I’ve spent a large part of the last few days looking at the Loire. Our camping pitch faces it, all the food and drink we’ve enjoyed in bars and cafes are alongside it, so are the cycle and running tracks that span the length of it.
I love being on or beside a river, whenever we visit a new place I’ll instinctively head to water. My favourite places in the UK include London, Henley and Oxford – all on the banks of the Thames.
Maybe I love watery landscapes because I was born and raised in Coventry which has no river to speak of and is about as far away from the sea as you can be in Britain.
Our campsite view provides us with a landscape that is changing constantly with the flow of the river, the light and shadows, the birds and boats, the movement of the trees and the angle of the sun. Although river views change there is usually a predictable tranquility to the scene.
There’s nothing unusual about my feelings, water is the most prevalent substance on our planet. We instinctively realise that being by water makes us healthier, happier and brings us peace and is absolutely essential to our survival. Man has chosen to settle by water for practical and aesthetic reasons since the beginning of civilisation.
As rivers go the Loire – France’s longest at just over 1,000 kilometres – must surely be one of the most beautiful.
The weather helps, it owes its temperate climate to the Atlantic influences that provide for the diverse range of wildlife and fauna which exist today and, more importantly, has helped establish it as France’s third largest wine region.
Like most rivers it was a place of settlement and trade since prehistory when Neanderthal man fashioned boats from tree trunks with their flint tools to navigate the river.
It was the Romans however who first established major settlements on its shores that would eventually become its now famous historical towns and cities such Angers, Orleans, Blois and Tours.
It was its popularity with the French royal families that left the wonderful legacy of its glorious chateaux, gardens and parks.
Unlike most rivers in western Europe, there are few obstacles to the Loire’s natural flow, few locks and dams to slow its progress making it a popular river for boating trips.
One day, I just might cycle its whole length – there is a designated the ‘La Loire a Velo’ cycle route – but today I’ll just sit and watch it with a glass of Loire wine to hand!