Haute-Somme, Randonnée dans les étangs de la Vallée de la Haute Somme ©CRTC Hauts-de-France- Guillaume CrochezHaute-Somme, Randonnée dans les étangs de la Vallée de la Haute Somme ©CRTC Hauts-de-France- Guillaume Crochez
©Randonnée dans les étangs Haute Somme | CRTC Hauts-de-France- Guillaume Crochez

Gazing at 10 panoramic landscapes

Did you know that taking time to contemplate nature’s beauty makes you happier? That’s why we’ve put together this selection of 10 panoramas in Northern France for you to admire. From the summit of Monts Bonneil in Château-Thierry, Pagnotte, Cassel and the terril du 11/19 in Loos-en-Gohelle, on the ramparts of Montreuil-sur-mer, along the Allée des Beaux-Monts in the Forest of Compiègne or in Marquenterre park: soak up these extraordinary landscapes that appear never-ending and let the blissful beauty wash over you… You are at one with Mother Nature!

Northern France _ Essômes-sur-Marne _ Champagne vineyard © CRTC Hauts-de-France - Vincent ColinNorthern France _ Essômes-sur-Marne _ Champagne vineyard © CRTC Hauts-de-France - Vincent Colin
©Northern France, Essômes-sur-Marne, Champagne vineyard| CRTC Hauts-de-France - Vincent Colin
Frise

01. Splendid vistas from the Montagne de Frise over a mosaic of ponds

Whichever of the two neighbouring mountains you choose to climb — Eclusier-Vaux or Frise — you won’t be disappointed, and your selfies are sure to be on point. But first, you need to cross 8 miles of larris (sloped calcareous grassland) that is so typical of the Haute-Somme, with trails carefully maintained by Hauts de France’s Conservatory of Natural Areas. The view from the vantage point atop Montagne de Frise is breath-taking. Standing here in the peace and quiet, looking out across the meandering Somme, it’s difficult to imagine that it was the scene of some of the most bloody episodes of the First World War. On the front line, you can still see the trenches, as well as the scars of where shells landed.

A poignant climb that becomes even more so with the work of writer and poet Blaise Cendrars, who explored the watery land during his leave from the front in 1914. But where many fell, nature has risen, with rare fauna and flora blossoming and transforming the area into “a little corner of paradise in the land of poppies”. From its spur, Eclusier-Vaux also looks out on the Haute Vallée de la Somme and offers amazing vistas over a patchwork of ponds and marshes. A rich biological ecosystem and an extraordinary landscape that is sure to stir up some emotions.

Compiègne

02. The imperial Percée des Beaux-Monts

 

 

Enjoy a rejuvenating escape in the vast and historical Forest of Compiègne. Every dynasty has roamed and shaped this forest, used as a holiday destination for kings and emperors and one of the most famous and magnificent in all of France (and the 3rd largest). An immense woodland covered in over 560 miles of trails, criss-crossing at several hundred intersections where the quintessential white direction markers carry poetically old-fashioned names relating to nymphs and hares.

And then there’s the Percée des Beaux Monts. This famous forest boulevard was originally a gift from emperor Napoleon Bonaparte to his wife Marie-Louise of Austria. It starts out at the Palace and continues on through the trees for over 2.5 miles, painting a picture you won’t forget in a hurry.

Along the way: ponds, pools and other majestic and “remarkable trees” like the Chêne de Saint-Jean (Oak of Saint John), planted during the reign of Louis IX. There is also the charming village of Saint-Jean-aux-Bois, where you can replenish your energy once you finish your adventure in the 15,000-hectare park.

Le Mont-Bonneil

03. Champagne vineyards as far as the eye can see from Mont Bonneil

On the edge of the Champagne region, at the most southern point of the Aisne department, local people also have their vineyards, and as local native (from Château-Thierry, to be precise) Jean de la Fontaine would say: “that’s by no means a fable”. These vineyards are cared for by a myriad of independent wine-growers and produce… you guessed it… Champagne! In fact, 10% of France’s bubbly is made in the Hauts-de-France region! And to enjoy the wonderful view in all its glory, take the path that leads up through the dainty village of Bonneil, passing by the 13th-century gothic church. The higher you climb, the more the picturesque canvas of Mont Bonneil and its waterfall of sloped vineyards comes into focus. If there was ever a spot for a romantic photo, it’s here!

Saint-Quentin-en-Tourmont

04. When the path crosses the last dune

When French poet  Baudelaire said “Free man, you will always cherish the sea!”, he was certainly onto something. Who doesn’t love the beach, the sound of the waves, the comforting rhythm of the tides and, of course, the dunes? So alluring and fragile. The dunes along the Picardy coast are strung together in one glorious and natural catena, bathed in sunlight and garnished with beachgrass, sea-buckthorn and sea thrift. Explore them by taking the Sentier d’accès à la mer, a 4.5-mile footpath that starts in Saint-Quentin-en-Tourmont. Bushy dunes and pinewoods are scattered along the sandy path all the way until the final dune, when — suddenly — your eyes light up in awe at the image before you: just miles and miles of nothing but wide open beach. It’s like you’re alone in the world, atop Northern France’s largest sand dune range (3,000 hectares). The sea and sky appear as if they are one. Simply stunning!

 

Loos-en-Gohelle

05. A UNESCO-approved view

Time to give the calves a workout and summit a peak! But not just any peak. One of the 300 or so black mountains found in this former mining region and UNESCO world heritage site. Close to Lens, at the heart of pays des corons (land of miners’ cottages), the terril du 11/19 in Loos en Gohelle is the largest spoil tip in Europe (186 m). Even though it’s steep, it’s walkable with the right shoes. As you climb, get in the true Lens spirit with the traditional worker’s chant: “Au Nord, c’était les corons…” (In the North, there were the miners’ cottages). The footpath takes you up to a first level with a view over the surrounding mining plains. Along the way, be sure to examine the thermophilic microflora and the warm schist; you might even come across a few fossils brought to the surface by the mining. Once you’ve made it to the very top, you are rewarded with an incredible 360-degree view, featuring Vimy ridge and its poignant Anneau-de-la-Mémoire memorial (« Ring of Remembrance ») in the distance. You can’t help but be blown away (not literally).

Cassel

06. Atop Mont Cassel, with French Flanders at your feet

Cassel is unparalleled in so many ways: first, it is the highest village in all of Flanders. And secondly, it was also voted as ‘France’s favourite village’ in 2018 for its outstanding beauty, quirky features and inimitable Flemish art de vivre. And moreover, the view from its tallest point (176 m) is spectacular. Much like a painting by one of the region’s great 17th-century Flemish masters, the topography of the hilly landscape creates a sort of chiaroscuro that you’ll find nowhere else. The vantage point offers up a unique panoramic view over all of French Flanders for up to 50 miles in all directions. Finish off your excursion with a visit to a traditional estaminet café, Le T’Kasteelhof.  Lying next to a windmill, this ‘temple of northern hospitality’ will give you the true taste of Flanders with its classic local cuisine.

Halatte

07. A view of Paris from the middle of a forest!

Sticking out above the public woodland of Halatte, Mont Pagnotte lies 31 miles from Paris and 4 miles from Senlis (meaning ‘impregnable place’ in Celtic). Scaling its summit, which happens to be the highest point in the Oise department (220 m), is well worth the effort. At the top, you find yourself in the middle of a vast ocean of towering timber where you’ll need to take some deep breaths of Mother Nature’s fresh air to fully come to terms with the magnificent view! And if the weather is on your side, you may be lucky enough to see the Butte de Saint-Christophe, Senlis cathedral and even the Eiffel Tower!

Montreuil-sur-Mer

08. Romantic panorama on the ramparts

This thousand-year-old town is like a real-life art and history encyclopaedia, featuring all the architectural eras you could think of. The walk atop its ramparts, whose major renovations recently received an award, is an essential part of any visit and a favourite of many, including locals themselves. Its 2 miles offer a serene view over the entire Vallée de la Canche: a countryside portrait depicting fields, greenery, local villages and, in the distance, the Chartreuse de Neuville-sous-Montreuil monastery. With such peaceful surroundings, there’s nothing better than simply sitting on a bench and taking it all in. In a letter to his wife Adèle, Victor Hugo wrote: “because the town is seated high, there is an admirable view of the hills and prairies from the ramparts.” Round off your escape to the country with a short walk around the craggy and cobbled streets of the small yet elegant fortified town. Be sure to visit rue du Clape with its many inviting terraces. You can thank us later!

Le Marquenterre

09. The ultimate vista

Somewhere between land, sea and sky lies Le Marquenterre ornithological park and its rainbow of whites, blues, greens and greys. At the heart of the Somme bay’s nature reserve, this theatrical stage plays host to a permanent spectacle performed by the hundreds of species of migrating birds who make it their temporary home. Learn all about their nesting, breeding and hatching habits from a nature guide, who will also take you to some of the best observation points in the area. One, in particular, is especially magical and affords exceptional views over the Bay of Somme  (listed as a Grand Site de France®), made even more special when the rain falls and the sky lights up to create some sensational contrasts. Pick up your binoculars and let your jaw drop. It’s almost mystical!

Sailly-en-Ostrevent

10. The Cromlech and standing stones of Sailly-en-Ostrevent

The pays de l’Artois looks almost as if it has come straight out of a Tolkien novel, full of fantasy and mythology. Legend has it that the megalithic stones were once seven aboriginals who were turned into stone, although only five remain to this day. They all stand in a druidic circle atop a hill in the middle of a field, near Sailly-en-Ostrevent in Pas-de-Calais. The view from the top is awesome. Looking out over the vast plain that surrounds you, divided by the river Sensée and the Trinquise, will you be able to untangle the mysteries of our region’s most mystifying sites? Even if you can’t, you’ll certainly return home feeling replenished by the ancient energy that envelops the site. The 5-metre high burial ground has been classed as a historical monument since 1889.