An abandoned railway line that encircles Paris is being transformed into an enchanting flora- and fauna-rich walkway – much like Paris’ Promenade Plantée near Bastille or the High Line in New York.

The 32km-long La Petite Ceinture (The Small Belt) was built to connect Paris’ major train stations during the 19th Century, operating first as a passenger railway and then as a freight railway, until it closed entirely two decades ago. Since then, flora has sprung up along the embankments, ballast, bridges and walls, creating meadows, wasteland and wooded areas in which a vast range of animals live: there are 220 species of plants and animals, including bees, butterflies, toads, hedgehogs, French oaks and sycamores, and 21 bird species, including the endangered spotted fly catcher. Central to the project’s concept is the preservation of both the site’s historical railway heritage and its unique biodiversity.

The revamped 900m section of walkway, opened to the public on 24 August and to be extended later in the year, is located between the Georges Brassens and André Citroën parks in the 15th arrondissement.  The pathway is accessible during the day (for ecological reasons, no lights were added along the railway) with access via lift or stairway at rue Olivier de Serres.

Kim Laidlaw is the Paris Localite for BBC Travel. She also writes