Picardy Description and Information
A Rich Past
This northern France region borders Ile-de-France to the south, and Nord-Pas-de-Calais to the north. Before the last Ice Age, the region just south of the English Channel was attached to the chalk lands of southern England. For many people, Picardy will stand for a place where far too many men lost their lives in the wars of last century: during World War I, it was the scene of the battles of the Somme, several of the most costly and devastating battles of the war. Agincourt, Crecy and Saint-Quentin are also well-known, poppy-carpeted battlefields. But despite its battle weary history, Picardy is a land of peace and tranquility.
A Miscellaneous Heritage
The region has one of the most unspoilt stretches of coastline in the whole of France. Due to little development, the coast has kept all its original beauty and visitors will find it bathed in the half tones of light that artists such as Sisley, Degas or Seurat came to capture. The Somme estuary, which is very popular with sailing enthusiasts, is lined with pretty fishing hamlets. Le Crotoy is an estuary village that has long attracted many artists and writers and it was here that Jules Verne wrote 'Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea'. The dunes and marshes along the majestic Somme harbour a bird sanctuary and the area is also host to a huge range of fauna and flora.
With unspoilt shores, plains and forests, canals and rivers the région is a haven for anyone enjoying fishing and water sports. It is also an ideal place for cycling and riding. Horseriding is an important regional sport and Chantilly is the country's thoroughbred capital. The Grandes Ecuries, next to the racecourse, stables 240 of the country's finest horses. Archery has also been a popular sport since the Middle Ages and there is a major archery festival each spring. For golfing enthusiasts there are some of the best golf courses in the whole of France to choose from.
Picardy is the cradle of Gothic art with six splendid cathedrals and numerous churches and abbeys. Amiens, Beauvais, Laon, Senlis, Noyon and Soissons are known for their massive cathedrals and the beautiful old towns of all these towns remain very much living and working places and not just heritage centres. To the south, the châteaux Chantilly and Compiègne are nestled in a large forest that once extended from Paris to the eastern frontier.
A Prevailing Agriculture
Picardy is known for its dairy and beef cattle and is also a strong arable region which produces 25% of all French agricultural exports, and is the second largest wheat producer in the country. Grain accounts for 54% of the region's farm income and intensive vegetable cultivation is important, especially in the high yielding, arable land of Somme River valley where market gardeners intensively cultivate the soil of tiny plots linked by a network of narrow canals.
This high level of agricultural activity has promoted a formidable agro-food industry and agricultural machinery sector. It is the country's largest producer of canned and frozen vegetables (through the company Findus), as well as refined sugar, and is the second largest producer of ready-to-eat convenience foods (through Herta). The agrofoods industry is headed by a network of research centres, including the Compiègne University Biotechnology Centre, with support from the close partnership established between producers, manufacturers, and distributors.
The heart of the tranquil Somme Valley is less than a hour's drive from Calais on the A16 and Beauvais, the capital of Oise, is less than a hour's drive from Paris.
- Population: 1,610,067
- Pop.density (people per km2): 51