Patrick Guillemant – Noeux-les-Mines

Major changes in mining areas

“What I can offer visitors is a relaxed yet informative visit to the slag heap in Noeux-les-Mines and the underground mining museum.” And much more, besides! Patrick Guillemant inherited from his family his knowledge of the history and day-to-day lives of miners. This former regional attaché has witnessed the transformation of his local area: from the decline of the mines to the reconversion of slag heaps into ski slopes and leisure areas. Today, accepted by the former miners who sculpted its landscape, Patrick is now a guide at the Musée de la Mine. “It’s an honour to be recognised as one of their own,” he adds.

The slag heap of coal pit 1 is the most symbolic in the town. It’s here that the climb starts. “From a height of a hundred metres you can take in the history of mining, the area’s redevelopment, the revitalisation of mining towns etc.” The walk joins up with another slag heap which has been transformed into a ski slope that is open all year round. You can have a coffee at the base of the slopes, even in summer, while youngsters let their hair down on the moguls. A man-made lake, which replaced the slag heap, also offers water skiing. “We started out with Zola’s Germinal and ended up with skiing. I’m proud of my village, my roots, the past and the transformation of the town.”

A fan of local traditions, Patrick is happy to take interested visitors to see some pigeon-fanciers, to meet some of the many Poles who live in the area, and to even watch some local javelin throwers. If these ideas intrigue you, then follow your guide!

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