Before lockdown numero trois came into force, we’d been going geocaching once (occasionally twice) a week, and thoroughly enjoying these sanity-preserving outings. Not every one of them presents us with a fascinating historical discovery or stunning scenery, but they’re all rewarding in their own way. That value might lie in something as simple as coming across a patch of wild flowers, seeing a cloud of pigeons rise from a rooftop or crossing a babbling stream on a rickety footbridge. We always come home physically tired (we generally clock up at least 12 kms over rolling terrain) and emotionally satisfied.

Three recent trips were particularly interesting. The first of these was to La Cellette in Puy-de-Dôme, where an uphill trail took us to a wartime parachute drop site known as Terrain Napoleon. Three drops in 1943 (19 April, 10 July and 16 August) supplied the local resistance with much-needed arms so they could continue to harass, sabotage and generally disrupt the activity of the occupying Germans in the area. Money and medicines were also dropped.

A memorial marks the spot today.

We also, out of the blue, came across a blocked-off railway tunnel during that walk.

Interesting trip no. 2, to Teilhet, brought us to the Menhirs of Barbouly at Sainte-Christine after a pleasant forest walk. The history of these two stones, one standing, one prone, is firmly shrouded in mystery. All I can find out about them online is that they were recognised as historical monuments in 1982, and that one is standing up and the other is lying down!

Finally, an outing to Colmbier introduced us to St Patrocle. He was born around 496 in Bourges. Apparently his mother found him a beautiful woman to marry, but Patrocle wasn’t the slightest bit interested. He wanted to serve God. He first became a cleric in Bourges, but “because he was constantly fasting” (maybe he kept fainting from hunger or possibly because his fellow clerics found him too antisocial and booted him out) he moved on to Néris les Bains. He founded a church and school there, but too many people began to appear to seek his advice or just catch a glimpse of him. The price of fame. He took himself off to the forest of Colmbier to live the life of a hermit.

Here is St Patrocle’s spring. Workers building the nearby church were thirsty, so, the story goes, Patrocle threw his hammer to the ground, and a spring sprung from the ground. His ‘fontaine’ consists of four granite basins, and is very unusual. Since 2000, the ‘Friends of St Patrocle have made an annual procession on the last Saturday of July from the church to this spot carrying the 13th century lead box that contains his saintly remains.

We’re taking an enforced holiday from geocaching for another three weeks at least, but are already planning our next trips once it’s legal to go gallivanting again!