La Vienne. The Vienne river is 350 km long but it is only a tributary of the Loire. It joins the Loire after having linked up with the Creuse, another substantial river, just after Chinnon. It begins in the Massif Central starting it’s life as a spring at the foot of Mont Audouze near Peyrelavade. It gives it’s name to two French departments, Vienne and Haut Vienne. It was, for part of it’s course, the border between occupied France and Vichy France during the Second World War.
It is very beautiful and recently we have been following it’s course from Chauvigny up stream to just east of Chabanais. This for the most part, follows a southerly course but just before Chabanais it swings east. After Chabanais it leaves Poitou-Charentes and enters Limousin. From Limousin it runs further to the east passing through Limoges and on to it’s source.
Along the course there are many interesting towns and villages. It is well worthwhile turning down any little side road or track which is heading down to the river. Most of them are dead ends but often that is only after you have travelled several kilometers and as virtually no one else is on the road you can drive as slowly as you like, stopping every so often to enjoy the scene (or in my case getting out to photograph it or to check out some roadside orchids whch turned out to be Green winged orchids) or to watch a cormorant sitting on a branch.
At one dead end I met up with a chap who was living in an old house next to the river. He explained that the other side had been Vichy and his side had been in occupied France during the war. The Germans had pounded the ‘free’ side because the local maquis had been quite active and that was the reason that the old mill on the far side was in the sorry state it was.
Idillyic is the only way to describe the Vienne. If you are into churches these abound. If it’s Chateaux and Donjons that interest you they are dotted about. For me it was just the countryside – lots of woods and little fields, masses of wild flowers, birds singing and fantastic views.