Thursday, 29 September 2022

All the Way Home

Susan took this photo from the passenger seat of the Cactus last week as we returned home from work. At this time of year we leave home an hour before sunrise, and get back just as the sun is setting again.



Wednesday, 28 September 2022

Close To Your Ear

Last Friday we went with Antoinette and Niall to Clos Lucé for a concert of Renaissance music. Such excellence! Prés de Votre Orielle are a nine piece ensemble comprising keyboards (organ and virginal), four viol de gamba, and four singers. All or the music was written by William Byrd, the main event being music from the Mass for Four Voices.




As a special treat, here is a promotional video, featuring the Kyrie from Byrd's Mass for Four Voices,  performed by Prés de Votre Orielle.

Tuesday, 27 September 2022

Carvings in the Heurault Tower

Exiting the Chateau Royal d'Amboise is a fun experience if you look up at the carvings at the ends of the rib vaults in the Heurault Tower. Here is a small selection, which sadly doesn't include the man picking his bum, as my photo of him is very blurry.

Carving in the Heurault Tower, Chateau Royal d'Amboise, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
A man wearing a turban and hitching a sack or a cloak over his shoulders.

Inside the tower you ascend or descend by a ramp that spirals around the centre to allow horses and carriages easy access -- kind of like a modern ramp to access a multi-storey car park. The Chateau Royal is perched on a rock ridge that overlooks the Loire and dominates the town.

Carving in the Heurault Tower, Chateau Royal d'Amboise, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
A woman lifting her veil over her chin.

The characters depicted become more and more vulgar as you descend.

Carving in the Heurault Tower, Chateau Royal d'Amboise, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
A man tipping his head back and drinking from a flask.

Carving in the Heurault Tower, Chateau Royal d'Amboise, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Two men wrestling. I'm fairly sure the one on top has a rather unsporting hold on his opponent.

Monday, 26 September 2022

Munching on the Roses

Yesterday we went over to Chateau Valcreuse to meet the new owners, Californians Mark and Kathy. As we were leaving we spotted a Roe Deer right outside the front door, nibbling away at the roses.

Roe Deer in rose garden, Vienne, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

Roe Deer in rose garden, Vienne, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

Roe Deer in rose garden, Vienne, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

Friday, 23 September 2022

The End of an Era at Chateau Valcreuse

Party at a chateau, Vienne, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
These people came to Chateau Valcreuse as a bride, a chauffeur, a waiter, a chef and a mechanic.
 

On Wednesday we went to a party at Chateau Valcreuse. Our friends Caroline and Alexander have somewhat reluctantly sold their 19th century chateau bed and breakfast overlooking the River Creuse near La Roche Posay. The new owners are an American couple who we have yet to meet.

Waiter at a party in a chateau, Vienne, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
The very nice and hardworking waiter at the party.

The party was so Caroline and Alexander could say goodbye to all their friends and those who've supported them over the past 15 years. They live in Belgium, but every year they came to France for the summer, and ran Chateau Valcreuse as an upmarket B&B. And therein lies their problem.

Speech at a chateau party, Vienne, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Alexander made a speech in French, a language he is not comfortable in. Everyone was very impressed.

Their children have reached the age when they do not want to be uprooted every summer and taken away from their friends. Covid really highlighted this, as so they took the decision to sell. The B&B took up so much of their time that they weren't spending the holidays with the kids really, just sleeping in the same house.

Speech at a chateau party, Vienne, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Caroline made a speech and thanked absolutely everyone in the most charming and heartfelt way.
 

I've no doubt they will be back, and the B&B is going to continue under the new owners. We will miss Alexander's enthusiasm and Caroline's attention to detail. They were always a joy to work with and the only people we ever did picnics or weddings for with Célestine or Claudette. They were fabulous hosts and two of the kindest and most generous people we know. They staged the best parties! We have been so lucky to have been part of their circle of friends at Chateau Valcreuse. To be honest, I think the change will be sadder for their friends than for them. They have a new project to go to back in Belgium.

Thursday, 22 September 2022

Breakfast at Tours Station

Last week we had a couple of clients who were staying overnight at hotels close to Tours station.

These days we like to make an early start to the day, preparing the car (at the moment that's Claudette) then driving close to where we are meeting our client. Then we have breakfast. Often it is at a café, where we buy coffee and eat croissants (or if you're Simon, a pain á raisin) we have bought at a nearby boulangerie.

Recently we have taken to having breakfast at Café Leffe, the restaurant in Tours station. Whilst sitting there on Sunday morning this view presented itself. I kind of like it.



Wednesday, 21 September 2022

Oooo Whats That Thing?

Yesterday I was called by a neighbour who wanted me to come over and identify a mysterious growth that had appeared on her side door lintel.

Praying mantis ootheca on a door lintel, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Ootheca attached to door lintel.

It turned out to be a Praying Mantis ootheca. She had never seen one before, but she had seen a Praying Mantis sitting on her telephone yesterday. She'd put it outside, but obviously, as it turned out, not before the Praying Mantis had created her frothy ootheca made of hardened protein to protect the eggs she had laid.

Praying Mantis Mantis religiosa with prey, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
A Praying Mantis with prey (a bushcricket) photographed several years ago.

The eggs will hatch in the spring and my friend can expect to have a kitchen full of about 150 tiny Praying Mantises once the temperature is warm enough (about 17C).

Tuesday, 20 September 2022

What Have We Been Doing?

Last week I did a lot of driving and Susan spent a lot of time walking around chateaux. While Susan is guiding I tend to read and listen to the radio. It's not as boring as it sounds, because I get to sit and read in some interesting locations.

On Saturday I sat in the shade in a picnic area outside Montresor; reading, listening to a podcast, and digesting a rather quite good lunch. Life's hard...

This is the view of Montresor as you drive in from Villoin-Coulangé. The picnic area is to your right.


Monday, 19 September 2022

A Good Year for Agen Prunes

In France prunes that do not come from the area around Agen are considered inferior (to the point of not worth buying). The real thing is called a pruneau d'Agen in French. The word 'prune' in French simply means fresh plum.

Sweet, low in calories and good for your health, the Agen prune is a cult product from the Lot-et-Garonne. About 900 growers produce more than 38 000 tonnes of certified IGP Pruneaux d'Agen annually in France, and this year's harvest begun in mid August, a little early.

Agen prunes, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

Only the Ente variety of plum can be turned into Agen prunes, known as the 'black pearl' of Lot-et-Garonne. They can be eaten coated in chocolate, soaked in Armagnac or just plain, every day for breakfast. A prune a day keeps the doctor away according to the producers.

This year the prunes will be good. The plums haven't suffered from the heat or the drought. With the sun the fruit is packed with sugar. The more sugar the better the quality of the prune.

France is the third biggest producers of prunes in the world, with 400 000 tonnes of plums harvested annually. The plums are sorted according to their sugar levels, then laid out in ovens at 80C.

Saturday, 17 September 2022

Stormy Weather

We were working on Wednesday, and there were France wide storm warnings which had me slightly spooked. I don't like the thought Claudette getting caught in a hailstorm.

This meant that I spent much of the afternoon  sitting in Claudette in the car park of Chenonceau  checking the rain radar.

One thing that struck me was how the storm avoided the Cher river valley, but followed the Loire all the way.


We managed to avoid most of the rain and all of the hail, which was useful. One of Claudette's shortcomings is that her windscreen wipers don't really wipe - they flap at the rain like Bertie Wooster flapping at a wasp.

Friday, 16 September 2022

School Menu

 This is the menu for September for our local primary school.

Primary school menu, Indre et Loire, France.

Items in green are organic, red are locally sourced or made in-house. All salads are made from fresh ingredients, all meats are from animals born, raised and butchered in France. The fish is from sustainable fisheries.

On Thursday 1 September the kids were eating melon, organic tomatoes stuffed in-house with local ingredients, rice, cheese and ice cream. 

On Monday 5 September it was organic grated carrots in vinaigrette, veal stew, organic potato puffs, cheese and fruit.

On Tuesday 13 September they ate beetroot, pizza, cheese, and baked egg custard, all organic and vegetarian.

On Friday 23 September it will be salad nicoise (green beans, tuna, olives, tomato and boiled egg in vinaigrette), fish meuniere (fish dredged in flour and fried), sauteed vegetables, cheese, fruit.

Thursday, 15 September 2022

Organic Veggies

I get all our veggies from the Jardins Vergers de la Petite Rabaudiere. That's an organic market garden and orchard on the edge of town and their farm shop is open from 4pm to 7pm every Monday. They also come to the market in Preuilly on Thursday mornings. Here are some photos from my last visit.

Organic farm shop, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Michelin starred chef Jacky Dallais (left) buys his veggies here, as does my friend Manuela (right).

Organic farm shop, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
The cabbages looked great and I bought one.

Organic farm shop, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
What Jacky Dallais had in his basket.

Organic farm shop, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
It's tomato time.

Organic farm shop, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Eloise munching her way through some green beans. Prior to my arrival she had eaten a red pepper and gnawed on a corn cob. After the beans were gone she had another red pepper. Mum Justine is manning the till.

Wednesday, 14 September 2022

Climate Change, Water and Agriculture in France

Traditional boats on the Loire River, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

This text has been lifted from Le Monde in English.

According to the 2010 Conseil d'Etat report, "L'Eau et Son Droit" ("Water and its right"), agriculture consumes 48% of all water [in France]. This figure rises to 79% in summer.

Agricultural choices play a role in the increasing dryness of certain regions. Corn [maize] cultivation represents 41% of irrigated crops, according to the consumer information group UFC-Que Choisir. It needs irrigation in July and August, when rivers and water tables are at their lowest. This corn then feeds the animals of industrial livestock production.

In France, in 2010, the Conseil d'Etat noted that the irrigated surface area tripled between 1970 and 2000, in conjunction with increased drilling into the water table, whether it was done legally or illegally. Between 2010 and 2020, the share of usable agricultural land that is irrigated increased by 14%, according to the 2020 agricultural census.

Climate change has serious consequences for water. By 2050, average annual river flows [in France] will decrease by 10% to 40%. Evaporation from the soil and transpiration from the plant cover will increase by 10% to 30%, according to the 2020 report "Changement climatique, eau, agriculture : Quelles trajectoires d'ici 2050".

Loire River at Amboise, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

Tuesday, 13 September 2022

Dead Computer

Our office computer has died. I'm a bit disappointed, because we have only had it for six years. I bought it second hand from Ebay in November 2016, and it turned into a bit of a saga at the time. I am fairly confident that we haven't lost any files because I did a big backup on Friday evening.

I think we will have to bite the bullet and buy a more modern machine, because I suspect it's a hardware issue. In the meantime we only Susan's laptop, my tablet, and a pair of mobile phones to keep us connected to the world.


On a more cheerful note - Susan was at Villandry on Friday and took this excellent photo with her phone.


Monday, 12 September 2022

A Ukrainian Birthday at Chenonceau

 

Teenage Ukrainian refugees, Chateau de Chenonceau, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Makari has just swallowed a rather large dollop of wasabi on a sushi roll. He had to tough it out, much to everyone's amusement.
 

My friend Ros, who is hosting Masha, a young Ukrainian refugee, near Le Blanc, contacted me recently to say that it was Masha's 19th birthday on 11 September. She and Tony, her husband, wanted to do something special as Masha is now all on her own in France. She arrived with her mother and little brother, after spending a month in a cellar in Kharkiv, but now her mother and brother have returned to Ukraine to be with Masha's father. Masha has chosen to stay in France but continue her Ukrainian university studies remotely.


Teenage Ukrainian refugees, Chateau de Chenonceau, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Makari and Varvara brought balloons and a small handmade present for Masha. I thought it was very touching, as they have only met her once before.
 

In Preuilly and the immediately surrounding villages we have about 40 Ukrainian refugees, including teenagers about Masha's age, so when Ros asked me to suggest a chateau to visit for Masha's birthday, I recommended Chenonceau, and said I would invite Makari and Varvara, two of 'our' refugees in Preuilly.


Teenage Ukrainian refugees, Chateau de Chenonceau, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Masha blowing the candles out on the birthday cake.
 

One of the things Masha was missing was speaking Ukrainian so we thought company her own age would be just the treat she needed. The outing was planned in utmost secrecy from her and when Makari and Varvara appeared in the Chenonceau carpark brandishing balloons and singing Happy Birthday she was very surprised.


Teenage Ukrainian refugees, Chateau de Chenonceau, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Sitting down to a picnic before visiting the chateau.
 

Ros supplied a picnic which included lots of sushi, because she had learnt that Ukrainians really like sushi. When the cake was cut and Happy Birthday sung once again, all the adjoining tables of French picnickers joined in.


Teenage Ukrainian refugees, Chateau de Chenonceau, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Makari and Varvara surprise Masha with their birthday greetings and a gift in the carpark.
 

After eating ourselves to a standstill we visited the interior of the chateau. Chenonceau had very generously given the Ukrainians free passes for the day (I didn't ask for free tickets, they were offered when I told the Visitor Services Manager the story).


Teenage Ukrainian refugees, Chateau de Chenonceau, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
 

During the visit Masha took lots of calls from friends and family in Ukraine wanting to wish her a happy birthday. I had strict instructions from Makari and Varvara's mum Natasha to take lots of photos, so these are some of them.


Teenage Ukrainian refugees, Chateau de Chenonceau, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Makari, Varvara and Masha on the balcony at Chenonceau.

Saturday, 10 September 2022

An Alley in the Dordogne

Where I grew up alleys tended not to look like this. This particular alley is in Tursac.



Friday, 9 September 2022

The End of an Era

I suspect that the majority of the world's population is like me and has only known one UK Monarch. My Mother was born in 1934 so lived during the reigns of three Kings and a Queen. She was a staunch royaliast, so yesterday's news would have caused her great sadness.

This was one of her most memorable occasions - pictured meeting the Queen in 1977 and shown on the cover of our local newspaper "The Canberra Times". It was later published in Australia's leading monthly magazine, the "Women's Weekly".




* I was right. Apparently 94% of the worlds population were born after 1952

Thursday, 8 September 2022

Busy

 

That's what we've been. Busy.

Today is the fourth day in a row we have used Claudette for a tour, and tomorrow we are using her again. Even when the cars are behaving they demand attention. On Sunday it was Claudette's turn to throw a curveball.

As has been our habit the past couple of years, we went up to Tours on Sunday afternoon to check over Claudette, refuel her and wash her before meeting our clients at Saint Pierre des Corps Station, Doing that the day before and staying overnight in Tours saves us a very early start to the day, and means that when we arrive home we haven't spent 15 hours working.

On Sunday I took Claudette out of the garage only to find we had a very soft front tyre. Luckily(!) I am old enough to have grown up when flat tyres weren't uncommon, and you were expected to change the wheel yourself rather than call roadside service. It took about 30 minutes of jack wrangling and we were ready to go.


Wednesday, 7 September 2022

Restoring the Towers of Chambord

Chateau de Chambord with towers scaffolded for restoration, Loir et Cher, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

All six towers of the Chateau of Chambord are covered in scaffolding as part of a 3.5 million euro project to repair the structural integrity of the lanterns and to ensure the roofs don't leak. When they were inspected prior to the work it was realised that the roof timbers no longer reach the walls in some cases. Water is getting in and mixing with the tannins in the oak, causing damage to the lead or zinc flashing. The roofs are already twisting and sagging, and if it continues and the roofs are not repaired they will simply collapse as the wood disintegrates. No repairs have been carried out on these lanterns since 1967 and the last big restoration was in the 19th century.

Chateau de Chambord with towers scaffolded for restoration, Loir et Cher, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

Over time the decorative lead finials have all disappeared or degraded, so a collection of salamanders, fleur de lis and volutes are being made by skilled crafts persons. They will be given a suitable dark blue-gray patina or gilded and reinstated.

Chateau de Chambord with towers scaffolded for restoration, Loir et Cher, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

The four towers on the corners of the square central keep have lead roofs, and the other two have slate roofs. Each is 12 metres high including their weathervane (10.3 metres without). There is 15 tonnes of roofing material up there, half of which is lead. The scaffolding is 54 metres long and weighs 80 tonnes. Thirty people will take 10 000 man hours to complete the work, including 4000 hours for replacing the slates on the lanterns (light wells).

Tuesday, 6 September 2022

Appearances can be deceiving

Susan wrote last week about the drought affecting France, and the photos of the Loire River that make the water lever look even lower than it is. This photo is an interesting contrast, in that the water level looks quite low, but not too bad.



We have seen the water level lower earlier this year, and even lower in April 2019, but that was with the needle dam downstream open. The dam is now firmly closed. There are storms and rain forecast for this week, and we will be back at Chenonceau on Thurday, so we will be interested to see it the water level changes much.


Monday, 5 September 2022

Dinner at the Lavoir

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the ginguette at the lavoir and mentioned we didn't have many photos of it. We now have more photos, but for some reason not that many.

Last Thursday we had dinner at the lavoir with Huub and Ingrid. It was a really relaxed evening in pleasant surroundings, and once again the burgers were excellent. Everyone was a bit worried by the weather forecast of storms, and by the end of the evening the lighning was well in evidence, even though we received no rain. This may be why the place wasn't as busy as it could have been, but it was a lovely way to spend an evening.


The ginguette le Lavoir has proven to be a real success with locals as well as visitors, and we hope it will become a permanent (if seasonal) fixture. There is often live music at the weekend, as well. You have until 30th September to visit.

Saturday, 3 September 2022

The Overground Underground

One thing I wanted to see while we were in Lyon in July was the funicular underground railway. The railways were built to carry goods and passengers up the incredibly steep cliffs that suround old Lyon and are very early - the first was built in 1862. They start at ground level and climb a very steep ramp to enter the tunnel. For the people of Lyon that may be normal, but for me...

There were once five funicular lines, but only two exist now, a line climbing the Fourvière hill linking Saint-Jean to Saint-Just with an intermediate station at Minimes, and a line from Saint-Jean to the Basilica. Both lines were modernised in 1986 and 1987. A new station at Saint-Jean was built in 1991 to serve a new line of the Metro and both funicular lines, and the whole complex named Vieux-Lyon. The Fourvière funicular was refurbished at the start of 2018, and the St Just funicular at the start of 2019.

We rode on the line up to the Basilica. It isn't very long, only 404 metres (1,325 ft), but it climbs 116 metres (381 ft). There's only 2 stops, one at each end, and two cars. They balance each other out, so it's actually quite an efficient mode of transport. Each car carries 70 passengers, and the journey takes 2 minutes.

That's the facts, now for the pictures:

The train is at the station

The funicular crosses a bridge to enter the tunnel


The same view from inside


The mechanism that hauls the carriage up the hill

One thing we weren't expecting (so we didn't get any photos) is Roman artifacts in niches in the tunnel.

Friday, 2 September 2022

The Best Baguette in France

There is regular chatter in travel forums about the best baguette/croissant/whatever in France/Paris/wherever.

This is often prompted by "articles" in newspapers or travel blogs, and is invariably clickbait - a title designed to show up in search engines to attract people to a website so that their adverts get shown to more people. This blog post is different - we don't receive any money from advertising, and I am making no list of boulangeries.

A picture of baguettes, because it is obligatory


The best baguette is almost invariably the baguette in the boulangerie closest to you. And if you don't like that one, there is sure to be a different style of baguette, or another boulangerie close by. Susan and I can't agree on the best baguette to be found in one of our local boulangeries, and I am not a huge fan of any of the baguettes in the other. Remember - we live in a town of 1000 people, so our chocie is limited to 4, maybe 5, baguettes.

And that's before you add in how you like it baked. (For the record, I prefer an ordinary baguette, pas trop cuit)

In a city like Paris, with about 11,000 boulangeries, the choice is endless, and people who write about the "best" baguette have no more idea than the person reading the article in New York who has never been to France. The most recent "article" (I won't insult your intelligence by posting a link) even manages to list a boulangerie that by common censensus (i.e. someone who lives nearby) changed ownership and "went off" five years ago.

So relax, buy a baguette from somewhere close. I'll probably be better than you're used to at home.

Thursday, 1 September 2022

Old Stones

 

La Roche Posay, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.

I photographed this while walking to a friend's house in La Roche Posay. My friend has retired and is trying to declutter or downsize, so she has been going through her wardrobe and taking out things she no longer wears. I came away with two pairs of trousers and a pair of jeans, two knee length skirts, a jumper, a cardigan and a knee length coat. All natural fibres, all good quality French brands, all classic and timeless, so they will be perfect for work.

Wednesday, 31 August 2022

Sorghum

Sorghum is a crop that may not be familiar to many people, but with the increasingly dry summers, that is going to change.

Seventeen of the 25 species of Sorghum are native to the north of Australia, plus you will see one species which has naturalised and one which is widely cultivated. Here in France the cultivated species, S. bicolor, has been regularly grown for a decade or so, but with the drought, farmers are looking at it more keenly. Cultivated sorghum has been developed into two main types, one grown for the grain, one grown for the forage. The one grown for grain is known as Milo, the one used for forage is known as Sweet Sorghum.

Speargrass Sorghum ingrans, Northern Territory, Australia. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Speargrass Sorghum ingrans, a wild native grass in the Northern Territory, Australia.

Cultivated sorghum comes from Africa originally, and grows well in conditions where water is short and temperatures are high. Climate change means that farmers in France are experiencing less rain, more sun and higher temperatures. They are having to adapt. With summers that are drier and drier, or at least, hotter and hotter, sorghum, with its ability to survive with less water than maize or sunflower, is being considered by more and more farmers, and is already well established in the south-west.

Black soil plains, Darling Downs, Queensland, Australia. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
The black soil plains of the Darling Downs, Queensland, Australia, where sorghum is widely grown.

Sorghum offers an alternative crop to maize or sunflowers in the rotation for wheat, barley and canola, and perhaps best of all, requires almost no treatments. Weeds need to be controlled, and a bit of fertilizer added, but there is no need for insecticides or fungicides. 

Fodder sorghum, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Fodder sorghum being grown in the Vienne Valley.

The grains can be used to make gluten free flour. As a fodder plant it is used in pig and poultry feed.

Sorghum, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Sorghum near Le Grand Pressigny, October 2019.

Sales of sorghum seed increased by 60% in 2020, and with 122 000 hectares planted to sorghum, France is the second biggest producer in Europe after Russia.

Sorghum, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Sorghum being grown in the Manse Valley near the Chateau de Montgoger, October 2020.

Some of the big agricultural cooperatives, such as Euralis, have been promoting sorghum since the 1980s, recognising how well adapted to climate change it is. They recognise the security it gives the producers and the benefit of another crop in rotation. It is not affected by bad weather or pests, and the market is widespread and varied. For livestock farmers it is a way of ensuring adequate forage.

Tuesday, 30 August 2022

How Low is the Loire?

The Loire River is at record low levels for this time of year, and nearly at an all time record low, due to a summer long drought in much of Europe. But there are reports and photos doing the rounds which are claiming the river has dried up completely. This is not true. The dramatic photo which is being used to illustrate this claim was taken at the Ile Batailleuse, a large island in the river between Angers and Nantes, to the west of us and closer to the Atlantic. Crucially the photo only shows one channel of the Loire, with barely a trickle of water flowing through it. The other channel however, out of shot to the right, on the other side of the island, has water. The river at this point looks low, but it is quite normal for certain channels to dry up in the summer. The Loire is a naturally very shallow, gravelly river, with many sandbanks.

Loire River, Amboise, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
17 June, Amboise.
 

Nevertheless, the drought and the low level of the Loire is worrying. I've seen reports that at Langeais you can walk across it on foot, and as one heads west the secondary channels are drying up even more dramatically than usual. One especially worrying problem is the increase in the water temperature. This has implications for freshwater organisms and biodiversity, and also for the nuclear power stations which need to use the river water for cooling, then discharge it back into the Loire. At Avoine the water is first cycled through a series of greenhouses where particularly delicious and expensive tomatoes are grown all year round. And after the heatwave of 2003 the nuclear plant was adapted so that it functions with river water intake temperatures of up to 37C. I don't know what measures the Belleville plant (between Nevers and Orléans) and Saint Laurent des Eaux have taken to ensure they are not taking in or releasing water that is too hot.


Loire River, Amboise, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
30 July, Amboise.

The drying up of the river is due to two factors: lack of rain over winter, and the drought since the beginning of summer has only aggravated the situation. July was the driest month on record since 1959.
 

Loire River, Cour sur Loire, Loir et Cher, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
21 May, Cour sur Loire.

The water levels have been declared a crisis, as the flow has gone below 43 cubic metres per second and is expected to reach as low as 38 cubic metres per second in the autumn. Even in 2003 and 2019, two years with remarkably low levels of water, the flow never reached such a low measurement.


Loire River, Cour sur Loire, Loir et Cher, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
21 May, Cour sur Loire.
 

Water restrictions will be even more stringent, and more or less the only use allowed is the supply of drinking water for people and animals.
 

Monday, 29 August 2022

How Are Farmers are Coping in the Drought in the Loire Valley?

Local goats cheese producers are struggling to feed their herds. In order to retain their AOC certification for specific cheeses produced in specific locations they need to feed the goats with locally produced hay. 

Dairy goats, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Dairy goats.

A herd of five hundred goats will eat 900 kilograms of hay per day plus a bit of silage. This year farmers have only been able to cut half the quantity of hay that they would normally be able to produce. They are using stocks from last year, but if 2023 isn't a normal year they will not be able to replenish their stocks.

Dairy goats, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Dairy goats.

In the heat the goats suffer from a lack of appetite so they eat less and produce less milk. Normally each goat gives 3.5 litres of milk per day. At the moment the average is barely 3 litres per goat per day. 

Canola crop, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Canola crop in the Claise Valley in April.

Farmers report that their winter cereal harvest (that's wheat, barley, and canola) was 30 percent down. The spring sunflower yield will be 50 percent of normal and they are expecting maize to be 70 percent of normal. Many farmers do not irrigate as they have calcareous clay soils that don't require it (they may look dry on the surface, but retain a lot of water in the soil). Last year there was a bumper crop, this year over all will be just over half of last year. Rainfall has been half that required. Many farmers have come to the conclusion that maize is too water greedy to continue with in the Loire Valley.

Sunflowers, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Sunflowers in the Claise Valley.

Some farmers are struggling to work out from the officially issued regulations if they are still allowed to irrigate. Those farmers who have their own dams can still irrigate, which the general public doesn't always realise. 

Barley crop, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Barley crop in the Vienne Valley.
 

Four hundred of the 1500 cereal growers in Indre et Loire irrigate as normal practice. There are 240 other farms which irrigate, mainly for growing forage (for example, dairy farmers, but market gardens and nurseries are also included in this category of farms not primarily growing cereals). 

Dry dam (étang), Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Dry dam (étang).
 

Only seed maize needs to be irrigated now, this late in the season. That's a hundred farms in a total of 3000 farms of all categories in the Touraine. Farmers take the view that it is not the current irrigation that is causing a lack of water, it is the lack of rain in September 2021.

Irrigation of wheat, Indre et Loire, France. Photo by Loire Valley Time Travel.
Wheat being irrigated in late March in the Creuse Valley, where the soil is sandy.