The site of Le Viel Audon has been inhabited since Prehistoric times by people who have enjoyed its mild climate, a river full of fish, a spring with constant temperature as well as rich fauna and flora.
In the early 19th century, when silkworm breeding was a successful activity, the inhabitants of the hamlet left it to build large silkworm breeding houses on the plateau overlooking the village.
After being deserted and forgotten for a century, all that was left of it was a heap of ruins buried under ivy.
In the 1970’s, a handful of “utopists” put it into their heads to revive LE VIEL AUDON. They created an association and organised international volunteer work programmes for young people. Over 10,000 volunteers took part in rebuilding the hamlet, and some of them decided to live there too.
Who are we ?
A farming development company (“SCEA du Viel Audon”) is jointly managed by two farmers who are in charge of the flock of goats and of the market garden production. They have been assigned the important task of restoring the land in line with a sustainable development policy (sylvopastoral management, fodder crop complementarity between ecosystems, intercropping on olive-planted terraces, integrated fertility management).
Accommodation and training
An association, “LE MAT”, is in charge of volunteer work programmes, environment discovery classes and environment/development training sessions, for which a holiday centre accommodating 25 persons and a 21-bed group guesthouse are available. The association employs 6 persons on a permanent basis plus some seasonal workers. It is entitled to receive students for complementary training.
The team coordinates all the activities on site.
What are the goals of this project ?
You have to be a bit daft to think you can revive a hamlet which is in total ruins and has no road access! It is some kind of challenge that you send to yourself, maybe just to rediscover a seemingly long-lost energy, that which fuels a certain human will…
… The will of those who, together, bear a project with a long-lasting dimension, the strength of determination and solidarity in times of trial, the same strength which must be remembered as having made the Ardèche landscapes what they are; and also some of that faith which can move mountains…
This energy may well be what we need to build tomorrow’s world… if we want it to be more aware of planetary consequences and of its everyday actions, and more solidarity-oriented in its consuming and resource managing modes.
Your are all welcome !
If you are between 17 and 25 years old: the volunteer work programme for young people is for you! Every summer, you will learn day to day ecology applications, building techniques, as well as the satisfaction provided by collective work performed with a common goal, and the value of meeting new people and of exchanges. This is an opportunity to experience life within a group where everyone finds their own place and in which solidarity and good humour prevail!
Primary or secondary school children: why not ask your teachers to come here for an environment discovery class, in order to get a better knowledge of nature, of the water cycle, the richness of scrubland, the transformation of goat’s milk, the making of bread…
College or University students: you have questions about rural development, resource and/or landscape management… Tell your teachers that we can organise thematic training sessions here with our local experts.
Whether you are single people, couples, families or groups… You can make a booking for a stay in our holiday centre or in the group guesthouse.
Under the gaze of the short-toede eagle, le Viel Audon is back to life !
The goats clear the scrubland, carefully preserving the future growth of new plants. Everyday, delicious cheese is made from their milk and sold on site and in the local markets. The abundant whey, whose acidity would pollute the river, is used to feed our pigs, whose meat will be turned into pâtés and ham to be tasted by appreciative customers. Our cows graze the plants left over by the goats. Their milk is drunk by the calves and the hamlet inhabitants. Two vegetable gardens are cultivated on terraces and on the bank of the Ardèche river. They produce fresh vegetables sold in the markets or consumed by the guests staying in our holiday centre and by the village people. The garden soil is ploughed by the mule and enriched with the goats’ composted manure. Peelings and food leftovers produced by the village people are fed to the hens who complete their meals by pecking the grass which grows under the mulberry trees. Their droppings constitute a valuable fertilizer which helps making the leaves of the mulberry trees adapted to the breeding of silkworms. Non-vegetable refuse is recycled locally or sent to a waste recycling centre in town. On the restored terraces, olive trees have started to produce oil again and a fruit tree conservatory garden has been created to save some old varieties from extinction. The holiday centre and the guesthouse are heated by retrieving the calories produced by the isothermal source using heat pumps; solar captors provide hot water to the bathrooms in the guesthouse and the house itself. The street lights are powered by a battery charged by photovoltaic captors. A water pump and a windmill improve the irrigation of the gardens.
Managing land resources ensures a sustainable development