Here's an article from the local newspaper that highlights some of the realities of rural life near Saint-Aignan. Châteauvieux is a village/township that is built around a château and a church on a hill. The town has about 600 residents in all and is known for its wine. The château is used as a retirement and nursing home these days.
Rural Solidarity Grants: Thanks for small favors
In Châteauvieux, tourism enriches the local economy. For Mayor Yves Ménager, the Rural Solidarity Grants program makes it possible.
Yves Ménager, the president of the Association of Rural Mayors, gets right to the point. “The Rural Solidarity Grants program is a blessing for us!”, says the mayor of Châteauvieux, which is one of the 214 municipalities [in the Loir-et-Cher] with fewer than 1,000 inhabitants that are eligible for the grants. He knows what he's talking about. “A township that covers as much territory as ours does has a lot of roads to maintain,” he says.
Here are the numbers: Châteauvieux has 30 miles (48 km) of public roads, which means 30 miles of ditches to keep clear and 60 miles of embankments to mow. “You have to have a good tractor,” the mayor says. Until recently, that wasn’t the case in Châteauvieux, where the town tractor was so ancient that nobody remembered how old it actually was.
The launch of the Rural Solidarity Grants program by the general council of the Loir-et-Cher department in 2010 was a “new deal” for small towns and villages. “We applied for a grant to buy a new tractor. The cost was high for a village like ours, and the grant really helped us out at a time when money is harder and harder to get from the national government in Paris,” Mayor Ménager said.
The 13 square miles of land that make up the municipality of Châteauvieux, including about four square miles of woods, are classified as an architectural, urban, and rural preservation zone. “Not one square inch of the town is exempt from the rules,” according to the mayor. The money that tourists bring in is important and makes it crucial for officials to secure the funds needed for maintenance and beautification...
A department or département is the French equivalent of a county. There are 100 departments in all, and ours, the Loir-et-Cher, has a population of about 325,000. It's divided into 291 municipalities, each with its own mayor of course.