The UK’s leading wildlife specialist Naturetrek has launched a unique new tour that offers the chance to combine leisurely birdwatching with champagne tasting in northern France’s scenic Champagne country. The famous region has just (4 July) been granted UNESCO World Heritage status.
The seven-day trip is perfectly timed to coincide with the spectacular congregation of around 25,000 Common Cranes as they pause to feed and roost, filling the air with their evocative trumpeting calls.
The unusual tour begins with rewarding forays to the wild lakes and forest of the Parc Naturel Régional de la Forêt d’Orient, where several reserves have seen little or no human intervention for decades and have thus become a paradise for many species of woodland plants and animals. The group will seek out six species of woodpecker at a time when they are at their most conspicuous as they each proclaim their territory by bursts of drumming, and indulge in courtship displays. Sightings of Short-toed Treecreeper, Woodlark and Firecrest are also possible.
The undeniable highlight, however, will be the chance to witness the arrival of thousands of distinctive Common Cranes as they feed in the fields surrounding the Lac du Der before roosting. Up to 25,000 Cranes have been estimated to roost here, before continuing their journey between breeding grounds in northern Europe, making this one of Western Europe’s most remarkable gathering of birds. The lakes and meadows also attract other species, including White-tailed Eagle, Merlin, Smew and Tundra Bean Geese.
Unusually, the tour combines wonderful birdwatching opportunities with the fascinating chance to visit a family-run champagne producer, Champagne Drappier, located in the Côte des Bar. Renowned for organic and natural methods of cultivation, the charming proprietor, Michel Drappier, shows visitors the magnificent 12th century vaulted cellars, originally built by Cistercian monks. The experience concludes with a memorable tasting of several of the Drappier cuvées.
The trip ends with a two-night stay in pretty Troyes, with its historic centre of half-timbered houses and beautiful squares. Situated on the River Seine, the city was the capital of the ancient Province of Champagne in the 12th and 13th centuries.
Departing 5 March 2016, the seven-day France – Cranes & Champagne tour costs from £1,395 pp (two sharing) including return travel by Eurostar from London to Paris (flights are also possible), transfers, comfortable hotel accommodation, most meals, champagne tasting and expert guiding.
For more information or to book visit www.naturetrek.co.uk.