Chabanais – a pen-portrait
Chabanais – Twin-town Forfar, Scotland, is a town in South West France in the Charente. Situated mid way between Angouleme and Limoges, Chabanais straddles the River Vienne: the only river to flow North, in France.
It is probably to the Vienne that Chabanais owes its birth as a fishing village, possibly owing its name to the word “capanna” meaning “hut” and evolving over time to “Chabanois” and ultimately “Chabanais”. Forfar, also with a fishing heritage obtained its fish from the coast via “King Cadger’s Road”.
Chabanais straddles what is historically a very ancient and strategic trade route between Switzerland and Bordeaux going East and West, as well as sitting (almost) directly on a straight line North, South between Poitiers and Perigueux. The Romans certainly recognised the strategic worth of the neighbourhood, positioning the Garrison camp of “Cassinomagus” (Chassenon) with its massive Gallo-Roman Thermal Baths on the crest of the large ridge of hills to the South-East. The ancient “Agrippan Way” from Lyon to Saintes also runs just south of the town. Like Forfar, therefore, Chabanais also has an extremely old heritage and one that is linked with the Romans in 1st to 4th centuries AD.
This strategic positioning of Chabanais around trade surely also underlies why Richard the Lionheart fought so hard to retain influence over these lands in the late 1100s and why the “Route Richard Coeur de Lion” a collection of mediaeval chateaux, churches and towns starts at Etagnac, just 5 kilometers away from Chabanais and stretches down South East into the Dordogne. This network of royal and ecclesiastical stay places was vital for the Plantagenet kings to retain influence over local nobles, and maybe it is not too much of a stretch to consider the actions of Scottish King Malcolm holding parliaments and conferring honours to the Scottish nobility at Forfar as equal “Stakeholder Management” as performed by Richard Coeur de Lion in the surrounding countryside around Chabanais. (And maybe occasionally as equally bloody.)
On in time, and the strategic nature of the trade road and river meant Chabanais was an important road and river crossing over the Vienne in World War II between Limoges and Bordeaux and Chabanais itself bears witness to the resistance movement with its “Rue de 1 Aout 1944” (The road of the 5 martyrs). Chabanais retains a key political role in the region as cantonal capital, as much as Forfar is county capital of Angus.
Chabanais is the first granite foothill of the Massif Central to the East-South-East. It sits North and West of the crater of one of the 15 largest meteorites ever to hit the earth – the “Rochechouart Meteorite” – a cataclysmic event of the Jurassic period that wiped-out all life within 300 miles of Rochechouart and left a crater 22 kilometers wide – whose lip the Chabanais itself sits just outside.
Born from Fishing, Chabanais undoubtedly grew due to its position on the ancient trade route and waterway and its fecund soil providing both crop and meat to the growing town and surrounding countryside. Today, Chabanais sits between the huge paper mill at Saillat to the East (the largest of its kind in Europe) and the Tile factory at Roumazieres-Loubert to the west (again, the largest in Europe). Farming is still a huge activitiy although fishing, is now relegated to a hobby – a nonetheless prolific one – in the rivers and lakes of the Haute Charente.
Otherwise, the new thrust is towards tourism, centred around the huge inland Lakes of the Haute Charente where Nature and Watersports predominate in summer. These lakes were artifically made by damming-up the Charente at Lavaud and Massignac to ensure a more reliable flow of water downstream. There are also two international-standard golf courses near by for keen golfers to enjoy.
There is so much to do and see around Chabanais. Our full directory of local activities is available by following this link. We hope this page is just a taster to tempt you to come and visit.
Did we mention food? Although Forfar has its “Bridie”, a pastie, Chabanais has its “Jours de la Quintinie” in October celebrating Jean-Baptiste de la Quintinie, child of Chabanais and Soup-Maker in chief to King Louis IV! Named in 1667 as director of royal fuit and vegatable gardens! The “Jours de la Quintinie” these days celebrates a particular vegetable each year! Forfar, therefore has its Bridie: Chabanais its soup! Perhaps someone should bring the two together!
Easy to Travel to!
Chanabais is now in easy reach of Scotland because Ryanair has now opened-up a route between Limoges Airport and Ediburgh. How to reach La Croix Spa You could now be here in a couple of hours!
La Croix Spa is a British-owned “Gite” and Spa situated just by the Lacs de Haute Charente. We can accommodate from 2 to 24 people all year round in a child-friendly, family-oriented Spa. Accommodation is self-catering, but family evening meals can also be pre-booked and we can also stock your fridge by way of Bed and Breakfast. Check out the full site here, download a brochure, or contact us directly! We look forward to welcoming you!
Forfar Tourist Information Centre40 East High Street,
Tel: +44(0)1307 467 876
Chabanais Office de tourismePlace Colbert,
Tel: +33 (0)5 45 89 08 29
(See also Pitlochry’s twin-town Confolens)