Discovering the Hidden Islands of Créteil

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Discovering the Hidden Islands of Créteil
If you are looking for a day out in the country you can find it, astonishingly enough, at the end of the line 8 métro in Créteil. Weeping willows frame four small islands linked by footbridges, forming a quiet backwater of the River Marne. Little known to the residents of Créteil or St Maur across the river, let alone Parisians or foreigners, the islands are a hidden pocket of countryside at the edge of the city, home to wildflowers, swans, ducks, herons and the beaver-like coypu, as well as the lucky human residents. Créteil, characterized by charmless 1960s architecture, is the last place on earth where you would expect to find four islands containing only old houses and villas built in an eclectic mix of styles, hidden by ancient trees and encircled by riverside walks. Apart from a swimming pool, a small park and a restaurant, the islands are exclusively residential. The roads feel like footpaths, with scarcely a car in sight. The Bras du Chapitre © Annabel Simms In the Middle Ages the islands were owned by the canons of Notre-Dame de Paris, who leased them to the local population to help maintain the weeping willows and prevent the fertile soil from being washed away by the Marne. The neglected state of the land after the war made it a cheap and attractive proposition to the disaffected 1968 generation looking for a rural alternative to the new town being created by the planners in Créteil. Villa, Allée Centrale, Ile Brise-Pain © Annabel Simms In 1978 these new residents formed an association to preserve the islands from urban development and succeeded in getting the 20-hectare site listed in 1982. The islands have scarcely changed since then. It remains to be seen whether the new métro station on the Créteil side being constructed as part of the Grand Paris project will change this state of affairs, but I would put my money on the tried and tested resolution of the residents to keep their paradise intact. 6 km walk to the islands, returning from St Maur-Créteil From the métro station at Créteil-Université take exit no. 2 for the Route de Choisy, then the right-hand path marked by a red and white GR sign. When the path forks again, take the left-hand fork and continue slightly uphill along the main road, the Rue des Mèches (D86) until you come to a café-tabac, L’Interlude. Take the pedestrian crossing here over the Rue des Mèches and continue uphill. You will pass the pretty little Parc Dupeyroux surrounding an old mansion, whose formal grounds were transformed by its English owner in the 19th century into a parc à l’anglaise. Further on you will pass the imposing gates to the mansion, which is now the residence of the Prefect of the Val de Marne.
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Lead photo credit : Le Bras du Chapitre © Annabel Simms

More in forest walks near Paris, hidden Paris, island, nature, wildlife

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Annabel Simms is an English resident of Paris, with over 20 years' experience of exploring the Paris countryside by train, bus, boat and on foot. She is the author of An Hour From Paris (3rd edition 2019) and Half An Hour From Paris (2018)

Comments

  • Katie Haig
    2021-08-16 04:08:20
    Katie Haig
    What a beautiful and fascinating article about a veritable hidden treasure! Thank you for introducing the islands of Creteil to me! I hope I may leisurely wander down their paths sometime in the future!!

    REPLY

    • Annabel Simms
      2021-08-23 10:07:58
      Annabel Simms
      Thank you Katie. Lovely to get your feedback. Happy exploring!

      REPLY