Visit the hortillonnages of Amiens, extraordinary secular gardens

Visit the hortillonnages of Amiens, extraordinary secular gardens

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The hortillonnages are veritable floating gardens interspersed with canals, designed by the Romans to grow vegetables for the troops of Julius Caesar. The name of these unique artificial sites in the world comes from the Latin "Hortus" (garden). Today we offer you a visit to the heart of the Picardy capital, where there is an exceptional landscaped site gathering hundreds of small hidden gardens. Jacques Leullier, President of the Association for the Protection and the Safeguarding of the Hortillonnages site, tells us the amazing story of these so particular gardens. Consisting of 300 hectares of land cultivated since the Middle Ages, furrowed by small canals, the hortillonnages of Amiens have been rocked for centuries by the Avre and the Somme. take you on a boat trip today!

Tell us the story of the hortillonnages…

Horticulturalism has existed for hundreds of years in the Picardy region. These islets with very fertile ground, gained on the marshes, nourished the town of Amiens until the last century thanks to their cultures of fruits and vegetables. Even today, this rich and humid land produces up to three vegetable crops per year. But its surface has considerably reduced over the years, going from 1,500 hectares (listed in the 15th century) to around 300 hectares today. Market gardening is also more anecdotal, the site being divided into 2000 plots mainly cultivated by amateur gardeners.

What are the particularities of such gardens?

You should know that the islets are eroded every year, nibbled by the water of the canals. The latter must therefore be cleaned regularly and the floating gardens reconstituted with silt to allow them to last. This specificity has also resulted in the creation of the traditional mode of river transport, specific to our region: the cornet boat. Very elongated and slightly raised at the ends, it constitutes a kind of inclined plane which makes it possible to pass easily from the boat to the ground without damaging the raised and fragile banks.

What do gardens look like today?

Large market gardening areas have given way to small plots that extend over four municipalities, cultivated by families in the region. There are individual vegetable gardens, fruit trees but also various flowers. Seven hortillas (market gardeners) still grow fruits and vegetables for the first time on around 10% of the site. To get to know the region better, guided tours in a cornet are organized throughout the tourist season (between April and October), on a short route among the 65km of canals on the site! Each year, we also offer a flower bank competition in which many gardeners participate, as well as a hortonnage party. On this day, the market gardeners take their harvest to the heart of Amiens to sell it at the market, as in the past: a festival of flavors and colors to discover with the family ...
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