Cycle round the salt marshes
With Gwen, on the Rhuys peninsula
Gwen’s a true nature-lover, and her cheerful mood is sure to make your cycle tour even more enjoyable. Close to Sarzeau, this peaceful, sociable mode of transport takes you up close to the wonderful world of the salt marshes. It’s a different approach to exploring the coast.
Off to a gentle start
A few little adjustments to make sure the saddle’s at the right height, and off we go for a peaceful ride that will take two to three hours. With Gwen keeping an attentive eye on us, our little troupe turns off by the steeple at St-Colombier and starts heading towards the shores of the Gulf of Morbihan. A gentle slope brings us onto the grassy terrain of Le Duer. We see a few sheep and birds coexisting happily in this superb bird sanctuary. Philippe spots a Canada goose that has stopped to linger here. Gwen tells us the names of the headlands and islands that stud the horizon.
A cycle ride that’s worth its salt
We’re pedalling along a sunken lane. At the pace we’re going, it’s easy to chat. As for sporting the yellow jersey, we leave that to the broom and gorse. Our route passes by some pretty little fishermen’s cottages and then out onto the salt flats at Lasné. The ‘mulons’ – heaps of harvested salt – are sparkling in the Gulf sunlight, a sure sign that the salt marshes are back in action. These salt flats were created in the Middle Ages and abandoned in the 1960s, and major work has now been carried out to restore them. Gwen gives us a quick rundown on the salt workers. In the past, there have been as many as 600 workers busy on this stretch of coast. Its chequered history is all tied up with the salt tax and flat oyster farming.
Now the dykes have been rebuilt around the channels that bring water into the marshes, mudflats, evaporation pans and basins, and the reflections in the water are a magnificent sight. The water has a long way to travel before the crystals appear... I’m astounded to learn that the water in the harvesting basins contains ten times more salt than seawater! The salt farm is greatly appreciated by ramblers, egrets and shelducks. On our bikes we can go everywhere and ride alongside the marshes. Near a water inlet opposite the isle of Tascon, Gwen smiles as she tells us about life on this speck in the ocean, connected to the mainland by a road that is sometimes underwater. The chronicles of the islanders sometimes seem more like myth than reality!
Nature that’s good enough to eat
A few sluice gates further down the line, the bottom of the basins are covered with the robust vegetation that grows in this environment. Gwen shows us sea purslane, annual sea-blite, sea-lavender and samphire. When the tide ebbs, this is a great source of food for the birds. Christophe chose these basins for refining his oysters – and, talking of food, nature has thoughtfully provided sustenance for us. We nibble dandelions, wild chives and sea spinach… and these plants turn our thoughts towards other nice things to eat. We swap inside information on where to go clam gathering and shrimping. The land round here is not only good to look at, it’s full of good things to eat as well!
To the mill and back
A change of scenery: slipways, water, houses, pine trees and boats all combine to form a tableau of the magnificent crossing at Sené. In season, a ferry crosses the sound to land on the other side of the Gulf, near Vannes. But we stay on dry land to go and admire the tide mill at Hézo. This feat of engineering, built on a wall of granite, is where we start to head back. As we go through St-Armel, there’s the option of stopping off at the market (if it’s the right day!) or at a pavement café for a drink. A bit more pedalling brings us back to where we started, a ride that truly whets the appetite for more of the same!
Text : Annick André
Advance booking only