A Burgundy diary – 16 May 2020


Tour de Grosme


Across the road in front of the barn here is a lane that runs to the main road (Autun-Beaune), and across that to a small forest road. The road – not much more than a track, and only rarely used by cars – climbs and winds up through the woods. Eventually – three or four miles (6 kms) later – it comes out again on the main road (having passed a mysterious small Carthusian nunnery – le Prieuré du Val Saint-Benoît – tucked away in the woods).


On top of the first climb of the forest road, almost hidden in the trees, is a substantial medieval stone tower. One wall, perhaps a little more, is all that is evident at first. It is easy to miss it. It is hidden by trees. On the map it is described coyly as Tour de Grosme. My local historian source M Roland Niaux describes it being the share of Sully lands (where a substantial chateau still stands) which in the late thirteenth century came to Girard de Chatillon.


As a castle Grosme must always have been modest; but there is much more there in the undergrowth, I suspect, than the tower. When I last explored the site the ground was shrouded with periwinkle (pervenche), which cloaked mounds and old workings and the evidence of a short outer wall. A smaller tower and outbuildings are there. You could see then, before the trees were in leaf, why the position for the castle had been chosen. It looks across the opening valley of the Drée river towards the castles at Sully and Épinac, though with a deeply forested – perhaps impenetrable – hillside behind. No one now seems to care much for it – poor sad secret place as it slowly crumbles back into its periwinkle carpet.


David Burrows

16 May 2020

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