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Nanteuil-en-Vallée is a village in Charente  on the Argentor river.

Argentor river in Nanteuil-en-Vallee

Argentor river in Nanteuil-en-Vallee

You could use it as a start for a circular walk around the valley of the Argentor. There are several proposed routes and a notice board in the town showing a map of the area.

Walks in the Argentor valley

Walks in the Argentor valley

The village developed because back in the 7th or 8th century a Benedictine abbey was founded there. It may have been started by Charlemagne- many things were back then. I am a bit vague about its origins as I have found several different references to them but what does seem to be agreed is that it was dedicated to St Martial and was then destroyed by the Normans in the 9th Century. What you see today was rebuilt by Guilliame the Noble, the Lord of Ruffec in 980. The main structure remaining from that time is the square tower which was used by the abbey to store archives and treasures.

The Abbey is open to the public at certain times, usually weekends and Bank Holidays and there is a small charge for entry. It is best to check before visiting as the opening times  vary according to the time of year.

Of course once the abbey was established then the village started to develop. There is a stream running down from the abbey through the village which presumably feeds into the river. Along it’s course are several features such as an old well and, lower down, a lavoir.  It is obviously sensible to have the lavoir below the point where you collect water to drink.  The lavoir has a sort of table arrangement made out of stone which looks very well worn where presumably the women could rub a dub dub their dirty clothes. Also to the side of the lavoir is a little exhibition of old clothes and products and equipment which were used to wash the clothes years ago.

The village has several shops and a restaurant. It’s population took a bit of a dive during the first half of the 20th century reaching a low point of just 557 in 1968. During the 19th century the population had been over 1000. It seems that it has now recovered and is back up to well over 1000 no doubt helped by quite a few Brits moving in as it is one of the more attractive villages in this area.

Quite a bonus is the presence of an arboretum which was laid out between 1930 and 1940. This uses the water from the Argentor river and it is routed through various channels and small lakes. Obviously there are also numerous trees including one massive yew which must predate the arboretum.

There are two churches in the village both from the 15th century, one is the church of John the Baptist, which I did photograph  and the other the church of St John de Tusson, which I did not.