Geography of the Languedoc: Areas of Special Interest:
The granite plateau of the Sidobre is found in the north west part of the regional natural park of Haut-Languedoc, overlooking the plain of Castres to the west, in the department of Tarn. It lies south west of the massif central, between Lacrouzette, Ferrières, Saint-Salvy-de-la-Balme and Lafontasse. The river Agout winds around the edge of the area.
It is around ten kilometres long and ten kilometres wide, its surface fissured by erosion. This is one of the largest deposits of granite in Europe, formed over millennia. 300 million years ago a 12 kilometre stream of molten magma surged over the area to a depth of some 12 kilometres in the Hercynian mountain range. Today the remnant of that geological activity is the Massif Central, including, to the south, the Montagne Noire and the Sidobre of Upper Languedoc. Eroded over the millennia, this mountainous terrain contains crystalline deposits of mica, quartz and feldspar, which formed as the magma cooled.
This is not a well known area, particularly considering the numbers who flock to nearby Carcassonne. This in itself is a good reason to visit the area. Erosion over the ages has left remarkable formations, including:
- Chaos de Saint Dominique,
- Peyro Clabado (Clenched Nail), a massive block of granite weighing over 750 tons, perched on some very .
- Le roc de Pèiro Clavado or Peyro Clabado (Clenched Nail), at Lacrouzette : a block of 780 tonnes naturally balanced on small rocks
- Le chaos de la Resse : a river of rocks
- Le lac du merle : « Blackbird Lake» full of rounded pebbles
- Le rocher de l'oie : «Goose rock»
- Les Trois Fromages (The three cheeses) best seen on foot as the GR36 footpath passes this way. Les Trois Fromages is a vast block of granite fissured by ice erosion into three parts.
- Roc de l'Oie is a shapely block
- The Elephant
- The Phallus
Forests, streams and waterfalls provide a veneer over great granite masses, products of the process by which the earth itself was formed.
The economy of this region has evolved around the extraction of granite, its transformation, commercialisation and transport, which provide employment for some 2300 people and 250 small businesses, and have won international renown in the working of the stone. The Arche de la Defense at Paris is covered with Sidobre granite.
15km from Castres, Lacrouzette is the main town and capital of the granite industry in the sidobre, producing large numbers of headstones for graves and other fine granite-work for urban development, architecture, decoration and renovation.
Like the Lozere, this region served as a refuge for dissidents during the wars of religion, making it home to a traditionally proud and independent people. As early as 1403, Lacrouzette obtained its own charter establishing the common land around the Peyro Clabado as the cradle of its stoneworks.
Rock-formations sculpted by nature have given rise to innumerable legends. The rockface known as the "Peyre Clabado" is the emblem of the village of Lacrouzette. Its 780 tons of rock balanced on a base of just one metre 2, dominates the surrounding area. Legend says that if you throw a stone that stays on the top, then your wish will be granted. You will find laid out below you a patchwork of different rock-formations and chasms: the Roc de l’Oie, the Roc du Verdier, the Rocher de la Barque, the Trois Fromages, the Chaos de la Resse, the Chaos de la Rouquette. Most surprising of all perhaps is the Rocher Tremblant (trembling rock) de Sept-Faux. Also formations known as the Fusarié and the Chapeau du Curé.
This village has a natural open-air environment with footpaths criss-crossing areas of interest, with signage indicating points of interest including ecology, flora and fauna. Pathways are good for walkers and cycle-rides. The commune of Boissezon is crossed by the GR653 an old pilgrim-route to St Jacques de Compostelle .
Visiting the quarter around the fort, look out for the church with its echauguette and the old entry-gate to the town.
Ferrières lies b etween Vabre and Brassac, on the fringe of the Sidobre It holds an important place in the history of Protestantism in the region. Its twelfth-century chateau was rebuilt by Guillaime Guillot, seigneur de Ferrières who was a prominent Huguenot, and heavily involved in the Wars of Religion. Documents preserved in the Musée du Protestantisme en Haut-Languedoc attest to the extent of the fighting that took place in this area.
It is housed in the Maison du Luthier (open June-August) along with a library containing thousands of works.
Nestling in a valley at the foot of Mont Paradis, Burlats is a village of narrow alleyways leading out into attractive countryside. The river Agoût, meandering through the village, is a favourite with fishermen and with canoers and the kayakers. There are also forest walks. The area is of historical interest with a number of listed sites.
Le Bez is a commune, close to the town of Castres, not far from the lakes of Saint-Peyres and the Raviège. To the north lies the gorge of the Agoût, the northerly point of the Sidobre plateau. To the south, the plateau of Anglès rises to a height of 800 metres. The landscape here is woodland, grazed by sheep and cattle with a large area of deciduous forest (beech, chestnut and oak)
Saint Salvy de la Balme
Saint Salvy de la Balme (previously Saint-Salvy des Rochers) is a village set in the countryside. Visit the "Chaos de la Balme" with its "grotte du Loup" and its curiously-shaped rocks.