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The Vaches Noires cliffs

The Vaches Noires cliffs
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A precious heritage

The French Ministry of Environment classified the Vaches Noires cliffs as “Zone Naturelle d’Intérêt Ecologique, Faunistique et Floristique” (ZNIEFF) by decree on February 20th, 1995.

These cliffs are more than 100 m-high and stretch for 5 km between Villers-sur-Mer and Houlgate, mainly along the municipalities of Auberville and Gonneville-sur-Mer.

Access to these cliffs is forbidden to preserve the biodiversity of the flora and fauna and to ensure the safety of visitors against the risk of landslides.

It’s just from the beach but be careful it’s only at low tide that you can discover this extraordinary place and collect the fossils it conceals. Guided visits, including looking for fossils, are organized all year long from the tourist office of Villers.

The cliffs are made up of two main parts:

  • On the seaside, protected at the bottom by a false terrace, the Jurassic cliff is about 60 m high and is made of greyish marls and limestones and topped with yellowish limestones. These rocks are deeply split by parallel ravines that alternate with high peaks. This so-called “ruiniform” relief is unique on the French coast.
  • Behind, there’s the 40-m high Cretaceous cliff whose white colour contrasts with the lower Jurassic marls. This second cliff is made of Glauconitic chalk. Topped by flinty clay, it rests on a layer of green sand where groundwater is also found.

A small anecdote about our heritage

The “Vaches Noires” name is not linked to the cliffs themselves, but to the large blocks of collapsed black rocks at their feet, which from afar seem like herds of cattle quietly grazing on the seaside to the eyes of sailors.

Immerse yourself in the Jurassic!

The Vaches Noires cliffs, more than 100 m-high, stretch over five kilometres from Villers-sur-Mer and Houlgate. The cliffs, a place of archaeological discoveries dating from the Jurassic period, offer a spectacular landscape made of a succession of ravines and overhangs.

A protected and preserved site

It’s just from the beach but be careful it’s only at low tide that you can discover this extraordinary place. Guided visits, including an introduction to looking for fossils are organized all year-round from the tourist office of Villers.

Access to these cliffs is forbidden in order to preserve the biodiversity of the flora and fauna and to ensure the safety of visitors against the risk of landslides.

To go further…

The Paléospace, archaeological museum located in Villers-sur-Mer, invites you to discover the extraordinary history of the Vaches Noires cliffs’ fossils and that of Normandy during the Jurassic period. Large skeletons and small fossils, touchscreen trays and interactive terminals let you discover the Jurassic with your fingertips!

The Paléospace

The wonderful collections of the museum invite you to immerse yourself in the Jurassic Sea to discover marine watches. The “aquarium” room delights visitors with a plunge in the Jurassic Sea to discover the varied fossils of the Vaches Noires cliffs through a glass.

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