This place is amazing on so many levels. It is a fantastic (very) long-term project to build a 13th century castle using medieval methods. It began in 1997 when the man who owns a historic castle nearby(Château Fargeau) and was renovating it, became interested in how a castle would have been built. The project was set up in the depths of an oak forest in the département of Yonne, on the site of an abandoned quarry with most of the necessary building materials nearby. Since then it has employed over 50 artisans (stonemasons, carpenters, dyers etc) and many volunteers who come each year for a week or so in their holidays to work on this fantastic project.
The builders wear medieval clothing, use medieval tools and engineering techniques and their aim is to discover how such buildings were constructed so long ago. It is planned for the castle to be finished at some point in the 2020s.
It is also a major tourist attraction but, despite a short BBC 2 series in 2014, seems to be unknown to English tourists – we certainly heard no English while we were there, and in mid-July it was heaving with visitors from France, Belgium and the Netherlands.
The builders and workers on site know huge amounts about their area of expertise – we listened to the people who were taking clay from a nearby pond and turning it in to tiles for the castle, we heard explanations by the stonemasons as they shaped blocks and windows for the castle, and we visited the huts outside what will be the castle walls where there are dyers producing the clothing, people looking after the animals, and several larger huts where school parties can explore medieval design techniques and have a go at all sorts of crafts.
Just beside the walls you can watch people splitting and preparing huge blocks of stone from the ground, then a man with a horse and cart comes to fetch the stones and take them….
…… to the labourers who are busy building the castle walls.
This year, 2016, there is a great hall, one nearly complete tower and two nearly complete ones. And somehow, despite queues of tourists, the workers keep going!
There is a ‘medieval’ cafeteria, but there were so many people queuing that we went off and had our own picnic.
This is such a wonderful, wonderful place to visit – it has something to interest everyone. If I were 20 years younger I would volunteer to spend some of my holidays here, contributing to the great project.