Regional Natural Park of Loire-Anjou-Touraine
In the Regional Natural Park of Loire Anjou Touraine, located between the Loire and the Vienne River, the Puys du Chinonais stand thirty metres above the ground. These hillocks of "tuffeau" stone with short grass growing on their sides are exposed to optimum sunshine conditions and are home to Mediterranean fauna and flora. You can observe the very rare small-flowered buttercup, wild orchids such as the bee orchid, and a few uncommon butterflies such as the large blue butterfly. Birds like the hoopoe with its black and white striped plumage and the Bonelli's warbler are also found in these hot, dry places. A visit to the eco-museum in Véron will give you an insight into the different aspects of this area of land and water.
Also found between the Loire and Vienne is Le Véron, an enclosure dating back to the Middle Ages that is composed of regularly flooded fields which provide a setting for all sorts of wildlife and plants. In the spring, the fields take on many colours – such as the mauve of the snake's head which contrasts with the tender green of the grass. This emblematic, rare flower stands thirty centimetres tall and is one of the first to blossom. The fields are enclosed by double rows of hedges that are pruned short. The oldest of them have cavities which are used as nests by small owls or as refuges for insects such as the rosalia longicorn.
The Loire is a migratory corridor for a great many animals. The first among them are fish; salmon, large shad and lamprey all swim upriver to reach the spawning area and reproduce. Birds also follow the river to migrate, and to remain here. Wherever the trees resist the rise in water levels, you will find grey herons and little egrets. A variety of ducks along with our favourite bird of prey, the osprey, stop off for a long break on this motorway of the skies which will allow you to observe them easily. Go to the Pointe de Courpain Nature Reserve at the junction between the Loiret and the Loire, near Orléans, where you can see a great many flowers, dragonflies and other insects. Certain plants have come from the Massif Central, such as the dog figwort with its lovely white-spotted crimson flowers. Others have crossed the Atlantic, for example the Manitoba maple. On the mud flat, you can observe the brown galingale, which is also found in Senegal and Niger.
There are many ways in which to observe all of this life. An out-of-the-ordinary and discreet way is by water. If you feel up for a challenge, take a canoe and use the navigation sheets made by the Regional Natural Park. Alternatively, you could choose the traditional flat-bottomed boats that leave from Candes, Chaumont, and around Sancerre. Places such as the Touraine-Val de Loire Permanent Centre for Environmental Initiative organise both scheduled and custom nature outings. If you prefer terra firma, there are "interpretation" trails marked by signposts, and dotted with educational and entertaining information points.