The Drovers Return

Summer in the Cevennes



Would-be shepherd Richard Collins goes to France in search of the area known as the Cevennes.

Planning on following the giant flocks of sheep on their annual transhumance from the plains up to the high pastures, he finds that Robert Louis Stevenson's mistreatment of his donkey Modestine still irks the locals 130 years later.

Adding insult to injury, the sheep decide to go into that strange trance state known as 'La Churr退e'.


They're off! Finally the sheep have woken up and are heading up the sheer cliff face of the Cap de Coste on the way to their summer pastures.

Richard Collins tries to keep up while delving into the bloody past of this intensely Protestant and contrary corner of France.

It's touch and go whether one particularly melancholy sheep called Tulip will make it or not.


Richard Collins searches for the Cevennes, an area in France.

As the sheep head into the high altitude beech forests, Richard wonders why the vertiginous Cevennes landscape has provoked dreams of impossible fortune since earliest times.

Only with silk did those dreams come briefly true.

The landscape has also provided ideal terrain for escape and refuge, as demonstrated by the maquis in WW2 and as recounted by Jacques Poujol.


Waking at 5.30am, the flock sets off to find its breakfast.

At midday it arrives through walls of fog just in time for lunch at the transhumance festival in Esperou.

While the sheep take their ease, Richard Collins hunts down the traditional food and music of the numerous and highly distinct corners of the Cevennes, with the help of Herve Robert, Jean Ferrat and local the delicacy, tepid calf's head.

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In the final programme exploring the Cevennes, Richard Collins encounters the region's long tradition of radicalism in a chance interview with legendary eco-warrior Jose Bove.

After hearing from an expert on how to dismantle a fast-food restaurant in broad daylight, he tracks the final leg of the transhumance journey as the sheep finally arrive at their summer resort on Mt Aigoual.

The sights and sounds of the flock careering about for sheer joy is a rewarding end to an arduous trek.