The Local Area
Built in 1814, Val Rive is situated in a river valley in the quaint quartier of Léhon on the outskirts of the historic town of Dinan – one of the best-preserved medieval towns in France. Léhon falls within Côtes-d’Armor, and has the status of ‘Petite Cité de Caractère’ (small town of character) that celebrates its rich heritage. Val Rive’s setting is very picturesque, overlooking a medieval toll bridge over the Rance from where a cobbled street leads to the 9th century Abbey and ancient ruined Chateau of Léhon. Indeed, visitors fall in love with Léhon and return year after year to this charming village.
Dinan town centre can be reached on foot in about 20 minutes or by car in 5. Riverside paths can take you into the harbour of ‘Port de Dinan’ or the tranquil Breton countryside – perfect for walking, cycling or taking a picnic. The river flows into the sea at Dinard and St Malo, and these picturesque seaside towns can be reached by boat or bike if you’ve decided to leave your car at home.
Looking out to the Rance river you might see an angler sitting on the river bank or catch the occasional boat slowly chugging along – it’s a timely reminder that this was a hugely important crossing point as early as the Roman period. In fact the area abounds with historical connections. Many English Kings and nobility fought in Brittany and the Breton soldier, Bertrand du Guesclin, is a French legendary hero whose wife Tiphaine is said to have had magical powers. A statue of Du Guesclin, mounted on horseback, stands in Place du Guesclin in Dinan where the market is held.
There is much to explore in the region: rugged beaches, moated ruined castles, beautiful churches, squares with delightful cafes and food to sample. Local specialities include: crepes and galettes (pancakes), delicious butter and butter cakes, shellfish, oysters from nearby Cancale, and Breton cider. The Thursday market in Dinan is the perfect way to take in the atmosphere and then perhaps find a relaxing corner to sit down and sip a coffee, kir, or local cider.
The Benedictine Abbey was founded in the 9th Century by Nominoe, the first Duke of Brittany. The old bridge of Léhon was originally a toll crossing of the river, with the toll producing revenue for the Abbey. It was a strong fortification point between the banks of Léhon and Lanvally. The castle was built in the 12th Century on the feudal mound dominating the bridge, and it was once razed to the ground by Henry II of England during his invasion.
The Duchy of Brittany was a medieval feudal state that existed between approximately 939 and 1547. The duchy was established after the expulsion of Viking armies from the region around 939. The Duchy of the 10th and 11th century was politically unstable, with the dukes only holding limited power outside their own personal lands. The duchy had mixed relationships with the neighbouring Duchy of Normandy, sometimes allying itself with Normandy, and at other times, such as the Breton-Norman War, entering into open conflict.
Henry II of England invaded Brittany at the end of the 12th century, making his son, Geoffrey, the Duke. The Angevins remained in control until the collapse of their empire in northern France in 1204 and the conquest of the Duchy by Philip II of France. The French Crown maintained its influence over the Duchy for the rest of the 13th century. Monastic orders supported by the Breton aristocracy spread across the Duchy in the 11th and 12th centuries, and in the 13th the first of the mendicant orders established themselves in Brittany’s major towns. Civil war broke out in the 14th century, as rival claimants for the Duchy vied for power during the Breton War of Succession, with different factions supported by England and France.
The independent sovereign nature of the Duchy began to come to an end upon the death of Francis II in 1488. The Duchy was inherited by his daughter, Anne, but King Charles VIII of France had her existing marriage annulled and then married her himself. As a result, the King of France acquired the title of Duke of Brittany jure uxoris. The Duchy was finally merged into the Kingdom of France in 1532 through a vote of the Estates of Brittany.
Louis Chupin, a very popular mayor of Lehon, lived at Val Rive in the second half of the 19th Century, and named the impressive house Maison Chupin. He owned a textile factory employing local workers and also purchased a tannery at the edge of his property. He was instrumental in campaigning to obtain funds for the restoration of the Abbey.
Brittany has a changeable, maritime climate, similar to Cornwall. Rainfall occurs regularly but sunny, cloudless days are also common. In the summer months, temperatures in the region can reach 30°C (86°F), with July and August being the hottest months. June has the most daily sunshine hours at 11. The wettest month is December with an average 62mm of rain.