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Within the framework of research on green networks2, we have studied the evolution of the forms and functions of the bocage systems in two peri-urban areas, close to two major French cities, Angers and Rennes. Our work has focused more specifically on pollarded trees – known as “ragosses” in the Rennais region and “têtards” in the Anjou region – which are one of the components of this system made up of plots of land within a network of ditches, embankments and hedgerows, themselves subdivided into several layers (tree - pollarded trees -, shrub and herbaceous). The Angevin site is a vast area of wetland meadows of the type found in the Loire valley, fashioned by the confluence of the 3 rivers that cross the area (Sarthe, Mayenne and Loir). Flooded several months per year, this area called in French Basses Vallées Angevines (Lower Angevine Valleys, BVA) is characterised by an exceptional biodiversity and singular landscapes. In the urban peripheries of Angers and Rennes, a landscape and environmental policy has led to the integration of ancient pollarded trees in the urban fabric. Protected at the beginning of the 1980’s in accordance with an approach focused primarily on landscaping and urban planning, these trees are today closely associated with discussions on ecological continuity.

The bocage and the pollarded trees that characterise the latter are the product of an agricultural economy that is today obsolete. They have been fashioned throughout the ages by peasant societies who were mainly rearing cattle. A utilitarian tree if ever there were one, the trees fulfilled needs and had specific agricultural and rural uses: fodder, fire wood, timber used in boundaries, fencing and gates, animal shelters, etc. These functions, linked to the agricultural and rural economy, explain the way in which they were thus shaped and trimmed. The techniques and practices of pruning and maintenance have produced graphic, skeletal, distinctive forms that are still clearly identifiable today, especially during the winter months. Forms that tell a story that is economic, technical and social.

We shall show here how these inherited elements of the landscape (“ragosses” and “têtards”) have been returned to the centre stage whereas the reasons for their creation have disappeared. In the process we shall explain how they have changed in substance and in the representations they generate under the combined effect of public pzlicies and social changes; namely, how they have found new functions and meaning through three filters that are perceived as theoretical and operational - at least for a certain number of players - environment, landscape and heritage.



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