Starting from Cognac the green trail heads towards the northeast of the winegrowing country. It crosses the Charente river and enters the charming valley of the Antenne, home of the unrepentant angler, which serves Cherves Richemont. This many facetted commune possesses a rich heritage of romanesque churches, chateaux, manors, and mills.
The art of living
In 1692 Jacques Perrin from Boussac, a wealthy trader in eaux-de-vie, had built for his pleasure a manor characteristic of the art of living « à la française » in the 16th and 17th centuries. Today, the owners of this house, which is now classified as a historic monument, set out to offer to the day traveller a glimpse of the splendours of olden times and, to the overnight visitor, sleep in a four-poster bed.
If the manor of Boussac impresses you by its charm, then it is the majesty of the Chateau of Chesnel that you will admire. Completed in 1610 the chateau has a central part entirely crenellated, flanked by square towers and surrounded by moats.
From time to time make a detour from the main green trail, either to take advantage of a gastronomic visit, to indulge in an impromptu wine or cognac tasting, to visit an important site, or call on the workshop of a craftsman.
The long history of vines
At the Moulin de Prézier a study centre of the Charentais vineyard is being created. The aim is to recreate the heritage of Charentais vinegrowing through a unique collection of local stock and ancient graft stock. Seventy different varieties used since the 18th century in the cognac area have been planted in different experimental plots. The future crops will be used for educational purposes and for vine and wine research. This truly living museum of the vine plays its part in the cultural and environmental context of todayâ€™s world.
Dotted along our trail are typical winegrowing villages: Sigogne with its two beautiful shaded squares and its Church in vaulted romanesque style, crowned by a harmonious square tower; Foussignac with its numerous wells including a very ancient one called « Well of the Ages »; Merignac and its miraculous fountain next to the River Guirlande; Fleurac and its headdress museum; Vaux-Rouillac with its tiered portals half-turned towards the square courtyards framed by wine stores, and… its brewery called « La Goule ».
The legend of the quichenotte headdress is so charming that one hopes that it is true. In the Middle Ages, it is said, the women of Angoumois and Saintonge, surprised in the vineyards by the English soldiers, defended themselves from their ardent advances by stammering « kiss not » after pulling the two large wings of their head-dresses in front of their faces. Alongside the rustic quichenottes, developped originally to protect feminine skin from sun and wind, the museum at Fleurac also displays delicate lace and organdie dresses, ruffs and ribbons.
Théâtre des bouchauds - Germanicomagus
According to local history the gallo-roman origin of Rouillac is linked to the name of a certain Rullus who is thought to have built a villa alongside the Via Agrippa. In a similar way the celebrated fair on the 27th of each month (one of the most important in the area) is perhaps directly descended from an ancient commercial festival, of which the statuette of Epona, goddess and protector of horses and crops, is symbolic.
Very close to the main green trail , the woods at Les Bouchauds shelter the rural sanctuary of Germanicomagus. Its amphitheatre, which could hold up to 5-6,000 spectators is one of the biggest in Roman Gaul. Remains of temples and thermal baths complete the archaeological site.
Each year at the end of June the theatre comes to festive life again with the arrival of the Sarabandes des Bouchauds. The actors lead the spectators night and day in an interactive and rustic fiesta, in the course of which artistic flair and frank conviviality juggle for expression.
Abbey at Marcillac Lanville
After Gourville, of which the mediaeval chateau has preserved only its square tower protected by machicolation, the green trail ends at the Priory of Marcillac-Lanville. Our trail then joins one of the secondary routes taken by the pilgrims on theirjourney to Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle.
Linked to the Abbey of Saint-Amant-de-Boixe, the site of Marcillac-Lanville is one of the halts marking the pilgrimâ€™s route to Saint-Jacques.
Lignières, king of Fins Bois
At the heart of the vast winegrowing property of Renault Bisquit stands a Renaissance-style château, symbol of those great days when cognac was king.
Beyond Verdille, the vineyard trail extends its roots into the Ruffec area on the northernmost edge of the wine-producing area of Charente. Old winegrowersâ€™ mansions lead from one hamlet to another, eventually reaching the large town of Aigre, the symbolic gateway to the Cognac area and still the home of one of the largest merchant firms in the region.
In Aigre, there was a long tradition of cognac trading and merchants were known as "Aigriers". They had a well-established reputation in the trade and brandy travelled overland to Orléans and Paris.
From there, a selection of different routes* leads to the main Poitiers-Angoulême road. You can head for Ruffec via the historic village of Tusson, or drive through the Charente Valley to Mansle.
* Dotted with botanic gardens and special interest gardens.
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