Anthony Nicolle and Mathieu Bachon – 2 paddlers from the Cotentin area in France, Normandy – went down a section of the Loire River – Europe’s last remaining wild river – in June 2018, in total autonomy between Chaumont-sur-Loire and Saumur (approx. 120km). Why, Would you ask? First they loved the athletic challenge but also wanted to know what was the general state of the river from an ecologic point of view.
The main objectives of this expedition – the first true scientific project run by Watertrek – were:
- to identify the areas where aquatic macro waste accumulates, which is an invaluable tool to map and record floating rubbish,
- to take water samples and analyse the level of chemicals such as nitrate and phosphate in them (in collaboration with our partner Fresh Water Watch),
- to increase public awareness around plastic and chemical pollution in waterways.
The results show a mixture of good news and bad news.
On the positive side, only a small quantity of waste was found floating between the three counties travelled ie Chaumont-sur-Loire (41), Tours (37) and Saumur (49), despite the presence of two domestic fridges along the way!
The high water level and the strong current, both unusual for the season as monitored by the French Meteo Office could explain the little amount of rubbish found, but could also mean it had been flashed out or trapped underwater. Sadly, visible floating waste is often only the tip of the iceberg…
Analysis of the level of chemicals present upstream are of concerns: overall the level of turbidity is high which means that all aquatic life suffer from a significant reduction of food supply, poor habitat, and less fishing activity. At times the level of nitrate is very high – especially in Vouvray sur la Cisse – which could be explained by the flushing of fertilizers, cattle farming, and in this case discarding of domestic used water.
It took a few days to our eco-SUPers to get used to navigate with 30kg of material, food and drinking water on board, but also to appreciate the magnificent beauty of this wild river, its changing landscape and diversity of flora and fauna. Night times were privileged moments for them: the wow factor and serenity of the surrounding nature.
Many encounters occurred, on water and on land, like in Amboise where a young man told them he was kayaking all the way back home to Angers, and in Bréhémont people from Malo shared their passion for the traditional barge – la gabare – telling stories of mysterious legendary river giants, the catfishes! On land, the paddle boards arose the curiosity of passers-by, and even more so in Chouzé-sur-Loire where they became a great opportunity to have a drink with new found friends.
This exciting and useful adventure has been a memorable experience for our two watertrekkerss Anthony and Mathieu. They attracted lots of curious interest from the public, and while explaining their expedition’s objectives, were able to raise awareness about the health state of our waterways. This leading to further new projects….watch this space….