From 36,000 years ago to the present day, mankind has created, built, developed and left behind an incredibly rich heritage in the Gorges de l’Ardèche and Rhône area. As well as protecting it, we need to help people find out about it and ensure that it can be passed on in a good state of conservation.

Young people are included in this. They come from here and elsewhere and, for a day or two weeks, get involved with local associations and take part in renovation projects. We are going to focus here on two examples, in Viviers and Saint-Montan.

Saint-Montan, a village of character, has seen many youth work camps. Carole Naimo, president of the Friends of Saint-Montan Association explains that since 1971, 13,000 volunteers have contributed to its reconstruction. It is the largest renovation project in the Auvergne Rhône-Alpes region in terms of the number of volunteers involved. Although Abbé Arnaud, who set up the first workcamps, relied on the Scouts of France movement, he was surrounded by volunteers who also drew young people in their wake, such as a teacher who organised ‘heritage’ classes in the village. A genuine culture of hospitality has been built around the renovation of Saint-Montan’s heritage, involving international workcamps, visits from prestigious schools, integration workcamps and youth clubs, etc.

" Today, we have the grandchildren of the first scouts who also come to the workcamp and who have carried on the tradition. It's an experience which stays with them for life
©Les Amis de Saint-Montan

In Viviers, the tradition is more recent but just as important. Listed as a ‘Site of Outstanding Heritage’, the town is protected and boasts a wealth of listed buildings, starting with the Maison des Chevaliers. This Renaissance residence is next door to the offices of the CICP (Centre International Construction et Patrimoine), which organises activities to study, publicise and promote heritage. Every summer, the association hosts local teenagers for a week in conjunction with the youth department of the DRAGA Community of Municipalities, and since 2014 it has also been organising international workcamps in partnership with ‘Jeunesse et construction’. Russians, Chinese, Brazilians, Belgians… students from all over the world come to lend a hand and discover the treasures of southern Ardèche.

In the mornings, they work alongside volunteer supervisors and professionals (stonemasons or bricklayers) to clear courtyards or gardens, learn how to cut stone, and uncover and render old walls. In the afternoon, the students can relax and learn about the French way of life. As at Saint-Montan, where you learn how to create a calade, build a wall and work with plaster, the educational value of the workcamp is essential, as is the balance between work and discovery activities. The young people give, and they receive.

" The project moves forward, and progress is visible. It's a way of getting to know our heritage and raising awareness of its value explains Yves Esquieu, President of the CICP
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In 2023, work will be done on renovating the grand staircase, which was built in the 16th century using a ‘banister on banister’ system, an unusual technique which was new to the Rhône Valley at the time. This shows the value of this heritage entrusted to the younger generations. In Saint-Montan, 100 scouts will be working this summer from 10 July to 25 August renovating a vaulted cellar, an old house and the inevitable château. “The young geek generation knows how to be giving, responsible and involved!” notes Carole.

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For the first year, a workcamp will be open to all volunteers in the 2nd half of July, mornings 8.00 am to midday.

5 place Honoré Flaugergues, Viviers

Tel. + 33 (0)4 75 52 62 45


LES AMIS DE SAINT-MONTAN (Friends of Saint-Montan Association)

To apply to be a volunteer, send your application by e-mail to: amisdesaintmontan@gmail.com

Further information: +33 (0)6 12 06 42 19

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