Hidden History

Today being the last day of the school holidays, we needed to take Ruadhri’s mind off his impending doom and so headed off on our first geocaching session of 2017 to Chéniers, not so very far away.

One of the reasons we enjoy this hobby so much is that we discover so many hidden historical and geographical treasures whilst following the trails between caches. Today was no exception.

We started in the village itself and came across this lavoir with beautiful mock-medieval murals.

lavoir

We walked alongside the Petite Creuse river for most of the way, a beautiful wooded gorge in places, and towards the end found ourselves at the hamlet of Piot. We had to cross a rickety bridge to get there.

bridge tobi

Rorz actually found it a bit too rickety so after I took this photo he headed off to a low but altogether more solid stone and concrete pontoon-like bridge. That floods at times but luckily not today, so it was passable.

bridge rorz

There is a now-disused mill at Piot, and it was recorded as existing as long ago as 1731. It was then called the Moulin de Piaud and was the property of Lord Bertand. However, it dates back much further and belonged at one time to the Seigneurie de Grandsagne.

The mill is part of the hamlet of Piot. We were fascinated to discover some derelict but fascinating buildings, and plaques mentioning a Charles Chareille, aka Capitaine Sabot. One of these buildings was this Moroccan pavilion.

moroccan

There were several others, including this huge one you can see on the left of this photo. From what I can make out from the Limousin Patrimoine website this is known as the Cathedral. I’d seen the word ‘Benvenon’ on another building, and that one must be the Esperanto pavilion.

big building

So who was Capitaine Sabot and what was his connection to Piot? Well, Charles Chareille was a leading figure of local resistance during World War II. At the end of the war he acquired the hamlet of Piot. He then brought to life a project that was close to his heart: creating an international meeting place specifically aimed at young people and apprentices. He clearly wanted friendship between nations and there to be no more wars. So between 1952 and 1982, under the name of Moulin des Apprentis, the village was rejuvenated by the construction of quirky new buildings, reflecting the cultures of the participants.

The Moulin de Piot was truly innovative, creating a rural haven of peace. Over its thirty years of operation it welcomed twenty thousand young people from eighty-three countries.

Things have gone a bit downhill since then. Between 1982 and 2008, this site has passed through the hands of a series of buyers, the last of which is a local association, the Amis du Moulin de Piot. Association. The Asso hopes to safeguard this amazingly unique place. It’s currently busy working on repairing the roofs and rebuilding the mill wheel. And to think we’ve been in the vicinity for ten years and had no idea it existed! Good old geocaching.