Right at the spot where the Orb River flows into the Mediterranean Sea lies the protected nature reserve ‘Les Orpellières’. This area between Sérignan and Valras covers 150 hectares, including a vast zone of salt meadows, a 2.5 km strip of sand dunes and a wide, and deserted, beach. The combination of humid and dry land creates the perfect home for an incredibly biodiverse landscape.
Maison de Site
I love spending a Sunday afternoon at Les Orpellières. On my last visit, Chéri and I took our time to discover the recently opened Maison de Site. Located in a former wine estate, it has been completely renovated and is open from June to September. Besides hosting a Tourist Office, the Maison de Site also plays an educational role and organises many fun activities for young and old. What about attending a yoga class or joining a guided walk? Or you can enjoy some tunes by a local band while watching the sunset with a glass of chilled wine. There are too many activities to list here, so keep an eye on their agenda via the Béziers’ Tourist Office.
The watchtower next to the Maison de Site is open all year and gives you a 360 degree panorama over the Bitterois coastline. And the ‘Sentier de Découverte’ is a 4 km discovery trail, which you can do year-round as well. Following the easy path along the Orb River brought Chéri and me to the edge of neighbouring Valras with its bobbing boats at the Port de l’Orb. From here, we followed the yellow signs in the direction of the beach.
Observatoire des Tellines
Soon enough, Chéri and I reached the ‘Observatoire des Tellines’. This modest lookout is on the spot of a former vacation resort called the ‘Colonie de Vacances des Tellines’. Built in the 1950s, the buildings have been abandoned for decades. Although the ‘Conservatoire du Littoral’, or the French Coastal Conservatory, wanted to create a Maison de Site, the site of the Tellines wasn’t suitable. Being too close to the fragile dunes and the sea- with the risk of flooding- the conservatory decided to return the site to nature. And this is exactly what has happened.
Chéri and I had a beautiful view over the Med from the watchtower, clearly seeing Valras-Plage in the distance. Chéri can’t go to the coast without dipping his feet in the sea, nor can I. Therefore, we left the path to have a splash in the sea and strolled a bit along the beach. Continuing the leisurely trail, we walked the last few kilometres through the salt meadows. On the path, we crossed several families doing the treasure hunt ‘Alice et l’Oeuf Mystérieux’ (‘Alice and the Mysterious Egg’). It looked like a lot of fun, and I’m planning to do one with the kids soon! Coming back to the Maison de Site, Chéri and I treated ourselves to a local beer, feeling lucky that we live in such a great region of France.