40. That's the number of candles on the cake for the Pinail Nature Reserve in 2020. To mark the occasion, the park has given itself a brand new discovery trail. So this summer, I took advantage of the anniversary of this biodiversity hotspot to organise a mother-son nature morning. Because, like many young people of his generation, Hugo is concerned about the environment and has been interested in ecology since he was a child. The icing on the cake of this family outing was the presence of a scientific guide to answer my teenager's many questions.
Early morning on the paths... of Pinail
Yann Sellier arranged to meet us at the Reserve car park in Vouneuil-sur-Vienne. This commune lies between Poitiers and Châtellerault, an hour from the Brenne Regional Nature Park and an hour and a half from the Marais Poitevin.
Yann works for the association GEREPI in charge of managing the site, scientific monitoring, welcoming visitors and raising public awareness. In his explorer's outfit, which, who knows why, reminds me of the drawings of the artist Glen Baxter, the project manager begins by telling us the history of Le Pinail.
A former royal forest, the nature reserve covers 142 hectares. Its unique lunar landscapes have been shaped by man. Written records show that the millstone quarry existed as early as 850 A.D. A thousand years later, quarrying ceased, leaving a mosaic of moorland dotted with at least 6,000 pools.
Today, more than 2,500 animal, plant and fungal species live in peat bogs and other wet meadows: dragonflies, birds of prey, carnivorous plants, butterflies, frogs, orchids, sheep, deer, algae, snakes, mushrooms, etc. Some are particularly rare, such as the Azuré des mouillères, a butterfly that lays its eggs only on gentian.
After this presentation, which whetted our appetite for exploration, we set off on the 2020 version of the trail. The signposted route spreads its wings over two kilometres, punctuated by observatories and free discovery areas. The immersion lasts around two hours, somewhere between real and virtual. On each of the nine information panels, a QR code to be flashed takes you to a brand new video. My teenager immediately pulls out his smartphone and we watch images that are as magnificent as they are captivating.
This new digital interface is a complementary approach to the classic visit: you fly over the reserve, dive into the ponds, witness the birth of a dragonfly, follow the passage of fire on the moors... Hugo and I learnt that prescribed burns are essential for the conservation of species. Surprising, isn't it?
Passionate and fascinating, our guide alternates between catching insects in his butterfly net, lifting stones to show us the fauna that hides there, and telling us juicy anecdotes about carnivorous plants and slave ants... Noticing Hugo's enthusiasm, he tells us that, in addition to the guided tours, there are also themed nature outings are held free of charge every month.
In March, the Amphibians outing was a great success with the children. It takes place at night. Participants are equipped with a headlamp. Using a landing net, we introduce them to frogs, toads and even colourful newts!
I could come back to Le Pinail dozens of times and never tire of it. Every season, every hour of the day, what you see, hear and breathe is a new experience. The ideal place for a family nature walk!
- Free admission all year round
- Access: follow the road signs to the Pinail nature reserve car park in Vouneuil-sur-Vienne.
- Le petit explorateur du Pinail" (€5), a 64-page booklet with the 150 most easily recognisable species, games and observation books. Get your copy in advance to prepare for your visit.
Further information: 05 49 02 33 47
La Graine Fleurie, a leading nursery
Boosted by my visit to the nature reserve, I decided to push on to Monthoiron, ten minutes away. During my trip to Pleumartin last June, several of the people I spoke to had praised the merits of La Graine Fleurie, which is present at their Sunday market (March to June and September to November).
So I took the opportunity to meet Virginie Azile, the horticulturalist who has been running this establishment since 2001. Just outside the village of Monthoiron, on the road towards La Roche-Posay, the greenhouses come into view. We went inside and I was surprised by the sheer size of them. Among the aromatic plants, perennials, rose bushes and fruit bushes, Virginie is working tirelessly.
While I look at the bedding plants and vegetable plants, Hugo asks about the size of the installations. " 1100 m2 indoor and one hectare outdoor "replied the head of La Graine Fleurie. Although an employee of a local authority is shopping that day, Virginie points out that she sells her flowers and trees mainly to private customers.
The choice naturally depends on the season. But if I am to believe his loyal customers under the halls of PleumartinThe quality is always there. Whether you're planning to grow aubergines or gherkins, or to add camellias or geraniums to your garden, I'm sure you'll be delighted with this address.
All the signs are green for a nature break in Grand Châtellerault!