As it was so hot and humid this week, I decided to give driving any distance a miss and focus on some of the smaller aspects of the Dordogne’s culture (le patrimoine) closer to home. Looking through my little book of unusual sites in Le Périgord, I came across two that were worth a visit in nearby Fonroque, le Puits gavaches and le Touron.

Le Puits gavaches

At the end of the 100 years war, the south west of France was left decimated and ruined with a large loss of human life. As a result, a labour force from further north in France arrived in the local area to work on the land. These “foreigners” formed communities and stayed for several centuries. They were called les “gavaches”, which is a Spanish word that means foreigner/person of no particular interest.

Certain aspects of the gavaches culture remain today such as the stone domes they built over wells (un puits). Examples can be found in the south of the Dordogne, in the region of Eymet, as well as in the neighbouring department of the Lot et Garonne.

An example of a stone, dome built by les gavaches can be seen in a private garden in Fonroque. It is called le Puits “gavaches”. There is even a tiny road in Fonroque called Rue du Puits Gavaches.

Le Touron

On the other side of the road, near the church, is the natural spring, Le Touron. Water comes from within the large cave and passes through what looks like an urn placed on its side and from which water runs into a small basin that feeds the small washing place (un lavoir) and a larger watering hole (un abreuvoir). It’s quite a big spot and would have been a busy meeting place in the olden days, with women chatting while washing clothes and animals being brought to drink. Going into the cave was tempting but I decided against it in the end. Apparently, about ¾ of a mile of these caves have already been explored and it is said that there is a tunnel linking this spot to what was formerly known as the château de Puyguilhem which is more than 5 miles away.

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Eymet