Le Marais

Description

Since 1998, the Grand Marais has been a site of national importance for marshes and the reproduction of amphibians. Many species of dragonflies, birds, small mammals - difficult to see without a little luck - and amphibians can be observed here. It seems impenetrable in summer, but a path leads from the road to Chiètres to the main pond, home to the common coot. It is possible to go around it on the west side by the road, and reach the reed bed; it is then prudent to take your boots. This is a fragile ecosystem, under the close surveillance of the State, Pro Natura and the Commune, who are working together to safeguard it.

This remarkable place can best be admired from the road to the Colline de Chiètres. From there, it displays its different shades of green: silver willows, willow trees, reeds, oak trees, ash trees, charcoal trees, sedges... In spring, the palette of colours is extraordinary. They are the expression of the variety that this area offers today: ponds, reedbeds, copses, islets, riparian zones - this is what the eastern edge of the marsh is called. Here you can find willows with a strange silhouette: pollard willows, named after their large heads. In the past, they were pruned to take wicker, but as basketry has practically disappeared, many of these trees have split or collapsed under the weight of branches that have become too big. Witnesses of a bygone era, the last survivors were saved by Martial Pot, who for more than thirty years has given himself body and soul to the regeneration and maintenance of this reserve. The marsh has been a nature reserve since 1955. It was classified at the request of the Municipality following a petition that called for the reclamation of the Petit and Grand Marais, winter playgrounds much appreciated by young Bellerins. The former was drained and thus given over to agriculture; at the foot of the hill, a clump of reed canary grass and a few puddles that persist after heavy rainfall bear witness to its wet past. Its waters now feed the Grand Marais. The latter, a vestige of a regularly flooded Rhone Plain rich in marshes, seemed to be saved. However, a few years later, the vegetation had invaded everything, and no open water remained. After several months of studying hydrological movements, it became clear that the level of the weir had to be raised to prevent it from drying up. To allow the fauna to reestablish itself, it was decided to recreate the pond. A pathway from the road to Chiètres now provides access to the pond. You will then pass a small mound formed by the materials removed in 1966. An invasive plant, the Japanese knotweed, reigns supreme here. All efforts to eradicate it to date have been in vain. It comes from the garden waste that the people of Bellerin have been depositing for many years, using the marsh as a garden dumping ground. On the pond, you will certainly see coots, faithful guests of this place. Perhaps you will see grey herons posed opposite, on the oak trees of the island, a frightened garter snake slipping into the water, the very discreet moorhen, or a flight of mallards? The latter are more timid than they used to be: reintroduced just after the pond was dug, they were quickly tamed by the many walkers who brought them dry bread. The following autumn, a hunter took advantage of this familiarity to shoot them shamelessly, reminding us that a nature reserve is not necessarily a hunting reserve. The affair caused quite a stir and a sign discouraged people from feeding the ducks. Today, the marsh seems impenetrable: so much the better for its two-, four- and six-legged guests. Many species have been observed over the years. Among the birds are the teal, the little grebe, the bittern, the water rail, the common snipe, the warbler, various woodpeckers and a host of passerines, such as the oriole, whose beautiful song enlivens the high forest in spring, and the kingfisher with its dazzling turquoise colour. Mammals include roe deer, foxes, badgers and wild boars, various field mice, ermine, polecats, harvest rats, dormice and the lovely muskrat. Easier to see - or hear - are the laughing frogs, common toads, alpine and webbed newts and all sorts of dragonflies including the fire-bodied nymph. The list is far from exhaustive, especially as it grows over the years. The marsh is not a fixed place, it is in constant evolution. Its fragile balance must be maintained by human intervention, and this regularly. If you go around the marsh from the west and try to reach the interior, you will find a small concrete construction, surprising in such a wild place. This is a valve that regulates the level of the marsh, for example, to raise it in early spring to encourage the amphibians to lay their eggs.

A path leads from the Chiètres road to the main pond. Access from the west side of the road to reach the reed bed; take your boots.

To the Pro Natura website

Since 1998, the Grand Marais has been a site of national importance for marshes and the reproduction of amphibians. Many species of dragonflies, birds, small mammals - difficult to see without a little luck - and amphibians can be observed here. It seems impenetrable in summer, but a path leads from the road to Chiètres to the main pond, home to the common coot. It is possible to go around it on the west side by the road, and reach the reed bed; it is then prudent to take your boots. This is a fragile ecosystem, under the close surveillance of the State, Pro Natura and the Commune, who are working together to safeguard it.

This remarkable place can best be admired from the road to the Colline de Chiètres. From there, it displays its different shades of green: silver willows, willow trees, reeds, oak trees, ash trees, charcoal trees, sedges... In spring, the palette of colours is extraordinary. They are the expression of the variety that this area offers today: ponds, reedbeds, copses, islets, riparian zones - this is what the eastern edge of the marsh is called. Here you can find willows with a strange silhouette: pollard willows, named after their large heads. In the past, they were pruned to take wicker, but as basketry has practically disappeared, many of these trees have split or collapsed under the weight of branches that have become too big. Witnesses of a bygone era, the last survivors were saved by Martial Pot, who for more than thirty years has given himself body and soul to the regeneration and maintenance of this reserve. The marsh has been a nature reserve since 1955. It was classified at the request of the Municipality following a petition that called for the reclamation of the Petit and Grand Marais, winter playgrounds much appreciated by young Bellerins. The former was drained and thus given over to agriculture; at the foot of the hill, a clump of reed canary grass and a few puddles that persist after heavy rainfall bear witness to its wet past. Its waters now feed the Grand Marais. The latter, a vestige of a regularly flooded Rhone Plain rich in marshes, seemed to be saved. However, a few years later, the vegetation had invaded everything, and no open water remained. After several months of studying hydrological movements, it became clear that the level of the weir had to be raised to prevent it from drying up. To allow the fauna to reestablish itself, it was decided to recreate the pond. A pathway from the road to Chiètres now provides access to the pond. You will then pass a small mound formed by the materials removed in 1966. An invasive plant, the Japanese knotweed, reigns supreme here. All efforts to eradicate it to date have been in vain. It comes from the garden waste that the people of Bellerin have been depositing for many years, using the marsh as a garden dumping ground. On the pond, you will certainly see coots, faithful guests of this place. Perhaps you will see grey herons posed opposite, on the oak trees of the island, a frightened garter snake slipping into the water, the very discreet moorhen, or a flight of mallards? The latter are more timid than they used to be: reintroduced just after the pond was dug, they were quickly tamed by the many walkers who brought them dry bread. The following autumn, a hunter took advantage of this familiarity to shoot them shamelessly, reminding us that a nature reserve is not necessarily a hunting reserve. The affair caused quite a stir and a sign discouraged people from feeding the ducks. Today, the marsh seems impenetrable: so much the better for its two-, four- and six-legged guests. Many species have been observed over the years. Among the birds are the teal, the little grebe, the bittern, the water rail, the common snipe, the warbler, various woodpeckers and a host of passerines, such as the oriole, whose beautiful song enlivens the high forest in spring, and the kingfisher with its dazzling turquoise colour. Mammals include roe deer, foxes, badgers and wild boars, various field mice, ermine, polecats, harvest rats, dormice and the lovely muskrat. Easier to see - or hear - are the laughing frogs, common toads, alpine and webbed newts and all sorts of dragonflies including the fire-bodied nymph. The list is far from exhaustive, especially as it grows over the years. The marsh is not a fixed place, it is in constant evolution. Its fragile balance must be maintained by human intervention, and this regularly. If you go around the marsh from the west and try to reach the interior, you will find a small concrete construction, surprising in such a wild place. This is a valve that regulates the level of the marsh, for example, to raise it in early spring to encourage the amphibians to lay their eggs.

A path leads from the Chiètres road to the main pond. Access from the west side of the road to reach the reed bed; take your boots.

To the Pro Natura website

Location
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