Ruadhri’s surprise fossil find in a pile of rocks when we were searching for a geocache at Lys St Georges prompted us to see if there were places not too far away where we could do some proper fossil hunting. We’ve previously fossil hunted en famille at Whitby and in the Jura, and rock hounded in many places, including the Auvergne, where we found some fabulous amethysts. My wedding present to Chris way back in 1986 was a geological hammer!

Here’s Rors’ fossil:

Chris did some research and discovered that gryphaea (devil’s toenails, a long-extinct form of oyster from the Jurassic and Triassic periods) are to be found near Montgivray, a village close to La Châtre in Indre. So, rucksacks stuffed with food, hammer and chisel, we set out.

The first part of the walk was rather depressing. It seems that farmers in Indre share the dislike of trees and hedgerows that’s catastrophically endemic amongst their Creuse brethren. We walked for kilometres along barren, windswept wastes with only the occasional spindly tree breaking the monotony. There seriously is no hope for wildlife in rural France given this spiteful, ignorant attitude to the environment. We did see a few stunted hedges, one of which was in the process being thrashed to pieces by a bored farmer and his far-too-powerful machinery.

Eventually we reached an area managed by more enlightened landowners, who actually allow native flora to grow around their huge fields. This cheered up us and made the walk much more interesting. We passed some prizewinning Charollais cows whose medals were proudly displayed over their stall.

Soon we came to some interesting rocky outcrops. We didn’t find any gryphaea, but Rors pounced on a super ammonite imprint and we found quite a few fossil shells.

We walked alongside the River Indre for a while and passed several springs and lavoirs.

Just before arriving back at the village, we encountered this very picturesque mill.

Montgivray itself is an interesting village with a super castle. Solanges Clésinger, daughter of the famous author George Sand (Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin) bought it and lived there for a while, and previously her uncle, Hippolyte Chatiron (her mother’s half-brother) had owned it. This neo-gothic castle, that dates back to 1130, now homes the Mairie and a school.

I liked the 1920s style painting on this now sadly closed café, just across the road from the castle.

But this trompe d’oeil is even more magnificent! Can you spot which is the real upstairs window?

We enjoyed our trip, even though it wasn’t as fossil-rich as we might have hoped, and eagerly began planning another one a little further afield. I’ll tell you about that next time.