Eco tourism in the Pas-de-Calais
The Pas-de-Calais is a hidden gem for socially conscious holidaymakers looking for new destinations to discover. Just an hour and a half away from the UK, this part of France offers a wealth of natural spaces and has developed tourism schemes to involve and benefit local people.
Even better, MyFerryLink offers any duration Dover-Calais crossings from just £19 each way for a car and up to nine passengers so there’s no need for eco tourists to break the bank.
Le Site des Deux Caps
The coastal areas of the Pas-de-Calais are no less rich in nature and wildlife than their inland cousins. The famous headlands of Cap Gris Nez and Cap Blanc Nez are perfect for long, bracing walks with almost guaranteed sightings of terns, ducks, gulls and warblers.
The Pas-de-Calais is a haven for wildlife and several areas of the region have been designated nature reserves. With a varied landscape ranging from soaring white cliffs and downland through to marshes and woodland, there’s plenty to keep nature enthusiasts busy.
The marshlands of the River Aa in the Pas-de-Calais were reclaimed from the sea in the 7th century by Benedictine monks, and were drained by Dutch engineers in the 15th century, leaving them criss-crossed by drainage ditches. Today the Audomarois marshes represent a hugely important area for wildlife, with 250 kinds of birds, 19 dragonfly species and 11 types of bat living there.
Several local companies offer guided boat trips around the marshes, and the traditional marshland farmers still use the drainage ditches to transport their produce (normally cauliflowers and chicory) via flat-bottomed boats.
Fun eco-tourism activities
There are many ways to enjoy the diverse nature that northern France offers. For energetic holidaymakers, a hike, bike ride or canoe along the marshes are excellent ways to get to grips with the area.
For the rest of us, there are plenty of other exciting means to enjoy the natural diversity without wearing yourself out. From eco-friendly electric solex bikes through to hot air balloons and even donkey trekking, there is no excuse not to enjoy the eco-tourism experience.
To help explore the area, the Pas-de-Calais tourist board has started a ‘greeters’ system, similar to that in New York, whereby local people volunteer to show tourists their favourite places.
Greeters are not professional guides and are instead more like a friend showing you around, telling you anecdotes. Tours last between two and four hours, are completely free and can be tailor-made to the interests of the visitor.
Where to stay
The stations vertes (green resorts) in the Pas-de-Calais all have superb traditional hotels, and Montreuil-sur-Mer offers top class accommodation at the Michelin-starred Château de Montreuil or the fascinating La Grenouillere.
However, for a truly authentic country experience on a budget, eco-tourists should try the B&Bs attached to local working farms (see www.uk.pas-de-calais.com).
One example of this is the chic cheese farm, La Ferme du Vert in the pretty village of Wierre Effroy, which now offers 16 rooms from just €70 per night.
MyFerryLink operates up to 16 daily car ferry crossings on the Dover-Calais route. Online fares for a car and up to nine passengers start from just £19 each way any duration and from £22 return for a day trip. For further details visit www.myferrylink.com or call 0844 2482 100.