The Boucles de la Seine Normande Natural Park is the weaving, 180-kilometre stretch of land where the Seine river exits de Île-de-France and enters Norman territory. Within it is a wealth of natural beauty and a variety of flora and fauna that call it home, including the red squirrel, which is an adorable, fiery-coloured mammal that plays a pivotal role in seed dispersal within the forests. The red squirrel population is decreasing in other parts of Europe, particularly in Italy and the United Kingdom, due to loss of habitat and the introduction of the grey squirrel from North America. In France, they are a fully protected species, making your chances of seeing one more likely.
The horseshoe-shaped Bord-Louviers forest is a 4,568-hectare area of land that lies just south of the city of Rouen, north of the Seine, and east of the Eure rivers. The forest is a combination of beech, pine and oak trees that rest atop a limestone plateau 120 metres above the valleys of the Seine and Eure. It’s serviced by a network of walking trails, allowing visitors to easily navigate and see the variety of animals on view here such as deer, badgers, foxes, squirrels and wild boar. Wild boar is often hunted and its meat used as the ingredient in the famous saucisson sanglier. This area does permit hunting, so be sure to check for active dates here prior to visiting.
Located just outside the city of Caen, the Grimbosq Forest is 482 hectares of wooded area with biking, hiking and horseback riding trails. The forest is considered the gateway into a part of the region called Swiss Normandy thanks to its epic landscape – one that makes it an ideal habitat for roe and fallow deer, as well as wild boar. The animals of the Grimbosq forest are protected by an 8.5-hectare designated animal park, where they are free to roam and escape the dangers of hunting, which is an important feature as the population of roe deer, in particular, is decreasing in France.
We understand farm animals aren’t wildlife but hear us out. Normandy is synonymous with farmland. Its verdant, pastoral fields and a climate that supports vegetation serve as ideal grounds for farming. Dairy cows spend their days grazing the green fields and horses, an animal impassioned by the Norman people, can be seen on stud farms and horse riding clubs are to be found throughout the region. A walk through the beautiful Coteaux hills just outside of Giverny allows passers-by a first-hand look at farm life in Normandy, and a chance to rub shoulders with these gentle beings. Consider adding a whole other level to your new-found friendships and give horseback riding through the countryside a try.
Located just off the shores of Utah Beach, the Domaine de Beauguillot Natural Reserve makes up part of the Marais du Cotentin Natural Park, a section of marshland over the border of the Calvados and Manche regions. While a total of 214 species are found here, one of the star attractions is the colony of seals that can be seen basking in the sun on the Bay of Veys during low tide. A kilometre-long trail passes through the reserve for guests to traverse, offering lookout points at the activity of the creatures by the water along the way. Bring your binoculars!
The Great Noë Bird Reserve is a must-see for bird enthusiasts. The area rests at the confluence of three rivers – Seine, the Eure and the Andelle – and is a migratory route and sanctuary for approximately 210 species of birds, including the heron, the Mediterranean Gull, and the largest group of Great Cormorants in Normandy. Boots and binoculars are recommended and guided tours are available to provide some context.