Le Parc aux Bombous - a worthy contender for a place to visit if near Mirepoix and Carcassonne
Updated: Apr 27
The Land use in Southwestern France is usually a mix of vineyards, farmland, rural and urban centres but there's a unique place where Bamboo can be found in an array of diversity. One man’s fascination with Bamboo has turned it into an enterprise that is now a tourist attraction.
Le Parc aux Bombous is set in a lush setting on the banks of the beautiful River L’Hers. Set over 5 hectares and established back in 2006 the Bamboo gardens have enthralled visitors who set forth in these not very french surrounding. More than 200 Species of Bamboo can be found in this tranquil garden.
Bamboos are evergreen perennial flowering plants. The origin of the word "bamboo" is uncertain, but it probably comes from the Dutch or Portuguese language, which originally borrowed it from Malay or Kannada.
In bamboo, as in other grasses, the internodal regions of the stem are usually hollow and the vascular bundles in the cross-section are scattered throughout the stem instead of in a cylindrical arrangement.
Bamboos include some of the fastest-growing plants in the world, due to a unique rhizome-dependent system. Certain species of bamboo can grow 910 mm (36 in) within a 24-hour period, at a rate of almost 40 mm (1⁄2 in) an hour (a growth around 1 mm every 90 seconds, or 1 inch every 40 minutes). Giant bamboos are the largest members of the grass family. This rapid growth and tolerance for marginal land, make bamboo a good candidate for afforestation, carbon sequestration and climate change mitigation.
Bamboos are of notable economic and cultural significance in South Asia, Southeast Asia and East Asia, being used for building materials, as a food source, and as a versatile raw product. Bamboo, like wood, is a natural composite material with a high strength-to-weight ratio useful for structures. Bamboo's strength-to-weight ratio is similar to timber, and its strength is generally similar to a strong softwood or hardwood timber.
Le Parc aux Bombous can be reached from Mirepoix very easily and also makes for a worthy day trip from Carcassonne or possibly Toulouse if you don't mind clocking up the miles. Or if you are in the lucky position to be taking the scenic route while travelling through Southern France there are plenty of beautiful hotels and chalets you could stop at in the nearby area.
Airbnb is always a delightful option as it gives you a real taste of the local area and is generally far better value than a Hotel in Southern France. Of course, Breakfast is not always included but does this matter with the money that will be saved! I'm an Airbnb host as well as a frequent Airbnb traveller. I love Airbnb because not only does it make travelling more affordable but it also allows you to stay off the beaten track. Staying with a local or in your own cottage is far more unique than staying in a generic hotel you could find anywhere in the world. Use the map below to search for the perfect Airbnb stay within this charming part of France.
If you are a regular reader of this blog you will know that I always try my best to make a video to go with any blog post. In this video, I explore the wonders of "Le Parc aux Bombous". For viewers who enjoy the video, I have added some extra information on the wonders of Bamboo in the paragraphs below the video.
Bamboo - The Stuff of Legends:
In several Asian cultures, including that of the Andaman Islands, believe humanity emerged from a bamboo stem.
In Philippine mythology, one of the more famous creation accounts tells of the first man, Malakás ("Strong"), and the first woman, Maganda ("Beautiful"), each emerged from one half of a split bamboo stem on an island formed after the battle between Sky and Ocean.
In Malaysia, a similar story includes a man who dreams of a beautiful woman while sleeping under a bamboo plant; he wakes up and breaks the bamboo stem, discovering the woman inside.
The Japanese folktale "Tale of the Bamboo Cutter" (Taketori Monogatari) tells of a princess from the Moon emerging from a shining bamboo section. Hawaiian bamboo ('Ohe) is a Kinolau or body form of the Polynesian creator god Kāne.
A bamboo cane is also the weapon of Vietnamese legendary hero, Thánh Gióng, who had grown up immediately and magically since the age of three because of his wish to liberate his land from Ân invaders. The ancient Vietnamese legend Cây tre trăm đốt (The Hundred-knot Bamboo Tree) tells of a poor, young farmer who fell in love with his landlord's beautiful daughter. The farmer asked the landlord for his daughter's hand in marriage, but the proud landlord would not allow her to be bound in marriage to a poor farmer. The landlord decided to foil the marriage with an impossible deal; the farmer must bring him a "bamboo tree of 100 nodes". But Gautama Buddha (Bụt was his name) appeared to the farmer and told him that such a tree could be made from 100 nodes from several different trees. Bụt gave to him four magic words to attach the many nodes of bamboo: Khắc nhập, khắc xuất, which means "joined together immediately, fell apart immediately". The triumphant farmer returned to the landlord and demanded his daughter. Curious to see such a long bamboo, the landlord was magically joined to the bamboo when he touched it, as the young farmer said the first two magic words. The story ends with the happy marriage of the farmer and the landlord's daughter after the landlord agreed to the marriage and asked to be separated from the bamboo.
In a Chinese legend, Emperor Yao gave two of his daughters to the future Emperor Shun as a test for his potential to rule. Shun passed the test of being able to run his household with the two emperor's daughters as wives, and thus Yao made Shun his successor, bypassing his unworthy son. After Shun's death, the tears of his two bereaved wives fell upon the bamboos growing there explains the origin of spotted bamboo. The two women later became goddesses Xiangshuishen after drowning themselves in the Xiang River.
Because bamboo can grow on otherwise marginal land, bamboo can be profitably cultivated in many degraded lands. Moreover, because the rapid growth of bamboo is an effective climate change mitigation and carbon sequestration crop, absorbing between 100 and 400 tonnes of carbon per hectare
Bamboo is harvested from both cultivated and wild stands, and some of the larger bamboos, particularly species in the genus Phyllostachys, are known as "timber bamboos". Bamboo is typically harvested as source material for construction, food, crafts and other manufactured goods.
Bamboo cultivation in South, South East Asia and East Asia stretches back thousands of years. One practice, in South Korea, has been designated as a Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems.
The durability of bamboo in construction is directly related to how well it is handled from the moment of planting through harvesting, transportation, storage, design, construction, and maintenance. Bamboo harvested at the correct time of year and then exposed to ground contact or rain will break down just as quickly as incorrectly harvested material.
Uses for Bamboo
Although the shoots (newly emerged culms) of bamboo contain a toxin taxiphyllin (a cyanogenic glycoside) that produces cyanide in the gut, proper processing renders them edible. They are used in numerous Asian dishes and broths, and are available in supermarkets in various sliced forms, in both fresh and canned versions..
The empty hollow in the stalks of larger bamboo is often used to cook food in many Asian cultures. Soups are boiled and rice is cooked in the hollows of fresh stalks of bamboo directly over a flame. Similarly, steamed tea is sometimes rammed into bamboo hollows to produce compressed forms of Pu-erh tea. Cooking food in bamboo is said to give the food a subtle but distinctive taste.
In addition, bamboo is frequently used for cooking utensils within many cultures and is used in the manufacture of chopsticks. In modern times, some see bamboo tools as an eco-friendly alternative to other manufactured utensils.
Bamboo charcoal has been traditionally used as fuel in China and Japan. Bamboo can also be utilized as a biofuel crop.
In old times, people in India used hand made pens (known as Kalam) made from thin bamboo sticks (with diameters of 5–10 mm and lengths of 100–150 mm) by simply peeling them on one side and making a nib-like pattern at the end. The pen would then be dipped in ink for writing.
Bamboo textile is any cloth, yarn or clothing made from bamboo fibres. While historically used only for structural elements, such as bustles and the ribs of corsets, in recent years different technologies have been developed that allow bamboo fibre to be used for a wide range of textile and fashion applications. Examples include clothing such as shirt tops, pants, socks for adults and children as well as bedding such as sheets and pillow covers. Bamboo yarn can also be blended with other textile fibres such as hemp or spandex. Bamboo is an alternative to plastic that is renewable and can be replenished at a fast rate. Modern clothing labelled as being made from bamboo is usually viscose rayon, a fibre made by dissolving the cellulose in the bamboo and then extruding it to form fibres. This process removes the natural characteristics of bamboo fibre, rendering it identical to rayon from other cellulose sources.
Bamboo was used by humans for various purposes at a very early time. Categories of Bambooworking include
Bamboo, like true wood, is a natural building material with a high strength-to-weight ratio useful for structures.
In its natural form, bamboo as a construction material is traditionally associated with the cultures of South Asia, East Asia, and the South Pacific, to some extent in Central and South America, and by extension in the aesthetic of Tiki culture. In China and India, bamboo was used to hold up simple suspension bridges, either by making cables of split bamboo or twisting whole culms of sufficiently pliable bamboo together.
Bamboo has also long been used as scaffolding; the practice has been banned in China for buildings over six stories but is still in continuous use for skyscrapers in Hong Kong. In the Philippines, the nipa hut is a fairly typical example of the most basic sort of housing where bamboo is used; the walls are split and woven bamboo and bamboo slats and poles may be used as its support.
In Japanese architecture, bamboo is used primarily as a supplemental or decorative element in buildings such as fencing, fountains, grates, and gutters, largely due to the ready abundance of quality timber.
As a writing surface
Bamboo was in widespread use in early China as a medium for written documents. The earliest surviving examples of such documents, written in ink on string-bound bundles of bamboo strips (or "slips"), date from the 5th century BC during the Warring States period. However, references in earlier texts surviving on other media make it clear that some precursor of these Warring States period bamboo slips was in use as early as the late Shang period (from about 1250 BC).
Bamboo or wooden strips were used as the standard writing material during the early Han dynasty, and excavated examples have been found in abundance. Subsequently, paper began to displace bamboo and wooden strips from mainstream uses, and by the 4th century AD, bamboo slips had been largely abandoned as a medium for writing in China.
Bamboo fibre has been used to make paper in China since early times. A high-quality, handmade paper is still produced in small quantities. Coarse bamboo paper is still used to make spirit money in many Chinese communities.
Bamboo pulps are mainly produced in China, Myanmar, Thailand, and India, and are used in printing and writing papers. Several paper industries are surviving on bamboo forests. Ballarpur (Chandrapur, Maharastra) paper mills use bamboo for paper production. The most common bamboo species used for paper are Dendrocalamus asper and Bambusa blumeana. It is also possible to make dissolving pulp from bamboo. The average fibre length is similar to hardwoods, but the properties of bamboo pulp are closer to softwood pulps due to it having a very broad fibre length distribution. With the help of molecular tools, it is now possible to distinguish the superior fibre-yielding species/varieties even at juvenile stages of their growth, which can help in unadulterated merchandise production.
Bamboo has often been used to construct weapons and is still incorporated in several Asian martial arts.
A bamboo staff, sometimes with one end sharpened, is used in the Tamil martial art of silambam, a word derived from a term meaning "hill bamboo".
Staves used in the Indian martial art of gatka are commonly made from bamboo, a material favoured for its lightweight.
A bamboo sword called a shinai is used in the Japanese martial art of Kendo.
Bamboo is used for crafting the bows, called Yumi, and arrows used in the Japanese martial art Kyūdō.
Bamboo is sometimes used to craft the limbs of the longbow and recurve bow used in traditional archery, and to make superior weapons for bowhunting and target archery.
The first gunpowder-based weapons, such as the fire lance, were made of bamboo.
Bamboo was apparently used in East and South Asia as a means of torture.
There are numerous types of bamboo flutes made all over the world
Bamboo may be used in the construction of the Australian didgeridoo instead of the more traditional eucalyptus wood. Bamboo is also used to make slit drums. Bamboo has also recently been used for the manufacture of guitars and ukuleles. Bamboo Ukuleles are constructed of solid cross-laminated bamboo strips, not plywood.
Bamboo has traditionally been used to make a wide range of everyday utensils and cutting boards, particularly in Japan, where archaeological excavations have uncovered bamboo baskets dating to the Late Jōmon period (2000–1000 BC).
Bamboo has a long history of use in Asian furniture. Chinese bamboo furniture is a distinct style based on a millennia-long tradition, and bamboo is also used for floors due to its high hardness.
Several manufacturers offer bamboo bicycles, surfboards, snowboards, and skateboards.
Due to its flexibility, bamboo is also used to make fishing rods. The split cane rod is especially prized for fly fishing. Bamboo has been traditionally used in Malaysia as a firecracker called a meriam buluh or bamboo cannon. Four-foot-long sections of bamboo are cut, and a mixture of water and calcium carbide are introduced. The resulting acetylene gas is ignited with a stick, producing a loud bang. Bamboo can be used in water desalination. A bamboo filter is used to remove the salt from seawater.
Many ethnic groups in remote areas that have water access in Asia use bamboo that is 3–5 years old to make rafts. They use 8 to 12 poles, 6–7 m (20–23 ft) long, laid together side by side to a width of about 1 m (3 ft). Once the poles are lined up together, they cut a hole crosswise through the poles at each end and use a small bamboo pole pushed through that hole like a screw to hold all the long bamboo poles together. Floating houses use whole bamboo stalks tied together in a big bunch to support the house floating in the water.
Bamboo is also used to make eating utensils such as chopsticks, trays, and tea scoops.
I hope you have a great time at the Le Parc aux Bombous should you visit. I am not sponsored by the French Government or any Travel Group, I simply have written this post as I enjoy travelling. Please do check out this blog for more independent travel ideas and my YouTube Channel.
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Thank you - Alex van Terheyden AKA The Wondering Englishman