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Eight open spaces to visit in The Loir

28 May 2020

The Loir Valley has over 140 private and privately-owned châteaux and manor houses, most of which were rebuilt after the Hundred Years War, several built in the second half of the 15th century and the Renaissance and very many have the most glorious gardens. There’s also some wonderful natural open spaces which should be on your Loir bucket list for 2020 and beyond when travel reopens.

The Cré-sur-Loir Marshes

Image courtesy of OT Vallée du Loir

Image courtesy of OT Vallée du Loir

 

The Cré-sur-Loir Marshes carry the Natural Reserves of France label and is unique  – thanks to its biodiversity. The variety of flora and fauna is outstanding. It is a joy to discover the reeds, alluvial woods and wet meadowlands. There are in fact three different trails from a kilometre to 2.7 kilometres.  Pick up a free discovery pack in the tourist office of Loir Valley!

 

mage courtesy of OT Vallée du Loir

mage courtesy of OT Vallée du Loir

 

Loir Valley’s two NEW cycle routes for 2020

Image courtesy J P Berlose - Loir

Image courtesy J P Berlose

The Loir Valley has Introduced two new exciting cycle routes to its attractions this year.

The first is 48.5km long and is called the ‘Unforgettable – Zoo and Castle’.It follows the ‘green route’ between Baugé-en-Anjou, La Flèche and the commune of Clefs-Val-d’Anjou. It is a very pretty, sign-posted route that also passes two amazing castles with a fascinating history – the Châteaux du Lude and de Baugé, the latter being famous for its outstanding seventeenth century pharmacy that still contains many lotions and potions from that period, including goats’ blood, woodlouse powder or mummified fingers!  Also unmissable on this route is the amazing Zoo of La Flèche  – tour five continents in one day!

 

Image courtesy Sebastien Gaudard - Château de Baugé

Image courtesy Sebastien Gaudard – Château de Baugé

 

The second route is “Between Stone and Marsh”. Cycle 36 km along an old railway line, that has been turned into a green ‘corridor’. Leave La Flèche and its Prytannée, to join Clefs-Val d’Anjou and Fougeré. Ride past manor houses and beautiful residences, find the Rairies and take the return path through the Cré-sur-Loir marshes.

For bike hire, including electric bikes and safety items, just pop into the local tourist office of La Flèche or La Chartre-sur-le-Loir. All offices can provide details of other treasures to uncover in the Valley.

Leisure Lakes 

Image courtesy of Stevan Lira - Loir

Image courtesy of Stevan Lira

 

There is a myriad of places to visit particularly in summer where watersports and other leisure activities can be enjoyed. Mansigné is one, Marcon another and the lovely La Monnerie just outside of La Flèche. Various water-based sports can include sailing, canoeing, kayaking, pedalos, paddle boarding, swimming, whilst beach volleyball, beach football, cycling, hiking, kite flying, tennis, archery, orienteering, even boomeranging can also be enjoyed. There is usually a picnic area, bar/restaurant and leisure accommodation close by. Everything is ready for the sunny summer days ahead.

 

Image courtesy of Stevan Lira - Loir

Image courtesy of Stevan Lira

 

The archeological site of Cherré

Image courtesy of Guy Durand - Loir

Image courtesy of Guy Durand

 

Cherré is an archeological site of significance that is well worth a visit. Between Le Lude and Vaas, in Aubigné-Racan, one finds the remains of an ancient theatre built in Gallo-Roman times – 1st – 3rd centuries. In a semi-circular form, it shows us the three divisions of a Greco-Roman theatre: stage, orchestra, Koilon. According to archaeologists, this theatre must have stood at more than twelve metres and could hold 3,000 spectators. It is completely free to visit, and guided tours are provided on request.

Château du Lude

Image courtesy of OT Vallée du Loir

Image courtesy of OT Vallée du Loir

 

Château du Lude is a marvellous castle spanning four centuries of French architecture that was revamped in the 19th century in the neo-Gothic style, when the English Garden was added with a botanical walk. Edouard André designed the vegetable garden at this time with an Orangerie and greenhouses, where produce is still grown to feed the family, as well as orchards, flowers and fruits arranged in boxwood squares. Mme La Comtesse de Nicolay, the current incumbent, has developed a particularly successful permaculture as well as now using the produce of the orchards and gardens too to make jams and pickles that are sold to visitors. The Rose Garden has a rare collection of blooms that flower anytime between May and December.

The exceptional Bercé Forest

Image courtesy of Steven Lira - Loir

Image courtesy of Steven Lira

 

The Bercé Forest is a jewel of more than 3,000 hectares of oaks and 2,400 hectares of conifers producing the highest quality timber that is particularly sought after in the barrel making industry. The forest has recently been awarded the Exceptional Forest label. It is a great place for sporting activities such as cycling, walking, hiking, horse-riding and mountain biking.

 

Image courtesy of OT Vallée du Loir

Image courtesy of OT Vallée du Loir

 

NEW for 2020 is the 98km Gr de Pays – a marvellous hiking route that is split into five different parts.  Stroll through vineyards, orchards, the forest itself of course, and picturesque villages.

NEW for 2020 is a topoguide that brings together the 30 most beautiful walks in the Loir Valley.

Vauboin Priory Hortus Conclusus – Jardin Remarquable

Image courtesy of Stevan Lira - Loir

Image courtesy of Stevan Lira

 

These contemporary gardens of the Vauboin Priory have received the Jardin Remarquable label from the Ministry of Culture. This green wonder is the result of the work of a passionate gardener who describes himself as a “natural art sculptor”. The two staggering gardens surround a fourteenth century cottage at the foot of a limestone hill. The enclosed garden and century old box plantation is so called as a perfect place for contemplation.

 

The Caroline Terrace, an architectural folly

 

Image courtesy of ®_France-®Allwrite - Loir

Image courtesy of ®_France-®Allwrite

 

What an amazing gift of love! Amédée de Nonnant, the owner of Château de Poncé, simply ordered the building, in 1830, of a neo-gothic styled terrace (The Caroline Terrace) in honour of his wife Caroline. This three-level brick and stone construction is set against a tufa cliff (the original stone of Loir Valley) and behind the Renaissance Style Château. Visitors can enjoy its picturesque and monumental appearance with its beautiful warheads, balconies and battlements.

 

A veritable hidden gem …
there’s more to the little Loir without the “e” than you might think

 

Travelling to the Vallée du Loir: Take the Eurostar or fly to Paris and travel from Paris Montparnasse Train Station via TGV Atlantique direct to Le Mans (55 minutes) – gateway to The Loir.

 

Notes for editors: The Loir Valley is situated between Le Mans, Tours, Laval and Angers.  The little Loir, a cousin of the larger Loire, into which the river flows, means ‘dormouse’. This conjures a very apt description of the area – sleepy, rolling French countryside, with charming villages and enchanting towns that seem to belong to a past era when life was less busy and complicated.

The Loir has throughout history been lauded for its gentle style of living. The river was always the lifeline bringing building materials to construct some of the luxuriant châteaux such as Château du Lude, grand enough to rival those of the Loire further south. There are some gorgeous gardens otherwise explore nature where outdoor activities abound.

This is the most northerly outpost of Loire AOC wines which can be enjoyed in the restaurants scattered throughout the region such as Le Moulin de Quatre Saisons in La Flèche.

For more information please visit www.vallee-du-loir.com