Superb weather over the Nord– Pas-de-Calais region has pushed the Northerners’ Deviant Pocket Dictionary outdoors to get some fresh air. And where better than the grassy slopes of Barbieux Park at Roubaix…but did you know it should never have existed?
Source of pride for the town of Roubaix along with the renowned museum La Piscine (which will get it’s own Pocket Dictionary article some day). Roubaix is not just the town full of poor people, the unemployed, with social tensions and all that’s left of Nord Eclair ( a regional newspaper). The second largest town in the region also possesses a park which has been recognised as one of the most beautiful in France : Barbieux Park boasts over a hundred different species of plants on its 34 hectares.
Few people know that it is the result of a good old fasioned mess-up. Incredible as it might seem, the current site of Barbieux Park should have been that of a canal linking the Deûle with the Escaut. This canal would have gone underground at Croix. But the project collapsed like a pack of cards; the 21st century is not the only one to produce useless and costly projects which are abandoned en route (a special mention goes to the Arena at Dunkirk). Already well underway, the project was thrown out because the soil proved too crumbly. So the canal had to circumvent Roubaix and too bad for the finance already invested.
The next chapter in its history we owe to a certain Henri-Léon Lisot, poet: he had the idea of transforming the empty plots into an urban park. Several decades later, Barbieux Park emerged in its present form after landscaping which started in 1878 and was completed at the beginning of the 20th century. Since then there have been some noteable highlights : an International Exhibition of Nothern France in 1911, the annexation of the land by Roubaix a few years later (the major part of the land belonging to Croix originally) and the organisation of car races around its perimetre (or rodeos if you like) in the middle of the 20th century for the visit of the famous Fangio.
In the 21st Century, Barbieux Park, now recognized as an Outstanding Garden, is still a favourite place to visit surrounded by attractive villas in one of the poorest towns in France. Its renovation for the tidy sum of 10 million Euros is controversial.
Article translated by Loveday Pollard and proof-read by SafeTex
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