Landscaped roundabouts are a big thing in France and there are countless examples to be spotted in and around Bordeaux. An early item on ...

Villenave d’Ornon’s roundabout tributes to twin towns Seeheim-Jugenheim and Bridgend

Landscaped roundabouts are a big thing in France and there are countless examples to be spotted in and around Bordeaux. An early item on the blog focused on the twin-town roundabouts installed in the north-western suburb of Le Haillan, and a similar concept has been developed in the south-western suburb of Villenave d’Ornon with two roundabouts celebrating the towns of Seeheim-Jugenheim (Germany) and Bridgend (UK).  

Let’s start with Villenave’s Seeheim-Jugenheim homage. According to Wikipedia, Seeheim-Jugenheim is a municipality in the Darmstadt-Dieburg district in Hesse, to the west of Germany. Its population of around 17,000 is spread across seven villages: Balkhausen, Jugenheim, Malchen, Ober-Beerbach, Seeheim, Steigerts and Stettbach. The town is well-known as the starting point for cycle tracks that lead to a nearby mountain called Melibokus. Finally, as there is little industrial or commercial activity in Seeheim-Jugenheim itself, most residents work for companies located in the cities of Darmstadt, Frankfurt or Heidelberg.

Seeheim-Jugenheim has been twinned with Villenave d’Ornon since 1982 (1,176 kilometres separate the two), and the roundabout-based homage comes in the shape of a small-scale replica of what used to be the Seeheim village hall. Again, with a little help from Google and Wikipedia, it has been fairly easy to track down a picture of the original in order to compare it with the roundabout version.

The original is on the left: the old Seeihem village hall (source: Wikipedia). The Villenave d'Ornon replica is, for the most part, impressively accurate!
There is something very quaint about the Villenave model (first installed in October 2015), with its fake doors and windows, but very real weather vane and clock – which, at the time of writing, is out of order; the “minutes” hand needs fixing! Not far from the miniature house, rows of vines have been planted but it is unclear whether the variety of grapes growing here are typical of south-western France or western Germany!
Details from the Villenave d'Ornon model, including the clock which could do with some tender loving care!
To the other side of the Rocade ring-road underpass (we are close to Rocade exit 18) lies Villenave’s tribute to Bridgend or, to give it its Welsh name, Pen-y-bont ar Ogwr, meaning “the end (or head) of the bridge on the Ogmore” (the Ogmore being the river which runs through the town and is crossed by the bridge which gave Bridgend its name). The southern Welsh town, which became Villenave d’Ornon’s twin in 1994 (distance between the two: 1,264 kilometres), has a population of around 40,000, although it also combines with Maesteg and Porthcawl to form the county borough of Bridgend, with a total population of almost 140,000 people.

That McDonald's outlet is open 24 hours a day to satisfy those 3AM Big Mac cravings.
Local landmarks include a defensive triangle formed by three castles (Newcastle Castle, Ogmore Castle and the fortified Benedictine Ewenny Priory) first built in the 11th century after the Norman conquest of Anglo-Saxon England. Disturbingly though, one of the first subjects identified by Google as regards Bridgend is the wave of 26 teenage suicides in the area between January 2007 and February 2009.

Fortunately, this is in no way referenced on Villenave’s Bridgend roundabout which appears to interpret quite literally the notion of a “bridge end”, with water perpetually flowing off the end of a bridge or aqueduct. Initial research would suggest that the design is not especially influenced by the old bridge in Bridgend, but it could possibly have been inspired by the historic Bont Fawr aqueduct in Pontrhydyfen, located some 20 kilometres to the north-west of Bridgend. Or else it could have more local significance, referring to the aqueduct that ran not far from here in the Sarcignan quarter in Gallo-Roman times, and that has been gradually rediscovered thanks to archaeological digs over recent years.

Close-up view of the "bridge end" water feature. Note the secret trap door which no doubt leads to the pump mechanism.
The constant flow of water along the bridge and off the edge does form a bit of an optical illusion as, at first glance, the water appears to be channeled in linear fashion from a tall decorative mound, perhaps reminiscent of the valleys of South Wales! In fact, the feature is a simple loop system with water circulating up through one of the pillars of the bridge, along the top and back down into a shallow pool, where the process starts all over again.

To complete the picture, the Bridgend roundabout comprises the aforementioned shrubbery and its densely-planted selection of flowers and plants. And, alongside the fountain/waterfall, there are a few tall palm trees which, it could be suggested, are more reminiscent of the Côte d’Azur than of South Wales. Unlike the relatively accessible Seeheim-Jugenheim roundabout, there are signs that forbid access to the grass and the pool (Invisible Bordeaux may therefore have broken a few rules in the name of research) although, with the constant flow of through-traffic, not to mention customers heading to the neighbouring branch of McDonald’s (the only one in the area to be open non-stop, 24/7), getting across to the central reservation demands a substantial amount of bravery.

The palm trees complete the illusion of feeling you're admiring the green, green grass of South Wales.
Anyway, with landscaped roundabouts clearly here to stay, it is refreshing to see some like these with a story to tell, regardless of their design. And how heartwarming must it be to be from Seeheim-Jugenheim or Bridgend and to come across these tributes to your hometown? Are there similar initiatives in Germany and Wales celebrating Villenave d’Ornon?

> Find them on the Invisible Bordeaux map: Seeheim-Jugenheim and Bridgend roundabouts, Villenave d'Ornon
> Ce dossier est également disponible en français ! 

Bonus #1 (courtesy of Chris Tighe): the Bridgend roundabout fountain plays a prominent part in a scene in "Le Grand Soir", a 2011 movie starring Albert Dupontel and Benoît Poelvoorde. Check it out below!


Bonus #2: a tobacconist/newsagents is located on a slip-road next to the Seeheim-Jugenheim roundabout. Presumably, customers must have found it difficult to access the outlet, so a map is now on display high on the shopfront so that the recommended (and complicated) route can be seen from afar!

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