In the year 1121, the very pious Ermengarde de Narcy died. On her deathbed, she expressed the wish to donate all her belongings to the Virgin, including the “Grande Bertrange”, the forest attached to her domain. Respectful of his wife’s wishes, her husband Hugues Dulys complied and gave up this enormous wooded estate which fell from the heavens into the lap of the Benedictines of La Charité. 1253 brought a new legacy, when Etienne de Blancafort offered them the last third of the forest. The clergy thus found themselves at the head of this immense expanse of oak trees.
For centuries, the Benedictines were masters of the woods until the Revolution, when the Priory’s property was nationalised and the forest became a state asset.
Dear walkers, this wooded area contains places full of charm that will spice up your walks out in the fresh air.
The Reserve’s roundabout is an essential “nerve centre” of the forest in the sense that you could say that “everything starts from there”. At least, with its directional mast, it’s the starting point of many marked, safe hikes. Choose your path and wander around to your heart’s content.
– The La Vache spring, currently being restored, is particularly remarkable for its oak tree. Around 250 years old, it’s still standing after being struck by lightning several times! Enough to make you fall in love with this, our special ancestor…
– The Bougers spring is a small haven of peace that’s recently been developed, with its water-filled pool and car park, well designed for people with reduced mobility. A really nice place, ideal for resting before you head off back on your way.
– The Vaux spring is “lost” in the communal wood of Chaulgnes, but is also well worth a visit, with its small bridges and little canal. Don’t forget to say hello to the master of the place, a majestic plane tree.
This forest has long been an economic powerhouse and remains so today due to the wood sector, with its fair share of sawmills, processing plants, barrel workshops and stave makers. Providing firewood for the local people, it was once a precious material for the steel industry that became established in the sector.
Furnaces and forges once flourished among the trees. Iron, extracted in the region, was particularly exploited in the great forges of the Royal Navy in Guérigny. A prolific activity that’s now just a memory. It still survives through the names of certain towns such as Beaumont-la-Ferrière, Saint-Aubin-les-Forges and old steel estates with remnants of blast furnaces and water reservoirs used to feed them… Unique vestiges of this metallurgical past.
Today, the Bertranges is primarily a tribute to nature, where the stag’s bellow has taken over from the roar of machines. A paradise for hikers who can fill their lungs beside hundred-year-old oak trees.
Indeed, many circuits wind their way through the forest, including the route to Santiago de Compostela! Tailor-made, marked routes you can do on foot, by mountain bike or on horseback – a truly special experience. One must-see is the reserve’s roundabout, the epicentre of the forest. A furtive doe at the bend in a path, a whispering spring coming up out of the earth, 10,000 hectares of forest and a love story that could become yours – that of nature.