Visiting Barbieux Park, Roubaix, France: remembering a dynamic mayor and an International Exhibition, 1911

Flag of France
Flag of France | Source
Barbieux Park, Roubaix, France (in the morning)
Barbieux Park, Roubaix, France (in the morning) | Source
French deputy and Mayor of Roubaix Eugène Motte
French deputy and Mayor of Roubaix Eugène Motte | Source
French writer Maxence Van der Meersch (1907-1951)
French writer Maxence Van der Meersch (1907-1951) | Source
Map location of Roubaix, France
Map location of Roubaix, France | Source

The largest French urban park north of Paris

Barbieux Park (French: le Parc Barbieux), is an elongated, verdant area of public recreation in the nothern French city of Roubaix.

Interestingly, the neighbouring city of Croix, in the territory of which some of the Park was situated, ceded much of its section of the Park to Roubaix shortly after World War One.

The Park became well known as the site of the International Exhibition of Northern France (French: Exposition Internationale du Nord de la France) in 1911. A leading proponent of the Exhibtion, and implementer of a scheme to develop the Park was local industrialist, parliamentary deputy and Mayor of Roubaix, Eugène Motte (1860-1932). This Exhibition came at a time when Roubaix was particularly noted for its textile industry.

Barbieux Park is also somewhat of a leitmotief in the works and life of Roubaix novelist Maxence Van Der Meersch (1907-1951).

The Park has a size of 34 hectares, and because of its elongated shape, extends to a length of 1.5 kilometres. Although Mayor Motte was responsible for the finishing stages of developing the Park, commencement of the work actually dated back to 1878, with the land having been set apart for the purpose in 1868. Six waterfalls were installed in 1908. The land on which the Park is built is noted for its undulating contours.

Among the tree species, not a few examples are over 100 years old. Species present include cypress, the goldenrain (1) and the Ginkgo biloba, native to China. A notable fact regarding the tree species present in the Park is that attempts were made for at least three of each species to be planted.

The Park includes significant areas of ponds and, among waterfowl species, mallard, swan and waterhen are present. Other bird species commonly seen include the chiffchaff, the common linnet and the wren (2).

Barbieux Park is noted as France's largest urban park north of Paris.

Roubaix is situated in the Nord department of France, within the Lille Urban Metropolitan Community (French: Lille Métropole Communauté urbaine).

March 12, 2013

Notes

(1) While the goldenrain is cultivated as an ornametal tree, interestingly in the south-eastern United States it is considered an invasive species.

(2) See also: http://www.parcsetjardins.fr/nord_pas_de_calais/nord/parc_de_barbieux-308.html (in French).

Also worth seeing

In Roubaix itself, the City Hall's opulent lines, dating from 1911, are striking; the Church of St. Martin is partly Medieval; the National Labour Archives (French: Archives nationales du monde du travail) are housed in a former factory building once connected with the Motte family (see above).

Lille (distance: 13 kilometres) ; among its many noted sights are included the Old Stock Exchange (la vieille Bourse) and the nearby Chamber of Commerce belfry; and General Charles de Gaulle's birthplace museum in rue Princesse.

...

How to get there: Brussels Airlines flies from New York to Brussels Airport (Brussel Nationaal / Bruxelles-National), from where car rental is available. Brussels is the nearest large airport to Roubaix (distance: 109 kilometres). The French railroad company SNCF maintains rail links with Roubaix. Tram stops for the Park are 'Parc Barbieux' and 'Bol d'Air'. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. You are advised to refer to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada

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