IN THE AREA
Often referred to as the Pays de Ronsard, the valley of the Loir has been celebrated by writers through the ages for the gentle character of its landscape. To immerse yourself in the countryside of Ronsard’s native land, take one of the three suggested circular walks around Lavardin or walk part of the GR35 along the river.
The villages dotted along the valley are entwined with the landscape, and no more so than at Trôo which is almost completely made up of troglodytic dwellings.
Lavardin is closely linked to its nearest town – Montoire-surle-loir – which has its own ruined château overlooking the town and a tiny chapel dedicated to Saint Gilles. Legend has it that he lived in a wood subsisting on milk from a deer. He is reputed to heal nervous diseases in children (including bed-wetting). The chapel, whose walls are covered in medieval frescoes, was once part of a priory under Pierre de Ronsard’s jurisdiction. It is now privately owned but if you want to visit, collect the keys from the Café de la Paix in the main square.
But Montoire is most famous, or infamous, for the handshake that sealed the collaboration between Hitler and Pétain which took place on a train at Montoire station. Today you can take a train touristique from Thoré-la-rochette to Trôo, stopping at Montoire to explore the museum dedicated to the events of World War II. Before boarding at Thoré, sample a local wine or two at the maison du vin (at the station) or visit one of the wine producers in the village. Vin gris is a light rosé wine produced from the rare Pineau d’aunis cépage (tastings available at Domaine Patrice Colin in Thoré, tel: (Fr) 2 54 72 80 73).
A few kilometres from Lavardin is the Jardin du Plessis Sasnières (jardin-plessis-sasnieres.fr) which I can highly recommend. Created entirely by Rosamée Henrion, it is much inspired by English gardens such as Hidcote. “I also pinched the idea of a tea room and boutique from my visits to English gardens,” she confided. The idea of ‘letting nature do its thing’ works exceptionally well here, given the nature of the site with its steep wooded hill as a backdrop to the peaceful lake and walled garden. Rosamée admits that she is more interested in shrubs and trees than flowers per se but there is plenty of variety of colour here as well as structure.
ABOVE: The house and gardens at Plessis Sasnières;
RIGHT: Medieval frescoes in Montoire chapel