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Menhir-Overload, into the void, surprises and demises in Loire-Atlantique

So after weeks of sticking pins in maps and searching (fairly fruitlessly) for source material I have finally come into possession of my own four-wheeled carriage (or to be more ccurate , my sisters Vauxhall Nova which I'm borrowing for the summer). At last I can venture out and find out if the enigmatically marked and oft-unnamed menhirs and dolmens to be found within driving distance of Nantes are actually of any interest.
Last Saturday I began with a day of mixed fortune which began with disapointment then ebbed and flowed to a rather satisfying conclusion.
Fairing better than my previous trip (to Carnac) I was actually on the road and clear of Nantes before 9am! First stop was the Menhirs des Pierres Blanche, about two thirds of the way to Brevin-les-Pins, which, inspite of immpressive signposting, turned out to be a rather small and not especially white, menhir by a farm track. Its nearby companion was probably more impressive but is now fallen.
The next site was the Dolmen de la Haute Gedeliere. I couldn't get very close due to private proerty signs, barbed wire and a shady looking guy stood by an old Renualt Master about a hundred yards away, but I saw enough. The dolmen appears to be completely ruined, blocks protruding willy-nilly from a low mound. A mound which, incidentally, appears to be the ideal place to dump hay and manure and then burn it. How this can possibly be allowed I don't know but I can only hope the dolmen was long ruined before these ignorant folk began their work.
I was similarly denied at the Menhir de Pierre Bonde, Menhir de Megerie and the Menhir des Cassis! I was forced to view all from various distances and always from behind rusty barbed wire. Too many shotguns out here I have become aware...
Well what a fine morning this was turning out to be. The Menhir de Pierre Gargantua was (rather ironically) about a foot and a half tall and my famous patience was becoming eroded. I consoled myself with the thought that this was at least an adventure. Like the antiquarians of of old I had little to go on but locations on maps. No books, no information, so one has toi explore everything in order to find anything.
My luck began to change at the next site, the Menhir de Plessis-Gamat. Incredibly there were no fences or signs and I was able to get right up to the two and a half metre granite pillar where it stood on the edge of a field of short grass. The stone had clearly been split from the bedrock along a quartz vien as one flattened side was covered with a smooth layer of the stuff. Fairly flat in section the wide side has one of those rounded shapeds reminiscent of the the 1970s pink cartoon shape shifting blob Barbapapa (if anyone remembers him and his family).
Suitably bouyed up by actually sucessfully visiting an impressive site I bunbled on the the Dolmen de la Briordais. After a bit of getting lost I finally came upon this ruin. Although it is ruined the dolmen retains some magic. From a low mound (11m x 5m) set on (slightly) higher ground protrude a number of blocks, two of which could be in situ capstones although there is no access to any chamber which may remain beneath. As I say, inspite of its ruin, I rather liked the Dolmen de la Briordais, forgotton in the corner of a field.
Further bumbling and some completely instictive left and right turns in St. Brevin-l'Ocean led me to the surprising Dolmen des Rossignols. This is a curious and unique site indeed. The entire dolmen in actually below ground level. It sits in a 'crater' in an empty plot within an estate of bungalows, some residential and some clearly holiday homes, all set in shady pine woods. I would hazard a guess that the dolmen was actually discovered, beneath these old sand dunes, when the foundations were being dug for one such bungalow. Indeed a line of holes connected by a crack which run along the top surface of the capstone appear to be evidence that and attempt was made to split the stone before (hopefully before!) its significqnce was realised.
The dolmen is ruined, and maybe partially restored, to such an extent that it is difficult to ascertain its exact original features. However its massive capstone, which is about three by four metres, and its unique situation make it well worth a visit. So enamoured was I by this pleasant and intriguing spot that I chose it as the location for my lunch and in doing so (inadvertantly) broke my first and only rule of the day. For as I wandered around looking for good angles from which to photograph the site I spotted the 'Pique-Nique Interdit' sign! Oh well, no harm done. In fact I was surprised that this suburban dolmen was completely free of litter, broken glass and such. Either the yoputh of the area are a curiously well-behaved lot, or the site is very well looked after. Something it is alaways a pleasant surprise to find.
From here it was a run around the wonderfully named Menhir du Menhir, the Menhir de la Riverais and the Aveburyish Menhir de la Pierre Attelee, before I came upon my last and best surprise of the day.
Partially because I was eager to get to the show-site of the Tumulus de Mousseux at Pornic and partially because I was begining to feel a bit menhired-out, I almost ommited the Menhir du Boivre from my itinerary. How glad I was that I didn't.
What a stone! This huge menhir is around four metres high standing alone in a small meadow. But what is amazing is its shape. The SW face is a huge Goddess figure, complete with undersized head, possibly carved breasts and downward pointing pubic triangle. So obvious is all this that Almost did a cartoon style double-take when it struck me as I have never seen such a huge or perfect example of such a thing. But another surprise was yet to come. For the NW aspect is a huge phallus, sloping upwards at a priapic 75°! The head of the Goddess becomes the glans and the natural(?) grooves and fissures rather realisitic viens. This was the first time I had visited such a stone, I even had to give it a name (after the nearest hamlet) as on the map it is just marked as 'menhir'. Of course this now means I must visit everythin marked on the map that I can find, just in case, but if I find anything such as the Menhir du Boivre the effort will be justified.
After all the exitement I only got a few minutes at the Tumulus de Mouseux so descriptions of said monument will have to wait. But I am now sure that there's more to France than Carnac and a few fabcy show-sites so who knows what's yet to come...

Spaceship mark Posted by Spaceship mark
12th March 2003ce
Edited 7th November 2007ce

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