Baie d’Audierne – The coastline
The Baie d’Audierne stretches between Pointe du Raz in the north and Pointe de Penmarch in the south.
This bay, wide open on the Atlantic Ocean, is constantly exposed to sea breeze.
The Baie d’Audierne is renowned for its wild and often desolated shore where, as some say, one can only hear the cry of seabirds!
The coastline is dotted of small fishing villages.
The only major harbours are Audierne and Poulgoazec, established on the bank of the river Goyen and Saint-Guénolé near Penmarc’h.
Two thirds of this coastline, from Pointe de la Torche to the town of Plozévet, is a long beach of pebbles left by the melting of the glaciers during the Quaternary era.
The pebble beach gives way to ancient granitic formations.
Steep cliffs plunge into the sea as you reach Pointe de la Torche, Pointe de Penmarc’h and Pointe du Raz.
Countless ships ran aground the Baie d’Audierne’s beaches through the ages!
Legend has it that the inhabitants of this desolated shore, the ‘people of the marshes’, turned into wreckers.
Always on the lookout for distressed ships, they were ready to tackle them in order to plunder their loads and despoil their passengers …
The story of Les Droits de l’Homme, the ship that ran aground on the beach of Plozévet during the French Revolution, still remains in the collective memory.
The 650 victims who perished on that day were buried in haste in the dunes.
An ancient megalith, that already stood on that spot, was engraved with a commemorative dedication.
Baie d’Audierne – The hinterland
The hinterland consists of dunes and ponds, locally known as palus.
These are the remains of ancient salt marshes, which left a series of lagoons protected from the sea by natural barriers of pebbles.
Natural erosion, the development of a coastal road and the regular exploitation of pebbles during the previous centuries threatened this natural barrier, exposing the hinterland to floods.
By order of March 1934, exploitation of pebbles became forbidden in the municipality of Plovan, where erosion was at its worse.
This didn’t stop the Germans from re-opening the quarries during WWII to build their Atlantic Wall‘s bunkers!
The coastline of the Baie d’Audierne, once more exposed to the elements, began to retreat.
This coastal retreat has since been amplified by the rising level of the oceans.
This is quite obvious in the municipality of Tréguennec, where the old blockhouses, once built on the dunes, now stand on the beach!
The hinterland is, alas, still regularly flooded during the severe storms or high tides, which can trigger ecological disasters.
Part of this hinterland is also evolving due to silting.
As a result some ponds, once connected to the sea, are now entirely cut off.
This has a drastic impact on the original flora and fauna.
Flora and fauna
The marshes are home to willows but mostly to common reeds.
These, locally called roselières, were once harvested for the production of thatch.
This local industry nearly disappeared as fewer homes have thatched roofs.
It was, however, successfully revived in the late 1980s.
The marshes are a haven for all wildlife, but especially aquatic birds (including mosquitoes!)
The shallow seabed off the Baie d’Audierne is ideal for the breeding of caged crustaceans (lobsters in particular).
You’ll also find wild prawns, shrimps and crabs and if you are lucky you’ll even see dolphins!
The fishing industry is thriving.
However, it’s strictly monitored in order to avoid over-fishing and prevent marine pollution.
Black tides and ship oil spills (often to frequent off the coast) indeed have tragic effects on the eco-system!
The municipalities of Penmarc’h, Plomeur, Saint-Jean-Trolimon and Tréguennec joined forces in 2000 in order to found the Syndicat Intercommunal à Vocation Unique .
The SIVU is responsible for the development of 600 hectares of dunes and coastal marshes that were placed under the control of the Conservatoire du Littoral in 1984.
This agency provides permanent protection to natural areas threatened by the sea, and lakes shores.
The access to the beaches of the Baie d’Audierne and the local road infrastructure are now closely monitored.
As a result the various land developments don’t affect the natural protective barriers of pebbles.
The Baie d’Audierne was recognized as a Site of Intérêt Européen – European Sites of Interest for the diversity of its flora and fauna and for the originality of its landscapes.
It also became a member of Natura 2000.
N.B. Photos are for illustration purpose only and don’t necessarily refer to the site
Department of Finistère
Coordinates: Lat 47.964495 – Long -4.446266