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Things to See in the Languedoc:   Wildlife and National Parks:   The Cévennes National Park

This is a spectacular National park, created in 1970 and declared a "World Biosphere Reserve" by UNESCO in 1985. It stretches across three Departements (54 % in Lozère, 36% in Gard and 10% in Ardèche). In altitude it rises from 378 to 1,699 metres above sea level. The River Gard (or Gardon) flows through it. The park welcomes 800,000 visitors each year
The range of vegetation is extreme: the sub-alpine meadows of mont Lozère which are home to some species typical of the polar circle, while the warm rocky sheltered valleys of the mediterranean side of the Park are home to species found in the middle of the sub-tropics.
The richness of the flora (2,250 species) is attributable to the diversity of climate (oceanic, continental and Mediteranean), the chemical composition of the soil (granite, limestone and schist) and the range of altitudes in the protected zone (from 378 to 1,699 metres above sea level).
The Parc National des Cévennes is the only national Park in France where forestry is carried out. Chestnut trees (40,000 hectares), cultivated for a thousand years, make up the typical landscape. Plant-life includes the famous Drosera sp. (the carnivorous plant sundew). There are 2,420 reported animal species within the park, including tawny and black vultures, beavers, stags, wild boar, roe deer, mouflon, grouse, and crayfish, otters, black woodpecker, owls, vultures, and frogs
There are 1,800 kilometres of marked footpaths (of which 600km are bridlepaths, 200km are for bicycles, and 100km are for cross-country skiing). The park offers the highest density of Grandes Routes (GR) in France (GR "Stevenson", GR 6, 7, 60, 66 (tour de L'Aigoual), 67 (tour des Cévennes) and 68 (tour du mont Lozère). There are educational walks.
Accommodation includes 118 "gites d'etapes" or refuges, and 655 "gites ruraux"
There are three ecolocical centres in the park: The Ecomusée of mont Lozère, The Ecomusée of the Cévennes, and The Ecomusée of the Causse.
Stone houses covered with schist roofs present a style that is specific to area. Many hamlets have protected their own "cultural buildings" (ovens, mills, crosses, forges, watering places, farmhouses, and "tempest bell towers").
Traditionally, cattle (Aubrac) are bred on mont Lozère, sheep on the Causses and goats in the Cévenol valleys. These are the source of high quality local products (meat and cheese). A dozen large herds still practice summer transhumance in the Park each summer.
Historical sites:
  • Bronze age sites. (2,000 years BC). Tumuli and dolmens are particularly common on the limestone Causses. The concentration of menhirs at Bondons on mont Lozère make this the second most important site in France after Carnac in Britanny.
  • Roman mausoleum. At Lanuéjols (in Lozère) there is a well preserved, important 3rd Century Roman mausoleum.
  • L'Hôpital. Evidence of the medieval times by the Knights of Malta can s be found at L'Hôpital on Mont Lozère.
  • Abbey. The ruined Abbey of Bonheur (12th & 13th Century) on l'Aigoual
  • Chateau.The Chateau of Roquedols (16th Century) near Meyrueis,
  • Romaneque churches. A number of churches, simple but picturesque, are scattered throughout the landscape in the "Vallée francaise".
  • Camisard sites. Plan de Fontmort, Can de l'Hospitalet, Bougès are important places for the Protestants (as they have been since the Wars of Religion).
  • The Maquis. The Resistance (Maquis de l'Aigoual) has also left a numbers of reminders in the Cévennes - a refuge land for persecuted people for many centuries even before the Wars of Religion.

 

Find an hotel in the Cevennes

 

 

Walking in the Cevennes

An important pilgrim route, the Via Tolosana (marked in blue on the right) led through Arles, St-Gilles, Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert and Toulouse and crossed the Pyrenees to join other routes at Puenta-la-Reina, thence to Santiago along the Via Compostelana to Santiago de Compostela.

A tributary route, the Regordane (marked in green), led from Le Puy-en-Velay to St-Gilles, by way of the Cévennes, Alès and Nîmes. Some pilgrims came only as far as St-Gilles, the fourth most important pilgimage destination in Europe. Others went on to Santiago de Compostela along the Via Tolosana possibly taking a detour to Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer (While Compostela claimed the relics of St-James, Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer claimed the relics of his mother, Mary)

 
Pilgrims and hikers still walk these ancient pigrimage routes. Click on the following external link for more information on walking the Regordane
Please note the Park Regulations:
  • Dogs are forbidden without a leash: they disturb wild fauna and domestic cattle.
  • No collection or removal of animals, plants, minerals and fossils belonging to the area.
  • No litter: to keep the environment clean.
  • No fires: to avoid forest fires and soil degradation.
  • No noise or disturbances: to ensure peace in the park.
  • No camping, no camper-vans, no caravans in central area of Park; to maintain the beauty of these sites and stop pollution.
  • No off-roading on bicycle, motorbike or car; driving is banned apart from on authorised routes.
  • Respect enclosures, shut every gate.
For more information visit the official, and very comprehensive, website on the Cevennes: http://www.bsi.fr/pnc/English/english.htm

 

Enlightened Traveller is family run organisation catering for the discerning visitors, with an emphasis on learning, walking, recreation, and regeneration. Venues include Camargue-Provence, Gardens of Languedoc, La Grande Motte, Le Cevenol, Provençao, Secrets of the Cevennes, Upper Ceze Valley, Valcezard and Uzege. Looks interesting and different.

 

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