Admire the small Lot heritageA remarkable dry stone heritage
During this summer, I had the opportunity to discover the Cahors-Vallée du Lot destination through a mythical path: the path of Le Puy, which is the most famous way to get to Saint-Jacques de Compostela. While following this famous path, the Lot valley revealed to me one of its most beautiful jewels: an exceptional vernacular heritage (small rural heritage), renovated and maintained by passionate and committed locals.
A lotoise technique
My adventures in the Cahors-Vallée du Lot destination started on the famous GR65. As soon as I arrived in Limogne-en-Quercy (first village of the GR65 on the destination), I could see the omnipresence of dry stone walls lining the path. Dry stone is an amazing construction technique, based on the skilful assembly of stones, thus excluding the use of mortar. These low walls are accompanied by many other constructions also in dry stone. These bear many more or less curious names: gariottes, caselles, cayrous... or quite simply huts for the purists.
The marked presence of these buildings is explained by the constitution of the extremely gravelly soils in the Quercy. Centuries ago, the peasants having to remove all this stone from their field in order to be able to exploit it, decided to use this raw material to delimit the different plots. Cabins were also built in the same way to provide shelter for shepherds or other passers-by, or to serve as occasional sheepfolds for livestock or as warehouses for agricultural equipment.
As a hiker looking for contact with nature, I particularly appreciated these natural constructions, thus bringing a timeless aspect to the path. Here almost no barrier or fence borders the fields, and thanks to these atypical constructions, I quickly had the feeling of evolving in a world straight out of Tolkien's imagination. Indeed, one would almost suspect these small stone huts to be the new homes of the little creatures called hobbits!
As I walk this wonderful path, I note that some of these walls seem "like new" while some have clearly suffered the ravages of time. My curiosity piqued, I wonder who could have rebuilt these charming little cabins and these kilometers of low walls. I find the answer to my question during a break that I make at the pilgrim stop in the village of Bach. I then discovered an exhibition showing the work of restoring these dry stone constructions by an association with an evocative name: Les 1000 mains à la pâte!
Glad to have gotten a first clue about the people doing this tedious work, I push the research to discover that this association was created with the aim of organizing each year a special day dedicated to the restoration of the low walls and the maintenance of the path. I then decided to contact the people at the origin of this human and united movement. This is how I was able to meet Yes Lacam and Guy Messal, who had the generosity to answer my questions, and this in a friendly setting in a charming café located in the village of Vaylats.