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The village

Nestled in the heart of France lies a little-known gem where time seems to have stood still: Apremont-sur-Allier. Come and discover the treasures hidden in this little village, ranked among the most beautiful in France. You’ll find a flower-filled village, mediaeval houses with matching shutters, a riverside walk along the Allier, a castle with impressive mediaeval towers and a floral park that has been awarded the “jardin remarquable” title. Climbing roses, plentiful flowerbeds and topiary hedges of hornbeam and holly make visitors feel as though they’re in a large park. The nature is perfectly contrasted with the wild Allier river, which winds at the foot of the village, and by the endless parade of birds that live there: cranes, storks, geese, and terns.
Apremont-sur-Allier’s streets are brought to life with events throughout the year, such as the spring and autumn flower festivals, flea markets, organic farmers markets, and vintage car gatherings.

A village of stones and water

Due to its strategic position at the foot of the Allier river, the Apremont estate has been occupied for many centuries, as evidenced by the discovery of Roman tiles and ceramic fragments near the Apremont springs. The hillside on which the castle stands was fortified in the Middle Ages to guard the only road along the river and to collect tolls. A village was built as early as the 15th century, but it wasn’t until the early 19th century that it expanded along the Allier to its current location.

Historically, Apremont was a quarry village. There were as many as 5 active stone quarries in the village, some of which employed more than 70 people. The stone that was extracted was renowned for its lovely golden colour and fine grain, making it ideal for sculptures. It was transported by river throughout the Loire Valley and used in the construction of numerous castles and religious buildings, including Fontmorigny Abbey, Sainte-Croix Cathedral in Orléans, Moulins Cathedral, and the staircase of Chambord Castle.

Quarrymen, bargemen and foresters made up the main population of the village, which in 1850 boasted almost 600 inhabitants, compared with 70 today. The Apremont quarries closed at the beginning of the 20th century.

A family history

At the end of the 19th century, Eugène Schneider arrived at Apremont following his marriage with Antoinette de Saint-Sauveur, who had inherited the château. Enamoured with the site, Eugène decided to adopt the mediaeval Berrichon style he was so fond of in the village, in order to create continuity with the style of the château. To do this, he spent more than 10 years buying up every house in the village, one by one, as the opportunity arose. Every house but one: the village’s small café-grocery-tabac.

With help from his architects Antoine de Galéa and Jean Georges, and his entrepreneur Henri Camus, Eugène Schneider undertook a large amount of work between the wars. He added turrets, half-timbering, mullioned windows, exterior staircases and local tile roofs to a large number of houses. He also tore down lean-tos and outbuildings that detracted from the overall unity of the project. To carry out his renovations, he used wood from the Apremont forests and reopened certain quarries to acquire the stone he needed.

A special colour was created, “Van Dyck Brown”, which is still used today to paint the windows, doors and shutters of the houses in the village of Apremont.

The lovely Maison des Mariniers at the end of the village was the inspiration for this rather extravagant project. If you walk up to it, you’ll see a testimony to the whims of the Allier River etched into its walls.

Floral Park and village in harmony

In the 70s, Gilles decided to create gardens at Apremont. He wanted them to extend out up to the village, and, as much as possible, make it difficult for visitors to be able to distinguish whether they were still in the park or had left it. To do so, Gilles integrated some of the houses into his gardens, and also added flowers to the rest of the village, in order to make it one big kind of garden. Thanks to Gilles, many of the houses are covered in ornate topiary hedges, flowerbeds and climbing roses. The village council is deeply committed to preserving the extraordinary heritage of the village and continues to maintain, restore and decorate it.

Almost all of the houses still belong to the Brissac family today. Preserving this cultural heritage, in particular the restoration of the many roofs and window frames, constitutes a daily challenge. The houses are rented all year round to people of various ages and backgrounds who share a love for the area. Guest accommodation has been created so that visitors can prolong the magic of their stay in Apremont-sur-Allier.

Dates not to miss

The Apremont village council and the Floral Park team organise a number of special events to bring to life the banks of the Allier, the stables, and the park itself.

The Easter egg hunt that takes place on Easter Sunday is a fun way for children to explore the park. In May and October, the spring and autumn flower fairs are unmissable for garden enthusiasts. A large number of nurseries and gardening products can be found at the 80 stands, as well as local food products and handicrafts.

The flea market that takes place at the end of June along the Allier is not to be missed either! In August, the “Night at the Floral Park” takes place, allowing visitors to enjoy the candle and lantern-lit gardens by night, and picnic under the stars. It’s a special evening that the locals love!

An organic farmers market selling local products is held every first Sunday of the month from April to October, on the banks of the river.

Whether you are looking to enjoy the tranquillity of the area or the exceptional wildlife you can find near the river, or even visit the park or stay in one of the houses that make up Apremont’s charm, you’re sure to leave wanting to come back!