The suburb of Le Bouscat has long been renowned for its racecourse, its residential quarters, its high street shops and, a-hem, its coun...

Le Bois du Bouscat: a cultural walk in the woods

The suburb of Le Bouscat has long been renowned for its racecourse, its residential quarters, its high street shops and, a-hem, its countless car dealers. But this sign greets visitors to one of the latest additions to the town’s portfolio of potential outings: le Bois du Bouscat.

The Bois du Bouscat provides a landscaped walk in the woods which was two years in the making and was officially opened in June 2013 by local mayor Patrick Bobet. The project was the result of the acquisition of woodland which stretches along one flank of the racecourse (indeed, it was previously best-known as Bois de l’Hippodrome) and next to the high-rise blocks of the Lyautey estate.

The project formed part of the wider “Agenda 21” plan for sustainable development throughout greater Bordeaux and sought to achieve a number of objectives, such as enabling the general public to make the most of a natural environment, boosting awareness of nature in an urban setting, making the site as accessible as possible and restricting the ecological footprint of work carried out. (Those objectives in full can be read here.) A whole eco-system of contributors including landscape gardeners, architects and artists all got down to work and the end-product is 12 acres (5 hectares) of woodland which is labelled as being “entre nature et culture”, i.e. at the crossroads between nature and culture.

Plaque celebrating the official inauguration of the Bois du Bouscat, a pleasingly detailed map of the site, and a section of the pathway.
And very cultured it is too. For instance, no two or benches are alike and each comes with its own label specifying its name (or title?) and the artist/designer responsible for producing it. Here then are four such benches. Top left you have the minimalist “Fauteuil sequoia” designed by José Le Piez for those moments where you feel like enjoying a bit of a reclining sit-down. Next to that is Laurent Graciano’s “Causeuse face à face”, which enables people to sit facing each other on the piece and have a bit of a good old-fashioned chat. Note the space which has been carved out for legs and rear. Bottom left is Graciano’s more conventional “Conformateur”, while bottom right, designer by one Mier, is the extortionately-scaled “Banc géant”. When you first see it, it looks like an item of scenery from Jack and the Beanstalk.

Moving on from woodwork to metalwork, a whole series of pieces created by Francis Viguera are dotted along the footpath. They depict woodland and wetland animals including a squirrel, an owl, a snail and a toad. All have been made out of recycled tin cans and containers, and logos that serve as a reminder of their previous use (Total and Yacco) can be spotted in places. The woodland’s dustbins are also recycled oil drums.

As well as attracting ramblers, the Bois du Bouscat has also rolled out a number of initiatives so that the woodland becomes a meeting point and a hive of social activity in its own right. Perhaps the best example of this is, appropriately enough, the “ruche collective” beekeeping project, as initially developed by apiculturist Guy de Saint Albin. Replicating the concept of a collective gardening plot, it enables volunteers to work with a qualified beekeeper throughout the full apicultural process, from building hives to nurturing and manufacturing their own honey.

And when our amateur beekeepers, cultured ramblers and British bloggers need to answer an urgent call of nature, where better to turn than the eco-friendly dry toilet on site? A sign is there to greet users so that they can feel safe in the knowledge that “this public toilet makes use of vermicomposting techniques [we're talking lots of worms here] in order to save drinking water and waste processing resources”. Going to the toilet never felt so good.

Throw in a unique, unhindered rear window-like view of the racecourse at various points along the walk and it all adds up to an unusual place for a walk in the woods.

The racecourse and its grandstand, and over to the right the tower blocks of the Lyautey estate.
Mission therefore very much accomplished: judging by the happy faces I saw when I was there, including a lady in a wheelchair who proved just how accessible the path is, the local council has successfully achieved what it set out to do by transforming the Bois de l’Hippodrome into the Bois du Bouscat
> Find it on the Invisible Bordeaux map: Bois du Bouscat, Avenue de l'Hippodrome, Le Bouscat 
> Dedicated blog:
> Cet article est également disponible en français !
Further viewing/listening:

Introduction to the Bois du Bouscat

La Ruche Collective

Click here if video does not display properly on your device.

And here is a great audio report recorded by Club Radio Ricochet in conjunction with our friends over at tooBordo!

0 commentaires: