As you work your way through the town you will soon come across a really idyllic and picturesque part of the town that seems almost aloof from the bustle of the harbour but retains its character and always presents itself in it's full glory. Take a camera and take a flask of coffee and enjoy the remparts which have such a strong connection to the history of France whilst admiring the period houses and traditional French architecture which cling to the surroundings of the remparts. I found it very quiet here but this is a very good sign as it allows you to really connect with the history of the place and enjoy the serenity and calm of the Baie de la Somme.
The Somme River
Its source is located close to Fonsommes in the department of Aisne at a hundred meters of altitude. Its valley forms a complex whole of river, marsh, ponds and channels.
The river preserves over all its length (245 kilometres) an orientation towards the West or the West-north-west, but it describes many meanders. The Somme is thrown in the English Channel by bay of Somme between Crotoy and Saint-Valéry-on-the-Somme
The Picardy coast offers today more then 150 km of tracks and circuits. Seven landmarked circuits of 20 to 30 km with wooden landmarks give the possibility to discover the surprising littoral and its back-littoral.
The photograph shows the track St. Valéry sur Somme - Abbeville v.v.
The Parc Ornithologique de Marquenterre is a real treat for anyone with an interest in birds or wildlife in general. We went on a mild, sunny saturday afternoon in May and it was so busy that we even had to queue to buy our entrance tickets. The nature reserve was clearly very popular and I must say the place must have been making a small fortune, not only in entry fees but from sales in the shop and the restaurant. There were binoculars for hire and we saw some guides who were giving advice and guidance to enquiring visitors.
I must say that at Euro9.90 per adult (May 2009) I was amazed to find it was so popular but for me it was worth every eurocent.
The place is fantastic in May. The guide explained it's at a key crossroads point on the migration route for many birds coming in from the north and south. I suspect that in July and August there are fewer birds and probably less diversity.
There are 12 hides on the reserve, one of which was even heated.
Nesting platforms have been built and most were occupied by White storks, of which at least one already had a brood of 4 chicks who would pop their heads up begging for food when the Mum or Dad arrived back at the nest. All of this was clearly visible with binoculars. At the end of the walk - the longest route being about 6kms - there is a wonderful viewing centre overlooking the Heronry where you can comfortably watch the comings and goings of the nesting birds in the trees. These included the Spoonbills, Herons, Egrets and Storks.
All in all my wife and I saw 44 species in about 4 hours including the Crane, which for us was a 'lifer'. It was strutting its stuff in the first pool oblivious of the large numbers of people all straining to photograph it. Even if you only have a passing interest in wildlife we think you would enjoy this reserve in May so long as the weather is kind to you.
If you enjoy pottering around the older parts of French towns then you'll not be disappointed with St Valéry. A short distance east of the newer town centre are the ruins of the old walls and prison - reputed to have once held Joan of Arc. There's at least one interesting old church, Saint Martin, dating back many centuries; the 18th century hospital and its neighbouring cemetery ( very convenient but perhaps not a great comfort for the patients) and a charming array of houses of different shapes and sizes . Dotted around are explanatory notice boards and I daresay the local tourist information centre, found upriver near to the waterfront railway siding, has leaflets with details of town trails that can be followed.
Take a look at my photos to gain a feel for the town. It's well worth a visit though I expect it gets very busy in the summer.
The Holy Valery Chapel
In 622, Valery is buried in this place according to its will.
Its relics attract the many faithful ones, which come in pilgrimage.
Moreover, the spring water was miraculous.
In 1878, the old chapel shaven, is replaced by this one.
The Guillaume Towers.
Their presence is attested as of the 11th century.
These towers constituted the door top, principal entry of the feudal borough.
It is necessary to imagine, with the top of the passage arched a building of bricks being used as body of guard and prison.
The fall of the draw up bridge takes place 1614, for lack of maintenance.
The Holy Martin church
This church undergoes during centuries of many transformations.
Primitive church, it remains some vestiges, like the pillars between the two naves, which would date from 11th and 12th centuries.
The church was damaged at the time of the fire of 1475 ordered by Louis XI, then rebuilt, always on its old bases. Thus, the three chapels testify to the various architectural styles. The church Martin saint has two naves, of identical dimensions.
The gate (surmounted of an elegant arrow until 1786, then of a pyramidal roof) is a massive shouldered tower of buttresses.
The walls are made stones and flints, laid out as draught-board.
The Nevers Gate
The gate gives access from the low city to the medieval city. Or carries of bottom was entirely remade at the end of the 17th century.
It is a high construction, with pointed pinion, in likings and rollers at its base, the top is out of bricks. Formerly, this door gave directly on the strike. Above the entry in broken arch, two bays give passage to the arms of a drawbridge.
A stone carries the weapons of the duke of Gonzague-Nevers, surmounted currency “fides”.
The buildings are used as body of guard until the 17th century, then the door becomes the presbytery of the city.
Can you imagine the one market day animation in the Middle Ages, with the horses , the merchants and their goods, the fishermen bringing their fish, all passing by this only gate?
The Nevers Gate
The city passes with hands in hands; French, English, the Burgundian ones. English cuts down the cloister and the turns of the abbey in order to strengthen the castle. In 1431, Jeanne d' Arc (Joan of Arch) captive of English crosses Saint Valery, then will be conveyed in Rouen where it will be burned.
Vis-a-vis this door, on the wall of fortification, a commemorative plate recalls this historical event.
Fortifications and history
The origin of our city is extremely old. Its history is directly related to its geographical situation. Its site sheltered within the estuary of the Sum, the presence of dead cliffs made of Valery Saint a place favourable with the occupation of the man.
As of prehistory, the site (then a small island with high tide) was occupied. The Gallic occupation is attested dice the 5th century before J.C. After the Roman conquest (- 52), the Roman presence is quite real on banks of old Bay of Somme. One released a sanctuary with Boismont and discovered a treasure of parts and jewels in Mons Boubert.
During several centuries, a Gallo-Roman “cohabitation” settles in a quite relative peace.
At the 5th century, they is the great invasions come from north, they are the frank ones which settles in our areas and mix with the existing populations.
Towards 500, it is the baptism of Clovis, king of the Frank ones.
District of the sailors “the court gain”
The houses of the district of the sailors are the very picturesque, small and tight ones against the others.
Formerly, one lived there a family by household, the living conditions were precarious.
Today, the owners group several houses to live there.
A small path leads to the martyrdom of the sailors which offers a splendid sight on Bay.
The Holy Valery Chapel
In this quiet area, people come for a special devotion.
In addition to the traditional prayers, Holy Valéry with the reputation to cure the problems of erection! (Ancestor of Viagra?)
You reassure, I need neither the one, nor other!
Ah Ah Ah
The eldest parts of the church have been built during the 12e century but the church which can be seen in the 21e century have been inaugurated in 1500. The stipple is younger (1615).
Previously, a house was attached at the right of the church. It contained a water tank.
To be freely visited
There's an historical train line called the chemin de fer de la baie de la somme that travels in two directions either to Le Crotoy which is around the bay and north or south to Cayeaux sure mer. I only did the former and there isn't much to shout about at Le Crotoy so I'd suggest you head south...although the steam train only goes north, its a diesel the other way. Its not cheap either...works out about 40 euros for a family of four. However if money is no object its a nice day out.
Note that the ticket office in St Valery is not at the actual station (where you park your car), its on a wagon parked down the line closer to the town centre...also that's also where you get on the train...well it was on the day we went.
The web site is in French but the timetable is quite easy to understand.