“Here, we don’t have the sea, but we do have the Loire!“ Some even see it as a person. It’s true, the river has always had a special bond with men who have continually tried to tame it. Barges, kedges and the specialist “fûtreaux” filled with their cargo of wood, wine or salt sailed its meanders from port to port, contributing to the region’s economic activity.
It’s a Loire that also feeds people, catching salmon in their ascent upriver in their heyday, or fried fish in summer, still popular on local plates. A Loire that gives, but also takes. The older people will tell you about the floating wash houses and that of the fish merchant that were the pride of La Charité’s quaysides, shattered by the ice jams of winter 1918. How can we forget the 100-year floods? 1846, 1856, 1866 and 1907, dates engraved on the walls of houses and on the tow dock which forever leave their mark on the collective memory.
But difficult times yield to a more gentle way of life, with a single credo: “take your time”. The biodiversity of the landscape of this “Loire of the islands” is so rich at La Charité that the area has been classified as a Nature Reserve, from downstream of the bridge to Tracy-sur-Loire. In total, it covers 1,500 hectares over 20km, enough to provide a home to 500 species of flora, 200 species of birds and many wild animals. With luck, you may come across a beaver or deer, and admire the grey cranes that have chosen the Loire’s islands as their stopover point.
So don’t delay, if you’re looking for relaxation and a change of scenery, the Loire awaits, offering a real breath of fresh air! There are many ways to discover it: on foot, by canoe, by bicycle… There’s something for everyone. If you prefer flora and fauna, the Reserve organises themed nature outings, such as bird-watching points, as well as “hunts” following animal tracks, playing Sherlock in the Loire’s meadows. As for descending the Loire itself, canoe trips are available every day in season, with the option of camping on the islands. And if you don’t want to paddle yourself, you can board one of the traditional Loire boats. Tourism professionals are there to help, but there’s nothing to stop you from going off on an adventure on your own! Such as hopping on a bike and going on a cycle tour of the Loire, with 800km of cycle paths connecting Cuffy (at Nevers) to Saint-Brevin-les-Pins (opposite Saint-Nazaire).
For anglers, fishing in waders is an ideal pastime in summer and you don’t need to be a pro. You just have to watch your line and where you put your feet… Beware of “false bottoms”, hollows in the sand that can send you tumbling. Tip: always fish while facing upstream.
Also, don’t forget to simply enjoy the “Chevrette” (dike) and take in the breathtaking panorama of La Charité, bearing in mind that life is one long, quiet river.