There is a new English language nature guide published for the Loire Valley, Brenne and Sologne. It's published by Crossbill, a Dutch not-for-profit organisation who specialises in regional nature guides designed to encourage the public's involvement with nature conservation. The authors of this guide are Dirk Hilbers, the founder of Crossbill, and our friend Tony Williams, who works for the League pour la Protection des Oiseaux in the Brenne. The guides are distributed by WILDGuides in the UK, but as yet there is no French distributor.
Tony very kindly gave me a complimentary copy. I didn't have anything to do with the production of the guide, but I had done some work for the LPO a while ago, and it was a nice thank you present.
I haven't read it from cover to cover yet, but so far I am very impressed. There is a good clear description of the different types of habitat (small lakes, forests, heathlands, riversides, cultivation, calcareous grassland) you might encounter, and which form a mosaic of small scale farming and related activities. They stress the importance of the Loire's geographic position, straddling as it does the Atlantic coastal region and the Continental region, whilst being close enough for Mediterranean species to turn up regularly, and even the occasional Alpine. They've chosen to illustrate the book with many of my favourite special species - Snakeshead Fritillary flowers, Early Spider Orchids, Adonis Blue and Sooty Copper butterflies, Western Spectre and Orange-spotted Emerald dragonflies. It's not all about birds, and they recognise it as an all-round destination. As they say - 'in between birdwatching and orchid-spotting, why not visit a chateau or enjoy some of the excellent wine'.
My only disappointment is that they have not included us i.e. the Val de la Claise Tourangelle or the Touraine du Sud, in the area they chose to specifically cover. It's a shame, because Preuilly and its surrounds shares the same patchwork of habitats and deserves to be included this otherwise enlightened guide.
However, so I am not ending on a sour note, here are their list of highlights, which I heartily endorse*:
- Birdwatching in the Brenne or Sologne and 'experience the stunning diversity'.
- Explore the many quiet roads and tracks by bicycle. 'This area is made to be discovered by bicycle'.
- Canoe down one of the many slow moving rivers.
- Observe raptors in the Forêt d'Orléans.
- Admire the many roadside orchids and other wildflowers.
- Search the riverbanks and lake edges for the many rare species of dragonflies. 'This region is amongst France's finest for this group of insects.'
- Visit an impressive chateau or enjoy some local wine.
- Look for European Pond Terrapins and other reptiles which occur in large numbers in the Brenne.
*Sorry - can't resist -
9. Go botanising and butterfly photographing on the limestone spurs along the Val de la Claise Tourangelle and discover their combination of flower rich forests and calcareous grassy slopes. Many rarities and specialist species.