LA PRAIRIE, the city’s green lung
The Prairie is a major element in the historical and natural heritage of the town.
The history of this green monument stretching over 90 hectares, just a stone's throw from the city centre, is closely linked to that of Caen’s inhabitants.
The Prairie was mentioned as early as 1027 in a text which qualifies it as "the Dukes thing". Through a series of acquisitions and donations, a part of these meadows, "the Abbey Prairie", passed into the hands of the Abbaye-aux-Hommes. This did not stop the inhabitants using is as pasture to graze their animals on the “second growth of hay”, a custom which became part of Norman Law for centuries.
The site has been listed on the inventory since 1932, protected...and liable to flooding, serving as a reservoir when the Orne breaks its banks. Today the Prairie is the city’s green lung, a place of recreation, for jogging or ambling, much appreciated by Caen’s inhabitants.
To the east of the Prairie, the clay track of the racecourse runs like an ochre ribbon around the green carpet of the Prairie. The first trotting race was organised here in 1834 and, in 1864 Norman breeders created the forerunner of the Society for the Encouragement of Horse Breeding in France (SEFC). The SEFC in fact still owns the buildings. Caen has since become the capital of trotting and the breeding of trotters.
The Prairie, an ornithological reserve, is also a natural wetland, a rural observation site, an area for the discovery of plant and wildlife. The lake, created in 1982, to the west of the natural site, is home to herons, cormorants, moorhens, black-headed gulls and other snipes, rarely seen so close to a town.
THE COMMUNAL FOREST OF GRIMBOSQ
Lying 15 km from the town, this 475 hectare communal park stretches between the villages of Grimbosq and Saint-Laurent. A strategic site in mediaeval times to control the crossing of the Orne, its land was considered by the monks to be too poor to cultivate and was therefore left as a forest. To the north, the 11th century feudal motte testifies to the importance of the site.
A popular place for recreational activities, Grimbosq is now a key area for numerous disciplines: hiking with the GR36 which links Ouistreham to Le Mans, mountain biking with trails listed by the sport’s federation, orienteering races (the forest is listed as a National Trail), adventure races, etc. A vast arboretum with species of trees from three continents and an animal park stretching over 8 hectares with "traditional" breeds of deer and woodland wildlife enhance this site which each year receives 260,000 visitors.
Unusual fact : the Forest of Grimbosq contains a pet cemetery (more than 600 plots available for four years, renewable once)
CAEN IS THE LADYBIRD CAPITAL
Seven-spot and two-spot ladybirds are bred to fight against aphids in the city’s greenhouses and green areas. Part of the production is passed on to the inhabitants of Caen and the surrounding area for them to use as an ally in their own gardens.
Caen, is a green and ecological city, and the first in France and indeed Europe to have launched such a scheme, which aims to demonstrate that there are alternatives to the use of chemical insecticides.