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Auf der strecke

Nord department

The Nord department is a narrow stretch of land along the Belgian border, linking the North Sea to the west to the first mounts of the Ardennes to the east. It is the most densely populated area in France after the Paris region with 2.5 million inhabitants. Nord is a wealthy agricultural area thanks to a sensible use of the land. It is also France’s leading industrial region thanks to its coal resources and its long tradition in steelworks, metal plants and textile factories. The economic crisis has led to the end of coalmining in the area but its inhabitants – the now famous Chtis – have always been the department’s main strength. Nord’s architectural past is exceptionally rich, with extremely well preserved old mills, proud belfries illustrating the freedom of its towns (Lille, Valenciennes, Douai) as well as wealthy town halls of Flemish inspiration.

Pas-de-Calais Department

The department was created in 1790, mixing parts of the old Artois and Boulonnais provinces. Pas de Calais (literally Step of Calais) symbolises the passage between Calais and Dover, France and Britain. The discovery of coal in Oignies in 1841 dramatically changed the departments’ economy, based on the mining industry for most of the 19th and 20th centuries.

While coalmining and textile are disappearing, Pas-de-Calais makes the most of its situation at the crossroads of Britain and France and the presence on its soil of Eurotunnel. Tourism is a resource, on the coastline especially. The port of Calais is one of the biggest passenger ports in the world while Boulogne is the first fishing port in France.

Km 4 : Bouvignies

Bouvignies town hall / OttavianiBlazon of Bouvignies / Groteddy

First ruled by the Landas family, Bouvignies passed in 1384 to the Hollehain, who built the local castle. But the longest serving lords in the town were the Nedonchel, established in 1586. In 1723, the Baron of Nedonchel became Marquis and in 1782, he rebuilt the castle, which was destroyed a few years later by the Revolution. Only remain today parts of the surrounding wall with its loopholes and the main entrance, flanked by two pillars. Another gate, “Porte de Douai”, goes over the moats. The foundations of the castle were rediscovered in 1985 and are now visible in the playground. An old dovecote now houses a museum of pigeon racing. Graves of the Nedonchel family can be found in the lovely 17th century church, especially a stone dedicated to George de Nedoncehl, who died in 1601.

In 1679, Bouvignies saw one of the last executions of witches in France, four women who  were sentenced to the pyre. 

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