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France - La Brenne: The Land of a Thousand Lakes

Tour Code: FRA09

An 8-day holiday - in search of birds, plants and butterflies - to one of the richest, if less well-known, natural history destinations in France.

8 days from £1395(flights not included) Land Only Price: £1295 SRS: £175


Known locally as ‘The Land of a Thousand Lakes’, La Brenne harbours a rich tapestry of habitats including marshes, deciduous woods, dry heathland and farmland. Our local guide, Tony Williams, has been Warden of La Brenne since 1982 and has been guiding natural history tours in area since 1984. Needless to say, Tony’s knowledge of La Brenne is unsurpassed, and this, together with the access he has to private estates, makes our tour so very special. Though rich in interest, La Brenne is not an extensive area and most habitats are within a short drive of our hotel at Mézières. This, therefore, is an ideal trip for the all-round naturalist, or the botanist, entomologist or birdwatcher who prefers more relaxed natural history outings.

  • Travel by train on a flight-free holiday!
  • Enjoy a feast of fauna & flora in this quiet, picturesque corner of France
  • Impressive heronries are a highlight
  • 16 species of warbler possible, including Bonelli's, Great Reed & Melodious
  • Enjoy a wealth of butterfly species not found in the UK
  • Up to 36 orchid species possible, including Early Spider, Lizard & Tongue
  • Red Squirrel & Wild Boar are amongst the mammals here
  • Led by Naturetrek naturalist, plus our own resident expert, Tony Williams

Food

All included in the price, except for meals taken in transit.

Accommodation

A smalll, comfortable hotel with en suite rooms.

La Brenne (Tom McJannet)

La Brenne (Tom McJannet)

Outline Itinerary Download

Day 1 Eurostar train from London St. Pancras to Poitiers, via Lille and drive to La Brenne. Flights from Stansted to Poitiers can be arranged on request

Day 2/7 La Brenne

Day 8 Drive Poitiers for Eurostar train to London St. Pancras

La Brenne lies in an area of central France south of the Loire, about 80 kilometres south-east of Tours and 80 kilometres east of Poitiers. It is known locally as ‘The Land of a Thousand Lakes’ because of the numerous pools, mostly man-made, which dot its landscapes. Owing to the French appetite for freshwater fish, these have been managed over the centuries for fishing, and being privately owned by numerous smallholders, a rich tapestry of habitats has developed, including marshes, deciduous woods, dry heathland and farmland.

La Brenne is both the home and workplace of our local guide, Tony Williams. Tony has been warden and site manager of La Brenne since 1982 and has been guiding natural history tours to this little-known area since 1984. Needless to say, Tony’s knowledge of this area is unsurpassed, and this, together with the access he has to private estates, makes our tour to the region so very special. La Brenne has a dense population of breeding birds in the spring. Its heronries are of particular note, with good populations of both Grey and Purple Herons, Little Egrets, and Cattle Egrets (a recent colonist). Night Herons, Bittern and Little Bittern may also be seen with a little luck, whilst a careful search of the lakes reveals breeding Black-necked Grebes and Garganey, and overhead Black and Whiskered Terns — the latter more numerous here than anywhere else in France. No fewer than 16 species of warbler have bred in the area, and these include Savi’s, Great Reed, Cetti’s, Fan-tailed, Melodious, Dartford and Bonelli’s Warblers. The variety of habitats is particularly appealing to birds of prey. Whilst Black Kites, Short-toed Eagles and Honey Buzzards may be seen over the woodlands, Marsh, Montagu’s and Hen Harriers quarter reedbeds, marshes and arable land, and the dashing Hobby may be seen almost anywhere. In the farmland Quail and Stone Curlew may be found; in orchards and woodland are Wrynecks, Red-backed Shrikes, Black Redstarts, Short-toed Treecreepers, Serins and Cirl Buntings. The calls of Hoopoes and Golden Orioles, and liquid songs of Nightingales complete this classic collection of European birds. Although some of these birds, such as Montagu’s and Marsh Harrier, Honey Buzzard, Stone Curlew and Cirl Bunting occur locally or in small numbers in southern England, in La Brenne they are widespread and common. Likewise, a number of butterflies that are rare in England, are common in La Brenne. These include the Large Tortoiseshell, Swallowtail, Scarce Swallowtail, White Admiral and Purple Emperor.

Most remarkably, no fewer than 36 species of orchid occur in the area! Whilst they are not all in flower at the same time, species we have seen on previous visits at this time of year include Early Spider (Ophrys sphegodes), Fly (Ophrys insectifera), Monkey (Orchis simia), Burnt Tip (Orchis ustulata), Lizard (Himantoglossum hiricinum), Tongue (Serapias lingua) and Violet Bird’s Nest Orchid (Limodorum abortivum). Other plants of interest that we should see include Milkweed (Vincetoxicum hirundinaria), White Asphodel (Asphodelus albus), Greater Broomrape (Orobanche rapum-genistae), Hairy Spurge (Euphorbia villosa), Blue Bugle (Ajuga genevensis) and Viper’s Grass (Scorzonera humilis).

Though rich in interest, La Brenne is not an extensive area and most habitats are within short drives of our hotel at Mezieres. Thus we can maximise our time spent in the field, limiting the time spent in minibuses. This, therefore, is an ideal trip for the all-round naturalist, or the botanist, entomologist or birdwatcher who prefers unhurried outings, with the opportunity to sit for an hour or more by a lake watching a colony of Whiskered Terns, observing dragonflies, or searching for orchids.

Sunset over La Brenne (Tom McJannet)Morning mist (Tom McJannet)Whiskered Tern (Tom McJannet)European Pond Terrapin (Tom McJannet)Journey stop (Tom McJannet)Wildlife watching (Tom McJannet)Western Green Lizard (Tom McJannet)Loose Flowerd Orchid (Tom McJannet)Greater Butterfly Orchid (Tom McJannet)Spotted and Tongue Orchids(Tom McJannet)Water Lillies (Tom McJannet)Distant heronry (Tom McJannet)River Creuse (Tom McJannet)Lake in La Brenne (Tom McJannet)Adonis Blue (David Morris)Bird's Nest Orchid <i>Neottia nidus avis</i> (David Morris)Black-necked Grebe (David Morris)Brenne Orchid (David Morris)Broad-bodied ChaserChecking the moth trap!Columbine <i>Aquilegia vulgaris</i> (David Morris)Etang LakeEuropean Pond Terrapin (David Morris)Firecrest (David Morris)Four-Spotted ChaserGreater Butterfly Orchid (Tom McJannet)Knapweed Fritillary (David Morris)Lady's Slipper OrchidsLong-eared OwlLoose-flowered Orchid (David Morris)La Brenne wetlandsBirdwatching in La BrenneOrchid meadowPurple Heron (David Morris)Red-crested Pochard (David Morris)Scarce Swallowtail (David Morris)Stag Beetle (David Morris)Western Green Lizard (David Morris)Our hotel in La BrenneOur hotel in La BrenneOur hotel in La BrenneWhiskered Tern
Mr & Mrs E.
Derbyshire
We were impressed from the very first minute. We went through the gates at St Pancras International and there was Simon to meet and greet us. Such first impressions matter and prefigured the care and help which was shown to every member of the party throughout the tour and on the journeys. Not only were species identified but explanations of behaviour offered. It was far more than a 'tick list' exercise. We learned a lot. The whole tour was an excellent experience.
P.B.
Lancashire
Our two leaders, Simon Tonkin and Jason Mitchell were outstanding. From the beginning to the end of the tour nothing was too much trouble to them. Their knowledge, enthusiasm, organisation and people skills were absolutely brilliant. A real credit to Naturetrek.
W.C.
Hampshire
Enjoyed the 'all-inclusive' element of the trip. Food ranged from good local Spanish (home cooked) to very modern. Considering that we are not keen birders, this was a most enjoyable trip - made even more so by the two great leaders.
S.T.
Yorkshire
I would like to commend James Andrews' skills, firstly at being able to locate birds and secondly his ability at getting clients to see them. He displayed considerable patience and enthusiasm that made the trip for me. Having birdwatched for many years, I haven't come across anyone who is as good at identifying species both visually and also on the basis of their calls. Jessica was also a very good leader. Although I'm not so interested in flowers, her knowledge and enthusiasm added considerably to the trip.
C.R.
Kent
Despite the inclement weather during the first three days I had a great holiday. Our leaders, Jessica and Jim, were both excellent in their subject knowledge, their lunch preparation and their good humour.
M.M.
Norfolk
This trip to La Brenne was my first Naturetrek holiday I had been on. I thought it was brilliant and hugely enjoyed myself. The trip leaders, Simon and Graham, were superb and both had a vast knowledge on all aspects of wildlife. I especially enjoyed this holiday due to it covering all areas of wildlife like butterflies, birds, orchids and dragonflies. My personal highlight of the trip was the Limestone Valley, with its hundreds of Pyramidal orchids and Adonis Blue butterflies. I will certainly consider travelling with Naturetrek in the future.
Mrs S.
Surrey
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Your leaders were excellent, very knowledgeable, particularly with birds, but it was such a delight to have younger, fun leaders. They were full of enthusiasm, and made a wonderful team. The most enjoyable leaders I have had on my Naturetrek holidays. I enjoyed the holiday very much, it was a good crowd of people and crowned by excellent leaders.
Mrs S.
Cambridgeshire
One of the best ever! (1) Lovely varied programme - every day we had flowers, birds, insects. (2) Lovely to go by Eurostar, so easy. (3) Hotel comfortable with good food, family run and unpretentious (4) Excellent Leaders, who passed on their enthusiasm and were knowledgeable and concerned for our well-being. Good local contact. (5) More of the same, please. (6) I am now enthused with moths!
A.K.
Devon
An excellent week full of variety and wildlife interest in a facinating area of France. So pleased the travel was by train not plane.
S.A.L.
Middlesex
The two guides, Tom and Simon, were superb. Their knowledge and their patience were beyond reproach.
Mr & Mrs B.
Stoke-on-Trent
Simon is an exceptional tour leader, relaxed but responsive, enthusiastic and inclusive both in terms of the diversity of wildlife and the spread of participants interests. Tom's experience of our leading and detailed knowledge of La Brenne also added greatly to the successive outcome.
J.G.
Guernsey
Leaders were excellent and I, as a botanist, much appreciated their breadth of knowledge with flowers as well as fauna. Both Maurice and Mark were experienced organisers and great company. A great trip!
D.T.
Hertfordshire
All leaders fantastic. All completely committed to ensuring all members of the group had the best experience possible whilst enjoying the trip themselves.
R.T.
Hertfordshire
Tom and David had a very flexible approach and managed the various levels of knowledge and requirements of the group members very sympathetically. The expertise combined with Tony's local knowledge led to a very rewarding experience.
D.R.
Wiltshire
A most enjoyable week with two cheerful leaders who were outstanding in finding plants and birds. Tony gave us a good welcome with tasty picnics at a different site each day. His company and local expertise were much appreciated. I would like to recommend the La Brenne trip to anyone, and would like to repeat it one day.
S.W.
Dunbartonshire
Tom and Tony were excellent leaders. Hotel staff were very nice and the grounds beautiful.
R.W.
Dunbartonshire
Tom and Tony were first class. Tony's picnics were excellent!
A.T.
Hampshire
This was a very interesting and enjoyable trip with a friendly group. The presence of a botanical leader as well as the bird leader, Tom, catered for the wide range of the levels of knowledge and interest in the group.
S.G.
Gloucestershire
Very impressed with Tom McJannet's knowledge and teaching ability.
W.A.
Jersey
Tom McJannets knowledge of birds was awesome and he and David Tattersfield, the botanist, made a perfect team.
J.G.
Gloucestershire
La Brenne has fabulous flora. David's leadership was invaluable.
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DeparturesAvailableCost

Wed 23rd May 2018 - Wed 30th May 2018

YES

£1395

more details

Flights: Flights are not included with this tourMore info

Regional Departures: Regional Departures are limited. Call 01962 733051 for detailsMore info

Land only cost: £1295 More info

Room sharing options: More info

Visiting: France

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Andy Tucker
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01962 733051

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Tour Reviews

We were impressed from the very first minute. We went through the gates at St Pancras International and there was Simon to meet and greet us. Such first impressions matter and prefigured the care and help which was shown to every member of the party throughout the tour and on the journeys. Not only were species identified but explanations of behaviour offered. It was far more than a 'tick list' exercise. We learned a lot. The whole tour was an excellent experience.
Mr & Mrs E., Derbyshire