Walk with songs and stories through the Ile aux Pies
An encounter with nature and little imps, accompanied by Emmanuel
Boots all laced up, and the adventure begins. Emmanuel, who has “fallen in love with the Pays de Redon” takes little folk and big folk through on a tour of the local woods, rivers and legends. Along the way, he brings to life the stories, fauna and geology of the Ile aux Pies (Magpie Island), springing surprises and songs upon his audience as they wend their way through this wonderful place.
A walk in the woods
With the children leading the way, the little battalion gets going. A pathway carpeted with leaves zig-zags through chestnuts, oaks and beeches, and a tree trunk lying alongside the path arouses our curiosity. It certainly has plenty to tell us – the rings reveal its age, while little holes betray the presence of insects. And on one side we can see a freshly made hole, proving that a bird has found its lunch there – most likely a green or great-spotted woodpecker. Luckily for us, nothing escapes Emmanuel’s eagle eye when it comes to finding such secrets of the forest.
A kingdom of birds
A few stops and three or four winding paths later, here we are at the water’s edge. This unspoiled site has a sense of peacefulness – a heron rests beside undulating reeds, and crows fly over the other riverbank. There’s a magpie chanting its chattering ‘tchak-tchak’, and our smiling guide tells us a story that explains how the king of the birds is not necessarily the one we think it is. The children are absolutely mesmerised by this story, part dream, part reality.
A crew on the right path
We stretch out our break in order to make the most of where we are, the place where the Nantes-Brest Canal meets the River Oust. This is the crossroads of Brittany’s navigable waterways, and our multi-skilled expert in the different facets of this outstanding landscape brings out maps and satellite images to prove it, then goes on to transform our young accomplices into bargemen. Camille and Louise become captains of barges that have been taken prisoner by the fairies. Everyone helps them to load the sand from the river Loire, the poles made from pine trunks, the apples and the lime, into the right boats going in the right direction. And then we have a great stroke of luck – some delicious treats from the Nantes Biscuit Factory have been left behind! Emmanuel is a genius, reinventing interactivity as it used to be, 100% natural and not an iPad to be seen!
The trees join the game !
As we walk along the towpath, which also happens to be the Velodyssee cycle route, strange husks crunch beneath our feet – they look like “a cross between a chestnut and a hazel”. In fact they are beechnuts, and Candice and Jules examine them closely. Parents revisit their childhood as they remember how to crack them open to get a taste. After crunching these little nuggets of fruit, further challenges greet the youngest members of the party as they run on to the next bend. Chloe is totally won over – it’s “just awesome” she says.
How do you make a wood and a granite cliff ?
Emmanuel is full of surprises, and tells the children to hide the acorns they find. Why? To show how magpies and jays plant trees on the islands as they stash away their provisions. Another clever trick helps us understand the impressive cliff face that rises up in front of us: the formation of these granite mountains is re-enacted using bread and bits of crepe – yes, really! And can you guess how erosion is demonstrated? By digging in happily to these tasty bits of earth of course!
A well timed afternoon
The beech trees give way to pine trees, and everyone takes a seat on a carpet of pine needles. Just as a fine wisp of mist settles on the water, Emmanuel calls up the fairies and imps for a story told in song, and as we sing the words after him our voices reach right up to the treetops. Another of these two-part songs – a local tradition that Marie-Annick is familiar with – helps everyone climb back up the hill to the car park, as joining in the lively chorus all about courting couples helps us forget our tired legs. Some of us linger by the water to admire the climbers taking on the cliff-face, while the rest make their way to a delightful creperie that promises some mouth-watering moments.
Text: Annick André
Further details :
Meet at 15:00 at the car park of the Ile aux Pies site in Saint Vincent sur Oust
Price: €6 per adult/€2.5 per child