The national forest of Boulogne-sur-Mer is the largest forest in the département. It's known as one of the most popular places for a walk among locals who love the calm that reigns here, as well as its rather wild character. Covering 2018 hectares (about 4000 acres), it is full of wildlife with lots of wild flower types and happy bird song to accompany your visit... The woodlands are home to two protected bird species, the Saint-Martin Harrier and the Honey Buzzard.
A wildlife paradise
Roe deers, wild boar, hares, squirrels and bats love the green environment, as do the newts and tree frogs that populate the ponds! The clay rich the soil is the basis of a dense hydrographic network. It is not uncommon to have to cross a small stream, a tributary of Wimereux or the Liane, to continue your walk or ride. And don't forget the colours that transform the forest decor each season. Autumn amazes with its shades of red and orange, while spring has a panoply of beautiful changing atmospheres, with bluebells dappled in the sunny blue undergrowth.
The richness and diversity of the environment have required several protective measures, among them a Natura 2000 area and a 17-hectare biological reserve left to develop without human involvement. Several routes criss-cross the forest and are ideal for walks, mountain biking or horse riding. Some of them are easier, best for families, such as the Sentier des Aulnes, starting from Capelle-lès-Boulogne, or the Fontaine des Charmes pathway starting at Conteville-lès-Boulogne. These villages are built with low stone and mud houses, typical of the architecture of Boulogne.
Other, longer circuits, such as the Belle Wattine equestrian track or the cycling tour path in the forest of Boulogne (32 km) allow a total immersion experience over several hours in the different forest environments. The Tour du Boulonnais hiking trail crosses the forest from north to south.
A historic island of greenery
This natural jewel has also played a strategic role in the history of Boulogne-sur-Mer. The woods were used in massive quantities for the construction of the port and its fortifications, for shipbuilding and the equipping of armies stationed on the site. During the Second World War, the forest housed a portion of Canadian charged with dislodging the German army which had been constructing the Atlantic Wall.