Wine, Birds and France

If, like us, you are interested in either wine-tasting or birdwatching in France (or even both), then you might like to follow the links below. 'Us' = Ken and Lys Hall, by the way.

Wine tours and wine education

Grape Escapes logo

Lys has acted as a wine-tour guide for more years than she cares to remember, first under her own company, Grape Escapes, and more recently for other organisations. Lys is also available for wine talks, either for pure pleasure or for educational purposes. She regularly lectures to students working towards taking the Wine & Spirit Education Trust Higher Certificate, as well as giving several short lecture series for private groups. Her current activities are listed on

Birds and Bird Conservation in France

LPO logo

Ken Hall has spent around 25 years 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 has started to take a bit of a back seat over this now, he is still willing to provide information as necessary, and still maintains an English-language website to this end: for more details.

Where to Watch Birds in Somerset, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire

LPO logo

One reason that I have not had so much time to devote to the LPO recently is because I have been writing 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), with some sites offering a discounted price – it's worth checking around. Note that on some sites they still seem to be selling the previous edition. Anyone wanting the new one – which of course is far more up-to-date – should look out for the picture on the front cover, and choose the one with an impressive photo of a Great White Egret as the main image, rather than the one with a Buzzard there, as featured on the previous edition.

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 organises for Grape Escapes.