The Landes forest
It covers a huge area of around 1 million hectares. Without it, the landscape of southwestern France would not be the same at all. It courts the Atlantic Ocean and adapts to the relief of the dunes. It is crossed by hundreds of kilometers of hiking and cycling trails. It measures 220 km from north to south, 130 km from east to west and spans three departments: Lot-et-Garonne, Gironde and the one that gave it its name, Les Landes. It is therefore the famous Landes forest, a must-see destination if you go camping in the Landes. Apart from its extraordinary dimensions, the Landes forest is fabulous in more ways than one. You’d like to know why ? Explanations.
Western Europe’s largest man-made forest
Numbers often speak more than words. In the middle of the 19th century, the Landes de Gascogne forest covered less than 100,000 hectares. Today, its area exceeds one million. So much so that it can claim to be the largest forest in Western Europe. How and why has this green lung bordered by the Silver Coast and mainly composed of maritime pines seen its size increase tenfold in 150 years? The answer lies with a very inspired engineer named Chambrelent who had the good idea of sowing maritime pine seeds on flood plains most of the year. The pines rose quickly and the idea of Chambrelent delighted Napoleon III, passing through the Landes. The emperor bought a large piece of land to do the same, and a law was passed in 1857 to force the municipalities to follow this initiative. This measure explains the rapid development of this large cultivated forest.
Fauna, flora and sports activities
Today, the Landes forest is a refuge for many animal and plant species, an endless place to walk and a formidable open-air multisport area. The presence of ponds, peat bogs and streams greatly contributes to the variety of flora and fauna. The Landes forest is home to European badgers, wild boars, pheasants, stags, roe deer, woodcock and European hares. Besides maritime pines, you can also meet several types of oak along the way.
From north to south, from the Pointe de Grave to Hossegor, the forest is crossed by the Vélodyssée, one of the largest cycle paths in Europe that runs along the Atlantic coast. Several other developed and safe trails link the beaches of the Silver Coast or the Landes villages. The forest also has many picnic areas, large lakes with nautical clubs, fitness trails and themed trails suitable for families.
Fires, the biggest threat
This immense pine forest is, alas, easy prey for fire. The risk of fire is permanent, especially in summer during peak heat. To limit these risks, slow down the spread of flames and intervene quickly when a fire is declared, several measures and infrastructures have been put in place over the past decades: network of firewalls, large reservoirs to store water, towers observation, paths to facilitate access to trucks …