Romelaëre Ponds Reserve Clairmarais (9)The National and Natural Reserve, managed by Eden 62, allows the safeguarding and the observation of numerous species of birds.
©Reserve of the ponds of Romelaëre de Clairmarais|Eden 62

The history of the Audomarois marshes

The Marais Audomarois is recognized as one of the most beautiful marshes in France, offering a unique, preserved ecosystem as well as a remarkable cultural and historical heritage.

Its origins...

Underneath its natural aspects, the Audomarois marsh hides its game well. What visitor would suspect that the rivers on which it navigates are in fact the result of the hard work of the men of the marsh, the “brouckaillers”, and have been for certain since the 12th century? The development of the marshlands took place gradually under the impetus of the abbeys. This involved draining water into the sea, which gradually dried out the marshland. This was followed by the digging of rivers called “wateringues” and ditches called “watergangs”. In just a few centuries, the marsh went from being a “swamp bristling with forests” to an organized marsh made up of over 15,000 parcels of land and water traversed by 800 kilometers of canals.

At the same time, the marsh’s inhabitants developed tools to make the most of this land: two oak boats, the bacove and escute, tools for digging or maintaining the canals: grèpe, weslag, baguernette… But the marsh’s great particularity remains that it has been cultivated for vegetable production mainly since the 12th century. Certain vegetable varieties have survived the centuries and are an integral part of the marsh’s heritage.

Four main pillars

Today, four main pillars underpin the marsh: the market garden marsh, the inhabited marsh, water and biodiversity.

The marsh’s surface area is 3726 hectares. This exceptional territory has managed to preserve its queen crop, which is summer cauliflower, of which Saint-Omer is the French capital. Some fifty different vegetables are also still grown on the marsh, mainly by growers who practice direct sales or sell at markets.

The inhabited marsh presents some clearly visible features. The suburbs of Haut-Pont and Lyzel and the rue de la poissonnerie where the majority of market gardening families still reside today. This was also the home of the shipwrights who gave their name to the rue des faiseurs de bateaux. This typical habitat has a front facing the town and a back facing the marsh.

Water and biodiversity are omnipresent on the marsh. What could be more natural than a marsh with water… on the marsh water from rivers and ponds covers 5,000,000 m²! With more than 700 linear km of canals, the marsh offers a wide range of living conditions for flora and fauna, and is home to many species: 50% of the region’s aquatic flora thrives in the marsh, as do more than 230 species of birds, including kingfishers, great crested grebes and white storks… A true island of biodiversity in the heart of Nord-Pas de Calais.

> The marshes are home to a wide range of species, including the kingfisher, the great crested grebe and the white stork.

A region recognized by prestigious labels

At the heart of the Parc naturel régional des Caps et Marais d’Opale: The Park covers 154 communes, including the Audomarois and marshlands. The Regional Nature Park label is a national label awarded to quality territories for which commitments are shared in a charter. The current charter of the Parc naturel régional des Caps et Marais d’Opale has been granted for the period 2014-2025.

Ramsar: This designation constitutes, for each of the wetlands concerned, a label of international recognition, and not, a regulatory protection or a binding measure. It highlights the need to maintain and preserve the ecological characteristics and richness of these areas, through the rational use of resources. It is therefore up to each inhabitant, each user who lives in, manages or exploits the wetlands, as well as the public authorities, to preserve these living environments in the long term. Consequently, “wise use” is at the heart of the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands and their resources, in the interests of humanity as a whole.

Marais Audomarois Biosphere Reserve: Designated “Biosphere Reserves” are territories that have been designated by UNESCO’s “Man and the Biosphere” program. This program aims to answer three major questions:

How can we ensure both a healthy environment and a strong economy for today and tomorrow?
How can we generate quality data and share it to make effective decisions?
What are the concrete examples of sustainable development from which we can draw inspiration?