A small village in the Loire Valley has turned itself into a giant rose garden, to the delight of visitors including Carolyn Boyd
The sweet scent of roses fills the air in Chédigny, a tiny village that lies in the rolling hills just south of the River Loire. Yet Chédigny’s modest size does not mean it cannot compete in terms of splendour when compared with the magnificent châteaux that lie in the countryside around it. Chédigny is both a village and a rose garden and in fact it is France’s only village designated a ‘jardin remarquable’ an accolade they won last year having been named a ‘village garden’ by the national council of parks and gardens in 2013. Its pretty stone houses and manicured streets are bedecked with 800 rose bushes, with some 250 different varieties.
The result is simply charming and once you know how quickly the village has achieved it, it is even more impressive. Ex-pat resident Roxanna McDonald, an architect who owns and has restored the nearby Chateau de Breuil, explains to me that the roses were the brainchild of the mayor Pierre Louault and his wife who wanted to make the village even more attractive and have it in keeping with some of the area’s amazing chateau gardens. “This was ten years ago,” she says, “when the village had already gained notoriety for its blues festival.” The festival finished in 2012 after running annually for 15 years. Louault, who has been mayor since 1977, set about planting the roses up every wall and house façade, it has an annual rose festival and even its own variety of rose.
Now, after a decade you can see why it deserves the praise it gets. “Everyone is very proud of the village,” says Roxanna, who came to live here in 1995. “It is remarkable what this little village of 565 inhabitants has achieved. The blues festival was so successful that even Mick Jagger tweeted about it, and now it’s the only village in France to be designated ‘Jardin Remarquable’, and of course the Rose Festival attracts thousands of people every year”.
Although it is no longer the village’s main draw, the Blues festival does have a wonderful story behind it; between 1976 and 1997, the village staged different shows that told the historical stories of the village. In 1990, they took their show about the French revolution to a competition in Memphis in Tennessee, which they won, and while they were there the idea of a blues festival was born. In its 15-year run, the festival attracted some big names such as Big Joe Turner, not to mention some 6000 visitors, before the festival outgrew the village.
Though the rose festival attracts similar numbers, the day-to-day village is tranquil and serene. We walk down from Chateau de Breuil for our stroll (visitors not staying there can park in the small car park close to the bridge over the River Indrois) and head towards the village turning left into the Rue du Lavoir at the hotel-restaurant Le Clos des Roses. This road takes you past some of the prettiest houses; colourful shutters are surrounded in blooms, and picket fences surround residents’ gardens that are lost amid a tangle of rose bushes. The Rue du Lavoir leads you towards Le Pressoir, the village’s old press that is now one of many exhibition and concert spaces in the village.
A little further on at the end of the street a new bakery opened last year, and serves coffee and cakes. Doubling back on yourself walk along to the charming little antique bookshop the Librarie Pierre de Ronsard, before turning left into Place de la Mairie. Here the Mairie and the primary school form the heart of the village. A little further along is the church, the Eglise Saint Pierre-es-Liens. This pretty little church dates from the 13th, 16th and 19th centuries and is a quiet little space to stop and think a while. Though it may be small, the village is captivating and it’s easy to see why people such as Roxanna would make it their home, and a home to be proud of.
Chédigny at a glance
Stay the night at:
Château de Breuil (tel: (Fr) 2 47 92 55 88, www.sawdays.co.uk) is a short walk from the village and is a great for a family stay in the area. Friendly and welcoming owner Roxanna McDonald has restored much of the chateau from a tumbledown wreck – with owls nesting in the bedrooms and mice running amok – which was once the seat of the local seigneur. It sleeps up to eight in four bedrooms or up to 14 if you also rent the annexe, but despite its size, the rooms are cosy, welcoming and packed with fascinating historical artefacts, antiques and vintage finds.
Stop for a coffee at:
Boulangerie-Salon du Thé Abdel Ylisa
44 Rue du Lavoir. Tel: (Fr) 2 47 59 91 19.
A brand new bakery with a few simple tables for enjoying coffee and cakes inside. Coffee can be taken away, so why not take a stroll with a coffee in your hand?
Stop for lunch at:
Le Clos aux Roses
2 Rue du Lavoir, 37310 Chedigny. Tel: (Fr) 2 47 92 20 29, www.leclosauxroses.fr
Set in the heart of the village, this elegant restaurant and chambre d’hotes offers great food, friendly service and a lovely atmosphere. Menus from €28.
What to see:
* If you can coincide your visit with the village’s Fetes des Roses, then you will see it literally and figuratively in full bloom. The sweet scents of hundreds of different rose varieties fill the air, while jazz bands make the event go with a swing. There are dozens of stalls selling the roses, along with other craft stalls and refreshments. Several of the residents open their houses as art galleries and other village buildings, such as the village Pressoir open their doors for exhibitions. This year’s event, its 10th anniversary, runs on the 30-31 May.
* Walkers will enjoy the village’s 13-km circuit that starts at Chedigny and links up with two other pretty villages Azay-sur-Indre and Chambourg-sur-Indre. The route takes you past the 15th-century chateau de Follaine, along part of the River Indrois, through woods and over hills with lovely views. The Touraine Loire Valley tourist office has a leaflet detailing the route, which can also be downloaded from the website (www.touraineloirevalley.com).
* The village has many crafts people living in the village, and so there are several exhibitions running throughout the year in Le Pressoir (the old village press), and other ateliers. Look out for the work of such artists as photographer Bertrand Cardon, ceramicist Danielle Cournu and painter Jean Luneau. The exhibition space L’Arbre also has exhibitions.
Chédigny is just over three hours drive from Caen ferry port, driving via Le Mans and Tours. It is just over five hours from Calais, driving via Rouen and Le Mans. Carolyn and family travelled via Roscoff, which takes five hours via Laval and Le Mans. Brittany Ferries offer crossings from Plymouth to Roscoff for £244 for a family of four taking a car and sharing an en-suite cabin.
For more on the village, contact the Mairie, tel: (Fr) 2 47 92 51 43 or visit www.chedigny.fr
Touraine Valley tourist office, tel: (Fr) 2 47 70 37 37, www.tourainevalley.co.uk; Loches tourist office, tel: (Fr) 2 47 91 82 82, www.loches-tourainecotesud.com; Amboise tourist office, tel: (Fr) 2 47 57 09 28, www.amboise-valdeloire.com.
In the area
Chedigny makes a great base for exploring some of the best sights the Loire Valley offers. Set in the rolling hills, with forests, rivers and farmland, the area around the village is peaceful and unspoiled. Just half an hour north is the lovely town of Amboise, with cobbled streets and tranquil riverside setting. As well as the 15th and 16th-century Chateau Royal d’Amboise perched above the town, there is also the Clos Luce, where Leonardo de Vinci spent his final years.
Just outside Amboise, and only 10 minutes drive from Chedigny is the splendid Chateau de Chenonceau, whose arches elegantly span the River Cher and whose gardens are impressive in themselves. Just outside Amboise is the fascinating Pagode de Chanteloup, a 44-metre Chinese pagoda built in the 18th century. It is the only remaining part of the Chateau de Chanteloup that was dismantled in the 1820s.
Just ten minutes south of Chedigny is the small town of Loches. Its turretted 44-metre-high Renaissance keep dominates the town and its Wednesday market is one of the best in the area.
The smaller Chateau de Montpoupon makes for an interesting day out. With a museum dedicated to hunting, with badges, trophies and pretty calligraphic invitations to hunts, as well as impressive painted ceilings, an exhibition of Hermes scarves, it makes an intriguing alternative to the big-hitter sights.
For those who like to sight-see on two wheels, the seven different wine trails in the area allows riders to get to know some of the area’s most famous vineyards with the help of signposts and information boards, as well as see chateaux and gardens, and troglodyte caves.