Background information | Contact details | Aa Valley Rly


Regional Nature Park:
Audomarois marshlands & forests around Saint Omer

Audomarois marshes around Saint Omer Monastery sites in Nord Pas de Calais
Monasteries flourished in what is now Nord - Pas-de-Calais especially in river valleys where there were marshes and woods that could be reclaimed for farming. All these monasteries were founded in the 7th - 9th centuries.
Cauliflower boat in Audomarois
Farmers bring produce to market on flat-bottomed boats

Lost in another world
Floating down a slow-moving stream in your hired boat, cycling a mountain bike along a forest path, riding on horseback through the fields, or striding out along a sign-posted track through woods and by a quiet reed-lined lake - you feel like you've been transported to another peaceful world.

Bishop Omer
These are the marshlands of the River Aa, named after Saint-Omer's patron saint. The area was then a salt-water estuary, and in the 7th century Benedictine monks started to reclaim it from the sea - organised by St-Bertin's Abbey that Bishop Omer founded (see 'Medieval Flanders').

Later in the 15th century (1426) Dutch engineers came to work on 'polders'. They drained the marshlands using windmills to drive pumps, and left the marshlands criss-crossed by drainage ditches called "watergangs".

Regional Nature ParK
A new Regional Parc is working to develop the marshes, forests and chalk downlands around Saint Omer, together with the coastal cliffs and countryside between Calais and Boulogne - see separate page for the coastal part of the park.

Cauliflower boat in Audomarois

Tourist boat along River Aa
Boat trips - a good way to see the watergangs


Traditional farmers
Hidden in the marshlands are numerous smallholdings where local market gardeners grow vegetables on the extremely fertile marshland soil. Traditionally they crop their famous cauliflowers in summer and chicory (sometimes called "endive") in winter.

You see them transporting crates of their produce on flat-bottomed boats, and selling it at roadside stalls or in Saint-Omer's market.

Boat Trips round the marshes
Several local boat companies offer boat trips around the marshes with commentary - sometimes available in English (it's best to ask). Trips take about 1 hour.

Hills and forests
Away from the river marshes, other parts of the Nature park offer very different landscapes: there are three extensive pine forests which offered hiding places for Second World War German rocket bases.

The upper part of the River Aa runs through rolling chalk hills, with woodland copses and hedged fields. In the upper Aa Valley, clean water from chalk springs gave birth to a paper industry which still flourishes today....

Grange Nature
Park information centre - guided walks start here, also information about hiring bikes, horses, boats and other facilities.


back to top

Grange Nature - Audomarois  Maison du Parc, Arques Maison du Parc, Arques
LEFT: Grange Nature - visitor centre for the marshes near Saint Omer - MIDDLE: Maison du Parc in Arques - is in the building over the sluice-gates on the River Aa that controls water levels in the watergangs. - RIGHT: Sluice controls inside

“A Stroll through the Nature Park” - illustrated booklet to download

"A Stroll through the Nature Park" - illustrated booklet to download
© Copyright Parc naturel régional des Caps et Marais Opale
This page features some of the facilities developed by the Park so everyone can find out about the wildlife
and unique habitats of the protected marshland area - just one of 16 pages in the booklet.

The Park has produced this lovely booklet of sketches and notes by the talented artist Michel Kokot. With handwritten notes in English, he takes you on a stroll through the varied natural, cultural and scenic heritage of the Regional Nature Park. You'll see just how much there is to explore.

Kokot vividly captures the landscapes of the Park: the mists over the marshes, the chalk valleys of the rivers Aa and Hem, the wooded countryside around Boulogne region, and the magnificent coast…

Download free booklet from:
...or see more Park publications here:

Weblink: - has English version

...Send in a review..
Reviewer -
Location: Maison du Parc, BP 24, 62510 ARQUES
Rough guide to opening:
OPEN Mon-Fri, CLOSED weekends
weekdays: 8.30am -12 noon and 1.30 - 6pm
Information/ reservations:
Tel: 00 33 3 21 87 90 90
Fax: 00 33 3 21 38 92 10
Email: [email protected]

Grange Nature, near Saint-Omer:
Rough guide to opening:
OPEN daily: 9.30am -12.30 and 2.30 - 6.30pm
April -June and Sept-Oct:
OPEN weekends only
Sat: 2.30 - 6.30pm
Sun & holidays: 9.30am - 12.30
Information/ reservations:
Tel: 00 33 3 21 98 62 98
Fax: 00 33 3 21 98 37 05
Email: [email protected]

Background information
Bike rides - leisure cycling: safe routes, off-road trails, signed circular routes on quiet roads, bikes on trains
Sports & outdoor leisure facilities
Waterways and boat trips
Horses & horse-riding

Other nature parks:
Boulonnais - Boulogne & 'Entre Deux Caps' area
Parc Val Joly - Avenois Nature Park, near Avesnes
Saint-Amand - Nature Park

Places to visit in the park:
La Maison du Papier - paper-making along River Aa
Aa Valley Railway - revived riverside railway runs through the park from Arques to Lumbres.
Boat trips - along River Aa and Audomarois marshes
Blockhaus - German V2 base hidden in the forests




La Maison du Papier © Copyright 1999-2007 Invicta Media. Last updated 17th August 2007