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On France’s Ardèche plateau, the Association Liger safeguards the region’s traditional, iconic thatched and stone-tiled roofs, increasingly threatened by a lack of professional training for young people. The association works to promote and preserve this vital rural heritage, based on know-how with deep roots in the local eco-system.
Between Haute-Loire and Ardèche, the steep, broom-thatched roofs of the Mézenc Gerbier massif are unique in Europe. Hundreds of these traditional thatched houses existed at the beginning at the 20th century, but today only ten remain. The last master thatchers are increasingly frail and elderly, and their ancestral skills are in danger of disappearing. Stone-tiled roofs are more common, but these too are threatened by a lack of traditional skills and workshops.
In Sainte-Eulalie, the Association Liger (named for the Latin word for the Loire river) works to preserve this architectural heritage – so integral to the local landscape – and to perpetuate its associated skills. The association organises training courses in thatching and tile-laying, aimed at home-owners, artisans, architects, municipal workers involved in maintaining the buildings, and amateur enthusiasts.
Passing on these artisan skills is a vital element in the campaign to preserve and restore the existing roofs, in harmony with local traditions and biodiversity. Their raw materials are abundantly available in Ardèche, and ideally suited to the region’s climate: broom thatch is warm and resistant to rain and snow, and stone roof tiles are extremely long-lasting.
The project was selected for support by the Fondation d’entreprise Hermès as part of the H³ programme: Head – heart – hand.