When two of my best friends came to visit me, we had to do some physical activity to compensate for all the good food and wine. So I included a walk in our program. Well, after an energizing lunch that was… (at Le Poisson Rouge in Frontignan). Our destination was the Bois des Aresquiers in Frontignan, a waterfront forest near Frontignan. We thought we would do the short walk of 7 kilometres, but as the trail was so easy, we decided to do the extra 2-kilometre loop.
Le Bois des Aresquiers is a protected natural site, just a few steps from the tourist hustle and bustle of the Mediterranean beaches. This unique piece of land, nestled between the lagoons of the Étang d’Ingril and the Étang de Vic, is the home of a diverse range of flora and fauna. The first animal we encountered was this sweet Camargue horse. It was like he was welcoming us and pointing us in the right direction, despite the yellow cross.
I brought my guidebook, the fantastic, slightly old-fashioned “Les Sentiers d’Émilie – Hérault” (I have started collecting these (French) hiking guide books as they show simple hikes for each department in France). The guide mentioned that we should start the walk in the forest instead of the indicated lagoon. That is why my friends and I decided to follow the path with the yellow cross and took the second path to our left into the pine forest. We had a little difficulty getting on to the right track. But after we reached ‘La Fontaine des Aresquiers’, we found the yellow markers indicating the route of the hike.
Coming out of the wood, we hopped on a boardwalk. I love boardwalks! The map in my guidebook and the one at the beginning of the walk showed a path over a blue background, so I thought we would be walking on boardwalks over the water. I was a bit disappointed to find that in fact we were walking about 20 centimetres above the ground through the former salt marshes of Frontignan, covered by small bushes. Not the kind of boardwalk hike I had in mind. But it was fun anyway, with a beautiful scenery. And we did spot a few flamingos, as well as some herons, terns and black-winged stilts. Maybe we saw other species, but this was as far as our bird knowledge went ;).
From the boardwalk, the girls and I made a loop around the former salt marshes, Les Salins de Frontignan. At some parts, we could clearly see the light, cracked land. The path brought us to what I think was the Mas des Gardes, an abandoned customs office. From here, I could imagine that up until the Middle Ages, the lagoons of the coastline were all connected to each other. They offered the merchant vessels great protection against pirates and bad weather. Different times back then, on our hike we only met a few fellow hikers and bikers.
It is believed that salt was already being exploited during the Roman Era. With time, Frontignan produced no less than 10,000 tons of salt per year! The salt marshes closed in 1968 and, ten years later, were transformed into one of the largest natural sites along the Mediterranean coastline. Today, the former salins and the Aresquiers forest cover almost 260 hectares of protected nature reserve with a unique ecosystem. Without pirates. We finished our walk by following the path next to the lagoon, including some more boardwalks. In total, we walked for about 3 hours (with lots of photo stops), covering 9 kilometres. Well worth the effort and we all agreed that after that we deserved some wine!