Northern France _ Saint quentin _ marais d'isle _ Marshes © CRTC Hauts-de-France - Vincent ColinNorthern France _ Saint quentin _ marais d'isle _ Marshes © CRTC Hauts-de-France - Vincent Colin
©Northern France, Saint quentin, marais d'isle ,Marshes |CRTC Hauts-de-France - Vincent Colin

On a bacôve in St Quentin’s Marais d’Isle

A natural reserve unlike any other in France

Boating on a marsh in the middle of the town? In Saint-Quentin, you can!
At the centre of Saint-Quentin lies the rather unexpected Marais d’Isle… a vast marshland and 48-hectare natural reserve. Ideal for a leisurely stroll and a picnic on the water’s edge.

Northern France _ Saint-Quentin _ Basilica © CRTC Hauts-de-France - Vincent ColinNorthern France _ Saint-Quentin _ Basilica © CRTC Hauts-de-France - Vincent Colin
©Northern France, Saint-Quentin, Basilica|CRTC Hauts-de-France - Vincent Colin

Board a bacôve

But if you want to properly explore the reserve and its peaty woods intersected by the Somme, then you need a bacôve. These traditional, flat-bottomed boats are perfectly designed for clearing a route through the narrow canals. “An Audomarois boat maker built our fantastic bacôves,” explains our guide. “They are made out of oak using traditional methods.”

Eusébie and Quintinus are the names of Saint-Quentin’s two bacôves, which measure 9 m long by 2 m wide and can safely carry up to twelve passengers. We climb aboard and find a place on the bench, the boat pitching slightly while we get settled. Next, the guide takes up a seat at the rear and we set off on our hour-long trip. The bacôve drifts silently across the Isle’s water. As it does, the captain explains the history and characteristics of ‘his’ marshes, and answers any questions. “This is an oasis of nature. Listen. We’re in the centre of town and yet, nothing but silence.”

A haven of peace for birds

As we pass by, the moorhen and ducks slip away into the reed beds. We continue on, learning how the river Somme shaped the landscape and that it is home to 160 species of birds: teal, great crested grebe and sometimes even nesting species such as bluethroat.
Visiting the Marais d’Isle is special, but leaving it behind isn’t all that bad: delicious food and drink await you back at the main square!

Local's tip

Morgane Gallet ©leslueursduninstantMorgane Gallet ©leslueursduninstant
©Morgane Gallet ©leslueursduninstant
Admire Art deco architecture on a walk through Saint Quentin's streets


If you know what to look out for, a wander around the town of Saint-Quentin ‒ the town of 3000 art-deco façades ‒ is really rewarding. Start in Champs-Élysées park and head towards the Hôtel de Ville [town hall]. The boardroom is open for visits as is the Renaissance style room where wedding ceremonies take place. Stroll onwards in the direction of the fish market in Place Grachus Baboeuf, noticing on arrival that the imposing blue and white building has a wave shaped roof. Press on to Saint-Quentin’s basilica to admire the stained-glass windows’ glorious interplay of colour, before going inside La Poste where you’ll be treated to a magnificent 1920s mosaic. Head to the town centre via the former palatial store ‘Nouvelles Galeries’ (top of Rue d’Isle) and stop to admire its dome-shaped iron structure. If you’ve still got energy to spare, carry on the Saint Quentin ‘Conservatoire’ [college of music]!

Morgane Gallet has all the lowdown on Saint Quentin

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