Château de Villaines – and an amazing vegetable garden!

Chateâu de Villaines B&B

A delightful 17th century château – but the big attraction is the vegetable garden!

Château de Villaines Bed & Breakfast

We found out about Château de Villaines and its garden when visiting another in the same area called the Manoir de Massonnière – they are only about 16km (10 miles) apart and 65km away from our home near Alençon, so it makes sense to visit both if you are visiting one.

Before visiting Château de Villaines we tried looking for this château and garden on the Internet – unfortunately I could find out nothing about it before we took a chance on visiting it a couple of weeks ago, in mid-July.  Thankfully, it was worth taking the chance!  By strange coincidence, the website for the château has also appeared in Google results in the past week (further details below).

Château de Villaines
© Chateau de Villaines

Château de Villaines is located between Louplande and Chemiré-le-Gaudin, 15km from Le Mans in the Sarthe department of the Pays de la Loire, France.

The château is built on the foundations of a much older medieval château-fort, of which all that remains is part of the defensive moat on the southern side.  The present buildings date from the early 17th century and the Château de VIllaines is typical of châteaux from that period, oriented with the main facades facing precisely north and south, and being long and slim to allow light to penetrate from windows on both sides, making it very light and airy.

The main buildings comprise the Château itself, the orangery in the north west corner of the garden, and a large pigeonnière to the south-west side where pigeons would once have been kept for eating.

The ground floor is partly open to visitors.  The beautiful wrought iron hall staircase is listed and is part of the original building, as is the dining room panelling.  The panelling in the drawing room was replaced after a fire at the beginning of the 19th century.

Chateau de Villaines Hall and Staircase
© Chateau de Villaines

Marc and Marie-José Forissier have been the owners since 1997 and are responsible for developing the garden as it appears today.  Before they began work  there was an English landscape garden in front of the house; this has been replaced by a formal French garden with clipped box topiary and lawns.  To the right of the house is a recently planted orchard, to the south the remains a large moat and many newly planted trees.

However, its main feature is an extraordinary “potager en carrés“, a highly formalised and decorative fruit and vegetable garden divided into dozens – if not hundreds – of raised square beds and surrounded by a high wall.  This garden covering 2.5 acres was restored by the present owners and recently featured in Le Figaro magazine and in a new book on this distinctive type of garden.

Chateau de Villaines - Potager en Carrés
© Chateau de Villaines

It includes a fine array of peonies, espaliered pear trees and apple trees trained in cordons.  An attractive collection of Old Climbing Roses trail across arches giving the garden height. In 2005 it was awarded the prize for best potager garden in France by the French Horticultural Society (Société Nationale d’Horticulture de France).

The garden is classed as a national “Jardin Remarquable” –  a title it well deserves.

Practical Information

Open all of June, July and September every day from 10h to 12h and 14h to 18h (NB closed in August)

2010 entry fee: 4€

Website: www.chateaudevillaines.fr

Access (route shown is from our B&B on the border of Normandy and Pays de la Loire).

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