Location on Google Maps
Lac de Lavaud-Gelade is a man-made lake formed by a dam on the river Thaurion. 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.