Wine, Birds and France

As both of us – Ken and Lys Hall, that is – are now spending less time with our previous activities in the wine trade (Lys) and with the LPO in France (Ken) than we did before, we wondered about deleting this page, but in the end decided that we would just update it, and leave it in situ for the time being.

Wine tours and wine education

Grape Escapes logo

Lys acted as a wine-tour guide for more years than she now cares to remember, first under her own company, Grape Escapes, and more recently for other organisations. Lys is still happy to offer wine talks, either for pure pleasure or for educational purposes, but is no longer a professional lecturer for the Wine and Spirit Education Trust.

Birds and Bird Conservation in France

LPO logo

Ken spent around 25 years, from 1993, acting as a contact for the Ligue pour la Protection des Oiseaux (LPO), which is essentially the French equivalent of Britain's leading bird conservation organisation, the RSPB. From its headquarters in Rochefort (Charente-Maritime), the LPO runs several bird reserves, publishes magazines, journals, newsletters and a raft of other material, as well as lobbying the French Government and other political organisations, all with the overall aim of improving bird protection in France (and hence also in Europe generally). Although Ken remains a member of the LPO and subscribes to its publications, he is no longer an official contact, although is still willing to provide information as necessary. His English-language news site is no longer updated, but for the moment is left on-line for reference purposes:

For anyone who wishes to join the LPO, subscribe to its publications, or participate in its activities, the first place to look is their French-language website,

Where to Watch Birds in Somerset, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire

LPO logo

Apart from promoting the LPO, I have continued to watch birds actively from our base near Bristol, including producing a new edition, the 4th, of my book 'Where to Watch Birds in Somerset, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire'. This covers all the main birding sites of the three counties spelt out in the title, while not forgetting the old county of 'Avon' which surrounds the City of Bristol. After my spending an inordinate amount of time travelling throughout the area – most enjoyably, I should say! – checking access and verifying what one might reasonably expect to see, the book was duly published in April 2019.

Since the previous edition appeared in 2003, there have been some quite considerable changes to the birdlife of the region, some welcome like the increase in the numbers of breeding bitterns, herons and egrets, others less so as far as the decline of some farmland and woodland species are concerned. But plenty still remains. There have been major habitat changes on the Levels, especially at Ham Wall and Shapwick, at the Parrett estuary around Steart, and at various other places along the Severn estuary such as at Pilning and Slimbridge, and the access details for these and all the other sites have been brought up-to-date.

Newcomers or visitors to the region will certainly find the book an invaluable tool in helping them to discover the best sites, but even long-term residents should find much of interest. With the area covered stretching from Exmoor in the west, through Steart and the Levels in Somerset, to the Forest of Dean and the Cotswolds in the north, the Cotswold Water Park in the east and Salisbury Plain and the edges of the New Forest in the south-east, there are be plenty of ideas for places to visit for almost everyone.

The book is published by Bloomsbury under their Helm imprint, and can be ordered via bookshops or on-line (e.g. the Natural History Book Service). The latest edition features an impressive photo of a Great White Egret as the main image on the front, courtesy of Gary Thoburn, who also supplied the other photos on the cover, all taken within the area covered by the book.

Trip Reports

Here are a few of the trips that we have been involved in, usually (though not always) with birds the main focus. Note that, although a certain amount of wine tasting is usually involved, these are just our own personal holidays, completely separate from the wine tours Lys organised for Grape Escapes.