The central zone of the Cévennes National Park has 250 inhabited hamlets and over 1,000 agricultural buildings. This exceptional heritage is typical of the agricultural civilisation of southern Lozère and the part of the Cévennes that is in the Gard, and was mainly fashioned out of three types of rocks: granite, schist and limestone.
The constructions on Mont Lozère have striking facades built out of heavy blocks of granite. Some blocks, whether barely squared or else carefully carved, weigh almost a ton. With their squat appearance and few openings, these buildings look like fortresses.
The schist houses of the Cévenol valleys are high and narrow. They were built without foundations straight onto carved bedrock, using materials extracted in situ, and are thus particularly well integrated into their surroundings.
Living in a poor and restrictive environment, where timber and rainwater are precious, the inhabitants of the Causse had to evolve a distinctive architecture. It was based on limestone vaults, limestone being the only material available, and therefore omnipresent in buildings.
The architectural heritage of the National Park is protected by regulations unique in France. These were laid down by the decree of 29 December 2009 and will be specified in the Park Charter.
Low terrace walls, clèdes (small buildings for drying chestnuts), clochers de tourmente (small bell towers once used in mountain blizzards to indicate the way to safety), threshing areas, etc., are examples of the small constructions that can be found in close proximity to residential buildings or in the landscape. They are linked to human activity and part of the architectural heritage. The main technique used for their construction and restoration is that of dry-stone walls.
Dry-stone construction in the Cévennes is intimately connected to the terraced gardens and fields which contribute to the quality of the landscape. These spaces have mostly been abandoned following decades of rural depopulation. But this neglect is not inevitable, and for the past few years there has been a movement to reclaim them.