The 16th arrondissement of Paris is one of the most expensive residential areas of the city. It’s full of chic apartments, boutiques and high end restaurants. Recently I discovered a small patch of wilderness in the heart of the ‘seizième’, not that uncommon in any city, but certainly quite incongruous in this part of Paris.
This 32km stretch of old railway line, known as the Petite Ceinture (or small belt, as it used to circle the city joining up all the major train stations) was originally built in 1861 when the west of Paris was still rural – full of vineyards and a few huge mansions with vast grounds. It was used to transport goods, and then until the 1930s was used as a passenger line, joining with the railway lines with the viaduct at Auteuil. The destruction of this viaduct in 1962 left only a small section of the line working, and it continued working until the 1980s, when it was finally taken out of service. Since then nature has gradually claimed back the land. In 1997 an association began to take care of it, and still does so lovingly today. These 1.2 km of the old railway line have become a tiny green lung in the city, populated by a diverse array of plant and animal species. t’s a lovely place for a walk, a corner of the countryside in the heart of the city, an unexpected surprise.
- Le Sentier Nature, la Petite Ceinture, Boulevard de Montmorency, 75016 Paris. metro Michel Ange Molitor