This is the second part of Maureen & Richard Wallis's wander across France.
An intriguing photo of a man with a cow in a punt led me to the Parc Naturel Regional de la Brenne and its 3000 lakes of various sizes situated to the southeast of Tours and west of Chateauroux.
Campsites suitable for our van were difficult to find in the Parc itself until we chanced on “Le Cormier”, the link to the website is (here) which sits in the north west corner of the parc some 30 minutes from both the A10, if you are heading to Bordeaux, or the A20, if you are going to Toulouse. The site is open all year and could be a useful stop-off if you are heading towards Spain in the winter. There are detailed directions on how to get to the site on the web-site which worked fine for us.
Mike and Cath Smith have developed the site over the past 12 years. Operating Gites, Studios and the Camping site, they provide a very welcoming and different experience for visitors. The 12 pitches are large (averaging 200m2) and you are free to pitch in whatever orientation suits your preference for sun and shade. In addition to the usual 8A electrics there is a wired Astra 2 satellite service to every pitch. Plus, there is free and fast wi-fi access across the site. Just to make you feel at home each pitch has a picnic table which we moved around to suit sun or shade.
One other unusual feature is that your grey water is recycled to irrigate the trees and shrubs using the provided 50mm pipes. If you need to cool off there is also a plunge pool for the summer months.
There is little point in telling you about the facilities because, after many delays, approval has been given to add a new toilet and shower block to the existing buildings. Construction is scheduled to start once the main season is over. We understand that there will also be some additional pitches created.
As Mike offers van storage, many of the caravanners are regulars or friends of friends. One of the other visitors described the site as ‘like a giant CL but with 24 hour management to attend to any issue large or small’. A bread van which also offers other limited supplies visits three times a-week.
Obterre, which lies at the foot of the hill below the site is a small village with a bar, a small shop (check the opening hours!) and not much else. You do have to travel a bit further to do any shopping. This is a truly rural area – it’s quiet, relaxing and one of the few places where just sitting doing nothing seems the right thing to do. You can walk directly from the site into the surrounding countryside and there are minor roads suitable for cycling.
When we toured the area we missed the man, cow and punt. But we did find plenty of lakes, restaurants with beautiful views across lakes, quiet forest, and observatories to watch the birds. Some are far off and others just over your head. We were having lunch whilst these fellows were being fed. There were "splatter boards" to protect the diners.
What we did not realise at first is that the lakes are manmade and were dug for fish production. They still harvest some 1200 tons of carp each year, most of which goes for export. As most of the lakes are privately owned some offer fishing, shooting and other's various water activities. At Bellebouche they have developed a "resort" with an artificial beach and grassed picnicking areas. There are also lakeside walks or you can just mess about in boats. In addition there is a campsite which when we visited in June had only 3 or 4 units on-site. There are 52 designated emplacements, and chalets and restaurant(which was not open when we visited). From what we could see the site and the facilities operate for the July & August holiday period.
Apart from the wild-life there are plenty of historic chateaux to visit close by. We enjoyed the Chateau at Azay-le-Ferron. The first building was the tower built to collect tolls on the route from Chateauroux to Tours. The rest grew from there. Take the guided tour (45min and available in English) round the Chateau, hear the story and then enjoy the park and gardens.
Another must is the Cite Royale in Loches. The Royal Palace and the “Donjon” are usually offered on a discounted joint ticket. Of the two we thought the Donjon was the more interesting. But, be prepared, there are lots of steps up & down and be careful the door on the iron cage can easily be shut.
There’s more to see and tell but that will have to wait until we return to review the new facilities.