The Seven Valleys area in Pas-de-Calais is a land of rivers and streams, valleys, woods and forests, ancient turf bogs and osier beds (where willow is grown and coppiced). It is a place shaped by history and has been at times English, Spanish and French.
Described by one of the UK’s top newspspaper’s ‘The Sunday Times’ as Northern France’s best kept secret, the Seven Valleys also known as the Artois Valleys with its “rolling contours is as green and bushy as anything you will come across in Dordogne”. With its fine Opal Coast, charming villages, and historic battlefields including those of Agincourt, Crecy, and the First World War the area of the Seven Valleys offers the visitor a glimpse into the past and a taste of the tranquil French way of life.
The river valleys stretch from the Course in the north to the Authie in the south and comprise the rivers Authie, the Bras de Brosne, the Canche, the Créquoise, the Embrienne, the Lys, the Planquette, the Surgeon and the Ternoise. Some of the rivers are quite impressive – the Canche and the Authie for instance where otters have been seen, others are fierce such as the Créquoise or the Planquette. And then there are the quiet and tranquil rivers like the Embrienne and the Lys.
Although quite a small area it is diverse, in places flat, in others sloping and even quite steep. Once you turn off the main roads that cut through the countryside you will find yourself in an altogether different world. The undulating wooded valleys and the traditional rural architecture of the “fermettes” are a visual delight, especially in spring when carpets of wood anemones and bluebells cover the ground of the forests.
Along the banks of the rivers towns, villages and buildings have sprung up over centuries, with stories to tell such as The old wooden mill of Maintenay on the banks of the river Authie where bread is still made today. It is said to have been built by monks from the 12th Century Valloires Cistercian Abbey close by. The River Canche has plenty of fish in its waters including salmon, brown trout and sea trout. It runs through the the 16th Century houses in the town of Hesdin which was built in 1554 on the orders of the Spanish King Charles V. It is a town with a colourful and diverse history and remains a vibrant and beautiful town to this this day.
The Créquoise stretches from Créquy the place that gave its name to a line of knights, lords and Marshals of France to Loison-sur-Créquoise with its whitewashed cob houses, white stone churches, Chateau du Royon and water mills. The River Planquette has undergone a name change – it was previously called the Chevrette (young nanny-goat) and wanders along the villages of Planques, Fressin, Wambercourt and Cavron-Saint-Martin. In the valley each house beyond the river has its over bridge and there are small foot-bridges between hedges and clumps of trees to kitchen gardens.
It is a place of grand history – the battle of Agincourt infamous for the defeat of the French cavalry took place here in 1415. The site of the battle now has a state-of-the-art interactive museum, and in the village of nearby Fressin in the grounds of the ancient church are the graves of several knights who died at Agincourt. Every year there is an archery competition at Agincourt (Azincourt in French) and a day of medieval fun (July) and the battle, though a loss for France is celebrated throughout the area at various festivals every year.
The Seven Valleys is a charming area, remarkably unspoiled with a wealth of cosy restaurants and vibrant markets where local fare is produced with pride.
Easily reached from the Channel Ports and on the railway line which runs from Boulogne to Arras, the Seven Valleys offers a huge choice of places to stay from a luxury chateau, gites, hotels, farm B&B and camping as well as great restaurants, cycle routes, horse riding, fishing, watersports and more.