We are lucky to live within walking distance of the Blavet which is a reasonably long river running from central Brittany right down to the coast where it spills into the sea at Lorient. It's used for electricity and so there are frequent locks as well as a great cycle path all along what must have at one time been a tow path. Sadly there aren't a lot of boats on the river these days. Each lock used to be manned by someone living in an adjacent house but as the old lock keepers are retiring the houses are falling empty. The electricity company no longer sees any interest in filling these posts. Now if you want to pass a lock you have to phone 24hrs in advance to let one of the two lock keepers working the river's 150km long flow know to come and meet you. When the children and Frank were lucky enough to see a boat going through last week and talked with one of these two lock keepers, he explained that this had really reduced boat traffic as it requires a lot of organisation and a lock keeper basically moving along the river with you from lock to lock of which there are 28 in total over a distance of just under 60km. A lot of work for everyone I imagine.
What you do see are a lot of cyclists, fishermen and especially in the school holidays, kayaks. And of course hirondelles, fish, birds of prey and on one memorable evening picnic last week tiny little baby toads.
We must have seen a few hundred of these fellows and the sight was truly captivating. Jumping around in the river's muddy edges, jumping up the grassy bank, the wooden steps down to the jetty and even over the cycle path. We had to keep our eyes on our toes to avoid squashing any. Here's an idea of how big they were so you can imagine what a difficult task this actually was:
The children even found one with a missing leg that they were desperately worried over. We discussed taking him home but all agreed we didn't really know how to take care of him and that he wouldn't have much of a life in a tank at home. It seemed best to just let nature take its course. They really were very cute. My camera couldn't get a good enough close up to really do them justice but here's a picture off wikipedia that shows one off a bit better and gives an even better idea of scale.
I'm constantly amazed by how nature offers herself up to us, sometimes something familiar and sometimes something completely new like this. I feel as though after three years, we've suddenly rediscovered the beauty in our own back yard so to speak down by the river. Plans are now fermenting to make a field study of a small area of the river, photograph it, draw it, note what we see at different times of the year. I'm also planning a geography project researching the river. Now I just have to hope the kids will be as enthusiastic about this as I am! And of course I've got a poem or two out of all this too. Here's hoping you find something to amaze you on your own doorsteps this week and may it inspire you as much as it has us.