NATIONAL TREASURE

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Our beau­ti­ful vil­lage of Mont­mau­rin in Haute-Garonne is a spe­cial place. It nes­tles on a hill­side in an area of out­stand­ing beauty be­tween the val­leys of the Rivers Save and Sey­gouade, in an area rich in na­ture and ar­chae­o­log­i­cal in­ter­est.

To the south of the vil­lage are the dra­matic cliffs of the Gorges de la Save, with wooded slopes and pre­his­toric caves.

In the se­cret depths of the re­gion’s wa­ter-etched lime­stone fea­tures there have been many out­stand­ing ar­chae­o­log­i­cal dis­cov­er­ies of national and in­ter­na­tional im­por­tance. As well as the myr­iad Ro­man arte­facts, the re­mains of many pre­his­toric plants and an­i­mals have been found, in­clud­ing the mag­nif­i­cent full skele­ton of a pre­his­toric lion and the fa­mous Venus of Le­spugue, a tiny carv­ing in tusk ivory of a preg­nant woman dat­ing back to the high Palae­olithic pe­riod.

In the Save val­ley be­low the vil­lage is the im­pres­sive Villa Gallo-Ro­maine – the largest Ro­man villa in France.

The area is equally rich in fas­ci­nat­ing and rare flora and fauna, in­clud­ing rare or­chids, an­cient ferns, a va­ri­ety of wild birds in­clud­ing black wood­pecker, hen har­rier, kite, nightin­gale, cuckoo, the elu­sive but tune­ful golden ori­ole, many species of bat, the beau­ti­ful fire sala­man­der and even the orig­i­nal ‘Ro­man snail’, bred for the ta­ble at the Villa Gallo-Ro­maine.

Imag­ine, then, that a large national quarry com­pany has cho­sen to ig­nore the nat­u­ral beauty, the ar­chae­o­log­i­cal her­itage and sci­en­tific in­ter­est of Mont­mau­rin and, in­stead, pro­poses blast­ing up to 150,000 tonnes of rock out of the hill­side here ev­ery year for the next 30 years.

This has trig­gered a fierce le­gal bat­tle to stop the quarry project, sup­ported by many em­i­nent ar­chae­ol­o­gists and con­ser­va­tion­ists, as well as many lo­cal peo­ple.

We are try­ing to send a mes­sage to the world to visit our won­der­ful area, and there is an as­so­ci­a­tion where you can reg­is­ter sup­port ( en­tre­saveet­sey­gouade. blogspot.com). Jane Marston But­ling Mont­mau­rin, Haute-Garonne

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