Day 9 – Saturday 23rd June
Today we had a plan or perhaps I should say we had an itinerary.
The first stop was Ruffec, a small but busy town. One thing we are learning is that if you arrive near lunchtime things rapidly quieten down. All the shops close, the streets empty and rapidly take on the appearance of a ghost town. All that is missing is the ubiquitous tumbleweed and the mysterious stranger.
Ruffec has narrow streets to explore with quite a variety of architectural styles. Ranging from ornate frontages with fancy balconies to the older buildings with exposed wooden beams. The 12c western frontage of the church is of interest as is the more but nonetheless very striking stain glass window at the eastern end of the church. Close to the church is a rectangular pool through which a river runs. Walking east along the stream brings you to a wooden structure with a tiled roof and many hanging baskets. Very picturesque but I’m not sure if it has any other purpose. Some of the leaflets we have acquired at the Tourist Information Offices have photos of similar structures and identify them as wash houses. Although they don’t clarify if the washing is of people or clothes. Further east there is a building, possibly a mill, with a waterwheel and the stream splits. One leg continuing east, one heading north.
On the leg heading north is a very pretty house and garden. The stream runs the full length of the back of the house and the garden while the road borders the other side, taking ground level to the second floor. The garden is at road level with a wall overlooking the stream. Running the full length of the back of the house is an iron balcony along which patrols a black dog. He was silent until I spoke to him. Trust me to break the peace and quiet.
From Ruffec we headed over to Nanteuil-en-Vallee, a pretty village with usual dominating church. This one built on the site of the Benedictine Abbey of Notre Dame.
Here on parkland, adjacent to the small car park, a family fete was in full swing with bouncy castle and barbecue. One thing we have noticed is how prevalent are village social events. I know we have them in England but here even the smallest hamlet seems to be doing something. Maybe it is another facet of the “co-op” farming methods which are spilling over into social life. Keeping people involved.
Another feature of Nanteuil-en-Vallee is the arboretum which features formal flower gardens, shady pathways and water gardens. This little oasis is worth the visit and entry is free.
There are small trickling brooks, shallow ponds and a river which encourage all manner of wildlife. Dragonflies and Damselflies of vivid hues, lizards darting among the leaves and even some sort of water rat that stopped to clean his whiskers at the waters edge.
While in a flower garden our attention was drawn by the loud calling of what we were convinced was a water bird. But when we reached the pond there were no birds to be seen. Instead the huge sound we heard had been created by a frog that immediately dove under water as we stepped onto the wooden walkway over his domain. We could see him and another below the surface and, although we waited for some time, he never resurfaced, Seems his lung capacity was greater than my patience.
After completing our perambulations we headed back to the car and so onto the next item on our itinerary.
Verteuil-sur-Charente is dominated by two buildings. The chateau and church of St Medard. Both of these impressive buildings have prominent positions looking down over the Charente.
Alongside the main bridge the river is diverted through a mill race, the old mill effectively built on an island. The mill is now a very pleasant restaurant and tea room with tables outside overlooking water on two sides. Inside the mill is still functioning, creating a comforting rumble as a backdrop. Unfortunately they were closed to new customers so we were too late to partake of their wares. Ces La Vie.
From here we headed home to Barbezieres for a welcome dinner and a well earned rest.