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La Brenne lies in an area of centralFrance south of the Loire, about 80kilometres south-east of Tours and 80 kilometres east of Poitiers. It is knownlocally as 'The Land of a Thousand Lakes' because of the numerous pools,mostly man-made, which dot itslandscapes. Owing to the French appetitefor freshwater fish, these have beenmanaged over the centuries for fishing,and being privately owned by numeroussmallholders, a rich tapestry of habitatshas developed, including marshes,deciduous woods, dry heathland andfarmland.La Brenne is both the home andworkplace of our local guide, TonyWilliams. Tony has been warden and sitemanager of La Brenne since 1982 and hasbeen guiding natural history tours to thislittle-known area since 1984. Needless tosay, Tony's knowledge of this area isunsurpassed, and this, together with theaccess he has to private estates, makesour tour to the region so very special.La Brenne has a dense population ofbreeding birds in the spring. Its heronriesare of particular note, with goodpopulations of both Grey and PurpleHerons, Little Egrets, and Cattle Egrets (arecent colonist). Night Herons, Bittern andLittle Bittern may also be seen with a littleluck, whilst a careful search of the lakesreveals breeding Black-necked Grebesand Garganey, and overhead Black andWhiskered Terns - the latter morenumerous here than anywhere else inFrance. No fewer than 16 species ofwarbler have bred in the area, and theseinclude Savi's, Great Reed, Cetti's, Fan-tailed, Melodious, Dartford and Bonelli'sWarblers. The variety of habitats isparticularly appealing to birds of prey.Whilst Black Kites, Short-toed Eagles andHoney Buzzards may be seen over thewoodlands, Marsh, Montagu's and HenHarriers quarter reedbeds, marshes andarable land, and the dashing Hobby maybe seen almost anywhere. In the farmlandthe declining Little Bustard, Quail andStone Curlew may all be found; inorchards and woodland are Wrynecks,Red-backed Shrikes, Black Redstarts,Short-toed Treecreepers, Serins and CirlBuntings. The calls of Hoopoes andGolden Orioles, and liquid songs ofNightingales complete this classiccollection of European birds. Althoughsome of these birds, such as Montagu'sand Marsh Harrier, Honey Buzzard, StoneCurlew and Cirl Bunting occur locally or insmall numbers in southern England, in LaBrenne they are widespread and common.Likewise, a number of butterflies that are rare in England are common in La Brenne. These include the LargeTortoiseshell, Swallowtail, ScarceSwallowtail, White Admiral and Purple Emperor.Most remarkably, no fewer than 36 speciesof orchid occur in the area! Whilst they arenot all in flower at the same time, specieswe have seen on previous visits at thistime of year include Early Spider (Ophryssphegodes), Fly (Ophrys insectifera),Monkey (Orchis simia), Burnt Tip (Orchisustulata), Lizard (Himantoglossumhiricinum), Tongue (Serapias lingua) andViolet Bird's Nest Orchid (Limodorumabortivum). Other plants of interest that weshould see include Milkweed(Vincetoxicum hirundinaria), WhiteAsphodel (Asphodelus albus), GreaterBroomrape (Orobanche rapum-genistae),Hairy Spurge (Euphorbia villosa), BlueBugle (Ajuga genevensis) and Viper's Grass(Scorzonera humilis).Though rich in interest, La Brenne is notan extensive area and most habitats arewithin short drives of our hotel at Mézières.Thus we can maximise our time spent inthe field, limiting the time spent inminibuses. This, therefore, is an ideal tripfor the all-round naturalist, or the botanist,entomologist or birdwatcher who prefersunhurried outings, with the opportunity tosit for an hour or more by a lake watchinga colony of Whiskered Terns, observingdragonflies, or searching for orchids.France - La BrenneAn 8-day holiday - in search of birds, plants and butterflies - to one of therichest, if less well-known, natural history destinations in France.Saturday 18th May - Saturday 25th May Cost: £1,295Book direct on 01962 733051or see page 284 for Booking InformationSPAIN ITALY SWITZERLAND GERMANY BELGIUM LA BRENNE CALAIS LILLE PARIS POITIERS TOULOUSE BORDEAUX FRENCH ALPS STRASBOURG (FROM LONDON ST. PANCRAS)ENGLISH CHANNEL ATLANTIC OCEAN MEDITERRANEAN SEA FRANCE Outline itineraryDay 1Eurostar train fromLondon St. Pancras toPoitiers, via Lille, anddrive to La Brenne.Day 2/7La Brenne. Day 8Drive Poitiers forEurostar train to LondonSt. Pancras. AccommodationA small, comfortable hotel with ensuite rooms.FoodAll included in the price, except formeals taken in transit.Grading A. Day walks only.FocusBirds, wild flowers (especiallyorchids), and butterflies.LeaderTom McJannet or Simon Tonkin.Single room supplement£165.Web quick search: FRA0959Wetlands, MenetinneMap butterflyWhiskered Tern

Call now or visit your free Trip ItineraryThe Dordogne, one of themajor rivers of France, risesfrom just below Puy Sancy, inthe mountains of the Auvergne,and enters the Bay of Biscay bymeans of the Garonne estuarynear Bordeaux. However, it is atthe middle of its course, amongst theheartlands of rural southern France, that itis at its most beautiful, meandering sopeacefully through wide limestone gorgesand rolling hills bedecked with dense oakwoodlands. Here, stunning ochre-colouredstone hamlets nestle in the valleysamongst walnut trees and fields of maizeand sunflowers, whilst large villages clingprecariously to the riverside cliffs or perch fortress-like atop hills and ridges,often huddling around an 18th centurychateau or the ruins of a castle datingback to the Hundred Years War withEngland.During our week-long holiday we will bebased near Rocamadour, a spectacularmedieval village, abbey and castle builtinto the side of a cliff. Choosing a verypleasant village hotel, we will enjoy goodlocal food and wines, and explore - asmuch as possible on foot - the variedhabitats of the surrounding countryside. Inlate May this unspoilt and lovely part ofFrance is a veritable paradise for the keennaturalist. Birds are everywhere, butterfliesand other insects abound, whilst abewildering array of flowering plantsprovide a sea of colour in meadows,hedgerows and woodland glades. This issouthern England in the days beforeintensive farming and suburban sprawl .only with twice the number of species! One of the reasons for this great diversityis the varying density of the underlyinglimestone, a characteristic of thislandscape being the spectacular cliffs,formed where the river's course has beenimpeded by harder rock. Such brokencountry suits many birds of prey, includingboth Red and Black Kite, Honey Buzzard,Hobby, Peregrine, harriers, and even theoccasional Booted Eagle, as well as CragMartin and Alpine Swift. These limestonegorges also support a very rich flora, withorchids being particularly well represented.Most noticeable perhaps, with abundantlarge spikes, are the strange but beautiful Lizard Orchids, but Man, Military, Lady,Monkey, Burnt-tip, Bee and Fly Orchids areplentiful, together with Red, Sword-leavedand White Helleborines. Many other rareand beautiful plants can also be found,which helps explain the abundance of themany butterflies on the wing at this time ofthe year. Comma, Southern White Admiral,Cleopatra, Swallowtail, Scarce Swallowtail,Large Tortoiseshell, and numerousdifferent fritillaries and blues are just a fewof the species we should see. Away from the river, the alkaline rocks haveeroded to form a stony, mineral-rich redsoil that encourages woodland, sparsegrazing and just a few small cultivatedfields. This is a rolling landscape of smallvillages and subsistence farming,absolutely brimming with wildlife. Flowerybanks are everywhere, with more orchidsand other plants, including Field Eryngo(Eryngium campestre), Meadow Clary(Salvia pratensis), Hoary Mullein(Verbascum pulverulentum) and White Flax(Linum suffruticosum), present. The rarecornfield weeds, Cornflower (Centaureacyanus), Corn Buttercup (Ranunculusarvensis) and Corn Cockle (Agrostemmagithago), can also sometimes be found inthe small fields. This pastoral landcape isthe ideal country for Hoopoe, GoldenOriole, Wryneck, Melodious Warbler andmore birds of prey, while the beautifulsong of the Nightingale seems to emanate from practically every piece ofscrub. Butterflies and other insects areagain very abundant, whilst Sand, Green,Viviparous and Wall Lizards scamper awayfrom our footsteps. A little to the north-east of our base we willalso explore the area where the riveremerges from the hard volcanic rocks ofthe Massif Central plateau, to flow throughthe charming small market towns ofArgentat and Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne. Thepredominant schist and sandstone rockshere give rise to acid soils, with a mixtureof oak and Sweet Chestnut woodland,sandy heathland and damp boggy areasso markedly different in character from thehabitats of our previous forays. Goshawkand Cirl Bunting are particularly frequenthere, and we have a chance of an elusiveHawfinch or Firecrest. The flora is not sorich, but specialities like Summer Lady'sTresses (Spiranthes aestivalis) and SpikedRampion (Phyteuma spicatum) are likely tobe seen. There is also a rare outcrop ofSerpentine rock which has its owninteresting flora. This holiday offers the chance to enjoy agreat diversity of species amongst idyllicrural scenery of a character which is fastdisappearing from the rest of Europe. Italso provides the opportunity to view andappreciate the superb architecture of thisregion, while also, of course, sampling thegastronomic delights of the food and drinkfor which it is justifiably famous. Dordogne River ValleySouthern White AdmiralBooted EagleOutline itineraryDay 1Fly Toulouse and driveto the Dordogne.Day 2/7Daily programme ofnatural history walksand excursions in theDordogne region.Day 8Fly London.Accommodation A charming rural hotel with privatefacilities, serving excellent localfood.Food All included in the price.Grading Grade B. Day walks only.Focus Plants, birds and butterflies.LeaderMark Galliott.Single room supplement£160.ExtensionsAvailable on request.Web quick search: FRA13France - The DordogneAn 8-day holiday in search of the plants, birds and butterflies of an unspoilt and idyllic region of rural France.Sunday 19th May - Sunday 26th May Cost: £1,295SPAIN ITALY SWITZERLAND GERMANY BELGIUM CALAIS PARIS ROCAMADOUR DORDOGNEVALLEYTOULOUSE BORDEAUX FRENCH ALPS MASSIF CENTRAL STRASBOURG ENGLISH CHANNEL ATLANTIC OCEAN MEDITERRANEAN SEA FRANCE PYRENEES LOT VALLEY60