The Salagou Valley with the ruins of the Château de Malavieille
The Salagou stream is the main feeder for the Lac du Salagou. Over the years it has carved out this valley through the red sandstone ("Ruffes") rock. Several volcanic plugs remain standing proud of the sandstone. The ruins of the Château de Malavieille stand on top of one of the volcanic plugs or puy.
Continuing the series of photos taken in the Salagou valley this is the village of Celles. Celles at an altitude of 143m was threatened by the flooding of the valley in 1969. Much of the village was compulsorily purchased but the villagers were very reluctant to move. When the dam was completed the waters rose to their current level of 139m. The village was abandoned. The plans to deepen the reservoir to 150m were abandoned in 1996 and now there is some hope of re-establishing the village. However much looting of stone and fittings from the houses had taken place in the intervening 30 years!
The small town of Le Caylar is on the Larzac plateau in the north of Hérault, close to the A75 motorway. The magnificently carved old elm tree in the centre of the town is its most famous landmark. The tree is covered with carvings of insects, birds, farm animals, plants and people. The work took the carver, Michel Chevray, 2000 hours and was completed in autumn 1989. You can read more about the tree on The Woodworkers Institute site.
The chapel of St Michel de Mercoirol stands on a rocky platform above the ruins of the Château de Mercoirol. There are extensive views from here to the north-east along the upper valley of the River Orb and to the north-west and the massif of Le Caroux. There is an annual pilgrimage to this chapel from Les Aires on 8th May each year.
The Pont de Diable or Devil's Bridge at Villemagne l.Argentière is one of several such named in the area. This bridge, over the river Mare, was built in the 13th century, probably by the monks of the Abbey at Villemagne. The Devil's Bridge appelation comes from legend. There are several different forms of the legend (see Devil's Bridge Legends) but one local one goes like this.
The local lord ordered a bridge to be built over the river. Every time the builders neared completion of the bridge the Devil threw the bridge down forcing the work to be started again. After several tries the nobleman sought a bargain with the Devil. The Devil agreed to allow the bridge to be completed on condition that he should have the soul of the first of the nobleman's servants to cross. The bridge was duly finished and, before allowing anyone to cross, the nobleman sent one of his hunting dogs across the bridge. The Devil was enraged but took the dog's soul as he had bargained.
After about a week of cold weather with the temperature hardly rising above zero, huge icicles have formed on the rocky wall of the River Mare valley. The longest are about 3 metres long! (Canon EOS 450D, Sigma 17-70mm lens at 70mm, ISO 200, 1/100s, f/7.1)
Mostyn, Button and I took a walk up at the Forêt des Écrivains-Combattants. It was bitterly cold with a strong NW wind but bright and sunny. This view of the village of Madale was taken from the edge of the forest.
(Canon EOS 450D, Sigma 17-70 mm lens at 53mm, ISO 200, f/7.1, 1/640s)
Lamalou has a good theatre building. It is used to stage various plays and concerts but it's main use is to stage the National Festival of Operettas during the summer and a shorter such festival between Christmas and New Year. On the same square as the theatre stand the casino with its bar and restaurant, a small cinema showing general release films and the salle des fêtes used by the community for meeting, parties, weddings atc.
The remains of three windmills top one of the hills near the village of Faugères. Known locally as "Les Trois Tours" (The Three Towers), one has been restored to working order, one is the home of the warden who looks after the site and the third is a small souvenir shop and observation platform.
The impressive Château Grézan is, in fact, a romantic 19th century reconstruction on the site of the original Commanderie founded by the Knights Templar in the 12th century. The reconstruction was influenced by Violet le Duc who was also the inspiration behind the restoration of the walled Cité of Carcassonne. Château Grézan now houses a small hotel, an excellent restaurant and is surrounded by vineyards producing its own wines under the Faugères appellation. (Canon EOS 450D, Sigma 17-70 lens at 19mm)
This unusual building is the Mairie at Laurens. It is decorated with symbols of the French Republic including, at the top, the "Phrygian Cap" a symbol of the French Revolution. You may also be able to make out below the balcony the French motto "Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité".