Friday, 9 March 2012

Pyramids or obelisks?

route forestière de Georges d'Amboise
Just outside Loches, running roughly SE to NW is the forêt domaniale de Loches. An ancient hunting park, it originally belonged to the Counts of Anjou. In the 12th century Henry II of England [Henry Platagenet, Count of Anjou] gifted about 400 hectares of the forest to the Chartreuse du Liget, the foundation he established in the southern part of the forest. The remainder, about 3,500 hectares, was kept as a hunting preserve.

pyramide des Chartreux
By 1205 John Lackland, King John of Magna Carta fame [Henry II and Eleanor of Acquitaine's youngest son]; had so incensed Pope Innocent III that he was excummunicated. The King of France, Philippe Auguste seized the moment and announced that John had forfeited his fiefdoms of Anjou and Touraine [the English King held these as vassels of the French king] and as a result the forest of Loches became a French royal possession.
pyramide de Montaigu
It was given as a gift by Philippe Auguste to the Constable of France, Dreux de Mello [leader of the French King's armies] in recognition of actions during the Crusades. King Louis IX, Saint Louis, then bought it back in 1249. It remained a royal forest until the Revolution and became property of the state in 1790. Now it is a fantastic recreational space for the public: full of walking routes and bike and horse trails. It is also a carefully managed forest and the public are allowed to forage and gather deadwood [permit required].
recently felled oak, neatly tagged with date: 29/02/2012
Virtually dissecting the forest in a straight line along its length is the 'route forestière de Georges d'Amboise' and everywhere are numerous rides which are named after famous French people. Along this 'spine' some of these rides meet in star-shaped intersections [étoiles]. At four of these are the so-called 'pyramids': Montaigne or Chartreux, Montaigu, Genillé and St Quentin. More correctly they should probably be called obelisks, but they are known to one and all as 'pyramids'. Dating from the 18th century, all are ever so slightly different in design. According to the information panel they were meeting points for mounted hunts [la chasse à courre].

pyramide de Genillé
Another of the information panels in the forest indicates the range of wildlife to be found: roe deer [chevreuil], red deer[cerf], pine martens[martre], beech martens [fouine] and a host of other beasties. It must have been our unlucky day as we saw nothing -- not even a red squirrel. We just heard lots of birds.

pyramide de St Quentin
Back at home that same day, around dusk, we were treated to the sight of our 'own' chevreuil walking through our neighbour's orchard to the south side of the house. We've never seen them pass to the south side before, but wonder if they decided to do so because the field on our northern boundary had just been sprayed by Eric, the farmer. Since then we've also twice seen the chevreuil ambling to and fro during the day -- they must know the hunting season is over.

30 comments:

the fly in the web said...

The old royal hunting domaines make wonderful recreational areas now...and most, I think have that layout of straight rides converging on central clearings....though they don't all have pyramids!

No jumping in French hunting!

Niall & Antoinette said...

@Fly - yes they all have pretty much the same layout of straight rides.

No indeed! They'd fall off and muddy their designer boots & jackets ;-)

Jane and Lance Hattatt said...

Hello Niall and Antoinette:
What an absolutely wonderful place this is. The mature trees and the avenues are incredibly impressive, such a marvellous spot to be able to walk and enjoy.

The obelisks act as perfect eye catchers to draw one in and make one feel the urge to explore the forest further. When we gardened in Herefordshire, we used a stone obelisk to mark the end of a walk and it had just the effect necessary to pull one along and walk towards it.

And, so fascinating that each of the obelisks has a different story to tell. Thank you so much for guiding us round!

The Broad said...

That period of French history concerning Henry II, Eleanor and 'the boys' is so interesting and so hard to keep straight! That part of France where you live is endlessly fascinating -- and you write about it so well.

Jean said...

thnks for the fascinating history of the pyramids. We have often driven by them and intended to stop and explore. Next time, perhaps !!

Niall & Antoinette said...

@Jane & Lance - it is a super place and you are so right -- each obelisk invites you in.

Niall & Antoinette said...

@Broad - they were a lively lot!
Before we moved we knew it was 'there'[12th cent English history], but hadn't really thought about how much it is literally on our doorstep.

Niall & Antoinette said...

@Jean - I'm sure Lulu would love it if you did :-)

Perpetua said...

Thanks so much for this. As fascinating and well-illustrated as ever. :-) There is a similar size forest to the south-east of us in France that has rides and etoiles but no pyramids that I have discovered.

Niall & Antoinette said...

@Perpetua - you're welcome :-)

On another note: AARRRGH ... I have just tried to comment on your lovely photos from your bathroom window and Blogger won't let me comment!! [cue gnashing of teeth]

Susan said...

The reason the pyramids are all different is so you knew where you were in the forest too. The forest is big enough that you could get lost, and to orient yourself you simply chose any straight ride, all of which would take you to an identifiable spot eventually ie a pyramid, or out of the forest.

Regarding the biodiversity of the forest, I've just received the species list for a fungi outing of the local botanical and mycological society from last year. Even though the forest was still in drought at the time of the outing they found over 100 species!

Niall & Antoinette said...

@Jean - just to let you know Blogger isn't letting me comment on your posts! Not sure how to fix this, it seems to be random...

Niall & Antoinette said...

@Susan - that's impressive; it is a very rich habitat.

GaynorB said...

We are always looking for new places to walk, especially in the summer when the temperatures are high - hopefully :0).

We'll add this to the list and have an idea as to the background.

Merci ...

Niall & Antoinette said...

@Gaynor - there's plenty of space and you'll find a few ponds dotted about as well which are pretty.

Susan said...

It just occurred to me that you could dodge the pyramid / obelisk dilemma entirely by referring to them as eyecatchers.

Niall & Antoinette said...

@Susan - needles or forest fingers? Or just those pointy things ;-)

LindyLouMac in Italy said...

What a fascinating place to be able to spend sometime.

Niall & Antoinette said...

@Lindy - it is especially nice in autumn when you see people hunting for fungi. We'd never dare as we don't have the knowledge.

Perpetua said...

Antoinette, I'm afraid the reason you can't now comment on my blog and Jean's (and Broad's too, I would think) is because we have switched to the embedded comment format and there is a problem with cookie authentication in some browsers with this format.

It's a known issue with Blogger and the engineers are supposed to be working on a fix, but I'm not holding my breath. You will probably have to adjust your cookie filter to allow cookies from blogger.com and blogspot.com if you want to be able to comment on this format. I gather it's a particular problem with Internet Explorer and a few months ago I downloaded Chrome specifically for blogging purposes, because I was so tired of the problems I was having using IE8.

The reason I changed format is that since the upgrade to the new Google look, the full-page format, which I've always used, no longer allows me to collapse comments and also doesn't allow people to subscribe to receive later comments by email, a facility I use a lot myself.

Given the number of comments and replies on many of my posts, having the comment box at the top of the page and the comment I'm replying to out of sight at the bottom just isn't practicable. Now I've worked with it I also very much like the threaded comments feature.

I'll pop back to read your reply when you've had time to consider the problem and the possible solution.

Susan said...

'Them pointy things' surely? :-) Seriously though, I do most often refer to them as eyecatchers when talking to clients - that is what they would be referred to as a class of object in English parkland, anyway.

Niall & Antoinette said...

@Perpetua - thanks for the helpful info. :-) I run Modzilla's Firefox as I am not a fan of IE.

Recently I altered some of my cookie settings. Have now reverted to previous settings and a quick check showed I could comment as of old on your blog so presumably that solves the problem! :-)

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