Who are the Chevaliers de l’Astrée?
Les Chevaliers de l’Astrée (Knights of Astrée), is a collective project, open to everyone of us, for the benefit of all, nature, insects, animals and humans.
It is a community adventure, bringing together nature lovers and defenders of foraging insects around the same goal, the same values, and the same coat of arms. It’s open to all those who wish to put a little of themselves into protecting our biodiversity, by helping to create a little corner of paradise, in the heart of the French countryside.
Joining us in the adventure of the Chevaliers de l’Astrée means taking part in a bold project and doing your bit not only for the planet, but also for yourself.
Where is the domain of the Chevaliers de l'Astrée?
Fontsémont, La Roche-Posay, Vienne 86
- 1.7 hectares of ancient vines
- backed by a forest
- a dried-up pond was there at the time of purchase
- within the perimeter of a drinking water protected area: limits on pesticides
The edible forest is located in the hamlet of Fontsémont, in La Roche Posay. You may know the name from the famous cosmetic brand.
La Roche Posay is an attractive city in Vienne that welcomes more than 8,000 spa tourists and their families each year. The town’s water is like velvet, and for centuries people have been coming here from afar for treatment of many skin diseases.
Vienne is also the land of Futuroscope, Angles sur l’Anglin and its Sorcerer’s Rock, the Pinail Nature Reserve in Vouneuil sur Vienne, Montmorillon Town of the Written Word, and much more besides.
Come and discover its gentle hills and shimmering valleys.
What is an edible forest?
Like a natural forest, an edible forest is composed of a wide variety of plants ranging from mushrooms to trees. Once it is fully grown, this nutriotional garden bears fruit, is able to live without being watered, is self-noutishing and creates a micro climate. This forest garden is divided into “plots” called guilds.
It is composed of bee-friendly, nectar-producing species. Flowering is spread over long months, thus attracting foraging insects, promoting pollination, and repelling pests and unwanted plants. It is also self-fertilising.
What is a Guild?
The forest garden is divided into “plots” called guilds.
They are segregated areas of companion plants, comrpising three or more layers of plants (ground covers, bushes, trees) that support each other. The flowers all grow together and support each other. It’s made up of one main plant surrounded by its companions so you have a tree, a creeping vine, shrubs and herbaceous plants.
Here is an example of a guild on the Chevaliers de l’Astrée estate.
- Moroccan mint (6): low herbaceous, blooms in August and September
- Lady’s Mantle (7): ground cover, blooms in July and August, high in nectar.
- Jerusalem artichoke (8): rhizome, produces fruit from October to December
- Blueberries (3): shrub, produces fruit in August and September.
- Redcurrant bushes (4): shrub, produces fruit in June/July
- Sea Buckthorn (5): shrub, produces fruit in September and October.
- Japanese Persimmon (1): canopy, produces fruit in November and December
- Potato bean (2): climber on the japanese persimmon, blooms from July to September, produces fruit and tubers.
The Origins of the Project
The idea behind this project was born in the Highlands of Scotland, where the Lairds’ legacy merits protection. As the representatives in France of a scottish reforestation initiative, we made the acquaintance of people who awakened of chivalrous spirit. It was our turn to act! Nature needs defenders in France too! Thus were born the Chevaliers de l’Astrée.
Pollinating insects are under threat all over the world. Pesticides aren’t their only enemy; lack of biodiversity restricts their habitat and limits their food sources. Imagine eating fast food every day: you won’t die, but you grow weaker and weaker.
From then on, an edible forest, a place of refuge and a source of food, has been our quest.
Our journey began: the search for a piece of land suitable for the project, a specialist designer of edible forests, nursery men and gardeners… And also a short trip to Mouscron, Belgium, to confirm us in our decision.
After many diversions, it all came to us from the Le Bon Coin : La Roche Posay was to be the forest’s birthplace.
In addition, the acquisition of a traditional orchard near Aigurandes meant the first knights could come and gather fruit while waiting for the edible forest to mature.
Then came another helping hand from fate: the meeting with Walter, from Atmosvert, on his way back from Devon in England, after a visit to one of the pioneers of this nutritional system, Martin Crawford.
Walter agreed to draft the initial plans for the Estate of the Chevaliers de l’Astrée.
The Coat of Arms of the Chevaliers de l'Astrée
We are united beneath a coat of arms inspired by a family crest.
Here’s our interpretation:
Threeroses, symbolising the gift of love and regeneration: one for nature, one for animals, one for humans. The colour red, termed ‘gules’ indicates knighthood.
A “goutte” (teardrop shape) represents the velvety waters of La Roche Posay.
The background colour ir “or” (gold) representing the richness of diversity and the strength of a community.
Why the Knights of Astrée? Everyone thinks of knights as respectful figures, ready to fight for a cause they feel to be just. Brave, hospitable, noble: timeless qualities for knights of old and knights of the present day.
Do you know the legend of Astrée?
Astraea (Astrée in French) is the goddess of justice. She represents the cycle of nature. In some legends she is the daughter of Themis and Jupiter, in others she is the daughter of Astraeus and Aurora. In those days, immortal beings lived on Earth among humans. After her initiation into the secrets of nature, Astraea passed her knowledge on to men through the ages. Peace and harmony reigned on Earth.
Sadly, the greed of men once again led to wars. Astreae fled to the heavens and became the constellation Virgo. She left a promise: to return once peace was restored.
Astreae is also the heroine of Honoré d’Urfé’s pastoral saga, L’Astrée.
The Chevaliers de l’Astrée: The beginning
Purchase of the land in Fontsémont,
La Roche Posay
Planting the 400 square metres of the first guilds following Walter’s plans.
Dredging the old dried-up pond
Planting a hundred trees over the entire site
Planting a hedge of bay shrubs with the aim of running ‘picking and preserving’ sessions very soon!
The Chevaliers de l’Astrée: A multifaceted action
"Working with nature, not against it"
With the support of many specialists, and with your help, we can act boldly, effectively, and sustainably.
monoculture that harm insects’health.
Create, at the heart of our French countryside, many spaces of biodiversity, to maintain sustainable ecosystems, with the minimum of human intervention.
Densify, diversify, and strive towards a system of abundance where all, plants, animals, humans, we support each other and sustainably
Develop educational materials to conduct awareness campaigns, in schools and with local actors.
Nature thanks you
By offering the members of the project, and sponsors of the young forest, a consideration.