In every season, you can find wild plants in nature, so why not take the opportunity to get some fresh air and enjoy a weekend break in a verdant setting!
In the commune of Châtillon-sur-Loire, you can stay at Lodge of Mantelot in a former lockhouse on the banks of the Loire and the old Loire side canal. It’s the perfect place to enjoy nature and have plenty of delicious experiences. With the workshop run by Nathalie Deshayes, learn about edible wild plants and how to cook them, all while having a relaxing experience.
Cycling between the Loire and the canal
The Mantelot Lock is an iconic historic site for sailing on the Loire and the canal, which dates back to the 19th century. Time seems to stand still, as if to preserve the verdant nature, the wild Loire and the canal. The calm, peaceful waters invite us to explore.
So, it’s time to jump on our bikes and ride along the tow path.
First of all, we come across the Mantelot lake, a lovely stretch of water between the Loire and the canal with trees around the edge, which could hold up to 150 boats in the 19th century. Ducks and moorhens now enjoy this area. It’s not rare to spot them on the banks, nesting in the irises, or in the middle of the reserve’s tranquil waters. Previously, boats parked here before crossing the royal river to get to the capital and supply it with food.
Take the small stone bridge that crosses over the Mantelot Lock and its Loire exit. The view over the Loire sandbanks and pebble beaches is breath-taking. In the distance, terns circle before diving into the turbulent waters of the Ousson waterfall on the other side of the river. This magical, calm landscape, full of delicate colours, guides us gently along the riverbanks. Can you hear the birds singing in the poplars? La Sterne, a traditional “toue sablière” boat, heads up the Loire, rocked by a gentle breeze that fills its sail. On board, Captain Bertand is at the tiller. We have booked in for the end of the day, to climb aboard and sail on his classic flat-bottomed boat.
We take the right fork and head along a wooded way that leads us to Gaston Island. It’s a natural, preserved space between the Loire and the canal. Here, there is an abundance of flora and fauna: 350 plant species, 100 bird species and 18 mammals, including beavers and bats, across a 70-hectare area. There’s nothing like being surrounded by nature to recharge your batteries!
Foraging and cooking wild plants
It’s time to return to the branch of the old canal and step back onto solid ground to discover the unusual architecture at La Folie Lock. Here, the double wooden hooked doors move using pendulums and a 3-arch bridge allows the difference between the two branches of the Loire side canal to be evened out. It’s another peaceful place in a countryside setting, which we had the chance to discover on our short walk before our wild plant foraging and cooking workshop!
As Nathalie said to us, “there are edible wild plants everywhere, and I want to help you enjoy the huge range that exists all around you!”.
We are going to forage what we need for the meal. After sorting our harvest, we make an entree, main and dessert from the wild plants and enjoy a meal in friendly company.
Discover the Loire on board a traditional toue sablière boat
Another highlight of the weekend was the boat trip on the Loire with Bertrand Deshayes. Climb aboard for an hour of sailing, leaving from Mantelot. The captain, who is passionate about the history of sailing, will recount stories about the life of bargemen from days gone by. At the same time, you will travel on the blueish waters of the majestic, tranquil Loire. Let yourself fall in love with the magic of the wild Loire and relive the fabulous epic of the Loire fleet, (re)discovering the exceptional architectural structures built in the time when everything was constructed using human strength.
The day finishes peacefully, with a short walk to the Châtillon marina before going to enjoy a few culinary specialities in the restaurant on the old port.
Tasting Coteaux du Giennois wine
From the window of our guest room, the view over the Loire is unbeatable! After a tasty breakfast served on the terrace, the peacefulness of the place overwhelms us and makes us want to explore the abundant nature once again! Why not take a bike ride along the tow path and enjoy a Coteaux du Giennois wine tasting near the lake lock? It’s only 5 km! That way, we can take our time, look at the wild plants on the bank and remember Nathalie’s precious foraging advice.
Mr Guérot’s wine cellar is located at the heart of the lake hamlet. We park our bikes and walk into this ancient building. The floor covered in red tiles, exposed stone walls, and low ceilings create an atmosphere of yesteryear! Agricultural tools and utensils decorate the room, as well as old photos. We get ready to taste wines from the terroir. Our tastebuds enjoy the fruit of the labours of this winemaker, who clearly loves his profession.
It was a weekend with many experiences, speaking to all our senses. We would happily do it again next year!
As an alternative to sailing on the Loire, you can rent a boat without a licence from the Châtillon marina for a weekend.
The Châtillon-sur-Loire campsite has the “Accueil Vélo” label, as well as mobile homes and caravans for rent. Located close to the Loire, the Combles Lock on the Loire side canal and the La Loire à Vélo path, it’s a great alternative to guest room accommodation for those who love spending the night in the great outdoors!
The South-East of the Loiret has been my favourite region for many years. I live in the Puisaye and enjoy its scenery and colours. I love walking and cycling along the banks of the Loire and the Briare Canal.Discover the experiences