Sologne, a 2000-sq mile region about two hours south of Paris, doesn’t make headlines, and yet… Driving around between ancient churches, always on the lookout for quirky lore, we followed signs to La Maison des Étangs (House of Ponds), centuries-old half-timbered and wattle houses, restored with love by a local association, now home to exhibits about area history. For starters, imagine 3000 ponds, covering 24,000 acres, a network created by Benedictine monks in the 12th century to raise pike and perch for their meatless diets, by diverting streams to fill natural hollows in the clayey terrain, constructing wooden sluice gates between them for periodic drainage to harvest fish and clear away water weeds. Soon a prosperous local economy and ecosystem developed, providing food and work for the inhabitants, based on traditional crafts and agriculture: hemp crops for cloth, rope and nets, cattle grazing, cheese-making, carpentry, thatching, basket weaving, ceramics…
From the wars of religion to the Revolution, the monks were killed off and their property confiscated or abandoned. Without maintenance, weeds choked the ponds, suffocating the fish, sole predators feeding on mosquito larvae. Over two centuries, malaria decimated the population until Jesuit monks brought quinquina bark from South America to cure the deadly fevers. By the mid-19th century, malaria disappeared, life returned to the villages and ponds and rich industrialists began buying up tracts of land to create vast hunting estates that make up the landscape to this day.
Fascinating to see how the great wheel turns…Tourism and forestry are thriving. You might cross paths with 1000-lb stags and families of wild boar.
Nice hotel and restaurant, Le logis du parc:
Horseback riding, Wild West show:
Pastry shop with handmade chocolates:
None of this is on Wikipedia, in English or French!
The map is not the territory… xxxxxx Aliss