history and geography

house from north eastThe name Quercy derives from Cadurci the land of the Celtic tribe living here in Roman times. The town Cahors gets its name from the same root. Some Celtic words still occur in place names, such as combe for valley. Various Roman vestiges remain, especially in Cahors.

The landscape still carries signs of the Hundred Years War with medieval England. Our French friends jokingly remind us of this as though it were yesterday. The countryside was depopulated and ruined by the war. That has been a recurrent tale. As recently as the last century the depopulation continued aided by the terrible loss of men in the first World War, so the people today number less than a century ago.

The landscape has traces of the ancient vineyards wiped out by disease in the 19th century, and also traces of the culture of hemp for cloth. It also has the continuing culture of walnuts, ducks and geese and goats for cheese. Iron working continued to the nineteenth century and vestiges of water driven forges remain.

A little Geography

The Bouriane is a countryside of gentle wooded hills. The limestone hills are often topped with sandy gravels containing very large pebbles and great boulders. These areas are acid and often have iron deposits, worked in ancient times. Such soils carry maritime pine and chestnut. Many limestone woods on the slopes are of pubescent oak (Q. pubescens). These are generally cut on rotation for firewood. Some are secondary growth on old vineyards.

To the West, beyond Cazals, are more extensive sandy deposits which are covered with great chestnut woods. To the East (about Rocamadour) the Bouriane gives way to the causses, the limestone plateaux which are hot and dry in high summer. They carry their own ecology of flora and fauna.

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