Gazeteer of France’s great oak woods – Perseigne, valiantly regional17 September 2019
Published in October 2018, the book The oak in majesty, from forest to wine highlights 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 Perseigne.
At the culminating point of the Sarthe, rising to 350 meters (1,150 feet), sits the forest of Perseigne, extending over 5,100 hectares (12,600 acres) east of Alençon. A fiefdom of the counts of Perche, the forest was nationalized in 1791, and today forms part of the Regional Natural Park of Normandy-Maine. Its soils consist of sandstone and schist, a terroir favorable to the oak that here represents the majority of broadleafs (80%), together with beech, birch, and aspen. The Nardos forest house at Neufchâtel-en-Saosnois is today a meeting-point for hikers and riders.
Perseigne is prolonged by the forest of Bellême (2,400 ha; 5,930 acres), still more to the east, which is no less rich in oaks for stavewood. There is also the forest of Réno-Valdieu (1,645 ha; 4,065 acres) in the Orne, comprised of 77% sessile oaks, some of which dateback to the time of Louis XIV. It formed part of the forests of Réno and Valdieu, that once belonged to the Carthusian monastery, and were amalgamated after the Revolution.
“The wood can be a bit on the pink side, but the rings are so close together you can’t count them,” one forester remarked. It is one of the pearls of the Regional Natural Park of the Perche, crossed by the GR22 walking trail.
Find out the entire gazeteer of France’s great oak woods, and much more, in The oak in majesty, from forest to wine written by Sylvain Charlois and Thierry Dussard.