FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Coulée verte

Posted in France, Paris by folkestonejack on May 26, 2019

One of the most extraordinary green spaces in Paris, the Coulée verte René-Dumont, can be found high above the streets of the twelfth arrondissement on the trackbed of the long closed railway line from Bastille to Vincennes. This linear park, also known as the Promenade Plantée, was the pioneering creation of landscape architect Jacques Vergely and architect Philippe Mathieux in 1988.

The elevated park was officially inaugurated in 1993 and its ground breaking re-use of an abandoned line has gone on to inspire similar projects around the world, such as New York’s High Line, The 606 in Chicago and Philadelphia’s Rail Park. A campaign to develop something similar in the UK, the Peckham Coal Line, has already captured the imagination of the local community.

One of the routes up to the Coulée verte

Our visit to the walkway fell on a Sunday afternoon. We soon discovered just how popular the park was as we joined the relatively slow procession on the – at times – relatively narrow pathway. Everyone seemed to be up there and who could blame them? It was a lovely day and this was clearly the perfect spot to sit and read, walk the dogs or take a wander with the family. The large green space at the Reuilly Garden was busy with families, couples and optimistic sun-worshipers.

There was also another good reason for all the activity on the Coulée verte that I had overlooked – the European elections were taking place and the old station building at Reuilly had been transformed into a polling station for the 12eme arrondissement. It would have to be the most impressive place to vote that I can recall.

The station building at Reuilly was opened, along with the line, in 1859 and remained in use until goods traffic on the line ceased in 1985. Historic photos from 1900 show a beautifully maintained station with well tended green borders. The contrast with the overgrown and unloved station of 1985 couldn’t be greater, so it is lovely to see it so beautifully restored and now very much at the heart of the community.

The ancien gare de Reuilly

Our walk took us from the Viaduc des Arts to a point near Rue du Sahel (helpfully marked up on the official map) before we headed up to street level and hopped on the metro at Bel Air.

The Coulée verte turned out to be every bit as wonderful as I could have hoped with wonderful views of the neighbourhoods it passes through, lovingly well kept gardens and delightful artistic additions. At times it can be really hard to remember that this was ever a railway, particularly when standing in front of a feature like the long duck ponds.

Among the surprises along the way are an office block occupied by the local police, a relatively modern creation from the 1990s, which is topped by a sequence of statues copied from Michelangelo’s dying slave and a cheeky sequence of painted bollards in the tunnels nearish the Rue du Sahel. However, the real highlight was the walk itself. It’s so easy to let city life fall away and just relax in to a leisurely walk. Highly recommended.

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