A quick historical note:
This château and park in Gâtinais was built around 1630, and like many great houses of bygone eras, it is now open to the public – if only during designated times. The family originally belonging to the estate traced roots back to a royal secretary to the King in the 16th century. After its purchase by a Baron in 1872, the estate continued to thrive and change, being used as a hospital during WWI, and falling under German occupation temporarily during WWII. Though both house and garden have changed over the years, it has an enviable harmony and is beautifully maintained.
Formal, but charmingly natural
The gardens at Courances are formal, but unlike many other formal gardens in France this one is not merely spectacular, but it is charming. It is a water garden, but the water-works are not an exhibition of human triumph over nature. Instead, they quietly exist in harmony with nature. For those fans of the Narnia Chronicles, I’ll say that some of the Courances park vistas put me in mind of “The Wood Between Worlds” in C.S. Lewis’ “Magician’s Nephew.” They have that quality of being ancient, solemn, lush and silent. The grounds include 14 natural springs and 17 ornamental pools, dating from different periods. The water-works are not mechanical, but function by a clever trick of levels, and they are kept clean by weed-eating carp. Lovely, and natural.
Though Courances is a proudly French garden, there are clear international influences that have been thoughtfully integrated over the years. You can see the English influence in the extensive use of lawns, which serves to make the whole space lush and green. A Japanese-inspired section has also been added to the park, and fits remarkably well. It shares that phenomenal sense of quietness and harmony that pervades the entire design. Beautiful.
You can visit the official site for Courances here.
Below is my pinterest board for Courances. If you hover and scroll, you’ll find many beautiful images of this formal water garden.