It’s funny when you discover the story behind something that was under your nose for such a long time. I had spent a year living next to what I assumed was an old railway, though I never thought to delve into the mystery any further…
Of course I knew that Parisians must have had a railway system before the metro – but I had never raised any questions about this wild and abandoned railway.
It was only when I came across an article on the BBC that I thought about the questions which I initially raised when moving to my apartment overlooking the remnants of the railway line: what was its purpose today other than derelict, open space?
This question is causing fierce debate in the capital. The line went into gradual decline from the 1930s when competition arrived from the new and exciting metro system. The tracks of the Petite Ceinture snake through 32km of Paris. It is largely unnoticed however in the bustling city, isolated and unseen from street level in deep cuttings, long tunnels and bridges.
In city where there is considerably little greenery, nature has reclaimed the space. Its rusted tracks have become a place of haven for wild flowers and animals away from the hustle and bustle of city life.
A small section has opened as a park in August 2013 and after some research I have found a planned walking route – I am hoping to do some exploring in December!
While some want the Petite Ceinture to remain an abandoned, natural retreat from the city humdrum, others think that the space should be utilised in a capital that is forever expanding. Plans of renovating old stations into bars and shops have been suggested.
For now, I think it is best to keep the space as a green haven hidden away in a concrete jungle. Parks are not considered as abandoned space after all.
More importantly, it is a part of the city’s history. It may not be as glamorous as the Eiffel Tower or the Louvre, but it did carry ordinary Parisians around the city along the path of its ancient walls.