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Our secret heritage

The Causse de Limogne keeps many of its treasures altogether out of sight. You will need to get well off the beaten track to discover the caselles, the gariottes, and other riches of our region. While you're admiring the magnificent cliffs of the valleys of the Lot or the Célé rivers, you'll be surprised to find out about the the cave houses hidden within them. Continuing your journey down the valleys, a second glance will reveal the impressive Chateaux des Anglais , which derive their strength from the rock into which they are built. Buildings, sacred places, landscapes and hidden paths represent a whole different layer of the wealth of the Causses du Quercy. In the footsteps of our ancestors, their skills, and their heritage, discover a face of the area not often appreciated by visitors.

 

"Cayrous" - dry stone walls

When you enter the department of the Lot, it is impossible to miss all the walls serving as land boundaries beteen fields and along the roads and paths. More numerous than the dry-stone huts, the cayrous are remnants of agricultural work carried out in the nineteenth century.

When frozen, the rock of the cliffs is fragmented and spreads over the ground, forcing farmers to remove the stones from their fields before planting. The stones are then put to good use building walls or huts.

"Caselles" or "Gariottes" - dry stone huts

Also called Capitelles in Languedoc and Bories in Provence, the dry stone huts of the Causses du Quercy are called Caselles in the north of the Lot valley and Gariottes in the south.

 

Caselles

Built mostly during the second half of the eighteenth and early nineteenth century, these small dry stone huts, usually built in the middle of a field, are found all over the Causses du Quercy despite the majority of them having been demolished to make way for modern farming methods. The majority of them are near Lalbenque or Limogne in Quercy. They are circular in shape to better withstand the various weather conditions.

Their main function was as temporary shelters, both for animals and equipment and sometimes for farmers during stormy weather.

 

Gariottes

These buildings, built in the corners of the walls that line the small fields may be circular or rectangular. Formerly they provided shelter for farm workers - especially the owners of the fields or vineyards and their labourers. They are characteristised by large stone slabs used as seats or benches.

 

Cave houses

Erected at the foot of the cliffs between the Valleys of the Lot and the Célé, away from the crowds and away from the noise, only the lapping of water and birdsong intrude into the lives of the peace-loving inhabitants of these villages.
The architecture of the buildings in Cabrerets, La Toulzanie and Saint Sulpice enchants every visitor who passes by.

 

Butterfly washing stones

Near a well, stream, fountain or pond, public laundry stones can often be found. These "butterfly washing stones" are special to the south of the Lot and although they were never used for washing butterflies, their name - lavoir à papillons - has an intersting story. Used by women in the nineteenth and into the twentieth century, the stones were reserved for the domestic laundry. Those on the Causse de Limogne have the distinction of having two washing stones face to face in the shape of a butterfly, so that the washerwomen could chat with one another as they worked.

 

Dovecotes

Pigeon lofts, or dovecotes (pigeonniers) have existed here since the fourteenth century, and are an integral part of the history of Quercy. They are numerous, everywhere and sport a very wide variety of architecture. They have always been built with available materials such as brick, wood, clay and limestone.

There are five different types of buildings: square towers, cylindrical towers, round-quadrangular towers, arcades and columns.

Their construction is ingenious - they were built to attract pigeons whose droppings provide an extremely rich nitrogenous fertiliser for the soil. Farmers of modest income would also not hesitate to eat the birds that roosted on their land . However poor you were in those days, having pigeons meant having a high social status, as the right to own pigeons was only granted owners with enough land .

Today most lofts, as with many dry stone constructions, are abandoned and are in an advanced state of disrepair. Fortunately some owners want to restore and bring new life to these buildings in order to perpetuate their story for future generations.