It was time for an outing yesterday. The roads were passable again and the sun was out plus we all had cabin fever. A gentle spot of geocaching was definitely what the doctor ordered. So we loaded up both sons and the geo-dog, Nessie, and headed off.

Our first stop was the Creuse near Pionnat. We went down increasingly narrower and snowier roads, with increasing levels of anxiety, until we found a convenient parking area next to the sparkly river. The journey was worth it as it was a beautiful spot. We headed downriver towards the Viaduc of Busseau which is celebrating its 150th birthday this year. It’s an incredible feat of engineering, particularly for such a remote part of France. It’s 286.5 metres long, 56.5 m high – which is big, believe me. It has over 200,000 rivets in it. It’s on six very large and sturdy pillars.

viaduct from bridge

It was based on the Fribourg Viaduc in Switzerland and construction was overseen by Wilhelm Nordling and Charles Geoffroy. It employed an avant garde method of construction – lancage. It was built on one bank and pushed out, bit by bit, to rest on the pillars that were in place. It worked extemely well and ended up only 5mm away from its projected arrival point on the Limoges side of the river. The viaduc is still in use today. It’s also a listed historical monument.

viaduct under

Close by the viaduc I saw this suitably metallic chicken!

viaduct hen

We walked back to the car, and in fact beyond it to try and find a geocache but it appeared to be on what is now private property so we didn’t bother.

Next stop – the Virgin’s buttocks! Well, those words appear in the clue given to find the geocache. How could we resist investigating? We’re so glad we did. The Rocher de Vierge is a tremendous monument.

virgin rocks distance

She’s also made of cast iron, like the Viaduc, but a rather smaller affair. She’s 4 metres high and was made in Toulouse and brought to the tiny hamlet of Roches by train and then ox cart. In the 1870s, the parish priest, Father Jamot, wanted to do something to keep Protestantism at bay in his parish. He thought a whopping great statue of Our Lady of Hope would be just the thing and he had the very place to put her – on top of a tall, rocky outcrop. She is very imposing but neither Rors nor I, the Prots of the Dagg clan, felt too intimidated.

virgin rocks

There’s a pretty little chapel at the base of the rocky mound.

virgin chapel

The boys scrambled to the very top of the rocks but Nessie and I didn’t venture quite as far so as to retain our dignity – in Nessie’s case, she’d slipped on a rock lower down – and so as not to make my neck any worse in my case. Sad face.

It was a very interesting morning’s excursion.