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Oak

Gazeteer of France’s great oak woods – Fontainebleau, royal, imperial and international

20 June 2019

The second largest forest in France, Fontainebleau, covers 20,000 hectares (49,400 acres) south of Paris. In this hunting preserve of the kings of France Bourbons succeeded Capetians and Valois, before Napoleon bid it a fond farewell.

Published in October 2018, the book The oak in majesty, from forest to winehighlights the concept of forest terroir: a specific soil, aspect, and rainfall, as well as a particular exposure to sunlight, to which should be added the species or variety of tree, the density of plantation, as well as average age, all of which will influence the grain and quality of the wood. The value of a mature high forest will thus depend on both the terroir and in the way in which it has been “led,” as French winegrowers say, or managed, in the words of the forester. 

The book, fully illustrated with photographies, compile, through a gazeteer with a lot of details about geography, mesoclimate and history, a list of twenty-six beautiful oak wood forests, as the forest of Fontainebleau.

 

The second largest forest in France, Fontainebleau, covers 20,000 hectares (49,400 acres) south of Paris. In this hunting preserve of the kings of France Bourbons succeeded Capetians and Valois, before Napoleon bid it a fond farewell. This historical diversity is reflected in the variety of its landscapes and forest species. Oak dominates (42%), followed by Scots pine (29%), fond of the sandy soil, and beech (17%). This mosaic of different greenery has earned it the ONF’s “exceptional forest” label. 

Relatively low-lying at between 40 and 140 meters (130 to 460 feet), and with rainfall varying from 400 to 600 mm (153⁄4-231⁄2 in.), this national forest belongs to the Atlantic category. Stretches of water and ponds are scattered all over the massif, source of the Ru de la Mare aux Evées which flows into the Seine. The arrival of the railroad in 1849 allowed Parisians easier access to the region, and contributed to its fame, amplified by the work of artists and photographers, to the point where the village of Barbizon was soon attracting Sunday-afternoon painters and wannabe artists from all over the world. 

A century later came climbers, and in their wake innumerable sportsmen. Campers and ramblers quite rightly feel quite at home here, but they have ended up endangering the forest. What should be the priority: oaks and beeches, or picnickers? The ONF has made its decision and as a result amended its regional development policy. The wholesale clearings that so enraged ecologists have come to an end, replaced by more natural management, with less regular but sustainable cover, without though leaving the forest to its own devices. A minor Cultural Revolution for the “Office”. 

 

Find out the entire gazeteer of France’s great oak woods, and much more, in The oak in majesty, from forest to winewritten by Sylvain Charlois and Thierry Dussard.

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