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Friday, 9 August 2013

French Friday - the forest of Paimpont

About three weeks ago when the sun was blazing during a particularly hot spell, the thought of a day out in a forest with lakes seemed like a good idea.

Also known as Brocéliande forest, it is a land of legends and Arthurian romance. The only previous time we had visited was when we first moved here in 2004 and were surprised to learn that King Arthur, Lancelot, Merlin et al were legends here too, as we had grown up with the tales since childhood and assumed they were British ones! But the Bretons are a Celtic race who came over to Bretagne (Britain) in the 6th century AD so maybe brought their legends with them.

We'd decided a picnic was in order, something we'd not done in years. (I don't count those 'stolen' sandwiches from hotel breakfasts as a real picnic. A real picnic contains real picnic food that you lovingly prepped at home!). First stop was the lake called 'Etang de Pas du Houx' - not a huge lot to see here other than one path alongside open to the public and a view of a couple of big houses. Most of the land beside the lake is private and this must be a great place to live, other than the hordes of visitors gawking and taking photos of your house!

French Wikipedia calls this a chateau - I beg to differ.
It's just a posh house!

We then stopped in the village of Paimpont which is small and touristy with a large and photogenic Abbey situated beside a lake. There is a tourist office where we picked up a map marking all the touristy and Arthurian legend places to visit. We only went to a few of these places and you could do with a couple of days here to do the area justice.

The Abbey at Paimpont.

Along by the lake was a pleasant walkway with mown paths amongst longer grass and I was really pleased to see signs saying that they had cut down on mowing all the grass to help the butterflies! Many of the butterflies were 'browns' all of whose larvae feed of various grasses. Of course there were ducks and dragonflies and all things related to water around too. We ate our lunch on a bench in the shade of oak trees.

Mrs Mallard with her babies.

Common Blue damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum), male.

I think this is a not quite mature male Black Tailed Skimmer (Orthetrum cancellatum).

After lunch we set off to the Val sans Retour as we could see from our map that there was a 4km round trip walk following a stream with a couple of lakes, which sounded pleasant and shady.

All about the Val sans Retour.

L'Arbre d'Or (the Golden Tree) erected in 1991 as a souvenir to remember
a fire that destroyed nearly 500 acres of forest in September 1990.

The walk beside the barely trickling stream.

The romantic in me would like to think that the legends of damsels and their lovers (faithful or otherwise) still continues with the amount of damselflies and here, demoiselles, of which there were surprisingly many in such a shady area.

Male Beautiful Demoiselles (Calopteryx virgo). Awaiting females and the one bottom right
is spreading his wings in an attempt to attract a female.

And here she is, a female Beautiful Demoiselle.

One guy got lucky and here they are getting into position.
It's a tricky manoeuvre.

Finally they made it into the 'copulation wheel'.

There were two little lakes like this, full of damselflies and dragonflies.
I could have spent hours here!

Rather than retrace our steps we continued on to do the loop
and returned via a long and very hot sunny path!

Eventually it opened up into vistas and we realised that we were quite high up here.

After chilling out for a while we decided to stop in and see what the Tomb of the Giants
was about on our way back to Paimpont.

Not a lot! A Bronze age burial chamber but we'd walked nearly 2 kms there and back and
were a bit hot and disgruntled as we'd expected something a bit more exciting....

However I didn't mind too much as I finally managed to capture a Small Skipper. There hadn't been too many butterflies about and a real lack of wild flowers, but there were quite a few of these little butterflies in amongst the long grass.

Small Skipper (Thymelicus sylvestris).

Hot, tired and dusty and impatiently awaiting my ice cream.
I've eaten more ice cream this last month than in probably the three previous years!

All in all a very enjoyable day out and only about an hour from home! 


  1. A magical destination! Wonderful images, as always, and of course I love your critters :-) Very nice read, Mandy.

    1. Marianne - hi and thanks for commenting. I hadn't had a chance to reply to your previous comment let alone look at your blog which I will do tomorrow! Busy in the veg garden and juggling internet time - I need more hours in the day. As you can see I am quite behind on updating my blog! :-) Thanks you so much my dear!

  2. You're very welcome, Mandy. I assumed as much :-) Personally?....I'm enjoying my time off from G+ tremendously and am questioning how much I want to be involved when (and IF) I come back. Like you said....there just aren't enough hours in a day! Multitasking has become very difficult for me and I don't mind admitting that I'm sure it has to do with my age :-)

    I will appreciate any comment when you have time. In the meantime, please don't give it another thought!

    1. I enjoy your blog and seeing what great things you have discovered. But G+..... it is too time consuming and starting to become very repetitive.... there are some people there I really like who are not on facebook but others I can keep in touch with and see their images there. I don't know the answer but I can't keep up with it :-(

  3. I am still pissed that you were within 2 minutes of my house (just over the hill from the Val sans Retour and nearly visible from your high photo) and didn't pop in for a cuppa. The lakes you mention (and there was originally another one, you might have noticed the remains of a dam between the two) were hammer ponds, used in the extraction of iron ore - the stream you mention can run very red. At the first lake by the golden tree (Le Miroir des Fees) I have often seen kingfishers as well as grass snakes swimming. I tend to avoid the walks there in the summer (too crowded) but in the winter I can often be the only person around. As for the Arthurian legends - apparently the forest is less than 500 years old - but why let reality spoil a good story, especially as it does add to the charm of living here?

    1. Thanks for the extra info, Ian. As you know I've also replied on facebook and now I know roughly where you live I will stop by for that cuppa next time! I'd love to go back there in September when the kids are back at school and just sit by those little lakes!