Wind in the Willows

In order to have adequate boat access to the water, we need to do some fairly radical clearance work on the riverbank. But it’s not that simple.

Pontoon location (Small)

This is where the new landing pontoon will go.

Because this is not just a Conservation Area, it is also a UNESCO World Heritage site – so there is a regulatory obstacle course to be negotiated.  But the key to it all, we soon find out from the very helpful man who is in charge of these matters, is called SALIX: we must understand the role of the willow in the river’s ecology, and know how to work with it constructively.

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Me and my hammer (‘ma masse’)

The photo above is of the river frontage taken from the tour boat shortly after buying the house.  You can see that someone carrying an eight meter long single (not to mention a ten meter double) would struggle to get out onto the water here.  As things stood, boating from the bank here was almost impossible due to the thick undergrowth and then the water weeds alongside the bank; so, before doing any serious sculling… I had to get to work. This being France, the first thing needed is paperwork!   Any work on the bank needs permission.  I wanted to put in a pontoon, and level off the pedestrian path to make it safer, but this has various complications. Monsieur Bruno Laguionie of the DDI24 SERVICE GESTION DOMAINE PUBLIQUE FLUVIALE, who speaks excellent English and is very sympathique, explained how he could give me permission to put in a pontoon, but that there would be a review after three years and an annual charge, and that he might be obliged to ask for its removal with 24 hours notice… I also could install foundations, but only with the approved contractor.  Work has started, but after stage one is complete… then we can apply to take the next step.  But the first steps have been taken!

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Willow steps nearly complete

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These posts may take root

And these steps are natural logs going down to the water, held in with small loops of wire. The contractor, Monsieur Cheveaux, had the materials at the time the permission was granted for, but no labour available.  I would not be allowed to keep applying and so decided to be the labour myself.  M. Cheveaux showed me what to do and left me to it… He also explained how to spread the grass seed – by looking at the French Euro coins/notes, there was a man sowing seeds… but I was advised to then rake them in as the local bird population was good at removing all grass seed…

The bird life here is astonishing… my very first day at the house I went down to the river and heard a loud flapping that I thought must be a bird caught in something, but it was a heron taking off with a huge fish – stabbed with the sword of a beak… brutal and effective… breakfast…

Here is the same place – as the first photo taken from the tour boat, but this one was taken from my sculling boat – having done the first couple of days of clearing… still lots and lots to do…but I managed to easily get out with my single and blades to take this picture (oh & have a lovely scull up past the various interesting bridges – I shall have to write about these later!).

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I hope the friend using it in July can get his extra long Filippi single out & I shall be working over August to try to sort out the best solution . I’m looking at two potential pontoon systems… and shall have a group of about four to five scullers going out most mornings… we shall see what is best/needed… if you have ideas/comments please let me know… or ideas for the pontoon, particularly the methods of getting to and from it from the bank (with changing river heights)…

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