Of sheep and men, the causse méjan..
and me !

Ferme caussenarde d'Autrefois Lozère

Ferme caussenarde d'Autrefois Lozère, Studionature.com

Anaïs et ses brebis

Rencontre avec les brebis sur le Causse Méjean, Marie Zinzoline

Expérience Lozère, des brebis et des hommes

Budget

  • €17 per adult
  • €11 per child

Themes

  • Immersion in the "Causses and Cévennes", a listed UNESCO site
  • 3 experiences in 1: visit to a traditional farm, meeting with a shepherdess, and cheese-tasting
  • For adults and children alike!

the best period

Spring, Summer, and Autumn

duration

1 day

This afternoon, I met up with Anaïs, a sheep farmer. On the Causse Méjean, in Hyelzas, South-West Lozère. In this wild land that was listed as a World Heritage Site in 2011, Anaïs led me through the "Of sheep and men" experience. By her side, I explored a traditional farm, stroked some sheep, and tasted some dairy delights. I stepped back in time and travelled to the far ends of the earth. I touched, watched, tasted and felt. By the end, I felt like I knew the Causse spirit.
 

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THE CAUSSE MÉJEAN

Meeting in an unknown land

In her dual role as a guide and sheep farmer, Anaïs had warned me that the Causse would not leave me unmoved. Yet I was completely surprised when I emerged from the Tarn Gorges. In front of me, the vertical walls of the Gorges suddenly made way for a plateau of sun-yellowed grasses. A plateau that seemed to stretch as far as the eye could see. A plateau resembling the Mongolian steppe. It was as if I'd crossed a fair chunk of the globe in just a few minutes!

As I gradually composed myself after this stunning sight, I reached Hyelzas. The nearest town. Population: 60. Ah yes, I forgot to tell you that the Causse Méjean only has 1.4 inhabitants per square kilometre. Less than Mongolia. 

Seul au monde

Sur le Causse Méjean en Lozère, Aymeric Perona

Les petites routes du Causse

Route du Causse Méjean, Simon Mioni

Original

The resemblance between the Causse and Mongolia is such that the TAKH Association chose the Causse Méjean for its operation to save a breed of Mongolian horse called Przewalski's horse!

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LA FERME CAUSSENARDE D'AUTREFOIS (THE CAUSSES FARM OF BYGONE DAYS)

A farm from another time

All smiles, Anaïs led me to an old farm building, "La Ferme Caussenarde d'Autrefois". There I met Hélène, the manager. She told me the story of her forebears and how their agropastoral traditions have been passed down the generations to the present day. The Caussenard people's ingenuity has, too.

Take this farm, for example. It was built from 1640 onwards... and is still standing! Within its limestone walls, I stepped back in time. The sink carved into the rock. The all-important bread oven. The barn. Everything was designed and optimised to save resources. And to enable farming in an austere land. A real life lesson.

3 siècles d'histoire à portée de main !

Outils anciens dans la ferme caussenarde, Hervé Leclair / Aspheries

Quotation

"Know where you come from and you will know where you are going": such was the motto of Armand Pratlong, founder of La Ferme Caussenarde d’Autrefois and Hélène's great-grandfather.
 

LA FERME D'ANAÏS (ANAÏS' FARM)

Live the shepherdess life

Quelques pas seulement, et me revoilà au XXIème siècle. Dans une ferme bien d’aujourd’hui. La ferme d’Anaïs. Elle me propose alors un petit quizz sensoriel. A l’aveugle, je dois reconnaître plusieurs essentiels de sa vie de bergère. Pas facile ! Et ne comptez pas sur moi pour vous souffler les réponses : c'est à vous de deviner !

Anaïs me présente ensuite ses brebis. Certaines sont timides, d’autres au contraire accourent à notre rencontre. Comme ce petit agneau, qui demande son lot de caresses. Que son pelage est doux ! Une dernière gratouille, et Anaïs m’entraine vers la salle de traite et ses multiples machines. Ici, le circuit court n’est pas un vain mot : le lait est transformé dans le village !

 

Just a stone's throw away, I came back to the 21st century. I was on farm that's very much in keeping with the times. La Ferme d’Anaïs. She invited me to take a little sensory quiz. Without looking, I had to identify several things that she needs in her job as a shepherdess. It wasn't easy! And don't count on me to tell you the answers: you have to guess!

Anaïs then introduced me to her sheep. Some were shy, while others flocked to meet us. One little lamb was very keen to be stroked. How soft his fleece was! After one last affectionate scratch, Anaïs led me to the milking room and its many machines. Here, the short supply chain isn't just an empty promise: the milk is processed in the village!

Mais que c'est doux

Rencontre avec les agneaux de Lozère, Marie Zinzoline

Le troupeau d'Anaïs

Troupeau de brebis Causse Méjean, Asso Des brebis et des hommes

LA FROMAGERIE DU FEDOU (LE FEDOU CHEESE DAIRY)

A delicious end to the afternoon

It only took us 5 minutes to reach the "Le Fédou" cheese dairy. In order to make the most of this beautiful day, I took a seat on the cheese dairy's panoramic terrace. As I admired the view over the Jonte Gorges, a cheese platter appeared before me. Time for a feast!

Because the sheep spend much of the year in the meadows, grazing on plants and wild flowers, the milk is flavoursome. Characterful. And thanks to the cheese-maker Florence's skill, it is turned into an array of delicious cheeses. I was very pleased about that.

La Lozère sur un plateau !

Plateau de fromages lozériens, Asso Des brebis et des hommes

Useful information

So, I'll sum it all up! "Des brebis et des hommes" ("Of sheep and men") offers 3 experiences in 3 different places that are very close to each other: La Ferme Caussenarde d'Autrefois, Anaïs's working farm and the Fromagerie du Fédou! Soon you'll know everything about the village of Hyelzas.
 

Golden hour sur le Causse Méjean

Coucher de soleil sur le Causse Méjean, Aymeric Perona

HERE, I FELT THE SPIRIT OF THE CAUSSE MÉJEAN

When I finally decided to leave Hyelzas, the sun had already begun to set. It bathed the Causse in red light, making it seem even more mysterious. Timeless. Unreal.
Yet it was there, all around me. And after the experience I'd just had, it also had a special place in my heart.

And while the infinite-seeming landscapes contributed to that of course, it was above all the sense of balance between people and nature that won me over. And UNESCO clearly saw that, too.

To prove it, the area was made a World Heritage Site in 2011.

Worth the detour

The Aven Armand. Continue your exploration of the Causse Méjean... beneath the Causse! This cavity is so big, Notre-Dame Cathedral would fit in it!

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HOW TO GET THERE

  • En voiture : Depuis Sainte-Enimie, empruntez la D986 en direction de Meyrueis sur 20 kilomètres, puis bifurquez à droite sur la D63. Après 5 kilomètres, garez-vous à l’entrée de Hyelzas, sur le parking de la fromagerie « Le Fédou ». 

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