Natural sensitive areas

The Orne has a dense and diverse natural heritage, made up of moorlands, forests, marshlands and torrents. This natural environment has to be protected and maintained. In the department there are two Regional Natural Parks which help to conserve the fauna, flora and local traditions.

Orne Council, guardian of the natural heritage

The council works across the department, applying a policy designed to conserve remarkable natural species with special interest in terms of ecology or landscape. It buys derelict land or land deemed unsuitable for agriculture and whose rich flora or fauna could disappear through neglect. These areas are then classified as Espaces Naturels Sensibles (ENS) – natural sensitive areas.

Orne Council takes care of the ecological management and development of these ENS, a number of which are now open to the public. Its priorities are restoring the original ecosystems (heath land, peat bogs, scree and so on), conserving these breeding grounds for biodiversity and to provide refuge for threatened species (carnivorous plants, common blue butterflies and so on), welcoming the general public and school visits (information and awareness-raising, guides, conferences, informative documents, etc.)

The council currently manages 40 natural sensitive areas, 9 of which are equipped to welcome the public for guided or unguided visits. The sites open so far have been very successful. Over 80,000 people (guided and unguided visits, including both the general public and schools) visit each year, which is proof of the growing interest for natural heritage among people living in the Orne. Find the full programme of visits available at natural sensitive sites in the Tourist Information Offices across the department.

Managed natural sensitive areas in the Orne

Le Grand Hazé

Le Grand Hazé

Situated in the Houlme area, at the heart of the Normandy pastureland, Le Grand Hazé is the largest marshland area in the Orne. It comprises 200 hectares of ponds, reed beds and peaty woods.

It is a mysterious and dangerous area which has always engendered a mixture of fascination and fear among rural inhabitants, featuring in many legends recounted at wakes or gatherings. A visit to the site is the chance to discover some original, often very rare fauna and flora. As you walk around, you will come across some quite unexpected inhabitants, such as Camargue horses and Highland cows, who are there to help maintain the marshland.

Practical information

  • Marked trails
  • Walking shoes recommended
  • Fishing (pêche autorisée de mars à septembre, pour tout détenteur d’une carte officielle)

Getting there: Access from the carpark at Saint Philbert-sur-Orne (Roche d’Oëtre) or Ségrie-Fontaine (Maison de la Rivière et du Paysage) 

Guided tours: CPIE des Collines Normandes | 02 33 62 34 65 

Tourist information at Roche d’Oëtre : 02 31 59 13 13

La Roche d'Oëtre et les Gorges de la Rouvre

La Roche d'OëtreEIn the heart of Swiss Normandy, the natural belvedere formed by the Roche d'Oëtre oversees the Gorges de la Rouvre canyon from 100m above. The landscape is wild and rugged, with granite blocks, ravines, heath lands and torrents. The region has always provided a natural refuge for all kinds of outlaws - the “Fairy Chamber” cave was one of the safest hide-outs for the Chouans and highwaymen.

Today the  Roche d'Oëtre is a meeting point for hikers. Specialist guides can help them discover the wild flora and fauna, typical of the Armorican Massif ecosystem. The “Pavillon de la Roche d'Oëtre” welcomes and informs visitors at the top of the Roche d'Oëtre. Nearby the Maison de la Rivière et la Maison du Paysage explains the historical development of the region’s natural heritage.

Le Coteau de la Butte

Le Coteau de la Butte

Situated at the heart of the Pays d’Auge, the Coteau de la Butte at Courménil is a typical example of “picane”. This local term describes a dry, sunny slope covered in the plant life that typically thrives in limestone areas.

In spring, the landscape is swathed in orchids and germanders which are then replaced by oregano and wild thyme in summer. In fact, there is an almost Mediterranean scent in the area!

Practical information

Discovery trail

Getting there: Access from the carpark at Courménil

Guided tours: Association Faune et Flore de l’Orne | 02 33 26 26 62

Le Coteau de la Bandonnière

Le Coteau de la Bandonnière

Visitors love coming to Coteau de la Bandonnière to discover the unusual flowers such as the early spider orchid or to breathe in the scent of the wild thyme, while getting close up to praying mantis and listening to the crickets. Located at Longny-au-Perche, it stretches across a steep slope into the valley of the Robioche. Its sloping, well-exposed position encourages the growth of some original flora and is home to some rare animal life, similar to that found in the south of France.

During a guided walk you will be able to discover the many facets of this exceptionally well-preserved and managed natural heritage, especially its rustic breed of sheep, particularly well adapted to the environment here.

Practical information

Marked trail

Getting there: Access from the car park next to the site at Longny-au-Perche

Guided tours: Association Faune et Flore de l’Orne | 02 33 26 26 62

Les Petits Riaux

Les Petits RiauxAt the heart of the Ecouves forest at La Lande de Goult, Les Petits Riaux site is typical of the Armorican peat lands and is a refuge for some rare fauna adapted to these difficult living conditions.

Among the most remarkable species are a number of carnivorous plants such as sundews, butterworts and sphagnum moss, which forms a spongy ground cover.

Practical information

Circuit, information boards.
Boots recommended 

Getting there: Access from the car park at la Lande-de-Goult, hameau de Goult

Guided tours: Parc naturel régional Normandie-Maine | 02 33 81 75 75

Les Gorges de Villiers

Les Gorges de Villiers

The landscape around the Gorges de Villiers is wild and tormented. Heath land, scree, torrents and rocky escarpments make up this rugged, isolated region which, for local inhabitants, long symbolised danger and fear of the unknown.

There are still a lot of legends linked with the area and with the sacred source at Chaude-Fontaine and the Fée Gisèle cave. The "Tales and Legends” visits will let you hear more about this imaginary realm, peopled with magicians and wily spirits.

Practical information

Marked trail open all year 

Getting there: Access from the car park at Saint-Ouen-le-Brisoult, hameau de Villiers

Guided tours: Parc naturel régional Normandie-Maine | 02 33 81 75 75

Le Vaudobin

Vaudobin

Do you dare to go down into the bowels of Vaudobin? The incredibly steep slope clearly shows the different plant strata and nature doesn’t leave much room for man here. The deep canyon cuts through the stony landscape, topped with two high plateaux:

  • one dominated by gorses
  • the other by low heather moorland.

The dryness of the summits contrasts with the lushness of the depths. Here you will have the chance to see some typical yet very varied flora – with heath lands, heather, lichens, wet prairie and marshes, ramsons (an edible wild plant) and meadowsweet, and then the stony slopes where ash thrives alongside crooked oak, honeysuckle and delicious blueberries.

A 7km circuit (a three-hour hike) will also take you to the Bierre site.

Practical information

Green and white marked trails
Steep ascents
Walking shoes essential

Because of hunting, the site is closed to the public on Sundays and bank holidays from 1st November to the end of February, and 2 or 3 timer per year for culls.

Getting there: Access from the car park at Guéprei, hameau du Roc
Guided tours: CPIE des Collines Normandes | 02 33 62 34 65

Le Camp de Bierre

Le Camp de BierreThe Camp de Bierre is one of the most important archaeological sites in Western France. Established in Middle Neolithic times (around 3,500 BC) on a rocky spur dominating the Trun plain, this was a fortified residential site, protected by a stone and dry earth compound.

Abandoned during the Gallo-Roman period, the Camp de Bierre provides a unique insight into the history of Man's settlement in Normandy.

Practical information

Marked trail
Walking shoes recommended
Footpath toward le Vaudobin (making a 7 km loop) 

Guided tours: Syndicat d’initiative de Trun | 02 33 36 93 55 / 02 33 36 41 41 (mairie)

Le coteau des Champs Genêts

Le coteau des Champs Genêts

The Coteau des Champs Genêts, a limestone outcrop typical of the Pays d’Auge, offers a remarkable viewpoint over the surrounding valleys. Here, everything is grandiose - the slope, the grasslands which stretch out and disappear into the horizon, the landscape, the sunshine and the colours.

Thirteen species of orchid have been listed here, some of which are protected at regional level (frog orchid or small spider orchid) along with numerous species of butterfly. However, the site’s most symbolic animal is the ditch goat.

Practical information

Marked trail open from the beginning of April to the end of September 

Getting there: Access from the car park at Aubry-le-Panthou church

Guided tours: Association Faune et Flore de l’Orne | 02 33 26 26 62 or Conservatoire fédératif des espaces naturels de Basse-Normandie | 02 31 53 01 05

Les prairies de Campigny

Les prairies de Campigny

You will be almost fully submerged in the long grass and clusters of flowers, dominated by the blue of the aconite. There is diverse plant life all around, including meadowsweet, ragged robin and giant angelica.  This humid area, located at the bottom of a valley, is home to certain species which are perhaps more typical of the mountain prairies than the Augeron valleys. The site is best discovered in the summer when the aconite and common bistort are in flower. It is also an opportunity to observe some unusual butterflies which are typical to these areas, such as the Lesser Marbled Fritillary.

Practical information

Boots recommended 

Getting there: Access from CanapvilleGuided tours: Association Faune et Flore de l’Orne | 02 33 26 26 62

Les coteaux à orchidées

Les coteaux à orchidées

The beauty of the flowers in bloom is ephemeral, lasting only two months at most. During the first sunny days of May, the orchids sprinkle the limestone hills of the Pays d’Auge with touches of pink. Bee orchid, spider orchid, lizard orchid and lady orchid… there are some forty or so species of orchid in the Orne. Each hill has its special species, but they all seem to appreciate these poor soils and steep sunny slopes. The Bug Orchid only grows on Mont Chauvel.

Practical information

Guided tours only: Association Faune et Flore de l’Orne | 02 33 26 26 62 or Conservatoire fédératif des espaces naturels de Basse-Normandie (Mont Chauvel, Buttes et Petite Garenne) | 02 31 53 01 05

Coteau du Gland : private site, no access.

La grotte de la Mansonnière

La grotte de la Mansonnière

Over a thousand years ago, chalk was already being extracted here for local buildings, such as the Romanesque church in Bellou-sur-Huisne. Once the quarry was abandoned in the 19th century, the site was converted into a dance hall which remained open until the 1930s. After the war, it became a mushroom farm. In 2003, it was classified as a Natura 2000 site as it is home to a colony of bats. The Normandy Mammalogical Group has listed over 400 individuals (mainly Geoffroy’s bat, greater mouse-eared bat and greater horseshoe bat).

Practical information

Guided tours only: Parc naturel régional du Perche | 02 33 25 70 10

L’étang du Perron

L’étang du Perron

Lying on the boundaries of the Parisian basin and the Armorican Massif in a humid valley, Perron pool is surrounded by marshy prairies and a wooded hill. Its ecological value is seen in the hygrophilous and aquatic plant life and the wide variety of insects here (such as crickets and dragonflies). Mowing and grazing will soon be introduced as a way of managing the site.

 

La carrière de la Tourelle

La carrière de la Tourelle

This former sandstone quarry situated on a limestone plain has now been turned into a lake, surrounded by rocky overhangs stretching up to 10-15 metres high. In the surrounding area, there is a carpet of orchids on the limestone terrain along with groves which are home to several rare species.

Practical information

Guided tours only: Association Faune et Flore de l’Orne | 02 33 26 26 62

Le coteau de la Frénée

This vast hill in the Pays d’Auge is home to the plant life typically observed in sunny calcicolous grasslands. Several rare species of orchid, gentian and campanula can be found here. There is a wood at the top of the hill.

Practical information

Private property, no access.

La tourbière de Commeauche

La tourbière de Commeauche

The Commeauche peat bog is like a massive water-soaked sponge. Originally, a special kind of moss - sphagnum – accumulated to form the peat. This big spongy carpet, which is sometimes three to four metres deep, was formed over several centuries and gives the site an uneven appearance. The bog is fed by a deep water table and serves as a natural purifier for the Commeauche, a trout-filled river lying at the bottom of the hill. The soil is poor in nutrients but is home to some very specific flora such as the common sundew, a rare, protected carnivorous plant or marsh helleborine, one of the biggest and most beautiful orchids in Normandy.

Practical information

Boots essential 

Guided tours only: Conservatoire fédératif des espaces naturels | 02 31 53 01 05

La carrière des Monts

La carrière des Monts

The Carrière des Monts quarry looks like something of a minefield, covered in bumps and pot holes. Marl (limestone) was mined here for use as fertiliser for acid soils. The site is located on a geological fault line, where the Parisian basin meets the Armorican Massif, on the Argentan plain. The exposed ground is white. Bitter gentian, an annual plant (its seeds have a lifespan of five years) protected at national level, grows here. We can also find herbs such as thyme or oregano which give the site something of a Mediterranean feel. Ouessant and Solonge species of sheep can be found grazing on the dry grass.

Practical information

Guided tours: Conservatoire fédératif des espaces naturels | 02 31 53 01 05 OU Val d’Orne Environnement | 02 33 35 02 91