La Brenne - wildlife of the French lakes (by train)
A ‘wild’ week, exploring one of France’s best-kept secrets as we are transported back to a landscape of yesteryear.
13th – 20th May 2024
Laurie Jackson and Jason Mitchell
Single Room Supplement – £175
Return train travel from London St Pancras, local transport as specified in the itinerary. Seven nights’ accommodation, full board.
Refreshments. Gratuities. Travel insurance. Covid tests and associated costs.
Minimum 5, maximum 14.
Often called the Land of a Thousand Lakes, La Brenne Parc Naturel Régional is located just south of the Loire Valley. A mosaic of fish ponds, lakes, reedbeds, meadows, heaths and broad-leaved forest set in a traditional farmland landscape, makes for a uniquely diverse flora and fauna.
At this time of year Corn Bunting, Turtle Dove and Nightingale will be proclaiming their territories, with dozens of warblers including Savi’s, Melodious, Bonelli’s and Great Reed Warbler among the standout species.
Wryneck, Red-backed Shrike, Hoopoe and Golden Oriole are widespread and common, and nine species of herons can be found here including Purple Heron and Night Heron, and with luck the secretive Little Bittern. La Brenne is home to over 10% of the French breeding population of Black-necked Grebes, and several hundred pairs of elegant Whiskered Terns nest on waterlilies. Perhaps one of the region’s most spectacular birds is the Bee-eater and no trip is complete without a visit to a river-bank colony.
Although best known for its birds, La Brenne has plenty of other wildlife on offer. With large areas of traditionally managed farmland and forest, and their associated flower-rich meadows, wetlands and heath, butterflies and dragonflies abound. An impressive 97 species of butterflies and almost 70 species of dragonfly have been recorded across La Brenne. For the botanist there’s also much on offer, with an impressive 36 different species of orchid found across the Parc. This holiday will appeal to anyone who wishes to enjoy pleasant walks filled with wildlife, with the bonus of travelling by train.
Day 1 After travelling to Saint-Pierre-des-Corps (Tours) by train, we’ll make our way to our accommodation at the edge of the Parc, close to the River Claise (c. 90 mins).
Day 2 We visit some of La Brenne’s many small lakes or étangs, where we hope to find Black-necked Grebe, and Whiskered Tern hawking for insects. We will look for the diminutive Little Bittern along with Purple Heron, Red-crested Pochard and secretive Garganey. All the while watching out for early-flying dragonflies including Hairy Hawker, Downy Emerald and Scarlet Darter.
Day 3 Bocage is an important feature of La Brenne; a habitat made up of small fields and thick hedgerows, it is rich in birdlife and other animals. The hedgerows are great for a number of interesting passerines; both Red-backed Shrike and Melodious Warbler are common.
Day 4 The River Creuse cuts its way through limestone and over millennia has formed impressive chalk cliffs along its shores. This has made for a unique microclimate rich in wild flowers with orchids, including Burnt, Fly and Lady. It is here we find La Brenne’s most exotic breeding species, the Bee-eater, and we will spend time enjoying these exciting birds, as they pursue insects.
Day 5 We head for the eastern boundary of the Parc to visit the large Forêt du Lancosme, an area of woodland, heathland and wetland, rich in butterflies and birds. Several species of orchid grow along the forest rides including Man, Bird’s-nest and Monkey Orchids. Small streams and flushes are home to many dragonflies, and Golden Orioles are never far away.
Day 6 The Vallée du Suin in a must for anyone interested in plants. In addition to an abundance of orchids, we’ll find many other chalk-loving species today.
Butterflies are abundant as well, with the Black Hairstreak at its peak and the cheery orange ‘spring form’ of the Map on the wing.
Day 7 We leave things a more open-ended today and our visits will likely see us return to some of our favourite sites from earlier in the week. Our pace is always leisurely but today especially so and this should leave time to enjoy an extra coffee or an ice-cream!
Day 8 Today we head back to Saint-Pierre-des-Corps (Tours) and our train home.
Please note that the itinerary may be changed to suit the weather or other practicalities at the discretion of the leaders.