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Located in central France, La Brenneis a vast, yet intimate, low-lyinglandscape of fish ponds, marshes,flowery meadows, slow-flowing streams,small arable fields, rambling hedgerows,heaths, scrubland and deciduous forests.Indeed, it offers a medieval landscape thatremains remarkably intact - stillpredominantly used to this day by fishfarmers and smallholders who havefavoured traditional rather than modernmethods on account of the region's boggyterrain, poor soils and complex pattern ofland ownership. As such, it remains ahaven for wildlife and a wonderful place inwhich visiting naturalists may enjoy awealth of natural history amongst tranquilsurroundings. With over 2,000 lakes, the 160,000-hectareRegional Nature Park of La Brenne is bothinternationally important and famed for itswetland birds. What is less well known isthat it is also a magnificent place forbutterflies due to its rich tapestry ofhabitats and the continued employment oftraditional farming and forestry practices.To date, 97 butterfly species have beenrecorded in La Brenne (nearly twice thenumber occurring in the whole of Britain!),including a number of special specieswhich are rare or rapidly declining in otherparts of Europe.Our aim on this tour will be to fully explorethe butterfly fauna of La Brenne throughvisits to some exceptional meadow andforest habitats that have rarely, if ever,been visited by Britsh entomologistsbefore. Amongst the species we will hopeto encounter are a number of rare orthreatened European species, includingCamberwell Beauty, Large Copper andLarge Blue, whilst amongst the commonspecies found in La Brenne at this time ofyear, yet absent from the British Isles, areLarge Chequered Skipper, Lesser PurpleEmperor, Large Tortoiseshell, SouthernWhite Admiral, Map, Pearly Heath, SootyCopper, Alcon Blue, Provençal Short-tailedBlue, Great Banded Grayling, IlexHairstreak, Scarce Swallowtail and manyspecies of fritillary, amongst them Spotted,Knapweed, Marbled and Lesser Marbled.We will also hope to see a number ofbutterflies that are rare in England butcommon in La Brenne, including LulworthSkipper, Berger's Clouded Yellow, Short-tailed Blue, Heath Fritillary, GlanvilleFritillary, Swallowtail, Wood White andBlack Hairstreak. Weather permitting, wehope to see up to 50 species during theholiday, a variety which you would be hardpressed to see during an entire year ofextensive travelling within the UK! Inaddition, we expect to encounter a wealth of other wildlife, in particular birds, dragonflies and orchids.To find these species we will be in thehighly capable hands of renowned localnaturalist Tony Williams, who has worked innature conservation in La Brenne for over25 years. Needless to say, Tony'sknowledge of this area and its many bird,plant and insect species is unsurpassed,and this, together with the access he hasto private estates, makes our tour to theregion very special. Our base will be asmall and traditional hotel in Mézières-en-Brenne, which has an excellent reputationlocally for fine cuisine. Mézières-en-Brenneis a charming small country town located inthe north of la Brenne and at the heart ofthe butterfly action. All of our excursionsare within a short drive of here, enabling usto maximise time spent watching butterfliesin the field. The pace will be gentle, toallow time for photography and to marvel atthe fabulous diversity of butterflies present.Each day we will focus on a differenthabitat type, to ensure that we are able toenjoy a varied range of butterfly speciesand experiences over the course of theholiday. As time and conditions allow, wewill also run a moth-trapping session or twoin the evening. This should attract a wealthof wetland species such as Gold Spot,Reed Dagger, Water Ermine, ReedLeopard, Pinion-streaked Snout, ReedTussock, Brown-veined Wainscot, Blair'sWainscot, Bulrush Wainscot, Fisher'sEstuarine Moth and Flame Wainscot, andsome spectacular species such asWillowherb Hawk-moth, Clifden and other nonpareils, as well as the GreatPeacock, Europe's largest moth. This will be a pioneering investigation, as very little is known about the moths of La Brenne!To reach La Brenne in as environmentallysound a manner as possible we will travelby train from London to Poitiers, then takean hour-long minibus ride to our hotel. Wewill return home at the end of our holiday inthe same manner, concluding a remarkablyvaried six days in a corner of France famedfor its birdlife, but equally important forbutterflies which, in a small way, this tourand its participants will help to promote.France - Butterflies of La BrenneA 6-day holiday, travelling to and from Poitiers by train, to enjoy the exceptionally rich wildlife of La Brenne, focusing in particular on its remarkable variety of butterflies.Thursday 27th June - Tuesday 2nd July Cost: £995Book 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 ST. PANCRAS)ENGLISH CHANNEL ATLANTIC OCEAN MEDITERRANEAN SEA FRANCE Outline itineraryDay 1Eurostar train fromLondon St. Pancras toPoitiers; transferMézières-en-Brenne.Day 2/5Butterfly and wildlifeexcursions throughoutLa Brenne.Day 6Eurostar train fromPoitiers to London St. Pancras.AccommodationA comfortable hotel with en suiterooms. FoodAll included in the price, except formeals taken in transit. Allow £30. GradingA. Day walks only. FocusButterflies, and other wildlife.LeaderTony Williams.Single room supplement£115. Web quick search: FRA0665Pearl-bordered FritillaryLarge Blue10% DONATIONTO

On this holiday we will be exploringthe Parc National des Pyrénées onfoot, using well-maintained mountaintrails for a series of gentle day walks which,in July, will enable us to enjoy the best ofthe great numbers and diversity ofbutterflies to be found in the hay meadows,woods and alpine pastures of this highcentral region of the French Pyrenees.These largely north-facing slopes, closer tothe Atlantic than the Mediterranean, arewetter, lusher, greener and more forestedthan the southern, Spanish slopes, and in atypical week's stay in this area duringmidsummer we may hope to see at least 70species of butterfly, with 100 being possiblein a good year, including local endemicsand many high-altitude specialists. Ourbase, throughout our stay, will be a pleasantcountry hotel in the quiet village of Gèdre.Situated at just over 1,000 metres, and justa short drive from the magnificent Cirque deGavarnie, it is an ideal base from which toexplore the full spectrum of Pyreneanhabitats during daily walking excursions ofvarying distances. We will explore at all altitudes between 500and 3,000 metres in order to enjoy as widea range of species as possible, but it is inthe high Pyrenees where we'll find most ofthe butterfly, plant, bird and mammalspecialities, not to mention the mostspectacular scenery! The area around theCirque de Gavarnie, with its high forests,alpine meadows and spectacular waterfalls,will be the focus of our attention on severaldays of our holiday. Its steep slopes, andsurrounding high peaks and passes, offerfine walking and the best of high Pyreneanbutterflies, birds and flowers. On the bleakand craggy Col de Boucharo, perched highon the Spanish border above the canyonsof the Ordessa National Park, we will lookfor Peak and Mountain Dappled Whites,Apollo and Clouded Apollo, and variousalpine Ringlets including Bright-eyed,Lefèbvre's, Yellow-spotted, Mountain andWestern Brassy. Snowfinches and AlpineAccentors are found feeding around themelting snow, whilst the tree-line is theplace to look for Citril Finches. BlackRedstarts, Water Pipits, Rock Buntings,Ravens, Choughs and Alpine Choughs arecommon, while overhead we'll see GoldenEagles, Lammergeiers, Griffon Vultures andother raptors. High cliffs will receiveparticular attention, for on these we willalways have a chance of finding that mostelusive of all Pyrenean birds, theWallcreeper. The tranquil and airy Cirque de Troumouse,high above the tree-line, is quite asbeautiful. Less well known than Gavarnie,its relative peace and quiet make it ahaven for mammals such as Marmots,Chamois and Foxes, with small pools andstreams being the home of the rare andelusive Pyrenean Brook Salamander. Theboulder-strewn slopes here and the alpinemeadows of the Heas Valley just below,are at this time of year a superb place tomarvel at the fabulous show of colourfulplants, including the beautiful blue EnglishIris, Alpenrose, Field, Spring and TrumpetGentians, a bewildering array of differentsaxifrages, various orchids and a wealth ofother interesting species. Of course, wherethe flora is rich it follows that the insectfauna is also very diverse, with Scarce,Purple-shot and Purple-edged Copper,numerous fritillaries, Camberwell Beauty,Large Tortoiseshell and many species ofblue being found. The star attraction,though, is the very rare and appropriatelynamed Gavarnie Blue, restricted to just afew sites in the central Pyrenees and theadjacent Cantabrian Mountains in Spain. At lower altitudes we will explore some ofthe many lakes and reservoirs, aroundwhich the waterside meadows are abotanist's paradise, with numerous speciesof butterfly proliferating in a pesticide-freeenvironment. Fritillaries are particularlyabundant in these habitats, with Niobe,High Brown, Shepherd's, False Heath,Marbled and Lesser Marbled amongstothers, while Blues are also numerous andinclude Amanda's, Turquoise, Escher's,Long-tailed, Osiris and Large Blue. Afurther challenge will be the identificationof the many species of fast-flying skippers.One day will also be set aside to visit theancient conifer forests, on granite rocks,that surround the beautiful Lac de Gaube,the change to acid conditions giving us awhole new range of different butterflies,plants and birds to enjoy. The formerinclude Mountain Clouded Yellow, Glandon,Baton, Osiris and Idas Blues, Apollo, Largeand Spanish Brassy Ringlet and Large WallBrown, while Water Saxifrage, Large YellowGentian, Alpine Sow-thistle and AlpineLeek are amongst the many plants to befound here. The pine woods also support awide range of birds, including BlackWoodpecker and Crested Tit, and theendearing Red Squirrel. This holiday, taking in the broad range ofPyrenean natural history, and offering awide variety and choice of walkingexcursions, should suit a broad range ofinterests and abilities. But it is thebutterflies that are the stars in July, andthey are what we place a special focus onduring this 'high summer' holiday.France - Butterflies of the Pyrenees An 8-day holiday in search of the profusion of butterflies, and other natural history, to be found on gentle day walks in the French Pyrenees.Thursday 4th July - Thursday 11th July Cost: £1,295Outline itineraryDay 1Fly Pau or Lourdes;transfer Gèdre.Day 2/7Walking excursions inthe Parc National desPyrénées in search ofbutterflies and othernatural history.Day 8Fly London.AccommodationA delightful family-run hotel, allrooms with private facilities.FoodAll included in the price.GradingGrade B. Day walks only. FocusButterflies, plus other naturalhistory.LeaderMark Galliott.Single room supplement£180.Web quick search: FRA0366Call now or visit your free Trip ItineraryJACAPYRENEESGAVARNIEGÈDREPAUTOULOUSEBORDEAUXANDORRABILBAOMADRIDFRANCESPAIN10% DONATIONTOCirque de GavarniePurple-edged CopperApolloEscher's Blue