We ended 2017 with a spot of geocaching. We’ve yet to do any in 2018 as the weather has turned terrible, with first Storm Carmen and then Eleanor sweeping through bringing lashing rain and winds strong enough to blow the Eglu from off the top of poor Rickety Chick’s head! But Sunday was sunny and warm and so we set off to Gouzon, where Chris had found a Terra Aventura geocaching trail to following in la Brande de Landes.

This flat area of land was reclaimed from the wild in the early nineteenth century. Hard as it is to believe now, with so many practically deserted villages and empty houses in our corner of Creuse, two hundred years ago villages were overpopulated. There wasn’t enough food to go round and people were living hungry, miserable lives. Gouzon found a solution by establishing la Brande. Arpenteurs, surveyors, came in and painstakingly divided the reclaimed land into exactly equal parcels of land which were shared between the people in need. Hedgerows and trees have grown up around these fields now, creating a bocage, although some of their modern-day owners are clearly struggling with the concept of respecting this piece of history and not reducing the hedgerows to stubble, as farmers are sadly wont to do round here.

Just down the road is the large Étang des Landes, which we’d walked round a few days previously, and this is certainly a wet area. Many fields in la Brande had pumping stations and water tanks, and there were ditches to either side of the paths we walked along, through which water coursed steadily.

The geocaching trail makes for an extremely pleasant walk around this flat but interesting area. It’s a multicache, which means you gather clues from various points on the trail in order to be able to put together the final set of co-ordinates, which is where the treasure is to be found! Some of the clues involved using replicas of pieces of apparatus the arpenteurs would have used, a very nice touch.

We pretty much had the place to ourselves, meeting only a father and son team of hunters with a disobedient dog. The very young youngster was carrying his own gun – I’m guessing and hoping it was only a toy one. Another interesting feature about this area is that it’s know as the Crossroads of the Four Provinces, harking back to pre-Revolutionary times. As far as I can make out from looking at various ancient maps, since the info is hard to come by, the provinces in question were Auvergne, Berry, Bourbonnais and Marche. As a by the by, Marche was ruled between 1091 and 1303 by a string of Hughs, starting with Hugh 1 who was nicknamed ‘The Devil’ (and you have to wonder why) and ending with Hugh VIII.

So, as is usually the case with our geocaching, we benefited from a healthy walk and discovered some fascinating local history.