El Vallespir is a region of northern Catalunya that borders to the south with the regions la Garrotxa, el Ripollès and l'Alt Empordà and is bounded to the north by el Conflent and el Rosselló. It offers a sharp contrast between the tall mountains in the Canigó range and the valleys. “El baix Vallespir”, (lower Vallespir) in la Conca de Ceret connects to the plains and has similar farming activities. It is encased between the Aspres Mountains to the north and the mass of rock known as “Frausa” to the south giving it the characteristics of a basin that receives harsh frost in the spring. The middle region of El Vallespir is made up of narrow valleys dominated by sharp slopes and covered with sunny holms forests, oaks and in the shady areas splendid chestnuts. “L'alt Vallespir” (higher Vallespir) apart from hidden valleys also has plateaus and wide granite gorges, in Cortsaví and Sant Llorenç de Cerdans and in a magnificent valley called Prats de Molló. To the north, the mountain ranges and sharp peaks of the Canigó range separate el Vallespir from Conflent. At the other end, to the south, Costoja and the tall valley of la Muga look towards la Garrotxa. The Canigó range is the essential element in explaining the particularities of the climate and consequently the vegetation. This mountain range (Canigó) is the visible landscape horizon throughout the territory not only in el Vallespir but also in the neighbouring southerly regions. There are a series of natural faults in this mass of rock, which clearly define secondary blocks. There is a significant transversal north to south fault affecting the Llipodera valley and the Bocacerç pass. The same fault line also separates Sethomes peak from Pla Guillem, and the Persigola valley near Prats de Molló. To the east of the range, the Canigó is brutally interrupted by a series of accidents, faults that clearly separate this range from the Vetera range and from the Aspres Mountains. To the south of the river Tec there is a huge granite hillside known as Sant Llorenç de Cerdans, the boroughs of la Menera and Serrallonga, the south part of the Tec and the town of Sant Llorenç its-self.
El Vallespir communicates to the Tec basin and to its tributaries to the north, la Percigola, la Comalada and the Ferrer. The Ribera Ampla has its basin in the Aspres Mountains to the south, and therefore, tributaries from the right hand side la Menera, Sant Llorenç and Montdony as well as all the small streams that come straight down the Frausa rock face to the Ceret basin such as Morellàs or les Illes. The Ribera de Roma basin and the gorges at Sant Joan and Sant Martí d'Albera, form the most eastern part of el Vallespir.
Joan Becat i Rajaut
Universitat de Perpinyà i Institut d'Estudis Catalans