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The Causses du Quercy Regional Natural Park

Saint-Cirq-Lapopie and Pech-Merle, located at the crossroads of the Causses de Limogne, Saint-Chels and Gramat, are two villages which symbolise the identity of the Causses du Quercy Regional Natural Park

Travel on foot or bicycle to discover the vast limestone plateau covered with dry grasslands and oak woodland or by boat or canoe, browsing the green valleys of the Lot and Célé rivers, lined by strikingly beautiful cliffs and beaches.

Set in the heart of the Causses du Quercy, the park is rich in biodiversity and natural wonders, as well as several important cultural sites including Padirac, the caves of Pech-Merle, the Phosphate mines of Cloup de l'Aural and the major listed sites of Rocamadour and St Cirq Lapopie.

 

In the footsteps of our forebears

The myriad cliffs, caves, ledges and overhangs have all provided shelter at some point in history and prehistory. The Causses de Quercy abounds with important archaeological and paleontological sites, with many decorated caves like that of Pech-Merle, among the most famous in France, where a negative hand print on the wall made by a prehistoric artist has been chosen as the logo of the Park.

There are countless dolmens, burial mounds, Celtic hill forts like the one at Cras and even a Gallo-Roman aqueduct at Vers.

 

The Phosphate mines, natural laboratories of evolution

The light and aridity of the plateau delightfully contrast with the darkness and the coolness of the Phosphate sources at Cloup de l'Aural. This is a cave open to the sky and filled with tropical vegetation that thrives on the rich vein of phosphates found here and which our ancestors of the 19th century extracted to use as fertiliser. There once lived the extraordinary animal and plant species in the tertiary era - more than 600 species are now extinct - but the prehistoric atmosphere of this open cave takes you on an odyssey through the landscapes and climate of ancient times.

 

The Causses, reservoirs of biodiversity

The Causses du Quercy are home to a mosaic of remarkable natural environments that are subject to special vigilance, from dry grasslands maintained by sheep farming, to the "lakes" of St. Namphaise. Although once forested, the ecosystem has been shaped by sheep grazing to yield heathland and the calcareous dry grasslands emblematic of the natural limestone of Quercy.

There is a vast floral diversity - orchids and Mediterranean species such as as pinnate stipe and stubble sabline are found everywhere. A rich fauna also abounds - the Ocellated lizard and the Stone Curlew (a bird also called "the ghost of the plateau") rub shoulders with the Orphean Warbler, and many insects with colourful names such as Large Blue butterfly or Black Spotted grasshopper

The cliffs are home to Peregrine Falcons, Eagle Owls, Rock Swallows and several species of bats, notably the Greater Horseshoe Bat.

On the Causses, the well-ventilated Downy oak and Montpellier Maple woodlands are conducive to forest management. The wooded areas that cover the slopes and valleys are ideal places for the Jean-le-Blanc eagle to nest where it can catch its preferred diet of small snakes and lizards.

 

Closer to the stars

The Regional Park boasts one of the least light-polluted night skies in France, falling in a in a triangle of about thirty square kilometers called the "Black triangle", it is a gateway to the stars.

Recognized by the scientific world, this feature makes the Causses du Quercy an ideal place for astronomical observation for both experts and amateurs who will appreciate the purity of the sky.

 

Diary and agenda

The schedule of events taking place in the Causses du Quercy Regional Natural Park comes out three times a year. It is a small pocket-sized guide which lists all the activities organized by the Park including vigils, walks, theatre, music, lectures, entertainment, nature walks... everything people do to bring the cultural side of the park to life!

 

All the "people" of the Causses

Humans

Here for thousands of years, man has always shaped the land and interacted with nature from the cave artists who decorated our prehistory to the Quercy farmers, builders, archaeologists, saffron farmers, traders and truffle hunters of today.

 

Sheep

Well known for its "dark glasses" the local sheep species is emblematic of the landscapes of the plateau. For generations its breeding has helped maintain the dry grasslands and scattered oak trees. The lambs are prized for their meat and they supply a significant share of the label rouge production "Quercy lamb."

 

The Jean-le-Blanc snake eagle

The Jean-Le-Blanc snake eagle s a diurnal bird of prey that requires large open areas to hunt the reptiles upon which it feeds almost exclusively. Its breeding range is located within wilderness areas and wooded land little frequented by man - this species is particularly sensitive to human disturbance.

 

The sulphur Ascalaphus

Also called "the Dragonfly Ascalaphus ", this colourful insect is often connected, wrongly, to dragonflies or butterflies. The Ascalaphus is classified among the Neuroptera (lacewings), and feeds on small insects such as flies. This species is common on grassy patches of the Park.

 

Woodcock bee-orchid

Ophrys (bee orchids) have developed a particular reproductive strategy: the flowers reproduce the shape and the smell of a female insect. The males court the bloom, thinking it is their sweetheart, and leave laden with pollen to carry to another plant..

 

Juniper bushes (Juniperus communis)

This shrub is very common on our lawns and dry heaths. Juniper bushes bring forth juniper berries and have evergreen needles upon which you may hurt your foot. The highly fragrant wood is used in the manufacture of furniture and objets d'art.

 

Contacts

Parc naturel régional des Causses du Quercy
BP 10
46240 Labastide Murat
+33 (0)5 65 24 20 50
contact@parc-causses-du-quercy.org
www.parc-causses-du-quercy.org