Lower Normandy Departments
Lower Normandy Description
Popular Seaside Towns
The seaside towns and resorts of the region's coast are very popular with day-tripping Parisians. Picturesque Honfleur - which is at one of the closest points to the country's capital than any other seaside place - particularly draws the crowds. The sea here has withdrawn due to extensive siltation and the old wooden houses that once lined the seafront lie several hundred metres inland. In 1995 a 2km bridge, Pont de Normandie, opened across the Seine River linking Honfleur with Le Havre, making it very accessible for visitors from the UK arriving into the port town. Other popular seaside resorts include Trouville and Deauville which are within a stone's throw of each other and share the same railway and coach stations.
Full of History Coastlines
Much of the north-facing coast of the Calvados department is lined with the D-day beaches that claimed the lives of 100,000 soldiers on June 6, 1944. The beaches are still often referred to by their wartime code names: Sword, Juno, Gold, Omaha and Utah and many are still deeply pitted by German bunkers and shell holes. All the coastal towns here have a war museum, although many visitors do manage to put the coast's grim history to the backs of their minds and enjoy it simply for the sand and seafood. The Manche department, west of Calvados, is surrounded on three sides by the English Channel. This department welcomes the first uranium treatment plant but also shows beautiful stretches of rocky coastline. At the tip of the peninsula sits Cherbourg, a large port town with a rich cultural heritage. To the south, beside the border with Brittany, is one of the most visited sites in France - Mont St-Michel. Due west of the peninsula are the Channel islands of Jersey and Guernsey accessible from nearby St-Malo in neighbouring Brittany.
Away from the coast the region is an extremely fertile land of lush meadows, rich pastures and orchards hiding small villages of half-timbered - colombage - houses. Around the town of St-Lô is the area known as 'the bocage', where fields are criss-crossed with tight hedgerows rooted into walls of earth over a metre high. In 1944, the Allied troops found it almost impossible to advance through this landscape. Part of the area along the River Orne, about 25km from Caen, is known as Swiss Normandie where, although not mountainous, there are cliffs, crags and wooded hills at every turning. The southern part of Lower Normandy is a densely wooded area and is great for walkers. The Forêt d'Ecouves, north of Alençon, is a dense mix of spruce, pine, oak and beech and populated by deer, wild boar and wild mushrooms. In the autumn the woods attract the deer-hunters.
A Strong Agricultural Activity
The main agricultural activity in the region is cattle breeding, dairy-farming and apples cultivation. Lower Normandy is renowned for producing apples especially for cider and Calvados is of course known for its eponymous apple-flavoured liquor. Butter, cheese and milk production has suffered since EU milk quotas liquidated many small farms and stringent sanitary conditions forced many small-scale traditional cheese factories to close. Until the late 1960s, Lower Normandy was primarily an agricultural region but in the past twenty years it has evolved into a more complex region, combining traditional output with many small and mid-sized industries and services. The region benefits from high GDP growth and a young population.
Lower Normandy Population
- Population: 1,422,193
- Pop.density (people per km2): 81