Nearly 14 centuries ago, the monks Bertin, Momelin, Ebertram and Bishop Audomar landed on our territory to evangelize the Morins. At that time, our marsh was like a common muddy and inhospitable swamp. It took centuries of development to achieve the earthly paradise that we all know today.

A marsh shaped by human activity

Every nook and cranny of this "artificial natural space" tells us of the incredible human adventure that wrote the history of the place: Upper and Lower Meldyck remind us of the first developments by the monks of Saint-Bertin and the Counts of Flanders, the small and the great Meer bear witness to the existence of an enormous lake that once stretched over dozens of hectares, while the polders reveal to us the tricks implemented from the end of the XNUMXth century to get a multitude of lands out of the water. market gardeners…

Seen from the sky, this gigantic mosaic reveals its 700 kilometers of watergangs, but also many ponds, vestiges of the exploitation of peat participating in the Audomaroise economy from the Middle Ages to the XNUMXth century. One of these bogs is particularly eye-catching because of its considerable size: the area of ​​the Romelaëre ponds.

Lègres in the Audomarois marshes – Marsh seen from the sky, photo by Philippe Hudelle (Balade en Audomarois)

The Romelaere Reserve, center of the UNESCO biosphere reserve

Today a National Nature Reserve and a biosphere reserve, this singular space full of ecological treasures has not stolen its titles! From La Grange Nature, multiple trails urge us to discover this incredible ecosystem.

The fauna of the reserve

This is made up of many watergangs where an unsuspected life develops. These ditches participating in the drainage of the land are indeed home to a rich biodiversity. At the edge of the water, several species of dragonflies are particularly happy, while the waters are teeming with amphibians (green and red frogs, salamanders, newts, etc.) as well as fish, of which there are 26 species.

Marsh harrier in the Romelaere reserve – credit: Philippe Hudelle (Balade en Audomarois)

The flora

The flora is also a delight for anyone keen on botany: the waters are indeed conducive to the development of hydrophyte plants like lentils and water lilies. The banks, for their part, are full of helophyte varieties growing with their heads in the air and their feet in the water, as is the case for the reed, the cattail, the iris and the flowering rush. We also meet the pollard willow there. An emblematic figure of our landscapes, this regularly pruned common white willow takes on a "big head" with age and thus looks like a frog larva. The regular pollarding operation once brought firewood, sturdy tool handles as well as stakes and branches used to "fascinate" the banks. This tree also has other virtues: its roots maintain the banks and its trunk dug by time constitutes an ideal biotope for a plethora of animals, including the little owl which shelters there.

Wet meadows, on the other hand, have a wide variety of hygrophilous plants such as orchids and buttercups, loving soils that are waterlogged but not flooded.

Water iris – credit: Philippe Hudelle (Walk in Audomarois)

An educational journey

Along the paths, an educational trail reveals to us all this interdependent life based on an altogether fragile balance. The latter must be respected by human beings during their various activities. Certain breeding and agricultural development techniques make it possible in particular to have a positive impact on the environment, such as extensive pastures and hedgerows.

A bucolic walk in the heart of these secular landscapes also allows you to get to know many species of butterflies, insects, but especially birds that inhabit the place: ducks, coots, grebes, swans, gray herons or cattle egrets, egrets garzette, bitterns, harriers and reed buntings… There is life! 200 species of birds make their home in our marshes. Among these, the least bittern is a local pride. Indeed, this little wader returns each year from Africa in May to mate in France, especially in our reserve which regularly hosts a large colony.

The Romelaëre reserve thus offers us a breath of fresh air while allowing us to (re)discover our history and our traditions. It also gives us a new look at wetlands, helping to clean up water, replenish groundwater, absorb CO2 and limit floods, etc.

Educational trail in the Romelaere reserve – credit: Philippe Hudelle (Balade en Audomarois)

The Nature Barn

If the Romelaere Reserve extends between Saint-Omer, Clairmarais and Nieurlet, only the village of Clairmarais allows access. Before taking the first paths, do not hesitate to cross the threshold of the Barn Nature. This mini-museum dedicated to the reserve, the marsh and the forest of Rihoult Clairmarais offers several services. La Grange nature has car and bus parking, an exhibition space, a shop for children and adults, a wide selection of books and documents on the marsh. You can also request an audio guide to facilitate your visit.

Note that La Grange Nature finally offers guided tours for adult and school groups. Information on the site ofEden 62.

Grange Nature, gateway to the Romelaere Reserve

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