An Underground Cathedral, a City in the Rocks and More:
While it may be outside my comfort zone and certainly outside my capabilities as a photographer to make any kind of decent attempt to reproduce the drama of this landscape, it would be churlish not to share some of the almost surreal landscapes of Les Causses et Les Cevennes
Aven Armand lies some 50 to 60 metres underground. Discovered in 1897 by Louis Armand, Eduoard Alfred Martel and Armand Vire, the name comes from a local dialect word for a vertical well. Once you’ve made your way down via funicular the spectacle of the cave, larger than Notre Dame begins. A forest of stalagmites and stalactites formed over hundred of thousands of years.
An amazing display – I couldn’t help but remember some of the sights in Park Guell, the Gaudi tribute to nature in Barcelona
It’s only when starting to write this piece up that I realised the link between the Cathedralesque cave and the ‘ruined city’ – Montpellier le Vieux. In my naivity, I’d anticipated one of those medieval villages. But Montpellier le Vieux is actually a natural phenomenon, although there are plenty of rocks which bear a strong resemblance to a long abandoned settlement. The link, that the mapping and exploration of Montpellier le Vieux was the work of Edouard, Alfred Martel, who had also been instrumental in uncovering Aven Armand.
The area is maintained as a natural park, where you can walk or take a short train journey around.
Or if you are feeling adventurous and suitably dressed, you can zipline across (that’s not me by the way!)
Zip lining does involve climbing up a ladder on the rock-face to reach the peak. There are a number of different levels, some of which involve an element of caving and rock climbing as well as four zip-lines and of course, where appropriate the event is supervised by trained instructors.
For those of a gentler disposition, there is still plenty to see. There are a number of set walking routes where you can spot the bear, the camel and pinocchio amongst other strange rock formations.
It’s not hard to imagine how the shepherds on their annual drailles thought this surreal limestone formation was a ruined city.
It is a wonderful place to explore. Apart from the rock formations, there are a myriad of wild flowers to see.
While I’m not in anyway a geologist, I would love to return to Les Causses et Les Cevennes one day and learn a little more. It’s a beautiful and dramatic landscape carved by nature.
More thanks to Jackie Bru, Inger Berckhauer and Lysiane Boissy d’Anglas from the tourist offices of Causses et Cevennes for their guidance and hospitality on this trip for their guidance and hospitality on this trip.