Welcome to the heart of a territory labelled as a Regional Natural Park! Limestone plateaus where dry stone buildings, oak forests, Caussenard sheep and geological curiosities intermingle, you are in the heart of the Causses du Quercy!
Created on 1st October 1999, the Regional Natural Park of the Causses du Quercy is one of the 48 regional natural parks in France. It covers a territory of 180,000 hectares, extends entirely in the Lot department and includes 102 communes.
What is a Regional Nature Park?
A Regional Nature Park (RNP) is an exceptional rural territory with a remarkable but fragile and threatened natural, cultural and landscape heritage. Unlike National Parks, it is an inhabited territory with economic and social development objectives. The preservation and enhancement of its heritage is an integral part of the actions carried out within an NRP. Innovation and raising public awareness of sustainable development issues is also one of the major axes of the NRP’s missions.
Did you know?
The logo of the NRP of the Causses du Quercy was inspired by the hand drawn on the walls of the Pech Merle cave in Cabrerets. This cave bears witness to the presence of man on this territory for a very long time. Its symbolism is multiple: a sign of fraternity and solidarity, but also a mark of protection or a sign of human work… The star is the common marker between all the Regional Nature Parks.
Labelled a UNESCO World Geopark, the Park’s territory contains places where geology has allowed us to understand and discover a past dating back millions of years. The ceaseless action of water on the limestone rock has given rise to cliffs, chasms and caves. With this label, the NRP joins the territories in the world which present a remarkable geological heritage and which allows us to retrace the history of the last 30 million years. Caves, phosphatieres, etc. are all clues that tell the story of life and humanity.
Here, the best way to discover these preserved places is on foot! Numerous hikes allow you to discover the dry stone buildings, the lakes of Saint-Namphaise, the ocellated lizards and the herds of caussenardes.
It is possible to discover several of the 140 Geosites listed on the Quercy Causses (remarkable sites for observing geological phenomena), with guided tours or on your own, through numerous walks and hikes, particularly in the Braunhie forest, a sensitive natural area, which contains small geological, natural and built treasures.
The Braunhie forest
In the heart of the Lot, this forest is the subject of many legends and delights those who walk through it. You will have to pronounce its name like the local Lot people, in Occitan it is called the « Brôgne ».
Its hundreds of hectares have been classified as a Sensitive Natural Area (ENS) by the Department because they hide a great ecological diversity, which the lucky walker must respect. The geological heritage is also very present: the igues, these vertical caves, abound in the forest and are the playground of experienced speleologists. Numerous dolmens, caves and shelters are treasures to be discovered while walking through this forest. Two discovery trails are accessible: the Planagrèze trail and the Fonds de la Brauhnie trail.
Along the paths lined with low dry stone walls, you can experience the legends associated with this forest. The most famous one concerns the « Saint-Namphaise lakes ». Namphaise was a former officer of Charlemagne, who was touched by faith and, abandoning the war and its trials, took refuge in the Brauhnie forest to live a hermit’s life. In order to make life easier for the shepherds of the area, he worked on digging out the limestone rocks to create a reserve of rainwater, which the rock did not « swallow ». This is where the shepherds used to drink their flocks. It is said that he was killed by a bull that came to drink while he was digging.
Although much less used by today’s shepherds, these lakes are still essential for wildlife. They are home to many amphibians and insects, which come here to breed. Perhaps you will be lucky enough to spot a forest dweller?