Les Murs à Pêches, Montreuil. Heritage Days, Sunday, September 20, 2020, in the inner suburbs of Paris. If you go up the cemetery street, you will find gardens. These are Les Murs à Pêches (literally translated as peach walls) of Le Haut Montreuil. A unique green space in a highly dense area.
In the context of a pandemic which has reoriented most towards solitude, this event and the community that surrounds it has an unreal feeling to it, with various shows, workshops, collective naps, drawing, with music, beer and fresh food. We circulate in the different spaces and gardens by crossing the plots, along small improvised paths.
This part of Les Murs à Pêches site is occupied by associations with various aims, which develop agricultural, craft, artistic and social activities. Together, they have created a space for creation and social links.
Montreuil is a dense commune in the east of Paris, now in the process of gentrification.
A historical heritage: horticultural cultivation practices
If we look at the history of these places, during the 17th century, they were horticultural works, then extending over 600 kilometers long (Télérama, ), on a loop that was made up of market gardens at the time in the suburbs East of Paris. The peaches, apples and pears grown here made their way to the tables of the kings of France.
In terms of structure, they are small plots of land divided up by walls, two and a half meters high. These walls are the technical key to the cultivation of fruit trees in the regional climate. Composed of gypsum, flint, plaster and earth, the walls absorb and retain heat. The fruit trees are trellised on these walls, and thus contained in their growth, protected, and benefited from the contained heat, conducive to the ripening of the fruit.
Today these spaces have been reduced to 17 kilometers in length according to an article by La Croix or 36 hectares ( 430556yd²) to Le Parisien, ; sometimes maintained, sometimes with walls that have collapsed.
Les Murs à Pêches: a public and private land under predation
A struggle in several acts for the Murs à Pêches of Montreuil
The “Association des Murs à Pêches” was created in 1994 (Fédération des Murs à Pêches ) with the aim of defending this place against any encroachment on the land to which it may be subject to and the urbanization projects that threaten its existence. The aim is also to make the inhabitants and citizens aware of the heritage, as well as the symbolic and human value of this place. The association rents two plots of land.
The creation of the association follows a ZAC (Zone d’Aménagement Concertée / urban development zone) project, abandoned in 1991, which would have involved the destruction of the western part of the Murs à Pêches. Also, in the 1990s, the mayor of Montreuil bought back the plots from the families of the former arboriculturists, due to the value of the land, according to the Fédération des Murs à Pêches.
- In 2001, the association submitted a request to the regional environment department. With the help of the local Green Party unit, the request was forwarded to the Ministry of the Environment. The inspector in charge of the case applied for the protection of 16 hectares.
- In 2003, 8.5 hectares were classified as “Sites and Landscapes”. Then, a complex was built on part of Les Murs à Pêches in 2008, with a swimming pool, a retirement home, a school and other buildings.
- In 2010, the site of the association des Murs à Pêches became the Fédération des Murs à Pêches. 15 associations are present on the site which act in accordance with one another. In addition to the heritage and symbolic value of the Murs à Pêches, these associations defend the preservation of an island of biodiversity and social links in an urban environment.
- In October 2017, Urban Era, a subsidiary of the major Bouygues Immobilier group, is proposing, as part of the “Inventons la Métropole du Grand Paris” competition, an urban development project on the site of the former EIF factory, on 1.9 hectares of the Murs à Pêches site. It is a complex of 83 housing units, offices and an “ecological” hotel.
A small citizen victory
The following year, the association created a petition against the project, and the Federation’s annual festival supported the cause. 8000 signatures were obtained. The Collectif Super Local supports the preservation of the Les Murs à Pêches among 200 “useless” projects which pollute and are unjust to the territory.
Consequently, the project was later abandoned, notably because the site is polluted with chlorinated solvents (25 tons according to Le Parisien). A small victory for the federation and for the people who are fighting for the protection and survival of community and living spaces in the face of hostile urbanization projects with pecuniary aims.
That said, although the associations have the site at their disposal to carry out ecological and social activities, the access of the inhabitants to the daily life of the site remains limited to the calendar of events and the rhythm of the will of the associations.
A project to decontaminate the site at risk for the inhabitants?
The owner and public operator EPFIF or Etablissement public foncier Ile-de-France is currently planning to decontaminate the site. Activists have continued to occupy the site of the former EIF factory, to demonstrate and have formed an association. Thus, the association Reste Ensembles will block this decontamination project until clear specifications have been established and sent to them and the inhabitants. The latter of the two demands a study of the potential risks of pollution propagation during the demolition-clean-up operations and the clarification of the public operator’s intentions at each stage, in the face of these risks.
Written paper sources :
 Télérama, no. 3690, Sortir Paris, Du blé pour les pêches, Les Murs à Pêches de Montreuil Loto du patrimoine, samedi 3 octobre 2020 139 words, p.4 [
Le Parisien, Seine-Saint-Denis, Ces sites insolites, Les Murs à Pêches, Le jardin caché de Montreuil, lundi 22 juillet 2013, p.93
, Journal des Murs à Pêches, Murmurs 2, Fédération des Murs à Pêches, 2020