Everywhere I run there’s another Gariotte

February 4, 2014 by
Filed under: France, Living in Rural France 

What is a gariotte or gariote?

These are small dry stone buildings that were quickly and roughly built from approximately the beginning of the 19th century in the Quercy area of the south of France. Other types of these are all over the south of France but the Gariotte is specific to the Quercy region and especially the Lot Department.

The word actually comes from the Occitan language which was the language of most of the south of France (and beyond) right up to the beginning of the 20th century. Gariòta is the Occitan word but in quercynois (a local patois version of Occitan) it is garioto.

Small Gariotte









So I run regularly in the forest backing onto our house across the trails some of which are well marked including the old GR652 (Grand Randonée) which is a feeder for the St James Way to Santiago de Compostela. This passes about twenty old gariottes that are really just ruins. But if you go off the old ancient stone walled cart tracks onto either just footpaths or even better follow the very old stone paths there are numerous gariotttes some of them in quite good condition.

stone wall









Last week I actually discovered one that was totally intact with its entrance and floor in fairly good condition. This was half way down an old overgrown walled cart track with oaks growing around a cluster of perhaps a dozen stone buildings. Unfortunately I was on a quite long run and was travelling light with no phone or camera, but I now know where it is and will take a photo next time I run that way.










I suppose within about 10k of our house there must be at least a 100 of these gariottes.

Well why were they built?

OvergrownStone Walls









It was built as a shelter at first for the labourers tending the vines for their tools and supplies and also as a shelter in inclement weather. But later with the diseases during the late 19th century most of the vines died and grazing sheep became the norm and they were used as shepherd huts.

Where did all the stones come from?

Well with the use of more modern ploughing equipment (still by horse) it was possible to plough deeper, unearthing more stones from the limestone rock beneath most of the Lot. They were so numerous (and still are) they had to move them, so why not build things with the stones. It was normally the women who built the dry stone walls and the men who built the shelters.

I would love to go back in time and see all the stone walls and buildings in their prime.

French Wiki on Gariottes

Long detailed explanation of the Occitan Language

Author: John Despard


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