Journées du patrimoine 2012
If you see a strange unreadable poster plastered around the Creuse this weekend (Sept 15-16), it may well be advertising the 29th annual Journées européennes du patrimoine.
The theme is "Hidden heritage" and some bright spark at the Ministry of Culture and Communications has decided that the poster will read "PAT-RI-MOI-NES" in bright blue capitals over four lines and "CA-CH-É-S" in pale green capitals artistically hidden behind or around the other letters. (The green is much lighter than it looks in this image):
The participating sites are listed alphabetically by commune in a 16-page booklet produced for the Limousin, and are also on-line at www.journeesdupatrimoine.culture.fr where if you enter "Creuse" in the box marked "le Programme" on the top right-hand side of the home page, you will get the local information in random order.
You can then search by theme or geographical location.
There are several new participants this year including our own commune, St-Dizier-la-Tour. It was created in 1848 by joining up two small communes, St Dizier and La Tour-St-Austrille, and it is La Tour that will be in the limelight this weekend.
A year or so ago a group of people in the commune got together to form an association to safeguard and promote the three rare mottes castrales which have stood guard over La Tour for a millenium. (A well-documented fourth motte disappeared a long time ago.)
They fit in entirely with the theme of "hidden heritage". In recent years they had become covered with dense vegetation so that only the initiated realised what they were. They have now been cleared of undergrowth and many trees have been felled – though we had to leave some enable their roots to hold the fragile mottes together. The area around the two smaller mottes has been landscaped and boasts a new wooden footbridge made by members of the group.
Archaeological digs were carried out on two of the mottes in 1865 and a large number of fascinating finds were made. They are now in the museum at Guéret.
I will be describing our project in considerable detail in another feature.
Suffice it to say that La Tour-St-Austrille was once an important place on a frontier disputed by various medieval warlords and lay on a link road between two major routes dating back to Roman times. It was thus an ideal place to levy tolls on travellers and merchandise. It had a priory with a powerful prior.
Unfortunately the description of the site in the Journees du patrimoine booklet and on the website is completely garbled, so don't take it too literally. Visitors will be given conducted tours of the village, in French or English, between 10am-6.30pm on both days, when they will be able to see the large motte, the two small mottes in a park-like setting, the lake, many medieval remains and sites, and other interesting old buildings including a 15th century farmer's house that has not changed significantly for 500 years. An illustrated printed guide is available and visitors are asked to come to the church in the middle of La Tour to start their conducted tour. Participation is free but we hope that people who enjoy their visit will make a donation towards the costs of the association.
We have a partnership with the nearby château de Villemonteix near Chenerailles, which will be offering guided tours at a reduced rate of 5€ (children free). Contrary to what it says in the Journées du patrimoine literature, you can just turn up and do not have to phone in advance to make an appointment for your visit.
Missed off the literature and website entirely is the fact that the château d'Arfeuille near Felletin will be open between 2.30-6.30pm on both of the Journées du patrimoine at a reduced rate of 3€ (under-18s free). There will be a special exhibition entitled "Le Château de Mon Père", by journalist and freelance photographer Flore d'Arfeuille, who lives in Paris but spent a year capturing striking and detailed images of the castle that her father had inherited. For more information, see the Communique de Presse (PDF)
Other equally interesting sites may have failed to get on the official list, so check with the tourism office websites across the Creuse, before you work out an itinerary, to get a full idea of the events available.
Have a wonderful weekend!