A monumental ride to Château d’Ars

We’ve long intended to visit Château d’Ars – how could we resist a place with that name! And finally, yesterday, we got round to it – by bike. It was a round trip of 68km and over 700m of climbing, which isn’t bad going for a middle-aged couple, and on a very warm day. The crazily hot weather of this summer and early autumn has returned after a brief respite.

Our ride took us north into Indre, from one super-region, Nouvelle Aquitaine, into another, namely Centre-Val de Loire. It’s lovely cycling country, being rolling with quiet roads, generally deserted. There are rather more hedgerows and trees than you find in Creuse these days, but that’s not to say there aren’t plenty of farmers who clearly delight in pointlessly ripping up these valuable natural features.

The first monument we came to was the Tour Gazeau, very close to Pouligny St Martin. This single tower is all that remains of the Château Tour-Gazeau, which was built between the 13th and 15th centuries. The Gazeau family, who first appeared mentioned as local lords in the 11th century, owned the castle until the 17th century. It was then abandoned and fell into ruins. Our local famous author, George Sand, used it as the home of the heroine Patience in one of her novels, ‘Mauprat’. (Reading one of her books is another thing that’s still on my to-do list.) The tower is privately owned so you can’t visit it. It appears to be being used as a hay barn anyway. The current owner has built a cow shed close up on one side, erected a concrete chicken pen close to another, and there’s a small stone stable there too. Familiarity breeds contempt evidently. Such a shame to be quite so blasé about a piece of history.

We made it to our destination, largely uphill it seemed. Unfortunately all this effort wasn’t fully repaid. All we could see of the castle was a few bricks! It’s well screened by pine trees on all sides.

That’s a pity, because apparently it’s a rather splendid Renaissance-style castle built in the 14th century.

These days it’s owned by the town of La Châtre and is the venue for concerts and a few festivals. It can be hired for private functions, so if you fancy an impressive setting for a special event you know where to come.

We’d been fuelled since leaving home by half a croissant each and two squares of chocolate. We set off on our return journey the way we’d come but quickly realised we were running on empty, so we decided, reluctantly, to head into La Châtre to get sandwiches from a supermarket. Fortuitously this change of course took us past a crêperie in the sleepy dormitory village of Lacs. This is what I had for my lunch. It was as delicious as it looked.

Now re-energised, the heat was the only thing that slowed us down. We had to keep taking stops in the shade. We also stopped to admire a ditch resplendent with cyclamen, and this brilliant mole in someone’s garden.

Apart from not actually getting to see Château d’Ars, it was a very satisfying expedition.