About 32kms/20mls north of us in the Montagnes Noires is la prise d’eau d’Alzeau, literally the place where water is captured from the river Alzeau. It is the beginning of La Rigole. We’re familiar with the word rigole from the Marais Poitevin; un rigole refers to one of five sizes of waterway in the marsh. I think in the marsh un rigole is one of the larger canals. La Rigole, however, is specifically the small canal, between 2-3m/6-10ft wide, which was built to feed water into that great French engineering project, the canal du Midi. La prise itself is not especially spectacular, being a relatively modest sluice gate controlling the diverting of water from the river Alzeau into La Rigole, but the entire concept is intriguing. Building a canal of about 60kms/40mls through uneven countryside but with an even gradient calculated to deliver water at a gently flowing rate into the high point of the canal du Midi seems pretty clever to me.
We’d visited la prise on a previous trip and, being up in the mountains, found it to be a refreshing place to visit when life in the valley starts getting a little hot and humid. We knew of a shaded picnic spot beside a stone bridge with a handy, wooded, 3km/2ml footpath beside La Rigole up to la prise itself to walk off lunch. With wild flowers, demoiselles flitting in sunny glades, and assorted other dragonflies and butterflies en route, what more could we nature-lovers want? Not a lot so, on one of our not-so-many-so-far hotter days, armed with a baguette and some rilletes d’oie (potted goose), off we set once again to see what we could find.
Blissful solitude, we shared the picnic area only with a few Beautiful Demoiselles and the occasional passing butterfly. After a most agreeable lunch, we sauntered up to la prise and back. “Up” takes about 2½ hours with frequent stops to exercise our cameras’ shutters, “back” takes about 30 minutes. Here are some of Francine’s results from exercising her camera’s shutter. 🙂