Via Francigena

Day 9 – Amettes to Bruay-la-Buissière: Northern France’s impressive mining history

The stage

Description:

👣 22 KM on foot – Thursday 24 June

A rather curious phenomenon can be observed here in Northern France. Popping up throughout the predominantly flat and slightly undulating landscape that’s surrounding us, are mysterious little cone-shaped hills. At first we didn’t pay too much attention to them, but seeing them along the entire walk from Amettes to Bruay-la-Buissière today, we started wondering: how come mother nature created these weird anomalies?

And in fact, mother nature didn’t! Because we are currently walking through the Nord-Pas de Calais Mining Basin, and the mysterious cone-shaped hills are actually the spoil heaps from all the mines that are situated hundreds of meters below our feet.
It’s a fascinating history, that of these little mining villages. While making our way along today’s 22 km of the Via Francigena, we noticed that the original architecture of these villages is often still intact. And it is truly beautiful! They also make for a perfect backdrop for our photos and videos, thanks to their linear and repeating design.

Upon arrival to Bruay-la-Buissière we were offered a surprise visit to one of the former mines in the area, and we got a little sneak peak into what life must have been like so many meters underground. Back in the day resources were scarse and working conditions far from healthy, and indeed our guide explained to us that especially in the past accidents were not uncommon. Many people have died in these mines, including children as young as 8 years old. All just in order for us to be comfortable and have electricity and heat at our disposal. It’s a good eye-opener to understand how lucky we are to be living in this age that protects workers and children much more and that safeguards our personal health.

By far the best part of the day was the fact that we were hosted at the Cité des Electriciens, a former mining village that was built between 1856 an 1861 to host the families of the miners working for the Compagnie des mines de Bruay. This little village was left abandoned since 1979 when mining activities seized, but back in 2008 restoration works started. It is now an amazingly beautiful piece of cultural heritage that is worth a visit, and it is even possible to sleep here!

A truly unique and authentic experience that we will not forget!

𝐇𝐈𝐆𝐇𝐋𝐈𝐆𝐇𝐓𝐒
Visiting the Mining Museum in Bruay-la-Buissière
Sleeping in the former mining village Cité des Electriciens

𝐓𝐎𝐃𝐀𝐘’𝐒 𝐖𝐀𝐋𝐊𝐄𝐑𝐒
Myra Stals, Social Media Manager (EAVF)
Luca Bruschi, Director (EAVF)
Didier Morel (FFVF)
Clair Waïss (FFR)
Massimo Tedeschi, President (EAVF)
Mattia Poppa, videomaker
Group of local walkers including Isi, the traveling dog

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