Maritime Flanders, from Aa to the other Sahara

Flanders knows no borders. At the edge of the North Sea, it straddles the line that separates France from Belgium between Bray-Dunes and La Panne. The so-called “maritime” Flanders begins in France on the banks of the Aa, the coastal river best known to cruciverbists, by the Platier d’Oye reserve.

Unique dune landscape, resulting from agricultural polders abandoned in the 1970s, the Platier d’Oye is a miraculous sanctuary. “Five hundred houses were to be built here, says Marie Delamaere, head of sector and guide of the reserve. In the end, there were only 150, thanks to nature protection associations, which then obtained the creation of the reserve in 1987. In the shelter where she takes us to observe the birds, we are surprised to have three earthmoving machines in our field of vision. “We are creating 5 hectares of additional water to encourage bird life on the site”, she explains.

The Platier d'Oye national nature reserve, created in 1987, is the meeting place for the crested lapwing, the Mediterranean gull and the sandwich tern.

The star of the reserve, the sandwich tern, arrives in the spring. “It’s a very… noisy show!”recognizes Marie Delamaere with a smile. This year, we counted 3,500 individuals. » The landscape of the Platier d’Oye is a dense maquis of sea buckthorn which, advancing towards the beach, gives way to dunes planted with beachgrass. Crested lapwing, Mediterranean gull or mallard duck can be observed from afar, from a wooden footbridge over 1 kilometer long, punctuated by viewpoints where the eye is lost in the distance.

Infinite playground

In Gravelines, the same impression of immensity seizes anyone who discovers the beach from the Jean-Binard nautical base. This vast playground is a paradise for sand yachts, elegant and light, which spin in groups from one plot to another. “The particularity of Gravelines is that the beach is 1.5 kilometers wide and 3 kilometers long”, summarizes Sébastien Dal. An experienced kayaker, he is also a sand yachting instructor for young and old, and very committed to young disabled people, whom he embarks on his two-seater: “The only risk is falling, but you can’t fall from a great height! »

Sand yachting is one of the most popular sporting activities on Gravelines beach, which is 3 kilometers long.

A two-hour initiation allows you to master the machine without difficulty. It’s all in the sheet, that piece of rope that allows you to inflate or deflate the sail. “When it’s going too fast, all you have to do is release the sheet completely for the wheels to turn by themselves against the wind… The tank stops naturally. » The experience is akin to karting, without the smell of gasoline or the noise of the engine.

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