Birdsong and conviviality in the countryside in the heart of the Loire
The open grassland and forests surrounding Le Chant d’Oiseau make an ideal habitat for the barn owls and tawny owls that live in the loft above one of the three gîtes. All sorts of other birds, from herons and hen harriers to buzzards and hoopoes, love it around here too, which is surely how the house got its moniker. The name appears on a map from 1750, but the house could be centuries older – the date 1626 was incised into the stone walls of the hayloft by workers tallying up bales. The owners, Stu and Syb are passionate about the house and region, learning its history and photographing its finer features; they're a knowledgeable source of recommendations on places to visit.
The Bradleys moved their family here from Doncaster in 2005 and brought an easy-going conviviality from South Yorkshire that blends in perfectly with the Loire region’s reputation for la doucer de vivre (Flaubert called it ‘the most sensual river in France’); enjoying life at the same leisurely pace at which France’s longest river flows through the valley. They’re relaxed about campers arriving late, and offer to come and find those searching for the site after dark, even making them a nice cup of tea on arrival – just the kind of welcome visitors cherish after a long drive from a channel port. An earlier arrival means you can relax with a glass of wine from Chinon or Saumur in the newly rebuilt ‘barn’, a beautifully built homage to traditional building techniques, completed by local artisans in the spring of 2014, which serves as an alfresco WiFi area, communal eating space and quiet retreat. It's also home to an excellent bread oven that Stu has installed.
It was worth the effort: the wood-fired oven makes superb pizzas once a week, when campers can join Stu and Syb, and meet each other, under the vast roof of wooden beams. On Mondays and Fridays during the summer they serve a four-course home-cooked French meal using fresh locally sourced ingredients, and they heat up the oven again on Sundays in high season to bake the troglodyte (and Angevin) favourite, fouée – small parcels of bread dough into which savoury or sweet fillings can be added: goats’ cheese, rillettes (pork pâté), confiture, Nutella... delicious!
These events are all optional, but it’s an option that can make camping so much more appealing. The Bradleys had decades of experience camping and caravanning in Cornwall and France, and have tried to incorporate here all the best features of sites they’ve experienced. New since the 2016 season was the communal BBQ and firepit area. You can forage the lanes for wood and kindling and return to make a fire and toast a marshmallow with family and new found friends. This social aspect of camping is continued on their Facebook page as well as by those who leave glowing reviews when they return reluctantly to their everyday lives.
Animals are very much part of the Bradley ménage, meaning that guests’ pets are no longer accepted on site. But the family do have their own that you can adopt for your stay. Bracken the dog, ably assisted by the cats Splodge & Wisp, (not to mention the hens) will always give you a friendly welcome! Deer are a common sight and wild boar live in the woods, so it’s not surprising that the sport of Kings, which originally attracted French royals to the Loire, now draws chasseurs, but fortunately shooting doesn’t begin until September, so the forests are perfectly safe throughout the summer. Cycling is a prominent feature of the area with safe country roads and lanes to explore. Stu is happy to lead keen two-wheeled fans out on local (and not-so local) excursions when time permits. Otherwise he has plenty of maps and advice on where to go and what to see, available from the office. Stu and Syb were once avid surfers and originally intended to set up a site in Cornwall, but that proved too expensive. Now, they’re delighted they live in an area where the climate makes camping comfortable six months a year.
Maine Et Loire, Pays de la Loire, FranceTo respect the Host's privacy, the precise address of this land will be provided after booking
Hosted by Le C.Joined in May 2011
From the host
NEW for the 2019 Season: We've been working hard since we closed our gates in November 2018. We've created a fantastic new area housing our brand new, massive swimming pool - measuring 10 metres by 5 metres! We've taken the plunge (!) and splashed out (!) on a brand new, semi-buried swimming pool for your pleasure. It'll mean swimming in comfortable temperatures in both early and late season, as it's heated! The area is fully fenced and gated for security and lit at night too.
This spacious area is also home to our new wedding pergola. It's a wooden structure, lit and can be beautifully decorated for your special day. There's plenty of room between the pool and the new boules court for seating up to 60 guests! It can be used for other celebrations too - just get in touch for a chat about your requirements?Did we say boules court? Yes - we've built a regulation size boules/pétanque pitch as well - so don't forget your boules!New for 2018 was our well-stocked bar, named after 'Piaf', our mascot! We serve hot and cold drinks, beers from the pumps as well as local wines, sparkling wines and ciders. There's also a snack bar with tummy fillers cooked to order each lunchtime in season. As well as wine barrel tables, and stools at the spacious bar, we've added comfy seating to create two 'snugs' where you can relax, listen to the music or watch TV in comfort.
This is all in addition to the very popular outdoor eating and meeting space with our huge family sized BBQ to use. There are plenty of tables and benches dotted around for your family picnic. Our fire-pit area has been a massive hit with guests last season, and we just know you'll love it too! Our fantastic, open barn - a beautiful traditionally built wooden 'éspace communal', or 'Le Rendezvous des Amis' as we like to call it, offers even more options to socialise, and drink in the ambience of a unique French idyll. Eat, drink, play games, meet old friends or make new ones in gorgeous surroundings. We've also upgraded our children's play area. Your little ones will be thrilled with the two tree-houses we've built centrally on site, giving you the opportunity to relax in plain sight of your kids, while they create their own adventures!
Sorry, but we don't accept pets (except guide dogs) on site.
Medieval Mouliherne and its 12th century church with unique twisted spire is 3 miles (5 km) away, and there are plentiful peaceful walks and bike-rides through the woods and fields. Locally we have horse riding stables both in Mouliherne and Vernoil. Our friends next door (1 kilometre away!) are happy to have you visit their goat farm at milking time where you can watch (and often take part) in milking! You can also buy the freshest, creamiest goat's milk too. If you're a cheese fan, you can order from them the cheeses made from milk from their goats on Tuesdays for delivery to you, on site, on Friday. Honestly, it's brilliant fun, and in early season you may be asked to feed the babies too!
The elegant city of Saumur, with its fortress-chateau, multi-arched bridges, and houses built in local tufa limestone, is a 20 minute drive. Stu (and the Michelin Guide) rate the Musée des Blindes tank museum (00 33 2 41 53 06 99). The town has a great market on Saturdays on Place St Pierre and is an appellation renowned for its sparkling white wines. There are many small, independent wine makers within an easy drive of Le Chant, though the immediate area is primarily devoted to apple growing. The nearest vineyards are at Bourgueil, Saumur, Benais, Allonnes. This is chateaux country - the Valley of Kings and there are lovely chateaux fairly locally at Baugé, Clairfontaine, Brézé, Gizeaux, Montgeoffroy, and Montsoreau (all around 20-30 minutes away) with the monastery and abbey at Fontrevraud a little further; Richard the Lionheart, Henry II, and Alienor of Aquitaine are all buried there. The chateaux towns of Angers, Chinon, Blois, Chambord, Chenonceau and many more are further still, and really worth the trip out.
Around an hour and a half away by road, at Les Espesses, is the mind blowing Grand Parc Puy du Fou. Words alone don't come close to describing the magic of the Grand Parc. It has to be experienced to be believed, so - if you do one thing whilst you're here, it should be this!
There's everything in the area from museums to river boat cruises to shopping to markets. History, a stunning landscape, beautiful sleepy towns and villages. Nightlife if you want it, quiet bars for people watching if you don't.
With so much to see and do, both locally and within a very short car journey away, Le Chant d'Oiseau is always at the centre of your French holiday.
Food and drink
A four-course home-cooked meal is available on site twice-weekly on Monday and Friday evenings, as well as pizzas (Wednesday) and fouée (Sundays in high season). Bar snacks are available to order at lunchtime. Milk, fresh eggs, ice creams, draught and bottled beers as well as wine by the carafe is also for sale. Daily bread and croissant deliveries (amazing croissants aux amandes), booked the night before. The local bar in Mouliherne has reopened with Reynaud et famille in charge and the lunchtime menus are great value, as well as being a taste of the region too! Further afield, there's Le Grand Bleu (00 33 2 41 67 41 83), a lovely family-friendly seafood restaurant on rue du Marché in old Saumur. In Le Lude, you'll find a warm welcome, great food and Bombardier ale on tap at the Rose & Crown. Alternatively, a short cycle ride away in Linières Bouton, for great home cooked cuisine there’s the Restaurant/Bar 'La Gare'. In Vernantes there’s the hotel Le Pélican, for a more formal evening out. Various bars in surrounding villages often offer lunchtime 'plats du jour' at very reasonable prices. Why not borrow a bike or two to find them?