Enjoy a sumptuous journey through a cultural and natural landscape
The strange mists of the marshes of Guines and Audomarois (around Saint-Omer), the bucolic landscapes of the Aa and Hem valleys, the gracefully undulating hills and Bocage hedgerows of the Boulonnais, the stunning images of the coast… Visitors can enjoy a sumptuous journey through the natural and cultural heritage and the landscapes of the Les Caps et Marais d’Opale Regional Nature Park.
What is a regional nature park ?
Unlike a National Park, Regional Nature Parks are inhabited. Its vocation is to protect and to showcase natural, cultural and human heritage and convert them into tangible factors in the sustainable development of the local area.
Discover the Audomarois marshes
The name Audomarois comes from Audomar, saint founder of the town of Saint-Omer in the 7th century.
The early morning mist gives a mysterious ambiance to the Audomarois marshes. You fully expect to see Marie Grouette, the sorceress of the marsh!
The lapping of the waters reminds you that these landscapes are the fruit of centuries of work to separate the land from the sea.
The market gardeners busy themselves taking a harvest of cauliflowers to the auction market that takes place later that morning.
Cauliflowers and endives are the star products of the marsh, but all sorts of vegetables are actually grown here: leeks, watercress, carrots… all of which you can buy locally at the market on Saturday morning at Place Foch in Saint-Omer or directly from the producers.
Boat trips through the marshes, guided and themed
The following companies propose visits along the waterways in the marshes, and all propose a unique experience.
Individual boats can be rented if you want to explore on your own !
- O Marais by Isnor in Cairamarais
Would you like to enjoy a special moment in the heart of the marshes? Set out aboard one of the many themed boat trips: classic trips based on history, or more quirky jaunts at sunrise, with storytelling, with music or even gourmet cruises, of course.
- The Audobarquoise in Saint-Martin-Lez-Tatinghem
Christian Lauwerière welcomes you to the heart of the marshes to reveal to you its secrets through a series of guided or independent visits by boat for 4 to 7 people. Passionate about this environment in which he grew up, he can tailor trips to suit your needs and teach you about the traditions, flora and fauna, fishing…
- Maison du Marais visitor centre in Saint-Omer
The Maison du Marais is both an exhibition space and nature discovery centre. Begin your visit at the interpretation centre that retraces the history of the marsh since its creation in the Middle Ages right up to the present day, its customs and its ‘sous-marine’ lifestyle. You then set off aboard a Bacôve boat into the heart of this exceptional natural habitat. There’s nothing like it!
- The boat makers of Saint-Omer
The Colin family is the last to manufacture the traditional wooden boats of yesteryear. Les ‘Faiseurs de bateaux’, these ‘boat makers’ let you explore their boatyard and discover the stages involved in constructing a Bacôve, the local oak boat. From April to September, workshop visits are supplemented with a trip across the marshes accompanied by guides who know these small “watergang” canals and their many secrets.
- Le Bon Accueil in Salperwick
This is a little corner of paradise in the heart of the Audomarois marshes that lets you set off to discover the marshlands by boat or aboard a sightseeing boat, but also on electric motorboats, rowing boats for 4 to 6 people and even 3-seater canoes.
The local producers in the Audomarois marshes
The main industry of the marshlands is still market gardening, with 500 hectares of land being cultivated. The marsh owes its success to its inhabitants: they have raised, cleaned, drained, cleared and finally farmed this land.
These marshlands have always been reputed for their fertility. They are given over to the cultivation of vegetables and stretch from the communal marsh right up to the Clairmarais marsh, passing through the suburbs of Saint-Omer. A few small islands in the neighbouring villages are also involved in this trade: Salperwick, Tilques, Serques…
You will find the freshest vegetables direct from the producers, in the local shops as well as on the morning markets
The Aa Valley
The wild waters of the River Aa and its tributaries such as the Bléquin have carved a labyrinth of deep valleys into the chalk. The steep hillsides, studded with juniper bushes, have enjoyed a new life with the return of extensive grazing by Boulonnais sheep and other breeds. Their well-tended grass is home to sumptuous wild flowers that attract many insects.
Pleasant trails allow you to discover the Bocage hedgerows, astonishing views over the chalky grasslands as well as a wide variety of other landscapes (harsh, lush, steep, rolling) often with some very challenging climbs.
The Hem Valley
The ancient mills standing across from the Flanders Plain are evidence of the tradition of cereal crop farming here. Following the footsteps of the Dukes of Burgundy, you cross the unchanging rural landscapes of the Hem Valley that are overlooked by the ruins of Saint-Louis Chapel.
Only the Hem Corridor interrupts the panoramic cirque of the Pays de Licques, where the horizon is filled with scenery dominated by forests and woodland. Walkers will love these well-preserved rural landscapes.
Every year, Licques pays tribute to the turkey. The very best farmers are rewarded; the confraternities come together and parade with great fanfare behind their prize birds right up to the village square.
WOULD YOU LIKE TO EXPLORE THIS LITTLE CORNER OF PARADISE?
Set out on an independent visit in the company of a local volunteer guide: a Greeter