THE LA CLUSE AND MIJOUX SITE
The geographic folds of the Jura mountains that are part of a major geological fault line have formed a narrow pass across the mountains – known as a “cluse” or transverse valley – linking the plains around Neuchâtel and Lausanne in Switzerland on one side, and Besançon on the other side. The chateau de Joux sits at the crossroads of four major routes: the RN57 from Pontarlier to Lausanne, the RD67B leading to Switzerland via Neuchâtel, the RD437 that crosses the Jura range towards Mouthe and Saint-Claude.
The chateau sits on the high point of a rocky bluff at an altitude of 950m, overlooking the La Rochette plateau to the north and the Gérot plateau to the south. It is framed by the Larmont, Laveron and Montpetot hills, at the foot of which flows the Doubs river which flows through the Saint Point lake 8km from the chateau. These natural surroundings allow for numerous outdoor activities such as hiking, mountain biking, walks in the forest or through the summer pastures, with magnificent views.
FAUNA AND FLORA AT JOUX
The rich natural heritage around Joux is classified and protected. A type 1 Natural zone of ecological interest for its flora and fauna (ZNIEFF I) covers the Gérot plateau and the bluff on which the chateau is sited. A special conservation zone (ZSC), which is part of the European Natura 2000 network, protects the site, the surrounding slopes, cliffs and escarpments. Finally, a prefectoral biotope protection (APB) preserves the “Limestone escarpments of the Doubs county” covering the cliffs to the north of the chateau.
The chateau is surrounded by numerous coniferous forests, mostly made up of Norway spruce. They do nevertheless include a few deciduous trees such as Beech, Ash, Norway maple and Sycamore, large-leaved Lime together with Wych elm. Cliffs, scree slopes, pasture and dry grassland are habitat for many wild flowers. Some of these are classified as heritage species: French sorrel and the Jura figwort, wild orchids such as Fly orchid, Military orchid, Frog orchid; the Carduus personata thistle, French meadow-rue, and finally the Trumpet gentian and the carnivorous plant Common bladderwort.
This well preserved habitat is home to wide variety of fauna, including numerous bat species: Pipistrelles, Long-eared bats and Horseshoe bats. Foxes, rabbits, martens, stoats, squirrels can also be seen. Chamois are our foremost and most loyal visitors. And if you are very patient indeed, you might even come across a Lynx.
The diversity of bird species is typical of the forested and open habitats around the site: Chaffinch, Chiffchaff, Wren, Wallcreeper, Black redstart, Green woodpecker, Blackbird, Common swift, Raven, Common kestrel and obviously the Peregrine falcon. And more than 135 different species of butterfly – of the 270 species to be found in continental France!
BENOIT THE CHAMOIS
In Pontarlier, everyone knows Benoit the Chamois. But for visitors from further afield it is unusual to see such animals wandering around calmly under the ramparts! If you see a photo with a Chamois in the foreground, it hasn’t been edited, it’s Benoit!
He has been living on the slopes of the Larmont hills and around the chateauwith other members of the family for decades, making the most of a protected biotope. When visitors leave the chateau, the chamois has the place to himself again! Benoit is an acrobat who can easily negotiate walls and moats. He has made the abandoned parts his home, leaving footprints and recognisable droppings, that apprentice explorers will easily be able to identify!
During your visit, from the top of the horseshoe tower or on one of the paths, you might be lucky enough to see him!