Hunt­ing in the Sologne

We visit the me­dieval royal hunt­ing ground-turned wet­land par­adise

French Property News - - Contents -

“So In­tense” – that’s the tourist board slo­gan for La Sologne, the un­spoilt re­gion of wood­land and wet­land in north-cen­tral France where King François I es­tab­lished his royal hunt­ing ground some 500 years ago.

Per­haps it refers to the vivid au­tumns of its dense forests, the pink flow­ers of its heath­land, the vi­brant orange bricks of its dis­tinc­tive half-tim­bered houses or the misty magic of its lakes, pools, rivers and marshes.

Ly­ing south of the re­gional cap­i­tal Or­léans and the mighty Loire, east of Blois, west of Gien and north of Vier­zon, the Sologne is mainly in the Loir-et-cher de­part­ment with Cher and Loiret mak­ing up the rest.

If you en­joy hunt­ing, shoot­ing and fish­ing, this is the place for you for not only do wild boar, deer, quail and pheas­ant roam the forests but eel, carp, perch, pike fill the rivers. If you pre­fer shoot­ing wildlife dig­i­tally, set off on foot and you are sure to come back with a full mem­ory card of photos. And if you’d rather sit back and see the sights, sad­dle up and dis­cover the Sologne on horse­back.

For cul­ture vul­tures there are sev­eral strik­ing châteaux, in­clud­ing Chev­erny, Chenon­ceaux and Cham­bord – once François I’s hunt­ing lodge and now a world-fa­mous em­blem of Re­nais­sance ar­chi­tec­ture. Paris is just 200km to the north while Tours, pré­fec­ture of the In­dre-et-loire, is half that dis­tance to the west.

Still wa­ters I’d like to talk about prop­erty in La Sologne des Etangs, an area bordered by the A10, A71 and A85 mo­tor­ways. I have taken as a cen­tre the vil­lage of Vernou-en-sologne, right in the heart of the étangs (large ponds) sur­rounded by the forests of Chev­erny, Boulogne and Bru­adan. You re­ally need to have a good map in front of you to fully ap­pre­ci­ate the wa­tery na­ture of th­ese parts.

There are plenty of quiet lit­tle vil­lages and ham­lets to choose from. If you pre­fer to be close to the shops you should go for one of the old brick vil­lage houses typ­i­cal of the re­gion, says Eric Tha­raud at Im­mo­bilier de Sologne. They are of­ten ter­raced and have a lit­tle court­yard or gar­den at the rear. As soon as you move away from the cen­tre you find small de­tached prop­er­ties, again in brick. They usu­ally have a gar­den and may have out­build­ings.

De­spite its royal links, Eric ex­plains that the an­cient re­gion of Sologne is his­tor­i­cally a poor, ru­ral and work­ing-class one. The vast marshy area ( marécage), was drained out in the mid 19th cen­tury un­der the short reign of France’s

sec­ond and last em­peror Napoleon III (you will find him buried in the crypt of St-michael’s Abbey in Farn­bor­ough, Hamp­shire – but that is an­other story).

Be­fore Napoleon III there was noth­ing, con­tin­ues Eric. So apart from a few ear­lier do­maines and hunt­ing châteaux, most houses date from the late 19th or early 20th cen­tury. With the ar­rival of many in­dus­tries, no­tably those man­u­fac­tur­ing tiles and bricks thanks to the large amount of clay in the Sologne, this pe­riod be­came known as the âge d’or.

Coun­try life Prices here are rel­a­tively low. You can quite eas­ily find in th­ese small towns and vil­lages – be it Vernou-en-sologne, Ne­ung-surBeu­vron to the east, Mon­trieux-en-sologne, La Marolle-en-sologne – vil­lage houses of 80m2 -100m2 à re­ta­per ( re­quir­ing some work) for around €80,000-€90,000. If you want some­thing a lit­tle larger with a bit more land, for €100,000-€150,000 “on peut trou­ver son bon­heur” – a use­ful ex­pres­sion which you hear of­ten, mean­ing you can find ex­actly what you’re look­ing for, your heart’s de­sire.

How­ever, if you have set your heart on one of the Sologne’s hunt­ing es­tates – a pro­priété d’agré­ment or de chasse is the de­scrip­tion you will hear used – add a zero. The most re­cent sale of this or­der was a brick château, not far from Sal­bris, which sold for over €4m.

Not ev­ery­body wants to hunt, of course; you may be look­ing for an at­trac­tive large prop­erty for other leisurely fam­ily hol­i­day pur­suits. Hap­pily there is a wide range avail­able so you can also find smaller pro­priétés d’agré­ment with a hand­ful of hectares for your horses in the €200,000-€400,000 bracket. “But when you start see­ing prop­er­ties with 100 hectares and houses of 400-500m2 with out­build­ings and wood­land – that’s when you see prices climb­ing,” says Eric.

Town life If you pre­fer to be in town have a look at sous-pré­fec­ture Ro­morantin-lan­thenay, Sal­bris or Lamotte-beu­vron for char­ac­ter­is­tic brick-

built de­tached ter­raced houses. Win­dow open­ings are small, with roof­ing in small lo­cal tiles. Apart­ments ex­ist but are rare.

Ro­morantin-lan­thenay, the cap­i­tal of the Sologne, is close to the A85 mo­tor­way. This is less prac­ti­cal for road ac­cess from the UK than the other two smaller towns which are near the north-south A71, but bet­ter placed if you fly into Tours-val-de-loire air­port, or, a cou­ple of hours away, Li­mo­ges air­port to the south.

It has quite a rich his­toric cen­tre, Eric says, and you can find good op­por­tu­ni­ties for about €100,000 for around 100m2. In­deed, prices rarely ex­ceed €150,000 in th­ese ru­ral sec­tors. You find sim­i­lar types of prop­erty in Sal­bris and Lamotte-beu­vron, both with ex­its from the north-south A71 mo­tor­way, al­though Eric points out that Ro­morantin is larger, older and per­haps pret­tier, with more an­cient re­mains.

Vil­lage life If you pre­fer coun­try to town but still want to buy your baguette or pick up your poulet lo­cally you will find neigh­bour­hood shops and ser­vices in Ne­ung-sur-beu­vron, for ex­am­ple, which also has schools, a doc­tor and phar­macy. Eric’s for­eign clien­tele tends to be Dutch rather than

The story goes that one Sun­day at the opening of the hunt­ing sea­son Stéphanie was pre­par­ing an ap­ple tart for hun­gry hunters. In the heat of the mo­ment, she ab­sent­mind­edly for­got to line the tin with pas­try and popped it into the oven with just ap­ples in it. Re­al­is­ing her mis­take, she de­cided to sim­ply add the pas­try on top of the ap­ples, cooked the tart in this way, turned it out and served it ‘up­side down’. The hunters much ap­pre­ci­ated this new dish and thus was born the fa­mous tarte Tatin.

Es­tate life Ber­nadette ex­plains that the châteaux in Sologne are usu­ally con­structed in brick and gen­er­ally date from the late 19th-cen­tury. We’re not far from Blois, in the Loire Val­ley, where you have a few houses with a bit of tuffeau stone, the lo­cal fine-grained lime­stone, but that’s rare here, she says.

Buy­ers pur­chase the larger es­tates not nec­es­sar­ily be­cause they are sports­men but sim­ply to be able to walk through the woods. “We have more wood­land than plain around Vernou-en-sologne,” says Ber­nadette. “There is no doubt that if you want land you will find what you de­sire in Sologne.” For ex­am­ple, she is

cur­rently mar­ket­ing a prop­erty with 40 hectares near Vernou for €1.2m.

Do­maines can vary be­tween 10 and 200 hectares al­though the lat­ter are rare, she adds. She con­firms that th­ese prop­er­ties are ideal for keep­ing horses be­cause, as well as wood­land, there are of­ten a few fields around the build­ings.

The soil here is rel­a­tively poor, she con­tin­ues. It is not the clay-chalk soil you find north of the Loire in La Beauce, the re­gion im­mor­talised by the 19th-cen­tury nov­el­ist and play­wright Emile Zola in La Terre. “So we don’t in gen­eral have fan­tas­tic crop yields. Peo­ple will cul­ti­vate crops for their an­i­mals or to at­tract wild boar for hunt­ing but not to earn money.” Cul­ti­va­tion also main­tains the soil and pre­vents the cre­ation of waste­land.

Ren­o­va­tion life If you are in search of a ren­o­va­tion project you may just find one al­though over the past 15 years or so many for­mer farms have been bought up, ren­o­vated and resold, says Ber­nadette. Most of her clients are buy­ing sec­ond homes. How­ever, thanks to the train sta­tion in Lamotte-beu­vron, folk who are still work­ing do so mainly in Or­léans or in the French cap­i­tal, which you can reach in 90 min­utes. Ber­nadette thinks Lamotte-beu­vron may be the new cap­i­tal of the Sologne. “When peo­ple buy, they want to buy near Lamotte. Why? Be­cause there’s the train sta­tion and the mo­tor­way.”

There is in­deed easy road ac­cess from the A10, A71 and A85 mo­tor­ways, and trains from Paris-auster­litz stop at Lamotte-beu­vron, Sal­bris and Vier­zon. If you’re in­tent on trav­el­ling un­der your own steam you can ar­rive by bike via the Loire à Vélo cy­cle trail from Muides-sur-loire and St-dyé-sur-loire. Al­ter­na­tively, you could travel by Shanks’s pony on the long dis­tance walk­ing path GR41 (GR stands for grande ran­don­née) to the south via the Cher val­ley and Ro­morantin, or fur­ther east from the Berry via the GR31.

So you see, there’s ab­so­lutely no ex­cuse for not get­ting your­self down to the Sologne. See you there!

Château de Moulin at Lass­say-sur-croisne is known as the pearl of the Sologne

A wild boar with her young

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