At the letter N at the Grand Bisse de Lens, meet Gérard Rey, who is passionate about history local culture. He tells you why the Grand Bisse de Lens is also known as the Bisse de la Riouta.
Gérard was born in Lens in 1934. For some forty years, he taught primary classes in Flanthey, and then classes at the secondary school in Grône. When he retired, he was able to indulge his passion for research and furthering his knowledge of the village, studying the life of the locals who built landmarks such as the ‘bisse’ irrigation streams, the Grand Bisse de Lens or Bisse de la Riouta, often in very difficult conditions.
For most of the year, central Valais is bathed in sunshine; rain is rare, and drought is a feature of this region’s climate. To be able to use resources in the landscape, the inhabitants of Lens had to bring water to the area, collecting it a long way away, then channelling it, often over dizzying cliffs and rockfaces.
Remains remind us of ancient bisses which have long since disappeared. We don’t know the reason. It was an absolute necessity for our ancestors to transport water to the meadows and vineyards. After many projects and discussions, on 21 July 1448, an agreement was signed by the prior of Lens, Jean Crossar, and representatives from the four districts of Lens (lcogne, Lens, Chermignon and Montana) to construct the Grand Bisse, or Bisse de la Riouta.
Construction of this great 13,774 metre long engineering feat began in 1448, and was completed in 1450. Very quickly, rules were drawn up, under the title «Arrêts du bisse de la Rioutaz, 18 octobre 1457»( «Rules of the Bisse de la Rioutaz, 18 October 1457») This document, which is remarkable for its excellent organisation and judicious reflections by those in charge, shows great common sense and was used as a guide throughout the long existence of the Grand Bisse.
Here are a few points :
Today, the Grand Bisse de Lens is a wonderful walk, accessible to everyone, and which offers breathtaking views over the Rhone Valley.
Built around 1450, this bisse offers a superb panoramic walk, with some vertiginous sections.
Sylvie Doriot Galofaro, Samuel Bonvin and Martial Kamerzin will tell you more about the 125 years project and the history of the resort.