Ambert in the Puy de Dome section of the Livradois-Forez regional natural park, now a quiet town of 8000 inhabitants - was once home to 300 papermills.

The landscape in this remote area is not suited to intensive agriculture, and in the winter the far upland pastures are inaccessible due to the severe weather. But in the summer, these pastures are ideal for fattening cows, so for hundreds of years, the rhythm of life in this area was regulated by the movement of the cows from lowland to upland and back again.

In the summer, the women and children would take the cows up to the high lands, living in the upland farmhouses or "jasseries" - low-lying thatched stone buildings tucked into the lee of the land to protect them from the fierce winds. While the cows grazed, the women made the "Fourme d'Ambert" cheeses, cylindrical, blue-veined cheeses aged for months in the damp cellars of the jasseries.


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