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The site of a gripping Resistance rescue that was immortalised in film is popular place to settle for British expats.
During the Second World War, Ruffec, in the Charente Department, was at the centre of Resistance for the evacuation of the Allied airmen to Spain.
The city was the place of rescue of the two heroes of Operation Cockleshell, whose story was told in the British film The Cockleshell Heroes.
The film dramatises Operation Frankton, a raid on German cargo shipping by British Royal Marines in December 1942, when Special Boat Service commandos infiltrated Bordeaux Harbour using folding canoes.
It was box office hit in 1956.
In this raid, 10 men canoed to Bordeaux overnight, to attack docked cargo ships with limpet mines and then escape overland to Spain. Only two of the 10 men who launched from the submarine survived the raid. Of the other eight, the Germans executed six and two died from hypothermia.
Ruffec used to be a country of groves devoted to mixed farming. It was the point of exchange between livestock products from the east of the area and crops from the west.
Since the Second World War, the Ruffécoises have concentrated on growing cereals and corn fields spread from the bottom of the valleys to the limestone plateaus.
Ruffec is known for its lovely Saint-André church and square, and is often used as a stopover by travellers on the road from Paris to Spain between Poitiers and Angoulême.
The districts outside the city centre are Poultrie and Chez Périllaud to the north, the industrial zone to the west near the station, Notre-Dame des Vignes to the south, and the park at the foot of the old castle.
There is a small old quarter, Pontreau and just outside the town there are a few hamlets, such as Nouzières, les Gordins near the Ruffec forest and Pérideau.
Ruffec enjoys a bit more sunshine than the national average – and a little more rain.
It has two flowers in the France in Bloom awards and enjoys a busy market days every Wednesday and Saturday, plus fairs on the 13th and 28th of each month.
Its 12th century Saint-André parish church is a jewel in its crown. The facade is Romanesque, and features a door with three ornate scrolls and cords. Two wings were added in the 15th century. The church was rebuilt in the 17th century after a fire.
The remains of a disused church, Chapelle Saint-Blaise, can be found not far from the old town, rue du Pontreau. The city also has an old quarter between the town hall and the church, as well as a castle on a hill.
Ruffec, despite being relatively small, has been home to more than its fair share of notables over the years, including a disgraced diplomat, a composer and an explorer.
Louis de Rouvroy (1675-1755), Duke of Saint-Simon, Marquis de Ruffec, memorialist – and his granddaughter, Marie-Christine de Rouvroy, whose name is given to a rose.
Diplomat Charles-François de Broglie (1719-1781), Marquis de Ruffec, head of the King’s Secret, retired to Ruffec after his disgrace.
Pierre-Armand Pinoteau (1769-1834), general of the armies of the Republic and the Empire, was born and died there.
François Laroche (1775-1823), general of the armies of the Republic and the Empire.
Jean Gasztowtt (1802-1871 in Ruffec), participant in the uprising of 1831 and Polish emigrant.
Georges Guilhaud (1851-c. 1910), composer, born in Ruffec.
Ferdinand de Béhagle (1857-1899), merchant and explorer, born in Ruffec.
Célestin Sieur (1860-1955), French military surgeon. General inspector. President of the National Academy of Medicine, buried in Ruffec
Madeleine Coudray (1907-1978), French writer, author of detective novels, born in Ruffec.
Paul Chauvet (1904-2007), colonial administrator.
Daniel Barjolin (1938-), cyclist.
Anne Charrier (1974-), French actress, born in Ruffec.
Steeve Barry (1991-), rugby union player and international rugby sevens player, born in Ruffec.
Ruffec has been a busy and prosperous city for more than 1,000 years.
Between 995 and 1028, Guillaume IV Taillefer, Count of Angoulême, received the domain of Ruffec from his close friend the Duke of Aquitaine – William the Great.
Ruffec had its own Mediaeval court – a viguerie – which dispensed local justice.
A castle was built here and town walls, however these are long gone.
Charles VII and his son, the future Louis XI, visited Ruffec for Easter in 1443. Louis was almost killed there during a boat trip on the Charente.
In 1548, during the salt tax protests, insurgents led by Boisménier and his lieutenants moved towards Ruffec, destroyed the salt granary and engaged in looting. They were arrested in Saint-Amant-de-Boixe on their return.
In the 19th century, much progress was made in Ruffec. Roads were built, plus a city hall, a granary, a market and a railway station. Gas and running water were installed.
In the first half of the 20th century, Ruffec station was the starting point of two railway lines: the line of Roumazières and online Niort.
At that time, grain fairs were held on the 28th of each month and Ruffec became known for its partridge pâtés with truffles.
In the 20th century, despite the two wars, Ruffec grew and schools, colleges, high schools, stadiums, swimming pools, a hospital, sanitation, cinemas and a cultural hall were all built to serve the town’s people.
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The English have long been associated with Ruffec, from our brave men setting off from there on a doomed mission in the Second World War to scores of expats settling in the area in the present day.
This is a lively community with lots to do and see, in a lovely climate with hours and hours of sunshine, while at the same time not being too hot for comfort.
Check out homes for sale in the Ruffec area here.
Ruffec is the capital of the canton of North Charente, not far from the Vienne department, located 25 miles north of Angoulême and 37 miles south of Poitiers.
The main road is the N 10 from Angoulême to Poitiers.
Ruffec is an important crossroads of departmental roads. The D 736 by the southwest towards Rouillac and Cognac. The D 740 is the secondary road from Limoges to Niort via Confolens, Ruffec and Chef-Boutonne – it also goes towards the ocean via Saint-Jean-d’Angély. The D 26 goes north-east towards Sauzé-Vaussais and Niort, and the D 8 to the north-east goes towards Civray.
Ruffec also has a station on the Paris to Bordeaux line, served by TER trains to Angoulême and Poitiers.
Ruffec has a secondary school, a vocational high school, an elementary school and a nursery school. Private education is provided by the Sacré-Cœur school and college as well as the Roc-Fleuri multi-purpose private high school offering courses from 4th to BTS and a general bac.
Despite this village sounding as if it’s full of idiots, its inhabitants are actually called the Adjotois and the Adjotoises. The name means gorse in old French/Latin.
Les Adjots is a village in the north of the Charente department. It borders the neighbouring departments of Deux-Sèvres and Vienne.
The village is on a high plateau with an average altitude of 140m. The highest point is at an altitude of 168m.
It is a fairly rural area, made up of 69% agricultural land, 27% forests and semi-natural environments and only 4% built environment.
In the 16th and 17th centuries, The Adjots were the seat of a large manor that belonged to the family of Allocates who lived in the house of Bastarderie, located on the edge of the forest of Ruffec.
Created in 1793, Les Adjots went from the arrondissement of Angoulême to the arrondissement of Confolens on 1st January 2008. After losing 45% of its population from 1851 to 1921, the Adjots stabilized its demography between 390 and 530 inhabitants.
Les Adjots is an agricultural commune with a few craftsmen and a grocery store.
The school is an intercommunal educational grouping between Les Adjots and Taizé-Aizie, which each host an elementary school.
All other services are in Ruffec five miles away.
The football club is also shared between Taizé-Aizie and the Adjots.
The parish church of St Lawrence dates back to the 11th century. It was founded and built by the Abbey of Nanteuil and was rebuilt and restored in the 19th century.
The tower pavilion dates from the 17th century.
Condac is a mile east of Ruffec and features many small estates and two farms.
A Roman cemetery was found here at the end of the 19th century and it is clear there has been a settlement here for hundreds of years.
In March 1442, towards the end of the Hundred Years’ War, King Charles VII of France, preparing the Guyenne expedition against the English, was in Ruffec for the Easter holidays in the company of the 19-year-old dauphin. and several men from his court. On Good Friday, the king and his son, accompanied by the Duke of Maine and Louis de Valori, were taking a boat trip on the Charente, when the boat was taken by the current and capsized on the lock of a mill.
The king and his retinue almost drowned. It was on this occasion that the Dauphin, the future King Louis XI, went there on pilgrimage and later rebuilt the chapel and founded a chapter there.
The millstone flour mill now called La Moulin Enchanté (the ‘Enchanted Mill’) was built in 1771 by order of the Count de Broglie and Marquis de Ruffec. It was the largest in the Charente department. It was transformed into a spinning and weaving factory in the early 19th century, which was partly destroyed around 1940. A restaurant was built there around 1980 and remains a popular and well-rated establishment.
At the beginning of the 20th century, there were two mills operating on the upstream Charente, Refousson and Grégueuil. Another mill was at Moulin Neuf.
In 2017, the town had 477 inhabitants, many of whom enjoy dining at Le Moulin – read its reviews on TripAdvisor.
Grégueuil Castle was built in the 17th century and rebuilt in the 19th century. This features two towers, one round and one square.
Houses in the village are marked with the cross of Saint-André 22. Surrounding the area are the Charente valley, Natura 2000 zone and springs.
The large market town of Courcôme is three miles south-east of Villefagnan and four miles south-west of Charente.
The main road through the village is the D 736 from Ruffec to Aigre
The railway line from Paris to Bordeaux passes near Courcôme, however the closest station is Ruffec.
Courcôme is surrounded by a number of hamlets, including the Lake, the rue du Puits, the Chaussée, the Croix Geoffroy, and the Petit Village.
Besides these hamlets, there are also les Houillères and les Martres, on the road from La Faye to Tuzie, Magné (or Magnez ) and Les Combeaux, in the south-west of the town, the Marchis, in the east and la Touche, where you can see freestone quarries.
The town is threaded through by several small streams, the main one of which, the Bief, has its source near the hamlet of Magné and joins the Charente near Luxé.
According to a charter from around 970, the church and land of Courcôme would have been given by Guillaume Fier-à-bras, Duke of Aquitaine, to the church of Saint -Hilaire the Great of Poitiers. This donation also included the villas, vineyards, meadows and the mill which dominate the stream called the Contest (today the Bief). Nothing remains of the early church.
The state of the parishes from 1686 informs us that Poitiers canons are the lords of the parish of Courcousme which includes 129 lights and produces wine, grain, nuts and saffron 15..
Courcôme had a population of more than 1,000 inhabitants in the 19th century, but saw its population decline to around 400 inhabitants. It is a place for second homes, with about a sixth of homes being holiday homes.
It is an agricultural area, specialising in cattle, sheep and pigs. It has vines in the delimited region of Cognac, in the Bons Bois cru.
Courcôme has shops, a bakery, a restaurant and craftsmen, a garage owner, three masons, two carpenters and an agricultural contractor.
Maison du Tilleul Argenté offers guest rooms and there is a school – an intercommunal educational grouping between Courcôme, La Faye and Charmé.
In Courcôme, there is a festival committee, a secular association, a parents’ association and friendship group.
The sports associations are the hunting society and the Orchid Motorcycle Club. The other sports are practiced in Villefagnan.
The ACCES association (Association Courcômoise Culturelle Evénementielle et Sportive) created in 2008 aims to provide access to multiple activities for all. The brings together sports activities: (walking, mountain biking), cultural leisure activities (oenology, etc), and various events.
The church of Courcôme is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and is open every day. The bell tower is remarkable for its sound. It has been classified as a historical monument since 1881 27.
Barro is a couple of miles south-east of Ruffec and in the Charente valley.
It is just over 20 miles north of Angoulême.
The N 10 from Paris to Spain between Poitiers and Angoulême is to the west of the village.
The village of Barro, located on the left bank of the Charente, faces the hamlet of Aigues Pendantes where the town hall is located.
Les Touches, north of the village on its same shore, is the other important hamlet of the town. To the south, Cuchet is bordered with Verteuil.
The Charente river crosses the town from north to south.
The Cuchet dolmen, a two-metre high table on six supports was destroyed around 1870. It contained several uncremated skeletons, four vases, nine spears or flint blades, six polished stone axes and various objects.
In 2017, the village, which has just over 400 residents, was awarded a flower by the National Council of towns and villages in bloom in France.
Every year in September, Barro holds a photo festival, BarrObjective. It also holds an outdoor art exhibition in June, Art à l’Œil.
The parish church of St Peter was built in the 12th century. There are other historic buildings here, including the home Aigues-Drooping from the 17th century.
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