Mont Bernanchon. Maison de la Nature Geotopia: the feet on the ground, the head in the stars

Many practical workshops are offered at the Maison de la nature in Mont-Bernanchon, Geotopia. here linen dolls. (© Northern Cross)

While the residents of Lille paraded in Utopia, nature lovers could – more discreetly – gather Geotopia, a few kilometers from Béthune, in Mont-Bernanchon (Pas-de-Calais) to the “Festival of Nature”. This Nature’s house born in 2008 suggests that many animations in unique surroundings. Overview of this atypical place with a promising future.

A nature festival

As early as 2006, the idea of ​​organizing a “Festival of Nature” modeled on many other festivals (of music, of mothers, of neighbors) had been launched by the French Committee of the IUCN (“International Union for the Conservation of Nature”) and the blade Wilderness.

This initiative aims to bring together the private and public structures dealing with this pressing and “sensitive” issue in France, national winner for roundabouts, wetland elimination, casting, tarring … of most of the 36,000 municipalities.

Earth’s green friends

The nature festival in May 2022? Several days of free events to give all audiences the opportunity to experience didactic contact with environments that have remained natural.

Garden and Astronomical Observatory of Geotopia.
Garden and Astronomical Observatory of Geotopia. (© Northern Cross)

Geotopia is the name of the Maison de la nature in Mont-Bernanchon, a semi-rural town bathed by Clarence and the wide canal from Aire to La Bassée. This site organizes workshops, events, evenings, etc. all year round, for young and old.

It is the elected representatives of the community of urban areas in the sector, dubbed since 2017 “Béthune-Bruay-Artois-Lys romane” (grouping of 100 municipalities), who created this public heritage (€ 1 million) explicitly dedicated to “eco-education”.

Since 2008

This Nature House, which has been open since the spring of 2008 in Pas-de-Calais, neither museum nor school, but a place of information, exchange and initiation, aims to promote the behavior of eco-citizens: a great program!

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Porcelain paper flower workshop for young artists at Geotopia.
Porcelain paper flower workshop for young artists at Geotopia. (© Northern Cross)

Four technicians take care of the animation and maintenance of this 3000 m² plot around three HQE buildings including an administrative office with a documentation room.

Entrance with … a boat

But most importantly, it looks like a ship in the hold of the canal’s triangular banks, near a jetty, so you can reach Geotopia by boat. This bioclimatic building with all windows is built on poles, with wooden frames, rainwater recovery, geothermal energy, solar panels.

Four activity centers: sky, life, earth, water. Observation of the firmament (including a small weather station); the discovery of biodiversity (anthropogenic impact on the environment, the “healing” aspects of environmental problems); geology (such as issues related to over-consumption of land); the water cycle (its quality, scarcity, sanitation, etc.).

Workshops are held regularly at La Maison de la Nature, located in Mont-Bernanchon near Béthune.
Workshops are held regularly at La Maison de la Nature, located in Mont-Bernanchon near Béthune. (© Northern Cross)


In the three rooms, the workshops are full. To make “porcelain paper” flowers, the hands of children and parents knead the tie and slide it. Beekeepers reveal the secrets of pollinators.

Two decorators show the stages of linen work and the qualities of this textile plant, which in turn is in vogue. Ponds have been dug around: water lilies, reeds, irises have immediately colonized them. The animators praise the aquatic insects: larvae of dragonflies or beetles, notonectes, gerris, nepes, etc. They evoke the many passing birds (storks, finches, woodpeckers, etc.).

Pas-de-Calais has had a Nature House, Geotopia, since 2008.
Pas-de-Calais has had a Nature House, Geotopia, since 2008. (© Northern Cross)

Launched seed bombs!

Also go and experience the kitchen gardens, the orchard, the hives, one of which has windows that show the tireless work of the workers inside. Another animator has great success with his “seed bombs” (seed ballssee box), fun and useful tools in the midst of the current collapse of biodiversity on our planet.

Seed bomb recipe

Mix 2 volumes of clay with 1 volume of potting soil (or compost), mix everything with a little water to get balls the size of a ping pong ball. Put some seeds in the middle. Example: 3 sunflower seeds, or 15 borage seeds, or honeysuckle, poppy, rudbeckia, sedum telephium, cosmos bipinatus or green manure seeds such as phacelia, sinapis alba mustard … Close the ball, it’s ready for launch.

Eco-pedagogy and astronomy

Knowing how to make them and with what seeds, choosing correctly where and how to throw them away, understanding why this kind of militant – and peaceful – gesture adds a small chance for a greener future. The “seed bombs” make it possible to vegetate places that are not easily accessible: wastelands, banks, ramparts, construction sites, wooden bases, flat roofs, etc.

The third building of Geotopia surprises: an observatory with a really rotating dome! The Astronomy Club and the municipality have installed a professional telescope (3 m focal length, 300 mm in diameter) in the flower-rich meadow.

Visitors can observe (and photograph) the sunspots and prominences on the solar disk, Saturn’s rings, learn about the life cycle of the stars, our little galaxy in the expanding universe …

Jean Louis Pelon

Agreement: Saturday, June 4, 2022, free visit to the garden and workshop for making clay sheds to help the garden’s small fauna, from kl. 14:00 to 18:00 (free). Friday 3. and June 24: observation of the sky at. 22.30, duration 2 hours (free when booking, child from 8 years).
Wednesday, June 1: the pond’s small animals (free). Wednesday, June 8: small beekeepers. Wednesday, June 15: father goupil. Wednesday, June 22: the life of a bumble bee. Wednesday, June 29: face of willow trees (only 14.00). Wednesdays at 10.00 or 14.00, duration of the workshop 1.30. Children from 6 years accompanied by an adult. Price: 10 € / family (minimum 4 people) or 3 € / pers. or free with annual pass. When booking.

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