The Tourades centre, situated near the town of Arles in Provence, was A Rocha France’s first permanent environmental study centre, acquired in 2001.
As well as being the headquarters of our association, the centre’s primary role is as a base for the scientific surveys and the land management work we carry out. We concentrate our efforts on the Vallée des Baux and its fauna, flora and ecosystems – wetlands, evergreen oak woodlands and chalk massifs. All of the areas we study are part of the Natura 2000 network of protected environments. The Tourades centre is open all year round and welcomes students and volunteers (for periods of 15 days to more than a year) who wish to get involved with our work alongside the permanent staff team, according to their abilities and goals.
Visitors are also welcome to stay at the centre, depending on whether our guestrooms are available; they have the chance to get to know A Rocha France’s various projects and to make use of the outside pool on sunny days, as well as getting to know the region with its diverse landscapes (in particular the Vallée des Baux, the Alpilles mountain range, the Crau plain and the Camargue wetlands), its rich cultural and historical heritage and its remarkable flora and fauna.
Setting and heritage
The Tourades centre is located at a historical crossroads, as well as a crossroads of habitats and landscapes.
- To the east rises the line of the Alpilles, a chalk range which is home to the “garrigue” and its treasures of flowers, insects and birds.
- To the west you can make out the town of Arles on a clear morning, dominated by its amphitheatre and its many church towers.
- To the north the imposing Montmajour abbey rises out of the landscape, recalling the Christian past of this country. In the tenth century it attracted a large number of pilgrims. Arles is where archeologists in 2003 uncovered the remains of the oldest church in France– a basilica dating from the early 4th century! The abbey’s location leads us to also mention our natural heritage : surrounded by marshes and built on a small, rocky island some miles outside of Arles, the building marks the beginning of the Vallée des Baux. From the Tourades garden we can see these marshes which surround us and we regularly enjoy the company of several magnificent birds: flamingos crossing the sky at a summer sunset, greylag geese, as well asherons, kites, harriers and warblers. The Baux valley wetlands in which A Rocha has been working now for several years are home to a remarkable amount of biodiversity.