The site

Les Preses is a lovely small town located in La Garrotxa, an area in Catalonia / Spain. Situated a mere hundred kilometres from the famous Costa Brava, La Garrotxa is considered as one of the most attractive settings in the region due to its stunning scenery of dense forests and imposing mountains. The town of Les Preses is located within the Zona Volcànica de la Garrotxa, which is a unique volcanic landscape that was shaped by millennia of geologic activity, which today lays in rest as an attractive destination for visitors.

The La Garrotxa Natural Park in direct neighborhood of Les Preses is a part of the Natura 2000 Network, a European initiative to protect the most unique, diverse, rare, well conserved, representative, fragile or vulnerable natural spaces, which share similar characteristics with other sites of the Natura 2000 network.

The particular rocks found in this area are mostly of volcanic origin, and were mainly used as construction material for the vernacular architecture found in the region, making it distinct and an important visual representative of the local construction tradition. The most common example of the use of this stone can be found in the many dry stone wall structures that traverse the landscape, known locally as pedra seca. The traditional technique employed for the local dry stone wall constructions is very well known as being typical for the region and the town of Les Preses today.

At the beginning of the industrial revolution, La Garrotxa was one of the most developed areas in Catalonia. Olot, the capital city of the region, became very industrious and most of the population moved out to live in nearby towns, developing communities of industrial workers and farmers. The first migrants settling in these nearby lands started building their own vernacular structures that constitute an important part of the remaining tangible heritage from this period. The dry stone walls are an intrinsic element of this cultural landscape, merging human intervention with the naturally existing materials of the region to create a landscape which has been moulded and transformed through the construction of these dry stone walls.

Due to the abundance of examples conserved in good conditions, as well as because of the technique being kept alive as part of the local community’s identity, La Garrotxa is one considered as one of the best locations in Spain to appreciate and learn about the traditional techniques of dry stone wall construction. Nonetheless there are still many of these historic structures that are in dire need of repair.  

In 2018, UNESCO inscribed the “Art of dry stone walling, knowledge and techniques” into its Lists of Intangible Cultural Heritage, with the aim of ensuring better protection of this important intangible cultural heritages and the awareness of its significance. The La Garrotxa Natural Park is currently undertaking the challenge of restoring and conserving the dry stone walls within the park and to pass on the knowledge of this technique to future generations.

The site management of the park explains that the structures play a vital role in preventing landslides, floods and avalanches, and in combating erosion and desertification of the land, enhancing biodiversity and creating adequate microclimatic conditions for agriculture. The bearers and practitioners are still present in the rural communities of this region where the element is deeply rooted; however the tradition is slowly eroding. For this reason, as part of the efforts led by the Les Preses Municipality and local activists, there is an ongoing plan to establish a school for dry stone walling that will protect this important intangible heritage from fading out of practice. The European Heritage Training Course is part of the development of this concept.


The training course

The course will focus on the conservation of dry-stone walls which are situated at the centre of La Garrotxa Natural Park. There is a well-preserved area of dry stone structures, however several have fallen into disrepair and urgently need to be conservation. The area is very popular for visitors, and a proper presentation of the built and intangible heritage of this landscape exemplified through the dry stone walls, will contribute to enhancing their experience.

The participants will take part in the repairs of a large section of historic dry stone wall, following traditional dry stone construction techniques. The work will be guided by craftsmen from the region specialised in the technique known locally as “paret-secaire”.  

The natural park has a trail that the public can follow to visit vernacular structures and experience how these were part of daily life in the past. The participants will be involved in the conservation efforts to revitalise the remaining examples of this remarkable traditional construction technique. At the same time, they will be able to enjoy as part of their daily activities, the beauty of the mountains and the magnificence of the forests in the park as a setting for their work.

The educational program will be complemented by guided visits and excursions to other sites of relevance in the region which will help the participants better understand the cultural setting of their work on the site.


The training course will take place from September, 11th, to September, 24th, 2022, and is jointly organised by ReStructure Heritage Association and European Heritage Volunteers, in collaboration with the Les Preses Municipality.


European Heritage Volunteers