Roquebrun and Orb River
|Intercommunality||Orb et Jaur|
|• Mayor (2008–2014)||Francine Marty|
|Area1||39.64 km2 (15.31 sq mi)|
|• Density||13/km2 (35/sq mi)|
|INSEE/Postal code||34232 / 34460|
|Elevation||56–731 m (184–2,398 ft)
(avg. 89 m or 292 ft)
1 French Land Register data, which excludes lakes, ponds, glaciers > 1 km² (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) and river estuaries.2 Population without double counting: residents of multiple communes (e.g., students and military personnel) only counted once.
Roquebrun is a large village situated inside and near the southern entry to the National Park of the High Languedoc. Most of the village is between 200 to 350 meters above sea level and more than 100 meters above the Orb River which flows from the mountains to the west.
There are neolithic sites nearby and the Romans occupied the region. While there seem to be no signs of that occupation in the current village of Roquebrun, there is mention of a fortified Roman encampment here. The origins of the village are about 2 miles away in the Prieure of St Andre which includes the chapel of AD 600 and also the ruins of a Roman villa. St Andre walked from Italy and is said to have taken with him orange saplings which he planted at the site. It is believed that the Tour de Guep, originally part of a larger fortified castle, was built around 900 AD by the Carolingian rulers to protect from barbarian and Saracen invaders from the south. The tower is the main image on the Roquebrun coat of arms, and dominates the village. There are numerous similar towers that remain in the area. It has recently been restored and returned to what is believed to be its original configuration. There were conflicts in the area up to and through the 1789 revolution and beyond, including the noteworthy conflicts between the Cathars (who were considered heretics) and the Roman Catholic Church. Those conflicts are well documented and include the destruction of Béziers by the Catholic forces in 1209.
The village was dominated by several powerful competing families. The poor majority found a living from the poor soil of the hills by raising sheep and goats, fishing, olives, vines and flour from sweet chestnuts. The population was much reduced by the black plague and subsequently by tuberculosis and cholera. The population grew rapidly from about 1800 and was supported by the economy of wine production from the 1820s until the phylloxera infection of the vines in the 1890s. Phylloxera was brought through imported vines from the United States, where it is endemic. All French vines are now grafted onto Native American grape rootstock. Rail transport was the means to distribute the wine internally and to the ports. Spanish workers began to settle in Roquebrun from about 1850 and refugees from the civil war settled in the late 1930s.
Overall the pattern of weather is Mediterranean but Roquebrun is also affected by the winds of the Massif Central to the north and the Pyrenees to the west. However the village is sheltered by hills to the north, east and west and this, with the remnants of nearby heat from underlying volcanic intrusion produces a microclimate in which oranges, lemons and pomegranates fruit and several types of palm trees are able to flourish. Roquebrun is also known as the Le Petit Nice for its location above the river, giving a view similar to that seen from the corniche on the mediterranean coast of Provence, and also for its vegetation, which is dominanted by grape vines and the native garrigue, similar to the Chaparral in California. The lower slopes of the hills are covered by the garrigue: cistus (rockrose), thyme, rosemary, arbousier (strawberry tree) and other flowers and shrubs. The Mediterranean Garden, open to the public, is located at the top of the village below the Tour de Guep, and displays plants which are grown in Mediterranean climates all over the world.
The hills and valleys of Roquebrun are formed on a fold from the north east and a recumbent fold from south west. The exposed hard rocks are Ordovician schist and Devonian dolomite. The dolomite forms a vertical ridge upon which the 8th century fortification tower is situated. The junction of the two folds is the valley leading to the hamlet of Laurenque.
In the summer vacation the population sometimes reaches 3,000.
The main economy is based on the wine production of the cave cooperative, Les Vins de Roquebrun, and the seven private producers. Fruit and vegetables add to the economy. There are resident artisans, artists, musicians and writers and a variety of professionals but the nearest doctors are three miles away in the next and larger village. There are two restaurants, a wine bar, a grocery store, a bar, newsagent and baker. Accommodation may be found in gites, at the chamber d'hôtes, Les Mimosas, and at the camping-hotel, Le Nice. There is a small market on Friday mornings. In the summer the river is busy with the kayaks and canoes supplied by a Roquebrun enterprise, Grandeur Nature.
Roquebrun has a wide variety of sport and cultural associations open to all. The special event is the Mimosa festival which is on the second Sunday of February. There are several other festivals, special markets(for instance of regional food and of pottery), concerts, dances and feasts. Hunting the wild boar begins on August 15 and concludes in mid-January.
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