The valleys of Ile-de-France
There's more to the Paris region than Paris, a piece of Brie, Beauce and Vexin or the Rambouillet and Fontainebleau massifs... It is a vast, richly complex area in terms of its geographical and human diversity.
For what would the Paris region be without its inhabitants? What would Paris be without its exceptional location, its suburbs or the network of cities, market towns and villages that are strung around it? Would the wide stretches of cereal-growing plateaux which make up a large part of the region's landscape stand out quite so much without the valleys that divide them?
Amidst this complexity, valleys carved out by a waterway, river or stream, play a key role because they have been a cradle for human settlement, seen villages and towns grow up and always provided main transport routes for water, road and railway.
The sites we see today, with their rich natural, cultural and urban heritage, have their origins in this history - rich indeed, but yet so fragile faced with the pressures from within. Sometimes forgotten too, such as the Bièvre, whose natural course probably became lost, buried under subsequent urban development.
Anxious to preserve the key balances of ecology and landscape, the Paris region wanted to examine the current state of affairs. To this end the Agence des Espaces Verts (The Green Spaces Agency) instructed IAURIF to study the valleys, to find out about teir complexity, potential and identify any threats facing them in order to recommend courses of action for their preservation and highlight them so that the Regional Council could have a coherent framework for its policy.
The results of these studies are delivered in this issue of Les Cahiers. It shows that in view of their watersheds, valleys constitute areas of land with long-term development potential. Severely damaged during the Christmas 1999 storm, they must spring to life once again and reacquaint the towns, nature and man with their flowing water.
This study is linked to the following theme :