Normandy: Perche Regional Nature Park
The rolling green of the Perche
Wooded hillsides, ribbons of water running through meadows, paths bordered by hedges, rolling landscapes dotted with apple-tree orchards: this is the Perche region, a haven of greenery just an hour's drive from Paris. Nature thrives here thanks to these natural spaces teeming with water. The Regional Natural Park of the Perche is ideal for the curious, from the enthusiast to the specialist.
In the Perche, the ancestral forests date back to the times of Louis XIV. During this time period, a man named Colbert, the Financial Officer and Secretary of State for the Navy, introduced a tree-planting initiative. He was then able to dictate the supply of wood for the construction of royal ships.
In the springtime, these prestigious woods composed of oak and beech groves take on a pretty robe of flowers, including the wood hyacinth and the sweet woodruff. Certain remarkable trees can be visited, such as the "Three Brothers" and the "Armchair Oak" in Senonches Forest. Here, curious visitors and gourmets alike will be able to find up to 1,100 species of mushrooms, some of which are very rare. But be careful – not all of them are edible! Among the exceptional bird life, two species are extremely discreet: the honey buzzard – a bird of prey that eats wasps and bees – and the black stork.
The old trees scattered along the way are nicknamed "Trognes," and they have a strange shape; the local inhabitants prune them regularly for firewood. Cavities form in them, serving as hiding places for insects such as stag beetles, bats and cavernicolous birds. The hedges are also a dominant feature of the landscape, and are home to one-third of the Perche’s plant life. It is the perfect place to familiarise yourself with birds and their melodious songs: hoopoe, hawfinch, spotted flycatcher...
Water is absolutely everywhere, appearing in the form of peat bogs with rich vegetation; these carpets of moss are known as sphagnum, and the purple moor grass forms large tufts. Many butterflies and dragonflies are attracted here. The Froux peat bog in Manou, which is open for visits, illustrates the particular atmosphere of these wet areas. Other areas impregnated with water are also accessible, such as the wet forest of Les Mousseuses in La Ferté-Vidame, and the Etang de la Benette in Senonches.
Built on a hillside in a lovely green setting, the vast estate of the Manoir de Courboyer serves as a representation of the Perche landscapes and is the showcase for the Regional Natural Park of the Perche. Here you will also find a catering area for meals and snacks. At the end of one of the 80 nature outings organised by the Park, you should savour the Perche recipes made with local produce, along with a glass of cider.