“Le funambule de l’impossible”
World famous tightrope walker Michel Menin actually trained as an horticulturalist at the Horticultural College of Écully in Rhone-Alpes. Later he perfected his technique by undertaking several courses and an apprenticeship in garden design at the Horticultural school at Roville aux Chênes in the Vosges. In 2004, he was selected to compete as one of the “Meilleurs Ouvriers de France”.
In 1968, whilst reading books on horticulture to alleviate the boredom of National Service he discovered that there existed in the 13th century, near the chateau of the Counts of Artois at Hesdin, an extraordinary garden of machines, including automata, traps, practical jokes and optical illusions, as well as a maze. The seed was sown for the idea of creating a garden similar to this, open to the public, and alongside many other types of decorative garden which would be amongst the most beautiful in the world.
However, he would have to wait many years, working as a nurseryman, before the chance came to achieve his dream.
In 1980 Michel MENIN, who had been a potholer for many years was employed to aid the exploration works of
the “Grottes de Cerdon” (Cerdon caves) in Ain. There he helped drive two 40 metre long tunnels to allow access for tourists. This knowledge was to stand him in good stead later.
It was during this time that he discovered he had an amazing ability to walk on the high wire, which subsequently, lead to a career as an internationally famous artiste, and through which he acquired the means to finance his garden project.
Knowing the Jura like the back of his hand as a result of all his potholing in the region, Michel Menin was
able to research various locations for a base for his garden. All were abandoned quarries as these sites offer a rocky backdrop, usually very pretty, but hidden under rock waste or buried by rubbish, but where the ground would be more interesting to develop.
After being turned down by several quarry owners, the Mayor of Saint-Maur agreed to rent him the former quarry of the Commune, and on 23rd November 1991 the deeds were signed.
The next day, by himself, Michel started work by attacking this area of 7 rocky hectares, overgrown with scrub. Accumulating piles of project files and making plans he next bought and old truck, then an old digger, and started to give the quarry a new look.
He was helped over the years by the association F.E.R.A.I.S. which specialises in the re-insertion of people with social difficulties into the outside world. They helped greatly with the clearing and construction of the dry stone walls which integrate so well into the countryside.
Whilst touring with his tightrope walking act, he was able to visit gardens all over the world and garner ideas for his project.
He has also taken ideas from the jungle, an environment he is beginning to get to know well after several expeditions to South America and Mexico where, on several occasions, he has accompanied the celebrated nature photographer Guido Sterkendries.