Imagine an imposing Renaissance-style castle standing proudly in the middle of the Normandy countryside. At its feet flows a river inhabited by frogs, kingfishers and dragonflies. Opposite it is an XNUMXth century arboretum where roe deer, foxes, pheasants, tits and birds of prey frolic happily. Apart from the chirping of birds, the neighing of horses or the rustling of the wind in the oaks, nothing disturbs your contemplation.
It is not the fruit of your imagination, this place exists. It is here, at the Domaine de Chambray, that I am taking you.
A stately estate dedicated to nature
Only 15 minutes from Verneuil d'Avre and Iton or 10 minutes from Breteuil, Domaine Edouard de Chambray is a site dedicated to the protection and enhancement of the environment. Around a magnificent castle and its outbuildings extend a wetland classified as a Sensitive Natural Area, an arboretum, an agricultural school and its farms as well as a vegetable garden. Each of these spaces is laid out for everyone to walk around.
Created in 1820 by the Marquis Jacques de Chambray, the vegetable garden has long been a food garden for the population of the estate. Bequeathed in 1944 to the State, this space remained dormant for several decades for the benefit of the restoration and maintenance of the 480 hectares of the entire donation. In 2014, the Resource and Environmental Education Center and the students of the agricultural college restored this space, which was then fallow. Nature activities for the general public are now offered there. Since this year, wifi has been installed there to allow the development of interactive and educational games in autonomy.
Follow the guide to the vegetable garden
On this summer morning, Doriane welcomes us. This animator, passionate about fauna and flora, exudes the sweetness and calm that reign in this vegetable garden.
As soon as I pass through the gates, I see an alley of lavender bubbling with life. Butterflies, bumblebees and bees forage here and there. A small current of air diffuses a pleasant smell of lavender.
On a surface of 4400 m² enclosed by walls, 8 squares are cultivated: fruits, aromatic plants, vegetables, cereals, flowers, medicinal plants, orchard, vines... We will follow Doriane along the paths that border these spaces.
We begin with a small historical point. The origin of this vegetable garden, the involvement of the Chambray family in agricultural production and landscaping. The writing of books that testify to his concern for the transmission of know-how over the centuries.
Doriane draws our attention to the central alley of fruit trees. It was once lined with a multitude of rosebushes. Madame la Marquise liked to walk there. Today, currants and raspberries rub shoulders with this noble flower so dear to the Little Prince.
Along the walls that border the enclosure, I wonder about the strange shape of the fruit trees. The pear trees in espalier testify to a practice allowing to optimize the space. This pruning allows the fruits to capture all the light and develop better.
Further, two greenhouses arouse my curiosity by their name. The “cold greenhouse” is in opposition to the “hot greenhouse”. The latter was equipped with a heating system by the circulation of hot water in order to cultivate early fruits and vegetables.
A time for sharing and advice
More than a guided tour, this walk is a real time of exchange and discovery. We will discuss natural and reasoned gardening methods such as compost, mulching, making insect hotels or planting varieties of plants that keep pests away. Everyone asks questions about the cultivation of a particular plant or asks for advice on cooking or the seasonality of a vegetable.
Here we grow old or local varieties such as cabbage from Saint-Saens, white strawberries from Caen, shallots from La Manche or radishes from Gournay. The opportunity to rediscover fruits and vegetables that are the pride of Normandy.
The orchard is the ideal place for a refreshing break. A few tables are also set up there for nature workshops organized throughout the summer.
A fun discovery
This 1h30 walk could last all day as there are so many varieties and curiosities to discover.
This vegetable garden is an oasis of scents and colors. A perfect playground for olfactory, visual or tactile puzzles. Young and old alike will love getting lost in this palette of vegetable flavors thanks to one of the three games developed on smartphones and to be played independently.