The Parc Régional du Perche is neither a "national park" in the American sense nor part of a single "region" in the French sense.
Today, Le Perche, can be defined as the area that makes up the "Parc Régional" (created in 1998). The limits of the "park" are approximately La Ferté-Vidame in the north and La Bazoche-Gouet in the south (50 km) to Senonches in the east and Pervenchères in the west (50 km). Le Perche was a distinct entity in the past, but the province or county was split over the years and its existence has no logic in today's administrative terms. It straddles two French departments (Orne and Eure-et-Loir) and thus is part of two different administrative regions (Basse Normandie and Centre). However, the area is united by a common culture and architectural heritage that hails back as far as the Middle Ages and a geography fashioned over millions of years.
During the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods the area was covered by sea which gave rise to sedimentary rock formations (limestone, sandstone and chalk). Over the millennia, these were fissured along existing fault lines, creating depressions, plateaux and rocky promontories. Weathering and the numerous river systems did the rest to fashion today's rolling hills.
As is usual in post-sedimentary terrain, the land is characterised by a presence of flint and clay. The make-up of the soil is therefore far less conducive to crop growing than the flat plains of the Beauce that lie to the south and east. It is, however, very favourable terrain for trees and before man set foot in the region it was covered by a giant forest, known in Roman times as Sylva Pertica. Much was cut down as human presence made itself felt, but vast areas do remain, especially at Senonches, La Ferté-Vidame and Bellème.
From a historic point of view, the area is marked by its presence on the border between the lands of the Normans and the French kings. The constant friction gave rise to several powerful noble families, the most notable being the Rotrou (who built the Chateau Saint Jean at Nogent le Rotrou). These families took part in the Crusades and it is said that the Percheron horse, one of the symbols of the region, is a descendant of Arab stock that was brought back to France. Besides the castle, many fortified 15th- and 16th-century farms and manor houses that still survive today, attest to the fact that the area was the scene of much conflict over the years.
During the early 17th century the area was to see the start of a flow of emigrants to Quebec, in Canada. Contrary to much emigration, this movement would seem to have been motivated by neither religious persecution nor misery. It would, in fact, seem to be due the work of one man, Robert Giffard, a "doctor" from Mortagne.
Flora and fauna
Fees and permits
The park is made up of dozens of towns and villages and there is no entrance fee.
- Auberge des 3 J, 1 place du Docteur-Gireaux, 61340 Nocé. A gourmet restaurant in a small village 15 km west of [Nogent le Rotrou].
- Domaine de Villeray, 61110 Condeau. A hotel/restaurant based on a chateau and water mill 10 km north of [Nogent le Rotrou]. From spring to autumn the restaurant is open in the mill, but during the winter it transfers up to the Chateau. A "menu gourmand" is available at €69.
- Le Galion, 21 rue de l'Eglise 61110 Remalard. Menu tends towards fish, but other fare is available. Count, at least, €30 per head.