Pont Noir

Live Life in Creuse

Lac de Lavaud-Gelade and other Swimming
by Dave • Wed 22 Jan 2020 16:33
Location on Google Maps

Lac de Lavaud-Gelade is a man-made lake formed by a dam on the river Taurion. It’s a large but mostly unspoilt place. It’s one of my favourite spots in Creuse and is great for swimming, walking or just chilling out on late summer evenings. Unlike the nearby Lac de Vassivière it has not been developed. There is a campsite on the northern shore with a small toilet block but nothing much else. There are no bars, shops, hire-boats or any of that vacation nonsense. If you want paddle boats, supervised bathing, ice-creams and cold beer, you need to either sort yourself out or choose another place to frolic madly.
It’s a beautiful rural spot and if you avoid June, July and especially August you might be lucky enough to have the place to yourself. Even the campsite, which isn’t big only tends to attract a few campervans, French teenage backpackers with festival-quality tents and a few “wild” campers passing by on their way somewhere else. I’ve been in the height of summer and whilst it’s bustling it has never been rammed like the more commercial places on Vassivière or on the river Creuse. This suits me because I’m a miserable hermit who thinks the outdoors is best enjoyed in a bit of peace. If you’re into a more social life or have kids to entertain for a week, then this might not be the highlight of your visit, although do still go for a quick paddle, early or late swim and picnic, or just come and watch the reflection or walk across the dam.
This is the first place I swam in Creuse. It’s an excellent place for open water swimming in summer. There is a sandy, if coarse-grained, beach around the campsite and the water is cool, fresh and pretty clear. Some caution is advised since this is far from anywhere and there are no life guards here. Away from the campsite there might be stuff hidden in the water. In addition to the normal open water swimming safety advice, here are three extra tips to help you enjoy it safely.
  • Don’t overdo it
  • Don’t swallow the water
  • Wear something on your feet
It just good sense. Creuse isn’t full of folks, if you get into trouble on your own, you’re going to be on your own. If your name is Lofty Wiseman or Les Giddins then you’ll have skills to sort yourself out, otherwise swim with a friend.

There are sometimes scares about the water being not safe or full or rat pee diseases or deadly algae. Lake water is full of stuff and you don’t want a lot of it inside you, but mostly I think it’s fine. The more commercial sites will post up signs if it really isn’t recommended.

Swimming outdoors in cold water is hard work and the bank can get far far away in very little time. Remember to pace yourself and get on dry land before you get knackered.

The last tip is the best. Granite sand, as found in Creuse, is coarse and not nice to walk on barefoot, it also tends to be full of sticks, bugs and bottle-tops. These are a disheartening trio to pick off your sandy, bruised cold toes. I have cheap but thick-soled flip-flops. These float and are handy even if I just want to paddle along the edge. A revelation for about €10.

If Lac de Lavaud-Gelade sounds a bit remote but you’d like to paddle or swim there are pretty of other open water choices:
The Plan d'eau de la Roussille in Châtelus-Malvaliex has great facilities, with sports, picnic benches and barbeque grills, children’s playground and a new all-weather track for bikes and scooters. The lake is large with an interesting circular walk and supervised swimming at one end, with a nice soft imported sand banks.
Borg d’hem is one of the many places in the Trois Lacs on both sides of the river Creuse with riverside swimming areas, showers and toilets, parking, cafés, bars, mini-golf and so on. These are all a bit different and it’s likely that one will suit. Our neighbours like this one but I prefer a less crowded spot for late season swimming just a bit further down the river.
You might think that Guéret is not a good location to suggest for open water swimming but you’d be surprised. The Base de loisirs de Courtille and Etang de Courtille just south-west of the town opposite the Lycée Jean Favard has supervised swimming, parcour, an excellent circular walk and a much other stuff. I haven’t swum here myself – it’s popular with the younger crowd and is no place for a hairy fat man to be disporting himself in baggy trunks furiously flip flopping into the water - the sort of youtube sensation you wish you’d never seen. Maybe I’ll try it early one morning because it does look good.
If you fancy a wild paddle, a picnic in dappled woodland shade and a decent river walk with interesting crossings then I recommend you head to Fressellines and paddle at the confluence of the two rivers. There’s a nice sandy shallow spot where if you place yourself just right you can safely (in summer anyway) paddle in both rivers at the same time.

There are plenty of others – if you have a favourite share it with us.
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Aug 2004
Re: Lac de Lavaud-Gelade and other Swimming
by virtdave • Sun 02 Feb 2020 21:30
here is a view of La Ramade, just barely in Creuse and not far from Giat. Never crowded, rather nice lawn-like place (sometimes with a shower for after-bathing), sometimes with a little buvette for sodas, etc. Dog-friendly (as are many such venues in France, including for sure Lavaud-Gelade). Also in the southeast corner of Creuse is the Étang de Méouze. Rather nicer than the linked Google Maps photo would suggest, with some primitive playground equipment for kids and a pleasant sandy beach.
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Sep 2008
Re: Lac de Lavaud-Gelade and other Swimming
by Daviddiavel • Thu 13 Feb 2020 12:07
Our little holiday home is just outside Crozant, so our nearest beach is Plage de Fougeres on lac de Chambon.
This is the quiter side of the lake but does have a Bar/restaurant and a free hourly ferry to take you over to the busier side with watersports and water park.
I am also a fan of Bourg d hem, it has a nice café run by a Thai lady and her French husband and is usually quiet except for August.
My other favourite is Jouillat a bit further down the river, this has a nice bar Restaurant , but you need to book lunch. for the adventurous it even has a zip line that runs from one side of the river to the other. You may even be lucky to run into the French version of Ian Fleming who tends to frequent the bar with his little dog Goulash with stories of Interpol !!
You can of course swim in the river in Crozant by the hotel du lac or on the other side of the bridge or join those brave souls who jump in the middle of the river off the bridge.
If you want many of these places on your own then turn up either in the morning or early afternoon, it seems the locals turn up after 4.00pm and that is the busiest time which is usually as we are about to leave.
Jan 2018
Re: Lac de Lavaud-Gelade and other Swimming
by rictel • Thu 13 Feb 2020 23:32
We like Jouillat plage as well. The " french version of Ian Fleming" aka Bob the builder , is a brit & probably the nearest he's been to interpol is watching an old Maigret episode . His dog is nice though :lol:
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Dec 2007
Re: Lac de Lavaud-Gelade and other Swimming
by Daviddiavel • Fri 14 Feb 2020 11:03
I presume he has pestered you as well, he bought us a drink on a couple of occasions but we then had to listen to his tall stories !!
But we had a good laugh about it all afterwards so it added to the Jouillet Plage experience .
Jan 2018
Re: Lac de Lavaud-Gelade and other Swimming
by Creusebear • Sun 16 Feb 2020 13:55
Another vote for the pleasures of Jouillat beach. Although, I have yet to meet Goulash and have completely missed the zip line. Is that new? Haven't been for a year or so.
Our failed attempts to take the boat trip from the Hotel du Lac at Crozant over the past few years have bordered on the comic. It has become a bit of a bête noire! But we will make it one day. I like the beach at Fougeres and you can take a right turn on the way down and find yourself at a quiet picnic spot further south with great views and a good scrambling path along the lakeside- kind of behind the camping site.
One of my favourite spots remains the old mill at Malval - a great place to spend a lazy afternoon.
Recently, we discovered Le Puy Balièbre, you can take a steep track down through the trees (only attempt to go by car if dry) to the cool of the Petite Creuse, a great spot to escape the heat of summer - spotted a kingfisher last time.
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May 2007
Re: Lac de Lavaud-Gelade and other Swimming
by Daviddiavel • Mon 17 Feb 2020 17:49
Creusebear, sorry for your failed boat trips from hotel du lac.
The problem is the owner will only go if about 15-20 people turn up, although last year he had so many coaches booked all summer that you probably
would have not got on as it was full !!! as you say you will get there in the end.
Interested in your mention of the old mill at Malval and Le puy Baliebre, have never heard of either place !!
Can you advise how to get to these places, our little house is a 10 min walk to the Hotel du Lac.
Presume you are somewhere nearby ??
Jan 2018
Re: Lac de Lavaud-Gelade and other Swimming
by Creusebear • Tue 18 Feb 2020 21:49
Well, as long as you don't tell everyone!
Malval is just north of Bonnat off the D6. It is a tiny and ancient hamlet that has some great ruins which Dave has mentioned before and a gorgeous ancient church. You have to keep going right down to the river. There is a weir, a plantation of tall trees that shimmer in the breeze and of course the old mill. A beautiful spot to put your toes in the river on a hot day. No facilities and there are usually a couple of fisherman and maybe a family having a picnic or paddling in the shallows.
Le Puy Balièbre takes a little finding, basically just outside Nouzerolles. A steep track down into a shady valley, a couple of picnic tables and a path along the river.
Fresselines and Le Confluent des deux Creuses is also a favourite.
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May 2007
Re: Lac de Lavaud-Gelade and other Swimming
by Daviddiavel • Wed 19 Feb 2020 09:57
thanks for the directions.
yes also like the confluence and walk across the bridges or stepping stones there.
So where are you based in france ?
Jan 2018
Re: Lac de Lavaud-Gelade and other Swimming
by Creusebear • Fri 21 Feb 2020 20:39
Not far from Crozant. We like exploring the area and are always looking for new places to find.
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May 2007
Re: Lac de Lavaud-Gelade and other Swimming
by Ricardo • Mon 24 Feb 2020 00:15
I also enjoy our visits to both Jouillat Plage and Le Bourg d'Hem, however almost opposite the beach at Jouillat and across the lake is Anzeme. Huge beach so that even in the height of summer it never gets too crowded. Plentiful parking together with a beach cafe and waterspouts makes this a favourite with our family. The only downside is the journey which can add another 20 minutes by road from Jouillat. This is probably the reason why it is not as busy as the other beaches mentioned.
Jul 2009
Re: Lac de Lavaud-Gelade and other Swimming
by Daviddiavel • Thu 27 Feb 2020 10:18
Thanks Ricardo have not been to Anzeme, will try it in the summer.
Creusebear your secret on directions is safe with me !
Over in Crozant next week , with all this rain, could probably swim in the garden !!
Have booked a treat midweek going to stay one night in Cognac and visit Remy martin distillery for a tasting.
if anyone is interested will advise if any good on my return.
Jan 2018
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