Renowned for its great beauty, France’s Loire Valley relies not only on its abundant natural features with which to dazzle the eye, but enriches the soul with its over 200 parks and gardens. Whilst not having the space to feature every park or garden, there are some that deserve to be spoken about.
The Terra Botanica in Angers is one of Europe’s most popular attractions because it is dedicated to the world of plants. Terra Botanica is actually Europe’s first theme park that is devoted entirely to the understanding and discovery of plant life. It opened in April 2010 to great acclaim, receiving over 300,000 visitors in its first year alone. Located near Angers, France’s leading horticultural region, Terra Botanica is both fun and educational, offering the visitor an exciting adventure into the world of plants. It is home to 110,000 square metres of gardens, water species, greenhouses, and has a succession of 40 attractions and activities with which to occupy visitors.
The Oriental Park of Maulévrier is the largest oriental park in Europe, and was created over 100 years ago. Maulévrier is a serene park full of refined plants. The scenery is beautiful and exotic, comprising a lush valley, a lake, islands and all the symbolic elements of an exotic garden with a pagoda, Khmer temple, statues and little bridges which combine to create a very unusual atmosphere. The park boasts 300 species of plant, including 180 originating from the Far East that is artistically planted to evolve with the rhythm of the seasons. These gardens are not just for day visits as the spectacular night openings throughout the summer are not to be missed.
The Ark of Nature is just minutes from the town of Le Mans. Here, visitors can take a deep breath, walk and unwind in the 450-acre grounds of L’Arche de la Nature to enjoy the great landscapes and ecosystems of the Maine River. The forest, which shelters a nature reserve, has protected wild species of deer, boar and pheasant. At the heart of the coppice, is a school farm where the region’s unique animals including Maine-Anjou cows, the Maine sheep (Moutons Bleus) and the magnificent Percherons, a famous local breed of horse, can be discovered.
At the bamboo and water gardens of Loriot visitors can spend many hours of pure bliss in the atmospheric gardens surrounding the lake. Bamboo lovers will discover 130 species of “giant grass” brought from Asia, America and Africa by enthusiastic botanists. Flower and plant lovers can admire the way in which more than a thousand varieties come into play with the seasons. Arranged in several parcels of farmland with 100 year old hedges preserved across five hectares, the gardens exist in harmony with wild spaces and donkey enclosures.