Le vigan

Yesterday

Around 500 B.C. the Volques, who had come from a zone running from the Rhône to the Garonne, inhabited the region. In the second century B.C. the Romans built a number of important communication routes, the two most important for Le Vigan being Nîmes-Rodez and Gévaudan-Lodève.
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Today

Le Vigan is an interesting place to visit, with a maze of narrow alleyways in the heart of the town, fountains, the "parc des Chataigner...'s" (sweet chestnut park), the medieval quarter around the Cevenol museum and the magnificent 12th century bridge.
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Arphy

This "commune" runs lengthways up a narrow steep-sided valley enclosed on both sides by mountains.

In the summer the Coudoulous river is a seemingly peaceful stream, but after heavy rains it becomes a violent torrent. In its valley, above the agricultural terraces, there are dotted small, typically southern hamlets with vine terraces, steps covered with flowers, houses made of granite with arches of huge stones, and mazes of steps and vaulted passageways where you can hear the murmur of fountains.

From the hamlet Pratcoustals, abandoned fifty years ago and now partially restored, there are beautiful views over the valleys of Arphy and Le Vigan.

Aulas

Aulas is situated in the heart of a fertile valley at the foot of Mont Aigoual and is split by the river Coudoulous.

In the 12th century, Aulas was the centre of the Hierle barony and was known as the "headquarters". The village was built around St. Martin's chapel, which has been destroyed and rebuilt several times, and was fortified in the 14th century. You can still see a part of the ramparts from the edge of the river on the "Chemin-Neuf" (the new road).

The walls were breached by a number of doors, like the one at La Poterne. The barons of Hierle lived behind Saint Martin's chapel. There was a large house, a barn, a stable and the prisons. In the middle of the courtyard was the keep.

The protestant church is built on the old barracks of the "Dragons of the King".

There were a number of mills, powered by the Coudoulous, which had different functions :

  • Flour mills where corn was ground
  • Oil mills (presses) for pressing olives or nuts
  • Cloth mills where cloth was made, fulled and finished

Near the bridge, on the edge of the Coudoulous, there is the old silk stocking spinning mill, which closed in the early 1980s.

Mandagout

Mandagout is made up of about thirty hamlets. Beaulieu is the principal one and the Mairie (town hall), school, church and chapel are all situated here. The other hamlets are found on the mountainsides or beside the rivers.

The commune is still very rural and many of the terraces have been reclaimed, particularly for the cultivation of sweet onions. The numerous man-made pools, dams and irrigation channels bear witness to the complex water management in use before more modern methods took over.



  • Drive in the direction of Mont Aigoual (D999), then after approx. 3kms turn left and follow theD190 through Aulas to Arphy.

The valley follows the river Coudoulous that is used for agricultural irrigation, notably the apple orchards. The local variety of apple is the "Reinette du Vigan" and has been grown here for centuries : you can buy Reinette apple juice all year round...it is best drunk cold.

  • Carry on the D190 until you reach the D48 (known as the mountain road) and turn right.

You overlook the valley that you have just crossed.

  • When you are at the same height as Aulas, turn left and then left again at the next crossing, in the direction of Mandagout.

There are a lot of sweet chestnut trees along this section of the road : you are also quite likely to come across small flocks of goats.

  • When you leave the village head right on the D329 towards Navous, and then l'Arboux.

The road is narrow, but very pretty and you can get a clear view of the sweet onion terraces, situated by the small hamlets, which nestle next to the watercourses. It was only fifteen or so years ago that the fields, now cleared, were overgrown with vegetation.

  • Keep going to the crossroads and turn right onto the D999 to return to Le Vigan.