|5 September 2007
Up in the mountains of the 'departement' of Herault there are lots of interesting monuments to find - usual and different - within a short drive of the pretty mountain town of Lodève.
On our way up to Lodeve from Montpellier we stopped at the Dolmen de Pouget (also known as Gallerdet). It's about a mile up a dirt road out of the village and is well signposted. We drove our large family saloon (4x4s not required) up a dirt road to the end of the track until our way was barred by a gate, so we parked up and got out and walked.
It was only 25 metres away around to the right if you follow the path past a couple of menhirs. The monument is built on a raised natural platform and still has lots of its own mound material too.
This dolmen is BIG and the first thing you notice apart from it's size and commanding position is the arched porthole cut in the portal stone. This is well within the mound and reached by way of a sunken passage. The internal chamber is whopping, perhaps 6ms by 4ms, and covered by three lumpy pieces of limestone capstone. The arched portal stone has split, but been reconstructed, assisted by metal rods which you hardly even notice. The 'n' arch is great.
I sat on the ground and made a little sketch of the entrance.
Driving north and east of Lodeve up a very twisty-turny mountain lane we reached the Priory St Michel de Grandmont – our main attraction here is this fabulous dolmen in its private grounds.
The entrance fee of E4.50 entitles you to look round the abbey (which has got a nice cloister and worth a peep) but you also get a guided tour to the dolmen. They don't let you go on your own we think because of the resident herd of fallow deer roaming free and they don't want hunters taking potshots and poaching. Despite having to drive such a long way to get here from our gite in Arles, having to pay an entrance fee and having to be escorted to the dolmen, it's all worth it because its FAB.
A true Beauty. A capstone with exquisite flatness on its underside, such lovely stones leaning jauntily inwards are all surpassed by the charming catflap door in the portal stone. We had little time here (an elderly Belgian couple were escorted there at the same time as us) and so I immediately got to work drawing. It made me think about its picturesque loveliness of places like Poulabroune, combined with the startling wondrousness of the dolmens we'd seen on that hot Jordanian hillside two years before. This dolmen has been christianised - the monks at the abbey carved as small cross into one of the side stones.
In the middle ages the dolmen was used in a bizarre way to cure leprosy. The monks would burn the clothes of the afflicted person, who would then climb up on the dolmen and twice roll around and rub their skin on the capstone. Such hocus pocus! Is it any wonder that I put my faith in science and not witchcraft?
Just down the road from the priory and Dolmen de Coste-Rouge
is another lovely monument – the dolmen de la Bruyere d'Usclas. Tucked away in thick mixed woodland with lovely views of the surrounding limestone hills there's no entrance fee here! We sat has the place to ourselves and I sketched. We liked it here – plenty of surrounding rubble material too.
A 30 minute drive through gorgeous limestone scenery and more twisty-turny roads brought us up on to a high plateau – at this time of year looking not unlike places we'd seen in southern Africa. In South Africa they'd call this 'thornveld'. I wouldn't have bee surprised to see a small herd of impala or a pair of kudu hiding in the bushes.
Near Ferrusac are a number of monuments, dolmens and menhirs.
Le grand dolmen de Ferrusac is a whopper, built with two levels of capstones, leading into one tall chamber beneath the top deck capstone. One side has been restored with an ugly concrete slab which takes a bit of the 'wow' away, but the original capstone and side slab are vast. Each perhaps weighing 20 tones a piece of more. A mighty place!
About 300ms away from Le grand dolmen de Ferrusac, again just off the D130 road, is the Petit dolmen de Ferrusac. As the name suggests it's much smaller and not a double decker like its large sibling, but it still has a detectable passageway in front and plenty of rubble- and tell-tale black lying around.
This one is very sweet and so tiny!
Around Ferrusac there are other monuments including four good menhirs, made of white limestone.
Next we tried to find the dolmen de la Prunarede, but failed, despite following instructions, a path and KNOWING it was there - very close. But the trees and bushes made it impossible and there were too many outcrops to lead us astray. The 'thornveld' was tall and in leaf and like an elephant in the bush, could have passed within metres of it and not known. Grrrr. This failed, long, hot walk pissed me off a lot and I went into fed-up-mode.
It's signposted from the road. Near to it is a stupid statue that looks like a menhir that's meant to look like prehistoric man, just next to where you park but don't bother with it. It's shit. Instead walk past to the dolmen – it's not far and it's another double decker dolmen, but with no concrete slabs, just really nicely proportioned well cut blocks making a really pleasing monument. It has a nice little passage and plenty of mound.
Moth went off looking for dolmen No 2 nearby. He found it, capstoneless 85ms to the south east. I didn't bother as I was still too pissed off about not find La Prunerade and I'd lost my megalithic mojo.