Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Following Stevenson through the Cévennes

Surrounding countryside, La Garde
I’m leaving Robbie’s book, ‘Travels with a Donkey’, behind today as I take you on another trip through the Cévennes.  It’s not that I’m finished with Mr Stevenson, I will re-read his book at some point in the future, it’s just that, today I’m taking you somewhere I want to go, La Garde-Guérin.  A place that my erstwhile friend missed because the route he chose ran across Mont Goulet to the west of La Garde.

From Langogne if you take the D906 south to Luc, La Bastide and Prévenchères, the road gradually rises until you reach the village, which sits at an altitude of around 900m above sea level on a sparse and dusty plateau.  With little more than a dozen inhabitants this tiny village is isolated but it is also blissfully quiet – apart from the tourists who flock here in July and August.

A village street
The village is crossed by the Chemin de Régordane (GR700), which was once an important and the only communication route between Languedoc and the Auvergne.  It was the Bishop of Mende who requested that a guard post be instituted at this point on the route as far back as the 12th century.  He wanted to protect pilgrims and of course, goods being transported, so he insisted that the village also becomes a garrison and a group of knights moved in.  Not quite the sort in shining armour, I’m afraid, as these men were there to escort travellers and carts in safety and were able to charge for the privilege.

The watch tower
The tower that currently stands at one side of the village with its commanding view over the wild countryside is not the original one.  The village was the scene of fierce fighting and was raised to the ground during the Hundred Years War and was again burned in the 16th century during the Religious Wars.  The tower stands at just over 21 metres high and can be seen for miles around.  It is possible to climb to the top using ladders mostly and in one section, footholds and handholds in the walls.  I wasn’t wearing my four-wheel drive for feet on the day I visited, so I decided to leave all the climbing to others.

The village church is equally tiny and is dedicated to St Michael and contains a statue of the patron saint dating from the 15th century.  Inside the church is cool and dark and silent and the decorative masonry is certainly worth a detailed examination.

And so I make my way further along the D906 towards Villefort, the lake and lunch.

I’ll be back in the Cévennes next month.

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