Descente de la Semoy en SUP & collecte de déchets - Fondation Watertrek
Published on December 17, 2021

SUP down the Semoy: the intimate journey shared by Stéphane

Reynald, Christophe and Stéphane are school & sport teachers in the North of France, friends for 10 years and adventurers for 5. They are more and more aware of the environmental issues and measure their impact as they explore rivers from their paddle boards, and have recently started the descent of the Semoy in the Ardennes, without expecting to collect so much waste. Watertreker Stéphane takes his pen to share with us their surprising journey:

August 24, 2021 . 10 degrees Celsius. It’s 8:30 AM. At the height of the rapids of the Phades (near Montherme, in the valley of the Meuse and Semoy in France), the river Semoy follows its gentle circulation, bringing with it a ghostly mist. We prepare to reach the village of Hautes-Rivières, the starting point of our SUP exploration. The 18-kilometre descent promises to be sunny and we enjoy these moments that nature offers us.

At 10 o'clock, our three boats make their way under the first deck and there is our first warning: we are suddenly reminded of reality, Christophe just escaped a rusty pile on the edge of the water. His SUP is slightly scratched but nothing serious, it remains superficial...phew! Reynald still works his balance out which is still to be perfected. The initiation on Lac des Vieilles-Forges the day before finally reconciled him with the activity. Although it is low, the current does not help to reassure him completely. Very quickly, we discover the magnitude of an overwhelming reality: plastic bags fixed and tangled within branches, unexpected objects force us to load our SUP to try to restore the original beauty of the place. Our equipment is rudimentary but still allows the recovery of some unwelcome treasures. The images are atypical: Christophe flies over the water with a plastic garden table on his SUP. I pick up a truck inner tube and already after an hour of sliding, we stop at the Faucon campsite in Thilay. We discover a new concept of camping - Glamping - contraction of glamour and camping. The table and the inner tube are handled without hesitation by the owner. The meeting is very pleasant, friendly, and it encourages us to resume our small expedition.

Our SUP caress twice tractor tires that we do not even try to get out, despite the consuming desire to free the place from that mark of unhumanity. They are located each time under a bridge and the accelerating current at this place would make any attempt perilous and probably sterile. Unfortunately, we quickly come across other major incongruities: second alert, while trying to extract a garden chair, my paddle sinks and ends up at the bottom of the river bed, fortunately only two meters deep. Our boats quickly take on the appearance of miserable rafts, littered with plastic bags, a full bottle of adjuvant and…a tied mattress folded in half !

Christophe's SUP which is wider than ours can easily accommodate large volumes and this allows us to continue our journey to the rapids of Phades. These small rapids, located downstream from the village of Haulmé in a setting that looks like Dordogne, follow a portage made mandatory by the crossing of a small dam. I recover just before a one cubic meter work bag trapped in branches and blocked between rocks.

Our arrival at the campsite is an unusual convoy, to say the least. After five hours and fifteen minutes of navigation, the image of our boats loaded with improbable materials seems to come from an almost burlesque world. The filthy waste definitely leaves the bed of the river and contrasts with the green and sunny lawn. We look at the bank with sadness and desolation. A little lady flips over them for a few moments, but does not land there. The owner of the place, circumspect, helps us without hesitation to transport our discoveries into containers. He even offers us a night for free during our next visit, proving his solidarity and gratitude for our initiative.

This first exploration of the Semoy stimulates our imagination. Exchanges on our future descents are multiplying. This eco-responsible SUP practice reveals the pleasure of living together an authentic collective experience coupled with a major interest for the protection of aquatic environments (The Semoy flows into the Meuse, which itself joins the North Sea at Rotterdam 950 km further). This is all about the simple happiness shared in tune with the rhythm of the water and the mosaic of a nature always so surprising, inspiring and beautiful.

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