A long section of the river Tude around Chalais in the South Charente is specially protected for its range of wetland habitats and associated species. The introduction to the detailed protected area document describes a small, lowland river and its tributaries in an area of mixed farming:
Le site Natura 2000 « Vallée de la Tude » (N°17 – FR5400419) comprend la vallée de la Tude et ses affluents secondaires, formant un ensemble alluvial s’écoulant dans un paysage ouvert ou bocager, façonné par l’agriculture et l’élevage traditionnel.
On Good Friday, the banks of cloud and accompanying fierce showers move over the valley from the south; in the short passages of blue sky, the bright sun briefly lights the new leaf on the old trees; it is a day of contrasting moods but eventually the light loses and the evening dies wet and dark.
The slow spring appears to suit the fritillaries that grow in the flooded water meadows, along woodland edges and even under the tall poplars down by the small lake; here, the slender stems rise above the rapidly thickening blanket of nettles and meadow sweet.
The lichened oaks shelter powder blue, lesser periwinkle and royal blue and purple lungwort. Primroses coat patches of cleared roadside banks pastel yellow. The fallow fields are full of shepherd’s needle and speedwell and both successfully invade the adjacent gardens much to the chagrin of the gardeners.
The oakwoods ring with nuthatches and woodpeckers. A cuckoo on the 25th March is the first of the year; a swallow and black redstart on the 26th. Blackcaps sing and chiffchaffs call; and Cetti’s warblers shout from the scrubby margins along the river Tude. When the sun warms the air, pairs of black kites circle their breeding woods and occasionally drop in to check out prospective nests.
At the old mill on the sandstone hill, the first green-winged orchids are up in the abandoned field next to the vineyard; pine processionary moths are on the move in the centre of the forest track; and a peacock flies in the brief moments of watery sunshine. The lady’s smock is in flower but the attendant orange tips are absent.