Since we haven’t undertaken a single home-exchange nor traveled to foreign shores in five months and nineteen days, I have no choice but to write about happenings closer to home. My apologies!
If you live alongside a river, as we do, this is a word you better practice. INONDATION, flooding. Most Winter Seasons, usually in January – February, our dear river Charente breaches her banks thus increasing the surface of freely flowing water in our town and the surrounding countryside by a considerable margin. Last year’s seasonal flooding was minimal. On the other hand, two years ago it was substantial. When we drove to St-Jean d’Angely the other day, we noticed quite a lot of land-under whenever we came close to the river.
When we first arrived in Saintes with our shipping container on February 1, 2014, we saw immediately how river water can become alive and threatening. We had lunch at a restaurant close to the river when I captured this image.
In the foreground is the Charente river in the process of flooding an island separating the main arm of the river proper from a branch that flows into a protected wetland area called Les prairies de la Palu. These two arms of the Charente flow parallel to each other for a few kilometers before rejoining into a single riverbed upriver. The partially natural partially engineered large island between the river branches became an extensive alluvial meadow absorbing much of the water that used to cause horrific floods in the city of Saintes.
This close to the coast, nevertheless the interaction between the Charente river and the Atlantic ocean is an intimate one. The river is affected by the ocean’s tidal movements to an extent that it may reverse the flow of water during high tides, especially those coinciding with full moons. Therefore, despite the prairies, a lot of water can back up in a narrow riverbed overflowing its banks quite readily. On the other hand, these same swamps created by winter floods, emerge as an ornithological paradise during the summer. The wetlands are home to a diverse range of birds and our clean Charente makes a good home for many types of fish, appreciated both by fishermen and our cormorants. The floods just present a wee bit of a problem for people, that’s all.
In the picture above, you can see how the left bank [on the right in the picture] still has ways to go before the embankment is breached and the street beyond will be submerged, while rive droite, the right bank, has already lost one jogging path, a picnic area and a boat landing to the rising waters. Thank the heavens, actually rather thanks to our research, we live on rive gauche!
Just below our house, the river still has to rise considerably to reach street level. The Arc de Germanicus on the opposing bank, however, might be kissed by this year’s flood. Then again, I’d venture to say in its 2000 year history, the arch is used to a little river water from time to time.
Since I took these pictures, the water has risen a little further. I’ll keep you posted!