Ever since we discovered it a few years ago we have been keen to find out about the history of the mysterious factory at la Gâtineau, situated on the Creuse River, between La Roche Posay and Lésigny. At last, and quite by accident, we have come across some information, both official, and from a local source.
The factory consists of a hydro-electric plant on a weir (barrage), which presumably powered whatever industrial activities took place in the extensive range of buildings and caves - that much is clear just by observation. There is a workshop (maybe a joiner), an office, stables, pulleys, an oven, and a good many random, industrial looking, objects. Unfortunately, one cannot enter the caves and explore because they are privately owned, dangerous, and in the winter, a roost for hibernating bats which must not be disturbed.
A couple of weeks ago we drove past and realised that work was being done on the weir. We took a photo for the record, but it was only luck that we happened upon the explanation. The Office Nationale de l'eau et des milieux aquatiques (ONEMA) has carried out a check on the weir and required the owner to install a fish ladder for migrating Atlantic salmon, lamprey, shad, sea trout and eel, and to allow the natural movement of sediment. From its source in the Massif Central, the Creuse runs nearly 300 km to its confluence with the Vienne. The lower section, up to the impassable hydro-electric complex at Eguzon, is potentially accessible to migratory fish. However, this 124km stretch of river has 31 weirs or dams along its route - one every 4 km on average - that slow or block the flow of migrants.
This all seems good news, and it will be interesting to see if the migratory fish make it this far. Our local source was extremely skeptical, saying that anglers would catch and eat any salmon that poked its nose into the Creuse long before we ever saw it. Even if the fish don't return, it's still an atmospheric and beautiful place, and we hope it can continue to be maintained in an informed and sustainable way.