One recent sunny Sunday afternoon, I drove to the village of Aigues Vives for a guided visit around the river Cesse. A fairly large group of people had gathered on the square in front of the town hall – perhaps because the weather was so beautifully sunny?
Once the guides had settled who would do what, we started on our walk towards the riverbed.
When you are in Aigues Vives, the river Cesse is nowhere in evidence. But head north, along Avenue de la Cesse, and you’ll see signs that the river isn’t far away!
As you leave the village, the road gently slopes down to the riverbed. At the bottom of the hill we took a left, and soon we were standing on the banks of the Cesse. It looks a bit dry, wouldn’t you agree?
It was a rather fascinating explanation! The Cesse can be divided into three distinct sections, the upper, middle and lower sections. The upper section, from which the river springs, in Ferrals-les-Montagnes, resembles a mountain torrent which runs pretty much all year. About 16 km downstream from the source, at a place called Moulin de Monsieur, the middle section starts, and the river appears to dry up. The middle section is about 20 km long and ends at Moulin de Madame, where the river resurfaces again. The lower river flows all year round from Moulin de Madame through Bize Minervois and on to join the Aude river at Salleles d’Aude.
We were looking at the middle section of the Cesse, and on average this part of the river is dry two-thirds of the year. That’s not to say that there is no water at all. The area is made up of limestone, and over millennia the water has carved away at the stone. If you drive to Minerve, you’ll get a good idea of just how much has been cut away. The theory is that the river runs underground in the middle section, and only surfaces when there is enough water to fill up the river bed. That usually happens during winter when it has rained enough.
Just to give you an idea of what it can look like, here is a picture of La Caunette, taken a few years ago, at a time when there was plenty of water:
And here are some pictures (also from a few years ago) when there was water flowing just outside Agel, downstream from Aigues Vives. This was taken not far away from Moulin de Madame, and you can see the old dam and a sluice gate for the mill.
Let’s track back to our walk in Aigues Vives though. The walk continued along the river, and we came to a place where you could see what looked like two big piles of stones, on either side of the river. One of our guides explained that they were the remains of a footbridge, which had been built in the 17th century. Wooden walkways rested on a central pillar in the riverbed, and allowed people to cross to the other side, even at times of high water. Unfortunately, the central pillar was swept away by the floods during the winter of 1999, and with it the bridge. The force of water is not to be underestimated!!
The path turned away from the river and we started to walk through the vineyards. Even though the vines are dormant right now, the vineyards can look so pretty!!
Where one vineyard ends another one starts, but sometimes they are interspersed with a few almond trees such as these:
There’s nothing as beautiful as white blossoms against a bright blue sky on a spring day!
After our walk I had some time to wander around the back streets of Aigues Vives. As in Puisserguier (see last week’s post), I had never really stopped to explore the village. It has an interesting mix of old and older buildings!
I wonder if the name of this road means that it can be windy here??
These two beauties were enjoying a nap in the sunshine.
They were very happy to pose for the camera!! 🙂
The bakery which this sign points to has long been closed, unfortunately.
But I came across the restaurant below, the Auberge Minervoise, which is very much open for business. I’ve put it on my list of restaurants to try!
So there you have it – a wonderful afternoon walk, with plenty of interesting information!