THE ROCHES NOIRES CLIFFS
From Trouville-sur-mer to Villerville, 4 km of clay cliffs border the coast, alternating gentle slopes and vertical walls, reaching 60 m of height. Also called the “Roches noires” (Black rocks), these cliffs owe their name to the huge dark blocks scattered on the beach, originating from the chalky layers of the cliffs covered by seaweeds and lichens. This 135-ha area is partially listed as "Espace Naturel Sensible” by the Calvados department.

Facing several rock falls and landslides, the cliff area of Trouville-sur-mer / Villerville forms a landscape in constant evolution. The seaside cliffs are always changing. This instability is due to the sea waves and the phenomenon of “solifluction”, referring to the mass movement of chalky layers of the underground after rain. Due to this movement, we often find a pioneer vegetation on the mass of fallen rocks of the cliffs.

Several natural environments are found from the sea to the top of the cliffs: beach, more or less abrupt cliffs, masses of fallen rocks, underbrush, dry grasslands and wooded spaces, Actually, 394 plants have been reported on this site, that is to say about a third of the flora that can be found on the whole Calvados department.  There are also some rare species such as the common spotted orchid, an orchid of the dry meadows, or the sea kale, a nationally protected species, usually found on the top of the beach. Rocky reef plats also host several species of birds (oysters, curlews, sandpipers, ringed plovers...) making this site a privileged migration and overwintering site.

 

Since 2007, Calvados Littoral Espaces Naturels is committed to preserve and restore the natural heritage of this site. The Parc des Graves (a "natural” park open to the public), a path to the sea and a network of pathways have been created.

From the beach side, this area is discovered walking on the seaside with low tide (please be careful to avoid remaining stuck at the bottom of the cliffs by the rising tide).

Trips in the nature to discover fauna, fossils and the history of these cliffs are organized on a regular basis by Pays d'Auge Nature et Conservation: discover the agenda.

An extraordinary geological richness

The Roches noires cliffs are an excellent natural example of the geological formations of the Upper Jurassic era (160 years ago) of the Pays d'Auge. Following the bottom of cliffs, later formations may be observed: the most ancient whitish and greyish chalky formations are found in Trouville-sur-mer; more recent marls in Villerville. These formations show many traces of biological activity.