FROM the Sept Iles archipelago off Brittany, to urban nature trails in Paris and the reedbeds of Lake Annecy, the Fête de la Nature puts you in touch with experts to learn about your area, among France’s incredible variety of landscapes.
It gives a chance to visit the country’s most remarkable – and also its most ordinary – natural sites; guided by professionals and volunteers whose mission it is to protect and manage wildlife, to enhance its beauty, and to make sure its vitality and biodiversity are maintained.
The festival has grown year on year from the first event in 2007 when there were just 200 events around the country with 100,000 visitors.
Last year saw 3,800 events and a remarkable 1.2 million participants; which has given organisers the courage to go for broke in the fifth year and aim to hit the 5,000 event mark and draw two million visitors.
Organised by 42 wildlife groups under the banner of the Union Internationale pour la Conservation de la Nature and the nature magazine Terre Sauvage.
Despite the Sept Iles archipelago off Brittany being a reserve noted for its northern gannets, gulls and Atlantic puffins it is also a haven for grey seals: the boat that takes you out to the crags will have a permanent dark-eyed escort.
In Paris, volunteers will show the incredible range of wildlife that lives cheek-by-jowl with humans; there is much more than the scavenging pigeon or fox population. See the beehives in the city centre and sample the result of the bees’ labours, spread thickly on pain d’épice.
Rangers in the Pyrenées National Park will give visitors lessons in basic botany, and point out, too, the sheep that graze there each summer know the subject perfectly.
Try the seashore all round France to discover the flora and micro-fauna of the beach and foreshore or, for a freshwater treat, head for Annecy and the reedbeds of the Bout-du-Lac nature reserve to find orchids, waterfowl, reptiles, amphibians and insects and butterflies. You will also see how fragile the reedbeds are.
From dawn until dark you can enjoy nature: whether it is the dawn chorus and a ranger to identify the calls; someone to tell you about plants and flowers, spiders and insects; a spot to see roe deer or wild boar or a honey buzzard and woodpecker; or someone to point out the stars and the plants with an evening of astronomy.
The website www.fetedelanature.com has clickable maps to find your nearest event.