A damp gloomy day in the Manche seemed the perfect day for exploring a Neolithic site high on a wild hill. So we went to Mont Castré, near Lithaire.
Now a protected park, for years the Mont was quarried by by the Western Granite Company. All that remains now are a lake, a few buildings and some rusty wagons.
Climb up behind the lake and you are soon in an ancient place. The walk is not long, but softly sloping grass quickly changes to a woodland path that rises steeply up the hillside. Under dripping trees, over centuries of dead leaves and slippery granite rocks we puffed our way back to the dawn of time.
Large rocks edge the path before you reach the top, maybe once part of some Neolithic creation but now any meaning is lost.
At the top there is a clearing and the remains of hard, almost impossible work. Huge rocks line up to form two uncovered alleys, maybe graves. Other similar sites are topped with flat stones but here there are none. One alley is hard to make out, the other has some clearly defined walls.
In the field next to the clearing hundreds of boulders are strewn higgledy-piggledy. Very little archaeology has taken place here so we can only guess if this is the remains of a larger Neolithic site.
The stones are now named after their wood ‘La petite allée du Bois de la Plesse’ ‘the small covered alley of Plesse wood’. They were mostly ignored and overgrown for centuries until 1965 when Bernard Edeine, archaeologist and ethnologist rediscovered them.
Bernard was walking with friends to view the local castle ruins when, passing through a recently cleared coppice, he noticed a group of unnaturally grouped rocks. After gaining the correct permissions, the next year he was back with some fellow enthusiasts.
“1966 we cleaned and dug the ground, cleared the pillars after having drawn up a plan of its condition before restoration. Then we cleared the centre of the driveway, in which was still a collapsed table that we could not put back, because it was partly broken and we straightened and replaced nine pillars of a ton five to two tons, after checking their housing and putting back the stones. Four or five pillars and tables are missing”. From Bernard Edeine’s report in 1971.
Among their rather minor discoveries were some flints, charcoal crushed between stones and a small clay pendant marked with a diamond design. Bernard’s article about the discovery can be read here (French).
Find out more about Neolithic Normandy in our post ‘The Neolithic mystery of Bretteville’.