lavender harvest smallJust outside Sault on the route towards Mont Ventoux, this organic lavender farm and distillery offers a delightful range of activities, most of them free, and is especially well set up for children.

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It's run by the Liardet family, which has been cultivating lavender in the area for generations. The farm is sometimes known as Ferme La Parente but now calls itself Arôma' Plantes. complete with one of those extra apostrophes that the French like so much.

plantotheque aroma plantes saultArôma'Plantes doesn't just farm true lavender and lavandin (click here to read about the difference between the two).

It also distills essences of forty-odd herbs and plants as well as wood resins and grows petit épeautre (spelt), an ancient variety of provençal cereal.

The "Plantothèque", pictured, a garden behind the main entrance, is packed with the forty or so of these herbs.

As you walk round the Arômatic beds, you're invited to guess which each plant is, with the help of riddles (this game is available in English as well as French). There are more games aimed at children in Le Lavandoscope, a small museum on the history of lavender.

You can also see the distillery, on an accompanied tour only (the rest of the farm can be visited either with a guide or independently).

It's basically three small alembics (stills) in an open shed. The best time to see them in full swing is in July for the lavender and in August for the lavandin, though other plants and resins are treated there throughout the year.

You see and learn about the distilling process, which uses low-pressure steam to separate out the intense, concentrated essential oil. The remaining lightly scented water can also be used, as a floral water.

Click here to read about the pioneering man who discovered and developed the use of essential oils in aromatherapy in Provence.

The stills in the sheds are for smaller crops. For the lavender harvest enormous quantities of plants - up to four tonnes - need to be processed quickly. At this time of year, the flowers are loaded, stalks and all, into a container on a big truck out in the fields, which then is used as the still directly.

navettesdelavandeNothing is wasted. Once the distilling process is complete, any residue such as stalks or wood is is used for compost or to fire the boilers.

The distillery tours are free, run at regular intervals through the day at the convenience of the owners, and take around fifteen minutes. Some are in English (you may need to wait for these). Groups should reserve ahead.

During the harvest period you can, for a small fee, gather your own lavender using a sickle and traditional techniques, distill it and then take the essence home (reserve a session in advance at the Sault Tourist Office).

Arôma'Plantes also offers other workshops in soap-making and decorative traditional lavender spindles, pictured above (click here to read more about them).

The spindle workshop is available in English, the other two in French only.

The upper floor of an old hayloft is used for exhibitions. On our visit to Arôma'Plantes in May 2015, it was a show of photographs called Secrets de Lavande. These were brilliant.

Anyone with a Smartphone can take a gorgeous purple-hued Instagram of lavender fields in full flower. But Philippe Lemonnier's large-scale photographs get far away from the usual cliches.

They're in black and white and really go behind the scenes, exploring every stage of the lavender cycle, from planting the fields to celebrating the harvest and distilling the results. And they focus on the people involved in the often very hard work of production. Photograph below © Philippe Lemonnier.

philippe lemonnier lavender harvestThe photographs were commissioned as part of the Marseille-Provence European Capital of Culture project in 2013, when four thousand lavender plants briefly bloomed on the Old Port of Marseille. Now the exhibition is touring.

The owners of Arôma'Plantes were unsure how long the show would be on loan to them but, if it's still there, do give it a look.

If it's not, you can buy Les Routes de la Lavande, a book collection of Lemonnieur's photographs (in colour) here.

All these activities are free, apart from the workshops, but Arôma'Plantes is a business too. And they'll be hoping you spend some time and money in the old vaulted farmhouse which now serves as a shop.

However there's absolutely no pressure to buy, and the staff overall are relaxed and welcoming.

In any case you'll find plenty of things to tempt you: essential oils, soaps, lavender-related crafts, herbs, pulses, berlingots and other local sweet specialities... A tea room serves relaxing herbal infusions and light refreshments.

After all this you can also go on a self-guided walk. There are two routes. One winds through the lavender and herb fields and is mostly on the flat: it's 1.4 km / just under a mile and takes about forty minutes. The other is a gentle 3.5 km / 2 mile climb up to a plateau and takes about an hour and quarter.

You can do both walks if you're feeling especially energetic. Don't forget water, sun-block and protective clothing, especially if you're there in July or August.

lavender fields saultThe routes are dotted with explanatory plaques which are in French only, but it's a delightful way to round off the visit. Photograph © Alain Hocquel for CDT Vaucluse.

By the way, if you're wondering whether the lavender will be in bloom, you can check the live webcam on the website for Arôma'Plantes (click on the purple icon in the top right-hand corner of the home page).

Where: Arôma'Plantes, route du Mont Ventoux, 84390 Sault. Tel: (+) 33 4 90 64 14 73. Website for Arôma'Plantes. The farm is open to visitors all year round except for on a handful of public holidays.

How to get there: Arôma'Plantes is within easy walking distance of Sault. Take the D164 in the direction of Mont Ventoux. The farm is about 2 km / 1.25 miles outside the village and is very well-signposted.

Arôma'Plantes welcomes cyclists (it's part of the Provence à Vélo / Provence Cycling network of biking routes and bike-friendly tourist attractions) and is a great place to stop off while touring Mont Ventoux.

There's a decent-sized car-park and the farm buildings and gardens are equipped with ramps for wheel- and push-chairs.

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