Burgundy Hols

Coutarnoux is situated in an area of limestone quarries (there is a quarry museum at nearby Massangis) and you will notice that stone was used in quite humble farm buildings instead of wood (for example as lintels in the sheep outhouses and for the pump outside the bread house) because it was cheap and easily available.

In the past, people in Coutarnoux were farm workers, quarry workers and foresters. Today about 60 houses are second homes owned mostly by Parisians. Local people are farmers or they commute to work in nearby Avallon.

Coutarnoux has a beautiful stone wash house. You will find many other fine examples of Burgundian wash houses in local villages. You will also see La Maison des Goix, the tax collector’s house, which dates from the 15th century.

The church opposite Le Verger has the surviving figures from a 15th century stone Calvary. During the revolution of 1789 it was destroyed, apart from several figures including Moses and Elias that were hidden by the mayor of the time in his house. These figures, which would have been carved by the stonemasons of the village, were recently rediscovered and reinstated.

As you wander round the village you will see a stone archway and  some ancient walls, all that is left of what was once the Coutranoux abbey.  Two carvings from the abbey (an angel playing an instrument and an angel with a scroll) have been inserted into a nearby barn wall!

During the Second World War there was much resistance activity in the region and there is a plaque on the house by the village cross in memory of a villager who died fighting in the Maquis.

In the forests near Coutarnoux you may glimpse roe deer, foxes, rabbits, badgers and wild boar. If you are an early morning riser, you may see the deer on the edge of the forest as you drive out of the village.

The Sully tree

The ancient lime tree outside the church door which you can see from our house is a 'Sully tree' and 400 years old. The Duc de Sully (1569-1641) was the First Minister in the government of Henri IV and he decreed that a tree should be planted outside every church in France. Together the king and Sully gave France 20 years of much-needed peace. Following the Wars of Religion, the Edict of Nantes guaranteed religious tolerance.

According to Terry Brown who has researched Sully trees:

‘The Duke of Sully was passionate about tree-planting and he started the tradition of planting poplars alongside roads - an image which, for many, typifies France. He also planted trees for commemorative purposes. Nearly all have died but some lime trees still remain. No definitive list of them exists. Some sources claim that Sully ordered every community to plant a tree in their town or village. That may be so, but there is evidence that some were planted for specific reasons which were sometimes very local - for example the passage of Henri 1V.’


Le Verger is part of an old Burgundian farm. The farm consists of four houses – the principal farmhouse which we call La Maison Bleue because of its blue shutters, an ancient house at the entrance to the yard which dates from 1775, La Vieille Maison which has a dressed stone façade (indicating that at one time the farm was wealthy) and faces out to the road behind the yard and the nearby bread house where bread was baked for everyone who lived on the farm. It also includes two barns (one now converted into the Grand Salon) and some outhouses which were used for sheep, horses and pigs.

At one time the farm would have been entirely self supporting, making its own wine and cheese, growing its own vegetables and crops and husbanding livestock. In the barn there is a huge wooden vat in which grapes were once pressed. The upstairs bedrooms were once attics used for storing grain and drying herbs. As you look round the buildings you will find that quite a few have dates carved into the stone. The earliest is 1775. The oval shaped windows in the house and in the wall of one of the barns are called ‘oeil de boeuf’ (ox's eye). A stone sink was often positioned below them and they let in sufficient light but not rain. The stone wall that runs along the back of the garden is the ancient village wall that dates from the time when Coutarnoux was a fortified village (to defend against bandits in the period of the 100 Years War

Young Children's Play Area in the village

Burgundy Hols