Why go there?
Just 35 miles south of Cherbourg, Parc Naturel Régional des Marais du Cotentin et du Bessin is a timeless paradise of small rivers, meadows and marshland punctuated by villages of wattle and daub. In autumn, the landscape floods, attracting wildfowl, waders and birds of prey – from bitterns and spoonbills to marsh harriers and merlins.
A good central haven is Les Ponts d’Ouve, near Carentan. The landscape is threaded with lanes that make great birdwatching platforms – especially the causeway between Tribehou and St Georges de Bohon. Look out for coypus swimming in the drainage ditches like mini beavers.
For more autumn migrants, head to the saltmarshes of Réserve Ornithologique de Beauguillot, near D-Day beach Utah. Here you can find up to 40,000 ducks and waders feeding in the shallow Baie des Veys.
Where to stay
Saule Manoir (Amigny, 50620, Saint-Lô, Normandy) is a quality, family-friendly B&B with two attached gites on the southern edge of the Parc Naturel near Saint-Lô. Run by charming English couple Mike and Pauline Rowlands, it is set in 10 acres of rolling Normandy countryside.
How to get there
From Cherbourg, take the N13 (also E46) south and, after 45km (31 miles) turn off towards Carentan on the D913 and then turn left onto the D974 where you’ll see signs to Les Ponts d’Ouve. For Beauguillot, take the D913 north from Carentan. After 11km (7 miles) turn right onto the D115 and follow the signs.
Images: National Trust Images, Alamy, Shutterstock, Corbis.