When you choose a campsite in Sarlat (Camping à Sarlat), the heart of Dordogne, expect to become one with nature and be prepared to be taken back in time.
The Department of Dordogne, belonging to the largest region of France, New Aquitaine, brings together the “four” Périgords: Black for the dark green of its walnut trees, its holm oaks and chestnut trees; the White for his wheat; Green for its meadows and orchards and Purple for the wine from its vineyards.
The Dordogne (9000 km2 for 400,000 inhabitants) is a land of farmers proud of their land and their tasty products. A few hours by TGV from Brussels – France, it is the country of walnuts, truffles, foie gras, the vineyards of Bergerac, Pécharmant, and sweet Monbazillac. It is also the Department which brings together, in France, the largest number of towns labeled “The most beautiful villages in France” and no less than 80 castles. It is also a land steeped in history, besides being erected in the Middle Ages and fortified castles and its territory concentrates the greatest number of prehistoric sites. It is hardly surprising that it is so appreciated by tourists, among whom the Belgians are not the least numerous.
In the land of castles, gardens are kings
The “Grandeur Nature” team has chosen to embark on its journey in the Dordogne by discovering one of the many jewels of the Périgord Noir: the hanging gardens of Marqueyssac. Overlooking the Dordogne river, one of the most beautiful rivers in Europe, classified as a world biosphere reserve by Unesco and the prestigious castles of Castelnaud – and its famous museum of “War in the Middle Ages” – and Beynac, these gardens at la française welcome 200,000 visitors a year. On March 24, they will celebrate the 25th anniversary of their opening to the public. Biologist, Jean Lemoussu, with the predestined name, is the head gardener of a team of 6 to 10 people (in high season) who jealously watch over the maintenance and health of the 150,000 century-old boxwood trees pruned by hand and all in roundness.
“This 19th-century garden was completely restored in 1996. It is a single-specific garden in which the boxwood is pruned in a very particular way. The advantage of boxwood is that it is very easy to model.”
Marqueyssac is 15 hectares of park and gardens and 6 kilometers of paths, lined with holm oaks, with very dark foliage, so typical of the Périgord Noir.
“More precisely, we are here in the Sarladais, a few kilometers from Sarlat, the town with the largest number of listed historic monuments. The landscapes of the Sarladais are very particular, shaped by the hills and crossed by the Dordogne river, while round and soft.”
The head gardener takes us to one of Marqueyssac’s boxwood tunnels:
“These boxwoods have never been pruned since they were planted in the 19th century. The trees are about ten meters high. exceptional.”
The boxwood tunnel leads to a wide esplanade, adorned with an old-style kiosk. The view of the hills at the foot of which flows the Dordogne is magical:
“This is one of the only flat places in Marqueyssac which alternates elsewhere between small spaces and winding paths. The atmosphere completely breaks with that of the gardens This is where lavish receptions were held in the 19th century. It is also here that our events take place.”
One of Marqueyssac’s other assets is its “Via Ferrata des Rapaces”, an acrobatic course laid out on the side of the cliff overlooking the Dordogne valley. The 200-meter course is accessible from the age of 8, from mid-April to mid-November: there is no question of bothering the troglodyte birds which have found refuge there, including one of the nine pairs of Eurasian Eagle-Owls having taken up residence in the Dordogne.