Lorraine – Overview

This high plateau region south of the Ardennes is shaped by a succession of asymmetric reliefs called cuestas, which result from the uneven soil erosion.

Every cuesta is formed by a short, steep slope on one side (front slope) and a longer, gentler slope on the other (back slope). The front slope always overlies a depression developed in softer rocks crossed by a watercourse.

The organization of Lorraine's rural areas follows the open-field model, with meadows the dominant feature. A ring of plots, primarily allocated to meadows, extends around the village centre. These pastures cover valley floors, which are clayey and wet, as well as some lower slopes. Crops, which are limited to the better drained marly or sand-silt soils, often cling to the gentler slopes. Forests sit on the poor sandy soils of the back slopes, the threadbare soils of the fronts or the straighter slopes of certain valleys.

Housing is grouped into dense villages at the foot of a front slope or on the back slope of a cuesta; the strict limitations on agricultural communities have severely restricted the dispersal of housing. A row of semi-detached houses running parallel to the street often forms the village centre. Porches create an open space between the house and road, called 'usoir', revealing the structure of village streets. That space was used to store manure, wood supplies and some farming equipment.

Sources: FRW – CPDT

©Photographs: Mark Rossignol

 

In practice