What do you think the photo above shows? Discarded asbestos? Tripe during the manufacturing process? Invading aliens from outer space? No, it’s dead algae, as trawled out of the vivier (fishpond) at the local Abbaye de Beaulieu. I took these shots in August last year and was reminded of them when we walked there a couple of weeks ago with our walking group.
I’ve written about the Abbaye itself before – a jewel of Cistercian architecture, founded in c. 1144. The self-sufficient monks built a thriving fishpond. The River Seye, which flows behind the Abbaye and which the monks channelled for the purpose, feeds the vivier. This kept them in fish all year round. When we first moved here and visited the Abbaye, the pond was full of limpid water – and big carp. Alas, in the past few years, this dreadful stuff has taken hold and starved the water – and thus the fish – of oxygen. Here it is last August covered with the stuff.
The problem is most likely to be fertiliser leaching down off the hillside into the river and thus into the fishpond, which encourages the algae’s growth. Added to some very dry and hot spells (apart from this winter, of course) this has provided the ideal conditions for it to flourish. They have drained the pond several times but it keeps coming back. Here it is below in its drained state a couple of weeks ago.
The little River Seye is normally a tranquil, babbling brook. In fact, owing to over-abstraction of water for irrigation and successive droughts it is sometimes a bit too tranquil and dangerously low. None of this helps the algae problem. But it can be fast flowing in wet weather. When we walked there recently, it was in full spate. It can flush away some of the fertiliser but a lot of it leaches into the fishpond, which can’t get rid of it.
On a happier note, the snowdrops that carpet the banks of the Seye in February/early March were no less abundant this year than in previous years. In fact, they have probably benefited from all the rain.
And, to finish, I couldn’t resist this handily-placed seat we saw on the same walk. Just in case you need to take the weight off your feet.
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