Invaders from Inner Space

Unpleasant and invasive

Unpleasant and invasive

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.

Abbaye de Beaulieu

Abbaye de Beaulieu

 

Abbaye de Beaulieu - 17th-century main buildings

Abbaye de Beaulieu – 17th-century main buildings

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.

Vivier at Beaulieu covered with algae

Vivier at Beaulieu covered with algae

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.

Beaulieu vivier Feb 13

Beaulieu vivier Feb 13

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.

Babbling brook

Babbling brook

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.

Snowdrops at Beaulieu

Snowdrops at Beaulieu

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.

Conveniently placed for tired walkers

Conveniently placed for tired walkers

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About nessafrance

My husband and I moved to an 18th-century farmhouse in SW France in 1997. I am fascinated by French history, rural traditions and customs and enjoy seeking out the reality behind the myths. I run my own copywriting business and write short stories and the occasional novel in my spare time. My husband appears here as the SF, which stands for Statistics Freak, owing to his penchant for recording numbers about everything.
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10 Responses to Invaders from Inner Space

  1. Algae builds up very quickly in any area of slow moving water, no matter how big or small. Farmers have to maintain a certains distance from bodies of water and streams etc when doing their spraying and fertilising with severe penalties, but that obviously doesn’t stop the stuff leaching into the water systems as you mention or being blown onto the water. No one seems to have thought about that in the Department of Decision Makers. As owners of carp lakes, we never like to see the neighbouring farmer with his sprayer in his field above our big lake.

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    • nessafrance says:

      This is a subject you’ll know a lot about, having lakes as you do. Unfortunately, the rules don’t prevent the chemicals leaching into the subterranean watercourses and back out into the rivers. And hotter, drier weather at certain times of year doesn’t help, either.

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  2. Sue Whatmough says:

    Gosh, they look really yucky. More and more horrible things are happening as a result of toxins finding their way into the water. If only the farmers would wise up and show some respect for nature, animals and humans. It seems money is the only driver these days. But, on an optimistic note, more and more people are wising up and bringing these issues into the limelight. It’s not too late if man(un)kind acts now.

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    • nessafrance says:

      As you say, one can only hope that publicising these things is part of the battle towards reducing the incidence of them. It’s very unpleasant stuff and death to other water plants and animals because it covers the pond like a blanket and removes the oxygen from the water.

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  3. Evelyn says:

    It’s amazing that something so gross can live at that beautiful place! I must get down there for a stroll before the snowdrops are gone. Tell me that isn’t green moss growing on those seats!

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    • nessafrance says:

      I think the snowdrops might be past their best already but I’m sure there are still some around. Yes, it is green moss on the seats – but not algae!

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  4. pfornari says:

    I wonder how effective the trawling is in the long-term…this made me think of water-hyacinth, which is a real problem in many places (such as Lake Victoria), but which, apparently, helps vcombat arsenic in the water here in Bangladesh…

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    • nessafrance says:

      I don’t think it’s very effective at all. I read somewhere that you only need a very small amount of algae for it to start off again. We know very well from our swimming pool – different type of algae but same principle.

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  5. amelie88 says:

    I really thought those were some insect cocoons! *shudders* I’m not the biggest fan of the creepy crawlies!

    Lovely abbey, though that’s too bad about the pond getting run over by this algae.

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