Wide open spaces and high tides, migratory birds swirl around the endless dunes of the Bay of Somme. Two hours from the capital, this Grand Site de France can be explored on foot, by bicycle, on Picard Henson horse, by steam train or by fishing on foot under an inspired sky. A change of scenery guaranteed between the ports of Saint-Valery-sur-Somme and Crotoy, the bird park and the Marquenterre area.
The Bay of Somme: two ports, two shores
Between sky and sea, the Bay of the Somme, an earthly paradise of 70 km2 s & rsquoValery-sur-Somme and Crotoy, each with their own qualities. A comparison that fuels many conversations around here!
To the south, in Vimeu, the tourist port of Saint-Valery, named after the Irish monk Walaric, travels to Martin and his ex-voto boats, climb to the Sailors Chapel, adorned with black flints and old graffiti, before visiting, in the lower town, the adorable Marin district with small brick houses and narrow streets.
On the ramparts of William the Conqueror, theHerbarium presents some thousand species of plants including the waide or pastel of the dyers and the flax which made the wealth of Picardy. Local market, Sunday morning.
To the north, in Ponthieu, the Port of Crotoy, more family-friendly - but "more authentic", specify the Crotellois -, seduces with its stalls of fish on the quay, showing cockles and mussels of bouchot.
The seaside villas had already attracted in their time Jules Verne, Toulouse-Lautrec and Colette. Walks on the shore are always appreciated, including pets who have their own itinerary recommended by the tourist office ...
The two towns face a horizon with changing colors, a source of inspiration for many painters such as Degas, Boudin, Seurat and Manessier.
It's up to you to appreciate the place by taking the little steam train which circumvents the bay, without forgetting a stop at Street to admire the flamboyant chapel of the Holy Spirit, the belfry and the Caudron aviators museum, as well as Cores for its curious Chinese cemetery.
Baie de Somme: geese, seals and samphire
Around the Maye and the Somme, channeled from Abbeville, the Bay of the Somme is threatened with silting up. It is made up of mudflats covered by the sea and of mollières, “soft lands” where salt meadows graze when they are not invaded by high tides.
These large expanses are the permanent meeting place of countless Migrator birds. ornithological park of Marquenterre shelters on 200 hectares of the hundreds of species of which the elegant shelduck of Belon, the emblematic white spoonbill and other shorebirds.
Greenland barnacles, Siberian white-fronted geese, whooper swans from Scandinavia, the rare white-tailed eagles from Finland, and the little waxwings regain their strength in winter. In April, they are the stars of the Festival de l'Oiseau et de la Nature. The nature reserve outside the park is only accessible on foot or by horse-drawn carriage.
More passive, seals-marine calves are the pride of the bay. About a hundred animals, the largest colony in France, are joined in summer by gray seals with small white fur. Their antics can be observed from the Hourdel lighthouse or by boat from House of the Somme Bay and the Bird, in Lanchères.
La flore is not left out, but let's just keep their photos as a souvenir! The seeds of the maritime plantain taste like coriander. On the table, the sea buckthorn berries become jellies and sorbets, even local beer. The salicornia "sea gherkin" and the sea aster accompany fish and pasta ...
The harvest is closely monitored, as is the shellfish harvesting during high tides and in winter.
Le Marquenterre: very nature hikes
"A sea that goes into the land", such is the etymology of Marquenterre, 15 km north of Crotoy.
This 1 hectare expanse was purchased in 000 by the Jeanson industrial family. The son Michel (1923-1914), emeritus agricultural naturalist, was the founder in 2013 of the ornithological park of Marquenterre, taken over by the Conservatoire du Littoral. He had the idea, among other things, of creating polders and planting thousands of laricio pines to fix the dunes.
The visit of Ornithological park of Marquenterre allows you to observe more closely some of the 300 listed ornithological species. To be done on foot following one of the three self-guided observation routes lasting 45 minutes to 2 hours, or guided nature outings. Another possibility: in a horse-drawn carriage with a bumpy but oh so romantic rhythm, Boulonnais horses with, as stars, Archibald and Anemone… You still have to know how to lead them on sandy tracks! Important detail: dogs, even on a leash, are prohibited.
Neighbor, the Private estate of Marquenterre deserves a ride in a small guided electric car or a Henson horse, a Picardy breed from a fjord and a saddle mare. Thanks to the protection of Michel Jeanson, the estate has remained wild. The mouflons, hinds and wild boars run alongside the irremovable bunkers of the Atlantic Wall, which have become veritable panoramic sites facing the sea. A treat as they walk through the hundreds of sand tracks under the pines and through the ponds…
A stroll in the Bay of the Somme tempt you? It is crossed on foot for 7 km, necessarily with a licensed guide. The gradual silting up of the estuary, the sometimes treacherous terrain and the rhythms of the tides can be dangerous, even accidental. 150 km of trails allow you to cycle around the bay, but don't forget the windbreaker and drinking water!
Find all the tips, addresses and practical information in the Routard Picardie bookstore
Consult our Picardy online guide
Tourism in the Bay of Somme
Le Crotoy - Bay of Somme Tourism
Access without car:
Paris-Amiens or Paris-Boulogne then change to Amiens-Calais and stop at Noyelles-sur-Mer or Rue.
The Baie de Somme railway is taken at Noyelles-sur-Mer for Le Crotoy or Saint-Valery-sur-Somme. For timetables: http://www.cfbs.eu/fr/ otherwise taxi (03 22 60 05 05) or bicycle.
- List of guides and associations: www.somme-tourisme.com and sortie-nature.fr
- Walking tour files downloadable from sum-tourisme.com/balades-et-randonnees and on sale in tourist offices. To read: The Picardy coast on foot, ed. FFRP, 2015.
By bike :
baiecyclette.com: the practical site for organizing your cycling trip in the Baie de Somme
On a boat :
In Saint-Valery: www.bateau-baie-de-somme.com (Commandant Charcot), www.kayak-somme.com
On horseback: www.henson.fr (Saint-Jean-les-Rues and Saint-Quentin-en-Tourmont).
Bed and Breakfast La Femme d'à Côté: 2, rue du Puits-Salé in Saint-Valery-sur-Somme. A house of character with pretty rooms in the center.
Relais Guillaume de Normandy: 46, quai du Romerel in Saint-Valery-sur-Somme. Beautiful 1900 manor house with a slightly outdated atmosphere.
The Vélocipède: 1, rue du Puits-Salé in Saint-Valery-sur-Somme. This modern guesthouse also houses an excellent restaurant.
Hotel-restaurant Les Tourelles: 2-4 rue Pierre Guerlain in Le Crotoy. This former private mansion overlooking the Bay of Somme houses an elegant hotel and one of the best restaurants in Crotoy.