Location on Google Maps
Crozant is a small and, if I am honest, a largely uninteresting town, in the north-west corner of Creuse on the border with Indre. There are about 450 inhabitants and if you go on a nice sunny weekend in July you’ll meet all of them in the queue at the bakers. It’s one of those places that is much better visited off season. It does have an excellent bakery, currently run by a lovely young couple, that’s even open on Sundays and also serves coffee. There’s a tea room and a shop and a bar, all of which are fine when open but not worth the trek up to the northern frontier. Crozant is worth visiting for four reasons. The ruins, the view of the river, the circular walk that takes you via a hill-top park, up alongside the river Sédelle and then back to the town through woods and fields.
Oh yes, the fourth thing. The light. It has that light that painters love. If you’re lucky you’ll feel it yourself although mostly it’s just the same stuff that you get everywhere; yet sometimes here it is better. Daft? Sure I am, but all those painters can’t be wrong. Go see if you can feel it yourself. I don’t paint myself, except when I’m decorating and slapping on the watery whitewash that passes for emulsion this side of the channel. Just keep this in mind when considering your barn conversion – all that insulated plasterboard you plan to put up under the roof will need five coats of diluted parsnip soup; 100 litres of which is going to run down your arm and starch your pants into the shape of tiredness. So, take some advice and make other ceiling arrangements. I digress.
The nearby town of Fresselines has a fabulous walk down from the town along the riverside past the confluence of La Creuse and La Petite Creuse. This is another place that painters loved and the trail has little pictures of some of their works on route markers along it. Fresselines is also a bit of a dud, but along with the walk there is the excellent restaurant Les Artistes du Confluent, which I recommend for lunch or dinner. The town has a friendly cat but little more of note.
The ruins at Crozant date back around a thousand years, which means they must have started ruining it before it was even finished. It’s a big site and there are a lot of ruins. Some look like piles of rock, some a bit more like old buildings. As old castle ruins go these are exactly as advertised. If you like that sort of thing then you’ll enjoy these. If they aren’t your thing then save your money and look at the view instead. I enjoyed a slow ramble around the site and a quiet sit on the rocks watching a squad of goats packing away the greenery. I sort of looked at the historic bits but honestly this sort of thing only makes me sad. It’ll be stuck like this now pretty much forever. It won’t be useful or vibrant or develop into something else like it did for 800 years. Not that I want high rise flats instead, but buildings are for living-in not looking-at and maintaining ruins as, well, ruins seems bonkers to me. Anyhow, it costs €4 each to get it in if you pay full price and aren’t a dog, because dogs are not allowed. It’s open from April to November so enjoy it off season.
One thing that we’ve talked about since we purchased a shabby field with our own assortment of ruins ancient and modern was how we’d love to kayak along the whole of La Petite Creuse. We’ve enjoyed a bit of kayaking over the years but don’t own our own and so, with one thing and another we’ve not converted talk into action. Last year we finally did hire a two-person kayak from La Hotel du Lac, which the internet says is in Creuse (23160) but actually it seems to be in Indre (36190). It’s on the river where this is the border so I think it must be outside, although it’s still very handy for hiring canoes or kayaks and it also runs a river boat tour if you don’t fancy doing the work yourself. Their website
has prices and availability.
We spent a lovely afternoon paddling up around the ruins, including the upper reaches of the Sédelle as far as the sand banks and then up towards the dam, although we turned around just over the border at Chambon. It’s not an edge of Creuse that I know very well but it’s full of hidden coves and deserted beaches. The river is wide and there are lots of boats, caravan parks and touristy snack-shacks in increasing numbers the closer you get to the dam.
There was even a police motor-launch that whizzed past us as if we were statues although I did get a gruff reply when I shouted bonjour
just to let us know that we were still alive. They were « en mission
» chasing after someone who was speeding I think as we later past them in conference mid-stream. They’d caught up to a young lad in a plasticky gin-palace that’d given us a treat of a huge bow wave a little earlier and he was enjoying a lecture with the air of someone who knew the script well, but perhaps it was just about the hideous horror of his boat.
Kayaking is a great way to see a different side of Creuse. Paddling back was hard work but enjoyable especially as we pulled into a couple of leafy tributaries to explore and rest in the shade. Hire was about €30 I think for half a day including life jackets, but you’d only really need an hour to row around the ruins and back. It’s on our list to enjoy again going the other way to the confluence of the rivers although I think some portage would be needed to carry on further.
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