Official website of Paris-Saclay tourism
We decided to place a spotlight on the work carried out by volunteers of the Comité Départemental de la Randonnée Pédestre de l’Essonne. Our chance to join the volunteers and find out how the hiking trails are waymarked and maintained.
Each volunteer is in charge of one or more itineraries. They ensure the waymarkers (stickers or paint) are visible and that the paths receive some degree of maintenance (trimming and clearing). They suggest itinerary modifications in the event of works or on the basis of feedback from hikers. Depending on the route, the volunteer may have to return several times a year to ensure the trail is still passable. Each volunteer is responsible for a 15 to 20km section.
Where necessary, numbered waymarkers are embedded in the ground so that they can be easily identified when maintenance work is required.
Today the weather is ideal for the hike we’re doing. We’re beckoned by a big blue sky and perfect temperatures. We’re marking a short-distance hiking trail in yellow, the Grand Tour de Villebon.
The full itinerary covers just over 14 kilometres, of which we’re marking 10 today. The aim is to check the waymarkers, carry out any necessary repairs to posts, trim any brambles and plants causing visibility problems or creating obstacles.
Each waymarker indicates whether walkers must change direction or continue straight ahead, or if they have taken the wrong path.
Our day begins at Saulx-les-Chartreux Lake, the ideal place to start because it’s easy to park. Ella and I meet Dominique and Jacques accompanied by Prunelle (Dominique’s dog). We begin following the first yellow markers. On the whole, the trail is easy to follow thanks to these markers (the hike details and GPX trail can be downloaded Here).
We soon spot the first leaning post. Dominique and Jacques improvise repairs, using bamboo to strengthen the post. The job requires resourcefulness and an ability to improvise with each new problem encountered. They go to work with hammer and saw, and the post is soon standing straight again. They’ll return soon to repair it more durably.
Our little group then heads for the town centre of Saulx-Les-Chartreux and the Parc des Sources. We make a few changes to some old labels before making our way to the vegetable fields of Villebon-sur-Yvette. We take the time to observe the nature that surrounds us. We wander between pear trees, grazing sheep, plots of parsley, beans and many other crops, and automatic sprinklers that are very refreshing!! With a snip of the secateurs here and a stroke of paint there, we eventually reach the Ru du Paradis stream. We are to fix a sign to a post so that new labels can be added.
From the trail we can see the Château du Bois Courtin through what used to be a window in the surrounding wall. We had visited the château grounds (which are open to the public) two years ago while exploring Villejust. The path continues through the forest and along a slightly less pleasant narrow section near the motorway. Rest assured, this short section only takes a few minutes before we reach the Bois des Gelles.
Dominique stops to refresh a paint mark that has faded over time. This hilly woodland is a popular training ground for sports enthusiasts as well as walkers. We pass close to the Bois des Gelles fitness trail.
We head gently back towards the Yvette and cross Villebon before walking along the riverbank back to the car.
If you want to see the route we followed along the River Yvette, check out our cycling experience!
Thanks again to Jacques and Dominique for showing us their volunteer work. Don’t hesitate to contact the federation if you want to find out more or become a volunteer yourself.
“The Villebon Trail is an easy hike with plenty of variety, ideal for spending a few hours in the great outdoors.”