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Manche (General introduction)

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Manche, a strategic geographical location on the Atlantic shoreline
355km of coastline, 1 in 6 towns are on the waterfront - 492,563 inhabitants
More than a third of the department's inhabitants live on the coast
A dynamic rural environment


With its 355km of coastline, all three sides of the Manche department border the sea (to the east: Veys Bay, Utah Beach, Val de Saire, Island of Tatihou; to the north: from Barfleur headland to La Hague via Cherbourg; to the west, the « havres » (havens), the island coast and the Mont-Saint-Michel bay).Manche is France's least wooded department; however, forests are replaced by predominant hedgerows. With a surface area of 5,938 km2, Manche is Normandy's second largest department. The department comprises 4 "arrondissements" (Saint-Lô, Avranches, Cherbourg-Octeville and Coutances), 52 cantons and 601 communes.


Manche boasts France's longest departmental road network with 7,684km.
The Estuaries motorway is a road network covering 1,300km linking Dunkirk to Bayonne and bypassing Paris. This motorway facilitates exchange between Spain, the French Atlantic and Channel coasts, Great Britain and Northern Europe.
The Normandy portion of the estuaries motorway follows the A13 from Honfleur to Caen, then the A84 from Caen to Rennes. The A84 crosses Calvados then Manche over a distance of 115km (Saint-James). This motorway links the south of Caen with Manche (Avranches) in less than an hour. Guilberville, ideally located at the A84 motorway and RN174 dual carriageway junction, is inevitably approached due to its strategic location on the Caen - Rennes through road on the east/west axis, and facilitates links with Saint-Lô and Cherbourg on the north/south axis.


In 2006, Manche was home to 492,563 inhabitants (33.8% of Normandy's total population).
In 2006, the under 20-year age group represented 24.1% of the population, whereas the 20 to 59-year age group represented 51.5% and the over 60s 24.4%.
Population density is 82 inhabitants/km2. Unsurprisingly, the highest population density is observed in urban centres and their outskirts, together with the west coast (from Gouville-sur–Mer to Saint-Jean-le-Thomas), whilst the lowest densities can be found in the rural areas of the Mortanais district, the bocage and the central region, the Cotentin marshlands and in the plains. Rural communes reunite over half of Manche's population (51%) whilst urban areas reunite the remaining 49%.

Manche's main industrial and craftsmanship sectors:
Agribusiness: tradition and state of the art production: apple and dairy by-products, biscuits, vegetables, seafood, slaughterhouses...
Metalwork: naval construction, coppersmithery in Villedieu-les-Poêles, stainless steel in Sourdeval...
Nuclear energy: nuclear submarine construction, Cherbourg nuclear arsenal, nuclear fuel processing plant...
A variety of industrial activities: electronics (Acome), textile (Saint-James)...
In an effort to maintain a strong network of its typical borough centres, the Departmental Council contributes to sustaining rural craftsmanship and trade in order to enhance the local economy.

  • Tour Vauban de l'île de Tatihou
  • Phare de Barfleur