Updated on 25 June 2020
Reading time: 3 minutes
In 1991, the French government awarded the title ‘Cotentin and Bessin Marshes Regional Natural Park’ to this area of wetlands that stretches out across the Cotentin peninsula, flanked by the sea on either side.
MARSHLANDS nearly SURROUNDED BY SEA
On the borders of the départements of Manche and Calvados, this regional natural park stretches over 370,000 acres and groups together 150 towns. It is characterised by preserved areas of hedgerow country, called the bocage, wetlands subject to periodic flooding, moorland and coastline. It enjoys a huge variety of flora and fauna of international importance, and its main feature is 74,000 acres of marshlands. Maintaining and enhancing this biodiversity represents quite a challenge to the inhabitants and all those involved.
The Cotentin’s peninsula status makes perfect sense when winter flooding ‘whitens’ the wetlands and seemingly cuts off the Cotentin from the rest of Normandy.
Just next to the town of Carentan, the Maison du Parc displays the biodiversity of the area and its cultural heritage. Whether you’re coming alone, with friends, as a family or bringing a school group, it’s the best place to start finding out about « les marais » – the marshes. The recent extension to the building was made using traditional materials such as wood, wattle and daub and reed in order to meet the demands of maintaining the highest environmental standards. It sets a benchmark in demonstrating what can be done wedding traditional materials with up-to-date techniques such as wall heating, Canadian wells, automatic wood-fuelled central heating, etc…
The rooms are laid out so as to make you feel welcome, a place where you can relax and pick up information about the nature reserve, its purposes and the range of activities on offer through the different seasons. There is a wealth of information on museums, accommodation, lodgings, hikes and bike rides, landscapes, the amazing fauna and flora, the range of local produce and craftsmanship, on tourist routes, boat rides in the marshes or along the coast, and trips out and about.
The shop has a large stock of books, cards, postcards, topoguides, local arts and crafts and ideas for presents. Some 300m² is given over to exhibitions, films and presentations.
The great outdoors
Nothing quite like a walk through the bird sanctuary to find out and observe the behaviour of marsh birds in their natural environment. Access to the observation sites is on foot by an interpretative path and the walk is anything between one and three miles long according to the season. There is also a boat tour with your own guide laid on.
A 5,000m² garden to raise awareness to the everyday natural environment.
Alone or with one of our eco-guides, set off to find out about birds in their natural state
Parc Naturel Régional des Marais du Cotentin et du Bessin
Maison du Parc, 3 village Ponts d’Ouve, 50500 Saint-Côme-du-Mont
+33 (0)2 33 71 65 30
- Utah Beach : Visit one of the five D-Day Landing Beaches
- Sainte-Mère-Eglise: The small town where you’ll find the famous church on which John Steele’s parachute got stuck!
- Tatihou Island – Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue: This village was voted ‘France’s Favourite Village’ in 2019, and its two Vauban Towers are UNESCO-listed