When you are staying in the area of Gorges du Tarn or in the Causses and the Cevennes, you should visit the Ferme Caussenarde d’Autrefois. This old farmstead, turned into an ecomuseum, is a must-see for anyone who is travelling in this part of France. It gives an idea of how life has been before the industrialization and the modern age, that changed everything for good.
The name in French Ferme Caussenarde d’Autrefois translates loosely in English as the Farm from the Days of Yore and caussenarde refers to the Grands Causses – a group of limestone plateaus in the Massif Central in Southern France. The Grands Causses area, together with the Cévennes National Park, has been included on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites List because of the uniqueness of its aggro-pastoral cultural landscape. The farm is located on top of the Causse Méjean, between the breathtaking canyons formed by the Tarn and La Jonte Rivers (Gorges du Tarn and Gorges de la Jonte).Discover the uniqueness of the agropastoral cultural landscape of the Causses and the Cévennes with a visit to the Ferme Caussenarde d'Autrefois!Click To Tweet
Visiting the farm will give you an idea as to why this rural landscape is so important to be preserved as a world heritage.
How to get to the Ferme Caussenarde d’Autrefois
You’ll need a car. Anyway you’ll need a car if you want to discover this part of France. Unfortunately you can’t rely on travelling there by public transport. The farmstead looks a bit lost, kind of in the middle of nowhere, on the plateau. It can be easily combined in a day trip together with a visit to the famouse cave of Aven Armand. Aven Armand is well indicated on all roads and once there, you will just need to turn on your navigation and follow the road to the little hamlet of Hyelzas. The hamlet is some 4 km away from the cave (about a 10 min drive).
If you are staying in the area, here are some distances: it takes about 55 minutes (38 km) from Millau, 45 minutes (35 km) from Florac, 30 minutes (22 km) from Sainte-Enimie. Rodez is at less than 100 km (1,5 hrs) and Montpellier at 150 km (2 hr 15 min).
Read more: Discover the area with this 7-day itinerary for an amazing road trip in the Gorges du Tarn. Searching for more lovely places? Read this post about the most charming places in Gorges du Tarn.
My advice would be to combine a visit to the farmstead with a visit to the cave as a day trip from anywhere in the region (whether you are staying in Lozère of Aveyron). It’s also a perfect stop, if you are making a road trip in the Gorges du Tarn or Gorges de La Jonte.
What can you expect from your visit
The farmstead tells the story of how rural life was in the 19th and the beginning of the the 20th century. You can see how people lived those day, what furniture they had and how they managed everyday life. You can also see what tools they used to work the ground and how they kept their cattle. It feels as if the owners will come back any time. Everything is left as of it has been just used, which creates an immersive experience, rather than visiting a museum.
The oldest buildings of the farm date back to 1640. In the 18th and the 19th century the farm was expanded and the buildings today date back from that period. The last owner of the farm passed away in 1946 and this is when time stopped in the farm. The granddaughter of the family acquired the property and together with her husband they turned it in 1973 in one of the first ecomuseums in France.
There is also a short projection from the film ‘Lou Mèjio‘. The movie was filmed at the farm and people from the village took part in it. It took two years to finish it. I loved how true to life it was filmed, showing the daily life in the causses, which was at times pretty hard.
In the cellar, you can also see a miniature city. In the collection there are some famous buildings from the region, like the Belfry of Millau (Beffroi de Millau) and Château de la Caze.
Practical info about the Ferme Caussenarde
The farm is open in July and August from 11:00 till 19:00 every day. In April, October and November from 12:30 till 18:00, and in May, June and September from 11:30 till 18:30.
Tip: Visit the website of the ecomuseum for the latest information. Unfortunately, it’s only in French.
Entry tickets cost for adults: 6,50 EUR, for kids (6-17 yoa): 3,30 EUR. You can book a guided visit or a non-guided one. We booked the non-guided visit and we enjoyed it enormously. Everywhere there were special brochures to tell you the story of each utensil and how it was used. The information is available in a couple of languages, and even in Dutch!
Discover the surroundings
After visiting the old farm, take the time to walk around in the little hamlet. When you get out of the farm, turn to the left and keep walking. Soon you’ll be out of the hamlet and you could see the causse with the grasslands and the tiny groves. The scenery is unexpected and serene. Time has stopped and you start appreciating the uniqueness of this forlorn landscape. A sense of nostalgia starts creeping and you go on your own search of the lost time.
From the hamlet you can see a ravine in the distance, that’s where La Jonte River cuts through the plateaus and forms the gorge. You are standing on Causse Méjean and on the other side is Causse Noir, all part of the Grand Causses Regional Natural Park.