The Marais de la Seudre

This is an area of some 12000 hectares in south west France that has become a kind of spiritual sanctuary for me over the last decade. Originally a swamp, converted into salt pans by the romans, and then into oyster beds in the 17th century, it is now a Natura 2000 European Site of Community Importance and a Special Protection Area for birds.

Among the habitats are Mediterranean saltmarsh scrubs, Atlantic saltmeadows, halophile thickets, alluvial forests, mudflats and coastal lagoons.

It is a strange place: a flat landscape cratered with pools of water that empty and fill with the atlantic tides, stunted, twisted trees, wild grasses and always the plaintive cries of distant birds. You know that somewhere out toward the horizon is the estaury of the Seudre river but you can’t see it, just the distant spires of village churches on the other side.

There are always surprises. Whether orange algal blooms, thick sea mists or friendly cows, they are never expected and impossible to find again.

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