Several Liths and a Limax: a trip to the Monts de Guéret.

We’re rather fond of the Monts de Guéret, a very hilly (with an average altitude of 686m) area of chaotic granite close to the principal town of Creuse, and so we took Jackie, who’s visiting, for a look. The Monts rise up just behind Ruadhri’s lycée, which is situated in a very picturesque spot next to the Étang de Courtilles, a manmade 22-hectare lake with a circumference of 3km.

The Monts are dotted with monoliths/megaliths. There is overlap between these two liths. A monolith is a single massive stone or rock, and a megalith is a large stone or rock that has been used in a construction, although this construction may consist of just the one item. Megalith therefore has overtones of culture and human history – of meaning and significance being granted to a natural feature. Thus several of the huge granite boulders in the Monts have names and legends associated with them.

We visited two such megaliths: la Pierre Casse-Noisette and la Pierre Chabranle. These, and the other megaliths in the area (which include les Rochers de la Tribune, la Pierre du Loup and la Pierre de Grosle), became listed natural monuments on 25 January 1929.

A casse-noisette is a nutcracker, but try as we might none of us could see any resemblance between such an item and the large boulder surrounded by smaller ones that make up the site of the Pierre Casse-Noisette. It’s an impressive rock nonetheless. I haven’t been able to dig up any history about it online. Needless to say looking up Casse-Noisette on the internet presents you will zillions of hits relating to the Nutcracker ballet.

Fortunately I can tell you a bit more about la Pierre Chabranle. This stone gets its name from the fact that it rocks. Forgive the pun. It’s wobbly, and ‘branlant’ in French means precisely that. Using a good strong branch you can get the huge stone rocking after a few short pushes. It’s fascinating to see, and very gratifying! It’s thought that druids made judgements and decisions by interpreting the movements of this rock as they saw fit.

The megaliths are the result of erosion. The granite of the area was laid down during the Paleozoic era and has been subject to erosion ever since. Softer surrounding or covering rock has been eroded to nothingness, leaving behind these large, resistant lumps of granite to astonish us.

There’s one final –lith we need to know about, with an ‘ic’ on the end: Neolithic. This period of prehistory is so named as it’s associated with construction in and using stone. This stage of human development began around 10,200 BC and continued for six centuries or so. Our two stones most likely gained their mystic associations during that period.

There was another interesting discovery awaiting us. Rors spotted this huge slug. It’s a limax cinereoniger slug, the largest to be found in France. As you can see using Benj’s hand as scale, it’s certainly long!

Our educational trip to the Monts was rounded off with a walk along the short ‘sentier de découverte’ – Discovery Trail – that’s specifically designed for children with puzzles and notices along the way. It’s a pleasant little walk, and was made all the more interesting when Rors spotted a patch of sphagnum moss amidst the trees and rocks.

And then he spotted a small grenouille rousse (brown frog) amongst the grass and dried holly leaves on the ground.

So once again we had another thoroughly enjoyable outing to this beautiful part of Creuse.