It is man, by his activities since ancient times, who has shaped the landscape of the Pinail Nature Reserve.
Stones have been extracted for grinding mills since the 9th century (from the time of Pepin II of Aquitaine, the great-grandson of Charlemagne). The millstones were transported by water along the River Vienne and the River Loire, and were commonly used in a radius of over 300 km in the Central-West region of France. The story goes that some were taken to the other side of the Atlantic to the French colonies of Canada, especially during the migrations from the metropolis to Quebec in the 17th and 18th centuries. The thousands of ponds in this area were the result of the manufacture of some 100,000 millstones for grinding grain. The exploitation of the site ceased at the end of the 19th century with the arrival of metal cylinders in the mills.
The Reserve is located in the heart of the Moulière National Forest, the largest forest in the Department of Vienne, which also takes its name from the millstones once extracted from it. The landscape is both lunar and luxuriant. The ponds formed by the holes left by the extraction of the millstones are home to abundant natural life. This natural and historical site is even home to some endangered species, such as dragonflies and some amphibians.
The Poitiers heathlands are dotted with 5,000 ponds - an incredibly rich ecological wealth.
Pinail is today protected and shelters a remarkable fauna. This mosaic of natural habitats shelters dozens of species: dragonflies, some of which are protected, the white-clawed crayfish and a dozen species of amphibians or hybrids like the treefrog or the crested newt. Dozens of species of birds nest in the heathlands: the harrier, the meadow pipit and the iconic warbler. Many species of locust, grasshopper and cicada live among an exceptional flora of over 400 plant species, six of which are protected. Mushrooms are also included as the Reserve protects the best-known repertoire of fungus in the former Poitou-Charentes region.
There are hiking and cycling trails to explore the Reserve and learn about the biodiversity of this site.