|route forestière de Georges d'Amboise|
Just outside Loches, running roughly SE to NW is the forê
t 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.