Our Sister – the Iroise Marine Park, Brittany

There are now four biosphere reserves in the new Intereg Channel Site – North Devon, Pas-de-Calais, Brighton and Lewes Downs and the Iroise Marine Park.  Last year we all met for the first time at the Saunton Sands Hotel to inaugurate the European funded project.

2019, Saturday 28 october, the North Devon Biosphere contingent set off from Barnstaple for a 5 day study tour of the Iroise Marine Park, taking the Brittany ferry on a very choppy overnight trip to Roscoff.

First a coffee stop at Morlaix.  The museum is closed for repairs.  I avoid the temptation of a kouignamann (like a lardy cake but all butter…) and we’re off to Brest to visit Oceanopolis – their magnificent marine centre.


We’re visiting this wonderful aquarium for two reasons:

  1. To raise awareness in the study tour participants of the marine wildlife in the Brittany area
  2. To critique displays for their interpretation of the environment (and culture) of the area for methods that could be adopted or adapted for BCHT activities in North Devon Biosphere

    There were different biotopes displayed in the tanks (reef, estuaries, muddy sandy sea beds, deep trenches) with the fauna (and flora) typical of those biotopes.  I loved the cod.  There were also Tropical and Polar sea exhibits.  The interactive tank was a horseshoe tank which allowed visitors to touch the sea creatures for themselves in a safe and supervised way, while staff answered questions and used an underwater camera to zoom in on t the creatures.  Oh, that we could recreate this at the Countryside Centre!!

    It’s Ushant in English, Ouessant in French, Enez Eusa in Breton, meaning “the farthest Island”. A name that struck fear into sailors in old days, with many shipwrecks caused by its treacherous reefs at the southern entrance to the English Channel.  Towering lighthouses keep vessels off the reefs. These half-dozen “phares” make a great impression and the natural surroundings still inspire awe too, especially the dramatic rocks along Ushant’s north shore.

    The Brest/ Ouessant ferry at Port de Stiff, Ouessant

    Quick drop off at the hotel and the organised tourist activities began.  We began at Diane Chauvet’s laboratory for beauty products.  We made liquid soap, body cream and some seaweed scrubs and wraps using Plantain, local Honey, Marigolds and, yes, dried Seaweed.  The honey products were particularly delicious…

Then a visit to the Eco-Musee – a beautifully preserved Ouessant dwelling.  Only the downstairs, divided into two rooms, was used.  Upstairs is storage for potatoes etc.

Finally, a tour of the island – which ended in a thorough soaking…

The furrows in this field are probably due to earlier potato farming. Agriculture is not currently feasible on Ouessant due to the French inheritance practice of equal division of assets – this has resulted in multiple land ownership of very small holdings, down to 1m x 100m in some cases.  Bramble and bracken are rapidly taking over, necessitating a scrub clearance project – familiar to us on Braunton Burrows.  Tuesday saw us in seminar mode, watching update presentations from the four projects, and taking part in break out groups on various themes.









Tuesday saw us in seminar mode, with presentations from the four project and break-out sessions on various themes.  Then to the Lighthouse Museum in the evening for a cocktail with the Mayor!

Wednesday dawned a lot brighter, we were grateful because it was time for a trip on the water to see what we could see.  First we sailed to Molene, an island with natural harbours making it much easier to embark on our lovely 600hp RIB.

Not to mention

and of course


Others visited Ledenez, once a centre of kelp harvesting, now home to restored harvesters’ cabins for visitors to stay, with further cabins planned – a way to bring income to the biosphere reserve

We were also invited by the villagers of Molene to attend the inauguration of their Musee de L’Environnement,

And here are the organisers – who kept us all so entertained during the tour…

The three wise men – their knowledge and talent kept us enthused (amused…) throughout, and

our three wise women – whose superb organisation from inception to completion made us feel a seminar was really a holiday…l

Thanks for the memories

You Might Also Like