Camargue, Luberon, and Alpilles, visits to Marseille, Aix-en-Provence or Arles, nature-watching in the gunpowder works grounds and around the Etang de Berre.
A bit of history:
The old Royal gunpowder works lies at the north end of the Etang de Berre, between the Alpilles hills and the Camargue. The 118-hectare site, or “Poudrerie” as it is known, was built in the 17th century to supply King Louis XIV’s armies.
Production ceased in 1974, leaving the site unoccupied and closed to the public for some 30 years to harbour a dazzlingly diverse range of plants and trees.
Consecutive directors at the gunpowder works used to live on-site and tended to plant trees from around the world. As a result, Atlas Cedars, Chinese Privet, Ginkgo Biloba, Sequoia and American Persimmon all grow together among the remains of this ancient gunpowder works, which also experienced several dramatic explosions during its time.
The “Poudrerie” was acquired by the French coastal protection agency, the Conservatoire du Littoral, in 2001 and the site still features several key buildings where gunpowder was made. Ongoing work for several years now has helped recover the gunpowder works and opened it to the public, with several kilometres of botanical trails for nature-lovers to discover a wide array of untouched flora.