Come and stroll on the paths of the sensitive natural area of ​​Ajeux in La Ferté-Bernard

Vincent Bironneau spends hours behind his telescope.
Vincent Bironneau spends hours behind his telescope in the sensitive natural space of Ajeux in La Ferté-Bernard (Sarthe). © Valentin MAUDUIT

We can see its breadth of water from the side of the road, its many birds flying around … But we really know what’s hiding in this sensitive natural area -there are only 13 in the department for Sarthe– extremely rich, La Ferte-Bernard ? Probably not! Numerous ornithologists follow each other, like Fabrice Jallu, local ornithologist, to appreciate this nature.

“Another leisure base”

This is the story of a career. Its termination of operation has sounded, the city decides to reclaim the land in 2014. But Espace Naturel des Ajeux was not the initial project for this place. “It should be a different leisure base,” recalls Cécile Knittel, first deputy mayor.

Professionals from the natural environment have therefore gathered around a table to explain that it would be a shame to showcase such local wealth. The leisure base project is therefore suspended. “It made some people disappointed,” says the elected official, very happy to see this place continue in this way.


This is the number of hectares marked ENS, including 46 in water. The space was also to be expanded soon.

The decision made, it was now necessary to know how to arrange it. Huge wet meadows, a pond, flora as far as the eye can see …

We set up a working group with elected officials, naturalists, fishermen, the French Biodiversity Office, MFR (Maison Familiale Rurale), national education … We had to be as relevant as possible to design a layout.

Cécile Knittel, Deputy Mayor of La Ferté-Bernard

It’s not dirty, but natural

Since the inauguration in 2017, the place has developed “it’s a game of nature”, points out Vincent Bironneau, director of MFR des Forges, and responsible for the place. Before Cécile Knittel adds, “we need to measure the benefits of our actions. One must be reactive and adapt”.

Yes many workshops provided on-site by professionals to promote this exceptional space, it is still necessary make pedagogy.

Many tell us that it is dirty because it is not cut or maintained. No, it’s a natural space. Man is not a priority in this environment, unlike parks.

Cécile Knittel, Deputy Mayor of La Ferté-Bernard

This is also why the path that goes around is only open twice a year. To the great annoyance of hikers! Cécile Knittel would also like to send a message to walkers accompanied by a dog. “You have to keep them on a leash. Orphaned dogs are one of the biggest problems at the site. This exhausts the birds and disturbs them. »

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We then pass in front of a field. Vincent Bironneau stops and points at us. “Here, for example, we only cut very late to wait for the third generation of insects. And we paint to enrich the earth. »

A few meters further we approach the large observatory. Small skylights make it possible to observe the fauna on the pond without it noticing us. “The observatory is doing its job well,” Vincent says, watching a duck and its ducklings navigate peacefully.

The view from one of the observatory's skylights
The view from one of the skylights at the observatory © Valentin MAUDUIT

Armed with his binoculars and his telescope, the director of the MFR tracks down the smallest bird. He thus sets up his tool to admire the melanocephalic gulls that have chosen this pond as their home. A pond “with domed and flat islets, which is a real asset”, the expert believes.

An oak tree saved

Once the observation is over, we resume our journey along the water’s edge with our feet in the grass. We encounter this curious pile of branches. But who is not there by chance. “We have predators among the fish, they eat each other, so it is a shelter for pike. »

The pile of branches that serve as shelter for pike.
The pile of branches that serve as shelter for pike. © Valentin MAUDUIT

The opportunity to immerse yourself for a few minutes on the fishermen.

We did not want carp fishermen here, their constant presence even at night is incompatible with what we wanted here. So they are itinerant spoon-fishers for the most part.

Vincent Bironneau, director of the Rural Family House of Les Forges, in La Ferté-Bernard

A few meters away, an oak tree. A priori, a century-old tree is quite normal. Although it seemed to have had its time, the hypothesis of a jerk is expected. It was without counting on the presence of Capricorn, a protected insect, inside the trunk. Meanwhile, a group arrives from the La Ferté-Bernard leisure center. The bicycle helmets screwed onto the skull, they observe nature from the large observatory.

Vincent Bironneau presents the saved oak.
Vincent Bironneau presents the saved oak. © Valentin MAUDUIT

Nearly 1,000 species

We resume our discovery against a mysterious plaque. There are 15 installed throughout the room. Vincent Bironneau raises it, “there is a slow worm. This allows me to do some research on the reptiles”.

As we continue, the director of MFR presents us these double-sided desks to inform visitors about what they can see, hear, smell … “Here the use of all senses except taste is required, he smiles. And he notes that these desks are monitored, “the grass around is trampled.”

The tour continues with a question: “How many species are there in this space?” Vincent Bironneau takes out his calculator: “350 butterflies, 100 beetles, 14 amphibians, 17 mammals, 33 dragonflies, 32 locusts and locusts, 15 fish, 5 mollusks, 235 birds. We can add 120 botanical species. Plus a difference of 20% of what we have not yet discovered. We are approaching, yes surpassing, therefore 1,000 species.

A little treasure, a short walk from the city center

As we suddenly wander, Vincent stops at the sound of a bird, “it’s one spotted songwriterit sounds like a machine gun ”.

The trip ends in a large meadow, he does a lot to clarify, “the human impact can be positive on a space like this, just look at what has been done since the inauguration in 2017”. Cécile Knittel talks about “a little treasure a few steps from the city center”.

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