It was an absolute privilege to have contributed to this year's European Heritage Days events with a little help from my employer T...

European Heritage Days: a walk in the woods courtesy of Thales

It was an absolute privilege to have contributed to this year's European Heritage Days events with a little help from my employer Thales, who authorized visits of the historic arboretum located behind our former Le Haillan facility. 

The guided tours were an opportunity for visitors to familiarize themselves with the history of the arboretum and to view some of the most striking trees that are still present on site (atlas cedars, Douglas firs, Japanese camellia, etc.). Despite the damp weather, particularly during the first of the three tours, the 50+ people who took part were delighted to get the inside view of a little-known site that is usually behind closed doors.

The arboretum was initially created at the end of the 18th century by Toussaint-Yves Catros, previously head of the royal tree nurseries until the French Revolution. It extended over an area of 15 to 20 hectares and endured many ups and downs over its history (clear cuts, wartime bombing and the like). What started out as a veritable “garden of Eden” according to contemporary observers – given the number of rare and exotic species planted by Catros as a result of his ties with overseas botanists and societies – is now a more unruly forest where only the most robust species have survived and multiplied. 

This Heritage Days event was a first for Thales in Bordeaux, but will in all likelihood be the only time this happens as we will be vacating the Le Haillan facility in the coming weeks after 46 years spent there. The time was therefore right to organize this Heritage Days event, which was even ranked by local newspaper Sud Ouest as one of the top ten unusual outings to enjoy!

Thanks to everyone who came to visit the arboretum, and a big shout out to Pascal Guesnet, who conducted the tours with me, and to Thales Bordeaux Campus site director Pierre-Emmanuel Raux for fully supporting the project!

During his lifetime, Toussaint-Yves Catros (1757-1836) was saluted as having “raised the art of naturalising foreign plants to the highest degree”. He played a part in planting the pines that secure the sandy coastline of south-western France, developed the practice of growing artichokes in Macau (where the vegetable is now a local speciality) and founded the seed distribution company Catros-Gérand (which still continues to operate out of its head office in Carbon-Blanc near Bordeaux). He also authored a 600-page encyclopedic catalogue of fruit trees, published in 1810 and which can be viewed here.

> Full article about Toussaint-Yves Catros here.
> Full article about the Le Haillan arboretum.

All photos: Xavier Audu/Thales.

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