Dondas in the “Pays de Serre”

What we now know as the ‘Pays de Serres’ dates from the tertiary era, the period during which the appearance of the countryside was formed.
It is possible to identify three different types of landscape in the ‘Pays de Serres’: the plateau, the slopes or mountainsides and the valley bottoms.LES SERRES are limestone plateaux filled with steep, long and narrow indentations; here cereals are grown, very often in large cultivated areas. Woods, other vegetation and isolated trees are not much found, and are even rare, on these limestone plateaux.LES COSTES (hillsides) OR VERSANTS (slopes) are made up of a heavy mixture of limestone and clay, difficult to work.
LES RIBIÈRES (river valleys) OR FONDS DE VALLÉE (valley bottoms) are, today, made up of large fields given over to cereal cultivation, using the water of the rivers for irrigation. Many rivers are identified by lines of poplars and some areas are given over to poplar plantations. The valley bottoms can be flooded during episodes of heavy rain (valleys of the Gandaille and Séoune rivers, low level areas).

The first traces of human occupation date from the megalithic period (6000 BC) and are found in the TAYRAC area.
Until the end of the Middle Ages each generation left its trace on the landscape through oppidums (townships), underground shelters, the first Christian chapels, refuges, bastides (fortified towns), numerous fortifications.

But this human occupation remained above all agricultural.

Thus, in the traditional way, the area was divided into different plots of land, each owner holding a part of the plateau, the slopes and the valley bottoms.

The character of the age old landscape of the ‘Pays de Serres’ results in mixed-farming with cereals on the plateau, slopes planted with vines and orchards and the valley bottom dedicated to animal breeding in its many fertile meadows and pastures.

This geological diversity results in a very scattered environment in the form of MAYNES (hamlets) and BORDES (houses isolated from the river valleys). The MAYNES are very often located where the plateau and the hillside meet, on a sandstone escarpment where the water which has crossed the rocky plateau emerges through a number of springs (being used to service the home).

The ‘PAYS DE SERRES’ does not have urban centres of any great importance but a multiplicity of villages (for example built on the edge of the plateau of BEAUVILLE). There are few fortified towns in the ‘Pays de Serres’ (located on mounds or hillocks such as PUYMIROL dating from the eighteenth century) but there are refuges: (SAUVETAT-DE-SAVÈRES, SAINT-MAURIN). The abbey of SAINT-MAURIN dates from the eleventh century and colonised all the surrounding plateau area: it founded nine villages.

Such village-style communities, without being villages, could gain a common identity as a rural parish under the influence of an isolated church such as Gleysotte which as a focal point, broke down distance and regulated activity over a whole area. These small isolated churches are romanesque and occupy a central point, accessible and visible from everywhere around (for instance Saint-Julien-de-la-Serre).