Take the time to breath in the Audomarois Marsh
Recognized by UNESCO in the Man and the Biosphere programme, which highlights the coexistence of Man and Nature, the Audomarois marsh stretches for more than 3,700 hectares. This wetland is the largest in Nord-Pas de Calais but also the last market garden in France.
The marsh is made up of 3 parts : Cultivated areas, inhabited areas and wild areas. Give yourself a time of peace and chill a few steps away from Saint Omer : the Audomarois marsh invites you to discover its different faces.
The Audomarois marsh, a unique and recognized land
UNESCO's Man & the Biosphere programme
Since 2013, the Audomarois marsh is recognized by the UNESCO as a biosphere reserve. It aims to enhance human activities with the biodiversity of the reserve.
The Audomarois marsh, as a wetland with international importance, is also registered on the list of RAMSAR site since 2008. This is a cultural and ecological recognition.
The inhabited marsh
In the western part of the Audomarois marsh, there are houses inhabited year-round or rented in the summer. Some of them are directly on the shore of the canals linked to the road by a little bridge but others are isolated on an island, only accessible by boat.
In the middle of the 20th century, children were taken to school by boat but the construction of roads eased the circulation in between the dwellings. However, dozens of houses are still only accessible by waterways. Even the postman does his round by boat !
The cultivated marsh
In the Middle Ages, garlic, onions and hemp were the most cultivated vegetables. The market gardening activity peaked in the 19th century, at that time, 400 families shared 850 hectares of land.
Nowadays, dozens of market gardeners still farm the plots of the marsh. They grow a lot of different vegetables, including the famous summer cauliflower. Its harvest is an impressive show but only for the early birds since the market gardeners go to their field at sunrise. Producers can offer visits of their lands in the summer and sell vegetables directly to the visitors.
The wild marsh
UNESCO’s Biosphere reserve, the Audomarois marsh has an incredible fauna and flora : more than 200 bird species, 13 bat species, 29 fish species and almost 400 plant varieties are found !
So you can easily meet a family of swans or a grey heron while you’re having a boat ride in the marsh. Fauna and flora enthuasiasts can continue their visit on foot. For example, in the natural reserve of Romelaere’s ponds, observation posts allow to peacefully admire a lot of different birds.
The vernacular heritage of the marsh
13 centuries of History gave the Audomarois a strong identity. Stories passed down through generations, a unique market garden culture, legends, festivities on the water… This heritage left a mark on the marsh.
Saint-Omer’s nautical procession
Every year and for more than 40 years, in the middle of summer, about 20,000 persons gather to admire the traditional nautical procession. It’s a unique event in Hauts de France.
Thanks to the Groupement de Loisirs du Haut Pont, illuminated and decorated with flowers floats parade day and night.
The legend of Marie Groët
This story is passed down from generation to generation. It is said that the marsh witch is called Marie Groët and that she catches children who come too close to the bank. Some people have never seen her but you could come across her at the bend of the Audomarois marsh. Watch out for careless children !
The cauliflower brotherhood
Created in February 2004 by Michel Théret, market gardener in Saint-Omer, the cauliflower brotherhood is the representative of this emblematic product of the Audomarois marsh and more specifically of Saint-Omer : The summer cauliflower.
Members of the cauliflower brotherhood are market gardeners, restaurateurs or simply ambassadors. They promote this local product : How is it cultivated? How to cook it?
Visit the marsh throughout the year
Highlight of nature and environment’s preservation, the Audomarois marsh can be discovered in different ways. On foot, by bike or by boat, by yourself, with a guide or led by your imagination… Opportunities are endless and can please everyone.
Visit the marsh by boat
Between lovers, friends or family, sailing on the marsh is accessible to all of those who want to discover its treasures while respecting the fragility of its ecosystem.
All year long, The Maison du Marais offers traditional boat trips with a guide. Many partner structures also offer to discover the different faces of the marsh with a guide or by yourself on a motorboat or a bacôve, the traditional boat of the marsh. It can also reveal itself through themed visits at sunrise, or during silent or photographic rides, it’s even possible to have a meal on a cruise boat.
Visit the Audomarois marsh on foot
On the occasion of a Sunday walk with your family, to hike or to practice Nordic walking, there are several trails in the marsh
Visit the Audomarois marsh by bike
On the occasion of a Sunday walk with your family, to hike or to try to ride a tandem…