The Cévennes, which are mainly shale, offer a particularly varied surface made up of parallel or diverging strips and ridges named “les serres”, which overlook steep, branched slopes.
The Cévenole valleys range in altitude from 250 m to 1,000 m in a narrow, steep network where waterways have forged passages through the shale, which offers little resistance.
The Cévennes come under the climatic influence of the Mediterranean, with its frequent sunshine, but the variety of altitudes creates many different microclimates. Winter can be harsh there, summers warm and dry, and between the seasons, particularly in autumn, “Cévenole episodes” can occur, a meteorological phenomenon resulting in sudden, heavy downpours that flood the villages at the bottom of the valley.
The mild climate in the southern valleys enables many types of fruit and vegetable to be grown on the manmade terraces. There are many hydraulic structures used for water management and regulation, incorporated into the cultivation areas.
The chestnut tree, once known as the “golden tree” of the Cévennes, is found at altitudes of 400 to 800 m. Herds of goats and sheep find nuts under their foliage to supplement their diet when grass is scarce at the end of summer. Polyculture has been practised by people in these valleys since time immemorial, and there are many hamlets clinging to the slopes. The typical tall, narrow Cévenole house is built into the rock and its gable end overlooks the valley. The dark shale, with its deep purple and rust-coloured tints, is used in many walls and mazes of streets that accompany the structure of the hamlets, and once made it easier for people hiding in this land of refuge to escape.
This remarkable interaction between the buildings and natural landscapes is today recognised by the UNESCO, which has listed the territory as a living cultural landscape, and adds to the Property’s Outstanding Universal Value (OUV).
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