A 5 minute drive from La Roche Bernard takes you to the Parc Naturel Régional de La Brière. The park includes the largest wetland area in France outside of the Camargue. It covers around 100,000 acres. Its establishment in 1970 aimed to protect the cultural and natural aspects of the area. A vast network of canals, islets, marshes and lagoons play host to a myriad of wildlife, and is a bird-watchers paradise. In addition, you can see traditional crafts, such as thatched roofing, bee-keeping and flower drying, fiercely preserved within the Brière.
The Brière is a large lagunar depression located in a collapsed area of the Armorican granite bedrock. There, the blue clay sedimentation is testimony to the repeated oceanic movements over the last 10,000 years. In the Neolithic period it changed from a primarily forested landscape to a swampier more lacustrian environment. Dolmens and menhirs testify to human presence during that period. Some megaliths placed here before the formation of the swamps are now sunk in the peat (like the “fossil” trees called “mortas” by the Briérons). Over the centuries, peat cutting, pasturing, field clearing, fishing and hunting, helped modify the landscape. With the progressive decline in these traditional activities, nature started to return the landscape to its original appearance.
In the heart of the Brière, the area around the Ile-de-Fédrun offers numerous opportunities for tourist excursions.For example, “Promenades en barque” are a particular favourite. Visitors can take a trip on a small punt through the labyrinth-like canal system. You can hire punts and find your own way, or you can take a guided tour. Bréca and Les Fossés Blancs are also a good starting point for other organised boat trips.
Local legend has it that Saint-Lyphard was once under the spell of a fierce dragon. The beast would only allow people to inhabit the area if they sacrificed a young child each year. Eventually, a hermit managed to slay the dragon by tracking it to its lair, and killing it with his sword. Nowadays, the dragon is gone and visitors can take trips around the local area on Calèches (horse-drawn carts).
Finally, Kerhinet lies in the heart of the Brière. The village has been restored to look like it would have done in bygone days. The area is pedestrianised and offers various exhibitions of local craft and produce. It boasts a bar and excellent restaurant: we have certainly eaten there a number of times! This is a nice place to stop for a short visit en route between La Roche-Bernard and the beach at La Baule.