Détente au bord d'un étang à La Ferté-Saint-Aubin © D. Templier - CRT Centre-Val de Loire

Sologne
Succumb to the charms of Sologne

In France, Sologne is often synonymous to hunting, fine properties and châteaux for the wealthy elite. I also believed in this image. That was before I discovered Sologne's lesser-known secrets; before I let myself be swept away by its stories and its History...! With my map, my compass and may backpack... off I set. Ready, steady, walk:

the tale of my immersion in Sologne...

Mysterious Sologne...

First of all, it is a festival for the eyes: forests, moorlands, heathers, ponds and rivers, swathed in the morning mist... Greenery, the enchantment of the dawn and dusk hues, the smell of the undergrowth; only then did I begin to grasp its reputation as 'mysterious Sologne'. In fact, Sologne's landscape evolved under Napoleon III, who was keen to hunt there. He had pinasters planted, canals hollowed out and marshes drained. From a marshy land propitious to fishing, Sologne became an excellent hunting ground. For a long time considered as 'select', the area is now open to all, across its many marked walking routes.

Did you know that hunting for big animals was a privilege reserved for the lords, whereas hunting smaller game, either using bows or falcons, was far more popular? Hunting became a more organised pursuit after the French Revolution. In the late 19th century, hiring out land for the purposes of hunting was far more profitable than agriculture! Indeed, it was during that period – the golden age of hunting grounds when poaching was rife -  that Sologne's cynegetic fate was sealed;  So there I was, in total immersion, in true 'Raboliot' style.  Here, my classical novels sprung to mind, and I recalled reading Maurice Genevoix' famous Goncourt prize-winner on the life of a poacher from Sologne. Today, hunting federations are highly active in preserving local game (ducks, pheasants, partridges, rabbits and hares, deer, roe deer and boars).

Along the coast road
What I discovered

Once on site, it's a great pleasure to dawdle along the forest paths and across the village squares...

These typical small villages with their red brick houses seem to emerge from nowhere as one meanders along the forest roads. They offer charming stopovers for a gourmet break over some quite exceptional country fare. The presence of Napoleon III in Sologne is what helped breathe new life into these villages. Sologne's landscapes and traditional architecture are quite characteristic: here, widespread use has been made of brick, wood and cob.

And on the subject of architecture, the Sologne forest is also home to the oldest small-scale brick manufacturer in the region, La Bretèche - a five generation family business since 1890. Mixing, moulding, drying, stacking, firing: I have almost become an expert on brick making! La Bretèche is a jewel in the Sologne crown: its age-old skills have earned the firm an excellent reputation in the manufacture of bricks and tiles that don colours reminiscent of bygone days. It's no surprise that the French Historic Monuments commission finds all the material it needs here to restore the most illustrious of edifices, such as the Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte, the Hospices de Beaune, the façade of the Orléans court of audit or the flooring of the Château de Chambord.

Initially a poor region, Sologne, a landscape of forests and ponds often haloed in mist, has naturally inspired many a popular belief, essentially on the theme of water. These beliefs, where witchcraft and devotion rub shoulders, have left an indelible mark on the environment in the form of fountains and chapels that you can discover in the heart of the Sologne woodlands.

Promenade en forêt en Sologne © D. Templier - CRT Centre-Val de Loire

Promenade en forêt en Sologne © D. Templier - CRT Centre-Val de Loire

Promenade en forêt en Sologne © D. Templier - CRT Centre-Val de Loire

Promenade en forêt en Sologne © D. Templier - CRT Centre-Val de Loire

Château de la Ferté-Saint-Aubin © A. Rue ADRT Loiret

Château de la Ferté-Saint-Aubin © A. Rue ADRT Loiret

Not to be missed:

Des balades en pleine nature © B. Quintard - CRT CVDL
Des balades en pleine nature © B. Quintard - CRT CVDL

A stroll through the heart of nature's best

whether you opt for the GR 3C walking route, that crosses the Loiret part of Sologne from east to west, or you prefer a stroll along the white sandy pathways that meander their way through the trees, this is the perfect place for you to try to spot the odd Scots pine, European black pine, great spotted woodpecker, Eurasian jay, bell heather, common heather or besom heath. You can hear the deer bellow and watch the wild ducks as they fly over the pond. Watch out for the great crested grebe as it nests on its raft of reeds, the rare purple heron or the strange bittern. Observe the large animals that are at home here. Distinguish, in the narrow gaps between the branches, the outline of a red brick castle, as if you were part of a fairy tale. Sologne abounds with such little miracles.

The Domaine du Ciran

The Conservatory of Sologne's fauna and flora. Here, the visitor can learn how to find his direction, to gather edible mushrooms, to identify a fresh boar's footprint, to listen out for the bellow of the mating stag as he struts before the female... The Domaine du Ciran is like a brief summary of all the natural heritage Sologne has to offer, via its ponds, its dry and damp moorlands, its thickets and its forests. In addition, it also offers a vast programme of events and the adjacent farm still produces goat's cheese.

We particularly like: the mushroom week, early October. The whole family can enjoy a day out collecting their own. And it's with a full basket that the youngest enthusiasts like to study their harvest with the nature guide, before heading home with some useful tips on how to prepare their own home-made pan-fried mushrooms with fresh herbs.

Le Domaine du Ciran © Domaine du Ciran
Le Domaine du Ciran © Domaine du Ciran
Le château de la Ferté-saint-Aubin © A. Rue ADRT Loiret
Le château de la Ferté-saint-Aubin © A. Rue ADRT Loiret

The Château de la Ferté-Saint-Aubin

Is an elegant classical property that unquestionably enhances the country landscape. La Ferté-Saint-Aubin, the symbol of the Sologne made of woodlands and ponds, is home to this fine private property; the ideal opportunity to discover the many facets of life at the château, through play, festivities and gourmet delights.

We particularly like: the furnished rooms you can visit as you please. And there are no ropes here to cordon off room areas – everything is accessible - yet calls for the visitor's respect. And your tour is concluded with a taste of the Château de la Ferté-Saint-Aubin's famous madeleine cakelets!

The Ecomuseum

The Ecomuseum in Ligny-le-Ribault is entirely devoted to Sologne's old trades and customs and is home to a 'hunting and poaching corner' sure to arouse your curiosity.

A Ligny-le-Ribault ©Ecomusée
A Ligny-le-Ribault ©Ecomusée

Sortir en Sologne dans le Loiret

A PLACE TO SLEEP

A PLACE TO SLEEP in Sologne ?

Hotels Campsites Guest House

Who to contact

Ferté-St-Aubin – Portes de Sologne Tourist Office

Rue des Jardins

45240 LA-FERTE-ST-AUBIN

Tel: 0033 (0)2.38.64.67.93

 

www.otsilafertesaintaubin.com