An exceptional area


 A remarkable diversity of landscapes

The big geological variety of the territory, due to the different kinds of soil, is the reason for the existence of 6 very different landscape entities. In analysing the landscapes in greater detail, one can distinguish many sub-entities and transitional landscapes.
images carte paysage

The "Grande Brenne"

Grande Brenne tnThe "Grande Brenne" or the " Brenne of the ponds" is formed by a mosaic of landscapes where water, forests, heathlands and meadows, which are sometimes dominated by sandstone hillocks, are intermingling.
The reason for this lies in the erosion of the sandstone: the softest types have disintegrated and have formed the sandy layers that can be found today on the surface of the clay. The most resistant ones have formed the ""buttons", the sandstone hillocks. The poor soils consisting of clayey sandstone, which are difficult to exploit because too humid in winter and too dry in summer, are the explication of the creation of the lakes (all are artificial). Importance is also given to livestock breeding on land unsuitable for crop farming.
The diversity of the natural environments is at the origin of the great ecological wealth of the Brenne.
HVI etg grande Brenne tn

In the 19th century, the Brenne, poor, isolated, with a very low population density, has been frowned upon as this text of George Sand* shows: (but the "wild character" of its landscapes has been known already) (*George Sand is one of the most important female French writers of the 19th century)
"On the whole, this county (the Indre) is furrowed by two beautiful valleys, the one of the Indre, which gives it its name, and those of the Creuse with the picturesque ravines of its torrential tributaries. But, between those two regions,HVI Brenne tn fresh and rich, one united plateau, sad, unhealthy and poor: that's the Brenne.
If you look at the Brenne which figures on the old illuminated maps of Cassini, the physiognomy of a country so wild is tighten your heart; no paths, no villages, enormous open spaces with a church tower, without a farm, without a little grove. Everywhere are endless amounts of ponds strewn in the heather? The new departmental maps don't show the Brenne in a much better light.
However the Brenne is neither so ugly, nor so dead like it is appearing in its descriptions. In the eyes of the painter or the writer, that flat territory, flooded in a thousand places, with a crazy vegetation of useless grass, which are fattening in the silt, does not lack of character. There is even a certain desolated poetry in those reed plains scorched by the heat wave.
It's like being far, far away from France, in some desert where man would not have yet penetrated.

If we can find a mound, a dungeon, the Bouchet castle, for example, and the view is hovering over a vast area, this is also as beautiful in its way, as our beloved paintings of the Indre, the *Creuse or the Bouzanne." (*3 rivers of the region)
Gerorge SAND: "Le cercle hippique de Mézières-en-Brenne par un habitant de la vallée noire à la suite d'Isidora"

paysage grande brenne tnThe «Grande Brenne» has been marked by clearings in the 1980's and 1990's. The reason for this lies in the agricultural abandonment, the decline of livestock and the development of hobbies like hunting. Those changes are on the increase since about ten years. Furthermore, the search to raise the pond's productivity has caused a regression in the aquatic vegetation. Those noticeable mutations in the landscapes are causing strong pressure on the ecological balance of this environment who is equally perturbed by the proliferation of invasive exotic species like the Water-Primrose ((Ludwigia) and the Red Swamp Crayfish.
On the other hand, in the periphery of the "Grande Brenne",livestock rearing has however increased. Where soils are suitable, certain sectors are even able to increase their crops harvest.


The "Queue de Brenne"

Queue de Brenne2 tnThe " Queue de Brenne" consists of fewer ponds then the "Grande Brenne", but is showing the same soil characteristics . This area is wooded in its northern part and crops are on the increase in it's southern area.





The "Petite Brenne"

Petite Brenne tn

Situated south of the Creuse river, it is equally home to ponds, but they are less frequent than in the "Grande Brenne" and the plateau is covered in parts by large forests. The terrain is an intermediate between the hills of the "Boischaut" to the south-east, buttress of the Massif central and the plateau of Le Blanc to the north-west. Certain progressions of forests and woodland can be observed around the ponds.

The " Pays d'Azay et le Pays Blancois"

Pays Azay tnThe Pays d'Azay is a crop growing area attached to the agricultural region of the " Boischaut nord". The forest of Preuilly and the valley of the Claise are the two main landscape elements of this entity. The landscape of the valley of the Narçay creates a distinctive border between the still wooded Brenne and the large areas of crop cultivation where hedges have disappeared.



Pays blancois tnThe "Pays Blancois", strongly characterized by valleys cut in chalk stone, is indicating the border between the Berry and the Poitou regions. The landscape is varied: farm plateaus and valleys alternating with gardened landscapes, grasslands, rocky cliffs and steep wooded slopes.

The "Pays Blancois" and the "Pays d'Azay" have been touched by land consolidation and therefore changes in their landscapes due to agricultural evolutions (in the second half of the 60's, beginning of the 70's). Gradually the landscapes became more unified. The consequences of the intensive exploitation of fertile soils are the expanding of agricultural parcels, the almost disappearance of hedgerows and the cultivation of the valleys.


Boischaut sud

The mixed landscapes of the "Boischaut sud" are to a large extent fragmented by a structure of still dense woodlands, in particularly in steep areas; the hillside relief is quite pronounced especially in the south-east; the hydrographic network is cut deep, made of waterways (the river Anglin and its tributaries) and of some ponds. One can find three sub-entities: the woodlands of the "Boischaut-sud" to the south-east, the regrouped woodlands of the "Terres Froides" in the Poitou region (open woodlands) to the west and the transitional woodlands, who are starting to open up, to the north. Those three major groups are being crossed by a system of different sized valleys.
bocage tnThe principal activities remain sheep and goat breeding and intensive cattle rearing. The woodland covers a remarkable diversity of natural habitats, amongst some dry grasslands, moorlands (dry, humid and mixed), thickets and many ponds. The hedgerows and small forests play an essential role in the diversity and the effective of numerous species. An entire hedgerow with its embankment and its ditch houses an abundance of various avifaunas. It is home to a wealth of plants, with on average nearly eight tree and shrub species per hedge.
The English oak(Quercus robur), the Sessile oak (Quercus petraea) and sometimes Chestnut are the most common trees. Amongst the shrubs Blackthorn and Hawthorn are the most common ones. In the shallow areas one can rather find the European Alder (Alnus glutinosa), Ash (Fraxinus) and the Ginger Willow bocage du sud Prissac tn(Salix atrocinerea Brot). The Field Orme (Ulmus minor), who has been the emblematic tree of the hedge, has diminished a lot because of the Dutch elm disease. In the areas most suitable for agricultural use (essentially fertile plateaus), the diminishing of the hedgerows is critical. The woodland area has increased considerably during the last 50 years and one notices that the percentage of actual trees in the hedgerows is reduced. Those who are still existant are mainly trees dealt with in the traditional way (trees pruned in the "têtards"style and pollarded). Today the network of the hedges is less dense and they are less joined together. This is affecting their ecological interest. But despite this developpment, the hedgerows are staying relatively dense. This shows that a balance between economical necessity and the conservation of those hedges is after all possible.


The valleys of the Creuse and the Anglin rivers

HVI Creuse tnBetween Saint Gaultier and Tournon-Saint-Martin, the Creuse,a dominating river with few tributaries, offers a dividing line in the landscape between the northern and the southern part of the Park. Upstream of Le Blanc the river meanders in a floodplain bordered by wooded hillsides, while downstream the river is bordered by limestone cliffs. On the edges of the plateau lean meadows have developed on the limestone or "calcareous grasslands". Still in the same text, George Sand is pointing out the beauty of its landscapes: "If he (the traveler) meets the Creuse near Le Pin and if he descends until Fontgombault, he is crossing the lovely area called " Little Switzerland",and he will have roamed the most beautiful part of the county and one of France's most smiling ones "
The Anglin river has many little tributaries, especially in the south, bordered by wetland meadows and occasionally bogs.

Anglin tnThe surroundings of the rivers Creuse and Anglin are preserved throughout, but the landscapes are suffering from the abandonment of pastures, of the cultivation of the valley bottoms and of the transformation of certain parts into scrubland. The riparian forest is still well existent, but is sometimes fragile, especially due to the development of poplar trees cultures. The hillsides have been touched by urbanization. It is difficult to perceive the landscape of valleys because very few paths are going along the riversides. With the vegetation in place, the roads, which are following the hillsides, offer only very limited views. Only bridges or canoe trips are really allow to appreciate the landscapes.

Bienvenue dans le Parc naturel régional de la Brenne