Rougier de Camares, a region of red soil

The Rougier de Camares is a vast region of red soil of Southern Aveyron.

Rougier de Camares with Monts de Lacaune in the background
Rougier de Camares with Monts de Lacaune in the background

This 170,000-hectare area owes its name to the colour of its soil composed of red (rouge – rougier) clay saturated with iron oxide.

The Rougier de Camares therefore boasts a glorious palette of purple, crimson, brick, nasturtium, rust, orange, mustard and ocher colours and resembles a gigantic natural patchwork.

250million years ago, a shallow sea submerged the region.

Skeletons of corals and marine creatures accumulated on the seabed over the millennia and formed a sedimentary layer that solidified.

The sea eventually receded and successive droughts and floods triggered oxidation of the iron-saturated clay sediments.

Water erosion then shaped the landscape.

The Rougier consists therefore of valleys, hills and small mountains that range from 300m to 600mof altitude.

Chateau de Montaigut overlooking the Rougier de Camares
Chateau de Montaigut overlooking the Rougier de Camares

The Dourdou River carved its way in the rock and created a vast and fertile alluvial plain.

The hard sediments, on the other hand, resisted erosion.

They consequently formed large promontories (puech) of red sandstone where men built their fortresses and fortified cities during the Middle-Ages.

Modern men fall for the breathtaking landscapes of the Rougier de Camares.

Neolithic men, however, had more mundane considerations and essentially saw the fertility of the land!

The statues-menhirs they erected near the town of Camares indeed attest of their early and constant presence.

Rougier de Camares - Soil saturated with iron dioxide
Soil saturated with iron dioxide

Some of these carved monoliths are today exhibited in the Fenaille Museum in Rodez and fine replicas replace them in their original location.

Men later discovered the copper and silver lead ore mines of the Rougier de Camares, which they mined until the late Middle-Ages.

That said, sections of this rich region are also dedicated to sheep rearing.

Local farmers indeed specialize in the breeding of Lacaune ewes whose milk essentially serves for the making of AOC Roquefort.

Finally, the arable land is also dedicated to the extensive culture of cereal crops.

Camares

The capital of the Rougier is Camares.

This little fortified town was initially called Camberès.

It was built during the 11th century on one of the region’s puech and a stone’s throw from the Château de Montaigut.

Chateau de Montaigut and Rougier de Camares
Chateau de Montaigut and Rougier de Camares

The upper town still contains many vestiges of the medieval village.

Camares has indeed retained an ancient gate that used to lead to the long gone castle.

However, its 11th century Romanesque bridge, Le Pont Vieux (Old Bridge) that spans the Dourdou is still in use!

Interestingly, this little town was one of the main protestant bastions of Aveyron during the 16th century Wars of Religion.

The ramparts disappeared at the end of the conflict.

The inhabitants, however, remained faithful to their Protestant heritage and eventually rebuilt a temple in 1825!

Cloth spinning was the town’s main industry until the late 19th century, but Camares has since converted in the manufacturing of leather clothes.

Department of Aveyron
Coordinates: Lat 43.885998 – Long 2.880135

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