I am grateful for a two week trip of a lifetime to France in May – and one of the destinations en route from Paris to the Loire Valley was Courances, a garden of Peace and Beauty, so I am sharing it with you today as my gift to you.
Five centuries of garden history. The layout is typical of a Renaissance Water Garden and Courances is the finest remaining example of this style of water garden in all of France.
This is the Allee d’Honneur, bordered by a pair of canals and a single and double line (above) of plane trees that were planted in 1783.
The Chateau was built in 1628, and as recently as 2010 a sympathetic restoration by the de Ganay family, that removed later embellishments in hopes of recapturing the simplicity of the original building.
Courances is 150 acres and had 14 springs that feed the 17 ponds.
Salle d’eau. Love the reflected cloud, why the pools are called Miroirs.
There is an intentional auditory dimension. The sound of water from these antique fountains that are thoughout the property as example. Springs, streams … gentle sounds are soothing.
Notice more of the fountains – beauty, function and auditory.
The sightlines and axis of the layout are important features and designs of the garden.
The garden is restrained and elegant, and part of the beauty is in the simplicity.
The Grande Canal is 600m long and the second one to be built in France, pre – dating the one built at Fontainbleau.
The Nappes has three levels of water, demonstrating the 16th century mastery of hydraulics. At Courances, there are no pumps or motors used to move water, the flow is enabled exclusively by subtle manipulation of water levels.
Many quiet places to pause.
View from the rear of the property to the Chateau. This pool is the Rond de Moingny. (more lovely reflecting).
This was the oldest tree on the property, tucked away from view.
Reverse view of Les Nappes.
The Miroir is a full two acres of water, reflects the Chateau and is the only 18th century feature. Courances was one of the first to install a reflecting pool, which was copied by Fontainbleau and Versailles.
The Chateau is privately owned and is the home to three generations of the de Ganay family, whose ancestors owned the property at the end of the 19th century. We had the great fortune to have a private tour by Valentine de Ganay, who wrote a beautiful book on Courances.
the Nymph Arethuse by sculptor Claude Poirier (1656 – 1729). This is a copy of the original that has resided in the Louvre since 2005.
After the last World War, the parks general outlines were simplified – fewer alleys, more green space for strolling, trees no longer trimmed geometrically and is called an evolution of design and taste over five centuries (married to the practicalities of maintenance).
Happy Christmas and Merry Holidays to you and your family! Thank you for reading.
All photos Sue Womersley.
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