Packed with 130 hectares of watercourses, reed beds, forests and wetlands, the Virelles Aquascope offers a number of activities for you to discover with children or friends, which will help you get back to nature.
“We canoed across the lake to look at the flora and fauna. We discovered wild boar tracks, foraged for wild plants, listened to birdsong, etc. It was a chance to rediscover nature with my children,”, says Philippe, a tourist hailing from Coxyde, discovering the region.
Together with his family and some friends, Philippe decided to check out the “walk of the senses”, one of the many activities on offer at the Virelles Aquascope. The group spent an afternoon exploring the nature reserve with a guide. They discovered the lake and its birds, the wooded areas and wetlands. “I play games with them, tell stories, get my groups doing art projects or experiments, so they can fully immerse themselves in nature”, explains Camille, a guide.
A family day out at the Virelles Aquascope helps you get back to nature.
Into the green
In addition to the “walk of the senses”, there are many other activities on offer at the Virelles Aquascope. You can take part in events such as ‘Wild Dawn’, which consists of watching the sunrise from a large Indian canoe, ‘soft survival skills’; an experience that gets you back in touch with nature and with yourself.
There are some original courses to try your hand at, such as wild basket-weaving or plant architecture on offer at the Aquascope’s Ethnobotanical Centre. You can study, for example, medicinal plants or learn how to recognise edible fungi that are safe to pick.
These activities, interactive events and training courses are aimed at visitors from all walks of life: families, companies looking for team-building activities, friends, school trips, seniors, etc.
A place open to the public
In addition to these activities which have been a huge hit with visitors, you can also take a stroll through part of the nature reserve, along the lake’s southern shoreline. In the Nature Discovery Centre, the Virelles Aquascope houses a museographical space for discovering the aquatic world, aquariums, temporary exhibits and a film-viewing room.
An educational trail is perfect for birdwatching. Many different species have been recorded there. “A top tip is to bring your binoculars. You might just spot some surprising behaviour bysmall and large waders”, explains Camille.
The watch-tower, the underwater Moïse crossing, the hypericum garden and the educational beehive are ideal places to observe flora and fauna at your own pace and learn more about our environment.
Round off your visit to this magical place with a trip through ‘La Cantine’ at the Aquascope, the on-site brewery, before making a final stop off at the playground.
The Aquascope throws its doors open all year round in honour of specific subjects: the ‘bird festival’ in September and the ‘apple festival’, for example, are always crowd pleasers. The latter, at the end of October, is a series of activities focusing on apples: a huge fruit market, advice on fruit-growing and sales of fruit trees, nature-based activities, games for all the family, apple-tasting, obviously, and fresh juice pressed right in front of you.
Another main attraction at the nature reserve: the winter pruning of part of the reed beds. Every year, members of the public can take part in the pruning and gathering of dead reed stems. Doing this allows the reeds to grow back stronger during the following spring. The habitat is essential for all bird species that make their home there.
Another main event is the draining of the lake, open to all the public. In November, every 2-3 years, the lake is completely drained, and all of the net-caught fish are then sold to the lake owners, fish farmers or consumers. Draining the lake preserves the balance of the food chain between the plants, invertebrates, and various species of fish… One way of supplying waterfowl with a well-stocked larder! This also enhances water quality and avoids the excessive build-up of silt in the lake.
Other encounters between people and nature
The Virelles lake is a fascinating playground for unique interactions with nature. There are two projects in particular under way in the nature reserve:
- The Creaves Centre takes in wounded wild animals. A team of volunteers, including veterinarians, take care of them before releasing them back into the wild.
- The Black Bee House protects this indigenous bee and introduces it to the public at large.
In perfect harmony with the local climate and flora, its hardiness and powerful flight mechanism make it a very effective pollinator for wild flora, crops and gardens.
New projects such as Aquascope 2.0 (extension of the Nature Centre and redesigning the outside space around it), with small islands in the middle of the lake designed to attract birds, should be appearing in the lake in the next few years.