It’s great telling people that we live in the Loire Valley. So I thought I’d write a little about the river itself.
The Loire is France’s longest river. With a length of 1,013 kilometres (629 miles), it drains an area of 117,000 km2 (45,000 sq miles) – more than a fifth of France’s land area. Until the arrival of the railways in the 19th Century, the Loire river had been France’s main internal transport highway in for over 2,000 years.
Just 50% percent of its banks are now diked and in the remaining areas of natural habitat exists an abundance of important biodiversity including otters, Dippers and crested newts, and acts as a migration route for atlantic salmon. Thirteen european beavers were reintroduced in the Loire (Loir-et-Cher) between 1974 and 1976, and are now found over 1700 km of the water course. The river is also home to some very rare shellfish such as the Pearl mussel.
The organisation, Loire nature www.loirenature.org was established in 1993 to preserve these natural habitats along the river’s peatlands, gorges, alluvial forests and oxbows.
Loire nature promotes a progressive philosophy towards river management – allowing rivers to erode land and flood over plains i.e. allowing them to breathe. The idea is that rivers normally dissipate their energy laterally through eroding their banks. By humans reinforcing banks and building dikes the river’s energy transferred to digging an ever deeper river bed ~ this effects both water quality and natural habitat. My next couple of blogs will be about the history of flooding along the middle section of the Loire and how humans have tried to tame “the last wild river of Europe”
Do view Loire nature’s 25 minute video, in English at www.loirenature.org/IMG/wmv/wwf6.wmv