Flora, Fauna & Foraging
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The "Mas" (Ancient Farmhouse) and surrounding land have been managed without the use of pesticides and fertilizers for nearly 20 years. Consequently there is an impressive selection of wildlife to be seen, especially insects which benefit from appropriate management of the meadows.
Mammals abound but are not always easy to spot. We have seen: wild boar, roe deer, red deer, badgers, stone martens, polecats, red squirrels, there is a wide variety of bats and of course foxes.
We are also blessed with the presence of a couple of snake eagles each year which feed on local lizards and grassnakes. There are also frogs and fire salamanders to be seen if you are lucky! Golden eagles and black and griffon vultures pay us a visit from time to time on their forays from Mont Aigoual and above in the Causses and Gorges of the Tarn and Jonte rivers. Goshawks can be heard hunting in the woods, nightingales sing day and night in summer and black kites and buzzards are common visitors.
Beavers and otters live in the Gardon river at L'Estréchure and you can see them or their traces on guided tours organised by Sentiers Vagabonds (16€) or book up for a day organised by the Cévennes National Park for its Nature Festival (free of charge but numbers limited).
The flora growing here includes many edible plants and of course in season there are edible mushrooms to be found including chanterelles, hedgehog fungus, trompettes de la morte and ceps.
In Spring, Autumn and even in Winter it is satisfying to stroll around the land finding dozens of wild edible plants for lunch! A selection of books is available for you to use to help you identify edible species. Your host will be happy to take you on a tour to show you the glorious bounty of nature on which previous inhabitants relied, to not only fill their stomachs but also their medicine chests, when life was simpler but often difficult.
There are two potagers on the land and the seasonal produce is free to share with you, including figs and chestnuts later on in the year. The olives are harvested in December and are taken to the local mill to be transformed into oil. If you are here in January you are welcome to share our kiwi harvest – last year we harvested about 100kg!
Read an interesting account in English of a holiday spent in the Cévennes, foraging and cooking wild produce with the ethnobotanist Sophie Lemmonier GoNomad Holiday in Cévennes
This is a great blog about French wildlife by an English expert which provides lots of interesting, timely and useful information Wildlife in France blogspot