In this predominantly rural region, nature can be leisurely discovered along the winding country roads, which crisscross hill and dale. There are protected areas within the county revealing tended meadows and woods, wet and dry lands, rivers and lakes, which are full of indigenous wildlife. There are plenty of accessible walks and strolls in this pastoral setting of the Pyrénées, and by following the listed trails, hiking, biking and horse riding are easily enjoyed.
Rivers and Hills
The Rivers of the Gers, the Arrats and the Gimone are worthy of attention, since the region derived its combined name of 'The Arrat Gimone Dales' from them; they reveal how the locals have consistently sought to manage the staid, though sometimes unpredictable waterways for their use, by building unique small brick locks to prevent flooding.
The distinctive contours of the valleys and hills were formed by the rivers and surrounding tributary waters, gauging the landscape and forming steep western slopes, which descend gently to the east. This side of the Gimone, the Arrats and the Lauze is full of contrasts. To the west on the poor chalky slopes orchids flourish, whereas at the bottom of the hills, in deeper clay are the meadowlands. Fields of cereal flourish on the gentler eastern slopes allowing machinery to operate. The area is bordered within a network of hedges and boundaries, and banks of forests, even a few lone trees, all providing shelter for insects and birds. It is an ideal place for small sedentary or migratory game. Natural designated areas of the hillside harbour fauna and flora, which have a recognised European status. (Further tourism information and reading on hunting within the area, is available on this site).
The Lauze region, its river and streams give rise to a rich biodiversity, creating humid areas sheltering rare species to France, such as the White Crawfish.
The fauna and flora is especially worthy of note; it thrives entirely through the age-old way of farming, and the maintained traditional cultivation practices. The dry lands where orchids grow, rely on the slopes, the soil and the sun, as do other Mediterranean plants such as Broom; it is the perfect spot for nature lovers.
The hilly lakes and small ponds are a magnet for fishing enthusiasts and their families, and at Saramon the well designed lake, shady and protected, is an ideal spot for picnics, water sports and easy strolls.
There are many hiking trails for walks and biking, allowing the countryside to be explored throughout the varied seasons.
Within Gascony’s boundaries can be found art works, combining the history and landscape of the region.
* Land’Art : Land art or Earth art is an art movement in which landscape and the work of art are inextricably linked. It is also an art form that is created in nature, using natural materials such as soil, rock (bed rock, stones), organic media (logs, branches, leaves), and water [...]. Sculptures are not placed in the landscape, rather, the landscape is the means of their creation. Two Land’Art structures: “Yané” (the roof in Japanese) in Villefranche d’Astarac and “Kazé” (the wind) in St Elix d’Astarac wood, have been created by the artist Téruhisa Suzuki. They inspire you to see nature within its environment with an artist's eye. Marked trails will lead you to these works of art.
Land'Art project in Aubiet :
Olivier Nattes original work of art : “La Nourrice” (the nurse) is inspired by the autonomous aspects of nature to create a new place where culture and nature combine forces to live harmoniously.
Find more details about these structures on the dedicated page Art and Environnement.
Drawing in nature :
A 4km walk around Saint Élix d'Astarac invites you to discover in an artistic way our beautiful nature. This path has four "pauses" with adapted furniture and explanatory panels, giving you simple drawing techniques (explanations in French). Children and adults, amateurs and regulars will find their happiness. This is an opportunity to take yout time to observe nature and to let it inspire you.