The natural assets - Les Tours de Merle

The natural assets

"Above its historical interest, the Tours de Merle site is original because of its situation at the heart of the Maronne gorges". The Maronne River is one of the biggest tributaries of the Dordogne River. It is characterized by its particular ecosystem known for its rich diversity.

The Tours de Merle’s history is deeply related to the Maronne River and its valley.

The natural interests at the heart of the Maronne valley:

- 2 sites registered for their landscape: “Maronne valley” and “Feudal ruins of Merle and its surroundings”,

- A Natural zone of ecological, floristic and wildlife interest “Maronne valley”,

- 2 sites of the Natura 2000 european network: “Dordogne valley on all its course and on its tributaries” and “Dordogne gorges”.


The Tours de Merle’s natural highlights

The Maronne valley, part wild, hosts lots of rare and threatened species, which the Natural spaces conservatory pay full attention to. You will probably have the pleasure to observe, foresee or guess some of them while visiting the Tours de Merle. Among these species you can find around the Tours de Merle: the red Kite, the peregrine Falcon, the rocks Swallow, the great Crow, the Otter, the Genet… The groups of insects and lichens have not been studied a lot. However, rare observations confirm the ecological interest of the Maronne valley with, among others, the ''Ricasolia virens'': lichen of national heritage interest.



At the Tours de Merle, different remarkable species of chiropterans (bats!) live in the site.

These bats mainly are the Great “Rhinolophe”, the Small “Rhinolophe”, the Great “Murin” and the “Murin” with low-cut ears. In the Towers, they divide up in several reproduction colonies and constitute one of the main issues in terms of preservation of natural heritage. With the support of the Natural spaces conservatory of the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region (NSC), the Tours de Merle team takes care of the conciliation between preservation of the bats’ lairs and tourists flow. In this goal, some adjustments have been made, like the creation of a false ceiling in the Fulcon de Merle tower.




Several species of raptors fly around the Tours de Merle. The most notable probably is the red Kite: rare raptor, currently in decline worldwide, only present in 5 European countries, including France, which gathers 90% of the global population. Quite rare in the Limousin region, it particularly nests in the Dordogne valley and its tributaries. In 2017, a feeding area, completed with an observatory, has been created in the village of Saint-Bonnet-les-Tours-de-Merle.

We can also observe the peregrine Falcon, the variable Hawk, or the barn Owl, among the 14 raptor species flying over the towers!



The Tours de Merle: far from atmospheric pollution

In the woods along the Maronne River, a remarkable quantity of lichens can be observed. Lichens are sensitive to any small modifications of their environment. Some species indicate a long biological continuity of the forest and an exceptional air quality.

For instance, the ''Ricasolia virens'': this lichen is rare in France. It is a sensitive species to atmospheric pollution and it is fond of the Merle forests. It likes deciduous trees’ main trunks and branches (often beech tree) and is almost always located in shady places, occasionally on rocks situated into the forest.


Natural partners: Tours de Merle - Natural spaces conservatory (NSC) of the Nouvelle Aquitaine region

The NSC is a nature protection association, specialized into direct management of natural spaces.

The Tours de Merle contract with the NSC for the management of the natural spaces of the castrum. This partnership "Tours de Merle – Natural spaces conservatory" exists since 2001 and keeps developing. It actively contributes to the preservation of the Tours de Merle’s natural heritage and the safeguard species, particularly the preservation of bats’ lairs. The site has been maintained without chemical and phytosanitary products for the last ten years.

By the bye, in 2017, the Conservatory owns and manages more than 80 hectares of land and wooded slopes around the Tours de Merle.

Its remarkable local intervention contributes to the knowledge, protection, management and valorisation of natural spaces in the wooded slopes around the Tours de Merle.   

 Nature discovery at the Tours de Merle 

The Tours de Merle offer nature walks during small holidays, with a nature guide-interpreter. Two bat nights are animated during the summer by a chiropteran specialist from the Natural spaces conservatory. For scholar groups or holiday camps, the Tours de Merle guide offers a pedagogical workshop about discovering the natural heritage of the site, with experiments and recreational activities.

About educational workshops, you can look at our page "Groups" (in French): 


Web page achieved with the help NSC Limousin’s documents

** Thanks for their cooperation.  **



Download the “Site form” brochure: “Maronne valley and Tours de Merle” - nov.2017 - NSC Limousin - Nouvelle Aquitaine (in French):

DocCEN_Vallee_Maronne_et_TDM (1,65 MB)