The River Bonnette rises above Saint-Projet on the causse above Caylus and ends its journey some 25 kilometers away at Saint-Antonin-Noble Val, where it joins the River Aveyron. Normally, it meanders peacefully through green, rolling countryside. It even dries up in places during a drought. Last week it was in full spate after the rain transformed it into a raging torrent.
Owing to the wet weather, our walking group had to have a change of plan this week. It had stopped raining but the place where we had planned to walk was a quagmire. Instead, we started out from Loze, a tiny village perched on a rocky promontory above the Bonnette. We did a circular walk, which took in the “gorges de la Bonnette”.
The River Bonnette marks the demarcation line between the ancient regions of Quercy and Rouergue. To the west lies the Quercy, land of limestone plateaux and stunted oak woods. To the east is the Rouergue, with its undulating hills and forests of oak and sweet chestnut. Along its course the river passes the villages of Saint-Projet (Château de la Reine Margot), Loze (fortified church), Lacapelle Livron (Templar commandery), Saint-Pierre de Livron and Caylus (many historical features about which I must write one day).
I have read somewhere, but now can’t find it, that the Bonnette has the highest concentration of watermills in the region. In its steeper upper reaches, where the water flows fastest, there is one every 200 metres or so. Few of them are now working mills and most are résidences secondaires. Some have been well restored while others are in the process of renovation. I wouldn’t like to live in a watermill. While it’s probably pleasant in summer I imagine it might be damp in winter. I’d be afraid of flooding, too.
Working watermills include a sawmill below Caylus and le Moulin de Vignasses below Loze. Marie-Ange Chamerois and her husband bought Vignasses about 10 years ago and now have a thriving goat farm and cheese-making business. Marie-Ange – who lives up to her name – can be seen smilingly purveying cheese and information about its manufacture at the Caylus Saturday market. The Chamerois use their water-powered mill to grind organic flour.
Our group walked down the narrow lane that follows the Bonnette from Saint-Projet to the sound of rushing water. I have never seen the river so boisterous at this point. Fed by swollen streams, it bounced over hidden rocks, cascaded down waterfalls and foamed over rapids. Nightingales, cuckoos and orioles competed with the watery symphony. To get back up to Loze we had to climb a steep hill. Halfway up is this spring next to a lavoir (wash-house), which is fed by one of the many underground streams that riddle the limestone causse.
Every year in mid-June, the Association Moulins du Quercy takes part in les Journées du Patrimoine de Pays et des Moulins. Mills of all types in the area are involved. Some of them are open only on those days. They usually lay on demonstrations of milling à l’ancienne and plenty of other activities. The mills include not only watermills but also windmills, of which very few remain in a working state, and those powered by animals. The dates this year are Saturday 16th and Sunday 17th June.
Copyright © 2012 Life on La Lune, all rights reserved